Categories > Movies > Mulan > The Betrothed

Chapter 9

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 - 2287 words

<<
>>
Chapter 9

Shang stood with his arms folded and his feet planted firmly, watching as Chi Fu stood in front of the troop and broke the news that the medic would be giving them all routine exams. The men responded to the councilman's announcement with grumbling, scoffing and hooting.

"I'm in tip-top condition," one man announced in a half-bragging, half-taunting tone, opening his tunic and baring his tattooed chest. "I was examined before I came here. Look at this stomach. Hard as a rock."

Ling looked him over and guffawed.

"Yeah?" Yao challenged him, rolling up his sleeve and hauling back to punch the guy in the stomach. "Let's find out."

"Go ahead," the man answered, immediately taking a defensive stance, raising his hands and beckoning to Yao. "Bring it on."

"Oh, Yao, you are a commanding officer now," chided Chien-Po, holding his hot headed friend and comrade back by the shoulders. "You know you cannot go around punching the recruits. The captain will have your head for that."

Shang sighed and dropped his arms to his side abruptly, striding forward to take over. The men came to order as he stopped in front of them, standing beside Chi Fu. He pointed to the man who had opened his tunic, showing his chest.

"I think you can rule that man out without an exam," he muttered to Chi Fu. "But go ahead and have him go first."

"Hmph!" the councilman replied, perturbed. He turned on his heel and stormed off.

"Soldiers, order," Shang called out. "You will continue to train today. Chi Fu will come to summon you one by one to go to the medic's tent. Otherwise, you will carry on as always."

He dismissed them to get breakfast. He took his own food after the others were sitting and eating and went to join Ping, who was sitting with his three friends. They were talking about the physical exams that they all had to submit to now. None of the men were too pleased about it, nor were his four lieutenants. Ping looked downright uneasy about it and was saying very little, other than agreeing with his friends.

Shang sighed. He sympathized with all of them, and he couldn't believe that the Emperor's councilman had relied on some crazy rumor that one of the recruits had told him. Chi Fu hadn't even given him the man's name, claiming he didn't know it. The rumor itself was also ridiculous. What would a woman be doing there in the army camp? Why would any woman want to be there?

The fact that this was going on when they had to worry about where the Emperor's daughter was made this exercise even more ludicrous and unbelievable.

He shook his head and sighed again. He had decided to humor the councilman when he asked for the men to be examined by the medic. If it became too disruptive, he would put an end to it. In the meantime, this at least kept the councilman busy and off his back. He had more important things to worry about.

"Captain?"

Ping's voice interrupted his thoughts. He looked up.

"Hmm?"

"Did you expect the officers to go first? Or after the rest of the troop?"

"Oh. For the exams? Let the rest of the troop go, then the four of you will go."

"Do you mind if we ask what this is about, Captain?" Chien-Po asked.

"Something stupid," Shang muttered.

"Oh."

His lieutenants exchanged glances, then changed the subject, realizing that their commander wasn't going to say anything more about it.

xxxxxxx

The first day of medical exams went smoothly enough, and the medic had nothing unusual to report.

"No women?" Shang remarked to the medic, wryly.

"Excuse me, Captain?"

"Nothing. Thank you. Chi Fu will have a few others report to you tomorrow."

The medic bowed to him and left his tent. Shang grabbed a towel and headed off to the forest, deciding that he would bathe before dinner. When he arrived at his usual spot at the lake he found Ping there, watering his large black steed.

He looked up as he heard Shang approaching.

"Hello, Captain."

"Ping."

Shang tossed his towel on the large flat rock there and began to strip. The horse began to whinny in complaint as Ping grabbed his reins and began to pull him away from the lake, apparently before he was finished drinking.

"Come /on/!" the boy muttered to the steed.

"It's okay, Ping," Shang laughed. "You don't have to leave just because I'm here bathing."

He threw his clothes onto the same rock with his towel and walked into the lake, not noticing that Ping had moved around to the other side of his horse, where he wouldn't be seen.

Shang waded out toward the middle of the lake and immersed himself in the water, dipping his head under. He floated on his back and let his mind wander, closing his eyes with a sigh as he felt his body begin to relax in the water.

He almost started to laugh as he thought about Chi Fu telling the men they had to undergo medical examinations. The councilman had been serious and downright pompous, as always; and, as always, the men had responded to him with sarcasm, jokes and taunting. If Shang wasn't the commander and responsible for them all, he would have stood there and laughed with them, too. He did allow them to have their fun just a little though, only letting it go so far. Chi Fu deserved the taunting that he got from them, but he was still the Emperor's council.

He'd been standing with Ping in the spot where the boy now stood with his horse the night before when the councilman came to find him about this 'urgent matter'. The spot was opposite from the camp side of the lake, and Shang had made it his own private place to think. Oddly enough, Ping had sought out the very same spot. He'd come upon the boy several times now, standing or sitting in that place, convening with his own thoughts or watering his horse. In a lot of ways Ping wasn't too much unlike him.

The councilman had interrupted their conversation the previous night. He remembered now that Ping had mentioned that he had something to tell him; something he wouldn't like.

Shang's eyes flew open and he splashed water all around as he abruptly shifted upright, raising his head and treading water. He gazed off toward where the boy was watering his horse.

Ping and his steed had disappeared.

xxxxxxx

"Okay, I'm finished," Huang whispered, emerging from the brush, fully dressed, her hair still wet.

