Epilogue - Now I am Home
It was different, odd hospitalizing a former genocidal peacock warlord and former lord in general. The boat ride back to the palace had been tense; Shen stayed in his bunk the entire time, stiffly and awkwardly curled up, dodging any pathetic attempt one of the five made – Viper and Mantis particularly – at conversation. He stayed on the bunk, stubbornly, cursing the driver that was cheap enough not to put so much as a curtain between the bunks. He could feel the five's prying eyes on him.
Xun made the trip fun though; despite Shifu's warnings and orders of 'no roughhousing', the two sparred up on the decks of the ship, the situation often winding up with one of the two on the ground, pinned under their smug victorious opponent, getting drenched with wingful/pawfuls of water, or the instance where they had a 'sago tart fight'. Shifu had been less than pleased.
The red panda had insisted on taking a different route to the Jade Palace, rightfully assuming the village was not yet prepared for the arrival of China's-almost-demise. Arriving at home finally, all let out sighs of relief, while Kurisu eagerly squealed at spotting her long forgotten home, tugging hooves and paws to try and show around – and she tried to tug a white wing, but Shen yanked back fiercely and dashed to his quarters, where he remained the rest of the night-
-and the rest of the month, nearly. The warriors welcomed it; neither felt like they could really face the former insane and murdering warlord after everything that had happened. He saved the city, but he also destroyed and exterminated an entire village; killed his own master in cold blood – tried to kill his best friend, tried to take over China - kidnapped a child – need the list go on?
Kurisu, the soothsayer, and Xun did not welcome the cold secluded attitude Shen put up now; each would try to coax him from his room, but to no avail, unless Shifu decreed it for a bit of training. Oh gods, forced to spar with one of the five.. With the serpent or the praying mantis, it'd be tense and awkward. With Tigress – oh gods, she reminded him of his Nana when she was ready to rip off his limbs (except this tiger would probably do that and feed them to him as well.)
The distancing got severe enough that, to a point, Shen was avoiding even his family. Shifu found himself pondering on what to do; he remembered the Kung Fu Council's other proposition, and thought on it, and surprising enough, it was Po that managed to talk Shifu out of it, convinced it would positively break his little sister's heart. (And he was probably right.)
Things started to climb eventually; Shen spent less and less time in his room, and more and more time with Kurisu and the soothsayer -Xun too. The wolf made one of the highest ranked guards the palace had ever had, not that that surprised Shen too much.
But if there was one thing that didn't change, and perhaps never would, it was the nightmares. They came every night, bringing the same pain, misery, and above all, fear – of losing each other again, forever. It was not terribly uncommon for Shifu to have to personally knock on Shen's door when the gong sounded, just to find the kitten curled up with him in the bedroll, sometimes in his wings, sometimes just clutching to his night robes. If the red panda had known they had had a difficult night, he'd sometimes do the true kindness by letting them have a few extra minutes of sleep. He could usually tell this by their facial expressions, and if they were shaking a bit. Even the positions both were in made it easy to tell: if they were curled up in a fetal position, it was obvious he needed to let them be; of course, the fact they'd be sleeping in the same bed was enough to say it all.
Xun and Shen hadn't hit it off too well with Shifu. The red panda frowned upon their behavior in training, which went from simple desired sparring to – depending on the area – plum fights – any food fight – splash wars, tickle fights, or just mercilessly verbally jabbing each other. He never really attempted to stop it – they were childhood friends after all; the red panda himself would probably ending up acting just as un-honorable if he was with an old playmate. There was, however, a day where their immature 'play sessions' landed them in huge trouble with the Grandmaster.
