Chapter 12: Dalang's Children

This chapter is dedicated to KFPReviewer, who got me off my sorry butt to revisit "That's Why They Call It the Present", if only for a short while. I fully intended just to leave it at Tai and Mei's kids, because the story was mostly about Tai's journey to redemption. But KFPReviewer had a point: it doesn't seem fair to forget Dalang and Tigress' kids. I intentionally didn't intend to follow through, because they were not developed as much as Mei Lien and Tai Shan in my mind. Maybe these shuffles will do something to change that.

Part 1: Shang

"Rendezvous" by Craig David

He stood outside the walls of the Long and Feng that night, waiting anxiously. Shang looked up at the moon rising over the village and sighed nervously. Granted Uncle Tai wouldn't be too mad; still, it didn't sit well with Shang that he was sneaking around with the daughter of the Phoenix Warrior.

He jumped when he felt a hand on his shoulder, but smiled when Mei Lien giggled. "I didn't think you'd come."

She kissed his cheek, "Took some time to convince Mom. Dad doesn't know, he's still up at the Palace with my brother."

Shang grinned, "Good. I mean, nothing against your dad or anything…"

She rolled her eyes, "Don't worry about it. I wish he weren't so protective…"

"He loves you, you know that," he took her hand. "But come on, I wanted to show you that place I found…"

Before long, they were at the very spot where (unbeknownst to Shang) Tigress and Dalang had their first date. Fireflies danced in the summer air, and Mei took in a breath, "Oh it's so beautiful here."

Shang took her into his arms, nuzzling her, "Not as beautiful as you…" he took a deep breath, "Listen, there's more that I wanted to say…Lately, since, well, since you ended that relationship with that jerk, I kinda…I dunno, I've been…feeling things…for you?"

Mei smiled, "Are you saying you like me?"

"Um, no…I love you."

To his surprise, she grinned. "I love you too."

"She's So High" by Tal Brachman

"You know you don't stand a chance with her," one of Shang's friends said.

Shang sighed through his nose as he watched Mei Lien training with her Nai-Nai Wu. "Don't I know it…"

The female leopard was grinning, her bright smile lighting up the arena, and drawing the attention of every male. None of them would make a move though, because Tai Lung was watching his fourteen-year-old daughter like a hawk.

No boy would dare talk to such a classy, sweet, brave and spirited girl, because her father was so frightening. None of those boys were remotely that suicidal.

Except for Shang.

But that was okay, because Tai Lung had known him since he was born.

He walked over to Mei, waving, and she waved back. "Hey Shang! Give me another fifteen, okay? I'm almost done these forms!"

"Sure, take your time." He loved watching her. He purposefully decided not to learn kung fu, unlike his brother and sister. Shang was happier helping his father in the kitchen, and working side by side with Tai Lung, Uncle Po and Aunt Su. But he loved watching this knock-out of a girl next door.

Shang looked over at "Uncle" Tai, and only exchanged a curt nod with him. At least he knew he wasn't going to be maimed for talking to her…

"Dani California" by Red Hot Chili Peppers

"What?" Tigress asked her eldest. "Shang, sweetie, are you sure?"

Eight-year-old Shang nodded at his mother, "Yeah. I don't want to learn kung fu."

Tigress looked at her husband, who was just as shocked as she was. "Son," Dalang asked, "Are you sure? I mean, most kids would jump at the chance…"

Shang shook his head; for some reason, Dalang knew, his son was much more mature than most children his age. He suspected his son was more mature than people twice his age. There had always been a somberness to his eldest son, and Dalang could never explain it. He certainly hadn't gotten it from his side of the family...

"Dad, I don't want to fight."

"That's fine, you don't have to," his mother said. "We're just…surprised, is all. Jin and Ming want to learn, and that's fine. We just thought…"

"Its okay, Mom. I want to do what Dad does. I like cooking. Its fun!"

His parents shared a look. Dalang shrugged, "Well, he doesn't want to fight, that's fine. I don't mind him taking over the business someday."

"I don't either…" she sighed, but smiled at her son. "Alright, we'll respect your wishes. If you change your mind, you let us know, okay?"

But he wouldn't. For some inexplicable reason, Shang had vivid nightmares depicting battles that he could have sworn he had been a part of, even though he knew that wasn't possible. It was horrible, gruesome, spine-chilling screams and blood was everywhere. He could practically smell the blood and death as he slept. He had lost sleep over it, but he wouldn't worry his parents over it.

