Chapter 5: Burdens to Keep



All characters of Kung Fu Panda are owned by Dreamworks SKG. This story was written purely for entertainment and without profit motivation.

Chapter 5: Burdens to Keep

Around the campfire, Tigress still felt the twitching effects from her battle with Master Osprey. The electrical shock from the lightning used against her caused her body to spasm intermittently. Her fur stood on their end which made her feel like a giant orange puffball and her right eye half-blinked at irregular intervals. On top of that, she couldn't help but feel as though the battle with the lightning master had somehow compromised her natural fortitude. It's as if the electricity had physically weakened her.

Still, despite all of her physical detriments, her mind was relieved in knowing that she safeguarded another young girl's soul. The female piglet named Wen, sat next to Lin with her arms wrapped around the fawn's. She was still quite fearful of Suon. To calm the piglet's nerves, Po suggested that the children sat between himself and Tigress to give them an extra sense of safety.

Po's noodle soup was again served and each child devoured their meals to satisfy their voracious appetites. Especially for Wen, she seemed especially hungry once she smelled the aroma of Po's soup with her round snout. For Tigress, she hoped that the soup would reduce the added ailment of twitching and shuddering.

Po handed Tigress a serving of the aromatic broth and she started to eat her share. With chopstick in her trembling hands, she struggled to pinch a morsel of noodles. After two or three attempts to simply eat, Tigress frowned as the edible strands slipped through the sticks. She growled quietly with frustration and placed the bowl down on the ground.

"Is there anything in the backpack that might help ease some of my symptoms?" Tigress asked of Po.

"Let me check," he said and started to rummage through the provisions.

As Po occupied himself, Tigress picked the bowl of noodles off the ground and again tried to scoop some noodles into her mouth with her shaky hands. The simple act of eating was a chore and it annoyed her to no end how droplets of broth splashed all over her face and clothing. She managed to pinch a portion of noodles and quickly slurped them into her mouth.

Next to her, Wen and Lin giggled softly as they watched Tigress feed herself with trembling hands. The master felt a little embarrassed, gave a slight shrug to the kids, and continued to feed herself.

"I think I found something that might help relieve your shakes," Po said.

"What is it?"

Po showed her a wooden box and opened its lid to reveal a diagram of a tiger with arms extended and a portion of long needles inside it.

"Acupuncture needles?" Tigress said.

"Mantis must have put 'em in there before we left," he said.

"They're useless to me, the pressure points to relieve my shakes are all along my back. I couldn't possibly reach back there with any accuracy," Tigress said, then she noticed Po stiffening his lips and his eyes scanned from her to the needles back and forth. "Wait," she said. "you don't mean that you're going to attempt acupuncture on me, are you?"

"What else can we do?"

Tigress shook her head, "No. No way. I'm not going to let you try that on me!"

"Wha-Why not?" Po said his eyes almost begging. "I've been practicing!"

"Really? On who?"

Po looked down with apprehension, tapped his fingers on the acupuncture box kit, "...on straw dummies,"

Tigress lifted an eyebrow. "On straw dummies? Then, no. You might accidentally stop my heart."

"Oh come on! Don't worry! There's a manual in my pack that shows basic acupuncture. I swear! I'll be extra careful! Look, there's no medicine to fight off your shakes, so the best thing we have are these acupuncture needles. You're gonna need all that's available if you want to win these trials!"

Tigress let Po's words sank in and sighed. "Alright, you've made your point. However, we will wait until everyone else is asleep."

"Excellent!" Po said with relief in his voice.

Later that night, once Suon and the kids fell asleep, Tigress unbuttoned her red vest and pulled it off her torso. She wore body wraps under the vest as an undergarment. Her face felt flushed as she realized that she took off her vest without any regard of embarrassing Po. She looked over to his direction and noticed that his back was turned towards her and she breathed a sigh of relief.

