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Inner Peace

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Po happily lined bowls up his arm and shoulder and filled them with his father’s special soup. He let them slide onto the tray for Monkey to give to the villagers. He looked around the makeshift restaurant with pride. Despite the devastation, they’d been able to clear the courtyard of the old palace. They found mismatched tables and chairs for a large open air eating space. They set up a large red tent with enough stoves and pots (made from Shen’s old cannon) to cook for all the workers.

“You saved us from Lord Shen, Dragon Warrior. There is no need for you to do this,” a bunny said timidly. He clutched his hat in his hands and looked up at Po with wide eyed awe.

Po grinned and filled a bowl. He handed it down to the bunny. “Cooking’s my second love after kung fu. Besides, we all have to keep our strength up. Cleaning up Gongmen City is hungry work.”

The bunny smiled, bowed, and went off to squeeze in at one of the tables.

Po looked around again. He caught sight of the group of pigs who’d helped Master Shifu recover Master Thundering Rhino’s hammer from the wreckage. They were chattering animatedly and laughing amongst themselves but Shifu wasn’t among them.

Po thought on the fallen hero and had a sad feeling in his gut. For once, it wasn’t his stomach grumbling. He swallowed heavily. He wasn’t hungry.

Tigress threw her tray down, grabbed a bowl, nudged Po out of the way, and filled it. “All of the villagers have been taken care of,” she announced.

“Where’s Master Shifu?”

Tigress inhaled the savory aroma. She smiled despite herself. She frowned when she caught Po watching her. “He said he wasn’t hungry.”

Po untied his apron. “I’ll be back.”

If Tigress answered, Po didn’t pay attention. He climbed a nearby hill to the temple, which thankfully avoided any of the fighting. He was panting and couldn’t speak when he found Shifu sitting under a sacred peach tree with the hammer wrapped in linen by his side.

Shifu sat very still with his legs crossed. One of his small hands rested on the head of the hammer and didn’t even take up half the space. He didn’t open his eyes but his ears twitched.

Po rested with his hands on his knees. “Master,” he wheezed. “Master Shifu.”

“Po,” Shifu returned quietly.

Po stumbled closer and fell heavily to his knees. A peach hit him in the head and landed on the ground next to him. He ignored it.

Shifu blinked and regarded Po serenely. “Po.”

“Are you okay?” Po blurted out.

“I am well.”

Po frowned. “I know that you have the whole inner peace thing going but…”

Shifu tilted his head to the side. “But what?” he asked curiously.

Po stared at Shifu’s hand resting on the hammer. “I thought I felt…I don’t know…” his voice trailed off in embarrassment.

“Sit with me, Po.”

Po propped his back against the tree next to Shifu. “I’m sorry. I…”

“I am mourning him, Po,” Shifu interrupted calmly.

“Okay,” Po said slowly.

Shifu patted the hammer. “I know Thundering Rhino’s fate is that which awaits us all. He’s gone on to that next great journey.”

“It’s a journey I hope not to take for a long time.”

Shifu sighed and cracked the barest smile. “It is inevitable, but that does not mean we cannot mourn.” He paused for a brief moment. His eyes seemed to mist over but in a blink that was gone. “He was my friend.”

“You studied kung fu together under Master Oogway,” Po said excitedly.

“And under his father.”

Po stomped on the urge to jump up and down. “The Legendary Flying Rhino.”

“Settle down, Po,” Shifu said mildly.

“Sorry,” Po said just as excitedly. “But Thundering Rhino’s impenetrable horn defense and that hammer. He was one of the warriors who defeated the hundred jackals at the base of the Misty Mountain.”

“I know. I was there,” Shifu interrupted dryly.

“When you two were young, you were as awesome as the Furious Five,” Po gushed. He frowned almost comically. “Not that you don’t still kick butt now.” he stammered. “You’re still awesome.”

Shifu shook his head ruefully. “Go back down and join the others.”

Po grabbed his peach and stood. He looked down at Shifu solemnly. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

Shifu never lifted a finger from the hammer. He waved Po away with his free hand. “I’m fine. I wish to be alone with my memories for a while.”

Po bowed and backed away. “Yes, Master.”