Tigress loved practicing Kung Fu. She loved performing all the different kicks, punches, and blocks. She loved working out and feeling her blood pump. She loved being fit. But her favorite of favorites was to practice on punching bags in private. A jab to the left, the right, a short round kick to the 'rib'. Again, and then an ax kick to the 'chest'.
She exerted power with each technique, forcing an exhale out of her mouth with each strike, tightening her abdominal muscles to make herself even stronger at each point of contact. At last she knew it was time to stop for the night. Po would be serving dinner soon, and the rest of her friends would all be gathering in the kitchen to eat. Shifu preferred to get his dinner and eat privately in his room before everyone else came. She smiled softly as she panted; before Po, she had always thought of the rest of the Furious Five as acquaintances, sometimes even competitors. They, Monkey especially, saw it as playful competition. And most times, so did Tigress.
But her childhood had brought her up to see some things as serious, whereas the others did not. Perhaps that was because they were in truth trivial? Perhaps they just didn't matter to anyone else but her. But the one thing that made her proud was her individuality. She was the sole tiger of the Valley of Peace, and the other residents respected and feared her. She was tough, hard-core, and those she was designated to protect looked up to that figure of her. Sadly, they were just as afraid of her as much as they respected her.
With a sigh, she heaved the bag over her shoulder and prepared to carry it back inside. Her private training sessions were always outside the Jade Palace, somewhere deep in the Ironwood Forest. Thankfully they were no longer to skin herself up on the unforgiving bark of said trees, although she had the rather embarrassing habit of walking up to one battered tree in particular and acting as though it were an old friend. She would talk pleasantly, softly, to it, and give it a few apologizing pats for her harsh treatment of the tree. However, before she could take a single step towards her home, she heard a faint wail. Freezing, she swiveled her ears expertly, trying to detect which direction the sound was coming from. Keeping the punching bag situated on her shoulder, she slowly began walking to her left, golden eyes flicking back and forth as she walked, ears attuned to the forest around her.
It wasn't long before the volume of the wailing increased, and Tigress felt her heart give an involuntary flutter. She stopped short, suddenly wondering if this were some elaborate scheme planned to prey upon one's sense of pity. She had become more vulnerable to heartfelt moments after the whole affair at Gongmen City. It did not sit well with her. But, reminding herself that it was one of her duties as a guardian of the Valley of Peace, she continued onward. It wasn't long before she came upon a small bundle on the ground, emanating mournful cries that could only fit a baby. Tigress kneeled down carefully, eyes still searching the trees for anyone hostile.
But her superior cat senses detected nothing. Finally she allowed herself to lay the punching bag on the ground and pick up the bundle. "Probably an abandoned pig or goose child." she thought, although what heartless soul in the Valley of Peace that would leave an infant to die like this was beyond her knowledge. She wasn't at all expecting the tear-stained face that happened to be the one part uncovered by cloth. To Tigress's shock, the face of a tiger cub stared back at her, whimpering and crying, tears streaming out of still closed eyes. The adult couldn't move. Even its tiny ears were squeezed snugly against its head and out of sight by the swaddle, leaving only its wailing black lips; tiny, twitching nose of orange fur and pink skin; unopened, orange lidded eyes; and orange little cheeks to show what species the infant was.
Tigress blinked at the cub in shock; unable to hear, unable to see, and unable to defend. Her lips suddenly pressed together in a firm line. All alone. Defenseless. This cub needed a home. Temporarily forgetting the punching bag, she wrapped both arms around the child, holding it tight to her chest. Then she ran.
She ran back to the Jade Palace with no other thought in her mind than to feed the quieting infant. She had the strangest want to feed it herself. But this cub was not her own. She had none. Once reaching her home, she quietly slipped inside the kitchen, thankful that Po wasn't there. As powerful as her commanding instincts were, she still found them strange, and wasn't fond of anyone seeing her. Making sure she had the cub securely in one arm, Tigress hastily opened a cupboard and brought out a carton of milk, setting it on the counter.
Then she pulled out a small pot and set it on the stove top lighting a fire beneath it. Once the pot was hot, she poured half the carton of milk inside before putting it away once more, trying not to leave any evidence of her actions should she manage escape to her room for solitude. Leaving the milk to boil, she hastily searched through another cupboard, before finding the one thing key to this process. An old baby bottle that Shifu had once used to feed Tai Lung. The thought that the monster that had attacked the Valley of Peace so long ago had started out as an infant, given up to Shifu's care...Her eyes widened, and she gripped the whimpering tiger cub tightly. Her eyes closed in determination.
