Disclaimer: All characters, etc. from the Disney movie belong to Disney. Jiang Li-yu and Jiang Huan-yu belong to me.
A/N: I was inspired after reading Fyliwion's "30 Kisses: Kaito and Aoko"(Detective Conan/Case Closed fandom) for LJ's 30 Kisses Themes Community (thank you, Fyliwion), so I've claimed the Shang/Mulan pairing and have been working on the challenge (I've already been posting to LJ and decided to post here as well). This will be a collection of one-shots based on each of the 30 Kisses themes; some of them take place in more modern times with other characters, since many of the themes included technology and did not fit into the Mulanverse (but the couple is still included in those parts, at least in some small way, as per the guidelines).
Bad Night (Theme #14, radio-cassette player)
Fifteen-year-old Jiang Li-yu stirred in his bed, abruptly dragged out of slumber by his little sister's crying. He flipped over onto his back and sighed.
"I'm coming, Little Sister," he called out groggily.
Wiping the sleep from his eyes he raised himself up and swung his legs over the edge of the bed as Huan-yu's sobs continued relentlessly, rising in pitch despite the fact that her big brother was awake and on his way. She was calling out for their mother.
Blinking against the glare of the sudden light as he turned on the lamp, he stood up and stumbled toward the hallway of their small Chinatown apartment.
"Shh, it's alright. I'm coming, Huan-yu."
He flipped the light switch as he passed through the door to her room and hurried to the bed, taking a seat on the edge of it. She bolted up and threw herself against him, her tears already dampening the material of his nightshirt.
Li-yu closed his arms around her, clinching her in an embrace and stroking the back of her head soothingly.
"Okay, okay. It was just a bad dream," he murmured, holding his little sister and rocking her until her tears subsided.
She sniffled softly and he tenderly kissed the top of her head.
He felt her head nod against his chest. "A little."
Patting her back gently he let her rest against him quietly for a little while, hoping that she would drift back to sleep.
"Do you miss her, Elder Brother?" she asked, breaking the brief silence, her voice muffled against his shirt.
"Of course I do."
"Is she a ghost now?"
"What? Where did you get that silly idea?'
"Sue told me that when people die they become ghosts, especially if it happened unexpectedly like Mama."
"Who is Sue?"
"My friend at school."
Li-yu couldn't help chuckling slightly at the silliness of little girls.
"Mama is not a ghost, Huan-yu. And you shouldn't listen to what Sue says anymore. She doesn't know what she's talking about. She's just a kid, too."
She leaned back and gazed up at him, tears already welled up in her eyes again.
"Why do people have to die?"
A frustrated sigh escaped from the tired teenage boy despite his efforts to maintain his composure for his little sister.
"I don't know, Huan-yu. That's just the way things are. Old things die to make room for the new and young."
"But…Mama wasn't that old…it was because of an accident…"
"I know…" he began, at a loss as to how to continue and beginning to feel choked up as he thought of her. He forced the lump in his throat back, knowing that as the elder – and male – child he needed to be strong for Huan-yu's sake.
Tears streamed down her cheeks and he gathered her up in another embrace.
"Sometimes things happen and we don't know why," he offered quietly, as much for himself as for her.
"Where do people go when they die then?"
"Well," he began, thinking of something their mother had told him. "Our ancestors are all of our relatives who lived before us, since way, way back, when the family lived in China. Mama is with them now."
"So she's in China now?"
"What do they do?"
"What do they do?" he repeated.
"The ancestors. Do they do the same things as we do every day but in a different place?"
Li-yu sighed again. Sometimes he couldn't fathom his younger sister's train of thought.
His eyes were beginning to droop closed and he wanted nothing more than to go back to bed. He wished that his little sister would just fall back asleep as well. Instead the inquisitive seven-year-old was in the mood to ask him questions about why the world was the way it was, as if he had the answer to everything. Father was working at night now so responsibility for his little sister had fallen to him, along with dealing with her difficult nights. She was frequently terrified by nightmares ever since their mother had been killed and he suspected that they had worsened so suddenly due to the crazy things that friend told her.
