Chapter 1: Back In Black
A black claw tapped repeatedly on the wooden arm under it, the action reeking of impatience. Said action had been taking place for half an hour now, non stop. Yet the other three in the blue painted room had soon become accustomed to the sound, for it had been somehow comforting. Everything was quiet other than the monotonous sound of bone hitting wood, and now the other three began to rely on it as more of a metronome than an annoyance.
One of the other three was even more nervous than the clawed one, and rightfully so. His feet shuffled him back and forth throughout the dim room of this place they had called home for the past seven months, and with green eyes darting repeatedly towards the door that seperated him from his new family he continued to pace along the tattered blue area rug that took up almost the entire waiting room. And the amount of chairs along the walls gave the small room a closing in look, which did not help anyone's nerves at all.
The other two sat together on the other side of the room from the clawed one, who sat beside the chipped red door. The scaled one watched the pacing one as the pacer kept walking in and out of the light of the lamp sitting in the corner. The other simply tried to trace invisible drawings with his pinschers into the wooden seat.
The four had been here for hours, and tensions had arisen to new extremes. Someone on the other side of the door, albiet very far away from the door, had been screaming in agony ever since the symptom occured. But for the past hour, the screaming had stopped. And no one had opened the door to allow them to come in yet.
Somebody sighed, making the tapping and the pacing stop. The other three looked at the scaled one, and she glanced at the others with nervous features.
"I-I think someone should go see. Maybe everything is okay.", said the reptile.
The pacing one shook his head deperately in objection, his own face showing utter terror at what he might be facing.
"Po, I'm sure she's fine. Just go and see. If you don't, Koru will have to. And it really isn't his responsibility.", said the snake softly. The white tiger by the door merely flinched at mention of his name, but he would not look away from the markings his claw had created.
The panda rubbed the back of his head and looked at the door behind him,"I...I don't...I mean, I can't sense...", he looked back at Viper in uncertainty.
"Koru, would you please escort Po to the labor room?", she asked politely with a sympathetic voice to her friend. Koru stood up, bowed with his fist in palm, and grabbed Po by the arm.
"Alright fine, I'll do this myself!", retorted Po as he pulled his arm out of the white tiger's grasp.
Koru opened the door for the panda, and slammed it once he left. He then sat down and crossed his arms, staring at the wall above Viper and Mantis.
"Look man. I understand you're upset, but you can't just-", Mantis was interuppted by Koru's chuffing. The bug looked at Viper, who shook her head at him. He sighed and sat back down.
The panda nervously sauntered through the long hall that ironically made Po think of his old school, passing the many rooms and doorways to other halls and even the nearest receptionist's desk before he made his way up to the door where the screaming had earlier occured. He made a gentle fist and hesitantly knocked.
"Yes, who is it?', asked a quiet, older voice.
"I-It's me, Master Shifu.", answered Po in a tone just as silent as the red panda's.
There was a sigh, and Po could hear the tapping of Oogway's staff coming closer, so he backed away. The door opened, and Shifu quickly closed it as soon as the door was behind him, for the panda before him was trying to see inside. Po couldn't make out what was being said, but he could have sworn he heard a lot of hushed whispers coming from inside the room.
Master Shifu looked up at Po with a small, and rather unsettling smile. His eyes were quite bloodshot, and he had many more wrinkles out of sheer stress from the situation. Po's eyebrows lowered in reluctance, and he inhaled a deep breath to prepare for what might come.
"Po...", Shifu closed his eyes, but turned his head to the open balcony on their right and opened his eyes once more. He motioned to the balcony, and they walked over to the doorway that allowed entrance to the man made cliff. The railings were made of stone just as the exterior floor, but they were high enough so that anyone injured would be less than able to fall off of the side. And for good reason, for the hospital they made refuge in for so long stood at the edge of a large canyon, whose bottom could not be seen in the thin cresent night. Once the two found the railings, Shifu sighed once more and turned around as the soft flicker of the outside lantern danced a solumn light across his face,"Po, there were some...complications.", when Po's eyes went wide and he began to turn around to seemingly go rushing back in, Shifu continued with a raised paw,"B-but they are both fine."
Po sighed in great relief and turned back around to face Shifu,"Good. But what were the complications?"
"Po, I am so sorry. This is truly a sad thing to curse such a wonderful night. It seems that he has sustained some scarring.", Shifu shook his head slightly with a slightly opened maw and squinted eyes of confusion,"I...have never seen anything like this. No magic has done this before, not to a child, and certainly not to a fetus. Moeru truly is a monster."
As Po opened his mouth to reply in agreement, he stopped himself. And his mouth formed a smile,"It's a boy?"
