A/N: I do not own KUNG FU PANDA or any of it's characters, locations, etc. I can only claim my OC's. (Phew! Glad I don't have to say that again!)
Well, here it is! The FINAL chapter of "Obsidian Blade"
*Please read my A/N at the end!*
Home at Last
By the end of the second day of traveling, the Kung Fu Warriors and Mr. Ping could finally see the familiar valley which they all called home. "Ah! It's feels so good to be back!" Po exclaimed with a relieved smile. Of course truer words couldn't have been more applicable to each of them. Mr. Ping was excited to get back to his noodle shop, and the Kung Fu Warriors were very happy towards getting back to their training, and frankly they couldn't care less if things around the palace were boring. They all were in agreement that they had had their fair share of bandits and assassins in the past month alone to last them a life time.
As they made their way into the outskirts of the Valley of Peace, Tigress turned her head towards the familiar circular building that she had spent her early childhood years living. The orphanage sat in the middle of a vast grassy meadow with only a few houses here and there that were scattered around it. Of course that wasn't what made her stop in her tracks. In the distance she could see a river flowing not too far away from where Bao Gu was, and she found herself unconsciously moving towards it.
"Uh…Tigress, home is this way." Po said, causing the others to come to a halt.
"Why don't you all go on ahead; I'm just going to take a look around." She answered.
They each eyed her with puzzling looks.
"Don't worry, I'll catch up."
The others seemed to accept this and they continued their way down the worn path that led into the heart of the Valley.
Tigress watched them go for only a moment before she started her way towards the river. The long grasses of the open field surrounding the orphanage swayed lightly against her ankles in the evening breeze, and the glow of the setting sun behind her stretched her shadow far in front of her. The rushing of water over rock soon met her ears and she found herself gazing into the swift current of the river. She remembered that as a child, she had always avoided going close to it considering that the caretakers of the orphanage had advised the children to stay away so they would not accidently fall in and possibly drown.
Of course, she did not need to be told, she had always feared this river as a child. She had never known why, but in light of recent revelations on how she had arrived at the orphanage, those childhood fears were starting to make sense. She stood there on the banks of the river for who knew how long as she stared into the swirling foam of the blue water. She closed her eyes and bowed her head in silent prayer, hoping that Déshí would know how grateful she was to him for saving her life. Of course, she couldn't help but wish that she could have done something to repay him.
She stood there for only a moment longer before taking a deep breath to regain her composure. She turned on the spot to start her way back down the trail where her comrades had gone, when she suddenly saw a familiar figure of a mountain cat sitting near the banks of the river not too far away. He was sitting in lotus position atop a flat boulder that jutted out over the water, and Tigress found herself walking over towards where he sat.
She stopped a little ways away with his back still turned to her. "Cong?" She hoped that she wasn't interrupting him in meditation or anything like that, but she couldn't help but wonder if something was wrong.
Cong's large brown ears perked towards the sound of her voice and he turned to face her. "I…didn't know you were here." He said, somewhat halfheartedly. He looked downcast as if he were upset about something. But Tigress could only guess why he had come here of all places.
"Are you alright?" Tigress said, coming a bit closer and sitting next to him on the flat boulder. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong…I've just got a lot on my mind." He then went silent for several long moments before he turned to face her, "I came here to pay my respects to my father's grave, but the farmer who took on the task of burying him died three years ago. He was the only one who knew where my father's final resting place was."
"Who told you that?" Tigress asked.
"I've been asking some of the locals about it all day. Only a few of them were there when they found you and my father on the banks of the river. He had managed to keep you alive until help arrived; they told me that he died only a few moments after he had handed you over to them." Cong's ears lowered, and Tigress could see the small buildup of tears in the mountain cat's green eyes.
She placed a comforting paw on his shoulder. "You must miss him."
"Yeah…I do." Cong wiped the tears away with the back of his paw, and he took a few deep breaths to calm himself before he stood up with Tigress following suite.
"I owe my life to you and your father," Tigress stated, "I wish there was something I could do to thank you."
Cong shook his head, "No need to trouble yourself Master Tigress; if anything else, I should be thanking you."
Tigress gave him a questioning look, "I don't see how—"
"If you hadn't hit me with that tree branch and gotten me arrested, I never would have met Rui. He really helped me turn my life around for the better, and if fate had been against me, I could have been amongst the number of Shadow Dragons killed or captured by the soldiers during that last battle."
"We each shape our own destinies Cong, you could have easily changed yours if you had so desired."
"Not really," He answered, "Qiang was always so controlling of all of us; believe me, I would have left earlier if I had known that I had had a choice."
Tigress gave him a small smile, "You do have a choice."
Cong nodded his head in response, "I know that now." The mountain cat reached down for a small traveling bag that had been hidden amongst the tall grasses around them. He slung it over his shoulder then turned to face Tigress, "It truly has been an honor meeting you Tigress."