She would let nothing contaminate this innocent child. She would not fail the one she'd rescued. She closed the cupboard and made her way back to the stove, bottle in tow. The milk was bubbling; a sign it had reached the right temperature. Aware of the hungry whimpers and squirming coming from the cub, she hurriedly poured the milk into the bottle, then placed the pot in the sink. Sure she had left no trail to be followed, Tigress looked down at the cub, and gently proffered it the bottle. The infant tiger eagerly accepted it, drinking the milk down hungrily.
Assured that she had secured the child's state, Tigress hastily made her way out of the kitchen and to the barracks Stepping carefully across the notoriously squeaky floor, she silently stepped into her bedroom, closed the door, and sat down on her bed. Tigress panted for a moment, shocked at the feat she had just accomplished. She gazed down at the still drinking child, angling the bottle a little higher. Once it was empty, the cub seemed to be pacified. Acting on her strange, motherly, instinct, she gently unwrapped the swaddle and held the bare child in her arms, large paws tenderly cradling the cub's head and rear. Sliding down her bed, she reached into an open dresser drawer and pulled out a ridiculously long scarf, then began gently wrapping it around the child.
She also confirmed that the youth was female. Once she had the cub wrapped up as it had been in the swaddle, she held it against her chest, and gently rocked back and forth. The most unsettling thing to Tigress was that the cub couldn't even see yet. She gently stroked the infant's cheek with her thumb, suddenly feeling deeply attached to the little one. Tigress couldn't explain it; it was as if the baby girl seemed to beg for a mother. A mother specifically from Tigress. "Mine." she whispered.
"My little one." She would protect the cub. She would feed it. And clothe it. And most importantly; train it. The cub, her daughter, would grow up to have Tigress's skills, her love for Kung Fu, and a fiery spirit. She smiled and brought her daughter's face close to her own, gently nuzzling it with her nose.
She gave it a tender lick, smiling as her daughter began to settle. A belly full of warm milk, a soft wrap fit snugly around her, and, with a shift in position, Tigress's heartbeat in her ear, the baby girl began to dose off. "Listen to the beat." she whispered. "That's who mamma is from now on." With one last lick, Tigress lay down on her side, holding the cub close. She gently whispered, "Qiao. You are Qiao, I will raise you to have the best of skill in Kung Fu."
The moment was tender, full of love that Tigress was not familiar with, but embraced it. This was something she had never experienced, something she had never done before. Why was she doing it? Why was she taking in a random orphan from the forest? Because; she had once been no more than a lonely orphan, sitting on someone's doorstep, hoping for help. Needing love. And how had she ended up since that night?
She was one of the greatest Kung Fu warriors in all of China! Why should this sightless little girl be given any less chance to do something great? "Yo, Tigress? It's time for dinner." Monkey nearly startled the new mother out of her fur, causing her to flinch and bare her teeth defensively, just managing to suppress a growl. She replied coolly, "Thanks Monkey. I'll be there in a minute." Once the primate's shadow had disappeared, Tigress turned her attention back to Qiao.
"I'll be right back." she whispered. She gently slipped little Qiao beneath the blanket, resting her head on the pillow. She then made her way to the door, and upon opening it, turned one last time to check on her daughter. The child didn't stir. Nodding to herself, Tigress closed the door and headed for the kitchen. Upon entering, the nervousness in her chest flared. She quickly walked over to Po, ignoring the ensemble at the table.
"Po?" she asked curtly. The Panda jumped before turning to her.
"Oh hey Tigress!" he greeted. "You ready for some soup?"
"Yes. Po, I was wondering..."
"If it wouldn't be too much trouble since your already making dinner and all..."
"Whaaaaat?" he encouraged, drawing the vowel out.
"Could you heat half a carton of milk for me?"
"Yes. Warm milk helps me sleep."
"Ah. Sure, no problem!" Tigress smiled.
"Thank you Po." With that she went to sit with the others at the table, Qiao weighing heavily on her mind. When the meal finished, and Po had poured the milk into a large cup for Tigress, she bid everyone goodnight and hastened to her room, finding her daughter just as she had left her. Tigress climbed into the bed and sat against the wall behind the head of her bed, Qiao in her paws, the blanket covering her lap. She waited for everyone to fall asleep, before taking the cup of milk and emptying it into the bottle and proffering it to the stirring cub. Before she could start crying, Qiao began sucking on the bottle, Tigress smiling softly at her. And Tigress realized that there was one more thing she loved, more than anything else.
She loved Qiao.
So yeah, that was my first ever Kung Fu Panda story! Yes it is a one shot, and yes I was inspired to write it from the 'Kung Fu Day Care' episode. Plz review and tell me what you think! : D