Disclaimer: I, sadly, don't own any of the Mulan characters or whatever. If I did, I wouldn't be writing on this fanfiction.
But I do own my own characters. Thanks!
CHAPTER ONE – Memories from the Past
A/N: I don't think Disney mentions several surnames so I've made them up. Also, forgive me if I use 'modern' language like 'Hey!' because I'm not sure what they would have said in Mulan times. Oh, and also, I'm going to refer to Ling, Yao and Chien-Po as the 'Gang'. Thanks!
Mulan lay lazily on her bed, painting a picture of mountains and birds. She had been at home for about three weeks. Since leaving the palace, Mulan had had no contact with anyone from the Imperial City or her friends.
'Well, bang goes another dream of being accepted by society,' Mulan thought sadly and stabbed at her picture, sending dots of ink flying.
She yawned and rolled off her bed. Standing up, she straightened out her dress and wandered into the garden. She sat down on the bench, amongst the spring blossoms, her thoughts turning back to the war.
Her side hadn't fully healed from the slash by Shan-Yu but she could still walk, run and generally move about. Most of her thoughts about the war were blurred, mixed together and running out like a cinema reel. Her training days were clear, she could see Yao's angry face when he offered her a 'knuckle sandwich', Ling's innocent face as he knocked over her cannon support, Chien-Po's cringing face as Shang ordered them to 'pick up every single grain of rice'...Shang...
Mulan's dreamy expression returned as she thought about her Captain. She wondered whether he had been promoted to General, in his father's place. She could still see his face in front of her eyes as clearly as if he was standing right in front of her. His deep eyes had a certain charm about them, the way they sparkled when they took a second chance at you. She had fallen in love with him the first time she had ever seen him, when she had started a large fight at the training camp. Just thinking about him and his last visit made Mulan blush and smile to herself.
FLASHBACK (After Shang accepted the invitation to dine with Mulan and her family):
"Dinner would be great," Shang answered and then smiled at Mulan. That smile! It made her feel weak at the knees whenever she remembered it.
"Okay then," Fa Zhou took the helmet out of Mulan's hands and walked towards the garden gate (A/N: that big circle hole leading into the garden) "I'll leave you two to have a talk while we prepare dinner," Her father turned and walked gracefully through the gate. Fa Li followed him, and then Grandma Fa, after winking at Mulan. Mulan rolled her eyes.
"So..." She started, turning back to Shang.
"So..." He smiled awkwardly at her, and then turned his eyes to his feet. Mulan knew that his shyness was because she was now a woman to him, so it made talking a lot more difficult.
"Do you want to go for a walk?" She asked. At least, she thought, there'll be something to do if we don't talk, even if it is just walking.
"Sure," He answered. They walked off to the bridge where Mulan stared down at her reflection. She could see Shang looking at her and she blushed before turning her head towards the Fa family shrine.
"What's that?" Shang asked following her gaze. Nice Shang, he thought, what a stupid question. I have a family shrine in my garden at my house. So far, 0/10 for conversation.
"That's the family shrine," Mulan answered, looking at it. Then she turned back to Shang, who was reddening and shuffling his feet. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah, I just...have a stone in my shoe," Shang cringed inside. Mulan looked confused. Brilliant. Shang thought. Well, you totally suck at talking to people. No, not people, women. No, women who have saved your lives twice in particular. Wait, that's it!
"Oh, Mulan. I just wanted to say thanks for saving my life twice. I really owe it to you," He smiled. Thank God. You said a decent sentence. Well done Li Shang. So from now on, think before you speak! Think before you speak! Shang grinned to himself.
"Oh, that's ok. Well, I sort of had to save you in that avalanche because you were my captain and in the palace, because it wasn't your fault that Shan-Yu didn't get the emperor," Mulan replied, smiling back.
"Well, just so you know," He said then paused. The uncomfortable silence came creeping back in. "So, what have you done since you got home?" He asked.
"Not much. I only got back home a few minutes before you came," Mulan answered.
Damn it! I knew that! Shang cringed again. Shang, you really are bad at talking. What did I just say? Think before you speak! Think, think, think!
