A/N Right. You guys might have noticed, but I have reformatted the chapters. I merged two into one. All because I felt like it. :D Just kidding. Early on, it already felt like I was cutting them in half, so I might as well post them like a whole. And here they were. By the way, chapter three is a new updated Chapter 5 added with what was supposed to be Chapter 6.
All in the Hands of Fate
Tavan Bogd Mountains, at the almost inaccessible peak of the snowy mountain range lie to formidable gaoi, Chorh-Gom Prison. A prison warded by the Anvil of Heaven, a group of elite rhino guards that had devoted to a restless sentry. Deep below the chasm of more than a thousand feet was a single prisoner.
Tai Lung, a relentless warrior sentenced to imprisonment for life for the havoc he had caused to a village in the Valley of Peace. A year ago, he had escaped from prison and sought revenge for the twenty years he had lost. Commander Vachir, leader of the Anvil of Heaven, tried to destroy the prison when Tai Lung escaped but failed in the attempt.
However, just how the great story books retold that tale, when Tai Lung found his old master, he was defeated by the glorious and true Dragon Warrior. The Dragon Warrior had beaten him in single-combat, and the snow leopard was sent back to the prison, and safety in the Valley of Peace had returned. And now, he was held prisoner once again at Chorh-Gom Prison #2, constructed at a neighbor peak of the old fortress.
The cold wintry season did not help as Tai Lung was hanging in mid-air. The fortress was designed similarly like the previous Chorh-Gom. The design of his new chains was simpler than before. Two stalagmites that stuck out from the earth were beside him, and chains were simply tied to his wrists and around the pointed top of the stalagmites. If he ever wanted to escape, he could easily do so with ease.
But Tai Lung did not have any desire to escape. No… he would rather be dead. His head was tucked down facing the ground, he did not move his limbs, and his breath could scarcely be heard. You could say that a living skeleton was hanging at the bottom of the prison. You could not tell if he was asleep, or simply kept silent for throughout the entire year. Even the guards who had spent most of their lives keeping watch could not know.
Lingering thoughts rippled in his mind. Tai Lung repeated the word over and over. Fate. He could feel a heavy burden in his chest every time it bounced in his head. "Is this my fate?" the snow leopard lamented in his thoughts. "I thought I was meant for something great! But… not like this. All the things that I thought was meant for me in the past… were they all but a lie?"
"Am I meant for anything?" he muttered. A few guards thought they had heard something, but simply shrugged it off. "Are my sins so heavy that they cannot be pardoned? All I wanted… no, wait-"
He was on to something, perhaps a great truth was supposed to be revealed to himself. But, he could not grasp it. Tai Lung noticed something was off in his thoughts, and he continued to ponder. But, he could not reach any further from whatever he was thinking. The snow leopard continued to think, as he counted every passing second of his captivity.
"Wh-where am I?" a voice uttered to himself in the snowy blizzard. His bone-chilling breath could not even speak loud enough for him himself to hear. A wolf, trudging across blistering snow, took each step in bare paw. Only a long brown coat wrapped around him covered him from the freezing cold. It swayed along with the heavy winds that howled across the mountains, but he wouldn't know that.
The wolf glanced side to side, to see nothing, not even an idea of where he would be. He could only tell he was at a mountain, as he was walking up a slope. A few steps further and he caught glimpse of a tiny orange light further up. At the glimmer of hope, he continued to walk up to the light. He reached a flat clearing, and the blizzard did not blow there to blur his vision.
"Who goes there?" a voice boomed at the other end of the clearing. Two rhinos stood beside a door, looking as they were on guard regardless of the freezing cold. The wolf, with no other option, approached them; slowly, but perhaps as fast as he could from all the shivering.
But when he was about a meter away, one of them pointed a spear at him. "Who are you?" the guard asked.
"I – uh…" the wolf couldn't remember. In fact, he could not remember anything at all. A word flashed in his head, and he could only guess his name would either be it or at least something to avoid being stabbed. "My name's… Yut," he said, pronouncing the word like Newt with the N replaced with Y.
"Yut?" he asked. Suddenly, the door between them opened and another rhino with a golden cap around his horn approached them.
"What's the commotion about? I thought I said 'no talking during patrols'" the rhino said.
