Disclaimer: I do not own Kung Fu Panda.
How does it end?
Po was restless, he could not sleep. The bed on which he lay felt too much unlike his own back at the Jade Palace; the way it would curve under his weight to fit the shape of his naturally bulbous body. He was sweating, though the air that flowed in from the open window brought forth the crisp coolness of the nightly winter winds outside. Unable to bear it anymore the panda sat up in his bed and swung his legs out over the edge, pulling the woollen covers free of his heated body.
He sighed in exhaustion, rising up his paws to drag them down his long-furred face and over his middle-aged, tired jade eyes. The scars that ran up the length of his forearm itched; it had not escaped his notice as to how frequent they acted so. He reached over and stroked, not scratch, them to settle the tingling sensation.
Then, feeling another itch, to which he had no problem going for, Po scratched his butt.
Pushing from the bed he stood and slightly hissed at the coldness of his bare feet against the wooden flooring. Reaching over Po took hold of a red robe laced with golden embroidery around the rims hanging from a rack on the wall and donned it over his shoulders; it was specially tailored to fit him with the Dragon Warrior's symbol of a golden dragon curled up upon the back.
He again reached for the rack but for the item beneath it lying up against the wall. It was a long staff carved from Steelwood of the Southern Province forests – said to be unbreakable. And the panda had proved that theory when he received it, giving it to Master Tigress to see if she could snap the staff, or at least bend it. The rumours proved true, the tiger master of kung fu could not even create the slightest angle in the wood. The staff length was cut so that it stood just a little high above the Dragon Warrior's head height and carved with such detailed professionalism of the mystical Dragons of Peace and Serenity that Po almost thought himself unworthy to receive such an honourable gift: though that did not stop the panda from almost fainting with awe-struck disbelief and giddiness.
Taking hold of the staff, Po's lightened emerald irises passed over the large room to the bedside stand where a bundle of wrapped scrolls sat in the moonlight with their binding ribbons untied. He had read them all, more times that he could count.
How he missed his home, his friends – his family. He had written back, at least five times to each letter sent if he could remember right. He had been in the Forbidden City for so long that he almost could not believe that it had been well over six months since he left the Jade Palace and the Valley of Peace. He remembered well when the message came that day. Delivered by the head messenger goose, Zeng, it was from the Emperor. The Emperor, the Son of Heaven and ruler of all the Provinces in China. It was a summons, a plea if you will, for the Dragon Warrior. Apparently the Son of Heaven – a Northern Province Tiger – feared for the life of his wife and son. There had been rumours from the Emperor's spies – yes, Po was surprised to find that even the country's beloved ruler needed spies – that a cult planned to assassinate the royal family and ensue chaos throughout the lands before replacing one of their own on the throne – as there would no longer be any heir to take over.
And so, being the Dragon Warrior, as was per his job to keep the peace throughout all of China, Po was honoured to accept such a mission; if only saddened by one thing. He could not bring Grandmaster Shifu or any of the other Furious Five with him. They were all out on other missions to the neighbouring Provinces surrounding the Valley of Peace. Even Tigress – the wife and lover of the Dragon Warrior – was called upon far away from her home a few days before the arrival of the letter. And so that left their child, Po's daughter, Song, named by the panda after the great Lady Wind Song, under the watchful eyes of her grandfathers, Shifu and Mr Ping, to continue on with her training.
Oh, Po sighed, this time with loneliness. How much I would give to hold my little Sing-Song again. Using the nickname her mother gave her. Why can't these Black Dagger dudes at least try to break in, just so they can get a taste of the Dragon Warrior's bodacity and I can go home? Back to my family!
Not that he wasn't thrilled, if at least, to be in the Forbidden Palace it was just that Po wished – he begged – for something to do, for something to happen. Anything! The best he had so far was just training in the Palace courtyards, teaching the Imperial guards in the ways of kung fu or, by the gods united above, sitting at the Emperor's side during his council sessions; and they were the worse!
