"It has been about ten years since Lady Biming and Sir Cai have seen you, son," Lord Jin smiled, leading them on through the bamboo bridge. Bamboo, how apt.
Shen grimaced in royal disdain as he surveyed the serf's land: poor, un-cultivated – well, not nearly as much as the gardens of Gongmen; it was just so peasant like. Used to nothing more than a posh luxury way of lifestyle, he wondered how anyone could bear to live in this pathetic little village. The villagers seemed so happy and content, blissfully sowing seeds into the land, children laughing and playing with questionable shaped kites in the sky.
"When did Lady Biming and Sir Cai see me?" the young lord inquired, following his parents into a quaint little house through the endless line of crops. "I don't remember them."
"You wouldn't," Lord Jin chuckled. "And if you did remember, you wouldn't remember in fondness." He laughed and Lady Ah-lam joined him. "Lady Biming is the healer of her village; she used to prepare the medicines that were delivered for you when you were much younger. Shortly after you were born she was in Gongmen to give you your first injections – they were probably the ones that saved your life."
The young lord continued on the trek, his eyes narrowing. Oh, that old panda! He remembered her now; he hated her! She used to help the soothsayer restrain him as she gave him weekly doses and needles. She was comforting, trying to soothe him like Nana, but he still hated her. An unjust reason to hate her, certainly, but the foul tasting medicine was enough for his mindset to despise her.
"Oh, her," he grumbled. His white face flushed a bit when his parents laughed.
"Oh, Lord Shen; Lord Jin; Lady Ah-lam!" The big fat black and white mass kowtowed before their feet, covered with a thin homespun jade robe, her back head fur tied back into a pretty dumpling sized bun. "It's so nice to see you!"
"Lady Biming," Lord Jin greeted warmly, bowing in response. "It has been long, how is everything going? Last I heard of you, you had a little one."
"Six months," Biming chuckled, hurriedly preparing cups of tea, amidst the lord and lady's protest of 'you don't have to – we're fine.' "Quite a handful already; he's always toddling about. Cai and I are having trouble keeping up with him on these old legs." She smiled and turned to the young albino peacock.
"And look at you, my prince! How much you've grown! Last I saw of you, you were but a spindly feathered fluff ball, clinging away to Soothsayer Min Yun's cloak."
Shen smiled tightly. The phrase 'thank you for your disgusting gloppy medicines that did nothing but make me gag and probably stunt my growth; oh, and thank you for stabbing me with a needle' came to mind, but the young lord was well educated enough in his etiquette lessons to keep that from slipping his tongue. Not to mention it would result in a fierce tongue lashing from his parents and probably the soothsayer once he got home.
He instead said this, "Thank you, Lady Biming; it's nice to see you too. Where is your little one?"
The elder panda smiled warmly at him and gestured into a smaller room, where Shen could faintly make out a bassinet that rocked about now and then, distant babbling and gurgling sounding from beyond the paper canopy.
"He's in there, would you like to see him?" She looked towards the older peafowl. "Come to think of it, my Lord and Lady, I wanted to show you the rice paddies we harvested earlier. Perhaps I'll let you take a few; we are farmers after all, and we can afford to spare some." She looked over at Shen. "Would you mind looking after him while we're gone?"
Shen shut his eyes. This is what a prince got for being polite. He didn't respond – he didn't have to: his parents beat him to it, promising Biming that he was fine with children, and would love to look after the little panda cub.
Fine with children? When did he ever have a chance to experience whether he was or not? All the children ran away from him. None the less, the young lord ground his beak together and obediently stood there in the kitchen, feigning a convincing un-panicked smile to Biming as she shut the door.
"Oh," Biming reminded, "and if he tries to eat you, don't worry that just means he likes you!"
The moment the mother had left and the door shut, the cub cried.
Shen shut his eyes. Of course. He entered the baby's bedroom cautiously, peering at the trinkets scattered about on the tattered rug: a wooden bug – a caterpillar strung together with flexible wire; a rattle, and a sewed white and blue panda bear packed with beans as a stuffing.
The young lord approached the bassinet, where the cries were growing louder. He barely touched the wooden rim with a wing, and the entire thing toppled over. A black and white ball tumbled out of it and to his feet. Chubby baby legs slowly extended from the mass, followed by arms and a nubby tail. Ears poked out next, and then came the eyes.
