A/N: I would like to apologize profusely in as many languages as I know and then some. I didn't update for a long time. I hope this final chapter isn't too rushed. But now that I've finished, I'll be focusing on new projects in new subjects. Right now, I'm writing stories for The Smurfs. I'll write more Kung Fu Panda stuff, but I have inspiration that must be satisfied!
Thank you all for sticking with me and this story for so long. It's my longest fanfiction and so far one of my favorites. It really shows how much I've grown since my first fanfiction story. I hope you guys can check out my Smurfs stories! I highly recommend the movie.
Thank you all again. You guys really lifted my spirits and gave me advice that greatly improved my stories. I can't express my feelings enough.
And now, on with the show!
Chapter Thirty Nine- The Decision
The next day, Chao didn't talk to anyone; he acted like Shen didn't exist. The former prince sulked all day, no matter what everyone did to cheer him up.
"Don't you think you were a little hard on him?" Ren asked during her and Chao's sparring.
"I didn't say anything at all." Chao reminded her, swinging his jian towards her head.
"That's the problem!" Ren snapped as she parried his blows.
"I was simply unprepared for his question." Chao explained. "And I didn't have a solid answer at the time."
Ren stopped her attacks. She stuck her sword point into the ground and leaned on the handle. "So now that you've had a day to think about it, what's your answer?"
Chao sheathed his jian. "I think I need another day."
"Another day?" Ren scoffed. "Or another year?" Chao didn't answer. Ren sighed. "I know how hard this feels. A father that cares this much surely doesn't want to let go of his baby girl. But Siren is a young woman now. Shen loves her. You know that like I do. Besides, I married you when I was about her age."
Chao had to agree. "I just want to be sure that she's taken care of; provided for."
"You've spent some time with Shen." Ren reminded him. "You know he helped you come home. He saved many lives. What more do you want?"
"I want my daughter to stay safe." Chao sighed. "And never get married."
Ren rolled her eyes. "Shen will protect Siren; with his life. He'll be a great husband." She took Chao's hand in hers and smiled. "Just like you."
Chao smiled a little, but straightened up. "I'll be the judge of that."
Ren giggled a little. "Can you at least talk to Shen? Man to man? Or, in this case, lizard to peacock?"
Chao had to laugh at that. "Very well." He put his hands masterfully behind his back and walked off.
"Leave the sword here."
"I'm an idiot."
"No you're not."
"I'm an idiot."
"No you're not."
"I'm an idiot."
"No you're not!"
Shen sighed. "I never should've even thought about asking her to marry me."
"Shen, enough!" Po shouted. "So maybe her dad didn't answer yet. That doesn't mean he refused!"
"He didn't say 'yes' either." Shen groaned. Po opened his mouth to speak, but he found that fact hard to argue with.
"Look, you can either mope about it all day, or you can do something about it." Po suggested. "Ever thought about eloping?"
Shen glared at Po. "What in the good name of heaven makes you think that's a good idea?"
"It seemed like a good idea at the time." Po shrugged
Shen rolled his eyes. "I have two words for you: Master Ox."
Po almost hit himself. "Oh yeah. Then again, I thought you'd be more worried about Master Chao."
"What about Master Chao?"
Po and Shen spun around to see Chao. They instinctively stood and bowed in respect.
"Shen, I'd like to speak to you." Chao said. "Come with me."
"Yes Master Chao." Shen nodded. Po gave an encouraging smile and a thumbs-up. Shen smiled weakly and followed Chao outside.
"I'm sure you expected this." Chao guessed. "The whole talk between the father and the future husband."
"I did." Shen nodded. "And I apologize if I offended you yesterday."
"You didn't offend me." Chao assured. "You just caught me off guard."
"I see." Shen nodded.
"I feel I must be honest with you, Shen." Chao continued. "I believe you are a very suitable husband. Even if you do not hold your title of "Lord Shen", you still hold qualities that I find acceptable. I have only one question." At this, Chao stopped walking. Shen looked up expectantly. Chao looked Shen in the eyes. "Why do you want to marry Siren?"