Shifu chuckled for the first time in days. Leave it to Po to see the best out of a bad situation,"Yes, it is a boy, Po.", Po turned around and ran back inside,"But be careful! You do not know the extent of-!", he sighed and lowered his paw again. He once more gripped the wooden handle of his former master's staff, and the echoes of it's tapping was once again heard when he returned inside towards the waiting room in a weary hobble.
Po gently opened the door and poked his head inside. Tigress was asleep, and she looked exausted. The small lamps that hung about the walls like they did every room in the healing house gave great definition to the bags under her eyes. He slipped into the room and looked around to find his newborn. He soon found it laying in the arms of his grandmother, surrounded by two other giddy, but very tired females in the corner.
Po smiled and walked over quietly to Jiu-Ne and Saisei, who were making gentle whispers and baby faces to the thing wrapped in cloth. Song herelf leaned up against the corner behind the two, smiling at the baby. Despite histories of resentment and pain you could not break the spirit of the attraction that is a newborn child.
Jiu-Ne looked up, followed by the other two. And all of them smiled at him. Po smiled back, if not a little nervously from meeting his new son, and he held out his arms. The smiles faded some, however, and Saisei stood up with a frown.
"Listen, I uh...", she said under her breath and rubbing the back of her head,"I'm...sorry. I wish I did better, tried harder...it was-"Po just kissed her on the forehead and hugged her.
"It's okay, hun. You saved my boy and the love of my life. It isn't your fault, alright?", when Saisei nodded and smiled, he let her go and held out his arms once again. This time, Jiu-Ne stood up and slowly yet carefully she handed the boy over to the panda.
Po nodded a bit to Jiu-Ne in a silent thank you, and looked down at his son. Only his face was exposed, but it was the most precious face Po had ever seen. And he immediately fell in love with this child. But he had to admit this was definitely not what he was expecting.
The child had black fur, but thin white stripes along it's forehead, cheeks and ears. The patterns of his forehead were very close to Tigress', save for the splayed out almost flower-like shape imbetween his eyes. Oh those eyes. They were scarlet just like his mother's. But they did not have any yellowing around the irises to mimick hers. The child's nose was black like his, but the snout itself was wide like his mom's. His ears were peculiar, but cute nonetheless. They were almost the size of Tigress' in comparison to the size of their heads, but the ends were slightly rounded instead of at a point. Yet the ends held little tiny tufts at the highest points. The child looked up at Po, and it had a face of confusion and utter astonishment. Po laughed under his breath.
"Well hi there, kiddo. Guess who I am?", Po whispered, and gently rubbed his nose against the little one's nose. When Po retreated his nose, the baby's nose twitched and he let out a small sneeze. Which coincidentally smacked Po with a little snot. Po had an almost blank look on his face, save for the smile, until Jiu-Ne handed him a hankerchief."Thanks.", he whispered, then softly wiped the baby's nose and mouth before wiping his own chest off,"Guess I had that one comin'.", he chuckled, but then allowed his smile to lower as he looked at the baby again. He took a deep breath and softly pulled away some of the cloth to see the child's body.
"Wait.", whispered Jiu-Ne as she put her paw over Po's to stop him. The tiger gave him a look of concern. Po looked back determinedly.
"I have to see for myself.", Jiu-Ne's ears laid back, and she withdrew her paw. Po continued to gently remove the cloth and slowly his eyes saddened. But he dare not let his smile disappear fully as to not scare his son. There was a deep scar that could be easily seen from the lack of fur around the old wounds. It began under the baby's left arm, and trailed along it's side until it wrapped around to the front of his left thigh and stopped just below his knee. Upon further inspection, Po noticed that a small gash was visible on his son's left shoulder, and it apparently continued onto his back.
Po sighed and wrapped his child back up.
"Does Tigress know about this?", he asked quietly.
"Yes, Po, I do.", said a weak voice.
Po looked over at her and smiled. He kissed his son on the forehead and gently handed him over to Jiu-Ne before sitting on the bed at Tigress' side. He held her paw in his and gave her a soft kiss,"How ya feeling?"
Tigress scoffed a bit,"To be honest, like I just gave birth to a cannonball."
Po put his other arm around her and kissed her forehead,"Well it's over now. And look at what you made. A beautiful boy."
"What we made, Po.", she said with both of her paws now holding his and her mouth holding a smile for her husband.
His lips formed a smirk,"Oh really? Because you were acting like you were doing me a favor a few hours ago."
"Oh please, that was just the labor pains talking.", she said with rolling eyes.
"I'm holding you to that, y'know."