Mulan grinned to herself. She could sense Shang's embarrassment and she found it funny, watching the way her brave captain went to pieces while trying to talk to her.
After that, Mulan brought up the subject of the war, which they were both able to talk about without getting embarrassed or not having enough material to talk with. The subject of the war carried them all the way through dinner as well.
Mulan's parents and grandmother could see that love was blossoming between the two of them. Mulan was polite to Shang, and he treated her with a lot of respect. Fa Zhou smiled to himself as she saw his beloved daughter bond with her captain and the way that both of them would blush when someone (normally Grandma Fa) bring up the subject of love, engagement or marriage.
After dinner was over, Mulan went with Shang to collect his horse from the stables and lead him to the front yard.
"I guess I'll see you around sometime," She smiled at him.
"Yeah. I'll be in touch or I'll come round again. Your father said I would always be welcome," Shang answered.
"You would," She added. Shang smiled at her, his eyes twinkling. Mulan could feel her heart melting inside.
"Bye," She said as he got onto his horse. He smiled at her, and then galloped out the yard, without looking back.
"What are you thinking about?" Mulan glanced up and saw her elderly grandmother hobbling over to her.
"Nothing Grandma," Mulan said, but her blushing cheeks gave her away.
"Are you thinking about a certain captain?" Grandma Fa asked. Mulan flushed and looked down at her feet. "I was right!" Grandma Fa said.
"Is it that obvious?" Mulan asked, looking up at her Grandma. Grandma Fa came and sat down next to Mulan, and looked at her blushing granddaughter.
"Yes, if you really want to know," Grandma Fa said. She sniggered and Mulan started to smile as well.
"Shame that I haven't seen him for weeks. Shame that I haven't seen anybody for weeks," Mulan answered sadly.
"Oh well. Maybe you'll see them later," Grandma Fa added limply. Mulan smiled and gave her grandmother a hug.
Then they heard the war-drum being beaten and the sound of hooves came drifting over to them. Mulan glanced at her grandmother and they both ran to the gate.
Fa Zhou and Fa Li were standing at the open gate. Fa Zhou told Mulan to stay back, but as usual, she clambered over the roofs and was greeted with a merry sight.
Li Shang was sitting on top of his white horse, looking very regal and proper. Next to him, not looking quite as regal, were her three friends, Chi Yao, Huang Ling and Mai Chien-Po.
Ling turned around to look at the villagers and then noticed Mulan perched on the roof.
"Hey Mulan!" He called and waved. Yao, Chien-Po, Shang and all the villagers around them turned to look at Mulan, who started to blush slightly.
"Hey," She called back and smiled. Yao and Chien-Po both grinned too, but Shang just acknowledged her with a nod and turned back to the villagers. Mulan raised her eyebrows and shook her head.
"People! We are sorry to inform you that certain enemies have crossed the Great Wall. We will need one man from every family to join the Imperial Army," Shang paused. "Again," He added after some thought, then started to list surnames, while Ling, Yao and Chien-Po left his side and trotted into the Fa's yard.
Mulan scrambled down from the roof and ran across the yard, straight into the arms of her three friends. Chien-Po picked up her and swung her around. She burst into laughter, her cheeks flushed and hair whipping out behind her.
Chien-Po put her down, grinning insanely. They turned around to see the villagers staring at them, including Shang. Both Mulan and Chien-Po began to blush.
Shang shook his head at them and continued calling out names to the villagers.
"Actually Mulan, we do need to talk to you," Yao said. She nodded and gestured them away from the gate and closer to the house, her parents following.
"The emperor has requested that you join the army again. But, he says that if you don't wish to, then he understands," Ling said.
Mulan's eyes widened. She began to feel different emotions at once. She had enjoyed the company of her three friends immensely during her first stay at Wu Zhong and the three-week separation from them had left her lonely. She also liked the idea of getting to know Shang a bit better. She knew him pretty well, but she had been posing as a man for most of the time she was around him, so, she figured, he might act differently around her as she was now a woman in his eyes.
However, she was worried about leaving her parents again. Her father had told her that she had broken his heart when she had left, and she didn't want to leave him thinking and feeling those sort of feelings again.
