Qiao paused for a moment, panting. At eight years old, she was already very familiar with Kung Fu, having mastered the basic skills. Of course one could only expect such things from the adopted daughter of Master Tigress and niece of the remaining Furious Five, as well as the Dragon Warrior. Not to mention the granddaughter of Grand Master Shifu. Kung Fu was natural in her life; while most children of the Valley of Peace valued friends and popularity, young Qiao valued the skills to defend herself in the same high regard, having been raised to love Kung Fu and see it as her lifestyle. Most girls favored beauty; Qiao favored honor, integrity, and trustworthiness. Her home world expanded as far as the Jade Palace, including the other masters who treated her like their own flesh and blood, as well as the most important figure in her life.
"Very good Qiao." came Tigress's approving voice. The cub turned and smiled at her mother. She had been practicing one of her favorite technique routines across the outside training grounds; a front snap kick, then a side thrust kick, followed by a knife-hand strike and ended with a reverse punch. The adult came over and set herself in the beginning stance, a backstance, with one foot pointed forwards and the other angled squarely, both knees bent. One would say she looked almost as though sitting in an imaginary chair. She then held up her paw in the position where a knife-hand strike would make contact. "After you strike with the knife-hand," here Tigress pivoted her foot so that she was in a front stance, with both her feet facing forwards.
"you must pivot your back foot into a front stance so you can properly exert the full force of your punch." She then demonstrated by returning to the knife-hand strike position, in a backstance, then pivoting her foot as she had said and punching with a loud yell. Qiao nodded, before bowing respectfully to her teacher.
"Yes mother." she replied. In the Jade Palace, the title 'mother' tended to pertain to double the power of a master and parent. At least in Qiao's case. Tigress nodded and retreated from the proximity, standing a few feet away with her paws behind her back.
"Again." Tigress said. Qiao set herself in a backstance, awaiting her mother's command. Once receiving it, she began once more. A front snap kick with her right foot, forcing a breath from her mouth as she reached the imaginary point of contact, a skill her mother had taught her would increase her strength, just as letting out a loud yell on the very last move would. She set her right foot down as though walking, then performed the side thrust kick with her left foot, again exhaling forcefully and tightening her abdominal muscles, exerting her power to its fullest extent. Then she set her left foot down into another backstance, just like the one she had started with, and struck out with a knife-hand strike to her imaginary opponent's neck with the corresponding paw. Heeding her previous lesson, she pivoted her back foot to a front stance before performing a reverse punch with her right paw, letting out a final loud yell.
She then drew her foot back into a ready stance; both feet placed beneath her shoulders, and fists held about waist high, standing straight at attention. Tigress stepped up beside her with a smile and nodded. "Much better. Did you feel how much easier it was to exert your full power with the proper stance on the punch?" Qiao nodded with a smile of her own.
"Excellent. And you remembered that the proper way to punch is by using your first two knuckles?" Tigress asked, tapping the said area of her daughter's left paw.
"Yes mother." Tigress nodded in approval.
"Alright, time to break for lunch. Po will probably have it almost ready by now." Qiao smiled and took her mother's paw, both tigers making their way inside.
Tigress smiled as she watched her daughter chase Monkey through the halls of the Jade Palace, giggling like any eight year old would. She wore a vest very similar to Tigress's, only it was dark velvety blue and had a golden dragon design on it, and wore a pair of black pants. She had the general stripe pattern on her back that Tigress did, only there was no white on the tip of her tail, and of course her forehead in particular had its own stripe design. Every tiger had their own stripes. She was very proud of little Qiao; she had come far from being the tiny cub Tigress found abandoned and crying. She frowned momentarily; even the mere thought of such miscare still angered her. Qiao was far too precious to be left to rot, too talented and skilled to be wasted. She sighed and pushed such thoughts away upon entering the kitchen, finding herself surrounded by the rest of the Jade Palace residents.
Tigress smiled at the sight of Qiao balancing Mantis on her head while performing a series of kicks. Such challenges had been designed to help Qiao keep her head up when she kicked; she had the flexibility to do so, but still needed training to perfect it. However, in the kitchen, such things were likely to break a dish. The adult tiger approached and removed the insect, setting him on his spot at the table. "Alright you two, save it for after lunch." She then sat down in her own chair, Qiao sitting her designated spot beside her. Po arrived on the scene then, carrying arm lengths of bowls.
He expertly slid them down the table to each member, taking care to gently set Qiao's bowl on the table in front of her. The panda then sat down himself, and everyone began to indulge in the noodle soup. "So Qiao, how is your hurricane kick coming along?" Po asked.
"Really good." the cub replied eagerly. "I'm getting better at adding the jump into it." Po winked at her.