Before Tigress could talk back, there was a knock on the door. Followed by Master Shifu opening said door just enough to poke his head through."Excuse me, Tigress, but Viper and Mantis wish to come see you and the child."
"It's Viper and Mantis, of course they can come in.", she said in a curt manner.
Shifu nodded and opened the door a little wider so that the snake and bug could enter.
"And Koru?", asked Po dryly, for he already knew the answer.
"He says that he just wished for news on how Tigress was doing. And once I said she was fine, he left for the Imperial City for a meeting with Kugi and his construction team."
Po rolled his eyes and nodded.
Song rubbed her eyes with her fingers from the long night that had ensued. She stood and stretched before patting Po on the back, making he, and by extension Tigress look at her,"Congratulations, you two. You're going to make a great father.", she spoke with a smile before walking towards the door.
Tigress smirked,"And what about me?"
Song stopped, turned around, and smirked back,"You just focus on getting rid of that pregnancy fat for now.", she turned back to the door and opened it wide enough for her to leave as Shifu stepped away from the door to sit by a small table. Viper had now slithered up to Tigress to give her sister a congratulatory hug while Mantis had hopped onto Saisei's shoulder and started making silly faces at the baby.
"By the way, have Crane and Mei Ling sent a letter saying when they'll be coming back? They really should see this cute little thing.", Saisei said in baby talk at this last sentence while smiling at her 'brother'.
"The last letter I sent to them was last week when we found out Tigress would have an early prengancy date. They sent a letter stating that they would come post haste. This was five days ago.", Shifu sighed, leaning on his staff with a shaking head at the floor,"Sometimes I wonder why they do it."
"With all due respect Master Shifu, what did you expect?", asked Mantis. Everyone else gave a small nod at this.
Flashback: Six Months Ago
"Look. I saw it, okay? And we need to get confirmation.", said Crane as he looked around at the others who all sat or laid in the general infirmary room where they had all been treated for their wounds, which some were still far from being healed.
Po, who was sitting in his bed with his back against the wall, began to get up. Tigress and Saisei stood up at this, now standing on either side of him.
"Po, be careful...", said Tigress with a look of worry.
"Don't worry, I will be alright.", he said in an insuring tone while slowly standing up, making Tigress sit down rubbing her slightly plump abdomen. Everyone else looked at the panda. But he had his main focus on Crane,"Listen, you have to understand that this isn't exactly easy to believe. I mean Moeru said it herself, she killed all of the villagers."
"That doesn't mean squat, and you know it!", replied Mei Ling,"She's a liar and a murderer. No offense, Saisei."
"None taken.", shrugged the liger.
"That's exactly right, Mei Ling, she's a murderer. I've already grieved for my dad's death once, so forgive me if I don't want to risk doing it again because you saw some old guy who, by the way, you didn't even bring here!", yelled Po.
"I couldn't bring him here because he was almost deathly ill, he couldn't make the trip! And even if I brought him here, he may have died before we arrived. Then it would just be me carrying a dead guy with me and with nothing else to go on but my word! Which is exactly what I'm doing now, only difference is I didn't kill the guy!", shouted Crane with a glare.
"So let me get this straight. You are saying that you saw Mr. Hao limping around in the Bo Qua province?", asked Shifu, who was continually rubbing his head from all of this arguing.
"Yes, Master Shifu. But that wasn't all I saw.", he glanced at the panda before turning to the Grandmaster,"Master Shifu. She has destroyed the Jade Palace."
"What do you mean, destroyed?", shouted Shifu in outrage, trying to ignore his throbbing headache.
"Torn down, burnt to a crisp, and ashes stomped on. Nothing left there but a bunch of black soot on dirt and cracked stone.", stated Mei Ling bluntly with her counting fingers and crossing arms.
Master Shifu sat down from this news and stared at the floor with his eyes wider than ever. Everyone else was no better off, for no one could speak. No one except the idiot in the corner who was covered in bandages.
"Bitch.", squeaked the figure weakly while laying in his bed, but then began to instantly cough hard.
"Hun, please don't talk. Your ribs are too damaged, you shouldn't even be alive right now.", said Yunwei sadly as she wiped his forehead with a rag.
Song rubbed the bridge of her nose,"And where, may I ask, is Shiro? Did you at least find him when you went to get our things in Kirokuyoru?", she asked, sitting in a chair by the opening that should have been the fourth wall to the room. It infact led outside to the pathway that was surrounded by railings, and the path itself surrounded the entire building.
Crane shook his head,"No. And believe you me, we asked plenty of people."