Guess not everything in the life of the Dragon Warrior is butt kickin' and awesomeness. He thought sarcastically with a little smile. 'Cause those council meetings are certainly not awesome – they're in-awesome! If it wasn't for Song's letters I'm sure I would've gone crazy with boredom. Chuckling at the idea Po slipped on a pair of sandals and ventured out of his personal chambers and into the halls of the vast Palace.
In the half a year's time that Po had spent wondering throughout the gigantic Palace he had developed a keen sense of liking how the endless corridors would fan out across the expanse of the entire grounds, acting as if they were a maze by the multitudes of turns and levels within. One was to surely get lost if they did not keep their bearings. True, Po would admit to having gotten himself misplaced – as he would word it – but there was always a passing servant or council member who would help guide the panda back onto the right track.
And as time passed on from his arrival by carriage to the present, Po soon managed to create a mental image of every walkway, corridor and room within the walls of the Forbidden Palace; just as he had done with his love for kung fu.
His main drive, however, to accomplishing such an insane task was the need to find the Palace kitchens. The most favourite rooms in the entire stronghold just like back in the Jade Palace; giving the Dragon Warrior his secondary pleasure to cook freely for the Imperial family from time to time – another honour, and, as the panda expected without fail, they loved it – though it was mostly to keep him satisfied in both monotony and starvation.
Walking in the shadows of an unlit hallway the Dragon Warrior stayed over to the far side, a force of habit as he would describe it, to make way for the other inhabitants to easily pass by. His sandals and staff softly thumped against the long red and golden carpet that expanded most of the corridor's width. Hundreds of priceless ornaments and knick-knacks standing upon podiums and towering windows ran along the right wall; letting the crescent moon shine its luminous white gleam through the panes and upon the passing panda.
Po stopped for a moment and raised his head to gawk out into the night. There were little clouds blanketing the twilight skyline, giving way to the millions of tiny stars as they glistened beside the moon.
Po exhaled immensely. Even with the moon half gone the Black Daggers won't even dare to break past the outer rim walls. He spotted the small shadows of guards patrolling along the tall fortified walls and scanned the Palace grounds from their sentry towers. Oh, well.. The panda gazed back up to the sky, and thought for a moment. I wonder if Tigress is seeing the same sky as I do now. It would be stupendously, romantically awesome if she could. He paused to consider something. I even wonder if-
The Dragon Warrior broke from his pensive thoughts and snapped his head down to the end of the darkened corridor. The small round ears atop his head perked upwards with intuition. He held a breath of anticipation. A sound had disrupted Po's line of thinking; it was sounded like wood creaking and then..something else. Po stood apprehensively for a few second in the moonlight; he gripped the body of his Steelwood staff tightly.
Probably just the Emperor's son lookin' for the kitchen. He mentally calmed himself, muscles relaxing. Or one of the guards sneekin' a midnight snack – hmm – I might just join them. I'm sure the Palace cooks won't mind if a dumpling goes missing, or two, or forty-t-
The sound came again, the sound of wood creaking. Po had disregarded it the first time out of restlessness. But this time he paid it closer attention, because it sounded like someone was moving about the Palace..
On the ceiling raft supports? Po cocked an eyebrow.
The panda instinctively took hold of his staff in both paws and stepped back into the shadows. His jade orbs took a leering gaze around as he listened for the slightest hint of movement again. Silence, once more. Po growled in his throat at the hush that descended all around, yet he was somewhat pleased at the idea of an intruder running around inside the Forbidden Palace.
Finally! Yes! They decided to attack – uh, I mean – oh, no they decided to attack! Heh-Heh. But I can't seem to pinpoint on them. This calls for drastic measures.
Po swung his head either way of the corridor, as if making sure that no one was about to see what he was about to do. Quietly Po stepped out of his sandals and left them on the edge of the carpet as he lightly treaded back against the wall. He took another glance at each end of the pathway before leaning his head back and closing his eyes.
