Categories > Movies > Mulan > The Betrothed

Chapter 11

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:  - Published: 2006/08/06 - Updated: 2006/08/07 - 2016 words

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Chapter 11

Mulan was joined by Huang as she sat on the river bank brooding, at a spot that was obscured by several trees so that she couldn't be seen by the others. They had been on the march all morning, following the river as they headed north, stopping now at midday to rest, eat and take care of the horses.

"I'm glad you were not kicked out of the army, Lieutenant Hua," she began.

"Not yet, anyway," Mulan sighed.

"Is everything okay?"

"I need to learn to keep my mouth shut and exercise more self-control, that's all."

Mulan glanced around, making sure no one was around to hear them talking.

"I think the captain may know about me somehow. He was acting different to me all of a sudden last night and he was really angry. I was so anxious and curious about it, and I just couldn't hold my tongue. When I asked him what it was about, he wouldn't tell me. And then I mouthed off to him."

"Oh."

"So far nothing else is different. In fact, he spoke to me this morning to give me my tasks and orders for our journey, and he still referred to me as his second in command. So that hasn't changed. How are you doing, Huang?"

"Fine. Thank you."

They chatted casually for awhile, then Huang stood up and headed back to rejoin the rest of the troop. Mulan stayed by the river for a little while longer.

"There you are, Ping," Ling called out when she returned. "We were wondering where you disappeared to."

Mulan rejoined her three friends, who were in a discussion with Chung and a couple of other comrades who had been with them in battle the first time. They were slowly being joined by some of the bolder recruits, including Jun-Li and his friend Chang. The captain had told the troop that they would be stopping in one of the larger villages in two days, and the men were very excited about being there.

"What's so exciting about this particular village?" Mulan asked.

"The women," Ling snorted, elbowing her. "What else? There's a place there..."

"Oh?" she teased, pretending to be as excited as they were. "How do you know?"

"Oh, come on, Ping, don't you know by now?" Yao remarked, snickering. "Ling is the resident expert on women."

He elbowed Ling and snorted.

Jun-Li came around to sit by her. "Not like you'd be interested," he quipped softly.

She flashed him a scathing look, then turned her attention back to the discussion.

"Like the captain is going to let everyone leave to spend the night in a brothel," Chung snorted.

"Well, maybe we could sneak the women back into camp if we can't stay there," Ling suggested.

"Uh, I don't think that would be too wise," Mulan warned. "The captain is already in a foul mood, in case you haven't noticed."

"We've noticed," Jun-Li muttered, in her ear this time, "but it seems his foul mood is directed only at you. What's wrong? Did the two of you have a little lovers' quarrel?"

Her comrades whirled around startled as Mulan dashed the bowl that she was holding to the ground, scattering food all over the place, and jumped up, grabbing Jun-Li by the collar and yanking him up to his feet too. Ling leaped up as well, a startled expression on his face.

"Hey, hey, easy, /Ping/," Jun-Li protested, giving her a patronizing grin. "You're a feisty little thing..."

Yao had risen to his feet now.

"Uh, guys..." Chien-Po began, trying to point subtly and draw everyone's attention to something across the way from them.

Out of the corner of her eye, Mulan saw Shang standing several feet away, arms folded, scowling at them darkly. She released Jun-Li, shoving him to the ground, then stalked off to cool down.

"Ping! Hey, Ping!" Yao called out.

She turned and saw her three friends hurrying toward her.

"Hey, guys."

"Are you okay?" Ling asked as they reached the river bank where she was standing.

"Fine. He just pissed me off, that's all."

"What did he say to you?"

"It doesn't matter. He's an idiot."

"Well, he's with the captain now," Chien-Po said.

"What, did he go to report me?"

"No. The captain summoned him. He looked pissed."

"What else is new?" she muttered.

She sat down on the riverbank and scooped up a small rock, hurling it into the river. Her three friends joined her and it wasn't long before they lightened her mood with their jokes and banter, initiating a contest as they began to hurl rocks into the river, trying to outdo one another as to who could get their rock furthest.

"Lieutenants."

Shang's bark startled all of them. They had been too absorbed in their game and their laughter to even notice that he'd approached them.

'Leave it to him to ruin everybody's fun,' she thought bitterly to herself, turning back to the river and rolling her eyes with a sigh before rising to her feet and facing him.

The four of them stood at attention before him and he pointed to her three friends.

"You three, return to the troops. Start getting everyone organized and ready to move on."

"Yes, sir."

"Yes, Captain."

They hurried off and Mulan waited quietly for the dressing down that she was no doubt about to receive.

"Lieutenant Hua."

"Yes, sir."

"Liang told me that you attacked him for no reason."

"That figures," she muttered.

"What?" he asked softly.

Mulan groaned inwardly. Given Shang's mood and attitude toward her now, she was certain that he wouldn't believe her and would take Jun-Li's word for it.