"We got some guy here," said the second guard. "Calls himself Yut."
The rhino with lighter grey skin and violet eyes raised an eyebrow. "I am Commander Vachir, leader of the Anvil of Heaven," he said. "What is your business here at Chorh-Gom Prison?"
"Umm…" the wolf quick-wittedly thought of an elaborate excuse. "I was… sent here."
"Sent here?" Vachir asked. He squinted as he scanned Yut from head to toe. The wolf anxiously waited for his reply. "You tellin' me you're who the Royal Palace sent as replacement guards? Just you?"
"Uhhh… yes." Yut blankly replied. He didn't think anyone would believe him, but he had to play along somehow.
Vachir gave him an odd stare. "Feh. Well, all I know is that I've been sending messages to the Royal Palace requesting replacement guards," Vachir said. "If the Royal Palace only cares as much as giving just one soldier, fine by me. Come inside."
Yut could hardly believe it that they bought it, but he followed in anyways. He didn't really know a thing about what was going on. Inside the dark cave were lit torches, and in front of him amassed a multitude of guards, all carrying luggage.
"Look, here's what's been going on. I doubt the Royal Palace told you anything, so I'll just fill you in." Vachir said as he showed him around. "We've been on guard for years now, and we've gotten tired of it. We all want a vacation, especially me. I'm sure you're aware what this prison is for, right?"
Yut shook his head. Vachir sighed with a spiteful thought about the Royal palace. "All one-thousand guards are monitoring over a single prisoner, Tai Lung." The wolf looked below the bridge to see the deep chasm that stretched down ending at a platform.
"He escaped once, but it looks like he's not planning any attempts to escape anymore. If I were him, I'd have escaped already, with all that kung fu under my wing." Vachir grinned. "But anyways, you don't have to worry. Some of us are gonna stay behind while the rest of us are on vacation. These guys that are left behind, well, somehow gone crazy and won't leave duty anymore."
Vachir raised his right arm and flagged it down to the exit. All the guards that were wearing tough looks suddenly started wearing smiles as they enthusiastically left the fortress. "Anything else I should know?" Yut asked.
The rhino scratched his chin. "Weeell… oh, right. Under no circumstances should you talk to the prisoner. We don't want to give him any ideas now, " Vachir said. As the last guard left through the door, Vachir picked up his luggage and went to follow. Just as he was at the door, he waved his hand away. "I'll be sure to send a postcard!"
And with that, Yut had mysteriously gained access to shelter, food, and everything else he might need. It seemed all a little too farfetched, but he'd rather just go with it. As he turned his back on the door, the wolf bumped into a large body of mass, making him land on his butt.
"Oof! What in the-" Yut rubbing his muzzle and looked up to see a serious looking rhino.
"Anvil of Heaven member number 624, sir!" he saluted with a baritone voice.
"Uhh…" Yut muttered. "Hey"
"What are your orders, sir?" he inquired.
This must be one of those duty-freaks, Yut thought. With them around, he guessed that it'd be best for him to keep playing along. "Umm… at ease, soldier," he said.
"Sir, yes, sir!" 624 said, standing upright as possible.
"He must think I'm his superior," Yut guessed. Without memory of anything other than his name, he was absolutely clueless with everything. But asking them just anything might make them suspicious, and he would rather not take the risk no matter how much he desired to know.
A cold breeze came out of nowhere and blew across his coat. The wolf shivered, even with all the fur that covered his body. "W-where's the armory?" Yut stuttered has he kept his teeth from chattering.
"It's right across the bridge, sir," he pointed. Yut nodded with sway of his hand saying "carry on". He opened the steel door to see weapons and armor all around the wall and hanged by stacks. Yut grabbed the torch from outside and lit up all the rest in the room. When he passed by one of the corners, he caught with his peripheral vision the light from the torch he was holding flash back.
He walked up to the corner to see a mirror and his own reflection looking at him. Yut took his coat off to reveal a fairly built body, grey fur with a white underbelly stretching down halfway to his thighs. He had a fluffy tail with a patch of white at the end. And a small amount of darker fur that grew from the center top of his head and went down along his neck like a mane, the same color sa his ears.
