Circumstances of Upbringing
Son Gohan was taking his usual hike through the mountains surrounding his home on Mount Paozu one day when he heard the sounds of gunfire and struggle. He rushed towards the sound at speed far beyond normal for a man his age, granted to him by his tutelage under Muten Roshi and his dedication to the martial arts. When Gohan arrived he was greeted by a grizzly sight, literally so, as he saw a giant armored bear-man standing over a ruined campsite, a blood-spattered sword raised high overhead. Gohan could see a pair of bodies lying in a crumpled heap at the bear’s feet, a man and a woman, with the woman shielding the man. Gohan balled his fists as he heard an infant’s wail over the sound of the bear’s laughter and took a step forward.
“Leave this place,” Gohan said sternly as he rolled up his sleeves, “Before I have to hurt you. You’ve done more than enough damage here.” The bear sneered and leveled his sword at Gohan.
“How about you just move along, old timer, before you see something you’re gonna regret?” then the bear-man moved towards the sound of crying and Gohan was on him in a flash. With a single blow, he shattered the bear-man’s sword and with another he sent the beast crashing into a tree.
“I won’t ask you to leave again.” Gohan warned him as he got into a stance. The bear-man snarled as he got to his feet and lunged at Gohan with his claws out and his mouth open wide. Gohan sighed and broke the bear-man’s massive neck with a single palm-strike. The bear collapsed, dead on the spot, and Gohan shook his head sadly. So much death in such a peaceful place. He created a pair of graves for the couple with ki blasts and buried them beside each other before he finally found the crying child inside the shredded tent. “There there, now,” Gohan said softly as he swaddled the three-eyed babe and rocked him from side to side, “It’s all right. Shhhh, shhhh.” The baby’s crying slowly quieted and he sniffled as Gohan wiped his face with a thumb to dry his tear. “It’s all right,” he said again before he found a small medallion fastened around the baby’s neck with a red ribbon. He pinched the medallion between thumb and forefinger and read it slowly, “Tenshinhan.”
Gohan brought the infant home and, not having any way to know if Tenshinhan had any relatives who might be able to raise him, took the boy in himself. The prospect of raising a child included difficulties that a martial arts hermit was not prepared for. Nothing that had to do with Tenshinhan himself, of course, the boy was surprisingly well-behaved for an infant. Gohan had needed to buy him clothes, however, and needed to find a way to have ready access to milk for the boy until his teeth grew in, and there was of course the aspect of… changing. No amount of Roshi’s training had prepared him for that business.
By the time Tenshinhan was three years old and had begun to speak, he had already shown an interest in martial arts and was a fast learner from what little Gohan had taught him. In fact, he was more interested in that than he was in learning to count or how to spell his own name! Gohan decided that when his “grandson” was older, he would certainly send him to Muten Roshi for further training.
Deep in the mountains on the other side of the continent, Shen the Crane Hermit was training his students early one morning when a great flaming orb streaked across the sky and crashed in the woods not too far from the site of the school itself. Shen gave a dismissive wave to bring the lesson to a halt and moved to inspect whatever had caused the crash.
“Magamo,” Shen called over a shoulder, “With me!” The tall, fair-skinned, mauve-haired youth fell in step behind his master as they made their way through the trees. Magamo was Shen’s best student, strong and quick to learn and good at doing what he was told. Everything you could hope for in a would-be assassin.
“What do you suppose it might have been, master?” Magamo asked as he pushed a branch out of his face.
“I do not know,” Shen admitted, “But whatever it is, we shall deal with it.” The master and student soon came upon a large crater in the dirt that was surrounded by uprooted trees. The ground was hot underfoot as they climbed down into the crater and saw a large metallic sphere that was glowing white hot with contrails of steam rolling off the exterior. Shen held up a hand to keep Magamo from taking another step and took off his sunglasses to peer at the strange, otherworldly device.
“What is it, master?” Magamo asked in hushed confusion. Shen frowned and stroked at his mustache.