Shifu clearned his throat to move the conversation along to the aforementioned topic,"So as I have not been the most active master lately, I trust some of you know where Moeru may or may not be hiding as of late? After all, we cannot abandon Monkey to his fate."
"Why don't you find her yourself, you were the one being controlled by her!", spat Tigress.
"I might ask you the same question, 'Seikaku'!", snapped the red panda.
Tigress growled under her breath and gripped the sheet of Po's bed that she had been laying her paw on.
"As I have said, she can hide her Chi signature. It is almost impossible to find someone with that ability!"
"Alright, enough! All this yelling isn't getting us anywhere.", said Po. He limped over to Crane and sighed, putting the paw of his uninjured right arm on Crane's shoulder,"I'm sorry for doubting you. When will you be leaving?"
"Po they have just returned, you cannot ask-", Shifu was interuppted by Crane.
"Tommorow morning. Sorry Master, but as you said we can't let Monkey stay bound to Moeru."
"I'm coming too.", said Mei Ling.
"No, you need to stay here."
"Why?", Mei Ling crossed her arms and glared at the bird.
"This isn't another scouting mission, we might actually run into Moeru's army, or Hikage, or even worse Moeru herself!"
"Oh and like you'll stand a chance by yourself if you run into either of them.", scoffed the mountain cat.
"Well-I just...just stay here.", Crane said walking away.
"Please, you'd die without me there to protect you.", teased Mei Ling as she walked passed him with an elbow to his side. The two walked out of the room with Crane sighing a 'fine'.
Two Months Later
Po and Song were sitting at a small table playing Mah Jong, and Song was quite honestly kicking Po's ass. They were sitting on the balcony since it was such a beautiful day out, and Tigress needed the fresh air anyways. Though she was merely sunbathing on a cot they brought out and had already fallen asleep.
"Ughh!", sighed Po in frustration as he noticed his most recent mistake,"Can I take my turn back?"
"Sorry Po, you know the rules. You only get five 'take backs' per game.", said Song with a small smirk. Po almost pouted.
"Fine.", he continued to watch as Song made her move, then started strategizing on his own turn. Suddenly, something popped into his head. He hid a smile, yet you could still tell from the formation of his lips,"So Song, have you given any thought to any other suiters?"
The snow leopardess blinked as she was taken aback from this question. But she quickly regained the previously lost composure and shrugged while looking out at the canyon. Her eyelids lowered some once she started to daydream in her stare at the giant forest below,"I don't know...maybe. I mean, with Shiro...", she inhaled inaudibly and slid her left paw over the top of her head, flipping her left ear back to lay inside out on her fur. But given her present thinking she wasn't paying much attention,"It was just too crazy. Things moved too fast too soon and look what happened.", she shook her head and kept staring for a few moments, but blinked a little when Po hadn't said anything,"Po, are you even listening t-", she stopped once she noticed the board and looked at the panda who had switched a few pieces around. She stared at him with twitching whiskers,"You're kidding me, right?"
Po rolled his eyes with a smile and put the pieces back where they belonged,"Well anyways, I understand what you mean. You need someone you've known for a while, whose not a complete social case. Am I right?"
"Partly, I guess.", she said while leaning on her cheek into her left paw as her left elbow leaned on the railings. Once Po had moved the pieces back, she made her own move.
"What do you mean-?", he was interuppted once a shadow passed over the balcony. He looked up and yelped, making Tigress wake up with a start.
"What? What is it!", shouted Tigress, looking around.
"Song, go get a doctor, quick!", said Po as he began to climb the railings while Song stood and ran back inside. Tigress ran over and stopped the panda with one paw on his shoulder and the other on her noticably larger stomach.
"Po, what are you doing, are you crazy!"
"Ti, Crane is hurt!", he exclaimed, pointing to the bird who lay on a cliff not a few meters away with Mei Ling kneeling beside him holding her bleeding arm. Tigress looked over with worry, and nodded to the panda that immediately leapt from the railings.
Po's eyes glinted a shine as his muscles tensed in preparation for impact,"Mei Ling! Is he still alive!", he asked screaming into the wind.
Mei Ling called back,"Yeah, but he's hurt pretty bad!", she sobbed out the last couple of words and looked at Crane, the pain in her arm making her too weak to hold back a few tears. Po landed behind them, using all his control to keep the majority of his weight from making the small cliff give way.
Mei Ling merely glanced behind her at the Dragon Warrior as Po walked around them to inspect their wounds. Crane's wings were perfectly fine, but he had many cuts in his torso and a few stab wounds in his abdomen. His right shin had been basically snapped in half and some patches of feathers from the bird's body were now gone. Mei Ling herself was sporting a nicely broken elbow that had been bent back, and two shurikens were sticking out of her shoulder.
