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The Life and Times of Lord Shen [KFP2 fic 1/?]

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Jun. 2nd, 2011 | 08:51 pm

Title: The Life and Times of Lord Shen

Fandom: Kung Fu Panda (2)

Summary: A collection of stories on the albino peacock of Gongmen City. (1. ghost boy: A prince is born too early, too white, and too weak to cry.)

Disclaimer: I don’t own anything related to Kung Fu Panda or its sequel(s) and spin-offs, that’s all DreamWorks’ honor.
Spoilers: Both Kung Fu Panda movies.

A/N: I’ve only seen Kung Fu Panda 2 once, but hope to see it a second time soon (and give more ref/inspiration for this fic). And this has been mostly started in earnest because I haven’t seen any really substantial Lord Shen fic at all yet (which I think makes sense, since the movie hasn’t been out long).

ghost boy

The Peacock clan’s new prince had hatched prematurely, with too small a body and with too weak a voice to cry. Worst of all was that he was randomly, freakishly, permanently a sickish and deathly pale white. Commoner and noble peacock alike; from the villages to Gongmen City; all other manner of beast in the province—together, they whispered over such a bad omen befalling the Peacock clan’s new heir. All agreed he would not be long for this world.

Deeper within the court, the royal physician whispered even more quietly, his doubts that the Lord and his Lady could conceive again.

Distraught, they lingered less and less by their son’s side—their son who wasn’t entirely silent, whose coughs wracked his pathetically small body; whose eyes had not opened once, even when they had shaded him from the light as much as possible and left him in cool darkness. Who still hadn’t cried, or shrieked, or chirped. Just that agonizing cough.

Finally they stopped coming altogether. Their physician and nursemaids no longer stayed in the room, keeping vigil in the hall, waiting to be called upon by their Soothsayer advisor—only she remained with the hatchling.

And when Prince Shen did open his eyes, hers was the first face he saw.

But still, he did not cry.

###

At four years old, the Prince did not speak.

Citizens of the province were now convinced he was ill in the head as well. Or they entertained the notion he was mute. Mute and deaf and dumb.

Still the province hadn’t completely given up on expecting him to die—the boy had grown, but not much. It had been rumored how his body was still definitely ill, weak and runty, taken to bed much of the time. His feathers still a doomed white.

Shen remained in the Soothsayer’s care. He stayed in her apartment on the castle’s grounds. He liked to follow the elderly goat wherever she went. Her guardianship had gone on with tacit, silent permission, until finally the Soothsayer and the Prince’s parents had a brief conversation to officially transfer responsibility, and to tentatively discuss some plans for the boy’s future should he continue living. The boy was of course not present for such a meeting, or even cognizant of such detail.

Shen was cognizant of writing though. He could read. He could take direction. Though the Soothsayer could teach him all that, she could not get him to speak, even if that had been the first thing she tried.

No matter how much the Soothsayer pointed at an object and repeated its name, Shen would not say a word. He would stare intently though; the Soothsayer knew he understood—but his beak remained closed.

Finally she showed him how to write a character, just one. Then the Soothsayer pressed the brush into his feathers, and he copied her on a new sheet. It was a childish scrawl befitting his age, but it was legible. She continued teaching him how to write, and went on to vocabulary, taught him how to string sentences together, the rules and parts of grammar. That, Shen grasped.

The Soothsayer thought that would get Shen to read aloud, but no such luck. At least he could write down the name of practically any object she pointed to, unless it was something he’d never seen or learned about before.

The Prince’s parents fared no better. When the problem had first become noticeable, they had Shen brought before them.

Lord Baojia and Lady Fen tried to ignore any pangs they felt at the way the boy stood behind the Soothsayer, clutching at her cloak, shooting them nervous and confused looks. They had left the boy in their advisor’s care, after all.

Still, it wasn’t as if this was the first time since they had seen him when he was a hatchling. The Soothsayer had told Shen before they were his parents, had pointed them out. But encounters between his birth and this point were few and far in between. Shen knew who his mother and father were, yes—but the boy had trouble remembering the last time he saw them. This, of course, he kept to himself.

The Lord and his Lady approached him, trying to talk with the boy, get him to answer their questions (“how are your lessons?” “what have you learned?” “have you been good for your Nana?”). As they steadily spoke and their son steadily said nothing, except nodding or shaking his head to their questions that were ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ it wasn’t lost on the couple that this would be the longest conversation they had with Shen. Things were even more awkward as the boy kept shrinking closer and closer to the Soothsayer as his parents approached, the Soothsayer trying to detach the boy and have him face his parents. It got to a point where the young peacock and the goat walked in a stubborn circle for a full five seconds as their goals conflicted, before their Lord ordered them to stop, and they realized the elder peacocks no longer drew close.

