Like Sun and Rain
A/N: To celebrate YunCyn's purchase of the Mulan II DVD. (smile) Sure, Shang's slightly whacked out but hey, it was a SWEET movie.
Disclaimer: The Legend of Mulan (c) all Chinese people, no matter how old or where they are. (No offense meant to anyone) The animated movie however is (c) Disney. ;)
The dry rustle of paper as a brush moved against it resounded in the silent study. The hand that held the dark brown calligraphy brush was steady and controlled. It belied the spirit beneath, raging as it was. Trembles, a result of anger trying to be swallowed down, made themselves known now and again, but they were forcefully pushed away as the strokes continued to move steadily and deliberately.
Some distance outside, away from the study, a near silent swing of a blade moved through the air. It danced and swayed, movements that if used swiftly enough were deadly in battle. The hand holding the hilt of the sword was clenched so tight, it hurt. But to the sword dancer, it made no impact. Control over the outraged thoughts was measured by the control over the weapon so the wielder tried to push away the dark feelings, concentrating energy on the methodical swings of the sword.
In the nearby houses, old neighbours exchanged knowing looks and shook their heads, half bemused. They knew the signs and the signals of a storm when they saw one.
And right now, a storm had just finished flinging thunder and lighting in the Li home. The rain however, had not stopped. If anything, it'd gotten harder.
It was normal of a newly married couple to bicker some months after marriage. Were it an arranged marriage to a somewhat less meek and mild wife, then the quarreling would commence some weeks after the ceremony.
But it was a whole year and a half before the young general Li Shang and his famous other half, Li Mulan got into an argument that soon progressed into a full fledged war. No one knew how it began or what it was about. But, it was clear that both were completely unwilling to give in. The neighbours who were mostly made out of much, much older married couples (all acquainted with Granny Fa which explained their… 'concern' over their young 'charges') could see that although both the general and his wife were completely different, they were also exactly alike.
It was a match, the neighbours commented with a small sigh and a smile, that was a double-edged sword.
That first argument had soon settled into the mud at the river bottom, never to be heard of again. Yet, some time later, it managed to float up again and it caused a second civil war within the Li household. The neighbours waited to see how this one would turn out.
One alone is not enough,
You need both together…
Both, whenever they got mad at each other, found it unbearable to look into each other's eyes. So they went off to try and calm down, trying not to think about killing each other. Shang went into the garden with his sword and Mulan into the study with her brush and paper. It helped… a bit.
Winter, summer, moon and sun,
Lesson number one…
Within the study, Mulan fumed silently as she copied out a very long poem without reading it. She was not about to give in when it was all clearly his fault. Let him be the man about it. She was not about to go on her knees like some weak little wife and beg for his forgiveness.
In the garden, Shang seethed wordlessly as he went through move after move without thinking about it. He was not about to apologize since it was all her fault and even a blind man could see it. But would she? No. So, no way was he going to get on his knees and grovel for forgiveness, thank you very much.
Like a rock, you must be hard.
Like an oak, you must stand firm.
An hour before sunset soon arrived. Usually this would be when Mulan had to stop to make dinner.
She clenched her fist around her brush determinedly. Like she'd make dinner for someone who was so illogically bull headed. Let him starve for once. Or let him make dinner for himself. He was a tough man, right? Snorting slightly, Mulan bent her head and continued writing slowly.
The anger inside steamed slowly.
Shang's fingers curled around the sword hilt even harder and he swung with more force, glaring all the way. He smelt no aroma of a dinner making its way out of the house where it would normally lure him into the kitchen to tease his wife about her cooking abilities. Fine then. Two could play this game, he thought with a growl. If she wouldn't cook, then she wouldn't have the satisfaction of seeing him starve or making his own dinner.
The flame within continued to flicker brightly.
Cut quick, like my blade,
Think fast, unafraid.
Sunset and the neighbours busied themselves with their own affairs. Smells of dinner permeated the village air, hungry farmers came home from the fields and children headed indoors.
But in the Li house, General Shang remained outside, repeating his sword moves over and over in the dim atmosphere. He glanced over to the house, particularly at the window of the study.
The flame seemed to burn slightly less now, slowing to a dark orange-red glow.