The panda could not remember the last time he had done this particular action before, though the most vibrant of memories that flashed within Po's mind was of a time many years ago in a small village-town many miles from the Forbidden City. Xi'an it was called. Po reminisced how it was raining that one night, a thunderstorm was present, and he was soaked to the bone with rainfall. He considered the battle, a glorious and most legendary battle that took place on the fields and streets of the settlements between two sides of creatures of immeasurable power – Blood Knights and Pure Ones. Po was there again, in his mind, he was there amongst the fight. He sought deep within himself, feeling through his emotions. All of them. Together they swirled within the panda's soul like raging whirlpool – then it all silenced, and Po opened his eyes as the jade irises darkened then brightened into a brilliant crimson blaze.
He had just turned fully feral – or Flared, as he liked to call it.
Oh, it feels so good to let loose, again! The feral Dragon Warrior blissfully thought as he smirked.
Po stood there in the darkness; letting the feeling of his ancestral powers – the powers of the Pure Ones – wash over him and pulse through his very veins. The world around him sharpened as his feral-enhanced eyes looked around the foyer; the moonlight almost had the potency to blind the panda, yet Po's red orbs adjusted instantly. Other things about his body changed as well: he felt stronger and lighter than usual as if he had the strength of ten gorilla guards stored up inside every muscle. He no longer was tired. And his hearing had become more attuned to even the slightest creak or scurry in the Palace.
Most importantly..he could hear the intruder as if they were standing right next to him.
The feral bear twitched his now highly sensitive ears into the darkness of the Palace, listening as he waited for prowler to shuffle. Then he heard it, as clear as a gong rung in the army's training grounds. Po's head snapped left down the corridor, pushing from the wall – gripping the body of his staff tight in his paw – he dashed down the corridor at a maddening speed. He kept to the carpets, his feral instincts overpowering his natural body so that every sprinting step he took came out in a low muffled fump. Every landing he ran down, every turn he made Po found himself drawing nearer to the intruder as his feral hearing focused in.
I'm surprised they only sent one guy in to do the job. Po's mind analysed as he made another smooth yet sharp turn down the maze of corridors. He was getting closer. Hmm, Po mentally shrugged, more likely an assassin or some crazed lunatic, bent on royal chaos-ticness.. Either way, they are about to get one massive smack down from the Dragon Warrior. He paused in thought, though still continued to run on at the same outrageous speed. A smirk stretched at the corner of his muzzle. Correction..a smack-down by the feral Dragon Warrior.
After a few more burst of dashes round corners and down gigantic carpeted corridors, Po slowed to a halt as he came to the crossroad of a set of windowless passageways. The feral panda slipped up the waxed jade wall and leaned around the corner; his eyes saw nothing down the walkway, but then he spotted a shadow move and lifted his gaze above. His feral-improved eyes pierced the silhouette that waited, still, on the complexity of the wooden rafters hanging from the ceiling. The creature was feline, that much Po could tell for sure, by the way the monochromatic bear spotted the long tail sway about and how the cat crouched on all four of its paws.
Po's smile broadened a little further. Time to say hallo..with a little of my brilliant stealth mode. Glancing up above him Po saw the support beams in the gloom of the ceiling and crouched low before summoning on his ancestral strength and vaulted himself straight upwards till he was about level with the thick wood and reached out. The entire beam groaned under the panda's weight. Po cringed as he hung by foot and paw – his other one still holding onto his staff; the sound seeming like a screaming echo in Po's ears. He froze with apprehension and concern that his sneak attack had been blown. He eyed the feline a slight way ahead.
It had obviously heard the wood and was now aware that of the possibility that they were being followed by someone unknown to them. Lucky for Po, however, the assassin or Black Dagger member faced dead ahead – their back to Po – as they listened into silence.
