Categories > Movies > Mulan > The Betrothed

Chapter 5

by lightbird 0 Reviews

[AU] Mulan returned home after the war, her secret undiscovered, now preparing to marry the man that she was betrothed to as a child, who turns out to be Shang. Things get complicated when they're ...

Category: Mulan - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Romance - Characters:  - Warnings: [?] - Published: 2006/08/06 - Updated: 2006/08/07 - 2001 words

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Chapter 5

Mulan trudged sullenly into the mess tent. It was the beginning of her fifth day of confinement, outside of eating and training, and she was somewhat depressed. Her friends had been gaming and gambling for fun for the past few nights, and though she didn't gamble, she hated missing out on an opportunity to hang out with her fellow lieutenants and close friends.

She cursed Jun-Li under her breath for bringing this about and lined up with her bowl to get her food. She was so engrossed in her sullenness and resentment, she didn't notice Shang line up right behind her.

"What's wrong, Lieutenant?"

She looked up with a start. "Good morning, Captain."

"You look like the world is ending."

"It's nothing, sir."

"I've decided to let the men have a little break this morning. They've been working very hard for a few days. I want to push them, but not overwork them. The training will start a little later this morning."

"If I knew that, I would've slept in instead of coming to breakfast," she grumbled.

Shang chuckled and patted her shoulder. "Yes, you never did like to get up in the morning. But, then you would have had to go without eating. That wouldn't have been wise. I wouldn't want you to die out there in front of your troops."

Mulan laughed. "My troops? They're your troops, Captain."

"Well, your unit. You are directly responsible for their training."

Mulan held out her bowl as she got up to the large kettles of food that the men on mess duty were serving from, and Jun-Li winked at her as he ladled out some congee and poured it into her bowl. She glared at him, knowing he was probably up to something as usual.

"Alright, cut it out," Shang said, firmly. "Move along, Lieutenant. I'll join you in a moment."

Mulan went over to where Ling, Yao and Chien-Po were sitting and joined them.

"Listen, Ping," Yao began, "anytime you want us to pound Jun-Li, you just say the word."

"Thanks, Yao. I can fight my own battles."

Shang joined them several minutes later.

"Good morning, Captain," Chien-Po said, and the other two followed suit with their own polite greetings.

Her three friends glanced at each other and at her, obviously thinking that this had now become a breakfast where they would be discussing training and business. But the captain just greeted them and tucked into his breakfast, chatting lightly about the game the night before.

Shang must have noticed the dejected expression on her face when he looked up, because he began to tell her the details, bringing her up to date on everything she'd missed.

xxxxxxx

Shang caught up to Mulan as she strode toward her tent after breakfast.

"Lieutenant."

"Captain."

"Come with me. I want to talk to you."

She went to his tent with him and he gestured for her to sit across the desk from him.

"Ping, I want to know once and for all what is with you and that recruit. I know he's from your village, but there's more to it than that. This regiment needs to work smoothly, and as a team. What if one of you needs to rely on the other in battle? Now, tell me what's going on."

"He's from my village, and he's in love with my sister. But she was already betrothed to someone as a little girl. My father and another general arranged it years ago, and the matchmaker just approved it."

"Yes," Shang answered, quietly. "I know."

She nodded in acknowledgement and continued.

"Jun-Li just found out and is angry about it. That is why he behaves with such animosity toward me. When he first realized I was here, he was a pest to me, but it was more in fun. Now that he knows, I think he is very serious in his antagonizing of me."

"Because of that?"

"Yes, sir."

"I'll talk to him."

"That isn't necessary, sir," she answered quickly. "I will handle it on my own."

"This is not the time or place for personal conflicts. It needs to be nipped in the bud."

"I'll handle it, sir. It will be nipped in the bud."

Shang stared at her for a minute, then nodded. "Alright, Ping. I'll let you handle it. But if there is one more brawl between the two of you, I will take this into my own hands and my punishment of both of you will be swift and harsh."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, Captain."

xxxxxxx

"I win again!" Mulan exclaimed, gleefully. "I guess that means my punishment will be completely lifted now."

"It already was lifted, Ping. It hasn't even been a week yet and I didn't make you stay in your tent tonight," Shang replied, frowning now that he'd lost his third game of weiqi in a row to her. "If you ask me, I let you off too easy, allowing you out tonight."

Mulan grinned at him. "Do you want to play again or get your revenge on another day?"

"I think I'm on a losing streak tonight. I had better wait until another day. Besides," he added, with a glint of humor in his voice, "it's late and you should be getting to sleep so you'll be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for training in the morning. You still have a long way to go with your unit of recruits."

"No more than the other three units," she answered, defensively, feeling somewhat indignant.

"True, but you have a couple of recruits in your group that appear to really be lagging."

He didn't specify anyone, but Mulan knew he was talking about Huang Dong. She didn't let on that she knew.

"A couple of the younger ones are behind a little. They'll catch up."

"Just like you did," Shang answered, a hint of a smile in his eyes.

"That's right."