It was because of those dreams that he didn't want to fight. Ever.

"Uptown Girl" by Billy Joel

Shang stared at Tai Lung from across the room. Leopard and tiger just stared, then Tai Lung asked, arms crossed over his chest, "So, you're going somewhere public?"


"Good. Where?"

"The teahouse, by the grotto?"

"Ah, nice place, I've been there with my wife a few times."

"I know. That's what gave me the idea."

"You know my rules."


"You are aware that if you break them…"

"…you'll break me."

"You're damn right I will."

Shang smirked, "Come on, Uncle Tai, you know I wouldn't do anything like that. I like having breathing as a hobby."

Tai Lung snickered. His ears perked up as he heard his daughter's footsteps on the stairs. "Here she is…" his eyes widened. "Young lady, what are you wearing?"

Mei rolled her eyes, smoothing out her skirt and tight shirt. "It's the latest fashion…"

"Not under my roof its not! You'll march right back up those steps and…"

Mei Xing came to Mei Lien's rescue, handing her daughter some money, "And you'll have a nice time on your date, being a nice wholesome teenage girl who is reasonably dressed, out with her boyfriend."

"Thanks, Mom," the female leopard grinned. Tai Lung glared at his wife who smirked back at him. He sighed, recalling who really wore the pants in their relationship. "Fine, she can wear it tonight, but she's sure as hell never wearing that again."

"Sure she isn't."

"Here I Go Again" by Whitesnake

"So…what do you think? Pretty good, right?" he asked her. Mei Lien grinned, popping another wonton into her mouth. She loved his cooking, and told him all the time, just the ego boost he needed. She made him feel special, and he made no secret how he felt about her. It had taken a while, but suddenly Uncle Tai didn't seem to care so much anymore.

He still watched them closely, never letting them out of his sight, at least until Dalang or Po dragged him away to cook or train. Sometimes Su Lin would yell at him in her usual stern but sweet way. When Su was mad, which was rare, you listened.

For now though, they were alone at a table together, and Shang had to hide the self-satisfied smirk as he felt the glares of the other eligible males vying for Mei Lien's attention. He was the envy of the Valley, and damn if he didn't know it.

He liked that.

He liked that she showered affection on him, that she was always happy to see him, and that she cared for him as much as he did for her. Truth was, he had fallen head over heels for her a long time ago. It had driven him nearly insane in his longing for her, but when she finally accepted his offer to go steady, it was the relief he needed.

What made it better was how well they got along. He felt deep in his heart, they were in it for the long haul.

"Already Over" by Red

Shang was absolutely stricken. He stared at his brother, disbelieving. "You…you what?"

Jin stared down at the ground, his normally jovial self replaced with a brooding exterior Shang had seen on their father on occasion. "I joined the army."


"I can't let them take you or Dad!" Jin cried. "The Huns are going to invade and destroy everything in their path! If I don't go, it will either be you or Dad!"

"Jin, you're going to get yourself killed!"

"I don't give a damn! You're my brother, and I don't want to lose you. Besides," he gave him a pointed look. "I know about your nightmares."

Shang's breath hitched. "H-how?"

"I have them too. I figured it out though. Remember when I was sick with fever and Nai-Nai gave me that herb? I…I had a vision. You were there. I was with you. We were in battle, fighting side by side. You had a sword, your eyes were blood red, and you were doing horrible things. I was holding a bow and arrow, and I never missed…"

Shang's blood ran cold, when he realized the implication. Their father never talked about his brothers or his father, and it was Tigress who told them the whole story later.

Jin locked his eyes with him, "Don't you get it? I have to do this…I need to atone for the sins of my past life. And this is the only way. I'm not letting you get hurt. Ever. You're my brother, and I love you too much to let that happen."

"Tourniquet" by Evanescence

Shang tossed and turned in bed. He was having the dream again. Every night for the past two weeks, he had been having this dream…this horrible, horrible nightmare.

Smoke burned in his lungs, stinging his eyes, and he tasted the copper of blood on his tongue. His vision was tinged pink, growing steadily redder. A sword was gripped tightly in his hand, and an opponent, a giant of a brown bear, was charging towards him.

He raised his sword and charged, slicing the bear clean in half, letting out a roar that frightened even himself. He launched into a gauntlet of warriors that rushed at him, then they suddenly started to retreat.

He didn't let them get far.

He pounced on one, stabbing savagely, ripping out his insides while he was still alive to witness it. He slash his sword out, taking out more, heads falling to the ground, agonized cries echoing through the air.