The dismissal was not unkind, and the Prince felt lighter once he was out of the throne room, but the Soothsayer’s mind was even more uneasy.

She said as much in private with her masters. Eventually, the Soothsayer left Shen with his father for a little while. Baojia had some free time before his next meeting with the council—his wife, however, was not. She had travelled to another village, trying to smooth over the latest scandal with her youngest sister. In the time in between, the Soothsayer had told the boy more about his parents; told him it was all right to be nervous since he wasn’t used to them; tried to get him more accustomed more to the idea of being alone with them. He’d silently absorbed the information and even hesitantly nodded when the Soothsayer made him promise to try with his father, and to be good the day before. But still on the actual day, Shen shot the Soothsayer a desperate look when his father’s back was to him.

The Soothsayer smiled softly, but shook her head all the same, and went down the stairs, leaving the two peacocks alone.

Lord Baojia silently regarded his son, carefully observing him (trying to ignore the chill down his spine at the boy’s ominous color). Shen looked down at his talons, fidgeting. His head didn’t make it to the top of Baojia’s leg. (He should’ve by now, shouldn’t he? If he were well....)

“You’ve seen Master Thundering Rhino spar, yes?” Baojia asked, remembering that Rhino had told him of his son watching him and the other warriors practice Kung Fu, with avid interest—only to dash off when Rhino called out to the boy. Baojia would only admit to himself his immediate flash of disappointment then, after feeling a spark of tentative pride; but he’d acknowledged Master Rhino’s wisdom, when the warrior had said Shen was no different from other young children who were intimidated by his size. He’d even remarked that it wouldn’t be too long before he was ready to start training—to which Baojia declined. Rhino had bowed solemnly, taking his leave, reminding his Lord that such great protection may not be in the Prince’s best interests at the end of the day.

Shen’s eager nod brought Baojia back from once again considering Rhino’s words. “So you know of the Kung Fu arts, then?”

Again, the boy nodded happily. He liked Kung Fu—watching Master Thundering Rhino and the other warriors, hearing the stories from the Soothsayer.

“Where did you learn about them?”

Shen’s smile faltered; and he began to twist the end of his robe. He knew there was something wrong with him, he wasn’t an idiot. His color wasn’t right and he was too small, too weak, and he got sick a lot; and even when his throat wasn’t sore, it would grow tight and no voice would ever come out, while everyone just talked and talked over his head, and a lot of the time they thought he couldn’t hear or understand anything they said, when of course he could. He wasn’t an idiot.

Baojia withdrew. “It was the Soothsayer, correct?”

Shen nodded; his throat loosened. Nana was right about his father being kind.

What has she told you about Kung Fu?

“Did she tell you were Kung Fu came from?” Baojia asked instead.
Shen shook his head, his eyes wide.

Lord Baojia wrapped one wing gently around his son’s shoulders, and guided him to the throne. He sat down, and made room for the boy (he didn’t have to give much), and had him sit before him, both wings wrapped around his small frame. Shen was calm in his father’s embrace. It occurred to Baojia he had never held his son before.

“Across the sea, there is a place called the Galapagos Islands. A thousand or so years ago, a tortoise swam all the way from there to China. His name was Oogway....”

Shen listened, entranced, but said nothing when Baojia was done, had no questions. But he was smiling, and waiting. Baojia told him more stories, of Oogway’s student Shifu, of the Sword of Heroes, of the Dragon Warrior legend.

Baojia could tell the boy was entertained, and nestled in closer to him with each story, but the Lord was growing more frustrated with his silence. The Soothsayer told him the boy could read and write; he could comprehend, he understood ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions. Then why would he say nothing? They had even had the Prince’s throat examined by the physician, who had said that it was perfectly fine. It wasn’t like when Shen had been too weak to cry when first hatched, and even then he eventually gained the strength to speak that infantile language. Although there had been times when Shen had grown sick with a sore throat, and couldn’t even cough—the only sound Baojia had ever heard from his son were coughs, followed by cries, and not even that now. That could be just due to age, but Shen never even gave a weepy temper tantrum (though admittedly Baojia didn’t see the boy enough to know if he did have temper tantrums).

Baojia finished with a story of Shen’s grandfather, his predecessor. Afterward, the boy still remained quiet.

Baojia scooted his son off the throne. “One day,” he told Shen, “when you’re older, you will sit here, by yourself.” He went to the stairs, the boy trailing behind him.

“How does that sound to you, son?” Baojia tried again.

The boy flashed him a quick, wide-eyed look, then looked down at his walking talons and pulled at a string on his robe, a nervous tic.

“Shen?”

His son continued staring at his talons.

Lord Baojia felt some of his control slip. “Shen, answer me,” and he grabbed the boy’s shoulder too tightly, and at the wrong moment. Shen was in mid-step, and stumbled, almost falling. His father pulled him back to a firm step, his grip tightening even more; Shen winced, his eyes squeezed shut for a second.

