Categories > Movies > Mulan > The Betrothed

Chapter 12

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 - 2013 words

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Chapter 12

Shang sighed softly and rubbed the back of his neck, trying to fend off the familiar headache that was beginning as he sat cross-legged across from Chi Fu and withstood the usual put-downs that were always laced throughout the councilman's words when they met to discuss business.

"I don't like the idea of the men having the day off when we get to that village, either," the councilman was saying now. "You know what trouble-makers they are. They will be cavorting in the taverns no doubt and will probably start a ruckus."

"Why do you have so little faith in them? They have proved themselves to be a capable and efficient regiment. Many of them are new, but they made it through their training, and they are all doing what they are supposed to. I know they fight sometimes, but they're just blowing off steam for the most part, and today was the first time in a while that it happened."

"We need to meet up with your father's regiment as soon as possible. How can we take the day off? Need I remind you of the importance of this mission? This is the Emperor's daughter that we are rescuing."

"I have not forgotten what our mission is or its importance. But we will have to get supplies. We'll need time to find what we need, to get everything organized. We are going to be marching through the desert soon and we must be prepared for the harsh element that we will be in. And it will be good for morale if the men have a day off from marching. You and I are lucky enough to be on horseback. Many of them are on foot and they have already been hiking a long way; and it's only been one day. After several days of this, they will need a little bit of time off to rest."

"Very well, Captain. But don't tell me I didn't tell you so if they disrupt the entire village with their antics."

Shang leaned forward and dropped his chin into his hands with a sigh.

"This is a serious situation," the councilman continued. "The princess was supposed to be married to the son of the Khan of the Ruanruan Empire."

He sat up with a start. "What?"

"It was an agreement that the Emperor initiated, to bring about peace between the Middle Kingdom and the Ruanruans north of the border. An alternative to continued warfare with them. It is not the Huns we are dealing with, as your father thought, Captain. The Ruanruans have pushed the Huns out of that territory."

"This explains a lot. If she is going to be married to the Khan's son, then the Ruanruans should have no reason to kidnap her," Shang mused. "It must be another tribe, maybe even an independent group of people, that doesn't want this alliance formed."

He thought about his father's most recent letter. There was so much in it that was of concern to him that he hadn't absorbed it all yet.

"My father never mentioned the marriage. He must not know about it. But he wrote in his letter that he believes she is with one of the tribes."

"Exactly. In any event, there has been no ransom demand, as you know, Captain. These people are ruthless and would not hesitate to harm her. Their purpose most likely is to prevent the alliance as opposed to obtaining money. So we have her safety and the threat of continued warfare to consider."

Shang was annoyed with the councilman, but he attempted to look impassive, and he forced himself to speak politely to his superior and an elder.

"I can't believe it. You've known about this marriage and proposed alliance all along, but you never said anything, to me or to my father."

"This is the Emperor's family we're talking about, Captain Li. Their personal affairs are not the subject of idle talk under normal circumstances. If the Emperor wanted your father to know about the Princess's impending marriage, he would have told him. I know of it, of course, because I am his council," he added pompously. "I will inform your father about it, and I am telling you now so that you don't forget the gravity of the mission."

"I haven't forgotten," he murmured.

Shang wondered if the councilman had some private reason of his own for wanting to stall the princess being found. If there were people in the Ruanruan Empire that were against this alliance, perhaps there were people in the Emperor's own court who were also against it. Maybe his annoying little nemesis was one of those people.

Chi Fu spoke again, interrupting this train of thought.

"And this doesn't go any further than this, Captain."

"Yes, of course."

"Not a word to anyone. And that means your favorite little lieutenant that you're smitten with."

The councilman's eyes were gleaming with the malice that was behind the comment. Shang stared at him, shocked that this time he'd actually gone so far as to intimate that.

"I wonder what your father the general would have to say about /that/."

Chi Fu stood up with a sneer and left the tent, bidding him goodnight.

Shang remained deep in thought for a long time after Chi Fu left. He was extremely concerned about the mission and this new information that he'd been given about it; but he instead found himself pondering the remark that the councilman had just made and his other remarks to him of late concerning his young lieutenant and the nature of their relationship. And he thought about his behavior toward the lieutenant, previously and recently.

After awhile he shook his head and began to laugh softly at the man's petty maliciousness, and at his own foolishness for having let it bother him so much.

xxxxxxx

During their midday break, Mulan sat with Huang by the river after they had eaten lunch. Jun-Li walked by them, giving her a look. She scowled at him and moved her hand across her neck in a chopping motion, indicating that it was what she was going to do to him if he didn't back off.