His rage took over. And he completely lost control as his instincts took over. There was no going back; he was doomed.

He bolted awake, panting and screaming. He was safe in his room, in his bed. His door slammed open, his parents, brother and sister staring at him.

"Shang!" his father cried, rushing to his side, "Son, are you okay?"

He was shaking, his eyes wide, harboring a haunted look. He stared down at his hands, wondering what had brought on the horrific scene… "I…It's okay. It was just a nightmare…"

"No Strings Attached" by N Sync

He hated that son of a bitch. Shang's claws dug into the wooden counter as he glared at that jock who dared to date his Mei Lien. She was giggling at a joke the domesticated cat was telling, with his usually smug smile.

Problem with this guy, his "affections" came at a price. Shang had tried warning Li-Li about this guy, how all he did was get into a girl's pants, and once he got what he wanted, left her.

"That little punk," Tai Lung seethed. Tai Shan was also glaring at the cat. Shang looked at the two of them. "Hate him too?"

"Yup," both males chorused.

"Hey, here's a crazy thought…" the tiger suggested.

"What's that?" Tai Shan asked.

"Let's scare the shit out of him, get him to dump her."

"So what, I threaten him with bodily harm, and you come and sweep my daughter off her feet and offer comfort?" Tai Lung asked scathingly.

"Would you rather he sleep with her and break her heart first?" Shang pointed out.

Both snow leopards looked at him, then glared back at the offending male.

"Alright, his ass is mine," Tai Shan growled.

Shang grinned. "What'll you do?"

Tai Lung unsheathed his claws. "We've got our methods…"

"Two Princes" by Spin Doctors

As much as Shang hated that boy for showing up with another girl to Mei Lien's Commencement Ball, he had to thank the sorry sod too. Li-Li had come back in low spirits, despite socking the son of a bitch (literally, as he was a dog), and a sweet dance with her baba.

To Shang's surprise, Tai Lung just left his daughter with him…alone. Was he seriously cool with them being alone? Shang just took Mei Lien into his arms, hugging her tightly. "I'm sorry he did that to you. Did he at least get what was coming?"

"Oh yeah. He'll be in the hospital for a couple weeks."

Shang grinned, "There's the Li-Li I know and love."

Mei smiled at him. "So…I believe you promised me a dance?"

"There's no music."

She took his hands and placed them in the right places, one on her hip, the other in her other hand while her free hand rested on his shoulder. "We don't need music. I just want to dance with you, like I should have done tonight."

Shang smiled sweetly at her, nuzzling her tenderly. Then he took it a step further…he kissed her. She returned it willingly, wrapping her arms around him.

Then he felt something collide with the back of his head. A shoe landed in the dirt at his feet. Shang turned around, and gulped when he saw Tai Lung making a signal with his hand and mouthing "I'm watching you".

"Someday" by Nickelback

Shang took in a deep, meditative breath. There was no way he could be ready for this. It had been a long road, he knew. He felt guilty for staying behind while his brother, his friend Tai Shan, and the love of his life, Mei Lien, went off to war. The tiger made no secret his feelings about it, and how he felt like a coward and a failure. When his mother, the Five, the Dragon Warrior and the Phoenix Warrior went off to fight…he had gone against his own principles and joined them.

His most shining moment came in a terrible battle, where they were fiercely outnumbered outside the capital. The imperial army was pushed back, and Shang made a desperate attempt to keep the Huns from taking the city…and it earned him the honor of being named a war hero by the Emperor himself.

But even though he had faced terrifying foes and fearsome battle beside China's greatest heroes, nothing prepared him for today. He looked up as the double doors opened. Mei Lien stood there, and when she looked up, she smiled.

They were dressed in red, just minutes from saying "I do".

Part 2: Jin

"Jessie's Girl" by Rick Springfield

Jin sighed through his nose. Shang was so lucky. Mei Lien was pretty, smart, with an approachable personality that made her the perfect Girl Next Door…who could break your legs.

He couldn't help being just a little jealous. Where could he find a girl like that? There were very few fellow felines in the valley, so he would have to go someplace else to find a date…

Then his eye caught Mei's friends, who had come over for a sleepover. Uncle Tai won't like that…and in fact, he turned up his own nose at the thought of stupid giggling girls.

"Hey Jin," Mei Lien said sweetly. He perked up. "Yeah?"

