Dedicated to everybody who's got a bone to pick.
Disclaimer: I do not own Kung Fu Panda, or The Crow. The Crow is the property of James O'Barr, and Kung Fu Panda belongs to Dreamworks. I am not making any profit off of this story.
Shen stood on his balcony, gazing out over Gongmen City. He smiled, turning back the clock to a full two years ago, when the city had been contested ground. He had waged war on the Masters' Council, that had taken to ruling in his stead. It had been a short, albeit destructive battle, ending ultimately in his victory. Really, it had been the hubris of the masters that had done them in. They had thought themselves invincible, and had, as a result, been killed in their attempt to resist him.
And now, Shen sat in the heart of Gongmen City, China his for the taking.
And take he would, Shen thought. It was his birthright, long denied to him. The provinces to the south were those of farmers and fishermen, which could sustain his forces as they attended to the rest of China. The northern provinces were sure to put up something resembling a fight, but would ultimately kneel before him.
Shen turned his back on the city, and returned to his throne room. As he passed the original cannon, he paused, and looked at it. The cornerstone to his empire, he mused. The one thing that, without it, his dream of conquest would be just that. A dream. But, with it, it was a reality.
One that was very close at hand.
As twilight fell upon the world, the crow descended from the faintly lit sky, down to the riverbank below.
It had flown far from the places where the dead loiter, counting the hours until they forgot what hours were, and in time themselves, until nothing remained but the stones marking their new homes and the skeletons that signified their presence. But even those pass in time.
The crow weaved between the old trees, driven by duty and purpose. With nothing that could be considered thought, but something greater still, the crow understood the immediate task that lay before it. It understood the terrible, nightmarish things that had to be done before it could return to it's clear, simplistic life.
The crow came to rest on the soft mud of the riverbank, and pecked at it softly. It folded it's wings, and the resurrection began.
So much damage had been done to the corpse in it's two years of death. Muscles had atrophied, skin withered, and flesh moldered in the mud. All things things the bird had to undo before the soul, the spirit, the animating fire of life, could be returned. And the crow, of all creatures, knew the secrets of these tasks, just as much as it knew the sweet, greasy taste of dead flesh.
The crow blinked it's weary eyes, and becked again at the riverbank, and then a third time.
Her world was void, save for the crushing weight of sorrow, and the burning brand of righteous anger. It was all she felt, all she knew. There was no light, and there was no dark. The rest she had long expected was not there.
She hated Shen. She hated what he had done, the things he was going to do, and she wept for those he had wronged. She wept for the deaths of her friends, and the death of Kung Fu. Shen had destroyed a way of life, and in her heart, she knew he had to pay. His wrongs had to be made right.
And then, through the mists of the land of the Dead, she heard the sound of flapping wings, and the cawing of a crow. And the sensation of emotion was overshadowed by an orgasmic swell of pain. She felt the world tighten and close in around her, the air (or whatever passed for it when one was dead) was replaced wtih a thick, dark mud.
The crow shuddered, giving up parts of itself in the regenerating process, caught in the dark and irreversable process it had started. It huddled on the riverbank, and felt it's life being drained to fuel these profane magics.
Muscles, not used in so long, burned and ached as she clawed her way up through the river-mud. The weight of the mud itself should have killed her again. But the strength of the Dead was greater than that of the living. She broke through the surface of the mud, gasping and flailing. One eye unable to open, she looked around wildly, until she saw the crow, pecking at the mud softly, and was calmed.
She crawled to the side of the river, and let out a silent scream. The entire left side of her face had been charred, leaving nothing but wilted, dead tissue, the fur burned away. She tentatively touched the malformed flesh, and felt no pain. She scraped at it, out of morbid curiosity, and a desire to be rid of the ugly mess. It fell away with ease, piling up at her knees.
Soon, almost all evidence of injury was gone, save for the blackened skin that encircled her eye, and the trio of scars, the middle longer than the two flanking it, that ran down her cheek in a vertical fashion. Beneath the burned flesh, there was short, pale, downy fur, that would eventually grow to match the rest, given time.
The feathered beast at her feet cawed, gaining her attention. The moment she looked at it , though, it took flight, heading further down river. A single word echoed within her skull.
Almost on instinct, Tigress did so, walking slowly, stumbling often. The crow stayed close, never leaving her sight, often landing to wait for her. Soon, it came to rest on a post that sat outside a small shop, like many that dotted the rural landscape of China. She stepped forward, and moved to open the door. Locked.
The crow cawed insistently, and Tigress knew that something important was in the inn. Drawing her hand back, she splintered the door. Tigress reached through the hole, unlocked the door, and stepped inside.
The owner of the shop shouted something that Tigress didn't catch, and moved to apprehend her, knife in hand.
Tigress, not missing a beat, twisted the knife out of his hand, and brought him to his knees with a swift strike to his side, and with a brutal blow to his neck, she silenced him forever.
The crow landed on the counter, cawing and flapping it's wings.
Here. The green one.
Tigress stepped behind the counter and looked in the box the crow had indicated. Inside was a number of rings, one of which was carved of green jade. She lifted it from the box, and was struck dumb by what appeared before her eyes.
"I just need you to carve a ring that looks like this," Po said, pointing animatedly at the sheet of rice paper in his hands. The goat looked at him with dull eyes.
"Yeah, ok. But, one question: who's it for?" the goat asked. "It's common practice to engrave it so..."
"...Can you keep a secret? I don't want her finding out just yet," Po said, looking a little nervous.
"Yeah, sure, whatever. Just tell me," the goat said.
