Kung fu Panda 3: The Shadow, The Eagle, The Dragon, The Phoenix

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Disclaimer: I do not own Kung Fu Panda. All characters (excluding OC's) are property of Dreamworks Animation.

Chapter 14: A Darker Side

POV: No one

The snow storm swirled around the snowy mountain caps. The temperature was far below freezing and those who were smart had found anyway they could to stay warm. While others who were less fortunate, ended up slowly freezing to death; buried under the quickly accumulating snow. Some of those who were still warm-blooded ran the high risk of hypothermia. These were the conditions and problems of the Army of Shadows faced. Their leader, General Shadow, had decided it would be quicker to march over the mountainous terrain in pursuit of his oldest rival. The sad fact was the terrible storms slowed their advance down to the point where it would have been faster to march around the entire range! They had lost more men and supplies to the snow and blizzards than to any other army that has tried to fight them in the past.

One man understood this fatal error more than anyone else; the General himself. The general trudged through the deep snow accompanied by one of his lieutenants. "…this is why I wanted the shelters finished first you idiot! I cannot be the leader of a dead army!" the General's voice could be heard above the howling wind. "But sir! We cannot keep building shelters every time we move; it would double our time up here in these mountains, especially in these damned conditions!" Shadow turned on him. "Rather double our time than lose half our forces; we've already lost close to 25,000 men and 5 tons of supplies. We may have an army of five million lieutenant, but you must remember that five million is nowhere near infinite." The General continued to walk through the almost waist high snow, stumbling over rocks, frozen bodies, and ruined supplies and materials. The General stopped for a moment, a ping of emotion showed in his purely evil heart. 'What a waste,' he thought. His men were the only thing that Shadow ever felt anything for, anything besides hate at least. He wouldn't go as far to say he had compassion towards his men, but he felt remorse for those that died. 'Pity,' was the General's last thought as he turned back towards his cave-quarters.

Because his army had barely advanced, the same head quarters he had established a week or two ago remained his current nerve center. It was sad, no embarrassing how the most powerful army in the world was being beaten by a little wind and tiny snowflakes. Shadow grumbled as he stepped inside the dark entrance. He was quickly growing tired of the biting cold. Even inside the fire heated cave, the cold air raced through the cavern in huge gusts. The icy air stung at his lungs and bit at his nose. 'This weather is unsuitable for any creature on this planet' thought the General.

The large figure descended deeper into his head quarters. After walking blindly for a few moments the route soon became visible in the faint torch light. Shadow picked one of the torches off the wall and held it close to his dark face. Even being a being of pure dark energy, Shadow still had mortal deficiencies; he needed warmth after the outside air reached a certain temperature. Hell, he could survive in worse conditions than most but the extreme cold was one of his weaknesses; it slowed him and made him feel weary. The faint glow of the torch and the smell of burning wood reminded the General of all the places he had conquered, all of the places he had burned. All those innocent people who burned alive, it brought a smile to his face.

The large being turned and began to continue his decent downward, using his torch to guide the way. The dark caverns echoed with the drips of water and….voices. Faint voices echoed further down the large corridor. Each was unique and familiar. Each belonged to someone whose evil matched his. Each belonged to one of his new allies. 'They may be annoying, but they may be the edge I need to finish off China', Shadow smiled at the thought of being supreme ruler of the whole world. Oh how it made his evil heart flutter! Before the General could further enjoy his happy thoughts, two distinct voices cut through his imagination like daggers.

"You idiot! You child! You have never commanded an army, let alone a group of thugs. How could you possibly know what you're talking about?!" came the scratchy voice of an old man. There was a second's pause followed by an irritated roar. "I am far superior to you old one! I am a Master of Kung fu. I took on entire armies by myself, while you, you hide behind an army of mangy wolves!" A series of clatters and grunts followed and could be heard down the corridor. 'What now?' thought the irritated Shadow. The General quickened his pace and raced into the room, graced by quite the sight. A scrap had ensued soon after the argument had peaked. Shadow found his two new allies rolling around on top of one another trying to gain the upper hand.

