Chapter 9

Dragon of Unity

"Are we there yet?" Mushu gasped as he poked his head out of a saddlebag. The jolting and jarring of Khan's stride was making him feel sick. It didn't bother Cri-Kee, though. The little bug was peacefully snoring on Khan's hindquarters.

Suddenly, the world stopped swaying. Mushu sighed with relief. Mulan leaned forward in her saddle and patted her horse. Khan snorted and shook his head, looking at something ahead of them.

"What is it, boy?" Mulan crooned.

'Hey, Mulan!" Mushu called, "Check it out! We are there!"

Sure enough, Mushu was right. Ahead of the travelers, the path led to the gate of the other country. Mulan dismounted and led Khan to a small stream for a drink. She stood staring at the gate, as though lost in thought.

"So, what's the plan?" Mushu asked.

Mulan was silent a minute before she answered.

"I'm going to do what we came here to do."

Mushu looked confused. "We came out here to get the princesses married to the princes so these emperors can have their treaty."

"That's right."

"Well," Mushu cleared his throat," not to put a damper on things, but we're fresh outa princesses."

Mulan nodded," I know." She glanced at the sun now rising into the sky. Then wordlessly, she mounted Khan and rode towards the gate.

All of the sudden, Mushu understood what Mulan was planning.

"Wait, Mulan! You can't! You can't marry a prince! For one thing, you're not a princess."

"But I am highly honored in my country. Besides, I have to try. I have a duty to this mission, and I must honor it. Like Shang did."

"But Mulan!" Mushu cried, "you aren't like Shang!"

"Why? Because I'm a woman?" Mulan demanded. She turned to glare at Mushu.

Mushu shook his head. "No, want more than just duty and honor. Girl, you'd never get what you dream of from this situation."

"I know." Mulan sighed, looking sad.

"I just want you to be happy." Mushu said.

For the first time in days, Mulan gave Mushu a genuine smile. "I know you do."

Then Mulan looked distant again. " but sometimes there are things that are more important than one person's happiness."

With determination in her eyes, Mulan urged Khan towards the gate, and her destiny.

--- --- --- --- --- --- ---

As Mulan climbed the steps of the palace, doubts began filling her mind. She shook her head. Her life was about to change forever, She couldn't allow herself to second-guess her decision! Mulan topped the long flight of stairs.

Khan, Mushu, and Cri-Kee watched from below. Mushu made a decision. He jumped down from Khan and took off after Mulan.

"Cree chirp chirp squeeki?" Cri-Kee asked from Khan's saddle.

"I'm on a secret mission." Mushu called back.

Cri-Kee's head cocked. Khan and the bug looked at each other and shrugged. They watched Mushu dash up the palace steps to join Mulan.

"Mushu? What..." Mulan gasped as the squirrelly dragon scampered up onto her shoulder.

"Hey, where you go, I go, girl! I'm your guardian!" Mushu grinned, "Now, how am I supposed to guard you if you're up here and I'm down there, huh? How's that supposed to work?"

"Alright, you can come with me." Mulan relented.

"Yeah, that's right! Cause, you might need me, you know, for moral support or somethin'."

Mulan wistfully looked at the palace doors.

"Yeah, something." She mumbled.

"Hey, you alright?" Mushu asked, looking concerned," You seem a little down."

"You could tell?" Mulan sheepishly glanced at him.

"Hey!" Mushu spread his arms, " I don't always just focus on myself!" Then he softened. "You gonna be okay?"

Mulan tried to look happy. "Sure." I hope. "Here goes nothing."

Mushu hid in Mulan's coat as she approached a door guard. She addressed the guard.

"I am Fa Mulan of China. I am here to speak to the Emperor." Mulan said in her most formal voice.

"Of course, Fa Mulan. Uh, His Majesty has been expecting you." The guard looked around. He'd expected the Hero of China to arrive with horses and carriages and guards, and foot soldiers. This girl standing in front of him had only one horse.