Mulan continued to work on her calligraphy as best as she could without moving to get a candle. She was about halfway done. Her dark eyes looked upwards at the darkening garden.
The anger slowed down to a simmer.
Like a cloud, you are soft,
Like bamboo, you bend in the wind,
Darkness fell and throughout the neighbourhood, windows shone with candlelight as families ate their meals at the dinner table over conversation.
The orange yellow light of a candle cast a glow on Mulan's face as she still sat at the table, slowly brushing strokes on the paper, crafting the poem's sentences. Three quarters was about finished and she looked up to get some rest. Her eyes fell on the window and out into the garden where she could barely see.
Her lips turned downwards a little in a sad frown. Was he that furious at her until he didn't even want to be under the same roof as she was?
It was never too dark to continue practicing the martial arts he'd been trained in as Shang maintained his stint of sword moves. He paused to wipe the sweat off his brow and again, his glance focused on the study window. The candlelight shone through, casting faint light on the outside wall.
Shang could picture that look of concentration on her face and he suddenly felt his heart sink slightly. Was she that angry at him that she refused to even think of him?
By and by, the glow faded into dull embers. The hot bubbles stopped rising one by one.
Creeping slow, you're at peace because you know
It's okay to be afraid…
The night was cold with wind picking up and bringing with it, the smell of rain. Families relaxed with one another as the women sewed, the men talked and the children got ready for bed.
General Li shivered slightly as he finally stopped completely to rest. This was foolishness, he knew, as he placed his sword beside him on the ground and sat. Sitting out in the wind when he ought to be inside, full after a good meal and writing out reports to submit to the emperor on the progress of the troops in this region. He should be in his study with brush and ink, paper and books, frustration at trying to work out his words and Mulan there to sooth the aches with her laughter and help.
…curse this pride.
The embers blew out, leaving ashes.
Mulan heard the wind howl and set the brush aside. Several steps took her to the window where she looked for Shang in the darkness. She found him sitting cross legged on the ground, with one hand supporting his head. Didn't he know it was going to rain soon and he was going to get sick if he didn't get out of there? She couldn't just go out there and make him come inside, like she sometimes did when he was too engrossed in something. Then he'd be rather reluctant but readily complied with a grateful gesture and a smile, a strange combination that made her feel gooey inside for no reason whatsoever.
The water grew still and began to cool.
One alone is not enough,
You need both together.
The first drops of rain tapped across the ground.
Shang decided that enough was enough and snatched up his sword. Domestic war or no, there was no way he was about to sit out here in the rain like a dumb statue. What kind of an idiot was he to-
A shadow had fallen over him as he stood. He looked up and right into the eyes of the person he'd been feuding with for the entire afternoon. They looked at each other for sometime as the parasol covered both from the oncoming rain. A long gaze that said a lot of things, but none of them were angry or upset words.
Mulan attempted to smile and succeeded… slightly.
Shang tried to match it and managed… somewhat.
A longer gaze followed before both silently, on unheard agreement, went into the house with Shang holding the parasol and Mulan holding onto his arm.
Winter, summer, moon and sun
Lesson number one…
As the rain fell outside, the situation inside seemed to cool with it. Mulan pushed her husband towards the bathroom to have a hot bath while she prepared an overdue dinner.
Some time later, both ate a simple meal in quietness.
Then, there was a small click as Shang laid down his chopsticks. Reaching over, he grasped his wife's hand and looked at her meaningfully. Mulan smiled, gripping his hand back, returning the expression.
Both shifted a little closer together and smiled wider at one another. They returned to their meal, their apologies willingly made and forgiveness readily granted, all without a single word.
Midnight came and the rain still fell, lulling people to a deep sleep.
Mulan, having suddenly awoke, blinked in the darkness. She suddenly remembered that her poem was one word short.
She glanced over at her sleeping Shang who had one arm wrapped around her waist. Mulan decided, with a smile, that it could stay that way. Snuggling back into the warmth of the blanket and her husband, she closed her eyes again, a smile on her lips.
A breeze blew slightly into the room, making the twin necklaces of the Yin Yang symbol clink against each other as they hung from an honourary place in the room.
To share the burden, you must work together, like the sun and rain.