The Misadventures Of Lord Shen And Baby Po
Chapter 3 - Locked Up
"Now, remember what I said, My Prince-"
"Be especially respectful and calm and courteous and remember my etiquette lessons, and-"
"Okay, fine, you get it." The rhino chuckled slightly.
"I do have one question though."
"What in the god's name is that disgusting fur ball doing coming with us?"
That 'disgusting fur ball' was eagerly perched on the master's shoulder, his chubby black legs dangling over as he babbled and looked wide eyed at his surroundings. He had never been to the city before; he'd been outside many times in his village, but the sights that met his eyes were streams and quaint little houses and lots and lots of bamboo. The city was different: it was full of much color that his infant eyes adored at this age. He watched the citizens bustle about their every day chores, bagging vegetables that he SO wanted – and made that known by reaching towards a vendor's cart-
-just to have the swine – bruised and sore looking – to flash him a vehement glare.
The cub whimpered and drew back his paw a bit, tears filling his eyes. Shen glanced back, about to snap at the stupid baby as to what was wrong – and his eye caught Hu's. He hissed and began to storm up to that disrespectful pig, and his master grabbed him, yanking him back.
"I don't think so," Thundering Rhino began sternly. "Don't you think you got yourself into enough trouble over that pig?"
Shen's rage simmered instantly, giving off to embarrassment. Oh gods, he knew..?
"Yes, I do," the rhino clarified, like he could read his mind. (Probably could, even though that was only supposed to be Nana's forte.)
"I heard about what happened last night too-"
"-and I don't think you want another repeat of that either," he smirked, which only grew wider when the young peacock bowed his head to hide a hot flush that covered it. "You're lucky though: I asked the soothsayer if she thought you warranted further punishment from me, and she said no."
The young lord let out a long sigh of relief. Thank the gods; there was no way he'd be able to take lugging sacks of rice or running two hundred or more laps around the palace – or whatever else his master could cook up – not today.
"But I will tell you," the rhino master said seriously, stepping in front of him and making the bird halt; "that I am to closely monitor your behavior today and report it all to the soothsayer – orders from her and your parents, of course."
Shen flushed with further embarrassment and growing anger. Where was the justice in all this?
"Raidon!" a warm voice greeted (Thundering Rhino did say that the blacksmith was his childhood friend, perhaps he had been given the rights to call him by his real name), and the sheep stepped out of the small cottage. Shen held back a smirk; yep, you could tell some sort of catastrophic event had happened to the poor blacksmith: he was black and blue and on crutches.
"Well got you good," the bold rhino grinned, and the sheep buried his face in the doorway, feigning a grin to go along.
"You said no smart remarks," Shen reminded tersely.
"That doesn't apply to me; I've known him since he was four."
And the sheep immediately turned to his prince and bowed; Shen smirked as he whined in pain as he did so, but a commoner must always bow to their royalty – and future lord.
"Oh, My Prince, it is an honor! You've been to the blacksmith before, right? I don't recall having met – oh right, my father Pi worked here at the time."
"Pu and Pi," Shen muttered softly, then he snickered, following the duo inside. "What next, 'Pu-pi?'" He winced and shot a glare when Thundering Rhino subtly bopped him on the head.
"You're here for your Dao, right? I know you've been waiting long – I'm so sorry; that stupid well accident - I swear, it'd be done sooner if I hadn't had that injury."
Shen looked at his turned back coldly. Well fall, so what? Like a broken leg could hinder his skills and the hooves he needed to carve and make the sword – and for his prince all the more; there was no excuse for lateness when it came to meeting your lord's request, none-
But Shen caught his master's warning glare and forced a polite 'it's fine – don't worry about it.'
It seemed the sheep still had a bit of work to do on it: polishing and sharpening, nothing that would take too long thank the gods. As one hoof hastily began to rub a polishing mixture on the tip of the blade (that he kept from their sight until the big reveal), another one pushed a basket of melon buns toward him and his master, and he told them to sit down and wait.
Shen stood as he quietly nibbled his bun; he couldn't sit very well yet (an embarrassing detail he rather preferred to keep to himself.)