Po held his breath. Just don't..turn..aro–oh, geez! The figure turned and stared right into the feral Dragon Warrior's bloody irises. So much for the stealth mode then. For a moment the feline seemed mesmerized to see the panda, their jaw hanging open as if to say something, but Po disregarded the stunned stare on account of the sight of his eyes. The Dragon Warrior gave the assassin no chance to utter a word as he took hold of his staff like a javelin and threw it with his feral-enhanced arm. The weapon whistled as it shot with precision accuracy for the feline.
Though as it came within reaching distance the prowler broke from their stupefied as they spun about on their foot and kicked the tip of the staff directly upright and into the ceiling where it became lodged. Po's feral eyes widened for a second. Ah, a kung fu kind of assassin, eh? His eyebrows dipped. Well, let's see what you're like goin' up against a feral. Po leapt from his strut headlong and reached out to take hold of the supports jutting diagonally out from the thick wooden rafter as he swung in a loop before catapulting himself with his foot outstretched to the assassin. The feline knew that they could not dodge in time and so lifted crossed their forearms together and lifted them up against their face. Po's heel struck, and given the extra potency from his feral-improved muscle strength travelled through his body and into the kick as the Black Dagger was sent skidding across the wood in their stance – the creature's block had worked enough.
Po landed on his feet.
Now that he was closer the panda paused to eye up his opponent. He was a panther, fairly strapping for his kind with short dark fur; he wore no clothing besides from a pair of baggy black pants with a faded red sash covering up most of the torso..and no poisons or weapons of any kind to be seen. Po noticed the panther was doing looking over him as well with a more recognising glint in his golden eyes than the panda seemed to give back – the panther dropped his stance. He simply stood there, blinking.
Po growled. He raised a fist to lunge and –
"Whoa! Whoa! Po!" The panther exclaimed as he thrust out his paws in a defensive manner. The feral Dragon Warrior let his face relax as confusion took over.
He regarded the cat, there was something of that voice he just could not put his finger on. "Do I..know you?"
The panther looked hurt at first then blinked as they took a step closer. "Po, it's me. Remember?" He came closer.
Po backed up and raised his arms out of instinct that the intruder would hit back at any given moment, then he saw it – or them. They were not easy to pick out at first glance, even with Po's feral-heightened eyesight, but now that he stood much closer to his questionable foe, he gazed upon the creature's face in amazement; running across the feline's entire face, from the base of his left ear to the bottom right part of his chin ran a parallel of scars barely visible beneath the strands of fur.
But it was the one lone scar sitting perfectly over the left chest side where the blade of a sword had been thrust into the feline's back and stabbed right through his heart – though the muscle still continued to beat harmoniously beneath the skin as if unharmed.
Po froze, his face fell. "Shen?"
Shen, Jing Shen as he was properly named, was a lifelong friend of the panda and so flashed Po a heartfelt smile. "Heh, hey Dragon Warrior, long time no see, huh?"
"..long time.." Po heard himself echo. It was true; it had been many a year since the panda had ever laid eyes upon his colleague. Though this was not Shen's true form, he was really a lion, the disguise of a panther was simply the event of a fateful past that the two knew well enough to keep fresh within their minds. If Po's memory served him correctly it would have been around two decades since the panther and bear parted ways at the Jade Palace; with Jing Shen, his wife Fu, son Hao and newborn daughter Lei all leaving for their home high in the mountains of the village of Xi'an. He had aged quite a bit since that time with the age lines forming around his eye sockets and muzzle; but he still stood with air of a god.
Shen's smile waned a little. "Aren't you glad to see me?"
Po blinked and his eyes faded from the crimson filling back to their soft green colour, he had reverted back to his normal self – or Caged his inner Blood Knight spirit. "Uh, no, no..I mean, yes, of course, it's just that.." Po rubbed the back of his neck. "..it's been so long. I thought you were dead."