Seeing the fact that he stood naked, he quickly looked around for comfortable undergarments he could wear. Yut found a long piece of cloth and tied it around like a fundoshi. He found a good pair of plaid slacks and a leather vest. He went back to check how he looked and wagged his tail. "Not too shabby," he mused to himself.
When he lifted his foot, a heavy feeling pulled down on it and sweeped across the floor. The cloak he had when he got here was all he had from what he could remember. He grabbed it by his hand, waved it into the air and tied an end around his neck. A tattered brown cloak might seem handy in making things warmer anyways.
Yut walked out of the armory to see all the guards sternly standing or in patrol. "Might be risky, but rather dead than staying clueless," he muttered to himself.
Trying to talk to one of them was hard. There might be about 2000 of the soldiers who called themselves Anvil of Heaven left in here, and talking to one was incredibly difficult. They seemed to be ignoring him, and while they wouldn't answer back anything he asked they would continue to walk regardless of anything that happened.
He caught sight of an almost familiar looking rhino and approached him. "H…hello, soldier," Yut said, wondering how did soldiers greet each other. "W-what's your number?"
"I am number 724, sir," the guard replied. A hundred apart from the first one he met but noticing that he replied seemed like a good sign for him.
"Can you tell me where this prison is?" the wolf asked, more like it was a trivial question than an informal one.
"Chorh-Gom prison is located at one of the isolated peaks of Tavan Bogd Mountains, sir," 724 answered.
"Very good," Yut replied, making it seem as if he was asking them like a test. "Now, tell me what this prison is meant for."
"This prison was built to last and contain the most notorious criminal, Tai Lung," he replied.
"Yes, and how many exits are there in this prison?" Yut continued to ask.
"Only one sir," he answered.
But then Yut got a bit too curious, and thoughts of keeping it unsuspecting died off. "What exactly did Tai Lung do?"
"I am not allowed to have normal conversations, sir," the guard replied. Yut winced, realizing how he asked it.
"Err… right. Carry on," Yut said as he immediately left from the vicinity. He went out to the nearby third bridge and sucked in a breath. He leaned on the half-wall let out a long sigh. "Is there anyone I can properly talk to here?" the wolf said.
But as he looked down he noticed that there might be one last person who he could talk with.
He made his way down through the pulley until the long descent finally reached him towards the prisoner. Yut inspected him as he made he approached him. Apart from the fact that he was chained to two stalagmites making him hang freely in the air, he deemed him a normal snow leopard; he had a white chest, and going around him he had a darker gray of fur from his front shoulders and arms and all the way to his back, spotted with black ringed-brown spots.
After going him in a complete clockwise direction, he made his way back to his front. Yut then noticed that wasn't hearing him breathe, and that worried him. If that were the case, then he might as well be in a prison with lunatics guarding a corpse.
Wanting to make sure it was otherwise, the wolf approached him even closer. He could feel a distinct warm atmosphere around the snow leopard, which might be enough as proof. But just to be really sure, he slowly placed his palm on the left side of his chest and felt his heart beat. His chest was warmer than his atmosphere, and feeling it beat he could almost feel his own.
"Don't. Touch me." A voice uttered as Yut retracted his paw. The voice came from nowhere else but the one shackled in front of him.
"Oh, good," Yut said enthusiastically. "So you are alive. I was beginning to think they were all guarding a corpse or something."
Yut and Tai Lung took a long odd stare at each other. Tai Lung felt a bit annoyed by the sudden disturbance, but Yut seemed happy enough that there might be someone to talk to.
"You've got a lot of nerve to walk up and go as far to touch me," Tai Lung grimaced. "You do realize who's in front of you, don't you?"
"Tai Lung. That's your name, right?" Yut replied. The snow leopard noticed the almost blank expression on his face.
"…Is that all you know about me?" Tai Lung asked.
Yut shrugged. "Other than they keep calling you a criminal, pretty much," he answered.
"Great. Even my ill-reputation has gone down the drain…" Tai Lung moaned in his mind. He then saw the wolf come up closer to him and sat down on the cold stone floor, making himself comfortable. "What do you want?" Tai Lung asked.
The wolf smiled. "Just hoping for someone to talk to," Yut said.