"Nothing of this world.” There was a hiss as a section of the sphere unfurled open to reveal a dark interior, faintly illuminated by blinking lights. A garbled voice came from inside the craft in a language Shen did not recognize despite his centuries-long life.
A blur flew out of the darkness and Shen managed to duck out of the way in time, though Magamo was not so lucky and he shrieked in pain as the creature’s teeth sunk into his neck and died with a sickening crunch when the teeth bit down hard enough to crunch his spine. Shen recovered and was finally able to get a good look at what had come flying out of the pod like a bat out of hell. It was… a child. The boy couldn’t have been older than a year, two at the most. He was completely naked, with wild black hair and a tail growing out of the small of his back. It was only then that Shen heard the hideous sound of flesh ripping that he realized that the babe was actually trying to feed on Magamo. He grabbed the child by the tail and ripped him away from his dead student, surprised to discover that the babe went limp when his tail was squeezed. As Shen studied the dangling, naked infant with blood covering his face and a wild look in his eyes, he could sense a great power coming from him. Great for an infant, at the very least.
“Now then,” Shen mused, “What am I going to do with you…” he cocked his head to the side and listened as the alien craft continued to play its strange, garbled message. There was one word he noticed that was repeated often enough to seem like a name. “Kakarot?”
Shen was sleeping one night not long after Kakarot’s arrival when he was awoken by a thunderous stomping and the sounds of screaming students. He rushed out of his chambers while still dressed in his nightgown and slippers and was greeted by the sight of a massive brown-furred primate howling and beating its chest. Students that attempted to fight the beast were smacked aside like tenpins and landed in crumpled heaps. The monster roared and swung a fist to smash apart the Crane School but Shen leaped into the path of its fist and brought it to a halt with a grunt of effort. The beast looked down at him with its blood-red eyes and there was the faintest glimmer of recognition before it attacked again, swinging with its massive tail. Shen slid under the tail and came up behind the creature before leaping high into the air and striking with two fingers on the back of its neck. The creature dropped to the ground like a sack of flour and, to Shen’s surprise, transformed back into Kakarot. The students gathered around in hushed murmurs of shock and fear as Shen landed on his feet and looked down at Kakarot with his own level of trepidation. Just what was this little creature?
“Restrain him,” Shen instructed, “And lock him in the cellars. The rest of you, tend to the wounded. Bury the dead in a single grave to mark their failure.” Several students wrapped Kakarot in heavy chain and hauled him to the cellars as Shen looked suspiciously up at the full moon with dawning curiosity.
When Kakarot awoke, Shen confronted him down in the cellars, using a small cask as a stool as he looked the boy in the eyes.
“I do not know what you are,” Shen told him, “But you are not of this world, little one. Still, you have great potential and a great capacity for violence. I can teach you how to use these things, but you must do as I say. You will not eat the flesh of man, and you shall refer to me as ‘Master Shen’ and follow my every instruction. Is that clear?” Kakarot glowered up at him and struggled against his chains before Shen pointed a glowing finger in his face. Kakarot’s eyes slowly looked down in defeat and nodded. “Very good. Your training shall begin on the morrow.” Then he left Kakarot alone, down in the dark and cold.
The first thing Shen taught Kakarot was how to speak, read, and write. Once he was no longer a complete savage, Shen began to teach him how to fight. The boy had an insatiable appetite for combat and, despite being a toddler, quickly became a fearsome warrior. He also had a tremendous appetite and needed to regularly consume great quantities of food.
“I will not wait on you like a nursemaid,” Shen told Kakarot as he brought the boy towards the woods, “If you want to be fed, you must fend for yourself.” Then he released his “son” into the wilderness and watched as the boy scrambled through the woods on all fours, his teeth slathering with drool. It certainly took care of the school’s problem with wolves, cougars, and wild boars.
There was a problem, however, when Kakarot would spar with the other boys. The older he got, the more violent and uncontrollable he became. It came to a point where Shen had the boy brought to sit with him by a river to meditate. The water trickled and pattered softly over the smooth stones as Shen sat in the middle of the river on a rock and motioned for Kakarot to sit beside him on a similar rock. The nine year-old sat beside his “father” and copied his stance.