The blacksmith finally emerged after several minutes of clanging and scraping and scrubbing. The sword in his hooves was blanketed with a beige sheet. He stepped up slowly, and Shen couldn't tell if this was to irritate him further or make the grand revealing even more spectacular. Finally, the sheep reached his prince's feet and kowtowed, holding the concealed sword flat out and blanketed over his hooves.
Shen felt a sense of pride swell deep in him; he felt like a knight in one of those old prophecies his nanny had told him of – that were about to accept their honored sword for the big battle. Eagerly, he whisked the blanket off, and-
"...It's a butter knife," he said blankly.
"Shen," his master sharply began.
"-Peace, Raidon," Pu cut in, "as I recall, a certain young rhino wasn't exceptionally delighted with his Dao at this age."
He was fifteen at the time, eagerly running ahead of his master, now and then tugging on the peacock lord's wing, constantly needing to be reminded not to run ahead; 'we have plenty of time', Lord Jin told him, and eventually he and his train caught up to the young pupil.
"Here for your Dao, right?" Pu eagerly asked him, instantly locking the bigger rhino into a playful headlock. "Baba is nearly done with it; I haven't seen it yet, he won't let me look."
"Boys," Lord Jin began, and the teens stopped grappling. "I think Pi is almost finished with it, Raidon – go see, and tell me if you like it."
The master-to-be didn't need to be told twice, eyes alight with a childish sparkle as he ran and nearly bumped into the elder ram when he came forward, the sword blanketed. (It seemed that was a Kuang tradition.)
"Oh gods, I'm so excited for this!" The rhino was practically hopping, and Lord Jin had to sternly remind him of his manners countless times, futile to his pupils un-curbed excitement. He just about tore the blanket off the weapon, and his face immediately fell.
"It...it looks.." The young rhino took the long sword and turned it over a few times in his hooves, his excitement quickly beginning to drop to the pit of his stomach with his heart as he surveyed his new weapon.
Pu was on the ground, rolling back and forth grabbing his hooves and laughing.
"Oh, nice sword – what are you gonna do, BUTTER your enemies to death? Ow!" His father roughly rapped him on the head, and turned to the silent rhino with an encouraging smile.
"It's very sharp," Pi told him, hoping that with every good fact about the sword, Raidon's spirits would lift a bit more. "And – and their curve is very effective when you thrust it, and-"
Lord Jin looked expectantly at his student, and the rhino gave him a desperate look,
but it's a butter knife!
His master's glare deepened and the boy sighed, begrudgingly muttering a thank you to the blacksmith.
Pu finished his story, pleased to see the changed expressions on everyone's faces; Shen looked beyond amused, Thundering Rhino looked beyond horrified, and even little Bao Yu looked delighted.
The rhino closed his eyes and looked up to the heavens.
"Oh, dear gods," he moaned.
Hastily, Shen stuffed an entire melon bun into his mouth to keep the loud laugh from slipping out. He snickered from behind the dessert when Bao Yu giggled.
"You're wanted again at the door, My Prince," his nanny told him. She rolled her eyes when he let out a long suffering groan and rolled his own eyes so heavily that she was afraid his pupils would fall out the side of his sockets.
"I swear to the gods, if that's Biming here to drop off another annoying panda baby, I will not be very pleased."
Said panda baby eagerly perched at the side of the courtyard; Shen could not get him to leave, and it was honestly easier to attempt to break in his new Dao sword listening to blissful little babbles, then it was listening to loud annoying screaming baby wails as he kept trying to push him to the door. (Gibberish didn't hinder his concentration as much as screams did, understandably.)
"No," the soothsayer began very tightly, as stiff as a board. "It – it's the physician."
Immediately, Shen faltered in his steps; he dropped the sword and paled – if that was even physically possible. Already, he was breathing a bit heavy now, and didn't calm under his nanny's gentle gaze.
"Come, darling." She grabbed his wing and smoothed a hoof tenderly over its feathery surface. "Let's see what he wants, get it over with, and I'll make us a nice dinner." She looked down when Bao Yu squealed and tugged at her robes with his little teeth, and she chuckled.
"I assume we'll be having another uninvited, but just as welcomed dinner guest."