Instead of breaking up the fight Shadow proceeded to walk calmly over to the back wall to hang his torch in a holder. Then Shadow turned and picked up a few maps and materials that had been flung during the pathetic feud. The General calmly placed the items back in their respected places on a stone slab that served as a make-shift table. Now that everything had been put back in its respected place Shadow had only two other 'things' to put back in their places. The Master of Darkness cleared his throat as load as he could to try and win the attention of the scrappers, but to his misfortune it was to no avail. With his patience starting to run thin the General stooped to a hushed and irritated voice; "Either you two end your fighting or I will end you two." His words silenced the two combatants who showed resentment towards his words by giving him menacing looks. "Good," the Master of Darkness continued brushing off such signs of hostility. "Now back to more pressing matters; have either of you fools found a better way for us to advance quicker through this hostile terrain, or have either o you worked out a strategy of what to do when we arrive in China?" Both of the men looked at one another before the old man stepped forward towards the Dark Lord. "A fool eh? You consider me to be an average buffoon? Let me make this clear to you; I am of royal descent and you shall address me as such." The old man smirked, "Besides if you had no real use for my genius then you would not have brought me here.""Correction," Shadow interrupted. "I brought you back in order to make my task easier, effortless, but if you refuse my generous offer, then I could always send you back."

The old man flinched at the General's words. "Fine," the old man finally said. The old one began to strut over to the make-shift table, upon it laid a detailed map of the world and an even more detailed map of China. On the map were little icons and figurines that represented cities, factions, numbers, walls, traps, types of troops, strongholds and other strategic details. "China's imperial army is currently our biggest threat," began the old man. "With our current pace of advance we won't reach China for another two, possibly three months and it would take months more to march on and take the capital." The old man placed both of his hands down onto the table and looked it all over. "Also, the imperial army is commanded by some of the finest warriors in China. They number around 100,000, this doesn't include the elite guards of the emperor and bureaucrats." The old man looked up from his map and let his eyes rest on Shadow. "There is good news however; most of China's forces are spread thin; protecting its boundaries."

"So if we were to punch through quickly they would be helpless to stop us."


"It's all wonderful in theory," the young one interrupted. "But you forget a key factor; the various Kung Fu Masters of China. To begin with there is the Council of Masters; in which is made up of Kung Fu legends and deeply respected warriors and soldiers. If any of them remain then it has 'rebellion' or 'coup' written all over it. Second there are the other Masters that are spread throughout China, traveling or protecting a specific village or city or even a stronghold. These Masters are strong enough to take down hundreds even thousands of troops before being defeated or fleeing to a new hiding spot. You must root them out quickly before they can organize themselves or understand the issue of our threat."

Shadow nodded his head and scratched his chin. "Indeed, the Masters of China poise a great threat. However I've already had to deal with a similar issue back in the Mediterranean and Holy Lands; I've experienced with rooting out threats. Do you know of any of their locations?" The young one nodded, "Yes, when I studied in China years ago I was forced to memorize the vast network of Masters and their locations. It may be a little dated, due to possible deaths or newcomers, but in all I have memorized most of the Masters' locations.""Show me," ordered Shadow, pointing his finger at the maps. The young man picked up colored beads and placed them in cities, towns, on some land marks, and even in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere. Each bead he placed represented the number and general location of the Masters. "These are the ones I am quite certain of, but there may be some new ones here and there." Shadow looked over the younger one's shoulder. "We must plan a raid after we have established a strong hold in China, so that we may make a simultaneous strike and put down the Masters before they know what hit them." The young one nodded, 'Yes but there is another, more powerful than the rest you must not underestimate…." The young warrior picked up a single gold bead, the only one in such a color scheme and slammed it down in a small village where six other colored beads had been placed. "This is the Dragon Warrior; the most powerful warrior in all of China. He may even match your skills Shadow."Shadow shook his head, "No. There is only one other man left on this earth who can match me.""Either way," The young one continued. "He must be dealt with extreme prejudice." Shadow only nodded and drew a dagger from his belt. He ran his thumb along the sharp end of the blade, admiring the blacksmith's handiwork. Then without hesitation slammed the blade into the village's name, driving the blade into the stone table.

The older man watched the sight unfold from across the table. He, himself was feared and known to be one of the most vile men in all of China, but this man named Shadow; he was more a demon than a mortal. The old man readjusted his silk robe then quickly did his best to change Shadow's focus, "Right now, I used to lead an army of wolves who were loyal yet quite viscous. If we were to send messengers into China we could rally the remnants of my army to our cause." The old man's proposal lifted some heads. Shadow clearly seemed interested, "How many are left of your 'army'?"

"It is just an estimate, but roughly several thousand. We could easily hunt down their relatives and recruit more, if desired."

"They would betray China for our cause?"

"Indeed, if you offered them the right incentives."