Most would have been offended by the comment. Shen, however, broadened his grin and laughed. "Yes, Po, it has. But just because I'm a little older than you doesn't mean I plan on rushing to grave again anytime soon."
Po frowned. "You're about twenty years to my age, Shen; you're about where Shifu was at his age when we went on the search for the White Rose in the Dragon's Pass."
Shen did well to remember that..adventure. "You're one to talk!"
"And talk I can, my dear friend!"
There was a pause, then the two hugged as they continued their laughter. "Ah, Po," Shen said as they separated. "it has been too long, hasn't it? You seem to have lost a bit weight." The Dragon Warrior flushed. "And I see your feral abilities have gotten better since we last met, along with your kung f as it seems."
Po nodded. "I'm sure the same could be said about you, Shen." His eyes travelled over to the Steelwood staff still stuck firmly into the ceiling of the hallway a short way off from the duo.
Shen's yellow irises followed to the weapon. "Oh, I see you got my gift then." He strode over to the staff and circled around it. "I'm guessing you never sent it back because you liked it, then?" Po bobbed his head. Shen reached up and took hold of the end that came to his shoulder height. "Well," He took a constricting hold and took in a deep breath before closing his eyes. When he opened them again Po saw him Flare his inner feral. With a little grunt and a firm yank the walking stick came free; it seemed hardly even scratched. Some splinters and other rubble fell down like snowfall. "I made it knowing that it would be put into good hands." Shen chucked it the kung fu master and Caged.
Po caught it with ease and settled the butt end onto the rafter. "I was almost tempted to send it back, y'know."
Shen rolled his eyes before . "Yeah, right." He said. "I bet that as soon as you knew what it was you went about the Palace screaming your head off like a headless chicken."
"..they can do that?"
Shen shrugged. "Apparently, so I've heard."
Po's smile widened even more as did Shen's, though the two's attention was suddenly drawn beneath them. "Achoo!" Po was careful as he leaned over the edge of the beam support and gazed down upon the Emperor dressed in a night robe. The Northern Province Tiger seemed to be flaked with the dust and tiny splinters that had come free when Shen pulled the staff from the ceiling.
The Emperor looked up to the panda in bewilderment. "Dragon Warrior?" His thick accent riddled his words.
Po flushed a little. "Uh, evening your Majesty."
The Emperor pursed his lips, showing in the darkness that he was a little irritated. He shook his head. "Now I know that my life of politics and council meetings does not fit your general lifestyle of battles, training or showdowns, Dragon Warrior – even I do not enjoy, at maximum, half of them – but I see no point in running around the Palace ceiling just to keep your boredom at bay." He patted his robes and fur to rid himself of the wood dust.
Po opened his mouth to speak, but Shen beat him to it. "Boredom?" He said questioningly. "Your Majesty," He leaned his back against one of the diagonal rafters. "if it was boredom that Po felt, your servants would be out among the City streets searching for all the foods to replace the ones that Po had eaten."
"Hey!" Shen shot the panda a knowing look. Po was silent to respond before he surrendered and shrugged his shoulders. "Yeah." He admitted with a grin.
Shen smiled. "It is simply loneliness: a man who only wants to see his family again." His golden eyes never left Po for a second when he said it.
"Who are you, stranger?" The Son of Heaven spoke with a soft yet demanding air. "Show yourself to me, less I call for the guards. Are you so afraid to reveal your face to me?"
Shen snorted. "Afraid?" The panther pushed away from his leaning support and stepped off as he fell to the ground. Po tried to reach out and stop his friend. He missed, and lost his balance. The panda fell with a yelp and forgot to Flare in time before he face-planted the ground whereas Shen landed on his feet a foot in front of the Emperor.
The tiger took a step back as he expected Shen to attack. Actually, the black cat went in the other direction. He flashed the striped ruler a smile so wide that his white fangs were bare. "Never," Shen spread his arms as he bowed gracefully. "my Lord."