"Yeah, I'd like that," She answered determinedly to Yao then turned to her parents. "Mama? Baba?"
Her parents turned to each other, their faces grave.
"Give us a minute," Fa Li said, and then she walked to the side and began to talk to Fa Zhou. Mulan and the Gang exchanged discouraging looks.
"You do want to, don't you?" Ling asked Mulan. She nodded.
"Yes I do. I did have a lot of fun at Wu Zhong," She paused. "It was the only place I really felt accepted. After the arrow incident, of course,"
"Sure, it's nothing to do with the fact you know you're going to be spending more time with our illustrious general?" Yao sniggered. Chien-Po elbowed him in the back.
"General?" Mulan questioned.
"He got promoted?" Mulan asked. The Gang nodded. "I didn't know that," Mulan added feebly.
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. But you do want to see him, don't you?" Yao persisted.
Mulan shrugged, her cheeks becoming hot. "He's my friend,"
"You're blushing. It's more than that, isn't it?" Yao nudged her with her elbow. She glared at him.
"It's a hot day," Mulan lied. Chien-Po looked up at the sky, which was overcast and gloomy. Mulan noticed him looking up, and glanced up at the sky too. "Okay, fine. Maybe it's not hot. I just...blush easily,"
"Yeah, yeah," Yao crowed.
"Mulan?" She whipped around, her parents standing next to her. "We've agreed that you may return to the army," Mulan started to grin, but Fa Li continued, "on the condition that you come home with no sign of a scratch on you, like you did last time," Mulan nodded, but the Gang looked puzzled, but didn't say anything.
"Oh thank you Mama!" She gave her mother a hug, and then her father. She smiled at them, and her father smoothed her hair. "I promise I'll come home without a scratch,"
"Okay Mulan. You might want to leave with us today, instead of tomorrow with the other recruits," Ling said. Mulan nodded and disappeared into the house.
Half an hour later, Mulan came out again, holding Khan by the reins. She was dressed in her training gear; her armour was slung onto the back of Khan. Her hair was down, because she couldn't be bothered to tie it up and everyone knew she was a girl so there was no point trying to hide it.
She brought Khan up to her parents and the Gang. She smiled at the Gang, who all jumped onto their horses. Mulan could see Shang waiting at the gate, but she couldn't see why he didn't come in.
She turned to her parents and gave them each a hug. Then she jumped onto Khan and smiled down at her parents.
"Don't worry Baba. I'll be fine," Fa Zhou looked at her sadly. He was worried about his daughter. He was extremely close to Mulan and he didn't want her to be so carefree with her life. He reached into his pocket and gave Mulan an object. She opened her hand and saw the blossom-comb from the matchmaking session lying in her palm. The Gang peered over her shoulder to look at what she was holding.
"Thank you, Baba," She reached down and gave her father a hug. Straightening up, she smiled and followed Ling out of the yard.
Wu Zhong looked exactly the same as it had done when Mulan had first arrived there, except now it was evening. It was now completely empty, as all the recruits were scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning.
As they had been riding, Ling gave Mulan some important news.
FLASHBACK (During the ride):
"Yao, Chien-Po and I are now captains," Mulan noted a hint of pride in Ling's voice. "We got the titles just after you left the Imperial City a few weeks back,"
"Oh, congratulations," Mulan grinned at them.
Mulan had been given a tent next to Ling's and in-between Chien-Po's. After setting up her tent, she came out and saw the Gang sitting on the grass around a campfire, at the far end of the tents. She went over and joined them, sitting next to Yao and Ling.
"So, what's going on with you now then?" She asked them.
"I'm betrothed now," Yao grinned. "I haven't met her yet, but I'm sure she's going to be perfect," A dreamy expression floated across his face when he thought of his fiancée-to-be. Mulan raised her eyebrows at Ling, who sniggered.
Behind Ling, Mulan could see Shang walking around, obviously with something on his mind. She was sad that he had not said anything to her but, she figured, he was a bit busy with the villagers. All the same, she had expected a 'hello' at least, unless you counted the nod as a greeting.