She pointed to her friend, a pretty white tigress, "Have you met Padma? She and her family just moved here from Burma."

Jin smiled. Well, maybe he wasn't so hopeless after all.

"White & Nerdy" by Weird Al Yankovic

"I don't get it, why doesn't she like me?"

"Because you're a total dweeb," Ming said, flipping through a kung fu magazine.

Jin sniffed, "I am not a dweeb, Padma just doesn't know a good thing when she sees it."

"Yeah, I'm sure that's exactly what it is…" his sister rolled her ruby-red eyes.

"I mean, I know kung fu! That's cool, isn't it?"

"You're learning kung fu, just like I am, and just like Shang."

"Yeah, but Shang's got all the girls, and what do I get?"

"A winning personality?" his sister offered.

"Pfft, girls don't care about personality!"

"Yuh-huh…" she said unconvincingly. "Have you talked to Mom about this, for like, advice?"

He flattened his ears, "Yeah…"

"What's she say?"

"To 'be myself'…I mean, that's the whole problem!"

"What's a problem?" Tigress asked, coming into the kitchen.

"Mom, am I geek?" he asked suddenly.

Tigress blinked. "Excuse me?"

"Am I a geek? I'm trying to figure out why girls don't like me…"

"Being a 'geek' has nothing to do with it," she said sensibly. "You're trying too hard. Just be yourself. Girls will start liking you when you least expect it." Tigress saw her youngest son didn't look convinced; clearly he believed nice guys finished last. In her husband's case, that rule didn't apply.

"And if it's any consolation," she smirked, popping a Tiger's Eye Dumpling into her mouth, "When their asshole jock of a boyfriend dumps them, they have a nice boy's arms to fall into."

That's what gave Jin the idea that earned him a black eye.

"Excuse Me Miss" by Jay-Z

"You're going to get slapped," Shang warned.

"No, no, let him do it," Tai Shan snickered. "I wanna see how hard Padma can throw a punch."

"Very funny, guys."

"You know she dumped that loser last week, right?" Shang asked.

"I know."

His older brother groaned. "Are you monopolizing on that?"

Jin shrugged, "Why not? Besides, it was Tai's idea."

Tai Shan just whistled innocently. Shang made a face, shaking his head at his sixteen-year-old brother. "It's a bad idea. That relationship didn't end well for her…"

"Exactly! See, I have a plan…"

"Here we go," Shang rolled his eyes.

"If I lay the charm on Padma, she is in such a state of emotional vulnerability that she will just fall into my arms and we'll start dating, be boyfriend and girlfriend for a couple years, then become a long-distance thing once she goes to university to become a doctor and then we'll get married and have 2.5 kids."

The other two boys blinked. "You've thought this through, haven't you?"

"I'm so proud," Tai Shan mocked, wiping away an imaginary tear.

"Okay, pay attention, gentlemen," Jin said theatrically. "I'm going in!"

Shang and Tai Shan watched him walk over to the white Burmese tigress. "How long do you think?" the snow leopard asked.

Shang held up three fingers and ticked them off. "Three…two…one…"


The two of them winced. "That's gonna leave a mark."

"We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off" by Studio Group

He was going to get her to go on a date with him, even if it killed him. Which it probably would; Padma trained under "Auntie" Wu Lien at the Jade Palace's Lotus School. She was pretty good with the folding fans…

But Jin was not deterred! It wasn't like he was asking her to sleep with him on the first date. A kiss would be nice. Very nice. Okay, a kiss would be great, and hotly anticipated.

But he had to get her to say yes first…


"Aw come on, please?!" he pleaded.

"Are you seriously begging?"

"Padma, come on, you're totally hot, a kick-ass fighter, a beautiful personality and really, really smart…"

"Jin, look, you're a sweet guy…" the white tigress said apologetically.

Crap, here we go…

"But I like you as a friend. I don't see us ever working out."

He was determined to salvage this. Either he had inherited his father's determination or his mother's stubbornness…he wasn't quite sure which. "Okay, we can be friends. Why don't we hang out after training?"

"I'm kinda busy…"

"Study group?"

"Jin, please, you're embarrassing yourself."

"When I'm Gone" by 3 Doors Down

Jin looked out amongst the crowd, noting the villagers' terrified expressions. The boar in front of him was dressed in armor, issuing a proclamation: conscription. A draft. The young tiger knew what he was about to do was foolish, and stupid. Very stupid. His mother would kill him; his father would resurrect him and kill him again.

