Are We Mortal?
Chapter Twenty- Epilogue
A/N: To all my readers, this is it. The story must come to a close, I'm afraid. But I will leave with this parting gift to you all.
And a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!
Disclaimer: I do not own Kung Fu Panda, just my characters.
The snow crunched softly underneath his feet with every step, a trail of footprints left behind him. The touch was cold against his feet, the ice that got caught between his paw pads melting against his body heat. A cloud of vapour blew from his nostrils, curling and twisting in the frigid winds before dissipating into nothing. His fingers were numb, the nerves shot to the point where they could feel nothing.
Shan Yi rubbed his paws together and cupped them up to his mouth. He breathed a warm breath of air onto his claws before viciously rubbing them against one another once more.
The panther took a moment to rest and sat on a local bench, his back hunched forward. Shan Yi's ember eyes looked up and around him. The night air was cool and light on the empty street, the stars now hidden by an oncoming wave of grey clouds, the Moon just poking its face from over the tip of the bank of clouds. Its luminous shine still glowing bright as it lit up everything below which candles, winter lanterns or indoor lights could not.
The snow sparkled like thousands of tiny diamonds were buried beneath its crusted white membrane.
Shan Yi was marvelled.
Half of his young life was spent locked up in the walls of the Jade Palace and in the Valley of Peace, protected and bound to the rules of Kung Fu; the other half, wandering the landscape with a weary soul and a broken heart. But now it was fixed, it was whole again. Well, almost.
A third of his way through life and he had already lost his family. His mother, killed in this very village, murdered at the hands of Chen Hue Leigh, leader of the Thousand Arrows.
Former leader, Shan Yi corrected himself, and former father.
Father. The word still burned his throat like a strong alcoholic beverage. It was like a kick in the chest, the air was stale all of a sudden. Shan Yi felt his lip tremble, his eyes stung as tears fought their way forward. The feline clamped his eyes shut and shook his head violently.
No, this was not the time for tears.
It was time of joy and happiness when people would come together and accept each other without a second thought. No matter whom they were. Even the most ruthless of criminals and animals were generally sympathetic towards each other. Shan Yi smiled, he understood now. That was why Po and Tigress had forgiven him, allowed him to leave without the break out of a fight or alerting the others. His identity, his shadowed past, was a thing of history. No one would know, no one would ever find out.
And the cost of it, a aching nose and thumping headache- courtesy of Master Tigress' fist to his face.
He made a promise to change his ways, he said he'd die trying.
So be it.
The panther rose up his paws to his lips and blew another vapour of warm air into them.
His ears then perked up from underneath his straw hat. He looked up from his paws to across the snow covered road from where he sat. Through an open window Shan Yi watched as a cluster of pigs, geese and rabbits moved past the pane without even a glace in his direction. There was laughter and smiles of every resident in the building, lanterns hung from the roofs on hooks and string all of them in various colours and designs. The smell of food crept in the air and warmed his nostrils. Children running by in their best robes.
Shan Yi felt his smile broaden at the sight, pushing his hat back slightly to get a better look. It was then something small, light and very cold landed in his nose. The panther wrinkled his nose at the wetness on his muzzle. He twisted his neck and looked up to the sky once again. The Moon was completely gone now, as were the stars. In their place, a sea of clouds where tiny snowflakes fluttered down to the ground dancing in curls and spirals.
Shan Yi pulled his hat forward till it was straight again and rose from the bench and walked to the edge of the of the village. When on the outskirts he paused and looked at the many fields surrounding the Valley, all covered in a fresh blanket of white. Just beyond one of the fields he spotted the very thing he was looking for.
Shan Yi saw that the path was dark and uneven, he looked around and found a lantern, taking it off the hook as he held in it his paw. The light escaping through the top opening of the lamp flickered across the bottom of his face, giving Shan Yi a ghostly appearance. He set off across the snow covered field, disrupting the even surface with more footprints. Without the shelter of the buildings in the village to protect him, Shan Yi pinched the parts of his cloak together to shield his body, the ends bellowing behind him, as the winds brought up a sharp gust.
The panther tipped his head forward to shield his eyes from the still falling snow thrusting in his direction thanks to the winds, looking up every now and then to make sure that he was heading in the right direction. It took him a short while to reach the tree but when he came to standing underneath its baron branches and twigs Shan Yi looked up and stared at the tree with ogling eyes.
He then glanced down to the bark of the tree at his level.
Shan Yi let go of his cape and set down the lantern on the snowy floor as he walked up to the tree, placing a paw against the wood. He felt tears come to his eyes, this time he didn't hold them back, they fell down his cheek and dripped into the snow as small puddles.
Shan Yi had been to this place at least once in his life, he remembered that one summer day when he sat underneath this very tree with the love his life. A feline who was unbelievably beautiful and young he had kept his eye on since he was but a mere cub.
The feline closed his eyes as his knees collapsed beneath him, sinking into the snow as the crying intensified.
It was then he noticed a different glow against the wood of the tree, a brighter light that was coming from behind him. Shan Yi ceased his crying as he turned to find a silhouette towering above him. The brightness of the lantern was so intense that Shan Yi could not see the figure's face. "What are you doing?" The mysterious person asked, their voice was soft and sweet but stern.
Shan Yi wiped his eyes as he stood to full height, the figure rose the lantern up to the panther's face. Squinting his eyes he rose up a paw, forcefully pushing the light aside. "Nothing! Now leave me alone before I-" But as Shan Yi brushed the lantern aside, and the opening of the lamp was low enough for the flame to light up everything above, the panther froze and his heart stopped.