The Emperor gasped. He gawked at Shen as the panther rose. "My word, it -it is you!" He started to shake and point. "Y-you're..the Saviour. The Survivor of Xi'an." Shen bowed just his head at the titles – it was something that he had grown accustom to.
Lifting his head Shen Flared and opened his eyes to the Northern Province Tiger whose yellow irises widened at the sight of the panther's red orbs. "As much I adore those names, your Majesty, I am no one special. I am but a protector, a faithful husband and a loving father." He paused before adding with a sombre. "Do not account me as the only one to have lived on after what happened that day, I beg you."
"Ah, yes," The Emperor with a solemn tendency. "I have heard of the stories myself of the Battle of Xi'an. I can understand your pain. So many lives lost on that day," He paused, stroking the small tuft of fur on his chin that passed for a beard. "including your own if I am correct." He ogled the scar on Shen's chest.
Shen drew in a deep breath. He sighed with a heavy slump of his shoulders. He knew of what day the Emperor spoke of. It was around twenty years ago when the village of Xi'an became the battle ground for one of the greatest wars of its time; a battle when Shen himself had lead on with his friends and family – and a pack of Pure Ones, under the guidance of their alpha, Husto – against Hei Xin, a ruthless black eagle, a Pure One at that, and his risen army of tainted Blood Knights. The battle had last well onto into the stormy night with great losses to either side, but Shen and his horde proved their power against Hei Xin's forces when the panther bit down with his own teeth into the bird's throat.
With their leader lay slain at their feet Hei Xin's army was quick to disband into the forests and mountains of the Dragon Pass, shame and fear chasing them as far away from the village as possible. And Shen had believed, when he saw those defeated Blood Knights flee that day, himself victorious..till he was stabbed through the heart by Hei Xin's General, Chou-Hen, and died on the stone floor of the village Market Square.
A death for which I was not ready. Shen thought optimistically, though his feral eyes were saddened from the memories of those who were not fortunate to live again. It was not my time. And I still remember the little help I got.
Shen bobbed his chin to acknowledge. "Yes, my Lord, you are."
From behind the duo of felines, Po – still lying face down on the red carpet floor – dragged his arm up and cradled his aching cranium as it throbbed. A dazed look fell onto his muzzle and he groaned at the pain he felt in his face.
Oooowww..! Feel free to help me up..anytime, y'know, guys.
"Pure Ones, the divine creatures that are our ancestors. And the Blood Knights – the descendants, though they still choose to live by the name of the Pure Ones, also." The Son of Heaven sighed dreamily as Po's moans went unheard. "I thought they were only stories; myths and legends that my father once told to me when I was a cub. And yet I have been harbouring one within this Palace's sacred walls."
The Emperor was never one to steer away the occasional gossip of his country; devoted as he was to his people and his family, the Northern Province Tiger was quick to learn of the Battle of Xi'an and those whom fought in it. It was one of the reasons he had sent for the Dragon Warrior. He had sent messengers out in search of Shen but the feline somehow could never be found by his friends or those whom had been saved in the village; so Po was the latter of the choices. Upon the Dragon Warrior's arrival, the Emperor was smooth and humble when he spoke of Po's becoming a Blood Knight.
And the panda did not deny it. The rumours of the Blood Knights and Pure Ones had spread like a manifesting flame across the Provinces before Po, Shen and the others – including Husto's pack – had even returned to the Valley of Peace. The myths were true; the secret was out for the entire world to know.
"Master Po has been trying to teach my men the ways of a Blood Knight, trying to get them to become like our ancestors before us. He has even helped me and my family in such matters. As ruler of China it is my duty – and my privilege – to be such a student, though the path seems difficult even if it is so short." His gaze then drifted downwards, past Shen. "I think the Dragon Warrior needs some help."
Shen turned and stared down on Po as the panda continued to caress his head. Oops. "Oops." Shen both thought and said. Kneeling down the panther helped roll the panda onto his back. "Sorry, Po, forgot all about ya for a moment there."