But he couldn't ignore it. The armies of the north were invading. The Anvil of Heaven already had Mei Lien and Tai Shan helping them. The Imperial Army needed help too. The Emperor was calling for a full conscription of every able-bodied man.

Shang couldn't go; not since he'd injured himself during training. Besides that, Shang detested the idea of fighting, ever since he began having those nightmares…

A terrifying thought entered Jin's mind.

Dad. If his dad had to go to war…he might not return. That would kill his mother. Ming and Shang would be heartbroken, but not as much as his mother. Jiao Dalang was still as able-bodied as he had been twenty years prior. He could still fight. He could still serve the Emperor.

But Jin wasn't going to take that chance.

He took up the brush and signed his name.

"Rein Raus" by Rammstein

"Alright ladies, listen up!" the commander shouted at the new recruits. Jin looked down the line at the shell-shocked comrades in his unit. That first week had been brutal, he had to admit, but the commander's yelling didn't help. They'd performed badly. It was a miracle many of them had survived the grueling routine.

Now, their training intensified. They were practicing grappling, and Jin was up against the commander, an ox. He was intimidating, and Jin was lanky, with lean muscles, and kind of short. No one expected him to come out of it in one piece…

But when the commander hit the ground with a heavy thud, and shakily stood, holding his side, he was staring at Jin in shock. So was everyone else.

"Son…where'd you learn that?" the ox stammered.

Jin didn't want special treatment. No one knew who his parents really were, and he wanted to keep it that way. "Dad taught me a few moves before I left."

"Ich will" by Rammstein

"You got a girl back home?"

Jin looked up at his comrade, a wolf. "Why d'you ask?"

"You gotta have something to fight for, don't you?"

Jin nodded, flexing the new muscles he'd gotten from his crash-course in training. "I got something to fight for: my family."

"I'm surprised your parents didn't fight."

"The Furious Five, and the Dragon and Phoenix Warriors were called away last week," another wolf showed up. Jin's ears flicked with this new information. His mother had gone to fight?

"Where are they?"

"Protecting the capital, and the Emperor," his comrade explained. "Jin, why didn't you tell us your parents were Jiao Dalang and Master Tigress?"

He snorted, wrapping his knuckles in gauze, "I didn't want special treatment."

"Too late now," his buddy said. "With parents like that, you're going to kick some major ass out there."

Jin smirked, remembering the drills Tigress had taught him during training. And the knife-throwing techniques his father had taught him. Jin had that above the other soldiers: they were trained to fight as one, but he was full of surprises.

"For You" by Staind

He could smell the blood in the air, the coppery odor pungent and thick. He drew out the twin swords he had been armed with. His teacher in the army had felt it was the best choice, considering who his father was.

Jin was sick of everyone treating him special because his father was the last survivor of the Jiao Clan. He was sick of the special treatment because his mother was Master Tigress…so he took it out on the enemy.

His comrades would tell him later how he scared them—really scared them. He was a forceful fury, blades slashing through the air like extensions of his arms, and the moves across the ground fluid, graceful, effortless. Dad had taught him that. Mom had taught him to channel his anger to something productive.

Well, in this case it was destructive. But he figured she'd be proud.

With a mighty roar, he bore down on a huge bear who was easily two feet taller than he. The bear tried putting up a fight, but was not fast enough. Jin was too quick, too ferocious, and too hell-bent on surviving the battle.

One more down, a few hundred to go.

"It's All Over" by Three Days Grace

Jin and his lupine buddy looked out over the battlefield in mild shock.



"I expected that to be worse."

"How many were there?"

"A few hundred."

"How many'd we lose?"

"Dozen, maybe?"

The wolf nodded placidly. "Hell of a good start."

"Nope, not bad." The tiger looked up. "And here come reinforcements."

"Shit," the wolf drew his twin swords; Jin drew his out of the sheath strapped to his back. Both of them had been trained in the art of fighting with the double sword. Shifu would have been proud, Jin thought. And I'm about to make him prouder.

They waited until the enemy was close enough, and at the last possible moment, both warriors struck. The swords slashed, showing no mercy to the assailants. The pair tag-teamed, back-to-back in the fray, letting out fearsome roars and snarls, grimaces upon their faces.

For Jin, everything appeared in slow motion as he fought. Memories from a past life popped up, and for a moment he was tempted.

No, not this time.

He locked swords with a Mongolian wolf, meeting him blow for blow, until he disarmed the canine, striking him down to the ground. The Mongol looked up, fear in his eyes.

