This chapters a little shorter than the others, but I hope you enjoy it all the same!
Also, don't worry CraneXViper lovers, there will definitely be a pretty strong moment between them in the story, but unfortunately it won't be for a while yet. Please be patient.
Anyway, you know the drill. Please read and review.
Po made to head for the door of their house, but stumbled with the weight of the crate of vegetables.
"Dad, I've got my hands a little full. Could you get that?"
"Of course, son." Mr. Ping headed for the front door and opened it.
He scowled when he saw Qiang standing in the doorway.
"Er, hello." Qiang waved half-heartedly.
Mr. Ping responded by wordlessly walking over to the table, sitting down on one of the chairs, and turning his back on the panda.
Qiang sighed and turned to Po.
"Have you got the ingredients ready?" Qiang asked.
"Yeah, dad, but the crate's heavier than I thought it would be." Po actually had to set the crate down as he said this.
"Don't worry, son. I'll get that."
Qiang picked it up effortlessly.
"Holy…" Po gaped. "How did you manage to get so strong?"
"You'd be surprised how much weight training you get as a farmer." Qiang smirked. "Your friends are waiting at my house. Why don't you join them and I'll be with you in a minute?"
"Okay. See ya."
Once Po was gone, Qiang turned to Mr. Ping.
"Are you coming?" he asked.
"Why?" Mr. Ping demanded without looking at him. "So I can teach the children how to make bland noodle soup?"
"Come on, Mr. Ping, I didn't actually mean what I said." Qiang pleaded.
"Then why did you say it?" Mr. Ping retorted.
"I was still angry at the way you were treating me." Qiang said. "Besides, the children are going to learn vegetable stir fry today."
When Mr. Ping didn't answer, Qiang took a step forward.
"Are you sure you don't want to do this together?" Qiang asked. "This was Po's idea after all."
Mr. Ping's expression flickered slightly at the mention of Po, but the insult to his soup kept him from reconsidering. However…
"Alright, I'll come." Mr. Ping snapped. "But just to watch. I'm having no part in your silly lesson!"
"Fair enough." Said Qiang. "Come on, I don't want to keep the children waiting."
"You said what?" Shifu's was shocked.
"I really screwed up yesterday, I'm so sorry, Master!" Crane groaned as they and the others stood outside the house. In a flat space to the right of the house, two-dozen children sat patiently next to small stoves, waiting for their teacher to arrive.
"I can't believe you told Mr. Ping that Qiang didn't like his soup!" Shifu said angrily. "I thought Po was supposed to be the screwup in the Jade Palace!"
"I said I'm sorry!" Crane said. "I'll make it up for it, I promise."
"The best punishment I can think of right now is for you to take over Po's turn to clean the gutters when we get back to the palace!" Shifu glared at the avian.
"What?" Crane stared.
"Do not complain, Crane." Shifu said sternly. "I gave you an order to help mend the rift between Qiang and Mr. Ping, and you ended up making it worse. You will clean the gutters when we return, and no buts."
"Yes, Master." He said.
"I'm sure they'll work it out." Viper spoke up. "Mr. Ping isn't the type to hold a grudge."
"What grudge?" Po suddenly appeared next to her.
Viper's eyes widened.
"Oh, er…" she stammered.
"Does dad number one have a problem with dad number two?" Po asked worriedly.
"Oh no." Crane came to Viper's rescue. "We were just talking about what would happen if someone actually told Mr. Ping his soup tasted bad."
"Oh gods, do not do that, whatever you do!" Po suddenly looked fearful. "Have I ever told you about the needs-a-little-salt debacle that occurred when I was ten years old?" He shuddered.
"What happened?" Monkey asked.
"You don't wanna know."
At that moment, Ming stepped out of the house.
"Is Qiang here yet?" she asked.
"He said he would be here in a minute." Po said. "Do you want to wait out here with us?"
"Alright. I've been inside all day, I could use some fresh air." Ming sat down on the front steps between Po and Monkey.
Ten seconds had barely passed before Po felt a tapping on his shoulder.
He turned his head, expecting Ming. Instead, he caught a glimpse of Monkey's extremely flexible tail and his head jerking slightly in Ming's direction.
"What?" Po mouthed.
"You know..." Monkey mouthed back.
Ming adjusted the jade bracelet on her wrist, oblivious to the silent conversation.
"It's time!" Monkey mouthed the words. "Ask… her… out."
"Task her pout?" Po blinked.
"No, ask her out!"
"Mask a lout?"
"No, ask her out!"
"Wait, what?" Po almost said the words out loud.