It was in the morning, starting off from another horrific nightmare: Shen was trapped again in the dream, half expecting when he opened his eyes in the illusion, he'd once again face the mob – watch Kurisu and Nana die, watch the mob just hack his limbs with their axes, watch the feathers and blood fly-
No, he was seeing himself; he wasn't around any mob, and he wasn't in danger, being threatened -
he was doing the threatening. Kurisu and Nana were in a cage, spears pointed at them by gorilla guards; the five and the Grandmaster and the stupid panda were tied up too, ready to be tossed into a – wait, when did a chasm just magically appear? (Well, it was a dream, a flying unicorn could just randomly soar by and it wouldn't be weird.)
Shen watched himself advance in the – boat, now he was on a boat – to Xun. The wolf was tattered, bleeding from his only good eye that had a slash right through it, shaped like a crescent moon. He had looked up at the peacock with hurt and betrayal, silently mouthing: "why?"; Shen had sneered and raised his foot (which was cased in again in the dream), and whipped it across the wolf's-
The peacock jolted up with a scream, and a strangled coughing sharply inhaled gasp, immediately seeing a form in front of him, feeling a paw tightly grip his shoulder. No, it wasn't the kitten, she'd have thrown herself on him. It was Xun; the wolf's face was drawn up in confusion and concern, he kept gripping Shen's shoulder, waiting for the peacock's breathing to calm.
"Because that wasn't distinguishable by my waking with a scream, shakes, gasps, and – well, by what happens every night?" Shen snapped. Xun was un-effected, only told him to calm, and asked softly what it was this time.
Shen pursed his beak shut tightly; he couldn't tell Xun. The wolf was already timid enough when he got in one of his moods, and when he had a relapse of his old self when the insufferable panda had pushed him to the end of his rope, and he had threatened the imbecile with a blade. That had been a traumatic moment for the entire palace – Kurisu and the soothsayer especially, so sure that he'd be sent away immediately. He wasn't, but he had been put on restriction, stripped of weapons; the entire ordeal had left everyone warier of him, Xun especially.
So how was he supposed to tell him he dreamed he killed him? Regardless, Shen managed, somehow, his head down as he retold the events of his dream, spilling even the 'I killed you' part.
Xun's expression was tight, he looked away.
"You hate me now, I'd imagine-"
"I could never hate you," Xun said; it was the truth, somehow, he never did hate the peacock, no matter what he had done.
"Yeah, right," Shen scoffed.
The wolf smirked. "Need I clarify it?" He crouched, Shen hissed, not yet awake enough nor in the mood to put up with a grapple fight. None the less, eyes blurred from sleep, Shen found himself skidding on his back into the wall, the wolf on him. He hissed again, slapping the canine with a wing.
"Xun, really – I'm barely even awake here!" Shen scrambled up from under his old friend's hold, dashing down the halls, swaying, knocking into several walls, but starting to smile. Xun was ganging up; the peacock squawked as they went tumbling into the kitchens after another pounce. He scrambled to his feet again, not about to be pinned.
Xun grabbed a basketful of oranges and started to hurl them, snickering at Shen's indignant shriek as his feathers were stained a sunset orange. Oh, it was on now.
The cabinet jostled about as it was slammed repetitively by the two warriors, and a bag or rice cookies tumbled down; the cookies went everywhere in the kitchen. A jar of candied plums teetered on the edge; Shen laughed when it came down on the wolf's head. Xun leaped at him, crushing the cookies and stuffing them in his beak and face, cackling. Shen roared out muffled curses and shouts, and grabbed the jar of plums.
"Master Shen! Xun!"
The two gasped and tripped in mid pounce, landing in a tangled heap at Shifu's feet. For the longest time, the red faced red panda with his quickly tapping foot let his angry eyes do the talking, watching the peacock and wolf climb to their feet and awkwardly bow, faces flushed. Shifu glared questionably, eyes darting between the two.
Not taking his eyes off the Grandmaster, Shen raised a wing and pointed to a stunned Xun.
Oh no, that had not gone well with Shifu. The soothsayer had beat him to the yelling and scolding. Shifu had watched in shocked amusement as the switch was whipped out, and just as quickly – whipped across both backsides, earning loud pained yelps. The red panda shrugged; no need for him to get involved, the soothsayer had it all covered! He just snickered softly and walked off.
