Disclaimer: I don't own Kung Fu Panda
Chapter 1- The State of the Palace
After a long night the tired and fatigued moon finally set. Taking its place, the sun slowly peeked out over the horizon, spilling its warmth and light over the sleepy Valley below. A gong echoed through the new morning, splitting it open and awaking the sprawling grounds of the Jade Palace. In the simple wooden bunkhouse, everyone was wide awake and out of their rooms.
"Good morning, Master!"
This was one of the rare days that even Po was awake and cheery at the sound of the gong. But there was one voice missing. "Where's Tigress?" Viper whispered to Mantis. He shrugged.
"Yes, I was wondering the same thing," Shifu said. He threw open the doors to Tigress' room. It was empty. He raised an eyebrow.
"Where is she?" Po asked. Shifu knew full well where she was. She was in the training hall, up far before dawn and running through the obstacle course. She had been doing this for the past few days.
He had only caught her just the day before when he rose to have the gong rung and to meet his students. He had heard her yells and discovered her drenched in sweat and going through her most difficult forms. When he asked her how long she had been up, and she had replied that she had awoken around midnight and couldn't fall back asleep. He had made her to go back to sleep for a few hours, but later saw her silhouette in her room practicing.
"Go and eat. I'll find her," he ordered, heading down the hallway. The masters exchanged glances, but did what they were told.
"What's going on with her? She hasn't been waking up on time all this week, and now she's just gone," Crane said worriedly.
"She's been really hard on herself lately. And she hasn't been talking to anyone except Master Shifu. I'm really getting worried about her," Viper agreed.
"Why do you think she's been doing this?" Monkey asked. No one answered. It had been two full years since Tai Lung made his return, and for the most of those two years things were very comfortable. Po was in actual training now, and not just beating around the Adversary. He was becoming very serious about his training, knowing the difference between work and play.
Tigress had grown to respect him for that, and became his close friend in a very short time. But recently Tigress had been acting very strangely. She was skipping meals, spending more time in the training hall and less time with her friends.
"Maybe we should sit her down and make her tell us what's wrong. You know, an intervention," Po suggested.
"Thanks, but I'd like to keep my head," Mantis said dryly.
"Well someone has to do something! This just isn't healthy," Viper said. They were interrupted by the scolding gurgles and pleas of Po's stomach.
"How about we eat first, then plot?" Po asked sheepishly. They all entered the kitchen, and ate in silence. They were all thinking and worrying about their friend, and what was to happen to her. If these events went on much longer, Tigress would waste away to nothing! And the scary part for everyone was that Tigress didn't really seem to care. She just kept on doing this to herself. It was as if she wanted to waste away to nothing.
Everyone had noticed that she had lost weight off her already lean frame. She was beginning to look paler and more tired. Like a ghost. A ghost of her former self.
In the training hall, Master Shifu was watching Tigress silently from the doorway. She was doing elaborate jumps and backflips on the Field of Fiery Danger. She was much slower than she would be if she had food in her stomach and at least a few hours of sleep.
The flames reached up and would gently lick at her back and legs, not enough to set her on fire, but just enough so that she could feel the heat. He sighed and shook his head, making his way over to her. Tigress didn't even notice as he came close. Shifu waited until she was close enough to the edge before unceremoniously pulling her off the obstacle course and onto the floor.
"Oh… Good morning, Master," she panted.
"What are you doing here?" he demanded.
"I'm just starting a little early, Master Shifu." He frowned and looked her over. Before all of this had begun, Tigress was a very beautiful woman. She had perfect coordination and grace, and her presence commanded attention. The sharp red and orange hues of her eyes sparkled and shined, and Master Shifu had seen her rare smiles reduce many men into puddles of goo on the ground.
But now she was tired and was constantly knocking things over, tripping over her own feet. Her eyes lacked their luster. And she never smiled anymore. Not once. "Go back to sleep. When I come and get you, you will eat breakfast and then maybe begin training. We'll see how you're doing," he instructed.
"But… Master Shifu, I feel fine."
He glared at her, and she shrunk back a bit. "You will do as I tell you."
The rest of the group came in, and immediately every one of their eyes was on Tigress. "Crane, take Tigress back to her room, and make sure she stays there and gets rest. I'll be there in a while to check on her," Shifu said, turning his back on the tiger master.
"Yes, Master Shifu," Crane replied obediently. He quietly made his way to Tigress. "Hey, Tigress." She didn't answer, or even look at him. She only stood up and left the training hall. He sighed and followed. Outside the air was cold and windy. Winter was almost here, and the days of warm, sunny weather were long gone. There was even a thin layer of snow covering most of the ground.
Crane cringed when he saw Tigress' footprints. In some of them there were speckles and flecks of red, indicating that her feet were bleeding. He caught up with her, walking by her side silently for a few moments.
"Um… do you want me to bandage your feet when we get inside?" he asked quietly. Tigress didn't respond, she only kept walking. "Alright then." They both rushed into the warmth and comfort of the bunkhouse. And without another word, Tigress went into her room and slammed the door shut.
A/N: You know, I think I'm a little obsessed with Tigress. I don't know why, either. So, as a product of my toil and obsession, here is the first chapter of another fic of mine that is centered around our favorite female warrior (Unless Viper is your favorite. But whatever).