Shen looked down for a moment and then sighed. "I'm going to skip the part where I say that I've never met anyone like her and she's a beautiful and kind person. Obviously, you already know that. The reason I want to marry her is because….she's different."
Chao didn't say anything; he stared at Shen with a somewhat quizzical look.
"People look at me like I'm a walking bad omen ready to curse them." Shen continued. "Ever since I was born, everyone treated me differently. They look at my parents with sympathy because of me. And then I went through the experience with those weapons and died because of it. Then the whole adventure in the human world and I met your daughter. I honestly have no idea why Oogway would lead me on a path that led to a female; all the women in Gongmen were horrified at the sight of me. But not Siren; she never gave me a sympathetic look or shy away at my presence. If anything, she looked upon me with kindness. She treated me with respect, but also like an annoying little brother. And that's when I knew she'd always treat me like a person; she's very wise, and a skillful user of the proverb, 'Don't judge a book by its cover'. She treats me differently, but in a good way." Shen sighed. "I need this second chance at life, and I want to share it with her."
Chao nodded in thought. "Well, there's only one thing to take care of."
"What's that?" Shen asked.
"Do you have a ring?"
"I have this." Shen pulled out the sapphire necklace.
"Good." Chao nodded. "Just don't stutter and you'll be fine." He jerked his head up the path, where the Sacred Peach Tree stood just ahead. Shen gave Chao a quizzical look before walking up towards the ancient tree. But when he noticed another being there, he almost fell backwards in shock.
"Chao….." he grumbled.
Chao smiled to himself as he walked back towards the palace. Moments later, he heard a squeal of happiness behind him and the familiar "Oof!" of someone being tackled to the ground. His smile grew wider. "Poor Shen." He chuckled.
"Shen, get your feathered tail out here this instant!"
"Not in this lifetime or the next!"
"Shen, for the love of the gods, relax!"
"I think I'm hyperventilating!"
"You're not hyperventilating. You're being a wimp."
Junjie rolled his eyes. "And I thought Chao was nervous when he got married." He muttered.
"He's still in there?" Fenghuang asked incredulously. Her usual purple robes were replaced with beautiful sky blue ones.
"Yep." Junjie groaned. "I've tried all my threats, but frankly, I'm a little scared of those claws and knives."
"Birds don't have claws." Fenghuang corrected. "We have talons." She knocked on Shen's door. "Shen, Siren's not going to wait forever!"
"I know." Shen groaned. "I'm just nervous. Anything could go wrong today."
"I'll make a deal with you." Fenghuang said. "Or rather, a gamble. Twenty Yuan says everything goes smoothly."
Shen's door opened and the peacock's head poked out. "Thirty says at least one thing goes wrong."
"Done." Fenghuang held out a wing. Shen took it and shook it. He stepped out to show his wedding robes. The silvery-white robes complimented his feathers quite well; the red dragons stitched into the fabric looked majestic and strong. The black belt stood out.
"You can do this." Junjie assured. "It's a simple ceremony."
Shen took a breath. "Ok. Let's get this over with."
"Oh come on, Shen!" Fenghuang laughed as she led Shen towards the door. "It's your wedding! A happy occasion!"
Shen forced a smiled as he walked out. The palace arena was all set up for the wedding; the guests talked amongst themselves as they waited for the lucky couple.
"I hate this." Tigress growled.
"It's a wedding," Viper said. "For your sister-in-arms and one of your best friends. Be happy for her."
"No, I hate wearing this dress." Tigress groaned, glaring at the red and gold dress she wore. "It's too airy down under."
"You can take it off when the day is done." Crane promised.
"Here they come!" Lily and Ling shouted simultaneously. "Here they come!"
"Now come on! This is not the time to lose your temper."
"I won't lose my temper."
"You can't do this."
"I most certainly can."
"No you can't! It's rude and Shifu will murder you."
"You can't deny that I'm right."
"But do you have to interrupt the wedding?"