She nodded, "Be sure to give our regards to Xue and his family when you get back to the city." Tigress stated as they started walking towards the road.
"Yes…well," Cong hesitated, "that might take a while." He paused as Tigress gave him a questioning look, "I'm not returning to the city."
Tigress's eyes widened, "But where are you planning to go? Won't they wonder why you haven't come back?"
"I left a note before my departure; no doubt they've found it by now. I've got some personal family business to take care of."
"Family?" Tigress said with surprise.
"Yeah, my sister." Cong answered.
Tigress gazed towards the mountain cat unexpectedly, "I didn't know you had a sister."
Cong shrugged his shoulders, "Yeah, I guess it's sort of a family secret. You see, my father wasn't always involved with the Shadow Dragons. He was a merchant before he joined, and he and my mother lived peacefully in their home village near the coast. My sister was only four years old when the Shadow Dragons attacked their village. My father fought back, and he even managed to kill a few Shadow Dragons before they finally subdued him. Apparently Qiang saw some potential in my father's fighting skills, and he agreed to spare my mother and my sister if my father would swear loyalty to him."
Tigress listened intently to Cong's words. She hadn't heard this tale from the mountain cat in their numerous conversations throughout the last two weeks; she could only imagine how difficult it was for him to speak openly about his family.
"My father agreed, but he didn't trust Qiang. He and my mother managed to smuggle my sister away to safety…but I wasn't so lucky." He paused. "After I was born, my parents tried to get me to safety as well, but the Shadow Dragons had been keeping an eye on them ever since my sister had disappeared. They killed my mother and threatened to kill me if my father ever tried to defy them again. I guess I'm lucky that Qiang decided to spare me after my father got away with you. He must have thought that I could still be of some use to him." Cong said bitterly.
"How old were you when you lost your mother?" Tigress asked.
Cong shrugged his shoulders, "A few months maybe, I really don't remember anything about her.
"I'm sorry Cong."
The mountain cat's ears lowered slightly, "It's in the past now." He turned his gaze to the distant horizon, "But my sister is still out there somewhere…I gotta find her."
"Do you have any clue as to where your parents sent her?"
Cong shook his head, "My father didn't want any of the Shadow Dragons to find her, and he didn't want me to be in danger of that knowledge in case anyone tried to make me talk. The only thing he managed to tell me about her was her name."
"What is it?" Tigress asked hopefully.
Cong closed his eyes for a moment as if he were calling forth a long lost memory. He was silent for several long moments before he turned to face Tigress again, "Her name is Mei Ling."
Tigress's amber eyes widened towards the recognition of the name that she had heard Crane utter on several occasions, "Wait, Master Mei Ling of Lee Da Kung Fu Academy?"
Cong looked towards her with surprise as they came to a stop in front of the large double doors of Bao Gu Orphanage, "You know her?"
"Not personally, but Crane attended the same school as her, they're very good friends."
A smile began to pull at the corners of Cong's lips, "So…she's still there? Right now?"
Tigress nodded, "She's a great Warrior and I've heard that she's even started teaching there. At least, that's what Crane has told us." She then pointed a claw in the direction of the mountains north of them. "It's about a four day journey from here, but if you follow this trail, you should be led right to Lee Da."
Cong gazed in the direction that Tigress was pointing, and he gave off a relieved sigh, "You have no idea what this means to me Tigress." He turned towards her, punching his fist into his open palm and giving a slight bow, "Thank you."
Tigress returned the gesture and bowed towards the mountain cat, "If you're ever in the Valley of Peace again, know that you will always be welcome at the Jade Palace." She said with a smile.
Cong nodded and turned to head up the trail into the northern mountains when he suddenly stopped short, "Darn, I almost forgot!" He quickly turned back towards Tigress, "I have something for you."
Tigress shook her head, "There's really no need for gifts Cong, its fine."
"No, it belonged to your mother." Cong stated, causing Tigress to eye him curiously. She watched as the mountain cat reached into the small pocket on his green vest before he grabbed a hold of something inside. He brought his closed fist forward and Tigress tentatively held out an open paw, allowing Cong to place the tiny object within her grasp.
A glint of gold caught her eye as she stared down towards a tiny gold locket attached to a thin chain. Elaborate designs were carved intricately into its smooth surface, and it seemed to glow in the light of the setting sun.
"Rui was holding onto that for a while, and he gave it to me for safe keeping. But I think that he would have wanted you to have it." Cong said.
Tigress slipped a claw between the two halves of the locket, and it opened with a small click. Her eyes widened with surprise as she gazed onto the familiar image of her parents with Hua cradling a newborn Jìn in her arms. Her vision became blurry as tears began to swell in her amber eyes.
"I would have gotten it to you sooner, but I thought you'd like to have it in one piece since the chain was broken when I got it."
Tigress closed the locket, and she couldn't help but give Cong a smile of gratitude, "Thank you Cong."
"I guess it's safe to say that we're even now?" Cong asked.