"Will you be okay long enough for me to take Crane to the hospital and come back to get you?", asked Po sternly.
"Yes! Just take him back!", yelled Mei Ling.
Po quickly hoisted Crane over his shoulder at her words, making Crane groan a little in his state of pain. Po nodded to the cat and flashed his eyes briefly before jumping up high back to the balcony. Po quickly laid Crane onto the stretcher that had been waiting there and jumped back over to grab Mei Ling. When he arrived, Mei Ling had passed out leaning back against the wall of stone.
Hours later, once Crane and Mei Ling were on the mend...
"How are you, Master Crane? Master Mei Ling?", asked Shifu once the rest had arrived for the meeting. They were all sitting at a large table set up especially for them since they were staying here for such a long time, and the room of their meeting was infact the hospital director's dingy yet spacious office. Crane and Mei Ling, with limbs bandaged and cast, and wounds sewn shut and treated, sat at the left side of the table with Master Shifu. On the right side of the table, sitting from closest to farthest from the door, was a light brown furred wolf with blue eyes, Shiro, Koru, Tigress and Po.
"We're fine, Master Shifu.", said Crane dejectedly and a little ashamed.
"Good, I began to worry. Now we have called this meeting to debrief you on your previous mission. How were you injured?"
"We found Hikage.", stated Crane.
"And?", asked Po without missing a beat.
Crane looked from Shifu to Po,"Well we defeated her, but just barely. And when she saw that we were starting to break her down she called on a few troops to come save her. We couldn't get out of that hotel fast enough, so we paid for it with these injuries."
"And my dad?"
Mei Ling let out a soft, exasperated breath of sadness,"Po we're so sorry. But your dad...we found him too.", she lowered her ears when Po's eyes watered up. And he stood at the table.
"You saw his body? Tell me you saw his actual body because if you didn't-"
Po looked at the now standing Tigress beside him and softened his angry features. He shut his eyes and turned back to the two injured ones,"I'm sorry guys. I just didn't want to accept it. Again!", he said while gently slamming his fist into the table with the last word and began to weep silently. Tigress rubbed his back as she looked at Koru with a nod, making the white tiger close his eyes. He shifted in his seat with the help of his cane and almost grunted from the pain in his chest.
"And what of the Kimeru family?", asked Koru with a relieved sigh from the fading pain. The wolf at the end looked at the closed door whilst gripping the end of his right armrest.
"No, we couldn't find them. Most of the troops Hikage had with her were dock people and fishermen.", said Crane.
"Your efforts have been made up of mostly failures. Though I do not say you have not acted honorably, I would suggest that we stop this search. At least until everyone has healed.", said Shifu.
"No.", stated Po. He wiped his eyes and looked Shifu dead in the eye in defiance.
"No? And why not, panda?", asked Shifu in a cold tone, for he was now becoming agitated at Po's acting leadership.
"Because Tigress will be close to giving birth at that time, and I will not leave her side. So the search efforts would take longer. We also need to continue our rebuilding and focus on that, Mantis still has students to teach as well, and-", he then glanced at the other males at this side of the table,"and there are many other matters that must be dealt with first. If we cannot do this with all of our efforts, we will not do it at all!"
"That is proposterous, time is of the essence!", retorted Shifu while smacking his paw on the table.
"Yes, it is. But Moeru cannot ressurect Bokyaku until the Summer Solstice anyway, so we should build our efforts around a plan that focuses on where we know she will be! Now that's the end of it!", said Po. Tigress let out an involuntary purr at Po's show of authority. Shifu made a soft groan of disgust and hopped out of his seat before walking out the door.
End Of Flashback
The panda and tiger hugged each other once Jiu-Ne left the room, leaving the two alone with their now sleeping baby. The couple had been staring at the crib in the corner with a mixture of pride, happiness, and anxiety.
"Well...", said Po with a deep sigh. He looked at Tigress, who looked back.
"Yeah...", she responded, nuzzling her head into the panda's chest,"Should we tell him?"
Po shook his head,"No. Prophecys are a fickle thing, you and I both know that all too well. Besides...I think he already knows.", he said while looking at the seat where Master Shifu had been sitting. Tigress nodded and shut her eyes.
"Goodnight, daddy.", she said with an unavoidable smile.
"See when you say it, it just sounds dirty."
Tigress laughed softly and shook her head,"Just go to sleep, you idiot."
"Yes, mommy.", Po said in a teasing voice as his eyes closed.
A minute passed in silence.
"That sounded dirty too.", murmured Tigress as she drifted off to sleep.
"I know.", whispered Po wearily before following his wife.