It would have been too easy, to just kill him right there…but Jin just sheathed his swords.

"All I Have to Give" by Backstreet Boys

When he opened the door of his room back home, the last thing he expected was to see his cousin.

"TAI!" he grinned, throwing his arms around the snow leopard. "You sonofabitch! How'd you survive?"

"By the skin of my teeth, man, I'm telling you. And what about you? How the hell did you not die?"

"I got damn lucky, man. Wanna see the scars?"

"Hell yeah, I got a few to show off, too!"

So, they sat out in the courtyard, with the other returning warriors. Jin's lupine buddies, and a few of Tai Shan's friends from the Anvil of Heaven were there, swapping stories and comparing battle scars. Mei Lien was showing off one on her arm, and Jin smirked when he saw Shang's pale face at the thought of how close Mei Lien came to dying. He didn't like that thought either, but Shang was a mess. He hadn't left her side since she returned.

"Welcome back," a sweet voice said in his ear. He turned and stared. It was Padma. He grinned. Maybe, just maybe…

"Hey, how's it going?"

She smiled at him, "Not too shabby. You?"

Jin thought about how best to answer that. Oh what the hell. "I'll be better once I've treated you to that dinner I promised…"

Part 3: Ming

"Ordinary Day" by Vanessa Carlton

Tigress beamed proudly at her five-year-old as she jumped and kicked, hitting the Adversary. Shifu gently corrected the tiger cub's stance but, unlike what he had done with Tigress, offered encouragement and a smile. Ming bowed to the Grand Master and began her forms again. Then she squealed with delight when Po snuck up behind her.

Tigress laughed as she watched the panda with her daughter; Po was still very much a big kid, and it was something that his own kids loved. He and Su Lin had been blessed with fraternal twins just two years prior. Now Po was playing with "his nieces and nephews": Tigress' kids and Viper and Crane's adopted children, all beginners. And Ming was the shining star among them.

The tiger sat next to Shifu and Wu Lien, the red pandas watching the beginner's class fondly. "In all my years, I never expected to be blessed like this again," Wu sighed happily. Shifu smiled at her and kissed her cheek, making the old woman giggle like a schoolgirl.

As strange as it was to be watching the red pandas like this, Tigress was happy for them, especially Shifu. In all the years she'd known him, this was perhaps the first time she had ever seen him truly smile. The young children milled around him and Wu, every child affectionately calling him Yeh-Yeh and Wu Nai-Nai; that was exactly what they both needed.

Tigress felt Ming tugging on her pant leg. She swept her little girl into her arms and started walking out. "Let's go home."

"She Is" by The Fray

Dalang just shook his head at his daughter's antics. Ming certainly loved tumbling and rough-housing, more than her brothers did. She was most certainly her mother. Luckily, Tigress knew exactly how to handle her daughter's strength. Apparently (though it pained her to talk about her past with him), Tigress had issues controlling her strength when she was little. So Dalang trusted his wife to handle the situation as she saw best.

Dalang yelped and grabbed the food on the stove before it went flying. Ming cried apologetically "Sorry!"

He sighed, "That's okay, sweetie…nothing caught on fire." This time.

"What's going on?" Tai Lung asked, sweeping into the kitchen. "You set your sleeves on fire again?"

Dalang sighed, "I don't know what it is, but Ming has a hard time controlling her strength…" he smiled as his daughter trotted into the kitchen and hugged her daddy.

Tai Lung scoffed, "She can't be that strong, she's only five!"

"Nuh-uh, I can beat you up, Unka Tai!" the cub challenged.

"Oh really?" he knelt and held up his open palm. "Give it a punch, right there."

It happened too fast for Dalang to warn the leopard. There was now a Tai Lung-shaped hole in the wall, and both Po and Su Lin were staring back at him in mild amusement, while Tigress, who had witnessed the whole thing, was laughing uproariously.

"He didn't believe her?"

Dalang snorted, "I bet he does now…"

Tigress beamed proudly, "That's my girl!"

"Hat 2 da Back" by TLC

Oh no; oh hell no. Ming gagged at the very idea. "I'm not wearing this."

Mei Lien looked up, "Why not? It's cute."

"Two things: it's pink, and it's a dress."

"What's wrong with that?"

"Li-Li, I despise dresses, you know that!" Oh yes, if there was one thing she had inherited from her mother, it was the full and complete loathing of dresses.