“Are you all right?” Baojia asked, checking the boy over, his shoulder. He had not meant to—his son was weak, what if he’d hurt him?

Shen shook his head, looking mutinous. Baojia felt nothing broke in his shoulder; relieved, he hadn’t seen the mutiny in his son’s red eyes.

Stiffly Lord Baojia continued down, Shen following still. Baojia stopped at a landing halfway down the tower, Shen abruptly coming to a halt and almost treading on his father’s tail feathers.

“I have a meeting to attend now; the Soothsayer should be in the library.” And Baojia stepped down again—but froze when he felt a tug on his sleeve. He looked up to his son, grasping it. “What is it?”

Baojia felt some expectation when Shen opened his beak—then snapped it shut, uncertain.

He finally lost all control.

“I don’t have any more time for your dead silence, boy,” Baojia snapped, tugging his sleeve away and walking down the stairs without a backwards glance at his son. Already he kicked himself for his poor choice of words—especially ‘dead.’ But gods, how could it not pop in his head with the boy’s damned color mocking him, his silence as deep as any white ghost, his weakness and poor health pointing to an early grave and the end of his family’s bloodline? Would the child even live long enough to sit on the throne?

Shen watched his father’s back, until it disappeared, followed by his tail feathers.

The Prince lingered for a time.

###

After setting down tea and a small bowl of dumplings, the Soothsayer heard the click of talons on the floor, and turned to watch her child walk in, his small frame deflated.

“Something sweet and warm for my Prince,” she said, pouring him a cup. Shen dragged himself over and accepted the cup. The Soothsayer glanced pointedly at the dumplings, but Shen didn’t grab one.

At least he quietly drank his tea, though his red eyes were distant. The Soothsayer found them too distant for someone his age.

“Would you like me to tell you a story?”

Shen slammed his empty cup down.

“No more stories.”

The Soothsayer stared after Shen as he dashed for his room, her heart heavy with a bitter shock.

At four years old, the Prince spoke.

A/N: I found online that Baojia means “protects the family,” and Fen means “fragrant.” Baojia sounded neat and had an interesting meaning in relation to this fic, and Fen…well, just sounded neat to me and superficially said something about Shen’s biological mother’s beauty. And I’m just making up these names (and personalities and histories) for Shen’s parents, since they’re key figures in the movie, but they are kind of blank slates—blank enough to not get names, as far as I know. And the hierarchy I was going with was just Prince (or Princess) to Lord (or Lady) in the Peacock clan, who I say rule a relatively large province (Gongmen Province) with Gongmen City as their capital, whom I say Master Thundering Rhino has worked with for a while; and I also say that since it’s a Peacock clan, there’s the peacock royalty in charge, the peacock nobility and the peacock commoners, along with other animals such as the wolf guards, rabbits, antelope, sheep, etc. in Gongmen City/Province, who are under peacock rule or whomever they appoint. Ah, fanon. Oogway from the Galapagos Islands is pretty much canon though, according to “The Art of Kung Fu Panda.” Thanks for reading, and please review. There’ll be another update to this (hopefully soon).
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Comments {11}

Paradoxal Reality

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from: parareality
date: Jun. 3rd, 2011 05:41 pm (UTC)
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Loving it so far! The relationship between Soothsayer and Shen definitely casts a new pall on their interactions in KFP2.

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scribe_protra

(no subject)

from: scribe_protra
date: Jun. 3rd, 2011 11:01 pm (UTC)
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This is really well written.

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greedyslayer

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from: greedyslayer
date: Jun. 4th, 2011 12:09 am (UTC)
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Thanks. :)

You've seen KFP2 too? (How did you like it?)

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scribe_protra

(no subject)

from: scribe_protra
date: Jun. 4th, 2011 06:33 am (UTC)
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I have.

I loved it SO MUCH dfishtoisjfosjiojlaskflsf zomg! So hilarious and badass and wonderful! just as good if not better then the first one.

Though I liked Tai Lung more then Shen, ngl.

[ships Po/Tai Lung like whoa]

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greedyslayer

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from: greedyslayer
date: Jun. 5th, 2011 08:02 pm (UTC)
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...I think I may like Shen more than Tai Lung? Or it's still my original feeling of liking them equally, I'm not sure.

But I do have a soft spot for Po/Tai Lung. Though I was getting more Po/Tigress vibes. :) But except for "A Different Lesson" and any other good fic on it, I really don't care for Tai Lung/Tigress.

Think you'll ever write KFP fic, at least a little?

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scribe_protra

(no subject)

from: scribe_protra
date: Jun. 5th, 2011 11:36 pm (UTC)
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Shen and Tai Lung need to hang out and bitch about their parents and Po am I right? :D I liked Shen lots but Tai Lung grabbed hold of my overies heart and has yet to let go.