"Welcomed, indeed," Shen muttered, and his nanny was relieved to see his tenseness giving off to annoyance as he glared at the fat panda baby in her arms.
"Oh, Shen, you must admit, he's darling," the soothsayer chided gently, and she kissed little Bao Yu's nose.
"Yeah, that's the word," he mumbled, and his eyes went wide and flashed in jealousy when he caught the kiss, and little Bao Yu giving him a smug look. His Nana turned and he did too, snootily raising his head and walking on. Pff. So what – he didn't care if she chose to kiss that stupid drool ball.
His nanny smirked and she grabbed him; Shen yelped as he half fell against her chest and she was suddenly smothering the top of his beak and head with kisses for good measure.
"Ah – gross! You old goat, there's gotta be a line-! Hey – knock it off!" He tried to sound furious as he struggled, but the quickly muffled laughs weren't all that convincing.
The laughter drowned out and both he and the soothsayer straightened when they reached the palace doors. His nanny looked worriedly at him, and he tried to gently cup a lightly shaking wing over her hoof as they entered the doors. They were acting like the guest was the pronouncement of doom.
Well, he may as well be. The soothsayer had to gently squeeze her child's wing as a silent reminder to remain calm when he laid eyes on the despicable elk,
He was there, spreading out his stupid stupid cordial bottles filled to the brim with that disgusting gloppy medicine that Shen had been forced to ingest all his life. He wondered why that idiotic elk bothered to come around with all his useless medical liquids – they did nothing. Of course, he walked from the outskirts of the city, sporting the bag of supplies as he walked to the palace. (He was probably just using them for show, trying to convince the city he was actually doing something to improve the young prince's health – push him further away from an early grave.)
"Shen, greet the physician," his mother gently reminded.
"Hello, Doctor Ren," the peacock said coldly.
The stupid elk seemed as oblivious as always to his patient's bitterness and dislike for him, as he went about taking out a few more bottles. (Just how much of that stupid medications did he bring?)
"Hello, My Prince." He bowed; Shen wanted to crack his spine and keep him condemned to that position for the rest of his life. "It is lovely to see you – oh, you're doing well today it seems."
The eyes filled with more hatred, if possible. It seemed it was noticable now, fore Shen felt the twist on his train by his father, and noticed how the elk's eyes had lowered awkwardly.
"It's so - nice to see you too," Shen strained out, which left one to wonder if he was talking to a royal physician or a cockroach – that was the hardest thing he'd ever had to say.
"Your parents called me up today; which was good – despite your weekly check ups, I needed to see them about something, and propose an idea to them." The elk trailed off, apprehensively glancing at the glaring prince and turning to his lord.
"Well, you see, son," Lord Jin began pleasantly, choosing his words carefully (one slip, and-), "Although your health has begun to climb over the years, we see there are still days when you're very sick-" he inwardly cringed under his son's venomous glare; "I mean, we're proud of how well you've come and how well you – you're doing generally-"
Shen didn't like where this conversation was heading.
"-the physician thinks it best if you maybe you stay with him for a while."
The entire palace seemed to have grown deathly silent. No sound of water running; no sound of servant's hooves walking; not even the birds chirping. It was as if every inhabitant had frozen in horror, processing the request. There was one sound: the soothsayer's soft sharply inhaled gasp.
Finally, Shen spoke; his eyes and his face held no expression.
"You're pawning me off...to the physician?"
"Oh dear gods, no!" his mother cried in horror, and she tried to fold a wing around him. He yanked back so sharply that the wing beginning to enfold him was nearly yanked from its socket.
"Oh gods," the soothsayer cried frantically; "oh gods - oh gods-" She had to get Shen out of there. What was his parents thinking? - Did they ever think – no, they didn't, they never did – had they lost their-
"Son, you will only be in the city; the physician wants to try a few things with you, see if he can improve your health, and quantity of your life." So he did still believe Shen was going to die. "And you'll be able to come see us whenever. We only want you monitored closely under the physician's eye; you need to be ready and in the physical condition to take over the throne soon when it is passed to you."