"They're loyal?"

"Depends on how big your pocket book is and what you taste in women is like."

Shadow laughed with maniacal joy,"Excellent! I would love to become further acquainted with your men. We shall send messengers ahead as soon as we reach the end of the mountain range. But it will be your task you old bird to prepare the letters." The old man nodded and turned to leave towards his chambers. "I will get started immediately." Before the old man could take his leave a dagger embedded itself in the wall right beside his head. "Not yet! We still have further issues to attend to, such as this," Shadow placed a finger on a narrow passageway close to their current position. "What is it?" He questioned. This time it was the young one who stepped forward, "It is Qin pass; a heavily fortified wall protecting the entrance to China from the very mountain pass we are on. It has one to two thousand soldiers defending it at a time. It's also loaded with traps; it's one of China's best defensive achievements."

"So what are our chances of taking it by brute force?"

"It is possible but it would be very costly. Even with our sheer numbers and technological superiority it could take a week of full frontal assault to conquer it. Its forces are some of the best in China and they are commanded by Commander Rhino, cousin of Legendary Thundering Rhino. "

Shadow nodded. This put him in a tough position; he had to either risk losing a lot of time and men trying to break down this obstacle or risk it and try to retrace their steps back through the mountains and find a new way into China. But if he tried to find another way in his rival Master Bane would have already warned and prepared most of China for his coming; he doesn't have a second choice. "We must take the wall by force, and then we can use it as our strong hold in China; build a proper barracks, camp, and headquarters. But we must be quick with taking it, if it takes us too long and costs us too many supplies and men we may not be able to finish off the rest of China."

Both of Shadow's allies nodded at their agreement. Their plan came down to hourly timing; if one part of their plan failed they would lose. But if they managed to make it into China their chances for success would skyrocket. "Are there any other lose ends we have to deal with?" Shadow questioned. The others remained silent. "Fine, then after we have arrived in China we move on a direct path towards Peking* and Gongmen; in the process we'll need to pass through the Valley of Peace to restock our rations. Any questions? No?" The others remained silent. "Then it's settled, off to your intended duties." Shadow waved them off but neither moved. "Well what is it?" Shadow demanded impatiently. The old man was first to speak, "I just wish to clarify that after you have taken over China that Gongmen and the province of China will be placed under my authority….""…And," interrupted the young one. "What is rightfully mine will be given to me; revenge on those who betrayed me!" Shadow nodded, "Yes these things and more will be granted to you come my victory, now away with you two; I have more pressing matters to attend to." With those words the pair left back to their chambers to plan for the coming invasion.

If it was acceptable Shadow would've retired to his chambers for some much needed rest however there was one issue he had not yet dealt with. Shadow walked over to the wall where he had placed his torch, retrieved it and stood in the doorway of his map room. From there the General walked down a small corridor to a dead end opening. Inside the opening was a small dimly lit room. The room contained another stone slab that mimicked the map room. However this room was different; instead of the room being covered in maps, it was covered in blood.

"How are you fairing in here Quon? How does it feel to be coated in your own filthy blood?" Shadow mocked. The figure chained to the stone slab stirred, "Fuck you, you bastard.""Ah! Defiant till the end I see. You realize I can take you life so easily?" The brave tiger summoned all of his inner courage. "You have as much a right to take my life as I have the right to take yours, filth!" Shadow chuckled and lit the torches along the back wall, the room instantly brightened. The tiger hissed at the sudden change in light. "Tell me Quon, how does it feel to lose everyone you love, everyone you care about; your wife, your best friend…your daughter?" Shadow smiled evilly.

Quon's eyes opened, "Sh-she's….dead?" Shadow nodded despicably, "Yes your daughter died the same night we invaded your kingdom all those years ago." Tears began to form in Quon's eyes. "Your friend Bane tried to protect her, but he was over powered. One of my men stabbed him clean through the heart and the cycle of rebirth was broken. He cried out that we should spare the child but my men laughed." Shadow leaned in and began to whisper in Quon's ear, "The last thing your daughter saw through her tear stained eyes as she sat in her god uncle's pool of blood, was my blood stained blade as it took her head clean off her body." It was too much for Quon, "Noooooooo! You bastard! Free me from these chains and I shall show you how cruel one can really be!" The tiger's fury was startling even to the Master of Evil himself. But the General quickly regained his composure, "You are quite the spirited one aren't you? I can change that." Shadow stood up then threw three well placed blows at Quon's jaw. On the third blow the sickening crunch of bone could be heard. Shadow firmly gripped Quon's broken jaw and forced the man to look him directly in the eyes. "Had enough yet?" asked the General. There was a second's pause before Shadow got his answer; a face full of saliva and blood.

