"What do you feel?" He asked.
"Nothing." She said.
She'd always felt nothing. It was a general statement, not quite descriptive, not enough to show how she felt, because all she felt was nothing. Nothing meant many things. Numb. Empty. Lost. Those were the main things in her nothing.
Numb resided in her soul and pushed her back into bed in the morning. It became an overwhelming weight, holding her down and constricting her movement. Getting up and facing the day was almost impossible with numbness. It tortured her how the need to keep her eyes closed was so strong. So much stronger than her responsibilities to her craft. But there were times when she obeyed this numbness. She stayed in bed. In her room. And lay there, with the nothing as her only companion. It was almost relaxing. Being able to lie there made the numbness a little less heavy. It made her forget the hatred she had for numbness.
Empty followed her through the Palace. It arose when numbness couldn't overtake her and she managed to lift herself up. While numbness rendered her unable to move, emptiness kept her bored, uninterested and reminded her of the something missing in her life. The emptiness wasn't like hunger (she'd kill to have hunger over emptiness any day), food made no difference. Sometimes she left her meals. If they did nothing to fill the empty then what was the point in eating? Instead of eating, she'd train. She trained until her paws felt nothing too. That worried the other masters, but she liked it. It gave her something else to think about other than nothing. It took her mind off the knowledge that she'd have to wake up again the next day.
Lost made her feather-light. She knew her home was the Jade Palace. She knew where the training hall was, were the iron-wood trees were, where her room was. But why did she still feel lost? The lost made her want to run away, find her true place and make the nothing go away. And if she still felt lost? What would happen then? The truth was, she had no idea. The need to know how to make it go away was so strong. Ruminating helped. But only to a certain point. Her thoughts would wander cautiously towards who gave her the nothing. When they did, the weight of living became that much heavier.
The one thing she did feel, was love. Tigress loved her best friends. They almost made the nothing go away. When she was with them, she knew she wasn't lost. Because they reminded her that her home was with them. Wherever she went, they'd follow. And they filled her empty, held her heart and instead filled it with warmth. Their charming and lovable mannerisms made existing feel almost like living. They also managed to lift the weight of her numbness. They were her only reason to find the strength to move from the comfort of her room. Because she wanted to see them, to listen to them talk and squabble and tell stories.
And wasn't it so effortless for them? Their ability to articulate how they felt with so many contrasting words. Their smiles met their eyes, their laughter rang merrily, their faces held emotions. It comforted her as equally as it unnerved her that they had such freedom. Their happiness made the problem of nothing seem so small. And watching them let her out the cage of her own mind, even just for a moment. It was wonderful.
The conflict that unnerved her, she never voiced. Nothing was forbidden. Nothing was different. Nothing was not normal. Where her emotions were, she didn't know. She'd never known. She always supposed at one point she'd felt something. When she'd sit in her solidary room in Bao Gu with silent tears drying in her fur. That was something. Something wasn't good for her, but it was better than nothing. The nothing started soon after she found that her tears did nothing but make her sticky, sore and tired. It was unproductive and bad behaviour. So she forced herself to stop. Swallowed down the stops. Clenched her teeth and breathed until her eyes were dry again.
Subsequently, her eyes stayed dry into adulthood.
At first, she was proud of her inability to cry. It was a sign of inner-strength and emotional stability. Because she was emotionally stable. With nothing, at least. Though as the years passed, and she watched her friends fall to their lowest points, she made the revelation that tears helped. They'd take shuddering breaths and wipe away the last of their sadness. And then, after a little while, everything was alright. Those moments showed her how her nothing made her a liability.
She was a burden.
If only she could feel something.
Shifu looked sad at her admission. "Nothing?" He whispered.
"I feel… nothing. I can't fix it. There's nothing I can do about it." She said evenly, keeping her voice monotone was never a challenge, so why was she wavering?
Shifu took a deep breath, appearing as if he didn't know how to word his response. "I – I have to apologise." Tigress averted her eyes at this, her vulnerability made her want to squirm. "Since I adopted you I haven't been… a real father. After Tai Lung, I thought it would be best to distance myself to not – to not create a copy. But that was the worst thing I could have done."
He ran a hand over his tired eyes. "Every child needs love, and I prohibited that from you."
Tigress looked at the table. She didn't want to have this conversation. Not now. Not ever.
"Tigress, please look at me."
The nothing told her not to. It didn't want this. Once again, Tigress didn't listen to it, and lifted her head.
Shifu's eyes were sincere and soft. "I'm sorry. I wish I'd said something earlier. I am proud of you. I always have been. And though I never showed it, I always loved you like a daughter."
Her eyes were no longer dry.
And after too many years, she felt something take away her nothing.
AN - This is pretty contrasting to what I usually write, I'm sorry. I've got some fluffy WIPs in the works but I've been feeling pretty down lately (a year, really) and I needed to face my problems head on before trying to force some happiness into myself. I usually justify writing something because it has a pay-off, because it adds something to the original material or it's pleasant to read. This is one where there's no real reason for me to write it. I guess it's a weird sort of coping method for me, hence why the writing is quite sporadic. It's probably the only way I can articulate how I feel.
I usually justify writing something because it has a pay-off, because it adds something to the original material or it's pleasant to read. This is one where there's no real reason for me to write it. I guess it's a weird sort of coping method for me, hence why the writing is quite sporadic. It's probably the only way I can articulate how I feel.