Bright and beautiful with the clarity and color of jade. It outcast his eyes' crimson beauty by a mile, which only flattened his feathers in jealousy. They were innocent; another drastic difference from his own eyes. They were wide and curious, still wondering about the world around them, and the ghost white bird above him.
The cub finally made a sound.
"Aba-yuuu..." He rolled over on his side, and then hopped up on paws and knees. He hobbled towards the apprehensive peacock and – to Shen's shock of a panda cub's mouth being so wide – stuck nearly Shen's entire talon into his mouth, sucking hungrily at it.
"Augh-!" The young lord hopped back so abruptly that he lost his footing – and with one saliva covered talon still in the air – he stumbled backwards and fell over the bassinet with a groan. The sound of wood knocking together came from above, and he looked up to see that his head had hit the baby's mobile.
The ball of black and white jelly crawled up Shen's feet, perching belly down on the peacock's talons, rather forcing the surprised Shen to give him a ride in the air. He was utterly adorable, something the young lord couldn't quite process or appreciate.
His ruby eyes were trained on the cub's fur; it was snow white with ebony entwined and mingling with the white. It was beautiful. When Shen was a chick he thought his feathers were nice too; he liked white. Now he hated it. White meant different – he wasn't supposed to be white, and he wasn't supposed to be different. White meant he was scorned and treated ill among his peers. White meant bad omen.
But not for this cub. It wasn't fair; white was his natural color, bright and beautiful. He was supposed to be black and white and he wouldn't be looked down at in society. All the other panda cubs were going to be white and black; they'd all look like each other. This cub would have a fine time growing up. Other panda cubs would love him because he wouldn't be different. He hated this cub.
Yet, he found himself cupping a wing around the fuzzy little tot's head as the panda cub nuzzled into his side.
"You're so lucky that you'll grow up happy," he told the cub with barely containable tears.
The innocent green eyes looked back up at him, nuzzling into the avian's wing as he babbled blissfully. His eyes, they haunted Shen. They were so innocent, still so naive, having never experienced pain before in his life. Shen knew that the cub would learn abruptly and probably at such an early age just like him. These eyes didn't hold the mutiny and anger the young lord's did. They didn't hold the pain or the suffering his own did; they held happiness – pure childish bliss. He hated those eyes too.
Green was such a beautiful, natural color. Plenty eyes in the city were green. Red was abnormal; it meant darkness. He heard it whispered by the soothsayer sadly: he meant darkness. His own Nana!
His hatred melted away gradually like clouds dissipating on a sunny day as the cub curled softly into him, crawling over his bassinet and the peacock's stomach, and into his wings. He giggled, kicking his pudgy little legs against the peacock's chest, laughing and nipping away at Shen's wing with his milk teeth.
For some reason, Shen didn't seem to have the instinct to immediately whip out a knife as he usually did when someone other than his nanny and parents touched him. Anger continued to well within him at the unfair circumstances, but he still couldn't help being oddly at peace as the infant laid there in his wings.
The tiny cub – Dragon Warrior to be, and the peacock's future demise – smiled softly, his affectionate green eyes burning into the lord's crimson orbs.
And here he was today, standing proudly in the burning ashes and ruins of what remained of this once humble village. Of course if anyone asked his opinion, it didn't look any better before he razed the pathetic little shacks of houses to the ground. He chuckled, waving his sword in the air a few times to intimidate the remaining pandas still barely clinging to life.
And there he was; the tiny cub stared at him in terror and confusion. He had seen this bird's face before, kind and innocent – little did that brat know! He tilted his head in confusion, eyes brimming with tears from the betrayal. Good, at least Shen had destroyed the trust and obliviousness.
Hurt at such an early age too, Shen thought with a sneer. We're a lot alike, little cub. No, they weren't. Green was innocent: naive and stupid; red was danger: murder and darkness. Red was superior to green.
"Get them all!" he ordered, chuckling to himself quietly. He felt no mercy and no compassion. He waited for the wolf's sword to impale the brat, teach him what real pain was. And that mother! Payback for brewing such terrible medicine, he thought darkly.
The wolf charged towards the defenseless infant. Shen smirked.
Defeated by a warrior of black and white..
No he wouldn't be.
Everyone knows red is better than green.
(The idea of young Shen meeting baby Po racked at my brain all day today, and in the end, I HAD to write it. XD It was just going to be in "Redeeming Light", but...I liked it better as a separate fic.
I preferably like green more than red, Shen. If you enjoy my KFP - mostly Shen centered fanfics, check out "Redeeming Light")