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Bonds, Chapter 13 (Finale)

(Author's Note: Hi! Thank you for joining me in this project. I've made it habitual to try something new with each story I put out and this time, it was an awkward experiment to displace Taoshi in real-time coinciding with the launch of Legion. That big gap between a couple of the chapters? The one where she was comatose? Real time. Taoshi was effectively unconscious for those couple months (while I got Raidax leveled.) That said, thanks again, and I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I enjoyed creating it.)

>><<


"So let me get this straight..."

Sheedo sounded annoyed. "You went, unguarded, to a dangerous place, met a tiger and are now convinced it will not eat you and instead accompany you off Shen-zin Su..."

"To adventure with me and find a new weapon. The ones the other monks speak of that holds legendary power. Yes." Taoshi finished Sheedo, who'd trailed off mid recap.

Sheedo sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose for a while before speaking up again.

"You do understand how absurd that all sounds, right?" she asked.

Taoshi nodded.

"And you do realize that you are in no condition to fight, let alone leave the island to face whatever dangers are out there. Right?" Sheedo asked.

Taoshi nodded again. Sheedo sighed once more.

"Actually, I feel much more motivated to go out there and train." Taoshi tapped her fingers together sheepishly. "I want to grow strong again. I want to journey out there, and most of all, I want to see what became of home."

Both women looked to each other while Taoshi spoke. There was a hope that burned in her eyes as brightly as the torches that lit the interior of the Laughing Crane. Sheedo recognized it as the same sort of fire in her friend's eyes that she had far before her injury occurred. It was just like years ago, when Taoshi first expressed a yearning to see the lands beyond the mists. There were no words that would quell this desire.

Taoshi continued. "Maybe the Shado-pan kept things contained. There are adventurers all over the island now, maybe they pitched in to help keep things contained in Kun-lai. I want to know in my heart that everyone back at Master Xuen's temple are safe."

Sheedo smiled softly. "You are a very optimistic Pandaren," she commented.

"I have you to thank for that outlook. You tell me I can grow strong again. You believe in me, and if you can do that for a woman who's bones were almost dust, you can do that for a woman who wants to really buckle down and get ready."

"So what do you propose?" Sheedo canted her head to one side with a wry grin. Taoshi had her there.

"Tomorrow, we sit down and plan it all out. We map out a way for me to grow strong again. A new diet with lots of meat. Not just what they serve for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But ...a whole new plan. Lessons in the morning. Lessons after lunch."

The fire in Taoshi's eyes only grew brighter. "I want to be better than normal. I want to go over all our old lessons and train like it was our black belt exam again."

Sheedo held up her hands with a brighter smile now, trying to placate her friend. "Okay. Okay! Tomorrow morning. We will do all this."

"But we must include Master ...uh. ...Do I call him Feng Hu? Or Master Xiao? No matter! He must be a part of this too. He may be in the body of a tiger but I kind of feel like he wants to come along too. Why else would he come see me at the Pool of the Paw?" Taoshi sounded perplexed.

"Oh yes. Do not think I am not upset with you for going all by yourself, by the way," Sheedo snapped her fingers and pointed to her friend. "I am upset. I shall have to punish you with extra push ups or something since I cannot swat you. Still, I am glad you were left alone."

"I am sorry. I ... I was beginning to feel a little down again. Sad that I could not be out there with the others. Old habits, you know? I promise it will not happen again. Especially not without getting a roaring tiger in the face."

"That is another thing I do not approve of," Sheedo said, crossing her arms. "A tiger? Honestly. What proof do you even have of it-"

"Him." Taoshi interjected.

"... ...him ...even being a reincarnated master?"

Taoshi gestured to the back of the inn. "We snuck around the entire village without anyone being the wiser. The statue that guards the Wood of Staves let us in. Honestly! What more proof do you need?"

Sheedo tilted her head left and right as Taoshi weighed her reasons in.

"Furthermore, he seemed very familiar with the grave of Master Xiao. We must have passed by a dozen other staves and head stones. That was the one he sat in front of. Why not the closer one? Or one that has a tree behind it? Do cats not like to be in high places?"

"Okay, okay. I get it." Sheedo lifted her hands up in surrender. "Clearly, I do not think I can talk you out of this. Just know that you are the one people are going to yell at if the tiger suddenly goes on a killing spree and needs to be put down."

"It will not come to that. We will all train and be at a quiet place. The Pool of the Paw was fairly nice. I am certain we can train in peace there. No prying eyes among the monks and any stray tigers will have to face off against Feng Hu, the Shifting Shadow!" Taoshi said, that glimmer of hope ever present in her eyes.

Sheedo studied the look on her friend's face before sighing. "Okay."

Taoshi cheered and hugged her friend. "Two months! It will be two months of hard work.Then we will venture out and take the fight to the Burning Legion!"
13 of 13 in Bonds