Shadow wiped the blood from his face. He tightened his grasp on Quon's jaw and began to squeeze till he could feel the shattered bones start to give way. Quon began to shriek in agony. "Now I'm angry," Shadow said in a menacing voice. Shadow quickly looked over the malnourished tiger's body and found a weakness. About an inch above the tiger's heart was the head of an arrow wedged into the flesh. Seizing the opportunity Shadow placed his index finger on the end of the head and began to push it further into Quon's flesh. The tiger began to scream bloody murder at the top of his lungs and began to fade in and out of consciousness. Red flashed through the former king's vision as Shadow grabbed Quon's head with two hands and then smashed the back of his head into the cold stone slab. Quon began to pray to the gods, believing this was the end but before Shadow delivered the final blow, he stopped.

Quon laid there for a moment trying to regain what was left of his senses. His nose and jaw were shattered beyond repair. His head was bleeding from the back and his ears were ringing. "My intent was not to kill you," Shadow began. "But instead to bring you into the light of truth." Quon spat out a little blood blocking his throat. "What truth could you possibly know?" Shadow smirked, "I know many things, but the one important detail is that you have been told one of the greatest lies of all time." Quon rolled his eyes in an irritated fashion, "What are you talking about?" "I'm talking about the day my army invaded your kingdom; the day your friend Bane said he could only save either your daughter or wife." Quon shook his head, "And he made the right choice; to save my daughter." "Ah! But don't you find it strange that an all powerful being such as him couldn't save both of them?" "What are you trying to say?" "What I'm 'trying to say' is: your so called friend chose to let your wife die; he could've saved them both." The tiger's eyes narrowed, "Prove it."Shadow gave a bow like a stage performer, "And so I shall…"

The large Master of Darkness placed a both his hands gently on the broken head of Quon. The General's eyes began to glow a blackish-purple hue and he began to chant incoherently. Numbness befell Quon's body. The Dark Lord and the tiger began to glow purple. Quon began to feel nervous and was beginning to wish he hadn't been so brave as to ask for proof. The tiger looked up at the ceiling one last time, then back to his captor. Shadow finished his chant; there was a white flash and then nothing.

Bane awoke gasping for air; he had had terrible nightmares that night. The Master looked himself over to make sure he was truly awake. He checked himself for the symptoms of reality; cold sweat, pulse, and of course feeling pain, yes they were all there. However the difficulty for the ancient Master was he had all the same symptoms in his dreams as well, for usually his dreams mimicked and predicted reality the night before! It was quite the gift, but at most times it was purely a curse. Bane rubbed the sleep from his eyes and peered out his window. The darkness that greeted his eyes told him it was midway between midnight and dawn. Giving a tired sigh the Master regrettably uncovered himself and slipped from his bed. In his haze the Master had come to realize there was no use in trying to go back to sleep, instead he focused on something more important; tea. Oh how he loathed tea, but it did wake one up when they needed a spring in their step.

Bane wrapped himself in a white silk robe that one of the villagers had made for him. After the revealing of his identity thanks to a certain panda, the town's people found it necessary to shower him with gifts. One of such gifts was a new robe, embroidered with read and silver trimmings that mimicked the patterns on his cloak. But his favorite feature to the robe; a hood. 'Now I can kill in my sleep' thought the Master the first time he put it on. Bane slid the door open to his room and peered down both ends of the hall. He proceeded to slip quietly down the hall towards the kitchen making sure not to arouse any other residents from their sleep. After exiting the sleeping quarters section of the barracks Bane turned right into the kitchen and as he was about to step fully into the room he froze.

Inside the kitchen were the sleeping forms of Tigress and Po. 'What are they doing in here?' thought Bane angrily. 'I specifically told that girl to get a lot of sleep for today.' Bane snuck closer to the pair. Tigress was clearly asleep, the elbow of her right arm was propped up by the table and her head rested in her palm. Across the table from her was Po. The poor Panda had laid his head down on the table using his folded arms as a pillow. Bane noticed the empty tea cup next to Po and then saw the still half full cup of tea that rested in his niece's left hand. Bane dipped his finger in the cold tea then tasted it. The Master instantly reacted to the taste; spitting and making awkward faces, 'Jasmine' he thought. He made a mental note: Tigress like Jasmine tea, also Jasmine tea puts Po to sleep.