"Nothing, sir."

Shang's eyebrow went up. "Nothing?"

"No, sir."

"Do you think that I believed him, Lieutenant?"

Mulan shrugged.

"I didn't. Do you want to tell me what happened?"

"It's not important, sir. He said something insulting to me and I reacted instead of maintaining self-control. You said that if this happened again, my punishment would be swift and harsh. So...I'm prepared."

"Return to the troops and help your comrades get them ready to move out. We still have a long march ahead of us before we stop for the night."

Mulan looked at him, surprised that this was all.

"Yes, sir."

xxxxxxx

They moved out, continuing their journey north. Shang was at the front of the group, leading the troops on his white stallion. As usual, Chi Fu rode on his own stallion right behind the captain, glancing back and scowling at the troops every so often.

Mulan brought up the rear on her black steed that, due to his size and power, was pulling one of the carts of supplies. Ling, who had been marching along side of her, was now perched on top of the cart, hitching a ride.

"Very resourceful, Ling," she quipped. "But you know that you're going to get your hide whipped if the captain sees you. Or worse, if Chi Fu sees you."

Ling clambered down and sat on the wooden ledge at the front of the cart, where he couldn't be seen.

Jun-Li, who had been riding somewhere in the middle of the ranks before lunch, had fallen back toward the rear now. He had pulled his steed off to the side and was waiting for her, moving forward and falling into gait beside her as she approached him.

She gave him a stern look, daring him to start with her.

"I was only kidding, you know."

"You are getting on my last nerve, Jun-Li."

"Look, I was just trying to warn you, but in a light way. When you're alone with the captain, you are very obvious."

"What are you talking about?"

"You like him. It shows all over you when the two of you are alone talking and being friendly, which is quite a lot I might add. You shouldn't get your hopes up though. Any closeness he feels toward you is probably just typical of the bonding between men, or maybe between brothers. Anything more would be inappropriate, even if he does feel that way toward 'Ping'. He would be thrown out of the army for having such a relationship with one of his soldiers."

Mulan snorted at him. "Really, Jun-Li. You're as bad as the old hags in our village. Don't you have anything better to think about?"

"I'm just saying. You will raise suspicions if the men ever catch you looking at him that way," he said quietly. "And he should watch himself with you."

"It seems to me that the only person who has been watching us alone is you. But thanks for the advice. I'll keep it in mind."

Jun-Li nodded at her and smiled.

"Okay, thank you," she continued, gesturing dismissively. "Move along now, soldier. I have important business to discuss in private with one of your other commanding officers."

xxxxxxx

As the sun began to sink lower in the sky, they found a place to make camp for the night and a rotation was set up for the night watch in such a way that there would be a twenty-four-hour guard but each man would get a chance to sleep. Mulan offered to be one of the soldiers on one of the later watches for the night; it meant staying up and going to bed later, but then she wouldn't have to get up too early in the morning, which she preferred.

Camp was set up quickly, away from the water but in walking distance. The troops gathered around the campfires to eat once the mess crew had prepared dinner. Mulan finished setting up her own tent and stowed her stuff away, then went off to water her steed. She could eat later.

She sat on the bank of the river, idly chucking rocks into it while she waited for her horse to finish grazing along the side of the river and drink his fill of water.

"Lieutenant."

"Huang," she answered.

She took a seat next to her.

"We're out in the open in this camp. I don't know if we will be able to work out bathing here, unless we do it in the middle of the night."

Mulan nodded. "We can do it when my turn on watch ends if you want to wait up that long. It will be the middle of the night when I finish."

She pointed off into the distance.

"We can walk back that way, away from the camp."

"If I'm still up, I'll come find you, Lieutenant."

"Okay. Do you have any new information about anything to tell me?"

"I sent a letter to my father the last time the messenger came to camp, but I haven't received a reply yet. And now we're on the move..."

"Don't worry. The messengers know we're on the move. They will be able to find the troop and the reply will get here."

"I know. Listen, I'm not sure what's going to happen when we get over the border, Lieutenant Hua, but I think you should know that I can speak and understand the Hun language."

"That's good to know. Not everyone we meet there will speak Chinese, I'm sure. But there are different languages among the tribes; the language of a particular tribe may be different from what you're familiar with."

"Yes. The man that I think my sister is with does speak Chinese, though; and he's not Hun. He's Persian."

"Really?" Mulan gazed out at the river, thoughtfully. "That does confuse the issue. Do you think it's possible that they themselves spread the rumors about heading north, but are really going west? I mean, you arranged for your own death threats to go to your father so that you could come here. Who's to say that your sister wouldn't do the same sort of thing?"

Huang nodded. "That is why I was surprised when you said that they had gone north over the border. It would seem to me that if they wanted to leave China they would have gone west, back to Persia."
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