Disclaimer: I don't own Kung Fu Panda. I make no money off of this.
She sighed. "No."
"B-but Master Po told us stories!"
She raised an eyebrow. "Well, he shouldn't have."
"Please, Master Tigress? Please please please? With a cherry on top!"
The tiger master chuffed*. "You children need to focus and gain discipline. That's only ever achieved through hard work."
One particularly small rabbit girl looked at her wide-eyed. Tigress was sure for a moment that she was going to say something along the lines of 'please?' She was also dead wrong.
Instead, the little girl asked, "Master Tigress? Do you cry a lot?"
She blinked, surprised. "What? No, of course not. Why would you think that?"
The bunny shrugged. "Well, you've got tear tracks on the inside of your eyes. I just thought that was how you'd gotten them. So how did you?"
"I- I don't know," she said, caught a little off guard by the question. "I was born with them."
"But you have to know! How did you get them, Master Tigress?"
The other kids quickly chimed in. "Yeah? How did you get those? Where did they come from?"
Tigress thought for a moment about how to shut them up. "Alright, you kids want a story?"
"Yeah!" they all chorused.
"Hm… well, I guess I do have one story for you." She sat down on the steps of the courtyard and said, "All of you, take a seat, and no talking."
They all obediently sat down, quiet as mice. Tigress situated herself so that she was comfortable and then said, "Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away, there lived a little tiger girl.
"Now, this little girl was a lot different from the other tigers. You see while they were all red, she was orange.
"When they were little, all the children of the kingdom were sent to a big school, where they learned how to be good children. Once a month, the grown-ups would come and take some of the good little boys and girls home. All of those kids would brush their fur all nice and shiny, and they'd eat a lot of apples and tomatoes before, to make their fur extra red. But no matter how many apples and tomatoes the little girl ate, her fur stayed very orange, and so no one would ever take her home."
"But why was orange fur so bad?" one of the bunnies asked, frowning.
"Well, orange fur meant that this girl was born from very bad demons, and a lot of times, she would accidentally curse people without trying. They would get hurt, or their things would be broken, or stuff like that. Anyway, she would always be sent to her room when the grown-ups came, so that no one would get cursed. Every month, she'd watch the children be taken home, and she would cry.
"Now, because she was a demon, her heart was very black, and her tears were black, too. They would stain the fur around her eyes very black, and that's why tigers all have black markings on their fur. The end." She stood back up. "Now, let's get back to training."
"No!" the kids all cried.
"You have to tell us the rest of the story!" one of the bunnies pleaded.
"The rest of the story? That's the end. There isn't any more."
"But there has to be," another protested. "That's not a happy ending."
"Well, not all stories have happy endings," she said, beginning to get impatient.
"But what about the little tiger girl?" another said. "After all, we don't have any red tigers around here! How did you end up all orange and stuff?"
Tigress thought for a moment, and then said, "You know what? You're right. There is more to the story." She sat down again and started to talk again.
"Well one day, one of the grown-ups came to the school and asked to see the little girl. The teachers took him to her.
"This grown up was very strange, you see; he had very, very big feet, so he sort of walked funny. At first, the little girl was very angry, and she told him to go away, but she was really just very lonely. So the man with the big feet asked her to play a game with him: Mahjong.
"This wasn't any ordinary game of Mahjong, though; all of its tiles had instructions on how to not curse people, and how to be a good demon. They played for a long time, and soon, she'd learned how to use her powers for good.
"After that, all the children started asking her to play with them, because her special powers made their games much more interesting. After this, the man with big feet went away. One day, though, almost all of the children left with the adults, leaving her all alone with no one to play with. And she was lonely again.
"She started to play with the old mahjong set by herself. Just as she laid down the first tile, another was placed beside it, and she saw that it was the man with big feet. She smiled and gasped, and he asked if she'd like to come live with him and help a lot of people with her powers, like he did. She said yes, and they went off to a far-off kingdom, where she helped lots and lots of people with her magical powers.
"But even though she was no longer a bad child, she was still sad at times, and cried her black tears. The reason she cried was because her teacher with the big feet had once had another little boy in his class. This little boy had grown up using his powers for good, and he was very skillful, but there was an ultimate secret that he hadn't had: the Final Tile. This tile had the secret to limitless magical powers, and he'd wanted it very badly. One day, when he was almost all grown-up, he'd tried to get the tile, using his powers for evil."
"Did he get it?" one of the bunnies asked, wide-eyed.
"No. The Great Teacher- a wise and powerful teacher, who had a magical wand he could use against any opponent, had stopped him, and had sent him far away, to live alone in the mountains.
"As the little girl grew up, her big-footed teacher became more and more angry, and she thought it was with her. She never asked why, but one day, he told her that she was very much like the other little boy, and he thought that she would get the Final Tile.
"Not long after, the Great Teacher had a vision: the boy would come back, and someone had to stop him. There was a contest of magical powers from all the students, to see who would get the Final Tile.
"As the girl, now not so little anymore, was about to show the Great Teacher her powers, another man, a panda, suddenly ran in, out of breath. 'Who got the Tile?' he asked. 'Who got the Tile?'