The Master of Eagle style gave the gentle feline a nudge; nothing. He gave her a second, light tap to the shoulders, this time her eyes creaked open. The feline peered tiredly at Bane then looked at Po, then back to Bane. "Uncle," she said tiredly. The tone in her voice suggested she wanted to tell him something but Bane hushed her. "Not now my niece, let's get you back to bed." Bane gently pried the half full cup from her tight grasp then wrapped her in his robe and proceeded to walk her back towards her room. Once they reached her room Bane slid the door open and picked Tigress up bridal-style and laid her in her bed. "But uncle Po…." Bane hushed her, "I will go and sit with him, get some rest, you will thank me later." Not wanting to give her a proper chance to wake up or argue Bane left quickly and snuck back into the kitchen.

Inside Po was still sound asleep giving off a quite snore every so often. Bane smiled amused, and then turned to get what he had originally intended to obtain on his mission to the kitchen. The Master picked up the clay tea pot which was still half full with Jasmine tea, opened a window and tossed out the old tea. Then he picked out a few new leaves from a cabinet, and took some of the left over water which had been still simmering over an open flame from the last batch and waited. Tea, he thought; the nastiest tasting drink on the planet. It took back seat to that much more exotic drink he had found on one of his more recent travels. What was it called? Coffee? Coffee had a much more bitter taste than the tart tea. It was the bitterness he enjoyed; after all there is a difference between bitter and tart. He just found the fruity tartness of tea grotesque. But if coffee was not available then tea was an acceptable substitute, besides if the sugars and caffeine in the tea didn't wake him up, then the foul taste would.

After a few minutes the tea was finished and Bane poured himself a cup of the steaming liquid. He sat down in the same spot where Tigress had been across from Po and waited. Bane began to ponder the importance of his life; he did this from time to time but he never understood why. 'Why was I so hasty in choosing my fate?' Voices from the past burned into Bane's mind, ''…Are you sure you desire to become such a thing? Being a hero is a lifelong commitment and you shall never get the chance at a normal life ever again….''Yes ma'am, I'll do whatever it takes to be a hero; it's my dream to become one!''But you are only a child young one….what do you know about helping people?''I know helping people is doing whatever it takes to make them smile, and I would as have actually done something to save my parents from…'' NO! It was too much; Bane shook his head roughly trying to get the memory from his mind. If only he had listened to the phantom lady; '…if you never wanted to be immortal in the first place then why were you so rash with your decisions?' said Dragon. 'Because I was only a child!' Bane defended himself. 'Just like you to act like a child Bane….so, so immature….' Bane took a sip of his tea. Dragon was right too; he was immature, he had to learn the hard way that being a warrior, a hero was more than meets the eye. Bane pinched the bridge of his nose and rubbed it between his index finger and thumb. Then he dragged his hand down his face, feeling the beard that had begun to grow since his stay at the Palace. He mentally noted that he would have to shave before the ceremony.

Bane shook his head and blinked his eyes in desperation; trying to keep himself awake. 'The ceremony,' he thought. Bane glanced at Po's sleeping form, 'Tigress will be initiated into the Universal Master lifestyle. She'll have to give up…' "Love…." He finished aloud. Bane could sense what was going on between the tiger and panda; they might not yet know it but the universe had something planned for them. Bane could sense this, but at the same time once Tigress becomes a Universal; love must be cast aside. But then why was there something missing, like there was a looper he couldn't see coming. Bane swallowed hard, ' She'll be just like me: gifted beyond imagination but forever…' "Cursed." He finished aloud again.

Bane closed his eyes slowly and let out a tired sigh, "Good morning Master Shifu." There was a pause followed by the light shuffle of feet. "Good morning, may I?" The Master made a motion towards the chair beside Bane. "Of course," Bane replied not taking his eyes off of Po's sleeping form. He heard the chair slide noisily along the wood floor and then herd Shifu sit down. "Jasmine?" asked the red panda. The Master of Eagle style nodded. "May I?""Help yourself." Bane handed the still steaming pot to the older Master. Eagle could hear the contents of the pot pour out into the small tea cup. He could smell the aroma of the fresh tea as the steam wafted into his face. "Now, may I ask Master Bane: who or what were you referring to when you said 'cursed'?" Bane looked down at his cup and began to swirl its contents, "The way I live."