Tai Lung raised an eyebrow. "That's it?" he said while looking down at him. "And when did the Anvil of Heaven let wolves in to their ranks?"
"Hmm? Oh, no, they all think I came from the Royal Palace, but to be honest I don't have any idea where I am." Yut said. Tai Lung remained silent. He felt that he didn't need to say anything to him, or to anyone at all.
After a few seconds of silence, Yut tried prying a bit harder. "Come on, help a guy out. I'm pretty clueless here!"
"Pity won't work on me, boy," he coldly answered.
The wolf persisted; he wasn't taking no for an answer. He joined the palm of his hands together and pleaded to him, "Pleeeaase."
"Pretty pretty please." After a few more incessant pestering, Tai Lung couldn't hold his temper.
"If I answer your questions, will you please leave me alone," he said. Yut happily nodded.
"Right, first of all, do you know who I am?" Yut asked.
Tai Lung squinted angrily at him with his terrible question. "And you expect me to be able to answer that?" he growled.
"Just a shot in the dark really. Even I don't know who I am," Yut replied. "You see, I can't seem to remember anything or have any memories at all"
"My, isn't that unfortunate," Tai Lung mocked.
"Okay… just get it together and everything will work out fine," he cooled off. Its strange, how he can't recall ever doing it before yet it feels so familiar. "Alright, let's start over," the wolf said. He got up on his feet and bowed down to the leopard. "Hi, my name's Yut."
Tai Lung inspected the odd wolf in front of him. He'd expect amnesiacs to be less straight-forward, but then again he's never met one before.
Yut started off with asking basic trivial questions. Things like where they were in the world, questions about society, mostly questions that would involve history. Yut seemed to be know much about general knowledge, which was again another odd thing about him that Tai Lung noticed. He didn't need to learn any ancient art of medicine to know that amnesia wasn't specific with memory loss like this.
The questions went on, and almost as if he had lost himself, Tai Lung began to lose some memory himself. There were questions he couldn't answer and while answering he forgot ever hating him about asking him anything.
Rather sooner than later however, Yut stopped asking history question and went off into casual ones. "Do you think they'll hear us from here?" Yut asked.
"The ones left from the one-thousand are guarding at the upper bridges. I doubt they'd be able to even see us," Tai Lung answered, before realizing that he answered it in a rather kind tone.
Yut widened his eyes in surprise. "How can you tell?" he asked.
"I've… got a keen sense of smell," he said nervously, shying away from the normal conversation.
"That's pretty amazing," Yut said excitedly. "Wish I could do that,"
"It takes years to develop perfection in – bah – what am I talking about here." The snow leopard refused to continue his answer.
"Perfection in what?" the wolf inquired. Yut seemed enthusiastic to know, like a child's curiosity.
Tai Lung felt a bit embarrassed in telling him, but he thought of rather answering it than having the wolf pestering him about it. "It's… about mastering the five senses as you apply in martial arts," he said. Talking casually about kung fu seemed alien to him; even more so with just talking casually.
"Wow, that's so cool!" Yut beamed. "I wish I was like that!"
It was a strange feeling, but Tai Lung smiled. It had been years since he had been proud for his knowledge of martial arts.
But then, when Yut took a brief pause in thinking of questions, he trailed off into picking a personal one. "So… why are you in prison?" the wolf asked. Tai Lung instantly switched moods and squinted angrily at him with a small growl.
Yut wished he could take back his question. Seeing the now uncomfortable wolf, Tai Lung had second thoughts and even felt willing to share his story. His stare relaxed into his normal grouchy face, and without a word from his audience he closed his eyes for a brief moment, and started to speak.
"Years ago, they said I was found abandoned at the gates of the Jade Palace. There, I was found by red panda and raised all throughout my life. He adopted me as his father. I had a tender childhood, and life to be honest was sweet." Tai Lung smiled as he reveled in his memories. Looking back now, it all seemed different. He could almost see the scenes in his eyes. "At a certain age, I began my training. Mornings became sleepless nights, knuckles and bones were broken, hardly a patch of fur unscathed from fire, going up a mountain of stairs became a routine exercise, and in the end I persevered."