Nearly another month had passed when Shifu decided it was finally time to announce Shen's stay in the valley. Calling forth a ceremony in the stadium, the red panda hadn't been too worried. Wind of Shen's past sins had traveled all through China, but it was The Valley Of Peace that knew the least. Matter a fact, the valley barely knew anything on Po's saving China other than what they had been told. They all knew about the panda village though; that was perhaps the only thing that had the entire valley so wary.
Shen had watched them, all eyes were on him, for once trained on him and not his stupid white feathers. (That was the primary reason he was always gawked at.) Shen waited for them all to lunge with the nearest weapons they could find, but no one did.
Shifu had hurriedly set fireworks off, trying to distract the valley. Also, it was a special occasion after all: a celebration of sorts, welcoming Shen. The fireworks went off in magnificent patterns, lighting the sky with vibrant blues and purples. The audience was instantly captivated.
Though there was something wrong with the warriors: every one of the Five looked nervous, flinching a bit with every colorful explosion. Po looked apprehensive, Shen was glaring at the fireworks with a bitter hate, and Kurisu-
The kitten looked like she had seen the god of death himself rise from the ground. Her pretty blue face paled several shades; her mouth was tight, softly whimpering insistently. The loudest firework exploded with the thundering crack of a god's whip; the girl screamed, and all heads turned to her.
Shen couldn't believe it. Was this really the same kitten that had nearly gotten herself killed by disobeying orders of going to the Dragon Boat festival, just so she could see the fireworks?
The kitten shrieked and tumbled onto her back, tears streaming, hyperventilating. She dashed from the balcony before Shen had a chance to jump up and grab her. The peacock hurriedly followed, happy to get away from the stupid ugly killing fireworks.
Shifu blinked, confused, guilty. He had no idea – it hadn't occurred to him that the child may have a permanent fear of fireworks. She always loved them, was always the one to beg to set them off (a request the red panda strictly denied), and would stare intently as they lit the sky with a night time rainbow.
Of course, the girl had nearly been killed by these fireworks. She had watched Shen nearly die from these fireworks, watched an entire city be destroyed by them too. Of course she'd hate fireworks now. Judging by the unsettled looks from his students – still trying to recover from the ordeal themselves, the fireworks had been a bad idea.
Shifu's ears lowered.
Shen found the girl quivering in her bedroll, crying out and jumping with the next sonic boom, yanking her blanket up over her head so she wouldn't see the lights either. She sobbed, and shrieked when the peacock lightly touched her.
"Kitten," Shen said softly. The child curled further into the pillow. Shen managed to get a light hold of her tail, flipping up the quilt and pulling her out. The moment he did, Kurisu instantly buried her face into his burgundy robe. Shen tensed, but only for a moment. (He was starting to get used to her affection.)
"Make them go away," the child sobbed. A wing barely enclosed her to his chest.
"They're just fireworks, kitten," Shen said tensely. He hated them too. They reminded him of everything he once was. They reminded him of his fall from grace. They were what ended his parents' love for him.
A wind rushed into the room from the window, roughly ruffling and messing up his feathers. He smiled. No, they'd always love him...
The peacock looked down at the girl, his heart twisting into knots as the child shook. This was his fault. He had destroyed the magic of fireworks for this girl. No, the mob had; that meant he had. It was because of him that she'd never love fireworks again...
He only sighed; there wasn't much he could do but let the child cling to him. He stayed with her in the room, flinching at every booming noise, until the last firework went off.
During the next few months, the residents of the Jade Palace had all begun to warm up to the peacock now dorming with them. Well, all but two: Po and Tigress. The tiger had watched Shen 'kill' Po, injure him – her best friend. There was no way she could ever even attempt to be civil with him. Cold glares were a norm, as were quiet growls if he got too close to her. (And in such close quarters in the bunkhouse, that was inevitable.)