Mei rolled her eyes, "It's not that bad."

"Even if it weren't, its pink, and it clashes horribly with my fur and eyes." Which was true. Reds looked good on her; she looked just like her mother, right down to the ruby eyes. Ming hated pink, but dresses in general were worse.

She was a total tomboy. She wasn't like other girls; while other girls obsessed over makeup and boys, Ming obsessed over mastering the tiger style like her mother. Both tigresses were inseparable, sharing a bond closer than most mothers and daughters.

Ming liked wearing her pants low, tight shirts that showed off her muscles, and being sassy and even crass when the opportunity allowed. She was "one of the boys" and that was the way she liked it. She didn't give a damn, she wanted people to let her be herself. She would do what she wanted to do, no matter what anyone said, no matter how "girls were supposed to behave".

The hell with that!

That was the kind of girl she was.

And Ming wouldn't have it any other way.

"Maneater" by Nelly Furtado

So she had a bit of a reputation. What was wrong with that? She didn't mind that she scared off the boys; they just got in the way of training. But there was one boy who was a total conundrum. His name was Lang, a lion who had recently moved to the Valley with his family, and he was not intimidated at all. In fact, Ming swore that he almost encouraged her behavior.

A strange male, indeed.

In fact, he was looking over at her from across the arena where they were practicing kung fu forms. She was sparing with her mother, but taking a break.

"That boy's looking at you," her mother smiled knowingly.

"I know."

"He's kinda cute," she said suggestively.

Ming balked, "Mom, he's totally annoying!"

"What's wrong with him?" Tigress asked with an arched eyebrow.

"He's weird. He's always staring at me, and he's not intimidated by me!"

"I'd call that a blessing, sweetie," Tigress smirked.

Ming shook her head. "I don't get it, he's totally confusing."

"Totally," her mother teased.

"Why isn't he afraid of me?"

Tigress pointed, and Ming followed her finger. Lang was winning ever scrimmage his teacher gave him. Soon, Ming steeled up her nerve and strode forward, and tapped the lion on the shoulder, "I challenge you to a fight."

Lang only smiled, "Sure. Are you ready?"

She lowered herself into a battle stance. "Born ready."

He struck before she was ready. Ming recovered quickly, striking out with every ounce of strength she possessed. He was as good at dodging as he was at striking, and Ming was suddenly finding herself catching up with him.

He swung his leg, tripping her, and she stared up at him. He was the first person other than her mother to ever do that!

Lang just smiled, "That was a good fight. We should do this again sometime."

They most certainly would.

"You Had Your Chance" by Mariah Carey

Ming was not in a good mood. Lang was as confusing as usual, but what was worse…were the butterflies in her stomach whenever he smiled at her.

No, she was not crushing. No way.

She looked across the training hall, spotting him fighting against Master Crane on the Jade Tortoise. There was a power and strength in the lion's form, and a forceful elegance to his style that made Ming's heart flutter.

She inwardly groaned.

Oh yeah, she was crushing.

But he had blown it the day he defeated her. She could not suffer such an insult. She couldn't take any more, then jumped between Crane and Lang. The lion gaped, barely blocking a punch. "I know this can't be legal…"

"I'm regaining my lost honor," Ming seethed.

"You never lost it! I won that battle fairly…"

"And I'm going to win this one. HYA!"

Lang wasn't expected the ferocity of her strike, and stumbled back until he landed on the spinning serpents. Ming's heart stopped when she heard the restraints give way, letting the swinging clubs free, and one was going right towards his head…

A split second later, she had pounced, catching him and bringing him to safety. Ming looked into his astonished eyes and realized she had blown her chances with him. Big time

"Tao and Then" from Tao of Healing

Ming sat under the Sacred Peach tree, trying to meditate, and failing miserably. She had made a fool of herself in front of Lang, right after admitting to herself that she liked him. Now, because of her jealousy and temper, there was no way he could ever like her back. As much as she wanted to talk to him, to apologize, she couldn't bear seeing him now…



She hid her face, "Go away."

Lang ignored the order and knelt next to her. "Hey, are you okay?"

"I'm fine."

"You look upset."

"Upset? What makes you think I'm upset? I'm not upset…"

He arched an eyebrow; he wasn't buying it. "Fine, you don't have to tell me. I just wanted to thank you…you saved me back there, and well…"

"I'm sorry; I didn't mean to be a bitch like that."

"It's okay," he smiled, holding her hand. "I just wanted you to know, I like you…just the way you are."

"Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" by KT Tunstall

"But…you don't like him. I thought you didn't like him?" Tigress asked her later. Ming just shrugged, fidgeting, "I didn't…but he's an honorable warrior, and he fights fair, and he's very sweet, and kind and…well, you know him, you've taught him a couple times."

Tigress nodded. Lang was a sweet boy, and that instantly made her suspicious. But all the master of the tiger style had to do was watch the lion around her daughter; he was always respectful to her, and…the two of them reminded Tigress of herself and her husband Dalang. "I know. But I want you to be careful nonetheless."

"I will." Ming cursed when she heard her father greeting the lion at the front door. "Crap, he's here!"

Tigress fixed the collar of her daughter's cheongsam—the only dress she vowed ever to own—and smiled at her. She remembered her first date with Dalang and the momentary panic attack before going to meet him. "My little girl's first date…and at fifteen. Just remember to be careful, you don't have to do anything you don't want to…"

"Mom, we're just going to watch a play. Then he's taking me stargazing. Nothing's going to happen."

Tigress believed her, but she didn't have the heart to tell her daughter that she owed her very existence to a "night of stargazing"…

"Just promise to be careful. Remember the nerve attack Shifu and your Uncle taught you."

Ming winked, "You got it."

"All Around Me" by Flyleaf

Her eyes were dry, which surprised her. She didn't think she could run out of tears. And yet, there she was.

Jin was gone.

He had left in the night, leaving a note for the rest of the family. "Gone to war. I love you all."

Her mom and dad were in a panic, Tigress pleading with Dalang to go find their son. Dalang was ready to go out and drag his son back…until they found out he had signed the conscription notice in Dalang's place. It was out of their hands. Jin belonged to the Emperor's army now.

Ming leaned into her Aunt Su Lin's arms, the female panda comforting her as best she could, "Jin's gonna be okay, you'll see."

"I just want him to come back. I hate war."

"I know sweetie, we all do."

They looked out the window into the rain. The Five, Po and Tai Lung were saying good bye to their loved ones, and made their way off to help in the war.

"I really, really hate war…"

"World on Fire" by Sarah McLachlan

She sighed as she watched the rain fall outside the Long and Feng. Down below, she saw a cloaked figure enter the courtyard and rush to the open door. Ming ran down to greet whoever it was, and was shocked to see Lang taking the hood from his head.

"What are you still doing here? I thought you left?"

He shook his head, "My brother did, I stayed behind. I couldn't leave my mother alone."

"The army…if they find out you're able bodied but not fighting…"

"You're able-bodied and not fighting."

"That's because I'm a girl."

"Idiots," he scoffed, rolling his golden eyes. As much as Ming wanted to think there was little more to their relationship than mutual respect, at that moment, she felt something inexplicable for him.

"How's your dad doing?"

"Hanging in there. So's Shang. Mom left yesterday."

"I know…but I came by to see how you were doing."

She sighed, "I'm as well as I can be." After a moment, she accepted the offered hug he gave her.

"I'm sorry about all of this, Ming. If I could stop this war from happening…"

"I know. Thanks for coming over. I needed this."

The lion smiled and hugged her closer, nuzzling her. "Whenever you need a friend, I'll be here."

"Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor

Master Tigress was the first person to brave the Swinging Clubs of Instant Oblivion, and effectively send them into oblivion every time she trained. So, it made perfectly logical sense that her daughter Ming would be the second to complete such a feat.

Ming launched herself into the training hall, landing nimbly on the spinning serpent logs then jumping up into a full split to avoid the first club coming her way. Turning in midair, she swung her leg and demolished the first club with a mighty roar. The other six followed in quick succession.

Ming flipped over the Jade Tortoise and ran head-on into the Gauntlet of Wooden Warriros. She met them, blow for blow, letting out fearsome roars and screams as she tore into them. Thus demolished, she tested her reflexes on the Field of Fiery Death. The flames got too close for comfort, but Ming didn't care.

Someone cleared their throat, and Ming looked back at the door. She smirked, "Hey honey."

Lang smirked back, closing the door behind him. "You in the mood for a private training session, Master Ming?"

"Oh I don't know if you can handle me, Master Lang," she teased.

The lion grinned wryly, "Well, I'd hope I could handle my wife…"

Ming kissed him fiercely. When she pulled away, he just nodded. "Okay, you're right."

"You're damn right I'm right."

Well, here we are, the grande finale. Thanks for reading!