He looked different from when she had last seen him. His face looked tired and his shoulders were visibly drooping. She wondered if the stress of being General had caught up with him, or if something else was bothering him.
He suddenly turned and looked over at them. She turned quickly away and looked back at Yao, who was talking. She nodded, aimlessly, pretending she had been listening all along. She could almost sense Shang looking at them, her cheeks began to redden.
"Are you alright Mulan?" Chien-Po asked her. Mulan's head jerked up.
"Yeah, I'm fine," She answered quickly.
Yao began to grin. "Is it because the general was looking over at us, before going into his tent?"
"Really?" Mulan turned around to find Shang still in the same position as before, still looking at them. Her face instantly turned red.
"Gone into his tent?" She shrieked as loudly as she could without Shang hearing.
"I was right then, wasn't I?" Yao began to laugh. Mulan shoved his shoulder and he toppled over onto Chien-Po. He pulled a face at Mulan as he pushed himself up. Mulan shook her head, her hair flying out.
She looked up and suddenly noticed a red flash amongst the forest trees that grew around the Wu Zhong camp. She got up and ran towards the forest. The Gang and Shang watched as she ran to the edge of the camp, over the bridge that provided a passageway across the stream and into the thicket of trees, bushes and ferns that grew in the forest.
The forest had clean air, probably because of all the trees. They grew thickly, but light shone in through the tree branches and a thick carpet of luscious green grass grew under Mulan's feet. Birds of different colours, shape and size cooed above her in the branches, making noises as they flew from tree to tree.
Mulan looked around and saw the red flash again. She ran over and snatched it out of the bush.
"Mushu!" She cried. Her friendly dragon guardian smiled at her from inside her hand.
"What's happening baby? Do you mind letting go of my neck now?" Mushu croaked. Mulan opened her hand and Mushu fell to the floor. She knelt down next to him.
"Sorry about that," She smiled at him and then sat down cross-legged on the grass.
"Yeah, no big deal," Mushu grinned at her and then Cri-Kee jumped out from next to him.
"Cri-Kee!" She said, her smile turning into a grin. "I missed you two a lot,"
"Yeah, well, you know that we can't come and see you unless we're needed, as guardians I mean," Mushu explained. Mulan nodded.
"Mulan?" She heard a voice calling her. She span around and saw Li Shang standing a few metres away from her, a look of concerned upon his handsome face. "Are you alright?"
She scrambled up, shoving Mushu behind her with her foot. "Yes, I'm fine," She smiled. Shang smiled back at her, and then came over to join her.
"I used to love this place. I came here as a boy, with my father..." He paused. Mulan began to feel uncomfortable.
"I'm sorry about your father,"
Shang nodded. "My father had to bring me here, to this training camp. He didn't trust anybody at our house to look after me. He was rather...protective,"
"Where was your mother?" Mulan asked gently.
Shang sat down on the grass and motioned for Mulan to sit next to him. She went over and sat next to him, looking at his smooth profile. She couldn't help but admire his looks, his straight nose, stern mouth and deep eyes. She began to feel a funny tingling all over.
"She was at home. She didn't approve of me going into the army; she was too scared for my safety,"
Shang looked around and smiled. "I used to love this place," He repeated. "I remember feeling it had a certain magic about it," He glanced around, his eyes resting on Mulan. "I don't feel it anymore. I've changed a lot since...I don't know when. All I know is that I'm not the same anymore,"
"Shang, you're not a young boy anymore," Mulan reasoned. "Now that you're older, you have more responsibilities and different things to worry about, to love and to feel things for," Mulan said, feeling shocked about what she had just said. She could feel her cheeks beginning to flush again, and she bent her head in order to hide it.
"I know. All the same..." His voice trailed off into silence. Mulan glanced up at him, her cheeks slowly turning back to their normal colour. Shang turned towards her and caught her staring.
"What?" He asked, beginning to smile. She loved his smile. It made him look so mischievous, like he was holding a secret which concerned you.
"Nothing," Mulan said, getting up. "We should go back now,"
"Yeah, you're right," He stood up, brushing the dirt off from his uniform. "Let's go,"