Kung Fu Panda
The Long Night
Chapter VIII: The Empress
"Shifu, I am happy to see you again." the Empress says.
I am looking at her. She wears her white-scarlet dress. Her most beautiful one. She is a Red panda and despite her advanced age still very attractive. I can't detect much white on her fur and her aquamarine blue eyes are still looking charming. Different from the Red Panda at her side: He wears an old brown garment with a green belt, an old staff and from his red fur I can't detect much anymore. At least his white moustache looks good enough.
"Me as well. We had not much time to talk in the last years…" Grand Master Shifu replies.
He looks at me, who I am hidden behind the pillars of the Palace. But to be hidden is not important now. They should see me, while I observe them.
"Yes since my marriage we had not talked." the Empress replies walking the path and ignoring me completely. I follow them.
"Yeah,…" Shifu nods without stopping to look at me, "Can we talk in a more private place?"
"That will not be possible." the Empress explains without looking at me, "The Shadow Division needs to have at least one pair of eyes stuck to me. This is law here in the palace. But at least we can see him."
I wanted to be seen, but out of a different reason the Empress thinks: She should think I belong to the Shadow Division while I spy her and Grand Master Shifu of the Valley of Peace. That is a too delicate job that I would have given it to Zhu Li.
"I see….things here are different than in the Valley of Peace.", Shifu summarizes and finally lets me of the hook. The Empress stops and looks at him.
"Of course they are different than in your Valley. This is the Imperial Palace after all." she continues walking, "Don't bother the Shadow Division. Their goal is to protect the Imperial Family and not to spy on them."
This time not, Empress, this time not…
Grand Master Shifu nods. "I see…."
"So what brings you here, Shifu?" the Empress asks directly.
Shifu hesitates with the answer. "Your husband has died. I've come to…comfort you."
She stops again and looks at him. "Comfort me? Have you decided different now, that my husband is dead?"
Shifu looks pale first, but then regains his composure. Serious he replies: "No. My last decision was final."
The Empress seems to be disappointed, but hides it immediately. I seem to have hit the motherlode.
"I see…" she replies sad.
"Only because of that it doesn't mean we can't be friends. Like earlier as well. I miss the talks we had. We…." Shifu wants to explain, but she interrupts him: "But still your decision is final. When you thought that I could forget this, then you were wrong." she leaves the path and comes closer to the Garden of Heaven. It is snow white out there and it is snowing again. She stops at the border from the Palace to the Garden. I can't see her face anymore.
"But….we were friends. Since childhood even…You were…are the best friend I've ever had. It was never my intention to break these bonds with you." Shifu says also sad.
"But you have." the Empress replies more sad than cold after a while, "When you decided to take the Valley and not me."
Slowly a picture forms in my head.
"Then….please at least let me be your pillar during your period of grief." Shifu offers.
She turns around to him. She seems to have cried a little. Then she smiles and it is very warm. "Very well."
It is the first time I have seen the Empress smile like this. I would have never thought that she and the greatest Kung Fu Master of China were a pair once. They continue their walk.
"How is it looking at the Court now?" Shifu asks.
"Pretty well for what I've expected. The strongest factions still struggle about who could be the next Emperor."
Still….yeah. But I will change this.
"And you? You have everything what you need?"
"Not everything." she replies with the sad voice again, "But it is enough. As long as no new Emperor is chosen, I am still the Empress and need to rule. But what happens afterwards….I don't know. My influence at the court is not so big like I've wished, because I had never a child."
But still it is remarkable. Two of the ministers are on your side and these guys to top it all need to have control over two armies. Whoever you support has much better chances to become Emperor that is for sure.
"Is there something I can help you with?"
She looks at him with almost an arrogant smile. "No, there is nothing a Grand Master of Kung Fu could do for me. This is not your world, the World of Kung Fu and Honor. This is the world of Intrigues and Lies. You would have not withstood even a day here."
Shifu herms. Seems that this comment is not to his liking although it is true. The Court is the wrong place for something like honor, when you want to survive.
"I see….and the heir…are there candidates?"
"Yes. Don Ya the pig, the guy who has probably killed my husband is on the list. Also Yu Thong, the peacock of Gongmen City is a candidate. Also…" she replies listing every of my rivals. I know them all.
She is good informed. I need to look out for her information network.
"And don't forget the Lost Princess as well." she ends her list.
"The Lost Princess?" Shifu asks disbelievingly, "Who is supporting her?"
"Only one person: my dear deceased husband. He has proclaimed her to the heir before he died."
Shifu looks obviously surprised.
"But no one knows, if she is still alive or not. No one knows even how she looks. That is crazy."
"But still it is the wish of my husband." she replies more serious than I have expected, "Mibu is searching for her right now. He and the White Wolves. If there is someone on the world, who could find her, then it is him. And it is not so that we don't know anything about her: She is a tiger like my deceased husband."
"I know…but there are too many tigers in China to find her there."
"Is that so? I've heard that you have raised an orphaned tigress. Maybe it is her."
"She isn't. I checked it…properly."
"I see…then you will be interested in news: There are not so many Tigers in China like you wish."
"What do you mean?"
"For months already tigers all over China seem to vanish. Complete villages seem to be empty over night."
"That is impossible. There needs to be an explanation."
"Hopefully there is one, but till now no one has found it."
