A/N: Hey guys, I'm glad you're enjoying the fic! I'm having a lot of fun with it too. Yes, you are going to be seeing more Viper/Crane and Po/Tigress romance. If you're not into that stuff then keep on truckin cause the action's gonna be coming real soon. Anyway, I'd like to thank you guys for all your reviews. Keep'em coming, they really keep me motivated with writing the story. My goal is to get near 50 reviews by the end of this story but it all depends on you guys!
The bird paused and Po waited patiently for him to continue. Droplets of perspiration started to drip from the avian's forehead as he made his confession.
"I…I love Viper."
Crane stared down at his drink too ashamed to meet his friend's eyes. He expected to hear a gasp of shock or even horror, but instead he heard nothing. Confused, he looked up at the panda who was now smiling very widely at him.
"That's great Crane! Have you told her yet?"
Shocked by his friend's excitement, Crane let his beak hang slightly open for a few moments before answering.
"No…I haven't. I'm afraid she won't like me back."
The large panda gave his friend a 'what are you talking about' sort of look. "So you're just not going to tell her? Listen, I'm not an expert in romance, that's Mantis' profession. But I don't think you'll ever find out if she likes you if you don't tell her how you feel."
"It's not that simple Po…you don't understand." Crane got out of his seat and started pacing back and forth. "Every time I see her, my heart jumps out of my chest and I feel like I'm walking on air. Whenever I'm around her I feel like I can do anything…like I'm unstoppable. But whenever I speak to her I lose it, I can't think, and I get really nervous!"
Po continued to stay seated but never gave the impression that he wasn't listening to his friend. He rested his elbow on the bar table and laid his head on his paw in a reflective sort of way. Crane looked over at his friend to see if he was still paying attention and saw the concern in his eyes which made him feel a little guilty for making the panda suffer with him.
Crane stopped pacing, let his shoulders droop down, and gave out a great sigh of frustration. He suddenly felt very tired. He could feel that knot forming in his throat again as he spoke, "I just don't know what to do. How am I supposed to tell her how I feel if I can't even hold a conversation with her?"
"Crane I know you have it in you." Po said getting up and walking over to his friend. "I've seen you do incredible things, things I would never think of doing, and you do it without even second guessing yourself. If you can risk your life in battle then I'm sure you can handle talking to a girl you like."
"But how Po?!" He said shaking his head, "How do I know she won't reject me? What if I tell her, and she looks me in the eyes, and laughs in my face?! Or worse, what if she's disgusted with the idea of me liking her and she shuns me for the rest of her life?" He shook his head and stared at the floor. "I don't know if I could take that." Crane tilted his hat to cover his face but that didn't stop Po from seeing how much torment he was in. It was time for him to help his friend.
"Okay, so maybe you tell her and it doesn't work out. Fine. But maybe you tell her and she ends up liking you back. You're thinking of all the bad things that could happen; don't throw in the towel before even trying. And come on Crane, Viper is like the nicest person I know. She wouldn't hurt you like that. Besides there's a pretty good chance that she'll like you. And if not, then you'll just have to get on with your life and keep searching. But either way you won't know if you don't try."
Crane scratched his throat slightly as he mentally weighed out his options. He stared down at the glass that he was still holding but it didn't have any answers for him. He looked back at the panda, "I don't know Po. This is really important to me and I don't want to mess it up."
"Hey pal, you've got it easier than me." The panda said, shrugging his shoulders with a slight grin.
That caught the bird's attention. He took a step towards his friend arching an eyebrow inquisitively, "What do you mean? Do you like someone too?"
Po looked away slightly, "Actually, yeah I do. It's Tigress, I mean…I really like her but no matter how hard I try, I just can't seem to get her attention unless it's because I'm doing something wrong. I've always sort of had a crush on her ever since I was a cub but now that I've been around her…I think its grown to be something more. When I first got to the Jade Palace, all I could do was stand in awe of you guys…I mean, you guys had been my heroes ever since I was little. Now I'm actually a part of the team and she still treats me like a rookie."
"That's because you are a rookie." Crane replied matter-of-factly.
Po rolled his eyes, "I know…but she doesn't have to treat me like one; I did after all stop Tai Lung and Lord Shen."
Crane nodded in agreement, "Yeah you did, and were all thankful, even Tigress. She just has a hard time showing her emotions." He put his wing on the panda's shoulder to reassure him. "Deep down she really does care about you. You want my opinion?" Crane placed his wing under his beak, "She's giving you a hard time because she cares about you. When the others and I were first starting out in the Jade Palace we never got more than two words out of her, and replies were usually accompanied with a deep set glare. But with you it was different, she even hugged you. I didn't think she was capable of doing that!"