"Ugh," Po groaned a little louder. "I can't feel my face." He face-palmed himself and dragged his large paw down over his long furry muzzle.
Shen chuckled. Po's comments never failed to amuse him. Reaching down he took hold of Po's arm and effortless hoisted the big bear to his feet with his feral-enhanced muscles. Po stumbled a bit when he got back onto his feet once again and instantly Flared to himself stand upright. He shook his head, his flabby cheeks flapping about with his fur.
The Emperor knelt and picked up the staff, he handed it to Po. "Thank you, your Majesty." The Son of Heaven nodded. "Ugh, I think I need something to eat." He said. Though he felt powerful in his current state, there were some things even being a Blood Knight had limitations to.
"Come with me." The Emperor stepped up. "I was on my way to one of the kitchens as it were."
The one of many Palace kitchens that were positioned throughout the Forbidden Palace were of quite the inspiration. Po remembered when he first laid eyes on each and every one of them; each fitted with an entire wall section of cupboards and shelves stacked full of ingredients and mountains of foods.
But still, The monochromatic bear continued to think. it reminds me of home; the kitchen back in the Jade Palace where Shifu, Tigress, Song and I would laugh. I liked how Tigress laughed – I still do. He sighed both mentally and physically. I miss them so.
Po sat in one of the chairs positioned alongside the large smooth mahogany table that lay stationed in the middle of the room. His staff lay at his side. Shen stood just within Po's vision, leaning on the cupboards running along the rim of the kitchen with his arms folded over his bare chest. His face was wore a strange expression, and Po could tell that Shen was lost in a sea of his own thoughts.
Both men had Caged when they entered the room whilst the Emperor began working about, collecting three small cups and an iron kettle to put over the rekindled stove. Po's eyes followed the tiger about. He almost appear like an ordinary man. He thought through the headache that he had received from the fall. It was the way the Son of Heaven moved about the place, knowing exactly which draw to find the mugs in and where the stashes of tea leaves lay hidden. Although, spend a lifetime in a place such as this and it would be easy enough for anyone to find almost anything in any room.
With the striped feline's back blocking most of the view, Po craned his neck as various unknown ingredients were added and the boiled water poured when the kettle whistled. The tiger handed each Blood Knight a cup before settling at the head of the table. "Drink, Master Po, it is an old remedy that was passed down through my mother's side of the family; it should help clear that headache of yours."
Po lifted up his mug. "Cheers." The Emperor lifted his cup to the toast; Shen did it with only half the enthusiasm. All three men sipped their hot beverages. "Hmm, an herbal tea remedies, your Majesty?" Po observed as he flavoured the drink, the thumping in his head began to settle.
The tiger nodded. "An ancient recipe. I would be happy to give it to you, Dragon Warrior." Po smiled with gratitude as he took another sip of the hot tea. The Emperor's gaze then crept over to Shen. "Master Shen," The panther's musing broke and he glimpsed up. He had never been called 'Master' before. "you are unusually quite there in the shadows." Po faced Shen as well, concern in his jade eyes. "Are there troubling thoughts that occupy your mind?"
Shen sighed and he set his still filled cup aside. "Your Majesty, I trust you know that my intentions of finding my way past your guards and into your sacred Palace are of good cause and mean to do you no harm." The Emperor titled his head in recognition. "But I have been in search of Po for these past few months. It was only by my passing through the streets of the Valley of Peace, on my search, that I heard the local words of the Dragon Warrior's presence in the Forbidden Palace – I was thankful enough to find him."
Po frowned as he regarded Shen with an inquisitive stare. The odd expression on his colleague's face made the panda shiver uncomfortably despite the warmth of the room. Something's up, I'd know that look anywhere! "What's wrong, Shen?"
The panther heaved another heavy sigh, it was riddled with regret..and anger. "What do you remember about my son?"