With Po and Shen...well, Shifu knew that it was impossible for things to ever be okay with the both of them. Nothing could change the fact that Shen killed Po's parents, and nothing could make the panda forget it. They wouldn't ever be friends, or even close to it. However, the red panda noted that the two made attempts to be civil. Po often tried to be friendly – just to get shot down, but at least he tried. Shen still despised the big fat bowl of jelly that had led to his defeat, but he made an effort to be civil for Kurisu's sake.
The rest of the Five had slowly become friends with the peacock. It was common to find Shen outside with the kitten and some of the five – mostly Viper and Mantis. In training, Viper and Kurisu were fond of working as a collaborated team to get the peacock to the ground. Often, Viper would bind the helpless peacock's feet together while Kurisu (and sometimes Xun) launched a merciless attack on them.
Feeling accepted by the five made it easier for Shen to continue living at the Jade Palace.
The soothsayer and Mr. Ping became close friends. Both fond of reminiscing and sharing stories of their kids – stories that would often leave Po, Shen, and Kurisu running for the hills in embarrassment. They were most fond of sharing those stories with the customers too. It became harder for the valley to fear the peacock (all elements of terror shot the moment the soothsayer re-told a story of when baby Shen took off his diaper and ran around the entire palace, naked. That story had left her chick locked in his room the entire day.)
The warm luxurious air of summer morphed into a cool breeze of fall. Soon, snow began to fall. The Jade Palace had a new tradition that they had carried through since the days Po and Kurisu came to the palace: a snowball fight to celebrate the first snow fall of winter.
Needless to say, it was the most fun the entire palace had had all year. Snowballs flew – slapping into different faces, laughter carried down to the valley below. Even Shifu and the soothsayer decided to get involved. (The red panda had refused -until Po threw a fast one, right into his mouth.) The soothsayer wasn't initially into the idea of being pelted with snow either. (And that changed when her own naughty chick stuffed a handful of it down her robe.) Then, the surrogate mother had taught her child a very hard (and frankly) painful lesson on respecting your elders – with snowballs.
The harmless child play escalated into a fierce and dangerous battle when one of Po's snowballs had gotten Shen in the back of the head. You could hear the sound of a proverbial pin hitting the floor when Shen spun around to glare. All was silent. He then proceeded to teach the panda that you do not throw snowballs at him – if you're a big fat panda.
At the end of the day, Po had various bruises and cuts, and both he and Shen were put on restriction. (Essentially a Jade Palace 'grounding.') Kurisu stayed silent on the fact that Shen seemed to deliberately go after the snowballs that had ice hidden in them, to spare the peacock a longer punishment. Snowball fights were forbidden until Shen and Po learned to 'play nice.'
The Winter Feast came quickly, and soon the entire palace was preparing. It was tradition for the residents to wear the finest silver silk, but no one could coax silk onto the peacock, despite Shifu's gentle reminder that it was customary for the palace. They finally compromised: Shen wore silver again, but it was cotton, not silk.
Shifu again left the celebration up to Po since the panda had done marvelous the last time. They essentially threw the formal dinner idea aside, once again deciding that the dinner would be at Mr. Ping's.
In this time, there wasn't much for Shen and Kurisu to do; they spent their time in the snow. Shen was fond of a wayward hide and seek game, only because his plumage and feathers matched the terrain. He'd hide in a snowbank, snickering as it would take up to an hour for the exasperated kitten to find him. Eventually, the peacock decided to teach her some techniques in camouflaging and hiding in the white terrain, figuring her fur coat was heavy enough that she could get deep enough in the snow without risking hypothermia. Soon, it was the kitten that was impossible to find – and the kitten that would leap out of a snow pile and onto the startled bird, out of nowhere.