She stood up.

"Well, Captain. Have a good night. Too bad we weren't playing for money," she joked.

"Don't be smug, Ping. I will have my revenge."

She grinned, then turned and headed toward the opening in his tent.

"Goodnight."

"Goodnight, Ping."

She headed off toward her own tent. It was a warm night, with barely a breeze blowing and it was late enough that there would be no one at the lake. She felt filthy and a dip in the lake was just what she needed.

After retrieving a towel from her tent she made her way into the forest and down to the water, stopping in her tracks when she was almost at the bank of the lake as she caught sight of a quickly moving shadow. She froze, tensing into a posture of defense and glanced around warily, locating quickly where the shadow was coming from.

"Show yourself, coward."

She heard the rustling of vines and the soft, muted snap of a twig on the ground off to her right.

"I know it's you, Jun-Li. What, are you scared of me now?"

She listened carefully, turning in the direction of where the sounds had come from, then began to tiptoe toward the clump of trees and brush there.

"Don't come any closer," came a soft, muffled voice.

But Mulan recognized it.

"Is that you, Huang Dong?"

She moved toward the voice.

"Go away!"

"It's okay, I won't harm you."

"Is that you, Lieutenant Hua?"

"Yes. It's alright."

"That other recruit stole my clothes."

"What?"

"He was laughing and yelling something to me when he saw me in the lake. When I got out, I found that the clothes that I left on the branch of the tree were gone."

"Okay, don't worry. I'll get your clothes for you."

"I don't know who he was."

"I do. Stay hidden. I'll be right back."

Mulan marched straight to Jun-Li's tent, cursing. He was probably sleeping already, but she didn't care. She stormed into the tent where he was sitting on his bedroll, awake and reading, and yanked him up.

"Hey! What the..."

"The clothes you took at the lake. Where are they?"

He pointed to a corner of his tent.

"It was just a joke, I would have brought them back in a little while, I swear...hey, how did you...?"

She released him, throwing him back down onto the bedroll, cutting off whatever he was going to ask, then she went and scooped up Huang Dong's clothing.

She whirled around to face him, expecting to see the usual smirk on his face. It wasn't there; rather, he looked upset and dejected.

"Mulan, you know that I love you," he said, softly. "I don't want you to marry someone else."

"Is that really what this is about, Jun-Li?" she exclaimed. Then she remembered herself and lowered her voice. "You want to reveal me and destroy my reputation, the reputation of my family, because of that? If that's the case, then that certainly isn't love, Jun-Li, and it isn't even friendship."

He just stared at her, his expression unreadable.

"I was betrothed when I was a baby," she continued, softly. "I mean, I couldn't have been more than two years old when it happened. My father arranged this with another general who has a son, a long time ago. And the matchmaker approved it. I certainly have no control over it and you know that's how it works. I didn't choose; none of us choose the person we marry. If we're lucky, we're matched to someone compatible. You know that! How can you behave this way to me?"

He looked away, sheepishly.

"Look, I need to go to see someone right away. I'll come back to talk to you after if you want."

"Okay," he answered, sullenly.

She left him to think over what she had said, hoping she'd succeeded at getting through to him a little, and went to bail Huang Dong out of the predicament that Jun-Li had put him in. Or her in, if her suspicions were correct.

As she returned to the lake, she called out to Huang in order to identify herself and walked toward the place where the recruit had been hiding. She held out the pile of clothing near the clump of trees and brush, and a slim, bare white arm reached out and snatched it.

Huang Dong stepped out into the clearing after hurriedly dressing. "Thank you, Lieutenant Hua," the small recruit said, eyes averted.

"It's okay."

Huang began to leave, head still bowed, but Mulan placed a firm hand on the recruit's shoulder.

"Wait a minute."

Huang turned around, looking fearful.

"It is my job to turn you into an excellent soldier, Huang."

"Yes, sir."

"That means I will be pushing you to physical and moral excellence, as well as teaching you to have strength of spirit."

Huang had a confused expression.

"Look at me, Huang."

The recruit slowly looked up, meeting her eyes with hesitation.

"A warrior does not hesitate, Huang, nor does he avert his eyes, even in the presence of a superior officer. Women keep their eyes averted in the presence of men," she added, putting emphasis on the word. Huang was sharp and intelligent, and took the hint immediately, standing straighter and meeting her eye more firmly. "The only difference is with royalty. Understood?"

"Yes, sir," Huang replied in a strong voice.

"Good, Huang. Keep that up from now on. Even with the captain."

"Yes, sir."

"And, Huang, you need to build up some muscle. I would suggest that when you have time off between training and meals you start lifting weights. I can show you some exercises."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."

"Okay, you can go now. Get some rest, we have a long day tomorrow."

Huang grinned and saluted, then hurried off, and Mulan sighed, turning toward the lake to proceed with her own bath.

Her suspicions had been confirmed. Huang Dong was definitely a woman. And that idiot Jun-Li saw the poor woman bathing in the dark and mistook Huang for /her/.
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