As they stood a few meters away, Tigress, Crane, Viper and Shifu turned and noticed Po and Monkey doing something very strange. They appeared to be having a silent debate while Ming was sitting between them, doing strange gestures with their arms.
"What on earth are they doing?" Viper asked, extremely perplexed.
"Don't ask." Crane sighed. "I don't know and I don't think I want to."
"Kids…" Shifu muttered.
"Men…" Tigress sighed.
"Ask her out on a date!" Monkey mouthed.
"I can't do that!" Po scowled.
"Just do it!" Mantis hopped on Monkey's shoulder and joined in the noiseless argument. "What's the worst that could happen?"
"Do it! Buck up and be the Dragon Warrior!"
Po bit his lip.
His heart began racing as he slowly turned his body so he was directly facing Ming.
"Uh, Ming? Can I talk to you in private?"
"Sure. Do you want to go inside?"
"Yeah. This will only take a minute, promise."
Po and Ming stood up and entered the house.
"Is it alright if I shut the doors?" Po asked, turning beet red at the thought of what he was about to ask.
"Alright." Ming said.
Po shut the double doors.
He turned to face Ming.
Gosh, she's cute. She looks kinda like mom.
"So what do you want to say?" Ming asked.
"Uh… Ming…" Po hesitated. "I was sort of wondering… would you like to-"
He suddenly stopped. One of his short ears twitched. He rolled his eyes.
"Could you excuse me for just a sec?" he asked.
Po walked over to the double doors and opened the one on the right.
Monkey felt the smooth wood of the door disappear from his ear, and looked up to see Po's sour expression.
"Heh heh… sorry." Monkey chuckled.
Monkey disappeared from the doorway.
Po sighed and turned back to Ming.
"As I was saying… would you like to-"
Po stopped again.
He opened the door on the left.
Mantis chuckled nervously in the doorway, caught red handed with a glass to his ear.
"Go… away!" Po pointed outside the door with his finger.
Mantis obediently hopped off.
Po sighed again and shut the doors. Once again, he turned back to Ming, who was giggling slightly at what had just occurred.
"As… I was saying…" Po opened the doors slightly to make sure that no primate nor insect were lurking behind it. He shut them again. "Do you want to…" his cheeks burned. "Would you…"
"Yes?" Ming asked.
"Do you want to have dinner with me tonight?" Po cringed, his cheeks now redder than chili peppers.
Ming's eyes widened.
"You're asking me out?" she asked in disbelief.
"Uh… yeah." Po said, feeling a mother-load of butterflies fluttering round in his stomach. "You don't have to if you don't…"
"I'd love to!" Ming smiled widely.
"What?" he blinked again.
"I'd love to have dinner with you." Ming said happily.
"You're a very nice person, after all. Do you have anything in mind?"
"Would you like Secret Ingredient Soup?" Po asked. The corners of his mouth began to curl upwards as it finally hit him that Ming had accepted. "I can make something a bit fancier if you want…"
"Soup will be just fine." Ming said. "Where will we be eating?"
Po's small smile fell.
"Oh, it's okay." Ming said. "You can figure it out before tonight. What time have you got planned?"
"I was thinking round about sunset." Po replied. "Is that good for you?"
"Perfect." Ming nodded. "Could you pick me up outside the house?"
"Yeah." Po said, the smile now back on his lips.
"Okay, then it's settled." Ming beamed. "Do you want to go back outside?"
Po and Ming went back outside and rejoined the others.
"So what were you two talking about?" Monkey asked slyly.
"Oh, er, nothing!" Po blushed again. Ming chuckled.
Qiang and Mr. Ping then made their appearance, two meters distance between them as they approached the others.
"Hey, everyone." Qiang greeted them all warmly. "Sorry we took so long. Shall we get started?"
"I'll help you with that." Ming followed Qiang into the outdoor classroom. The children spotted them approaching and immediately became overjoyed at the arrival at their beloved cooking teacher.
"So did you finally do it?" Mantis asked Po.
"Yeah! She said yes!" Po suddenly exclaimed, a huge grin on his face. "Excuse me, I'm gonna go help too!"
Po rushed off after the other two pandas.
"What were you two talking about?" Tigress asked.
"Po finally asked Ming out!" Monkey grinned.
"Oh, how wonderful!" Viper said delightedly.
Shifu harrumphed, but with a small smile.
"Oh really? Well good for him." Tigress pursed her lips. "Good for Po…"
She quickly put a small smirk on her face.
"Let's go and get seated." Said Shifu. "I'm not standing here a minute longer."
Po finally asked Ming out! Awesome!
(Notices glares of TIPO lovers)
Uh... I mean... TOTAL bummer!
Watch out for the next update!