Bored that everyone in the palace seemed to have a task but them, both the peacock and kitten spent a lot of time with their Nana, too, fond of sitting on her bedroll while she knit them scarves and warmer socks. Both her children were fond of hiding her fabrics when the goat wasn't looking, but it was Shen that was always caught – and in many instances – pulled into his nanny's lap, his robe partially undone enough for the old goat to blow a series of torturous raspberries against his bare stomach. Spluttering and laughing, the peacock would try to rat on Kurisu – and would only receive additional punishing raspberries for 'lying.'
Xun was given preparation tasks too: his job to scour the valley for needed objects and decorations, and he would grumble and growl about being the 'delivery service', hating his job, but both Shen and Kurisu envied him. At least he got to do something! Their daily routine was getting boring.
Finally, Shen was assigned a job – and he immediately wished that he had never asked for a task. His job was to prepare the Feast's fireworks. (Shifu figuring he could give it another shot.) But more? Shen had to do this with Po.
"You aren't doing it right." Shen's stone cold snap that never arose around his family always made itself known around the stupid panda.
"Well, show me-"
Po mumbled something unintelligible, embarrassed; he grabbed a handful of the powder, situating it in the rocket. This was how it was done, right?
The firework rushed quickly up to his face – he had no time to deflect it – the panda crashed hard into the snow, Shen on him, pushing his wrists into the ground. Panting, Po looked over the peacock's shoulder, where the pretty blue firework that nearly killed him, exploded in the sky. Gulping, he looked up at Shen, and where the peacock was still tightly holding down his wrists.
"The only reason I saved you was for the sake of the girl. However, you do that again, and I might disregard that little fact and let the firework decapitate you. Are we clear?" he whispered calmly.
"Crystal," Po squeaked. Shen got up off him, making it point to give the panda a disgusted shove for good measure.
"Let's try this again."
By some miracle, the fireworks were ready in time for the festival. Shen still had no idea why he was put to work with the panda. He could take care of the preparations himself – didn't Shifu remember that he was the son of Lord Jin and Lady Ah-lam, the director of the fireworks in Gongmen? The descendants of the creators? Though deep down, Shen knew that this was just another failed attempt of Shifu's to somehow create peace between the two.
Shen really didn't care; he was just hoping the fireworks wouldn't send the poor kitten into convulsions again.
The day of the Winter Feast was as hectic as one would imagine it to be. There was no boredom today – everyone was given jobs! Kurisu spent most of her time with her father, making soup and preparing for the valley's dinner. The girl brought up a few memories of Dao-ming, that sparked an idea with Mr Ping: sago tarts and sweet tea for dessert and beverage. Of course, Shen was in charge of that, since he was the sago tart expert around there. He sampled various recreations of sweet tea and tarts until he found them both satisfying, and they stored them in the ice box until supper came.
With a lot of encouraging/coaxing/pleading/begging (and finally a mild tantrum), Kurisu managed to convince Shen to paint a sun lantern with her. Shen was instantly reminded of one of his dreams in Dao-ming the moment he picked up the paint brush. They painted their rendition of the sparring match the two had, and Shen painted a separate lantern (which Kurisu noted, to her annoyance, was when she got stuck in the peach tree.)
They painted another lantern: a winter one, adding the entire Jade Palace. You could see the drastic styles, from Shen's professional paint work to the kitten's sloppy imitations of his work, trying to copy his brush's movements. They added the soothsayer, and Xun, and put the rest of the palace in the background. Begrudgingly, Shen agreed to adding Po – he painted him covered in snow, under a tree, far from the others and by himself, and shivering. Kurisu rolled her eyes.
They hung up the sun lanterns in the noodle shop, beside the first sun lantern Po and Mr. Ping had created together before she came along. Each lantern glowed, induced by the approaching moon light, as dinner started.
Shen groaned, whatever dignity he had left in him stripped completely when the old goose tied an apron around his waist and made him serve on tables. It took all his will power to keep from mutilating the many children that stroked his train (it was a bit difficult to pull it in.)