"It's a gift for Master Tigress," Po said quietly, looking like he was expecting said tiger to drop in out of nowhere.
The goat blinked. "Wow. Gifts already? Better not let the tabloids find out."
"Oh, what's the big deal?" Po said defensively. "It's just a ring!"
Po's world was one of noise and heat, as the harbour exploded. He felt his fur turn to ash as the force of the cannon-blast sent him hurtling from the factory, the force of which shattered his spine. The world, in an almost comedic moment of whiplash, went from loud and hot, to cold and silent.
A soldier wearing the colors of Shen's empire, black and dark grey, with a red symbol emblazoned upon his armor, picked up the ring from the river shore, and held it up to the light for inspection. He smiled, and stuffed it into a pocket.
Tigress snapped back to reality, staring at the ring in abject shock. She looked over to the crow, as if to ask "you did that, didn't you?". The crow, in response to the unspoken question, took flight, soaring up into the rafters.
Without the crow showing her where to go, Tigress suddenly felt lost, dizzy. And, in that feeling of aimlessness, a horrible, shattering thought occurred to her:
She was dead.
She was dead, and she was living. Her heart, her Lazarus heart, beat, but her skin was cold like the grave.
In a sudden fit of manic rage, coupled with terror, she swung at the counter, spilling it's contents, save the mirror that stood just beyond her swing, to the floor. She turned to the mirror, her face twisted into a truly terrifying countentance, and swung her fist through the device. She withdrew her hand, now slashed open and bleeding, and watched as the glass was pushed out, the blood drawing back into the flesh from which it poured, and the wounds healed, flesh knitted.
Distracted from her wrathful frenzy, Tigress touched where she had been wounded thoughtfully, and then drew a single claw across the back of her hand, savoring the pain. It felt...real, in a sense. She watched passively as this wound closed as well, though it left a long scar, unlike the others.
There was a caw to her left, and she turned to see the crow flapping it's wings in displeasure. She glared at the bird.
"You did this, didn't you?" she asked, voice dry and raspy from disuse. The crow flapped it wings, in a way that reminded her of sarcastic clapping.
Yes, came the reverberating response.
"Why?" she said, asking the inevitable question.
"Why me?" Tigress asked tiredly. It was so tempting, to just sink to her knees, and let it all fade away...
You were chosen.
Tigress laughed bitterly at that. "Destiny. There was a time that I craved it, desired it more than any other thing. And now, it's the one thing I want the least."
You witnessed the deaths. You suffered their pain. Now you must avenge it.
"And if I say no?" Tigress asked defiantly. "What if I just say no, and make you choose one of the others?"
Then you are damned, and your friends will know no rest.
Tigress froze at that. She glared at the bird, outraged at what she perceived as the creature playing dirty.
Deluding yourself does not lessen the truth of my words.
"Why should I trust you?"
Do you trust yourself?
"How is that-"
"Yes, now will you tell me-"
Then you trust me. We are linked.
"You're a-" Tigress started.
"Oh, will you two knock it off?" a voice at the door drawled.
Tigress spun around, to see a figure garbed in all white,face obscured by a white cowl, leaning on the door frame. On instinct, she dropped into a defensive crouch.
"Oh, save it, you slabbie," the figure (female, Tigress determined) said, clearly unimpressed by Tigress's display.
"Slabbie?" Tigress repeated as she stood up, nonplussed. "What?"
"Slabbie," the woman elaborated. "Y'know, fresh from the slab? Brand spankin' new revenant, right out of the mausoleum?"
Tigress blinked, confused. "Look, who are you? What do you want?"
"Hey, take it easy, kid," the woman said amiably. "I'm Shinu. And you are...?"
"Tigress," the martial arts master said, watching Shinu warily.
"Alright, Tigress," Shinu said, stepping into the shop, and over the dead shopkeeper. "Do you know why you're here?"
Tigress shook her head, trying desperately not to cry. "I just want to let go. I just want to leave."
"I know," Shinu said softly. "But not yet. There's work for you to do, before you can rest. Before your friends can rest."
"What do I need to do?" Tigress said wearily.
"You know," Shinu said. "remember."
Tigress reluctantly closed her eyes, and allowed the memories to surface. Moments later she whispered, "Shen."
"Yes," Shinu said, pleased. "But not just ones who committed the act. His 5 lieutenants."
"And then it's done?" Tigress whispered, almost hopefully.
"Yes," the veiled woman said warmly. "Then it's over. Finish the fight, Crow. Finish the fight."
"But first," Shinu said, stepping back and appraising Tigress. "You need some new threads."
Tigress looked at what she was wearing, and almost grimaced. Her vest was torn and charred, and her pants were torn as well.
Shinu patted her on the shoulder. "Come on, let's get you cleaned up."
An hour, and more than a few outfits later, Shinu presented Tigress with a navy blue vest, and a over-cloak of similar color.
"Blue is a color for funerals," Tigress said with disdain.
"Maybe," Shinu said. "But it's a very striking fashion statement."
Reluctantly, Tigress tried them on. They did fit...
"Well?" Shinu said smugly.
"Fine," Tigress muttered. "These will do."
"Alright then," Shinu said. "Go to Gongmen City, and find those who killed you and your friends."
"As if that wasn't the obvi-" Tigress started, before she realized that, somehow, Shinu had disappeared, as if she had never been there. She looked around, almost frightened, until her eyes fell on the crow.
The crow took flight, exiting the shop, heading west to Gongmen, with Tigress in tow.
Author's note: Insert a smartass comment here. Feel free to leave a review, and tell me what you think. We here at the insane asylum love feedback.