"Yes"; the physician spoke now, he tore out a scroll – what was Shen's medical records. "I think I want to get started on your lungs; you know, I have some marvelous herbs picked right from-"
They gasped when Shen suddenly tore through the scroll with a now sheathed blade. His parents cried out in horror and shock as their son didn't stop there, and suddenly the glass bottles exploded like a spectrum of colored grenades as the small blade vertically tore through every one of them with astounding strength. The table was flipped next, and the elk was now cowardly balled in the corner, ducking the bottles that smashed against walls and floors.
Shen was panting; he couldn't see, he couldn't hear, and all he saw was red – all he felt was rage beyond his brain's capacity, betrayal, hurt. He needed to – needed to – he eyed the elk and the red dotting his vision became a crimson blood color; he raised the knife higher, and-
-and something struck his face hard – a wing – (Lord Jin hadn't meant to hit that hard – he was just trying to snap him out of it), and Shen was on the ground, laying there as the burning pain stung his cheek, but he didn't seem to feel it.
"Shen-" his father began.
And Shen was gone, on his feet and moving faster than anyone thought possible, tearing down the hall.
"Darling-" The soothsayer managed to catch him for a brief moment, and tried to lovingly hold him to her, but he pushed out roughly, yet silently, continuing down the hall until he was at the door, in his Nana and his quarters, and in his room with the slam of a door so loud that it rocked every painting on the wall, as did every chair; every table, every object, and everyone.
The soothsayer had long since given up trying to coax her child from his bedroom. It was clocking in on ten hours since he ran into his room, and ten hours since he had eaten. Not a sound came from behind the rice paper walls, and every tray of food pushed under the door was neither eaten or pushed back. (She could see the mound growing from under the door cracks.)
"Darling, please," the old goat whispered softly. "You have to at least eat a little bit. I won't make you come out or talk to me, but starving yourself like this is not going to help you; you'll just get sick ag-" Maybe those weren't the right words right now.
Yet, she half wished that he'd snarl at her for them, or make any indication that he was alive, but nothing happened. Tears in her eyes, she silently collected the bowl of rice and moved away from the door-
-almost directly into Lord Jin.
The goat said nothing to him; she looked colder than the emperor had ever seen her, and she wasn't hiding it for the sake of respect all that well. She probably didn't even care about that right now. (He had just slapped her baby, what mother in their right mind would be thinking of subordinates right now?)
"I..I wish to speak with my son."
"With all due respect, my Lord," the soothsayer forced out as respectfully as she could. "Shen does not wish to see you right now and I will not force him to do so."
"I am not asking you to," Lord Jin said calmly; "I..I'll speak through the door if I have to; I just have to talk to him."
The soothsayer didn't respond, but calmly pulled away after several minutes, giving her Lord access to Shen's door.
Lord Jin swallowed hard, he had no idea how to approach this, where to start. He knew he was not welcomed here: he could feel the coldness radiating off the soothsayer, her unspoken hisses of 'get out and leave him be', and – he didn't even want to imagine what Shen was keeping in.
"Son?" be began softly.
There was no response from behind that door.
"Shen, I'm sorry; I'm so sorry for slapping you, and I know it was not called for. I didn't mean it, I was just-"
Through her Lord's remorseful rambling and repeated apologies, the soothsayer inwardly burned with rage and disbelief. Did he really – did he really think that was it? Was her Lord and Lady really that decisively naive? Well of course they were; when did they ever spend enough time with their young son to know his true feelings, what hurt him the most?
The futile and empty apology went on for the next ten minutes, and the soothsayer knew her child was at his limit, even though she couldn't see, she felt it (also something her seeing skills were exceptionally well at and it was a mother's intuition too.) She could almost hear him sobbing and pleading with her,
make him go away! M-make my mean father LEAVE!
That was enough for the soothsayer; she turned to her lord. He blinked and looked over at her, crown feathers dropping at the icy unforgiving look on her face.
"My Lord, please leave," the goat said respectfully, but firmly.
He knew he had to go; he was hurting his son more and more every moment he stayed. He wasn't welcomed here: the accusing subtle glares shot by his advisor and the surely hateful looks that were being directed from his son beyond that sliding door was getting to be a bit more than his frazzled nerves could handle right now. But he had to know something.
"Min Yun, you know I'd never hurt him, right?"
If it was possible, the soothsayer's eyes grew harder and even colder. She didn't respond.