The wolf listened attentively as Tai Lung conveyed to him what he never went back to before in his entire life. "And it was all for a touch of destiny. My father, erm Shifu, told me that it was destiny to obtain the Dragon Scroll, said to contain the ultimate kung fu secret – 'the key to limitless power'." The leopard could see Yut sitting in awe, and the entertainer was entertained himself. But he knew that far off in the story, things would end up bitterly. "I had devoted my life, in what seemed was my purpose from when I only a cub, into mastering Kung Fu and become the Dragon Warrior. I mastered the thousand scrolls of Kung Fu, all but one. And in time the moment I awaited came. I stood at the Hall of Warriors, where the Dragon Scroll hanged from the ceiling plain in sight. I stood there with my hearts beating in exhilaration, that the time for my life's effort to be rewarded. Shifu, my…" Tai Lung cringed for a moment before admitting it. "… father, stood beside his master to presented to him who he believed had trained to become the hero of China. But then-"
Tai Lung cut himself off for a moment. Yut anticipated anxiously for the rest of the story to go on. "What happened next?" he asked.
Then, a hole in chest began to be filled with an old anger boiling with spite. "Master Oogway, Shifu's master and he who would give the Dragon Scroll, said otherwise. I was confused, and all the more so when I turned to face Shifu and he simply obeyed his master without a word of denial. The moment afterwards, I kept asking myself 'Had I done anything wrong?', 'Was there something I lacked?', 'Haven't I done everything I could?'" Tai Lung could feel himself reenact the turmoil he'd felt. "In a blind rage, I destroyed everything I could see. I laid waste to the entire Valley of Peace, to show them what I was capable of. And after so much chaos I've sprung, they did not move from the Jade Palace. If they wouldn't come to me, I came to them. I broke down every door at the Jade Palace, and I planned to take the scroll by force. Shifu tried to stop me first, but his weakness had overtaken him and I took him down. As I reached for the Dragon Scroll, Master Oogway stopped me, without me even noticing."
"And soon after… I was brought here, to Chorh-Gom Prison, rotting for twenty years so I could take back what was rightfully mine." Tai Lung began to have hint of spite in his tone, and Yut slowly became less willing in hearing his story. "And after twenty years, I was finally able to escape. I made my way to back to the Jade Palace, faced his new students, the 'Furious Five', and I had beaten them."
But his newest student," Tai Lung began to be painted with disdain, "who didn't even stay for over a week, and a panda of all things, became the Dragon Warrior; what I had strive my entire life for. In our combat, all I aimed for was the Dragon Scroll in his hands. But when I finally laid my hands on it and opened it…" Tai Lung paused for a breath, as if reliving the moment itself, "...there was nothing. He said, that there was no 'secret ingredient'. That it was just you. All my life seemed to have whittled down the drain for nothing but an obscure fundamental truth. I aimed to beat who Shifu chose as the Dragon Warrior. But in the end… he defeated me."
Tai Lung grew silent, however Yut's questions multiplied. "Woah woah, wait- that's it? You mean to tell me that's how you ended up here? From where you started and all?" Yut interrogated..
"I'm not surprised you'd think I was wrong for my actions," Tai Lung said.
"What? No no no... to be honest, I kind of understand why you'd get angry and all, minus all the chaos and destruction you did," Yut said. "Althought… it does seem a bit too much."
The snow leopard gave him a menacing look. Quickly, Yut tried to clarify the misunderstanding. "I-I mean, it just seems all unnecessary and stuff-"
"I don't think you really did understand," Tai Lung retorted.
Yut fell silent, but immediately regained his composure. "You're right. Maybe I don't, after all how would I know? I hardly know anything," he said, "But all I know is that I'm talking based on my own opinion, nothing anyone ever taught me about. Something completely out of my own without anyone's influence."
It was Tai Lung's turn to be silent. If he ever got scolded, he'd usually point the finger at the other person and wouldn't admit his own shortcomings. "I... I'm sorry. I suppose I overstepped there," he said, almost choking. After so much time alone, he slowly learned to swallow his own pride.
The wolf's serious look relaxed to a smile. "Man... the way you acted with that... it seemed as though every person in the world is prejudiced with at least one thing. Being hypocrites in ways they didn't know they were." Yut feeling a bit sad about what his first impression of the world. "And I can't believe they won't at least give any second chance to you at all."