Is there any good Po/Tai Lung that you know of? I've only given the fandom a small glance and not an indept search.

If you want to do a chaos thread, I would be up for it! But sadly, other then a vage urge to write Tai Lung/Shen/(Po) where the villians are only using each other to obsese over Po porn, I got no ficbunnies.

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greedyslayer

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from: greedyslayer
date: Jun. 6th, 2011 07:33 pm (UTC)
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Shen and Tai Lung need to hang out and bitch about their parents and Po am I right?

Absolutely. I was thinking the same along those lines. My first concrete plotbunny with that starts with answering my own question--like, according to the time line, 20 years ago, Shen overhears the prophecy that a warrior of black and white will defeat him. I can't stop thinking, wouldn't Tai Lung be the obvious first suspect for that prophecy? Sure, he's a bit more gray, but I still consider black and white part of his core colors, and I think even the "Art of Kung Fu Panda" says he still does have the black and white to parallel Po. Anyway, the only reason I can think of for Shen not trying to go after Tai Lung is that by then Tai Lung has already gone on his rampage and been imprisoned, and I think that would effectively cross him out on Shen's list of suspects. So I was toying with the idea of AU fic that gives 'em an extra year, 21 years ago instead, and so Shen goes after Tai Lung but decides he can't just try torching the whole Valley since he could lose Tai Lung in the chaos. And essentially the fic would about Shen and Tai Lung, and I'd want it to end so that they don't go completely down their canon paths (though that doesn't mean all hell won't break loose somehow--I still want Po with Ping since I love their relatioship, but that apparently demands panda genocide attempts). I just want some fix-it fic for these guys, since though it's pretty awesome, their canon's pretty bleak.

Hmmm, I'd have to check myself. Right now I can only think of a fic where their growing friendship is awesome, and if you look between the lines you could see the ship, but the fic does have Tai Lung/Tigress and Po/Wu Sister. It's called "A Different Lesson" on fanfiction.net. Admittedly, I think the fandom leans more toward het--and het is cool, but some slash would be nice, like equal amounts. 'Cause there's Po/Tai Lung, and I've been inexplicably shipping the Big Bads Tai Lung/Shen since watching the sequel.

Ooh, yeah, a chaos thread would be great! (Commentfic thread like with BLoSC, right?) Should we do it on your journal or mine? I'm actually all for Tai Lung/Shen/(Po), though I had different thoughts. Like, reluctant grudging team-up (or again sorta fix it AU where Tai Lung and Shen didn't go completely off the deep end 20 years ago, though they're still recognizably themselves and screwy--a lot screwy in Shen's case) between Tai Lung and Shen and Po, 'cause I can't get over being amused by the fact they'd be like the Monochromatic/Black-and-White Trio. And just any interaction between the three, two, or individually would be great. So I'm cool with only giving you just variations of Tai Lung/Shen/Po if you want. :)

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scribe_protra

(no subject)

from: scribe_protra
date: Jun. 7th, 2011 03:09 am (UTC)
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I am waaaanting the Art books so badly.

Your brain is full of amazing shiny genius brain thought of awesome. just so you know.


That AU idea sounds utterly fascinating.

Shen and Tai Lung being grey hats instead of black hats makes me fangirl heart all aflutter. :D if you ever write that I would read it.

Yep, like that commentfic thread with BLoSC. I'm find with either journal and oddly enough, fine with writing any character or pairing.

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greedyslayer

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from: greedyslayer
date: Jun. 8th, 2011 01:01 am (UTC)
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OMG, the Kung Fu Panda Art books are amazing. X)

Wow, thank you so much. ^_^

Shen and Tai Lung being grey hats instead of black hats makes me fangirl heart all aflutter. :D if you ever write that I would read it.

Thank you for succintly summing up what I'd like to do with them! Referring to Shen and Tai Lung as grey hats instead of black hats is so much simpler than all that explanation I had to do, not to mention catchy. I'll have to let you know when I read that, along with the AU (though those are pretty much connected, I think).

We could start the chaos thread on my lj:

http://greedyslayer.livejournal.com/162569.html

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scribe_protra

(no subject)

from: scribe_protra
date: Jun. 8th, 2011 03:05 am (UTC)
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:D :D I am loking forward to reading them so much. So muvh

Weeee fun funfunfun!

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Zari-sensei

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from: azardarkstar
date: Jun. 16th, 2011 10:50 pm (UTC)
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Very nicely done. I did wonder about Shen being an albino and all the implications there in. In the movie, the Soothsayer claims that his parents loved him enough to die when he left, but of course, we have no idea if that was the truth or the truth from a certain point of view.

Assuming there is more to come, I'm looking forward to that.

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