They both shared a laugh at that last comment. Partly because it was true and partly because they desperately needed something to lift the mood.
"Thanks Crane, that helps."
The bird went back to sitting down at the bar and the panda followed after him, "Hey, I wouldn't say it if it wasn't true Po. Follow what your heart tells you and give her some time. She'll come around eventually." In the back of his mind Crane could here himself think, 'That's pretty good advice, maybe you should follow it too.' "Food for thought anyway, speaking of food. I'm pretty hungry right now so you must be starving. Let's get something to eat, it's on me." The panda grinned, "Are you sure about that?" Crane smirked, "Just don't clean me out this time. I don't want a repeat of what happened at Ming Yen's Restaurant. You still owe me a hefty sum of money from that fiasco."
"You're never going to let me live that down are you?" "Not until you pay me back! I had to clean dirty dishes all night to pay off the owner for all the food you ate. How you can eat through an entire month's wages in one meal will never cease to amaze me." The pair of warriors laughed again and spent the rest of their night enjoying the food and hospitality of the inn.
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"Aha! It's a royal flush." Yelled Mantis.
"Looks like we win again!" cheered Monkey despite the growing moans from the four other players at the table. Two wolves sat at one end of the table. They looked oddly similar to Monkey, almost like they were sharing the same face, except one of them had been badly marred over the left side of his muzzle leaving dark blotchy patches of fur where he had been cut. They both wore black assassin robes. On the left side of Monkey sat a very lean looking lynx who was currently busying himself with drinking whatever was inside his drink. On his shoulder stood Mantis and on the right of them slouched an elderly boar who, from the moment they met him, unleashed a flowing string of curses as he spoke. The boar, who wore a filthy looking green cloak, slouched in his chair and gave a loud snort.
"Argh! I don't get it! That was three games in a row, hower ya that good?!"
Mantis was currently piling all the yuan into a big pile, "Just lucky I guess. Anyone wanna go another round?"
"Go another round! How can we go another round?! You've won five times in a row!" shouted a nearby lizard that was dressed in a dark green mercenary outfit.
"Hey it's not my fault that you don't know when to call it quits squinty" countered Mantis.
The reptile's eyes glared fiercely at the young praying Mantis, "Watch yourself bug. You're lucky that my species is above eating insects, otherwise—"
"Buddy I would love to see you try!" Mantis joked.
Tensions started to rise until the old boar decided to add his two cents to the conversation.
"I think I've wasted enough money today, I'm gonna head back. Besides I'm all out of money I don't have anything to offer" huffed the old boar.
There was a short pause followed by a brief chirping sound before Mantis took a quick glance under the table. "That's a nice pair of shoes you got there."
The boar let loose another wave of incoherent curses before speaking again, "You couldn't even wear my shoes you twit, they're too big!"
"Yeah, but I'm sure they'd fetch a nice sum in the market" the praying mantis replied smugly.
The old looking boar shot up out of his seat and scowled angrily at the insect, "I'm getting out of here while I still have a chance to leave with all my clothes. If the rest of you boys are smart, you'll leave too." The boar got up, called Mantis a 'stupid cricket', and then left muttering something about never gambling again.
They all watched the old boar go before they noticed the golden langur placing the pile of gold inside a small brown pouch. "Alright, it's getting late. We had fun! Nice doing business with you! Bye!" He said quickly as he tucked the small pouch into his sash and started to make his way back to the bar.
The two wolves shared a worried glance with one another before getting up to follow the golden langur."Wait a minute!" One wolf said before the other interrupted him. "You've got to give us a chance to win our money back!" Immediately, the two assassins blocked off master Monkey's exit.
"Hey it's not our fault that you guys aren't that good at poker. Now if you'll excuse us" said Monkey rubbing the back of his head
"They must be cheating!" The wolves whined together.
"Yeah! No one's that good at this game!" added the lizard.
"Well we are, so deal with it" stated Mantis. "You can't honestly think that all we do is train every day. Now if you'll excuse us, were going to—"
"You really must be new to this place." interrupted the tall lynx, who finished what was left of his drink before placing it on the table and getting up to confront the two warriors. We're part of the shades syndicate. And nobody messes with the shades. Not even members of the furious five. We don't care who you are or where you come from. If you cheat us, you're dead."