As the master arrived, they each gave him off looks; some were confused, some were beyond stunned (having never heard the news that the peacock lived with the most honorable warriors in China), others just glared. His train flared up in nervousness, slapping several customers in the face. The peacock just wanted to go off and run somewhere -especially -
-especially when he saw the ox and crocodile.
"Oh gods.." Shen wanted to sink into the snow with his stupid train, or run back to the palace as fast as he could, never to be seen again – until the masters leave and this stupid feast is over, anyways.
"Shen, why don't you go wait on that table?" Of course. Of course the stupid goose would stick him with Master Croc and Storming Ox's table. Why wouldn't he? Stupid stupid stupid goose!
"Can't the panda do it?" Shen asked meekly.
"No, Po is busy in the kitchen with Kurisu. Go on now, they seem nice." Mr. Ping smiled; Shen wanted to impale him. Didn't he know? Of course not. The goose knew nothing beyond noodles and spices and tofu.
Deep breaths, deep breaths – oh gods, he was hyperventilating! Deep breaths – no, couldn't be done. The peacock shut his eyes tightly, tried to breathe at least enough that he wouldn't pass out, and he strode forward, to their table.
They looked at him, eyes cool and quiet, nodding their greeting. At least they didn't say hello to him; he didn't feel obligated to say it back.
"How are you adjusting?" Croc; his eyes were averted, pretending to look at his empty noodle bowl. He couldn't look at the peacock. Master Storming Ox seemed to be doing plenty of that though, coldly glowering, before turning back to his own empty dish.
"Well," Shen croaked. He really couldn't breathe now. These two – he couldn't face them – he had killed their master and closest friend...he had killed...his master and once friend. This wasn't like the instance where he nearly killed Xun; he wasn't able to apologize for this, directly.
"You saved the city," Master Croc decided to bring up, turning to the peacock. It was maybe the only thing that could bridge the enormous gaping hole between the three. It was his only true act of redemption after all.
Of course, they didn't know of all the little ones.
"I...guess so," Shen had to nearly choke out through his panicked tightened throat.
"The entire city would have been nothing but flattened pancakes mixed with blood and bones had you not-"
"I know," Shen sighed. His knees gave way; he had to sit down. Now, he was sitting with his former enemies. They silently sipped away at the soup. "I'm sorry." He may as well come out and say it, however fruitless it was.
The two masters exchanged looks. They had to take into consideration – what Master Thundering Rhino would do if he was still alive. He would forgive him. Why? Because he was sorry.. There was no other way Shen could truly make up for his crimes other than to be sorry. An apology showed true redemption.
The masters knew what their master would say; they said it for him:
It was nearing the end of the celebration. People were hung over their chairs and tables, looks of discomfort on their faces, but laughing and flushing profusely over eating too much. The portions of noodles had dwindled nearly to nothing, and now it was the cooks and waiters that finally got to eat. Oddly enough, Shen ate at Master Storming Ox and Master Croc's table, sliding over a tray of sago tarts to them. They smirked, fondly recalling his obsession with the delectable treats when he was younger.
"You made these?"
"The kitten did – I sampled them." He bit into a tart, the brilliant burst of sugary flavor filling his mouth. He smiled. "She did pretty good." Then, he added with a cocky smirk: "but they're nothing compared to mine."
Master Croc smirked a bit, biting one himself. He found it pretty good.
"Why didn't you make them then, if you're such an expert?"
The peacock glowered at the busily eating and chatting villagers. "I had to wait on these stupid commoners."
"Shen!" Mr. Ping. "There's someone here asking for you!"
He tensed, immediately. Who could be -asking – for him? No one in the valley was truly afraid of him, but they neither liked him either. Was it Xun? No, the wolf was busy arguing with Po over...if a radish was a fruit or vegetable. (Ludicrously enough, it was Xun that was thinking it was a fruit.)
Rather frightened to step out of the restaurant, certain a blade or pitch fork would be plunged into his eye, the peacock warily made his way to the entrance. His mouth gaped.