Lord Jin turned and silently left, not returning again that day.
Xun was next to visit; he'd obviously not have heard about the day's events, since he seemed to be in a rather good mood. He came in on all fours – what a surprise. (The soothsayer always had to smirk at that; when the boys were younger, baths had to be constant because Xun always insisted on using all paws...and both children loved the mud.)
The elderly goat stayed at the table and didn't bother getting up to greet him. She looked lost and distraught, and Xun's grin faded the moment he saw her.
"Whoa, who died?" He attempted to crack a joke; the soothsayer was used to his bad jokes and wry remarks and a few made her smile – especially if it was directed to Shen, but not today... What was left of the pathetic smile fell and his eyes widened when he immediately noted she had been crying.
'Na' – it was usually archaic, but the soothsayer had half raised that fluff ball from an adorable rambunctious pup to now. She always told the pup that he could call her Nana too, and she knew he wanted to; his parents didn't show all that much caring for him, but he still felt uncomfortable. He settled with 'Na', that made him happy. As he got older, both him and Shen grew more and more uncomfortable with calling their surrogate mother by her usual address, though neither seemed to mind it in the most extreme circumstances – like now.
"Sit down, dear," the soothsayer said without a tone to her voice. Xun obeyed.
"Where's our little white birdy?" the wolf asked in a teasing tone; "is he sleeping again? Bet he is – or maybe that insufferable panda baby has him trapped somewhere."
Again, the goat was silent and even more sober.
"His parents sent him to his room – figuratively, I mean, he didn't-"
"No, I get it." The wolf stood up; he grabbed a pawful of sago tarts for good measure and knocked at the locked door, expecting a response. Though he wasn't too discouraged when he didn't get it: again, usual behavior.
"Hey, bird-brain, get out here! I've been looking for someone to spar with – I've only had that dumb panda the past ten hours, and uh-" he blushed, "well, he actually keeps winning." He pictured Shen was grinning, even though he wasn't, and he continued. "It isn't my fault, that brat is FAT and HEAVY."
Still no response, and the soothsayer didn't bother telling him to stop, since she knew it'd do no good at this point.
The wolf sighed a bit and rested against the sliding door. He looked down at Shen's favorite food and smirked, making a big show as he loudly smacked his lips and eyed the sago tarts with greed.
"Hey, Shen, better get out here – I'm about to wolf down all your precious desserts!" He paused, then snickered. "No pun intended."
Finally, the wolf's paws fell to his sides, a hurt look on his face; it stung the soothsayer to see the pup she half raised so upset.
"Damn it," Xun finally softly cursed. "What did those stupid parents of his do anyways?"
"Xun," the goat softly reprimanded from behind her teacup. "You know that is not-"
"Oh, don't give me that, soothsayer!" the pup snapped. "You know you feel the same way; you can't hide that from me. You're as easy to see through as we apparently all are."
The goat pursed her lips and set down the cup, peering at the unhappy wolf.
"You'll find that our Lord and Lady are good people, of course, who – act – long before their brains do."
"Freakin' understatement of the century," Xun muttered. "I wish he'd talk to me at least, he usually always does."
"He was hurt today," the soothsayer said simply; "far beyond the will to properly speak right now."
"What did they do?" Xun whispered.
The soothsayer just lowered her head and drank her tea without a word.
It was evening now; Shen had been in his room for twelve hours, and still not a sound was heard. The apartment was dark and dreary; it matched the moods of the inhabitants. There was still no sound or movement from Shen's door, and the place was empty, but that was fine to Bao Yu.
He liked the dark for some reason, even though it was apparently weird according to Mama and Baba. He'd seen other panda babies whimper in distress when the sun went down, but he liked the dark; it was always cooler, and he loved the little specks of light that sparkled in the sky. 'Stars', his parents told him they were called.
The cub crawled over the cool tile floor, squealing out at the new cooler sensation under his paws and legs. He came up to a huge door; he liked those: someone he loved was usually on the other side of it. And he had seen Shen and the soothsayer enter this little house, maybe they were here.
