Chapter Twenty-Six

Viper was out shopping with Po, not for herself, but for a certain peacock, who was incredibly hard to buy things for, and Po wasn't being helpful. He was acting like shopping with her was the cruelest form of torture, and kept dodging behind objects every time someone he recognized walked by.

"Seriously Po!" Viper hissed, as Po knocked over another crate of oranges while attempting to hide, "What are you so afraid of?"

"Awwww nothing..." Po said, "It's just that shopping is a girls thing, and if people see us shopping together, they might think that we are...you know..."

"Aaaaahhhhh..." Viper nodded, then grinned evilly. "Tell me, Po," she said, grabbing a dress of the rack, "Do you think this matches my eyes?"

Po looked around nervously. "Viper! Quit it!"

"Sorry..." She looked around the stall. "Do you see anything that would fit Shen?"

Po looked around, then shook his head. "You'r the expert!"

"Your so helpful Po." Viper said sarcastically.

They wandered around, looking through all the different stalls and markets, and they were still unable to find anything suitable. The reason it was so difficult was because of Shen's species. Peafowl, peacocks in particular, were rather oddly shaped birds, meaning that it was quite difficult to find clothes for them. The royal peafowl always had their clothes specially made, Viper had always thought that this was due to them not being content with what they could get on the market, but now, she was beginning to change her opinion.

The two continued walking/slithering around town, until Viper stopped. "Look over there!" She hissed to Po.

Po looked, and saw what Viper was looking at. There, on display at a large looking stall, was a robe, that was obviously designed for peafowl, and, by some amazing coincidence, was a pale silver in color.

"That's perfect!" Viper said, and began slithering at a very rapid pace toward the stall. When she got there, the first thing she did was ask the price.

"Thirty yuan." came her answer. Viper was astonished. A robe like this should have been worth ten, twenty times that amount!

"W-why so cheap?" She asked, "There's nothing wrong with it, is there?"

"Oh no," The clerk answered, "It's just that it's been sitting here so long, that I'm lowering the price to get rid of it. Silver robes have been unpopular since you-know-who..."

"Oh..." Viper said, "I'll take it! I could really use it..."

While Viper was talking to the clerk, Po was looking the robe over. It was a nice robe, but he spotted two glaring flaws. One, it would probably be extremely expensive, and two, Shen would HATE it. Why? It wasn't the quality, or the color, it was the large Yin-Yang symbol on the back that would probably tick him off.

Viper came back. "Po, you wouldn't believe it!" She said excitedly, "I got a GREAT deal on this robe!"

"Good..." Po said, "But are you sure that She-..." He was cut off by Viper pinching him in the leg, and gesturing with her eyes to the clerk.

"What was..." Po asked, then realization dawned on him. "Oh, OH! whoops! What I meant was... Are you sure that...uh..She-... Ah! She! Are you sure that she will like it?"

Viper looked confused for a second. She? Who was he talking about? Then she realized that Po had just taken the last word off Shen's name. She giggled a little at Shen being referred to in the feminine.

"Why wouldn't she like it, Po?" Viper asked.

"Uh... She...is not a big fan of that symbol, if you know what I mean." Po gestured towards the Yin Yang symbol.

Viper looked up at him. "Well," She said, "Too bad! I have spent too long searching all over this huge city to care about what symbol it has on it's back!"

Po said nothing more, so Viper paid for the robe, and they prepared to leave.

"Hope your girlfriend likes the robe!" The clerk called after them, much to Po's embarrassment.

"Why does Shen like girls clothes?" he wondered out loud.

"Don't ask me!" Viper exclaimed, "Besides, they aren't exactly girls clothes, the clerk probably just heard us arguing about whether or not 'she' would like the robe..." She stopped. "Po," She asked, "Why would you even care about if he likes the clothes we buy him?"

Po thought a while. Why had he cared? Shen had done nothing to earn his compassion.

"I guess..." He said finally, "I guess caring is just in my nature." He looked at Viper. "When I look at Shen...I-I see someone that has had almost no-one actually care about him. He really likes his clothes, so if I, his enemy, took time to find some clothes he likes, it...it might mean a lot to him."