"Yes, we're even." Tigress answered.
Cong smiled, and he readjusted the pack on his shoulder, "I'll see you another time then?"
Tigress nodded, "Definitely. Give my regards to your sister when you find her."
"I will." Cong then turned on his heels and started his way up the trail towards the northern mountains, he gave a wave of his paw and Tigress waved back, wishing him luck.
Once he had disappeared from her sight, she returned her attention to the tiny locket she held in her paw. She smiled and carefully lifted the chain over her head. It fit perfectly around her neck, and she tucked the locket beneath the collar of her vest. She couldn't explain it, but it felt right to wear it; as if her mother had wanted her to have it, and she placed her paw over the small bulge where the locket rested above her beating heart. The growing tears in her eyes weren't tears of sorrow because she could feel an overwhelming sense of peace wash over her.
Her ears suddenly perked towards the familiar sounds of uneven footsteps accompanied by the hollow tones of an ancient peach wood staff as it came in contact with the earth.
She turned on the spot to see a small red panda eyeing her curiously with his steel blue eyes.
"I thought you had gone on ahead with the others." She said.
"That was half an hour ago Tigress." Shifu answered, "You had us worried."
"You mean you were worried." She countered with a smirk on her face.
Shifu gave off a small roll of his eyes, "Fine, you had me worried." He said before eyeing her again, noticing the tears running down her cheeks. "Is something wrong?"
Tigress wiped the thin tears away with a brush of her finger before giving him a smile, "No Master, everything is alright."
Shifu thought on this for a moment, "Well, if you're sure." He said.
"I am." Tigress answered with confidence.
The Grand Master gave a slight nod of his head in response, "Very well then." He turned and started his way down the path from the orphanage, "Come," he said, "Let us go home."
Tigress quickened her pace for a few strides until she caught up with him, and she could feel her heart rate accelerate as she remembered her first walk with him on this very road to the Jade Palace. She could see it now in the distance as it sat atop the slopes of the overhanging mountains; framed against the glowing orange of the setting sun.
As she walked beside her father, she could feel an overwhelming sense of euphoric joy swell inside of her; and she smiled at the thought that for the first time in her life, she was finally going home.
A/N: And there you have it! *Takes a bow*
Wow, this story has really taken off! I came up with the idea of this story in mid-July of 2011, so this story has been in the works for nearly 11 months! Also another side note: Exactly 9 months ago today, was the day I posted the first chapter of this story! (Yeah, I kinda planned it that way!) I'M A GENIOUS!
Originally this story was going to be around 40 chapters long, but a lot of things can happen during the writing process and it just got longer and longer with each chapter I wrote! When I first came up with the idea, I knew that I wanted it to be a story that would pull at the heartstrings as well as be as entertaining and serious as the films. I also wanted to make sure that when I started this story, that I would finish it. I've always been sad towards the fact that many great stories here on FanFiction are never completed; leaving the readers on the worst cliff hanger ever. I wanted to make sure that I would be able to finish this fic once I started writing it. So hence, I wrote 15 chapters in advance before I even posted the first one here on the site. I've had this steady process throughout the past 9 months that I would have several chapters typed in advance in case something came up, so that way, I would be able to post new chapters on a regular basis, while still giving myself enough time to work on new chapters without having my readers waiting for an update for weeks on end.
To be perfectly honest, when I first posted this story, I really wasn't expecting the hype it has received. It has gotten over 830 reviews, 46,703 hits, and 84 favorites (I'm expecting reviews from ALL of you! MUAHAHAHAHA!) And that is truly an accomplishment! I'd like to thank all of my loyal supporters that have stayed with this story from the very beginning; also I would like to thank my friends and family at home for putting up with me during the writing process! Thank you to all of you reviewers who have left me insightful reviews, your words have touched my heart and given me the motivation to finish this story.
I would love to hear your opinions on this story: What was your favorite part and why? Who was your favorite OC and what made you love them so much? (You can write about multiple events/characters if you wish) What has been your favorite theme in this story? I have a habit of weaving core themes into my stories; I'd like to see if you reviewers caught them!
*And as a final note, I have gotten several requests to make a sequel to this story, and I regret to say that this story was a one-time thing. I really wasn't planning on making a sequel during the writing process; if I had been, then I would have hinted on it. Sorry people, but this is a solo story that will not have a sequel.
*However, I am pleased to inform you all of a new project I am working on. I'm pretty sure that those of you who have been reading my Author's Notes are well aware that I will be writing companion drabbles/deleted scenes that will dig deeper into the world of "Obsidian Blade." They will be short stories revolving around many of my OC's as well as events from Shifu's younger years, and Tigress's birth family. (Think of it as a prequel series) It will be titled "Passage of Time" I will be posting the first chapter within the next month, so I hope you all will enjoy it as much as you have enjoyed reading "Obsidian Blade."
Once again, I thank you all for your support. See ya later!