Bao Yu babbled and pawed at the door, calling out in his little baby gibberish to the peacock he was sure was on the other side. He scratched at the door with still developing nails, and watched them make scratches in the sliding wood, but nothing else happened. Undaunted, he moved to the walls, leaning on them a bit – and promptly tumbled onto his back on the other side.
The cub blinked when he realized he was somehow free, and he grinned, turning back onto his belly and starting to crawl. His eye caught the small mountain of food from the meals that had gathered, and he drooled and crawled towards it. Then, he saw the marvelously long train flowing over a makeshift nest full of sticks and hay and he squealed to get the bird's attention.
But Shen didn't even look up from where he was laying belly down over the bed. The cub still wasn't discouraged, climbing into the stick like bed with ease. Immediately, he was squealing and rubbing against it like all infants are apt to do when they encounter a new sensation. He focused quickly back on Shen and climbed up onto the peacock's back, pushing against his back with his paws.
Shen didn't stir, and the cub was mildly disappointed, but hardly discouraged. He crawled up more and started tugging at Shen's sash with his teeth and a playful growl, waiting for the lord to whirl around and snap at him. But he didn't.
The cub was growing more and more frustrated – he didn't know what else to do, he had done it all. His jade eyes lit up a bit and he smiled. Well, almost all of it. He crawled to the very bottom of Shen's robes and wriggled up into it; he was pressed pretty tightly against the peacock's side since he was on his stomach, and his fur rubbed against Shen's usually sensitive skin, but he made no movement or sound.
Bao Yu wouldn't give up; he gnawed lightly at the side of Shen's belly, and though the lord was finally fidgeting a bit...there was still virtually no reaction from him. Bao Yu whined in distress, underneath Shen's wing and peering out of his sleeve. His tears stained Shen's fabric.
It seemed the young lord finally sensed there was no getting rid of the impervious cub, as a wing hastily went in his sleeve and dragged the panda out by a paw, where he laid the startled baby in front of his face.
"Eeegh!" Bao Yu babbled, flinging his flabby arms around Shen's beak and nuzzling it lovingly.
"You're persistent, I'll give you that much," Shen finally said, speaking for the first time in exactly half a day. "I heard you out there, brat, and I wasn't going to open my door.." He barely lifted his heavy head to look at the giant hole in his wall. "But I didn't expect you to go through my wall." He inwardly cursed the complication of having to now replace that old wall – but that vanished fast, given the current situation. His head flopped back down again.
"Ouu?" The cub's soft babble sounded concerned, he even added a stroke of Shen's crown for effect.
"What do you care?" Shen snapped, translating the baby's cooing to an asking of what was wrong. "You're a baby – you just eat and poop and eat...and eat again...and again! Go...go – eat – and just..just LEAVE ME ALONE!"
He really was losing his mind, and he couldn't see well. This screaming and rage and emotional trauma wasn't good for his medical condition. A small side effect he had to put up with when he got upset. And now – and now he was screaming in a deranged voice to a panda baby.
He shook, feeling the immediate onset of tears; no, no, he wouldn't cry. He didn't cry anymore. He hadn't cried since he was a chick – not since he was twelve. He remembered it clearly: bullied and picked on, running back, beaten up and bruised and a bit bloodied – to Nana, where she held him as he bawled. The bullies had been terrible, snickering at his ugly weak white stature and taunting him, taunting him as he cried. He told her that he wasn't going to ever cry again, and he dashed away from the bitterly stunned old goat.
He intended to stick to that regiment he set. He wouldn't cry, no. Who cared what his parents thought – so what if they wanted to pawn him off to the physician. Who cared – he didn't, didn't at all. He didn't need anyone, and he didn't need his parents' love; they were never there for him when he was little – why should this be any different!
The peacock only laid there; Bao Yu slid down the pillow, right under Shen's neck, his head curling under the peacock's beak as he balled himself comfortingly into his soft warm feathers and cried since Shen wouldn't do so himself.
Mmm, so I was writing between "Misadventures" and "Redeeming Light" tonight, and this finished before the other one did. "Redeeming Light" is coming along well. but this ia a long and very painful (meaning sad) chapter, that I'm taking my time on.
Not much to say other than credit goes to my new friendDomenic- writer of the famous "Life And Times Of Lord Shen"