"Birdy!" Shen was nearly slammed into an occupied table by the sheer force of the toddler's pouncing hug. Somehow, he manged to stay upright – though his train fanned up again and slapped someone else. Oops, it slapped the same goose.
"Birdy! Birdy!" Little Teng – substantially older now; a tiny bit bigger -nuzzled his train, nuzzled the hauntingly white feathers that he found pretty. (And only he.) "Birdy, I miss' you!"
The elder rabbit smiled, bowed, and nodded. "Master Shen."
"Mother Rabbit, what are you doing here?"
The mother smiled, gently prying her struggling toddler off the peacock's feet now, wrapping her arms around him so he couldn't jump again.
"My family are in The Valley Of Peace – we visit them every Winter Feast." She smiled. "As of late, the masters have gathered and hosted the feast at the noodle restaurant. We figured you'd be here, and we're glad you're here." Her ears lowered sheepishly. "We wouldn't feel right just walking into the sacred palace."
Shen rolled his eyes. "If the Grandmaster allows someone as dishonorable and as that stupid panda to just 'walk' right into the palace -and more, live there – I think you're fine. What do you even want me for?"
The mother exchanged a look with her eager toddler. The bunny squealed when he knew what was coming next.
"Teng and I both made you something." She reached into her satchel, carefully extracting-
-a sun lantern. The peacock took it as gently as he could, spinning it. It was clear what mother had done, and what child had done. The mother had painted him in the center of the lantern; his wings up, holding -what the child had painted in a messy scrawl, a scribbled black mass: the boulder. The child had painted the house; the mother had painted Kurisu.
Shen found himself smiling to himself, not even bothering to shake his foot in annoyance when the toddler clung to it. He ran a wing over the details of the lantern.
"Thank you." The mother smiled and bowed; little Teng did too. Shen hesitated. "The fireworks are starting soon." He tried not to grimace mentioning them. "Would you like to come watch them?"
Little Teng squealed. "Fiah'works!" His mother laughed, gently scooping him.
"If we're allowed – we don't want to impose-"
"This stupid holiday is all about 'imposing', it seems," Shen smirked, looking at the restaurant exploding with villagers. "So there's no need to worry."
The mother rabbit smiled at him, nodding. Noting that the valley was beginning to make their way to the stadium, she followed suit, waving to the peacock – well, little Teng was doing that.
Shen moved quickly through the now nearly deserted diner, pushing back several empty vegetable boxes, and pushing the swinging door open. He navigated through the dim room – barely lit by the hanging sun lanterns. The peacock found a spot just beside the sun lantern of him and Kurisu in Dao-ming, carefully hanging the paper creation beside it. The enhanced light dappled through the restaurant, brightening it. Every image was clear, you could see it all:
He and the kitten as they had played by Dao-ming's waterfall, laughing, tackling each other into the spring, hurling plums at one another – suddenly, it was playing like a moving picture; it was Shen's memories, when he and the kitten did play together – the time where they had their first spar – when he was pinned under her and his nanny and mercilessly tickled. He smirked and turned to the other lantern: the one with him and the boulder.
He saw the boulder moving again, ready to crush him; he saw himself shoving against it, saw him stopping it from crushing the city, averting its path and pulling it another direction. Saw him nearly sacrificing himself for the city. He could see Master Storming Ox and Master Croc watching from afar in awe.
Smiling to himself, the peacock hurried out of the restaurant and up to the stadium.
The sky was taking on a brilliant bluish gray hue; a winter sky. The crowd was waiting in anticipation. The warriors looked nervous, but a far cry from last time Shifu attempted to set off fireworks.
The red panda turned to Shen. "Are you ready, Shen?"
"I suppose.." The peacock looked uncertainly over to Kurisu, who was once again cowering – against a tree, eyes closed, balled up, waiting for the first explosion. He didn't want to to do this – it'd be like betraying the girl! She hated fireworks now, and he did too.. The warriors weren't too thrilled about this either. Why were they doing this?
