Categories > Movies > Mulan > The Betrothed

Chapter 16

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 - 3124 words

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Chapter 16

"Huang!" Mulan shouted, spurring her steed toward the lone rider that was visible ahead of her. "Huang, stop!"

The figure finally slowed down after her continued shouting, turning back to look at her, and Mulan caught up to her after several moments of galloping at full speed.

"I have to catch up to them."

"Huang, we have to go back," she told her, pulling up beside her.

"But Iraj...we won't find Behrouz and the others without him..."

"Huang, slow down so we can talk. I promise we won't lose Iraj."

Huang slowed her horse and Mulan matched her pace.

"I suggested to the captain that Iraj may know something. I have no doubt that he took that seriously and told the general. General Li is aware that he should keep Iraj with him and will try to find out what he can. I'm sure of that."

Mulan halted her own steed when Huang brought her horse to a stop and stared into the distance. "But I need to find her. I know that Behrouz loves her and he won't hurt her. I have to be the one who gets to her first."

"I know, but you can't do this by yourself. It's too dangerous. Let's get back to camp and we can talk to the captain. If we can explain everything to him, maybe the three of us can come up with a plan to find her, and to get you in there first. Shang is a good leader and an honorable man. He won't betray your trust."

She glanced around at the large formations of boulders and mountains with caves that were surrounding them. She had the sudden thought that anyone could be hidden there, ready to ambush them.

"We should go, Huang."

Huang was still gazing off toward the direction where she'd been galloping. She finally nodded.

"You're right, Lieutenant. I'm sorry. My actions were foolish and impulsive. I'll probably be punished."

"Well, you can avoid it if you come clean and tell the captain who you are," Mulan laughed. "Besides, you didn't get that far. Come on, we'd better get back. We're in enemy territory and this particular spot is making me uneasy."

They turned back toward camp, in time to see another lone figure galloping toward them on a stallion.

"Uh oh. The captain," Huang muttered. "He's not in uniform."

Mulan squinted. The figure looked much too slight to be Shang.

"It's not the captain. It's Chi Fu."

The councilman came thundering toward their position, slowing down and stopping a few feet away from them.

"What are you two up to?"

"Nothing. We went for a ride, and now we're going home," Mulan answered.

"Very funny. I know the two of you are up to no good. What is going on?"

"As I said, nothing."

"You were following the general because that...guide...was with him. What is the connection between him and the two of you? What was his name? Iraj?"

"There's no story. Look, we're in enemy territory, Chi Fu. I think that we should get out of here. When we get back to camp you can yell at us all you want and report us to the captain."

Chi Fu sniffed and turned his nose up at her. As he turned his stallion to head back toward camp, they saw that four men dressed in the customary clothing of the territory had appeared around them on horseback. Mulan quickly tried to assess the situation, at a complete loss to explain how these men had come up on them so stealthily, without them even hearing the horses' hooves. It was almost as if they had come out of nowhere.

There were four of the enemy and three of them; but she was fairly certain that Chi Fu didn't know how to fight. The odds were really two to one and they were at a disadvantage. She and Huang would probably also have to protect the councilman.

All four men drew their swords and one of them spoke up.

"Just why are you boys looking for Iraj and Behrouz?"

Mulan drew her sword now and Huang followed suit.

xxxxxxx

Shang released a sigh of relief when, after what must have been a couple of hours, he saw Mulan finally return from over the border with Huang. He was astonished to see that Chi Fu was with them, also on horseback. What was he doing with them? They all looked disheveled and had obviously been in a fight.

Shang strode toward them angrily as they slowed their horses. "Just what did you think you were doing?"

"We found them, sir," Mulan said, triumphantly. "And that means we can..."

"Found who?" he snapped.

"We found a gang of bandits with swords and large knives, that's who!" Chi Fu interrupted, angrily. "They attacked us!"

"There were only four of them. They may have the princess," Mulan continued. "We know where they are now to find her."

"But Lieutenant Hua was wounded," Huang told him, dismounting.

Shang saw the blood on Mulan's upper body, on her right side. His heart sank with dismay as he noted that it appeared to be flowing from a wound somewhere in her chest; though it was hard to really see anything with her armor on. Somehow her attacker must have managed to wedge the blade in under it. Maybe she lifted that arm during the fight for some reason, giving him the opportunity to target that spot.

She nearly fell off of her steed as she attempted to dismount and he rushed forward to help her, as did Huang.

"Troublemaker," Chi Fu snapped at Huang. "This wouldn't have happened if you hadn't run off."

Shang put his hand up, gesturing for Chi Fu to calm down for now.

"We'll discuss this after. Right now we have a wounded soldier to take care of. Get the medic and bring him to the lieutenant's tent."

Chi Fu hurried off.

"No, it's okay," Mulan protested, keeping her hand over her wound. "It's not that bad. I'll be okay."