The figure was a woman, a lynx. She was slightly smaller than Shan Yi with a slim but reasonable figure. She wore a purple cloak and coat which captured her curves, a red scarf wrapped around her slender neck. There was no special design on her clothing, just the occasional speckle of white dots. But above all that Shan Yi noticed about the feline was her eyes. Just like her coat they were a dark tint of violet but held a gleam in the candle light. She looked in her early thirties.
"Fu.." He breathed.
The lynx rose an eyebrow. "How do you know my name?"
"Fu." The panther parroted. "Fu, it's me. It's me, Jing Shen."
The lynx was silent for a very long time, she slowly stepped back. The panther followed her forward. "S-Shen..." She stammered, her paw holding the lantern began to tremble. Her knees suddenly became weak and she dropped the lantern to the floor. Shen was quick to catch her before she fully collapsed. They settled into the snow. Her lilac eyes never left his shining ember orbs. Her paw came to his cheek. He couldn't help but nuzzle it. "Shen...my Shen." Her voice was breaking as tears came to her eyes, she reached up and pulled off his hat. She gasped as her orbs came to settle on the three scars that went across his face. "Shen! What happened?" She ran her claws across the marks, her touch was warm and loving.
He reached up and took her paws in his own. "It's a long story." He chuckled. "It's been even longer since I lost you." He reached up took her chin in his black paw."Fu...I missed you so much. You have no idea how much I've missed you."
The lynx found her breath. "And I missed you." She reached over and hugged him, catching the panther by surprise. "Oh, Shen, I'm so sorry. I was a fool to leave you." She pulled away and looked into his eyes before lunging forward and crashing her lips on his own. The kiss was long and adoring. Shen settled into it immediately. They broke for air. Fu opened her mouth to speak but Shen cut her off with a claw against her soft lips.
"I'm the one who should be sorry. I was too blinded by my anger to search you out." His face then went serious. "I lost you once, Fu. I'm not going to let it happen again." Suddenly Shen let out the most girlish scream Fu had ever heard him squeal. The panther's black fur suddenly became doused with white snow as a snowball landed right on top of his head. Fu laughed as Shen sprang to his feet, reaching over his back as snow seeped down his cloak and collar, melting into small droplets of cold water than ran down his spine. Shen pulled a face that was somewhere between a held back sneeze and a kick in the groin.
When Shen was convinced he wasn't going to get to the snow he turned to the tree and glared up to the figure amongst the spiky branches. Fu got to her feet and followed his gaze. She put a loving paw on his shoulder. "Shen." Her voice was tender and her eyes were full of shame as well as pride, the panther turned to her. "I don't know if you can ever forgive me for leaving you. But I didn't want you to hate and leave me. I didn't want to see you hurt. I'd like you to meet someone." She looked up to the tree. "Hao Yan, come down here."
With skilled acrobatic movement the small form leapt from tree branch to tree branch, swinging on their legs for the last one before graciously landing on their feet in the snow. They stepped up to Fu and Shen. "Hao, honey, this is Jing Shen." She paused and waited; unsure how to pursue before considering to get it straight out. "He's your father."
Shen gazed down on the small feline at his feet. Hao was a cub, easy to tell that he was a hybrid. His fur was a golden brown like Shen's old coat, with black stripes and spots tattooing his arms and forehead like his mother. His tail was long and striped apart from a small tuff of black fur protruding from the tip. And then his eyes, they were fierce and strong like Shen's, glowing with full golden orbs and a set of small, soft violet irises.
As the cub walked up to Shen in his long red cloak, green pants and purple top the panther knelt down to meet his eye level. No words were said but messages were conveyed between them both through their eyes. It was then Hao felt tears come to his eyes as he pounced forward and latched his arms around the panther's neck, saying one word in the cutest voice that it made Shen's heart melt.
Shen let his instincts take over as he wrapped his large arms around the boy, holding the cub tight to his body- never wanting to let him go.
"Son." He cried.
"Shen." Fu's soft voice soon spoke. She laid a tender paw on his back. Father and son separated slowly. Hao slipped his tiny paw into Shen's as the panther stood up. "I've come to this spot every year in hopes of finding you again. And now that you're here, I don't want you to go. Hao...he...he needs a father. He needs you. And I wa-" Fu was suddenly cut off as Shen placed a full on kiss on her lips, his arm wrapped around her shoulder- pulling her against him.
When they separated Shen smiled widely."I'm not going anywhere unless it's with you or Hao from now on. I lost one family, I'm not losing another." He pulled his lover and son together in a strong hug. This was it, his heart was filled as a whole once more: he had a family, a son and a lover who loved him back with every morsel of their hearts. It was only when Shen's eyes caught a glimpse of the tree under which they stood did his lips go thin. "There's just one thing I've got to do." He said, turning back to the tree. Once at the stump, Shen looked down to his waist and reached into the pouch on his belt. Behind him Fu, Hao pressed against her legs comfortably. Shen pulled his paw free of the pouch and opened it. Laying in the centre of his large black paw pad was a flower, not just any flower.
It was the White Rose, the only one from the frosty floors of the Dragon's Pass.
Shen pinched the stem of the flower between his claws and looked at it with squinting eyes. He smiled before kneeling down to the stump of the tree and gently laying the rose in the snow, next to the lantern that he had set down earlier- it's glow illuminated the dark brown of the tree's bark with a deep radiance. He calmly swept up some snow and brushed it over the stem, patting down the ice with his paw. "Sleep well, Mama." He whispered, kissing his paw and placing it against the bark of the tree. "I love you." With all that needed to be said Shen stood to his full height and donned his hat. He turned around and walked back to Fu and Hao, placing an arm around his lover's shoulder. They smiled at each other before turning and walking away. Shen smirked as he reached up to his hat, picking it off his head before dropping it onto Hao's ears.
It fell over the young cub's eyes, too big for his head.
Fu and Shen laughed together at cub.