Po opened the box of acupuncture needles as Master Tigress laid down forward on the ground and folded her arms to rest her head on. With the first needle in hand, he traced his finger along Tigress's back and pressed his thumbs on her pressure points. He felt her body tense and heard her gave a quiet hiss.

"I'm sorry, did I hurt you?" Po asked.

"No, it's just a bruise."

Po frowned at this but he continued on to search for more pressure points along Tigress's back. He pressed his round fingers up and down Tigress's back to initiate chi flow for the acupuncture. There were three spots throughout her striped back that garnered a pained reaction from the lady master.

"There are certainly more bruises than expected, Tigress," Po said.

"That's what happens when you get into fights, Po," she said rather defensively.

"I know I know but doesn't it concern you that you've accumulated so many bruises in only after two fights? When you full contact spar against me and the other furious five, you would probably gain one or two bruises and that's after we give it our all."

Tigress was silent as Po waited for her response, a moment passed and she sighed. "Master Shifu did warn me that I was going against unknown elements. All I can do now is persevere."

Po placed his palm on Tigress's lower back and pinned his first needle. "You're going to feel a swell of energy."

"I feel it," she said.

Then the panda carefully placed one needle just under her shoulder blade and the other in the middle of her back. This seemed to reduce the tiger's body shakes.

"How's that feel?"

"Mm. Much better," Tigress said. "You're a natural, Po."

"Yeah well," Po said and laughed a bit sheepishly. "I'm going to leave these needles in for a few minutes to let your body's chi flow heal your shakes. Meanwhile, I think it's journal time, so tell me how the fight went," he said as he grabbed his little notebook from the pack to record Tigress's account of the duel with the Master of the Skies.

"Alright," she said.

"Unless, you're too tired, of course," Po said with consideration in his expression.

"No, it'll be fine. I'm up for it. I don't mind. Let's get this done while my memory is still fresh from the fight."

"Right on!" Po said with a pencil ready and willing.

Tigress gave Po the details of the fight with Master Osprey which amused her to no end. It seemed that the Dragon Warrior was really getting into her story and his attention was very child-like and full of awe. However, despite his eagerness, his expression slowly gave way to a horrified expression once she reached the part of being struck by lightning three times.

When Tigress finished her account of the duel, she noticed that Po couldn't get that worried expression off his face. "Po? What's bothering you?"

"What's bothering me? This whole thing! What these stupid trials are doing to you! All these bruises, those lightning strikes! What impossible magic master are you going to face next time? And you know what's really terrible? I can't even help you! I wish...I wish I could take some of this burden away from you!"

Tigress kept her silence and buried her face into her arms. She hated the unknown as much as Po did. What bothered her the most was the unexpected intensity of the pain associated with her duels. Pain that she hasn't felt since her early days of training as a martial artist. Despite the hardships, she would rather bear the burden of these fights than let her friend partake in the same ordeal. She didn't want to see him hurt. She didn't want to be reminded of the time when Po took the full blast of Lord Shen's main cannon. Witnessing the dragon warrior being shot out of the foundry was an image forever burned within her memories. She thought she would never see his smile again? Or egg him on a bean bun challenge. Or counting on him to bring levity into an otherwise serious atmosphere back home.

No, she thought adamantly. She didn't want her friend hurt again. He meant a lot to her. She came to appreciate his light-hearted nature, his gift of gab, his encouraging attitude, his unwavering loyalty, his subtle wisdom, his jovial wit; she couldn't ask for a better friend. However, despite all of her feelings for Po...she couldn't bring herself to tell him this directly.

She heard Po let out a frustrated sigh and felt the removal of the acupuncture needles from her backside. "Thank you for the acupuncture, the shakes aren't as noticeable anymore," Tigress said as she pulled on her red silk vest. "I think I'll turn in for the night."

"Rest well, Tigress," Po said.

"You too, Po. Try not to worry so much. Alright? I'm hardcore, remember?"

Po forced a chuckle that still sounded worried, "Yes, yes you are."

To Be continued...