Very interesting story here. Odd that the Empress knows about this…..has the Emperor ordered this even before he died? She is too good informed.
"When I will return to the Valley, I will start to investigate in this matter."
She stops again and looks at him. "So you will leave?"
He is surprised, but replies fast enough: "I will stay….I will stay as long as you need me."
She seems to be relieved. We change directions and I can see two further black dressed figures at this way. Seems that my detachment has come and even with a good timing.
I nod and leave them be. I have heard enough for my plans….for now.
I return to the place, where I have dressed and change to my red garment. I slowly leave this place and begin to walk causally to my rooms.
"When this is not Don Ya.", I hear a voice from behind me. A not pleasant one.
I turn around and see the guy I want to see the least: Yu Thong only called the Peacock of Gongmen City here. He was the brother of the rulers of Gongmen City, but has left it already long before they died to serve at the Imperial Court. He is longer here than me and has much more experience. And I should not forget that he was my mentor once. He showed me everything and I've outrun him. Now we are equal.
"I greet you Yu Laoshi.", I reply in a polite manner. Smile when you are angry...
He wears his black garment. Once he wore a white one, but has not done this since his nephew Shen has tried something too cocky for China in Gongmen City. He declared that he is still loyal to the Throne and they believed him. But I dislike the matter that he has investigated in the issue after Shen was beaten. I don't want to imagine what he could have found useful back then.
"I greet you too, Don Ya. Has been a while since we had seen each other."
That was a lie. We had seen us the last time this morning during the Meeting of the Court to discuss who could be the next Emperor. But I have not talked with him in private for a while.
"You are right, Yu Laoshi. I hope you are still healthy."
The opposite would be much better. He is the most dangerous rival for me.
He grins evilly and this doesn't fit to him. "Don Ya, I know I have taught you this, but can we save the formalities for later?"
He wants to talk open. That is bad! He does this only when he has an ace.
"Very well." I reply not showing my fears on my face.
"I have searched for you, because I have a message."
"Yes. The Leader of the Shadow Division has died one hour ago."
What?! I act concerned, although this time it is not a real act.
"Seems that he was poisoned. Tse, tse…to use poison at a time like this and then on the most important person to guarantee the safety of us all after Mibu has departed. What a bad Omen."
He knows that I have poisoned the Emperor. Hope that he has no proof.
"Indeed. I hope they catch the murderer fast."
And that is you for sure.
"I hope as well. But till then a new Leader of the Shadow Division is needed and that as fast as possible."
What are you getting at?
"And I have even a very good message for me with this: I was nominated."
I don't know if my face looks happy, but I hope so. Yu would have not said me this, if he would not be sure he gets this position. 100% sure. That is not good.
"I congratulate you to this nomination." I say finally and bow down. He comes a step closer to me and whispers to my ear: "You have no chance against me Don Ya. You have started this game, but I will end it."
He bows down as well and then leaves me there.
The day has become a bit worse now.
I turn around immediately as well and almost storm to my rooms. Hope Zhu Li will be there. I need to create a plan as fast as possible to counter this development or my chances will be not very optimistic.
I reach my rooms, which are found at the Palace Ground. It is an independent building big enough for a whole family, but I am living there alone. Such buildings every member of the Imperial Family has even, when they are in the Palace itself most of the day or the Court.
I reach and enter it without hesitation. I look around. No servants here at this time of the day like I know.
"Zhu Li!" I shout and look around in the building. It doesn't bother me that it looks here like no one would live here. I will live finally, when I can sit down on my throne.
I shout again, while entering the living room. There I see him. He is standing in a dark corner.
"Zhu Li, there you are. I have called for you. Why…?" I begin to talk to him, while he turns around to me.
I stop immediately. On Zhu Li's head is a third eye and all of his eyes are pitch black.
"Finally you have come…." he says with not his voice. It sounds like his voice mixed with another strange voice. I don't think I am standing in front of Zhu Li right now.
"Who are you?"
The voice chuckles. It sounds horrific.
"A clever one what? I am not Zhu Li, when you refer to this, although I am using his body right now."
"His body? About what are you talking?"
"It would take time for me to answer and I don't have some to waste it anymore. Let's say that Zhu Li will remember this conversation as a bad dream."
I calm down slowly. Somehow….I don't feel the fear from before anymore. This guy…he is no harm for me….I don't know from where I know this.
"What do you want?"
"To talk with you of course. I have an offer for you."
"An offer? What offer?"
"An offer, which can be of use for your fight for the throne….Of course I want something for this."
This guy is well informed, but I will not stay in the weaker position.
"So you want to sign a deal with me, is that right?"
He nods. "Correct, Don Ya."
"Then I want to know who you are."
"Why should this matter?"
I have him there where I want to have him. "Because I don't sign deals with strangers."
First he doesn't react – Zhu Li's body looks almost like a puppet, which strings were cut – but then he returns and grins evilly.
"Very well Don Ya. But I need to inform you, that I was given many names and no one is really right."
"Then tell me the right one."
"There lies the problem. I have no right one."
"So you have no name, do you want to tell me this?"
"No, like I said I have many. And actually I prefer the name Player. You can call me this way."
When he said this I felt like the temperature in the room has dropped. I shake my head. It needs to be my imagination.
"So you are a player what? What you play then?"
He chuckles. "Only one Game is worth my skills."
He stares at me. "The Game of Life and Death."