Mulan noticed the guard looking at her skeptically. She reached into her clothes and pulled out the Crest of the Emperor of China. The Emperor himself had told her to show it to any palace guards who might give her any trouble.

It worked.

"Right this way, please." The guard pulled the large palace doors open. Mulan walked in; with Mushu peeking out of her coat.

She found herself standing in front of an emperor's throne. On it sat an emperor. Immediately, Mulan bowed respectfully.

"Rise, Fa Mulan." the emperor ordered.

She did.

"I have heard of how you greatly helped your country defeat Shan Yu and the Hun army. Perhaps it is I who should bow to you." The emperor smiled kindly at Mulan.

"I was only serving my country, sir." Mulan said humbly, her eyes averted to the floor.

"Well, you did a good job." the emperor said bluntly, "So, about the treaty. Has your emperor agreed to the exchange?"

Mulan winced at the idea of trading daughters for a treaty.

"That is what I am here to discuss, Your Majesty. Our caravan faced many hardships during the journey here. I am afraid that all that is left." Mulan almost choked on the last word. Come on, Mulan! she thought, Keep it together!

"Therefore, I offer myself in the place of the princesses, to seal the treaty between our two great countries." Mulan took a breath. She hoped this would work.

"Hmm." The emperor said. Then he called for his advisors to come near. The men talked it over for a few moments. Finally, they made a decision.

"Fa Mulan, I agree to your offer. The Golden Dragon of Unity smiles on us this morning. The treaty will be sealed; and you will be a suitable bride for my oldest son." The emperor gestured towards a lanky boy playing with set of Chinese handcuffs. The boy looked no older than ten years old!

"Son," the emperor said, "put that toy down."

The boy tried, but the handcuffs were stuck on his fingers.

"My boy, meet your new wife." the emperor proudly presented Mulan.

"Her?" the boy pointed at Mulan, "but she's so old! Can I have a pony instead?"

As the emperor explained marriage to his son, a ladies' maid mercifully ushered Mulan off to another room.

The ladies' maid showed Mulan the wedding clothes waiting in the room. Then she closed the door. Mushu jumped out of Mulan's coat as Mulan picked up the clothes and walked behind a dressing screen.

When Mulan reappeared a few minutes later, she was wearing a full wedding gown and headdress. She looked beautiful, although extremely sad.

Mushu watched her put on the customary earrings and makeup for this country. The expression on her face would've led you to believe she was preparing for a funeral, rather than a wedding.

Mushu hated to see his friend so sad.

"Mulan, I'd turn to stone for a thousand years if it would stop this." Mushu told her sincerely.

Mulan patted Mushu comfortingly, "I don't think even the Great Golden Dragon of Unity could stop this now." She stepped out of the room and allowed herself to be ushered off to the palace's

Hall of Ceremonies.

She didn't notice Mushu slithering out a window.

--- --- --- --- --- --- ---

The emperor, the young prince, and Mulan stood before a large crowd. They stood in front of a large statue of the Golden Dragon of Unity. The emperor had handed Mulan and the prince each a fancy cup.

"With the sharing of the Cups of Unity, these two lives will become one. Under the witness of the Great Golden Dragon of U..." The emperor was interrupted.

"Wait!" Two horsemen pushed through the crowd to make way for Chi Fu...and the three princesses!

Chi Fu finally arrived at the front of the crowd. He fell on his face in a bow. Then he stood up.

"Don't listen to her, your majesty!" Chi Fu said, " She told you lies so that she herself could marry your fine son! But I came across these three lovely princesses back at the river."


"No you didn't..."

The four women began to protest Chi Fu's scandalous claims.

"Silence! In the presence of great men! Fa Mulan, " Chi Fu turned to an angry and bewildered Mulan.

"Are these not the princesses who were betrothed to His Majesty's sons?"

"Yes, but..."