Master Shifu's ears twitched, "I'm sorry, what?" Bane heaved a deep sigh, "I was referring to the way I live; I'm cursed.""What do you mean?""I'm gifted in fighting and knowledge, but there are privileges that only normal people get to enjoy." Shifu nodded understandingly, "Such as?" Bane downed the last of his tea and gagged at the taste, "Peace, simplicity, normality….love….a family." "This bothers you?" "Yes…it has always bothered me. I made the decision to become who I currently am in haste. But worst of all is now Tigress won't be able to experience normality, simplicity, or love….just like me." Shifu nodded "I understand what you mean. My first adopted child, Tai Lung, I wanted him to feel love, to be a normal happy child." Bane noticed the pain in Shifu's voice. "When he showed interest in Kung Fu I thought that we would have something that connected us. I promised him that he would be the best at Kung Fu and the best at…everything. But when Oogway refused to give him the Dragon Scroll-" Shifu's voice cracked. "He destroyed everything…I couldn't stop him. I-I made him into a monster, someone who would never get to experience the joys of life; a person filled with hate." Shifu cleared his throat in an attempt to regain his composure. "My point is I understand how you feel. However, I cannot speak for you but, Tigress from a young age vowed to do what is right no matter what the cost; even if it leads to her demise. She is my daughter and everyday she goes into combat, I worry about her yes but, she made a commitment to the people of China and the world."

Bane nodded and let the wise Master's words sink in. "Listen Master Bane, I know that I will never comprehend the suffering you have been through over the years but I do know this. On the inside you still have the heart and courage of a youth. But the cause of your suffering is that the weight of the world is on your shoulders; a youth's shoulders." Bane could only nod in agreement. "I ask you Master Bane, will you be able to grow up when the time comes? Will you be able to handle the actual weight of the world when it finally comes crashing down?"

Po twitched and sputtered in his sleep; both of the Masters reeled a bit. They were not expecting the loud sound the panda had made. "I'm losing everyone Shifu," Bane began. "I'm losing everyone, whether it is I out age them or they die protecting me; I cannot take it anymore. The burden of loss is what plagues me." Bane buried his head in his arms and let out a tired sigh. Shifu placed a paw on the Master of Eagle style's shoulder, "Loss plagues everyone, but we must all learn to deal with such things. People move on, so must you. You must learn that if you let people go, then they will go in peace to their next life and you will feel better if you accept that."

Bane lifted his head and gave a faint smile, "I have thousands of years of wisdom over you, yet you still know more than me." Shifu smiled,"The older you get, the more you learn. You don't need to know everything to be considered wise." Shifu motioned towards Po, "Go and prepare yourself for today's ceremony. Collect what you need. I shall sit with him." Bane nodded silently then quickly stood and bowed, "Thank you Master Shifu." "Don't mention it great one."

Bane had snuck back to his room and quickly thrown on his white cloak, boots, gloves, and all the various pouches that were associated to his uniform. He clamped his crossbow to his back, slipped his longbow over his shoulder and slid his legendary rapier into its sheath. The master tip-toed over to the sliding door and silently opened it. He peered down both ends of the hallway and then slipped into the hallway. As he was halfway down the corridor one door to his right slid open and he froze in his tracks. "Good morning Universal Master Bane," came a sweet voice. Bane turned to see the small snake yawning silently. He relaxed a bit. "You can't sleep either?" asked the small viper. The Master nodded, "Yes and I must run some errands before the day begins.""May I join you?""You may." The pair walked/slithered quickly down the remainder of the hallway, being extra careful not to wake anymore of the Palace's residence.

Once they were out the door they conversed about various matters. "So," began Viper. "What kind of errands do you have to run so early in the morning?" Bane pulled out a small piece of parchment, scribbled on it were short phrases and individual words. "I need to pick up candles, certain flowers, and various native herbs. I have most of the rarer, exotic and imported herbs but I still need a few of the more local, indigenous plants. I require them for the ceremony that must take place today." Viper giggled, "It sounds more like your preparing for a date!" Bane chuckled. "So what exactly is the ceremony, Master Bane?""You and the others will see for yourselves, but for now all that is required for you to know is that it is along the line of an initiation." Viper nodded understandingly, "Okay. May I see your list? I know this Valley like the back of my tail! Perhaps I can help you find most of the items on your list."Bane handed the snake the list, who read it over quickly murmuring to herself. Viper then handed the paper back to Bane, "Most of the items you require can be found at the local herbalist, but she isn't open for another few hours. But I know of a place where we can pick the flowers, come on I'll show you!" The pair began to follow the main path through the center of the village still chatting quietly about random things.