When he had moved on, they spoke.

"Huang, I've been thinking. If there is information you have, there may be a way I can pass it along to the captain without revealing you. Once we're in the north, there will be men sent ahead to scout out the situation, no doubt. I will volunteer to go and I'll let the captain know that you should come as well, due to your language skills. Anything that I need to pass on to the captain I can say came from you talking to the locals. As long as there isn't anyone else here that speaks or understands the language, who would question it?"

"That's a good idea, Lieutenant. But what if we're not sent ahead to scout?"

"I can say you overheard it maybe."

Huang nodded.

"We'll play it by ear. But it's an idea."

"It's perfect."

"We'd better get back. It's probably almost time to be heading out."

As they approached the spot where the rest of the troop was gathered, they heard Shang calling out names.

"That's the messenger," Huang whispered, indicating the man that was standing beside the captain. "Maybe there's news."

"Hua!"

Mulan hurried forward and took the dispatch that the messenger held out to her.

"Mail call!" Ling said to her excitedly as he trotted along beside her holding his own message that he'd already read.

"Is that a love letter, Ling, that you're so excited? From your sweetheart back home?"

"I wish. It's from my family, finally. I wrote to them while we were still at camp and then we had to leave. I figured I wouldn't get their reply."

Mulan sat down on the grass with him and opened her own letter. It was from her father.

"Mine is from my family, too," she told him, smiling.

Her father wrote of his visit with the Emperor, telling her what Huang had already told her. The law had been lifted. When she had appeared in the palace after her first stint in the army, he knew who she was. The Emperor didn't condemn her. He held her in the highest regard for her bravery and honor; and he had sent the captain to enlist her services again, knowing that a woman was being enlisted.

He also told her that she didn't need to worry about General Liang or his son.

Mulan grinned and stood up, rolling the letter back up and stuffing it into her pocket.

xxxxxxx

They stopped at sunset and set up camp along the river again after the second full day of marching north. Mulan could see Shang watching her out of the corner of her eye as she pitched her tent and stowed her stuff. She had noticed him staring at her many times that day, but she refused to return his gaze. She knew how angry he was at her and that she would receive nothing but a glare from him if she caught his eye.

The others made a mad scramble to line up for food, but she wasn't in the mood to deal with waiting on line. She would eat later.

She led her black horse to the river and sat on the bank, waiting while the steed grazed and drank his fill. She stood up when she heard the heavy footsteps behind her, not needing to look to know who it was.

"Ping."

Shang had come right up next to her, close enough that his elbow touched hers when she twitched slightly. She moved her arm quickly and looked up at him, puzzled, wondering why he had called her 'Ping' again all of a sudden instead of 'Lieutenant'. He stood stiffly, looking somewhat flustered and uncomfortable, and his face was quite crimson. He cleared his throat nervously.

"Ping, I'm sorry," he began softly.

Mulan blinked at him in surprise. "You're apologizing to me, a subordinate, after I mouthed off to you?"

"You had every right to."

He turned to face her now, looking more confident, though his face was still very red.

"I acted badly to you and I apologize. I let the remarks that someone made bother me and it affected the way I treated you..."

Her eyes widened in surprise and she knitted her eyebrows.

"What remarks?"

Shang shook his head. "It doesn't matter. It was one ignorant person making petty and malicious insinuations. That's all they were, and I should never have taken it so seriously and let it get to me the way it did. I'm sorry."

She tried to think of who it was he could possibly be talking about and what on earth they had said to rile him up so. Jun-Li had started up with her, making comments about her and Shang; would he have been bold enough to do the same thing to their captain?

"Who...?"

"It's not important, Ping."

"But if someone is saying things..."

"Don't worry about it. I don't care if...look, we are friends, good friends, and we always will be. That is, if...I mean, I hope I haven't jeopardized our friendship..."

"You haven't. What kind of friendship would it be if it unraveled just like that because of one little tiff?"

"Good," he said, relaxing visibly and beginning to smile.

"But...I did have something I had to tell you..." she began, nervously. "Something..."

He held up his hand, cutting her off.

"It will keep, Ping. We have another long day ahead of us tomorrow and you should make sure you take some time to relax. You haven't even eaten yet."

"But I've been trying to tell you..."

"It's okay," he interrupted softly, resting his hand on her shoulder gently.

She squinted at him in confusion, wondering why he wouldn't just let her say what she had to.

"I don't want to hear it now. You'll have plenty of time to tell me."
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