Several of her friends had gathered around and they stepped forward to help, commenting on how badly she was bleeding, but she pushed away the assistance that was offered, staggering away, one hand covering the wound.

"I just wasn't able to keep the pressure on the wound while I was riding, that's why it's bleeding like this."

"You don't look good," Shang said, refusing to be put off by her, supporting her as she tried to walk.

"Shang, I can take care of it! I don't need a medic!" she muttered fiercely so only he could hear.

"Don't be ridiculous. You've been slashed in the chest."

"I'm telling you, it's not that bad. I just need to..."

He ignored her and scooped her up into his arms.

"Hey!" she protested weakly.

"Be quiet. You're bleeding a lot and you can barely stand."

He gazed into her face and sighed, carrying her into her tent.

"Mulan," he said, softly, setting her down on the straw pallet inside and helping her to remove her armor. "You lunatic. I ought to strangle you for going off after Huang like that by yourself, but I'm too glad to see you."

She cringed as she stretched out, replacing her bloody hand over the wound. She looked up at him.

"Don't think you're going to get off easily, though, and that goes for Huang, too. I'm not as soft as you think, and I want to know what the hell both of you were thinking," he chided sternly. "But right now we have more immediate things to deal with."

"I don't think you're soft."

"Sure you do."

"I figured you knew about me already," she said, changing the subject. "You knew the last night at Wu Zhong. That's why you were so angry all of a sudden."

He knelt down beside her. "Mulan..."

"Shang, I'm sorry. I wanted you to hear it from me first, and I was going to tell you..."

"I know," he answered, softly. "You were about to tell me the night before. That was the something you said I wouldn't like."

"How did you find out?"

"I wrote to my father and told him some of the concerns that I had about the lack of information. And I mentioned to him the idea that my lieutenant had come up with, that maybe the princess had run away. He responded to me. That night...I had just received his letter. He thought it was an interesting idea and worth considering. But he was puzzled as to what General Hua Zhou's seven-year-old son Rou-ping was doing in my camp, and a lieutenant at that. It didn't take me long to figure out who you really were. I couldn't believe it."

He reached over and took her free hand in his gently.

"Mulan, the medic is on the way. I don't know what I'm going to do. If I could have avoided it, I would have, but he needs to treat that wound. And as soon as he does...but I won't hurt you. I promise, I could never..."

"Shang, the law has been lifted."

"What?"

"My father went to talk to the Emperor because he was worried about me with Jun-Li being in the camp. He wrote to me after his visit and told me that the Emperor knows about me and lifted the law. When he sent for me this time, he knew he was enlisting a woman. I have the letter. It's with my things."

Shang sighed.

"I don't know if Chi Fu will accept your father's letter as proof. But as the commanding officer here, I have some say in what goes on, even if he is the Emperor's council. I will take the position that it is a matter for the Emperor, not for me to decide and that we will bring you back to the Imperial City for judgment. Once we're there, the Emperor himself will let him know that the law is lifted."

"Shang, I don't want you to get in trouble for knowing about me. Do whatever you have to do to make it appear that you had no idea."

"Well, at least my father isn't here to see this," he muttered.

The sound of voices outside became louder as the speakers approached the tent and he let go of her hand.

"That's the medic coming. We can talk more after he's treated you and you've rested. And you can tell me what Huang Dong's story is, too."

"You mean, why he went after the general?"

"Yes, and everything else," he answered, his voice just above a whisper. He smiled at her. "As soon as I knew you were a woman, I knew she was too."

He stood up and crossed to the tent opening as the medic came in to treat Mulan. Chi Fu tried to step in, but Shang blocked his way as he stepped out, closing the tent flap.

"I don't think he needs an audience while he treats the lieutenant."

He led Chi Fu away from the tent, indicating that he wanted to talk to him.

"You say this was a group of bandits?"

"Four of them."

"How did you come to be with Huang and the lieutenant?"

"I saw Huang Dong ride off and I followed Lieutenant Hua when he went after him."

"You went after them without letting me know what was going on?"

Chi Fu folded his arms, not answering.

"Did you know where Huang was going?"

"I had a hunch that it was after that Iraj character. That was the direction he went."

"Did my father see any of you?"

"Not that I know of. When I caught up to them, the two of them were alone. Then we were attacked."

"Did you see what they looked like?"

"They looked like Iraj, Captain. They were his friends."

Shang sighed. "I'll talk to Huang also. And Lieutenant Hua..."

He trailed off, his face creasing with worry as he thought about the location of her wound.

"I think this is a set up, Captain, and the two of them are in on it."

"Don't be ridiculous. Why would they have attacked them and stabbed my lieutenant if that were the case?"

"I'm telling you, they were looking for these men, Captain! At least Huang was! And it wasn't just Iraj. They said some other name, and they asked them why they were looking for him!"

"Lieutenant Hua mentioned that they may have the princess. I can only assume that was why..."

"How can he possibly know that? Mark my words, when the opportunity comes again they'll go running off to find these men."