"So, you and Crane?" Bane asked simply. Viper stopped in her tracks, her eyes widened and her posture straightened out as if someone had touched her back and she was not expecting it. But as quickly as this brief moment of surprise showed itself, it managed to fade just as quickly. "I-I don't know what you're talking about." There was a slightly reddish hue under the small snake's eyes as she said this. "Come now, you're as terrible a liar as you are kind." Viper looked up with a smirk, "Good thing I'm not that kind.""Are you suggesting that the fangless female snake has venom?""The female snake may not inject venom physically however it is just as effective verbally," Viper stated matter-o-factly. "Viper, you must have feelings for him; otherwise you would not cover your lies.""I am not-" Viper, you should talk to him about your feelings." She hushed for a moment. "Do-do you think so?" Bane nodded, "I know so. I mean you both are adults, shouldn't you be able to discuss matters such as this?""It's not as easy as you might think-""It is easier than you make it seem, I should know I was married at one point.""You?!" came Viper's shocked voice."Yes now please explain to me again why it is so difficult to talk to a man about your feelings." The pair hadn't noticed but during their teasing their faces had gotten quite close; not to the point that it was embarrassing but they were within each others' personal space. Viper was first to realize this and hastily tried to apologize for it; "I-I'm sorry-""Shhh.""But I-"""SHHHH! Do you smell that?" Viper quickly realized that Bane face was no longer near hers but facing down the street. His eyes were narrowed at the ground as he tried to hone his other senses. Viper opened her mouth and let her tongue taste the air*. "Yeah it smells like-"Both Masters turned quickly to each other and their eyes met; "FIRE!" they said in union.

Both Masters raced down the street until they could see the yellow-orange glow of flames and they could feel the heat of the fire. Bane turned to Viper quickly and shouted over the flames, "Wake the villagers! Tell them to get water and fight the flames, we don't want the fire to spread!""What about you?!" Viper shouted back. "I'm going make sure no one is inside! Now go!"

The snake rushed off slithering from door to door waking the villagers. Bane turned to the door and shouldered his way inside. He was surprised at how easily the door gave in under his weight. "Hello? Is anyone in here?" Bane called out into the house over the roar of the flames. His eyes darted quickly around the single living space/kitchen. The center beam that was used to support the flooring for the upstairs had fallen on one side, creating a flaming, diagonal barrier across the center of the room. Before Bane continued his search he caught something out of the corner of his eye; a small figure darting up the stairs. "Hello?" he called out once again. Bane listened intently, but all he could hear was the roar of the blaze. Just before Bane gave up and made the assumption that the image was a figure of his imagination, he heard a faint giggle followed by a quiet: 'uncle'.

Bane sprinted and slid under the fallen cross-beam. He charged up the stairs in pursuit of the voice."Hello?" he called out again. Bane saw that a wall of fire blocked him from entering the other side of the room and the fire stretched from one end of the room across the next. The wall of fire blocked Bane from physically reaching the other side of the room, but he could see the other side through a gap in the flames.

Bane peered through the tiny gap of fire and could see two figures on the other side. He tried to call out to the persons, to tell them that everything would be alright but the words got caught in his throat. As Bane looked over into the other half of the room he noticed a large figure that appeared to be stretched out, unconscious across the floor. The figure wore a green and brown cloak with yellow-green highlights identical to his. 'No! It can't be!' Then Bane turned and saw a second smaller figure sitting next to the unconscious person. The small figure was wrapped in a blanket with one paw out stretched towards the unconscious body. "Uncle? Uncle?" came the faint voice of a child. Bane continued to look on as the soot from the fire soiled his white cloak, "Tigra?" he called out quietly. The small child's ears perked up then the child's head turned towards the hero. Bane gasped aloud, 'It's Tigra! Er-Tigress from all those years ago! But how!?' Bane looked into the child's eyes and he could see the flames burning in her irises. She looked terrified and Bane's mid began to scream; 'Do something! You must save her!' But before Bane could do anything the ceiling gave in above the pair who were strewn across the floor. "Noooooo!" Bane screamed. He rushed forward through the flames burning himself and his clothing as he went but the force of the falling ceiling caused the floor to cave in under him.