"Oh is this happening?! Because I really hope it is!" said mantis as he moved into his attacking stance.
The two wolves were about to draw their blades when the lizard stopped them with a quick gesture from his hand. They looked at one another, then at the duo standing before them before looking strangely at the lizard.
The lizard's red gaze never left Monkey and Mantis as he spoke. "Sheath your weapons. We'll deal with them, but not now. Not here. Better watch your backs because we'll be looking for you punks." The wolves did so grudgingly, emitting low sounding growls to signal their reluctance.
"Oh we're so scared" mocked Mantis. "Give it up pal. You're just about as scary as a newborn piglet."
The lynx stared coldly at the two warriors before speaking. "This isn't over. You were warned."
And with that, the three shade members quietly stalked out of the inn. Leaving the two trouble makers to think about what just happened and what might happen later.
Monkey waited until all of the shade members to leave the inn before letting out a loud sigh of relief and sliding back in his seat. "Wow. That was a close one." He said grinning at Mantis.
"Ha, no kidding! But we still could have taken them without breaking a sweat." Mantis said chuckling.
Hmm maybe, but the Shade syndicate itself is a dangerous organization to get in trouble with. If they remember who we are then we might be in serious trouble.
"Well, let's hope they left drunk. By the way, who are the shades anyway?"
Monkey nearly choked on his drink. "What! How can you not know what the Shade syndicate is?"
There was a short pause followed by a light chirping sound before Mantis answered his friends question with the same reply he usually gave him. "Are you serious? I'm not a big fan of details dude. I just know that if someone is evil, I will be there to stop them. I don't care who they are or what fancy club they're in. I fight bad guys therefore I am." He said crossing his pincers.
Monkey rolled his eyes knowing that was the answer he was going to get. "Oh yeah, not even if the Shades are led by the Wu Sisters."
Mantis' eyes grew to the size of saucers when he heard that. "We better get out of here."
"The sooner the better" Monkey added.
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Viper and Tigress
While the boys were keeping themselves busy downstairs, the girls were enjoying a well deserved nap in their room. It wasn't very big by any means but after a day like today they would take anything if it meant having a few hours of rest. The room was clean, and showed no evidence of it ever being used despite a few nicks in the furniture and walls. The two warriors slept in separate, but identical looking beds. Viper had slipped under her covers and instantly fell asleep. And after a few minutes of meditation, so did Tigress.
Viper was dreaming of when she used to go to ribbon dance tournaments to earn her father's approval. She had started out as a child, and with years of practice, had become one of the best dancers in her village, maybe even the valley. She dreamt of how she had finally achieved her goal and became the best ribbon dancer in all the land when she placed first in China's national intermediate ribbon dancing competition. Her father was so proud of her that he smiled just as he had when she rescued him from the gorilla crime lord, Boss Nass.
Viper saw her father smiling at her and instantly smiled back at him. But as soon as she opened her mouth there was a loud gasp from the crowd and everyone started pointing at her and whispering.
"What is it? What's wrong?!" she asked anxiously.
Even her father's smile which had filled her heart with joy had now twisted into a stare of horror as the crowd's whispers grew louder and louder.
"Her fangs are missing!"
"What happened to her fangs?"
"It looks awful!"
Viper couldn't believe what she had just heard. "What are you talking about? My fangs are right where they've always been." She raised her tail to touch one of her fangs but to her horror they weren't there. Panicking she started to swish the tip of her tail back and forth inside her mouth to uncover her fangs but to no avail. The realization hit her like a ton of bricks.
"My fangs are gone…no No NO! This can't be happening!" She desperately cried out. The crowd that surrounded her faded away replaced by a foggy haze as she wrapped her tail around herself. "This can't be happening…I was so close"
Viper softly cried into her tail for a few moments before feeling something on her shoulder. She looked up and was surprised to see none other than Crane standing over her with a sad look on his face.
"Don't cry, it's going to be okay." He said reassuringly.
"How do you know?" she said turning her back to him.
He smiled suddenly, "Because you are special"
Viper could feel her heart melt inside of her as she turned back around to face the one friend who had always been there for her. Only to realize that he was gone.
"Crane? Where did you go?"
"Time to wake up Viper" a mysterious voice called out to her.
"Wait, what? I'm asleep?!" her jaw dropped as the next sudden realization hit her like a second ton of bricks. "Oh no, then that means!"
"You guessed it!" said the dream voice.
"Aww man, that just isn't right" was the last thing that the dreaming serpent said before waking up.