"And did you not gallop off into the woods alone and ride straight to this great country's gates?"

Chi Fu probed.

Mulan, looking defeated, shook her head sadly.

"Yes, I did."

"Your Majesty? I rest my case." Chi Fu looked very smug and self-satisfied.

The emperor looked at Chi Fu.

'It does not matter now." The emperor said, "this woman and my son have already taken an oath before the Golden Dragon of Unity."

"But sir! These princesses are under oath by their father, the emperor of China!" Chi Fu argued.

"Wait! Don't listen to him!"

Three strange-looking men burst into the crowd.

It was Ling, Chien Po, and Yao!

Chien Po stepped forward," Your majesty? We were there, sir. This man kidnapped the princesses."

"Yeah! He brought them here to get the glory to himself.!" Ling added.

Yao looked angry. That is, Yao looked angrier than usual. "We were supposed to deliver those princesses!"

"It was our job to keep them safe!" Ling chimed in.

"So," The emperor sighed heavily," I suppose you wish the princesses to marry the princes, too?"

"Uh," the three men looked uncomfortable, "not exactly..."

"So, it is alright with you if we proceed with this wedding?" the emperor asked tiredly.

Just then, yet another person burst in.

"Wait! Don't listen to them!" Shang yelled.

"Shang?" Mulan was extremely happy to see Shang, alive and running up in front of her!

The emperor was at the end of his rope. "Well, who am I supposed to listen to, then?" The emperor was extremely frustrated!

"Silence!" The Great Golden Dragon of Unity statue ordered, fire and smoke coming from his mouth.

Everyone gasped. All were quiet. Chi Fu once again fell on his face in a sloppy bow.

"That was a sloppy bow, Mr. Janitor! As bad as your singing!" the statue admonished.

Chi Fu gasped, "How did you know about that?"

"I am the Great Golden Dragon of Unity, man! I know all and see all!"

Fire came from the statue's mouth, setting Chi Fu's hat ablaze. Chi Fu whimpered and cowered like a scared puppy, trying to put out the flame on his hat.

Mulan furrowed her brow. There was something familiar about the Great Golden Dragon of Unity that she couldn't place. Then she heard a sigh. Mulan looked down. There was a cricket in her cup!

"Cri-Kee?" Mulan asked. The cricket chirred contentedly. Then Mulan saw the reflection of the Golden Dragon statue in her cup. She caught a glimpse of red and yellow inside the statue's mouth. Of course! Mushu! No wonder the voice of the "golden dragon of unity" was so familiar!

"And what I know and see right now is that there are four couples right here who belong together."

Two smoke rings puffed out of the statue's mouth. One landed over the princesses and the Trio. The other ring landed over Mulan and Shang.

"But, Great Dragon...are you sure? Haven't you forgotten my son? Who does he get to marry?" the poor frustrated emperor cried.

"How dare you question me? I am the Golden Dragon of Unity!" The dragon sent fire out of the statue's mouth to curl around the emperor.

"Yes, yes, of course, Great Dragon." the emperor bowed to the mysterious talking statue.

"And furthermore, this should not interfere with the signin' of the treaty!" Mushu yelled out of the statue.

The emperor nodded," yes, Great Dragon!" Then the Emperor turned to the four couples. Someone was going to get married!

"So by the power of the Great Golden Dragon of Unity, do you take her?" The emperor said quickly. He seemed to be hurrying to get the marriage over before anyone else could interrupt!

By now, Shang, the princesses, and the trio had joined Mulan on the platform in front of the crowd. Shang, Chien Po, Ling, and Yao looked at their brides. "Yes!" they chorused together.

"And do you take him?" the emperor asked.

"Yes!" Mulan, Su, Mae, and Ting-Ting emphatically said.

"Then I now pronounce you husbands and wives!" the emperor collapsed into his throne. His son walked up to him and offered one side of the Chinese handcuffs. The emperor happily played with his son.