He suddenly laughed. "Either that, or some of his 'heavenly aura' is rubbing of on me."

Viper grinned. "I didn't know you were so sensitive to other people's feelings, Po!" Then she darkened. "Of course, he probably will be completely ungrateful..."

"Yeah..." Po said.

"Bet you ten yuan he never even tries the robe on!" Viper said.

"That's not a fair bet." Po replied, "He is far more likely to throw it then wear it."


"I AM NOT WEARING THIS!"

Shen's reactions were just as expected. He had taken a look at the robe, and he had obviously been interested, until he noticed the symbol. Why had they given him this? To give him a constant reminder of his humiliating defeat at the hands of someone who should have been no match for him? Anyway, he would not wear this robe! He threw it into a wall.

"I told you." Po said, "He threw it."

"That will be ten yuan!" Viper reminded.

"Ok, for the record, I did not take that bet."

The two warriors left, leaving Shen alone. He had been sure they would be somewhat offended that he refused to wear the robe, that they had so obviously spent such a long time obtaining. But instead, they started joking about him filling in with their expectations of him.

He sighed. He really hadn't changed a bit.

He fingered his tatty clothes. They were certainly in need of replacement. He looked at the new robe, lying in a heap in a corner. It certainly was a nice robe...the fabric was lovely...

He looked out the door. No one in sight... He looked back to the robe. Is couldn't hurt to just try it on...no one would ever have to even know he had tried it on...

He slipped out of his dirty clothes, and into the new robe.

It definitely felt nice, an improvement over what he had just been wearing...

He turned around, examining himself in the reflection on one of his throwing blades. It looked nice, although the black insides of the sleeves clashed somewhat with the red circles on his train.

Suddenly, He heard a noise outside. He dashed to the door, and peeked out. Po and that snake-lady were coming back! He looked around frantically. No time to change back...he just stood there, acting like it was the most natural thing in the world for him to be wearing a robe he had just thrown into a wall.

Po stuck his head in. "Say Shen, did you want anything or-..." His eyes widened, and he shouted over his shoulder. "Viper! Shen is wearing the robe you got! Yeah! He's wearing it!"

Shen blushed. "Yes...yes I am. No need to make such a big deal out of it."

Viper rushed in. "He's wearing it?" She asked.

"Yeah! Look!" Po pointed towards Shen, who was blushing deeper. He wished he could sink into the floor.

"Hey wow!" Viper appraised the poor peacock. "It looks great on you!"

"I'll take that ten yuan now, Viper." Po said.

"What! You said you didn't take that bet!"

"I changed my mind." They both turned to Shen, who was embarrassedly turning away.

"So I tried on your robe. It's not as if I have sprouted a second head!" He looked at them still staring at him. "When did I become a curiosity?"

"You've always been a curiosity." Po said. Shen cocked his head. "You know, being all white and all..." Shen's eyes darkened, and Po clapped his hand over his mouth.

Shen sighed. "S-sorry..." Po quavered, noticing the throwing knife still in the peacock's wingl

Shen looked up. "It's alright." He said. "I don't mind."

"White...white is not the color of death. White is simplicity, beginnings, purity before corruption. White symbolizes the life of brightness that exists here, in Heaven. White is light, and it's absence creates darkness."

Shen heard Fenghuang's words again, in his head.

"Wow..." Po breathed, "I thought you would get mad about that!"

"I would have." Shen replied, not turning his head, "But I had a change of mind." Shen turned his head to Po. Po, to Shen's suprise, was smiling.

"What's so funny?" Shen demanded.

"Nothing." Po replied, "Except that there's hope for you yet."

There's hope for you yet.


Author's note: Hi again! Sorry for the slow updates, but I have been busy lately. I am rather proud of this chapter, starting lighthearted, but turning it around to show a large step in Shen's emotional progress.

Also, I am pleased to announce that I have just breached 75,000+ words on this story's prototype, so I have a lot of elbow room with this story. Just keep waiting, and I'll give them to you.