Bane fell down into the first floor, coughing and spitting out soot and ash. He was trying to regain his thoughts, 'Was that really Tigress? Who was the other person….was that me? I can't think about this now, the house is coming down on top of me!' Bane looked around quickly; the doorway he had entered through was blocked. 'Only one way out: time to make an exit.' Bane found a wall that had not been touched by the fire. The Master made a few quick movements then threw a forceful strike at the wall which gave way instantly.

Viper and several of the villagers had begun to fight the fire at the front of the house. The rest of the Furious Five along with Shifu and Po, had heard the commotion from the Palace and raced to see what happened. The six warriors arrived at the exact same time the floor to the second story collapsed, blocking the doorway. "Viper! Is anyone still inside?" asked Shifu. "Bane went in to make sure! But he hasn't come out yet!" hissed the snake over the flames. 'I hope he's okay', Viper thought with concern for her new comrade. As soon as the thought crossed her mid the roof came down, sandwiching the roof and foundation together; everything in between made up about a foot of ruble. Everyone stood dead still, shocked at the sudden event. "No…" came Po's faint voice. "Bane!" screamed Viper. "Uncle." Tigress managed faintly.

There was no reply; everyone bowed their heads fearing the worst. "H-he can't be gone," Viper began. Everyone remained silent. Po walked forward towards the smoldering pile, "He's not gone…I can sense his presence. He's close…almost as if-""I'm right behind you?" Everyone jumped with surprise. They all turned to see a completely black figure. The figure coughed out a cloud of ash, "Sorry about the house, it was coming down anyways," the figure gestured towards the smoldering pile. "Master Bane! You're alive!" everyone shouted and cheered. Several of the villagers embraced the ash covered Master. "I don't think we need to get candles after that," Bane said smiling at Viper. Viper giggled then gave her signature smile right back.

"That was so cool!' came an excited voice towards the back of the group. "I've never seen a house come down like that! How'd you get out?" Everyone turned to see a wide awake and very bouncy Po. "Did you jump out a window or did you level the whole house with a single blow? Hi-yah!" Po was jumping around, throwing punches and kicks in the air and making 'Kung Fu noises'. The crowd and Masters laughed heartily at the panda's excitement, well, all except for one; Bane. Something had caught the Master's attention and whatever it was; it was causing him to stare in Po's direction. Bane appeared to be in a trance and Tigress noticed this, "Master Bane, is everything alright?" Bane seemed to ignore her altogether and he began to wander towards Po.

The moment Po finished one of his high kicks Bane firmly gripped the panda by his jaw and turned his face so that the two of them stood face to face. "Ow! Hey Master Bane that's my jaw. I kinda need that to talk," complained Po. Bane remained silent and focused. Everyone in the area stopped what they were doing and looked on. After what seemed like hours of silence Bane finally spoke, "Po….""Yes Master Bane?""Have you looked in a mirror lately?""Yeah! You're talking about the thing going on with my-""eyes?...""Yeah!"

"Master Bane is there a problem?" asked Master Shifu, stepping forward. Bane shook his head and turned to face everyone, revealing what he had noticed; Po's emerald eyes now had blue flames burning in them. "No, no Master Shifu everything is fine. It seems the initiation of Phoenix into the Order will not be the only significant event that occurs today." Bane paused and gave everyone a bitter-sweet smile, " I believe we shall also see the return and initiation of Dragon…"

*Snakes don't have a nose; but they can taste, feel, and 'smell' with their tongues.

What's up everyone! J I apologize for the really late post! This WAS supposed to be a Christmas gift for all of you out there. As you can see it's a little late (Nervous laugh). Anyways, you can probably make some predictions as to where the story is STARTING to go….I have plenty of twists and other ideas soooo don't just assume things are going to be really predictable. In fact the ending (which I may have written before even started the story) may not be anything like you expected. Also I hope you all liked A Mysterious Heart. It was a little something for you all to enjoy while I had time to update this… I also plan on doing one for every significant character in KFP. And I already have the next two (By request) that I'm gonna do. But remember if you want a certain character to come before the others send me a message or leave a comment. The order is decided by you! Lastly…I want you people too know: the story hasn't really been M-rated up till now and has very little of it so far. There won't be too much for the next few chapters but things will start to get out of hand so if any of you have an issue with that I'm sorry. Well that's about it for now! My next three pieces shall be these: A Mischievous Heart, A Pure Heart, and Chapter 15: The Ceremony of Truths and Fire…(no other spoilers shall be given) Peace! :)