"And just like that, the Great Teacher told him that he had."
All the kids gasped. "But the tiger was going to get the Tile!" one of them protested.
"That's not very fair!" said another.
Tigress held up a paw. "You haven't let me finish," she said. "You see, the Universe wanted him to have the Final Tile."
"Ohhhh," all the children said in unison.
"Now, she was very mad, and she went to her room that night and cried her black tears again, where nobody could see. When the man walked by her door, she yelled at him to go away forever.
"He didn't go away, though. He stayed and, no matter how hard he tried, kept on annoying all of them. Then, one night, the Great Teacher went to Heaven." All the children's faces grew sad. One little girl sniffled. "The tiger seemed to be angry, but really, she was very afraid. But, she knew that if the Evil One reached the village, he would destroy everyone and everything, so she forced herself to not be afraid- or at least, not on the outside. She and all the others left to try to reach the Evil One before he could get there. But the Evil One beat them all, and sent them back.
"Now, the man with big feet had been training the panda in magic while they were all away, and when they finally came back, he decided to give the panda the Final Tile. The Tile was on top of a tall mountain that could only be made by creating a tornado with the Great Teacher's wand of power, which he had left them when he went to Heaven. The man with big feet made the tornado and got the Final Tile. He gave it to the panda." She leaned in close. "Do you want to know what the tile said?"
They all nodded eagerly.
"The tile said-" She looked around, and then said, "Nothing!"
They all gasped. "Nothing?" one boy demanded.
"But that's not possible!"
"I thought it had magical powers!"
Tigress nodded. "That was what the tiger thought, too. But the tile was blank. She didn't understand… But she knew that the Evil One was coming, and that everyone had to get away.
"The man with big feet said he would stay and fight the Evil One, even though it would kill him."
"What?" the kids all said.
"She wanted to protest, but it would be no use. The man with big feet bowed to them all and said how proud he was of them all. It was the first time he'd ever said he was proud of her… and, she knew, the last." Tigress grew quiet for a moment. "They all bowed back, and then they left.
"She told the others what to do to get the villagers out, and then started out down the pass alone. She found a small child and realized that the poor kid was lost, the parents nowhere to be found. She started to lead him along with her.
"They walked all night, the tiger occasionally talking to the others. When dawn was drawing near, she asked, 'Where is the panda?' Nobody had seen him. She started to ask more and more, but nobody knew where he was. Suddenly, she realized that he'd gone back to fight the Evil One.
"Right at that moment, a huge rush of wind nearly knocked her off her feet. She guarded the child from it, and realized that something had happened in the village. She and the others quickly headed back, followed by the villagers.
"When the dust from the wind cleared, the panda was left standing in the light from the rising sun, and the Evil One was gone."
All the kids cheered. Tigress held up a paw, quieting them.
"The story isn't done yet. The tiger bowed to the panda and called him 'Teacher.' The panda laughed and said 'Teacher?' Then, suddenly, he said, 'The man with big feet! He's hurt!' He started to run back.
"The tiger followed him, arriving a few minutes later (she was helping some villagers), and found both of them lying quite still on the ground. She was worried for a moment they'd died, but then saw that they were breathing. She was very, very happy.
"From there, they had many more adventures, but that was the first, the beginning. I would be happy to tell you them, but we really do need to get back to training." The children groaned.
"But how did orange tigers get here?" one protested.
She thought for a moment. "One day, their adventures led them to this valley, and they decided they would very much like to live here. So they settled down and had many children, one of which is yours truly. And that is why tigers are orange, and why we have black tear marks. The end." She stood up. "Now, let's train!"
They all grudgingly got up and, she started to instruct them on proper punching techniques. "When you punch, you want a slight bend in the elbow, so you don't hyperextend- that means hurt, Lao Chu- your arm…"
She walked into her room after dinner, positively exhausted. Those hyperactive little bunnies had worn the warrior right out of her, and right now she would've been very happy to hear she'd never have to see another training dummy ever again.
She lit the lamp in her room to find her sleeping clothes. As she pulled the flat, wooden box out from under her bed that had her clothes in it, she saw a small green and red tube lying on the clothes: the Dragon Scroll.
Surprised, she picked it up. "That's strange… even Po wouldn't be forgetful enough to leave it here, of all places." She hesitated a moment, and then opened it, tilting its contents into her paw.
As expected, the Scroll slipped out, but so did another piece of paper. It read:
I bet the panda was real sorry he took the Tile away from the tiger. I'm sure he didn't mean to do it. But it sort of sounded like she was okay with it. I hope so, because I think they really cared about each other, ya know? Anyway, do you think you'd mind holding onto this for a while? You know how forgetful I am; I don't wanna lose it. Haha, can you imagine what Master Shifu would do? He'd KILL me! Thanks!
P.S. I hope the tiger stopped crying after that- or, if she did, she let him cry with her.
She slowly lowered the two scrolls in her paw and placed them on the floor.
As she left the room, the ink on the more important paper began to run and stain the paper, fading the words and turning their white background into a pale indigo watercolor, from the tears that had landed on them in her haste.
A/N: That's the technical term for a tiger's growl.