Mulan nodded and disappeared into the brush, leaving Huang to stand guard now. One of the best perks that had come from them knowing about each other was that now they could both feel somewhat more at ease when they bathed. Each of them took turns standing watch while the other went into the lake, and they had found a spot away from camp, on a different side of the lake from where the captain usually went.

She stripped and, after glancing around to make sure no one was around, dashed into the water. She sighed with pleasure as the water touched her skin. She didn't mind camp life for the most part, but she hated how dirty and sweaty she felt after the long hours of training.

She stayed in the water until her fingers began to prune, then emerged from the lake after another glance over her surroundings. She dashed into the brush and dried herself quickly.

"Mulan," she heard Huang whisper into the brush.

"Yes, I'm getting dressed."

"Hurry. Captain Li is coming."

Mulan threw her clothes on even though she wasn't completely dry.

"Quick, Huang!" Mulan whispered, frantically. "Don't let him see you."

Huang silently ducked into the brush. They both held their breath nervously as the sound of Shang's footsteps approached. He passed by the spot where they were hiding and continued on toward the lake, walking around to the side where Mulan knew he always went to think and to swim. Mulan and Huang released their breath at the same time when he was gone.

"Good thing you weren't still bathing. He's probably going in there now."

"No, he already bathed," Mulan answered without thinking.

"You saw him?"

"Well, I was watering my horse before when he came. I left right away," she added quickly.

Huang looked at her and even in the dark Mulan could see her smiling.

"Well, okay, I peeked. But you can't blame me."

Huang giggled quietly.

"Okay, I think we can head out of here."

They crept out of the brush silently.

"Listen, Huang, I'm not sure when you will be up for your exam. I think Chi Fu is calling it off alphabetically," Mulan began. "He is definitely from the Imperial City?"

"Yes. I think he will recognize me. I will let him know that the Emperor has sent me here to hide and that he must keep my identity and gender a secret."

"Huang, I was thinking...I'm a little concerned about that. I know that you faked your own death threats in order to come here, and there aren't really any against you. But, what if this medic is somehow involved with Princess Li-Mei? I know that General Li and the captain both suspect that someone on the inside is involved with your sister's kidnapping. Maybe someone in this camp."

Huang shook her head. "No. I assure you, that is not the case."

Mulan studied her closely. "Huang, do you know for sure? Was this really a kidnapping? Or did your sister run off on her own?"

Her head snapped up, shock and guilt written all over her face.

"What makes you say that?" Huang asked, recovering herself.

But Mulan had already seen Huang's expression and she had her answer. She had been right. This was not a kidnapping they were dealing with.

"Let's just suppose for a moment that she did run away. I'm not saying that she did and I'm not going to pry. This is hypothetical, Huang. Do you have any idea where she might have gone?"

"No."

Mulan sighed. "But you know the reason for her disappearance, so if she did run away you would know why."

Huang nodded slightly.

"Okay, Huang. Go on back to camp."

"Mulan," Huang whispered. "I will tell you everything if it becomes necessary; I promise I won't let you or anyone else get hurt because of this situation. But, believe me, this is a highly personal family matter, the family of the Emperor. I cannot talk about it."

Mulan nodded. "I know. I understand that."

Huang went off to her tent and Mulan turned, nonchalantly heading down to the lake as if she had just come there.

Shang was sitting cross-legged on the rock that jutted out over the lake, leaning on one elbow, his chin in his hand. He had a letter with him, but he seemed to have forgotten about it and it had slipped from his grasp, laying on the surface of the rock, the edge of the paper loosely rooted underneath the fingers of the hand that rested there. She took a seat beside him. He was gazing out over the water and he looked lost in thought. She suddenly wondered if the letter he'd been holding contained bad news.

"Shang?" she addressed him softly, with concern.

He sighed distantly but didn't answer.

"Shang?" she repeated, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder.

"Huh?"

He sat up with a start and looked at her, his eyes far away and unfocused.

"Shang, is everything okay?"

He blinked and as his gaze focused on her, a look of fierce anger suddenly spread over his features. He reached up abruptly, roughly brushing her hand off of his shoulder, and she snatched the hand back quickly, as if it had been burned.

"My affairs are none of your business," he answered crossly.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to...Shang, what's wrong?"

She noticed that he stiffened as she said his name.

"From now on, Lieutenant, you will show me more respect," he answered, firmly. "For too long now, you have assumed that you can just approach me wherever I am, whatever I'm doing."

She opened her mouth to respond but she was too flabbergasted at his sudden change in attitude toward her and words failed her. The night before he had told her it was fine for her to call him by name, and the tone of his voice and the expression on his face made her feel as if she had been slapped. Her mind was reeling as it tried to grasp at a reason for it, hoping it wasn't that he had found out the truth about her from someone else already.

"Is this because I called you by name?" she asked, finally. "You said we were friends..."

"You have been too familiar with me," he said, quietly but sharply. "You and I differ in rank, Lieutenant. Remember that from now on."

"Yes, /sir/," she answered, emphasizing the word for his benefit.

He glared at her.

"I am sorry I disturbed you, sir," she added, leaving the edge out of the word this time.

"What are you doing here anyway?" he demanded gruffly.

She stared at him for a minute, frozen, then she recovered herself and stood up, turning and leaping off of the rock. She faced him again and saluted.

"I had something to talk to you about, but it will keep, /sir/."

She turned on her heel and stalked off, leaving him sitting there.
<<
>>
Log in to rate and review this story

Log in!




Register Lost password

Filter

You won't see stories with a lower score when you browse or search. Log in to adjust filter.
0