"Awesome!" he replied. Tigress smirked. The hurricane kick was one of her personal favorites, and she had a feeling Qiao would love it as well once she got the hang of it.
After taking a few avid bites of her soup, the little girl said fondly, "Your soup never get's old, Uncle Po!" There was a round of chuckled.
"Thanks Qiao, but it's really more my dad's soup than mine, you know."
"It's still the best in the world!" Qiao insisted.
"I'll agree with you on that, little warrior!" Po replied, reaching across the table to do a knuckle-bumper with his niece. Tigress smiled fondly at the pair. Po had been the first to discover the new addition to the Jade Palace, and he may as well have been the most helpful...
Tigress lay curled on her side, infant Qiao in her protective grip. Several times the cub had stirred the night before, and the new mother had been surprisingly effective at keeping her quiet. It was odd, really, that the most hard-core member of the Jade Palace knew exactly how to make sure a baby was tended to so that it gave no more than a few whimpers for what it desired. She had made two trips to the kitchen, one at ten p.m. and one at 12am to make two more bottles of milk, and twice had to clean the child up. Thankfully the second time it occurred to her to give the child a diaper, and since then she hadn't needed a change. If she had been conscious, she would have remembered all her days at the Boa Gu Orphanage spent alone in her room with her dolls.
Who wouldn't have perfected the art of baby care after investing most of her early childhood into taking care of inanimate dolls? Sadly, it was these unusual excursions that caused Tigress to be totally out when the morning gong rang, which resulted in her lack of presence when everyone else greeted Shifu good morning. The red panda, surprised and slightly cautious about his adopted daughter, had raised an eyebrow at the empty spot in front of her door. "Does anyone know if Tigress was awake last night?"
It was Po who answered, "She might have. I mean, I don't know for sure or anything, but last night at dinner she asked me to heat some milk up for her to help her sleep. So...uh...maybe it just didn't work right away?" The red panda considered this for a moment. He nodded.
"Alright then. You can wake her up. The rest of you get started on your morning training; I'll let you know when breakfast is ready." With that Master Shifu and the remaining Furious Five headed out of the barracks. Po gulped and approached the tiger master's door nervously. He knocked on the wooden door frame, hoping not to make her angry first thing in the morning.
"T-tigress?" he stuttered. There was a sleepy mumble from the other side. Taking a deep breath, Po slowly opened the door. "Tigress?" he whispered. The south China tiger lay asleep in her bed, apparently unaware of the situation. Po carefully tiptoed over to her, then shook her shoulder gently. "Tigress, hey! Come on, get up." he muttered, before noticing she was holding something.
"Huh?" he muttered. Curiosity overpowering fear, the panda, carefully pulled back the blanket covering Tigress and moved her head to the side. His jaw hit the floor when he realized what she was so protectively holding against her chest. It was a tiny tiger cub, swaddled in some scarf of some sort, breathing peacefully with its ear against Tigress's chest. Then he spied the bottle on her nightstand. "Oh man. The milk wasn't for her." he realized.
At the sound of his voice, the adult tiger stirred. Po flinched and slapped a paw over his mouth, barely containing a terrified squeak. Surely she'd kill him for entering her room without permission, and finding out about her baby. Tigress blinked open her fiery, amber orbs, staring sleepily up at the panda. "Po?" The panda gave a nervous smile.
"Heh...you uh, missed the morning gong, Tigress. Shifu was worried."
"Oh." Her eyes suddenly widened, and she gripped the cub tighter. Po held his hands up.
"It's okay, it's okay!" he assured. "I won't tell anyone!"
"You better not!" she growled. The cub gave a quiet gurgle, shifting around. Tigress's eyes softened upon turning to the child as she stroked one of its tiny cheeks.
"I found her in the Ironwood Forest."
"Ah! Right! I totally thought that, that was what had happened! You know, you were out training, and there was this baby, and you decided to...and...yeah." Tigress raised an eyebrow at him.
"Whatever you were thinking Po, was it really likely with someone like me?"
"So, it's a girl?"
"Yes." The tiger's eyes traveled back to the bundle in her arms. "I named her Qiao."
"Qiao, right, doesn't that have to do something with skill?"
"Skill yes." Tigress replied. "She will be very skilled."
Tigress, coming back to the present, gazed silently around at everyone. She may be the most hard-core of the Furious Five, and she may have dedicated all of her life up until now to training in Kung Fu, but she had another duty. The duty of a mother, whose love and care was essential to Qiao's upbringing. The little girl she looked at now would soon be a full fledged warrior, and Tigress knew that above everyone else, she would be proud of her little girl.
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