"They were still alive?"

"They were wounded, but they were alive when we left them."

Shang fell silent. He was sure the scenario was one in which Mulan and Huang fought and Chi Fu did nothing. He wasn't sure if the councilman even knew how to fight.

xxxxxxx

Shang paced back and forth outside of her tent, worried to distraction about Mulan. It had been hours and the medic hadn't emerged once from the tent. His three other lieutenants, Huang and several other soldiers that knew Lieutenant Hua well sat on the ground nearby, watching the tent opening with worried, anxious expressions.

Finally the medic stepped through the tent opening and gestured to Shang, who was already striding over to him. Chi Fu followed him, not wanting to miss anything that was going on.

"She will be alright. It is a nasty wound, but it has been disinfected, stitched up and bandaged. Fortunately, the blade missed her heart."

"Her heart? /She/?" Chi Fu exclaimed.

The medic nodded. Shang groaned inwardly as Chi Fu stormed into the tent, dreading the scene that was about to come. He was about to follow the councilman into the tent so the matter could be dealt with privately, but Chi Fu appeared at the opening before he could step inside, dragging Mulan out with him. She was shirtless, covered only by the bandage that the medic had wrapped around her chest and her blanket that she clutched to her body. Shang cringed inwardly as he watched.

"I knew there was something about you..." Chi Fu pulled the tie out of her topknot and her hair fell loosely around her face, framing it and accentuating her lovely feminine features. He threw her down onto the ground and Shang had to fight the urge to rush forward and cover her up, shielding her from the cold desert night and the eyes of everyone present.

He wanted to tell Chi Fu that he had reason to believe that the law had been lifted, and either way, he would handle this. But it was too late. The councilman was on a roll.

"A woman!" the councilman continued triumphantly, ignoring him, a smug expression on his face. "There was a woman in the camp!"

All of her friends and comrades gasped and stared at her in shock, as did the rest of the men that were around.

"Lieutenant indeed. You treacherous little snake," Chi Fu spat at Mulan disdainfully, hovering over her as she crouched on the ground still, trying to shield herself. The councilman moved away from her and approached him. "Captain?"

He was looking at him expectantly.

"Well, Captain? Are you just going to stand there in a daze or are you going to properly carry out the Emperor's law? Or maybe you knew about this already? Maybe you've been protecting her?"

"I..." Shang was about to tell him that he would not execute her there but would take her back to the Imperial City for judgment, but he was interrupted before he could.

"Stop!"

It was Huang who had shouted, striding forward suddenly and putting herself between Mulan and Chi Fu.

"Enough of this! Take her back inside!" she ordered, looking at Shang and Chi Fu.

No one moved. The entire company assembled merely stood rooted, staring in shock and confusion at this young, recently-recruited little soldier that was suddenly giving orders to the commanding officer and the Emperor's council.

"You insolent little..." Chi Fu began but Huang cut him off.

"Enough! She is wounded and half-dressed and you drag her out here like this! This is disgusting! She was injured protecting /you/!"

She raised her hand and reached back behind her head, her fingers finding the tie that held her own topknot in place.

"Huang, don't...it isn't necessary..." Mulan spoke in a strong voice but she was short of breath, still crouched on the ground, in pain from her wound and the roughing up she'd just had.

"It's alright, Hua Mulan. It has become necessary. It's my fault that this happened and I will put a stop to it."

"Who do you think you are...?"

Huang pulled her tie out, letting her own hair fall loosely around her face.

"I said /enough/, Chi Fu! There is no law anymore! The Emperor has the highest respect for Lieutenant Hua Mulan and he lifted that archaic law after she proved herself in battle the first time!"

"Where do you get off...?"

Chi Fu stopped the question abruptly, staring at her and it was as if he now finally really looked at this soldier's face. An expression of recognition and unbelief spread across his face.

"Your Highness?" he squeaked.

Shang almost fell over. "Your Highness?" he repeated in complete disbelief.

Chi Fu dropped to his knees quickly, bowing prostrate on the ground before her. Shang followed suit, sinking to his knees and bowing also. One by one, the shocked and bewildered group of soldiers sank to the ground, kneeling and bowing before her.

Chi Fu raised his head to look at her. "Princess Hui-Ying..."

"There has been no law broken and there will be no execution," she stated, cutting him off. "My father has great respect for Lieutenant Hua Mulan and he honors her. And she has been a good friend to me." She glanced at Mulan with a reassuring smile as she said this, then turned to Shang and continued. "Captain, bring her back inside. I will talk to you after she has been attended to."

Shang rose slowly and walked toward Mulan, barely aware of his legs moving. He helped her up and began to lead her back to the tent as the princess pointed to the medic.

"Go in and see to it that this fool hasn't caused her wound to reopen, throwing her around like that."

"Yes, your Highness," the medic answered nervously, rising to his feet and coming up to Mulan's other side to help Shang lead her into the tent.
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