(insert facepalms and deadpan looks here)
Everyone took their seats as Shen arrived. He waited patiently as a sedan chair arrived with Siren sitting on it. Siren's dress looked white as the clouds and was dotted with red flowers. Chao rolled his eyes when he noticed Siren wasn't wearing the traditional veil and let her head feathers flow freely. Her wings stayed tucked close to her body.
Shen took Siren's hand and they started walking. Junjie somehow managed to keep it together and not cry this time, mostly because Fenghuang threatened to slice his head off if he did. Shen and Siren approached the alter and bowed to the tablets. They bowed to Chao, Ren, and Shifu, and finally to each other. The guests clapped as the newlyweds made their way back down the aisle, hand in wing. But they stopped when they noticed three figures waiting for them at the end.
"You've got to be kidding me." Siren groaned.
Shen glared at Ox, Croc, and Wolf, who stood at the end of aisle. "Siren, why don't you and the guests move on to the reception, hmm? I'll take care of this."
"I'm not leaving you alone with him." Siren hissed, staring at Ox.
"Trust me." Shen assured. "Everything will be fine." Siren gave Shen's wing a squeeze before walking off. The guests hesitantly stood and followed. Shifu hung back, standing near the alter and waiting for the next move.
"I know why you're here." Shen said.
"Oh do you, now?" Ox mused.
"You want to drag me to jail." Shen snapped.
"It's his idea." Croc said, he and Wolf pointing at Ox.
"I don't care whose idea it was." Shen said venomously. "I don't care if you never forgive me for what I've done. Do you have any idea how ridiculous you're acting? It's bad enough that you want to drag me away to jail; but you had to come down here and interrupt my wedding? Do you have any idea how improper that is? Interrupting a wedding! I would expect better from kung fu masters such as you."
Ox didn't say anything. He continued to stare at Shen with an emotionless gaze.
"Let me tell you something right now." Shen continued. "I don't care if you still consider me a criminal. I am a free man. I've moved on and made a new and better life for myself. I won't let you hurt Siren like this by taking me away. If you truly want to take me to jail—" Shen pulled out a knife from his sleeve and took a stance. "—you'll have to fight me first."
Ox, Croc, and Wolf exchanged glances. They shared a mutual understanding.
"At ease, Lord Shen." Croc said. "We aren't going to drag you to jail."
"We won't drag you anywhere, actually." Wolf added.
Shen narrowed his eyes and sheathed his knife. He remained suspicious, especially since Corc referred to him as "Lord". "Then what will you do? Surely you didn't travel all this way to not do anything?"
"Well, Ox believes you still need to be punished." Croc nodded. "So, prepare yourself."
Shen raised an eyebrow. Suddenly, Ox's fist connected with his face, and he flew backwards. Shifu winced as Shen crashed into a bench. He rushed to the peacock's side.
"What in the name of the gods?" Shen shouted. "Why do you people love tormenting my beak? I have to eat with this you know!"
Ox laughed; a deep, hearty, good-natured laugh that made his usually hard eyes soften. He walked up and offered Shen a hoof. Shen took the offer and he was pulled to his feet.
"Congratulations on the wedding, Lord Shen." Ox said, bowing. "I wish you and your bride happiness."
Shen stared with wide eyes, and then smiled. He bowed back to Ox, and then to Croc and Wolf. "Why don't you all accompany me to the reception hall? There's plenty of food for everyone." The four of them walked off, talking like they were old friends.
Shifu smiled. He took a breath, inhaling the cool winter air. He looked up at the cloud-filled sky as snowflakes began to fall. His smile grew as he followed the four kung fu warriors to the reception hall. He looked inside and saw everyone laughing and talking. Siren looked like she was in a much better mood as she talked with Ox and Croc. Shen was in a headlock and getting his feathers ruffled from Wolf, looking like he wanted to die where he stood. Chao and Ren danced together. Junjie and Anuli talked with Fenghuang and the Five, laughing all the while.
Shifu turned to stare at the landscape, steadily getting covered in snow. Surely there would be a thick blanket of it by tomorrow morning. And Shifu was willing to bet anything there would be one heck of a snowball fight tomorrow. Shifu took one more inhale of the crisp air.
For once, everything seemed right with the world.