Chapter X: Drinking the Tea

Po was seated on the floor, against the wall next to the fireplace, which was the only source of light in the small cabin. Tai Lung searched the room with is eyes for anyone else, but couldn't see anyone, though he watched uneasily as the shadows danced on the walls.

"They are all gone," spoke Po, as though he was reading Tai Lung's mind. "I told them I need some time with you alone. Tigress wanted to stay, but…"

Tai Lung went to his side and dropped to the floor on his knees. He took Po's hand in his.

"How are you feeling?" he asked, concern etched into his features.

"Were you crying?" Po questioned simultaneously.

They both looked at each other and smiled, with relief on their faces.

"I'm all right," Po assured. "I mean, my shoulder still hurts and my right arm is numb, but I'm feeling much better. What about you? You're shaking."

Tai Lung looked down and saw that Po was right – his paws were shaking like bamboo twigs in the wind. He looked up again and tried to find something to say.

"Pour for us," Po requested, smile never faltering.

"What?" Tai Lung inquired, confused.

"The tea," explained Po as though it were obvious to begin with.

Po pointed to a teapot standing on the floor, next to the fire. Two large, delicate teacups were near it.

"I asked Crane to bring the teapot and the cups so we could… take it together," continued the panda.

Tai Lung calmed himself and his breath grew steady. He stopped trembling. He went to the teapot on the floor and poured the tea, filling the air with a warm aroma that… wasn't really nice at all.

He handed one cup to Po and gazed at his, and then turned to face the panda. Po just smiled. Tai Lung then took the tea in one large gulp.

It was horrible. It wasn't that strong or offensive like pepper or lemon, it was… nasty. It tasted how Tai Lung imagined swamp water would taste. He gasped, coughed, and sputtered for a good half minute before realizing Po was giggling, and his cup was on the floor, still full.

"Gross, isn't?" queried Po, laughing.

"What… what about your tea? You asked me to pour two cups…" Tai Lung objected, unable to hide the disgust on his face. Po laughed harder, but managed composed himself a bit.

"Oh, I don't think there's anything wrong with my soul, buddy. After all, I wasn't the one who believed I could heal it only by drinking tea. Especially a tea that's only a flu medicine. I never had it myself but my father says it has a terrible taste," he answered through his laughter. Tai Lung fell silent, gawking at him in disbelief. His tongue still itched at taste of the tea.

"You… you fooled me?" he asked, confusion evident in his tone.

"Well, I lied about the flower, but… I asked you to come with me in a journey. And you did. And I promised that once you drank the tea you'd be free to do whatever you want. And now you drank the tea and I'm weak and hurt and right in front of you. Are you gonna attack an injured opponent?" Po inquired.

Tai Lung sighed and answered "No. And you're not my opponent anymore."

"Well, then I think your soul is cured. You see Tai, I once heard somewhere that: to cure a soul, you need a friend, and to test a friendship, you need a journey. I figured that all the stuff you did was because you never had anything on your mind except for the Scroll. You didn't have anyone except you to care about – you didn't have any friends. I mean, you had Shifu… but I guess he was too busy being a father and a master. A person cannot live without friends. That must've left ya with a hole bigger 'an China in your soul. That's why you asked me to kill you. And I couldn't. Instead, I thought I could get some time with you and show you other things to care about. Like, you know… music, a sunny day, good cooking… and a friend. So, if I'm not your opponent anymore… are we friends?" Po questioned, hope gleaming in emerald eyes as understanding dawned within Tai Lung's mind, rippling up to the surface and shining across his face.

"Of course we are friends!" Tai Lung answered before Po could complete the question.

He then got down on his knees again and hugged Po, who reciprocated the gesture as best as he could with his right arm hurt.

"So can you forgive me for the tea stuff…?" Po gave Tai Lung his best puppy dog eyes and grinned even wider.

Tai Lung gently let go of the embrace, picked up the cup that was filled and lifted to Po's face.

"Only if you drink yours…" he replied with a smirk.

Po continued smiling, took the cup and emptied it in one gulp, like Tai Lung. But unlike the leopard, Po didn't seem to mind the beverage at all.

"I'm still numb. I can't taste a thing," and he grinned sinisterly as the leopard pouted.

Both friends then began to laugh.

"You got the better of me again, Master Dragon Warrior. I humble myself before thee," chuckled Tai Lung, half-mockingly.

"Don't worry, you'll have plenty of time for that when we return home…" and then Po stopped talking and they stood, sharing a look with each other. They knew that that was impossible. Po was, after all, referring to the Jade Palace, and Tai Lung wouldn't go back there, even if he was accepted by all of the Five, and he doubted that that would ever happen. It held too many memories he'd rather forget about.

"That would be… a bad idea," murmured Tai Lung after a few moments of silence.

"Yeah…" agreed Po reluctantly.

"I think I will… find a place for me… elsewhere," Tai Lung suggested.

"But you'll visit, won't you?" Po's eyes grew large, he stuck out his lower lip, and Tai Lung couldn't have stopped his laughter if he'd wanted to.

Tai Lung smiled, great guffaws of laughter diminishing into a series of giggles, and hugged Po again.

"Of course I will. You are my friend. I love you," Tai Lung replied, holding his companion, his friend, as close as he could.

"I love you too, buddy" whispered Po in Tai Lung's ear. "And you deserve that love, don't forget that."

And he never would.

EPILOGUE: The Shadow Warrior

There's someone out there that uses his kung fu skills for secret good deeds. He is known by many names: the Shadow Warrior, the Cloaked One, the Silent Striker, even the Nameless. His fighting abilities are described as amazing beyond imagination – and some even say he is an ally of the Dragon Warrior, who protects peace from evil, along with the Furious Five. Some also say that, before becoming the good warrior who protects others, he was the greatest enemy of peace. But, then again, people say the most incredible things…


Author's note: Well, that's it. Lights on, roll credits, the story is over. There's a few things I'd like to say, though, if I'm allowed. Feel free to skip this part if this kind of stuff bores you.

First, I'd like to thank my beta again, Mrs. Mercury Megatron, who helped me every step of the way. Merk, all cookies, cake and ice cream in the world to you. There is really no amount of words here or anywhere else that could say what you did for me.

Second, I'd like to thank the reviewers for sharing with me their point of view of the story. Feedback is very important, I know this now, and a lot of what was said gave me a lot to think about. Thanks, guys.

Thanks also to anyone who read and did not review; if you liked it I'm blushing, if you didn't, that's totally your right.

I'm kinda lazy and shy when it comes to reviewing other people's work (lame excuse, but I'm lazy, shy and lame…), but here's a multi-review for all Authors of Kung Fu Panda Fanfics: You guys all rock. ALL of you! I created my account here solely because of this story. I never really intended to write a Kung Fu Panda Fanfic, I just did, and you guys inspired me to. I don't think I'll be writing anymore, but if you can write a Kung Fu Panda Fanfic do it, because the world needs more of them!

bows to the audience That's all! Thank you!

I don't own Kung Fu Panda. I'm just a fan.