“You killed Hato,” Shen said without ever looking at Kakarot.
“He was weak,” Kakarot rebutted with a huff.
“True,” Shen admitted, “But this does not excuse your behavior. You had already broken the boy’s arm. He had already been defeated. We are not violent beyond reason, for that is the nature of the beast. Tell me, boy, what is it that gives you such rage?” Kakarot paused for a moment and chewed on his lip before responding.
“I hear… voices,” Kakarot explained, “They tell me to do things. To kill people. Kill everyone. They make me so angry, Father, and I just–”
“That anger is good,” Shen interrupted calmly, “But it is worthless if it is unfocused. I can teach you to control it, to focus it, but it will be different. No amount of violence can control your rage. You must be calm. Can you do that?”
Kakarot nodded. “I will try, father.”
On Son Tenshinhan’s fourteenth birthday, Gohan received a visit from Muten Roshi. Tenshinhan had grown into a fine, strong young man. Gohan had even been training him about the basics of ki sensing and control. He was planning on saving the Kamehameha for a special occasion, partly out of the fear that once Tenshinhan had mastered that, he would realize that his grandfather would have nothing left to teach him and leave.
Muten Roshi arrived on a flying carpet with his cane across his lap while Gohan and Tenshinhan were sparring in the backyard. Tenshinhan rushed up to meet Roshi and, ever the helpful young man, offered to help Roshi down from his carpet. Roshi declined help from the young triclops in a blue gi and helped himself down.
“It’s good to see you again, Master,” Gohan said with a respectful bow and Tenshinhan bowed as well, “What brings you all this way?” Roshi grinned and bowed back before responding.
“Why, to see this grandson of yours I’ve heard so much about!” Tenshinhan’s face reddened slightly as Roshi and Gohan shared a laugh.
“D-did you really tell this man about me, Grandpa?” Tenshinhan asked. Gohan smiled and nodded.
“Of course!” Gohan said proudly, “How could I not? This is my old master, Muten Roshi, after all!” Tenshinhan’s eyes went wide in surprise and he bowed again.
“G-gosh,” he said, “It’s an honor to meet my grandpa’s teacher, sir!” Roshi chuckled and stroked his beard.
“Don’t be too honored,” Roshi said as he cracked his knuckles, “I’ve come t’see what you’re made of!” Tenshinhan blinked in surprise.
“S-sir?” he stammered out before looking back between his Grandpa and Roshi. Gohan smiled and nodded again.
“I was going to tell you,” he began, “But yes, Master Roshi and I have been discussing the prospect of you leaving to train with him for a little while. I’m running out of things to teach you, after all!”
Tenshinhan shook his head, “But grandpa,” he protested, “I can’t leave yet! I know there’s more to teach me, you’re not giving yourself enough credit!”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Roshi said as he jabbed his staff down into the ground, “I’ll be the one who decides if you’re ready to be trained! C’mon!” Tenshinhan nodded and bowed again before getting into his stance. Roshi bowed back and waited for Ten to make his move. Ten charged and leaped in with a flying kick and a cry of battle.
The next thirty seconds were a blur of fists and feet and pain before everything went black. The next thing Tenshinhan knew, Grandpa Gohan was waving smelling salts under his nose… up a tree. Tenshinhan groaned and fell out of the tree to hit the ground with a thud. Muten Roshi, he realized, was already gone. It was also the late afternoon, when before it had only been just after noon.
“What happened?” Tenshinhan asked as Gohan helped him to his feet.
“Roshi and I decided that you’ve still got a bit of training to do,” Gohan explained as he helped Tenshinhan inside, “But we can worry about that in a couple years. After a beating like that, I think you deserve a piece of cake.” That night, Grandpa Gohan gave Tenshinhan his Power Pole for his present, telling his grandson that it was his now. Tenshinhan was so grateful that he gave his grandpa a great big hug. He couldn’t imagine any better birthday than this! As fate would have it, however, his sixteenth birthday would yield an even bigger surprise than meeting Master Roshi.