"They deemed my actions were… unforgivable," Tai Lung answered. "And they probably think I wouldn't change no matter how many chances they'd give me. So here I am, one year after my defeat, rotting in jail for the rest of my life."
"I get why they'd punish someone for doing something bad, but twenty years in here… it seems so… horrible." The wolf felt bad for him, and glanced towards his shackles. "But… you can escape right now, can't you?"
Tai Lung yanked gently on his chains, and with a grin he admittedly could. "I can… but I have no desire to be free."
"Huh? Why not?" Yut asked.
The snow leopard averted his eyes. "All my life I aimed for that one object, and once I obtained it… I… I didn't know what else to do…"
Yut sank down on the floor. "Well, that's good at least."
"What?" Tai Lung quizzed, suddenly turning his head towards the wolf.
"I mean, at least you still don't feel angry at them, right?" Yut said.
Tai Lung sucked in a breath and let out a loud sigh. "Actually… I still do. Every bit of spite of them, I still have it. But… somehow… there's something else I'm angrier at."
"Something… else?" Yut inquired.
"Something… bigger to me. Maybe something like… the world, or the universe. Just… one big thing." Tai Lung was facing upwards, wondering what in the world it was. Yut looked up as well, wondering about the same thing. What else could be bigger than the world, he thought.
The snow leopard brought his head down and faced the wolf and smirked. "You mentioned me being able to escape, didn't you? Did you want me to be free?"
Yut brought down his gaze towards him. "Uh, well, that's not really for me to decide, isn't it?" he replied with a smile. Tai Lung chuckled, and in that moment he realized he had experienced his first interaction with normal humor.
"You're a strange one, you know?" Tai Lung mentioned, giving him a curious look.
"What do you mean by that?" Yut asked. "It involves the part about me having amnesia, doesn't it?"
"Actually... yes. It does," he answered. "There's... something different about you."
The wolf perked his ears up in interest. "What do you mean?" he queried.
"For someone with amnesia, it seems very... unique, in a sense," the snow leopard said. "You know a number of basic knowledge like speech and of other things, but you don't seem to remember anything else you might have learned at the same time you learned those things. It seems too... unlikely."
"I wouldn't really know," Yut replied. "Maybe its not really impossible." He gave him a wink and they passed it off with a laugh. But after a while, out of nowhere, a yawn came out from the wolf. He felt tired, and he didn't know the last time he had ever slept.
"You should probably go," Tai Lung told him.
Yut raised an eyebrow. "Oh no no, I'm not really sleepy."
"Well then, unless you want to be caught talking to a prisoner, which I doubt would be allowed, I suggest you go find the barracks," Tai Lung said.
"What do you mean?" Yut asked.
"A guard comes down here, one of those 'crazy ones', and stands on guard for the rest of the night," he answered.
"How do you know its night?" Yut jested. "Is that another Kung Fu skill you know about?"
"No," Tai Lung replied and looked up. "I just know what moonlight looks like." Lucent beams pierced through tiny holes at the sides of the top part of the stronghold.
"Oh… right." Yut realized it, and again Tai Lung chuckled at his innocent idiocy. Yut got up and bowed down to him once again. The snow leopard wondered if he knew any other form of greeting.
He watched him walk away and go up the pulley. Yut smiled towards him as he went up, but when Tai Lung noticed, he averted his eyes. The wolf craned his head to the side, wondering why he would react like that.
"So that's what a normal conversation is like." Tai Lung began to talk to himself in his mind. He had felt so many new things that almost felt alien to him. "It's… nice. But maybe I shouldn't let this happen again..." He believed that having less contact with other people would make him more comfortable. But, after having a conversation with the wolf, he started having doubts.
The guard Tai Lung said about soon went down the pulley a few minutes after Yut had gone up. The guard held a spear and held it close to his chest as he attentively watched him. He simply ignored him.
Yut found the barracks, and there were hardly any guards sleeping inside. All of the wooden beds were kept and tidy. He went to the one at the corner and slumped down at the side. It was comfortable enough, he judged. But like most things, he couldn't remember if he had slept in one before.
Not that it mattered now. Right now, he was tired, and he immediately fell fast asleep before he even noticed that he closed his eyes.