After considering carefully how to phrase his answer so that he would comfort her and not upset her further, he finally spoke.
"Our ancestors watch over us and give us guidance, Huan-yu. Mama is gone from this life, but wherever she is, she still loves us and watches over us."
"She can see me now?"
"Yep," he laughed playfully, ruffling her hair. "She wants you to go back to sleep. A growing girl like you needs rest."
Huan-yu whined softly. "I'm not tired. Can't you stay with me for a little while longer?"
The elder sibling suppressed a sigh. An idea came to him and he extricated himself from the little girl's grasp.
"Where are you going?"
"I'll be right back. I have a surprise for you."
He was treated to a squeal of excitement and delight as he returned to her room with the radio that he'd bought for himself with money earned from his part-time job after school. He knew how much his younger sister coveted it, clamoring to come into his room whenever he had it playing so she could listen too. It had a cassette player in it as well, but he needed to earn some more money before he could start buying tapes to play. Setting it down on the end table next to Huan-yu's bed he plugged it into the outlet and switched it on.
Li-yu found himself beginning to nod off as he sat with his sister, listening to the quiet music. Catching himself falling forward he sat up with a start, his eyes popping open. He glanced at Huan-yu, hoping that she'd fallen asleep and he could go back to his room. But she was still sitting up, eyes wide open, listening intently to the music.
With a shake of his head he began to inch himself off of the bed. "I'll tell you what. You can keep the radio tonight, okay?"
Leaning over and kissing the top of her head again, he bid her goodnight and stood up.
"Don't stay up too late listening, though. You have school tomorrow, alright?"
"Yes. Goodnight, Elder Brother. Thank you."
Li-yu heaved a soft sigh, at a loss as to how to comfort his sister who had woken up screaming for the second time that night after being trapped in the throes of another frightening nightmare. He didn't know what to do; she never remembered the dreams nor did she even seem to have any idea what they were about. The one thing he was sure of was that it was somehow about their mother's death. Whether she relived the scene of the accident or even remembered it, he didn't know. But she always talked about Mama when he came to comfort her and often cried out for her in her sleep.
"Do you want to listen to the radio again?" he asked, reaching toward it to flip it back on.
But she shook her head, sniffling.
Stroking her hair tenderly, he fell silent for a short time, pondering how to soothe her this time. He'd been certain that she would have jumped at the chance to listen to the radio again, just to have it in her room had pleased her no end. But even that wasn't doing the trick now.
He exhaled softly as he felt the weight of her head resting against him; she was quiet and relaxed now. In fact, he thought she had drifted off and began to shift, preparing to ease her down onto her bed again. But her little fingers grasped his wrist.
"You're still awake?"
Mama had always told her stories before she went to bed and he decided to try the same tactic.
"How about if I tell you a story until you fall asleep?"
"You have to lie down first and then I'll tell you."
She did as she was told, then smiled up at him and demanded The Ballad of Mulan.
"Aren't you tired of it?"
With a vehement shake of her head she began to sing her favorite poem. Their mother sang it whenever she cleaned the apartment and he'd come home from school countless times to find Huan-yu following her around the place, attempting to intone the ballad with her and commit it to memory.
"No singing, Huan-yu. It's too late."
"But you have to sing it…"
"How about if I tell you another story about Mulan?"
"But the story ends with her going home…"
"Yes, but there's more to the story. She met a man during her stint in the army, an Imperial officer, and fell in love with him."
Huan-yu's eyes narrowed as she stared disbelievingly up at her brother.
"I never heard that…"
"That's because you've only wanted to sing the same poem over and over again. Do you want to hear the new story?"
She nodded eagerly.
"Well, when Mulan went into the army she fought bravely and won the respect of her troop. A very brave and handsome man named Li Shang was the leader of her troop and she secretly loved him. But he didn't know that she was really a woman. He found out the truth later. After she went home he came to see her. They had more adventures together and fell deeply in love with each other. When they went home, they got married."
"What kind of adventures did they have?"
Resigned to the fact that he would be up for awhile Li-yu made himself comfortable and began to tell her the story about the further adventures and romance of Fa Mulan and Li Shang.