And the four couples kissed and embraced. Mulan hugged Shang tightly, "I thought...well...they said you were dead!" Mulan cried.

Shang smiled at her," It was just a scratch. What matters now is that we are together, and nothing will ever separate us again!"

Behind Shang, Mulan saw red movement in the golden dragon statue. She mouthed, "Thanks, Mushu!" She saw the little dragon salute.

Mulan sighed happily, resting her head on Shang's shoulder.

--- --- --- --- --- --- ---

Two Weeks Later

It was good to be home! Mulan sighed as she sat on her bed. No use unpacking, she'd be moving to Shang's place soon. He'd acquired a nice spot of land right across the street from the Fa property.

Someone knocked on the door.

"Come in!" Mulan called.

Shang entered," Hey, my beautiful wife! Can you believe we're actually married?" He kissed her gently. Then he frowned. "Something's troubling you."

"Shang, remember how the Golden Dragon of Unity talked?"

"How could I forget? That was sure something!"

"Shang, that was Mushu. He helped us out. After everything that happened. Now I'm happier than I've ever been in my life, and he can't be...and it's not fair at all!" Mulan looked out her window. Somewhere out there, her friend sat alone, facing several lifetimes of being a rock.

"Whoa! Mulan!" Shang said, "Slow down! What are you talking about?"

Mulan turned to look at Shang," Because I got married," she answered, "Mushu can't be my guardian anymore! He has to turn into stone like the other guardians."

"Ohh, is that it?" Shang caressed Mulan's sad face," Well, we can't have that, now, can we?"

Shang stood up and walked towards the door.

"Shang, where are you going?" Mulan asked.

"You'll see." Shang promised.

--- --- --- --- --- --- ---

Mushu sat sadly on his pedestal. This was his last day in the land of the living. He saw Mulan and Shang leaving Mulan's room-house, and he had to smile. At least Mulan was happy. Mushu had done what he could to make it that way. Now it was up to Shang to keep her happy.

Shang and Mulan entered the small temple. Shang was carrying some large tablets. He set them down beside the ones already standing.

Mushu was curious. "Hey, lovebirds! Whatchu guys doin'?"

Mulan smiled at Mushu," Shang's combining the family's shrines so that you won't have to turn to stone, Mushu!" she exclaimed.

"What?" Mushu looked from Mulan to Shang and back again, "you wanna run that by me again?"

"You can keep your job, Mushu, you'll still be my guardian!" Mulan watched her happy friend.

"Yeeeeeeehaw!" Mushu yelled, "Thanks, Shang! Man, I knew you was an okay guy! Uh, wait," Mushu paused his happy dance," aren't there rules against this?"

"Sure, right beside the rule about the Great Golden Dragon of Unity actually being gold instead of red..." Shang turned to Mulan," and the rules about running away from home and impersonating soldiers."

"So, Mulan, now that you've once again saved the country, what's next for you guys?" Mushu asked.

"Well," Shang grinned," I thought we'd go camping..."

"Shang!" Mulan giggled.

--- --- --- --- --- --- ---

Somewhere in town, a familiar figure with a stringy beard pushed a mop across a floor. A large lady with too much eye shadow watched critically.

"Work harder! That last girl made a big mess of things!" The Matchmaker stared at Chi Fu. Chi Fu glared, but obediently thrust the mop harder across the wood floor.

--- --- --- --- --- --- ---

Out in the foothills, Mulan and Shang settled near a campfire. Mushu piled the last armful of firewood sticks nearby, then he sat on a log opposite the happy couple.

"It's so peaceful here." Shang put his arm around Mulan.

"Yes, and romantic!" Mulan hid a giggle, remembering what Grandma Fa had said about the foothills.

That gave Mushu an idea. Watching Mulan and Shang cuddle on a log, he realized that the night was missing something.

"Hey, Cri-Kee? How 'bout some ambiance?"

Cri-Kee obliged.