"I don't know about this, Master Shifu..." As he said this, he glanced pointedly at the kitten. Shifu looked too, and sighed, just as unsure.
"The fireworks are a winter tradition, Shen. We cannot cancel them."
The peacock sighed in annoyance and nodded. The red panda was right – it was probably bad enough that so many traditions had been broken, thanks to Po; Shifu at least wanted to keep one of them.
An idea struck the peacock. He smiled, making sure that he set the firework down before walking towards the terror stricken kitten. Once he touched his wing against her paw, the girl felt safer.
"Come, kitten." The girl allowed him to gently pull her to the edge of the balcony. She clung to his cotton robes, tears staining their silver fabrics. The moment the child caught sight of one of the fireworks, she shrieked, twisting around in his arms to bury into his chest.
"No, no – look." Shen gently turned the girl around; she was whimpering as she looked at the blue sparking explosive.
Shen knew the only thing that could perhaps rid the child of her fear was to confront it; it was like when he was a chick, and suffering from nightmares. Nana told him he had to stand up to what scared him in the dreams, show them who's boss, that they didn't control him!
That's what he had to do with Kurisu. The warriors, and the valley's eyes were on them both, awaiting the first firework, wondering what was taking so long.
The peacock guided the kitten's shaking paw to the firework, entwining the rocket strings in the girl's fingers. Shaking, she looked up at him.
"Release the launcher."
Kurisu took a hold of the firework launcher; she let go, stumbling back into Shen's chest as the firework exploded in the sky with a spectrum of fabulous colors: blue, red, purple.. The child's erratic breathing began to slow. She looked up at Shen; the peacock smiled gently at her, staring at the fireworks himself.
All his hatred and anger with the tiny explosives beginning to fade off, replaced by a deep tranquil feeling. Judging by the kitten's calm expression as she cuddled into his chest, she felt the same way.
For once, Shen could actually appreciate the beauty of fireworks. See them for what they were meant to be – see what they were meant to bring: joy, happiness, magic...peace. Both the peacock and the kitten said nothing, neither did anyone else in the valley, not even little Teng. A peaceful hush following over the crowd as they silently watched the fireworks.
Smoke was still being carried by the winter wind. Icy fingers touched Shen's pale cheeks, leaving a pink flush, a cooler sensation. The peacock stood under the peach tree in his night robes, head tilted back, feeling every soft snow flake as it melted against his beak.
He watched their patterns, gently touched a delicate snow crystal with a wing. The snowflake didn't break, even with the weight of his wing.
Shen felt his un-cased talons swirl gently, making a snowy circle in the wet terrain. His wings gracefully dipped through the air; he kept his eye on a falling snowflake. Gently, the peacock held out his wing. Steady, calm, peaceful.
The snowflake landed, standing on the very last feather on his wing tip. It moved majestically, like a little white wheel, down his arm, past his shoulder, down his other arm, off his wing-
-and landed delicately in the snow.
(The end. I cried when I wrote the ending. no, I know it isn't sad, but it's the last thing I'll ever write of "Redeeming Light"! Well...ALMOST the last. *smirk* I have a 'deleted scenes' chapter, tied with songs and soundtracks that would suit this if it was a movie. And, talk of "Life With A Peacock"? Oh, what's that? A sequel? May haps...
Anyways, credit to the amazing famous Domenic for inspiration on Shen hiding in the snow, and slight credit for the sun lantern part. I rather winged it with the fireworks and how they go off. (Firework strings? lolz.) But I think I got most accurate enough.
I want to thank all my amazing reviewers! I had no idea "Redeeming Light" would be such a hit on here, or ESEPCIALLY DA! I've gotten so much fanart of it on DA, and - EEEEE! - it makes me squeal. I couldn't have done this without you, my dear reviewers! Look out for the 'deleted scenes' chapter - some are pretty darn funny!
"Misadventures" will be updated soon!)