I know, the pairing for this fic is very, very strange. Just, bear with me, okay? You'll like it, trust me. And if you don't, feel free to tell me so in a kindly constructed review when you're done. The idea came from lj's hetalia_contest prompt of the week "fairytale," as in inspired in part by the FrancexJeanne D'Arc pairing.

Disclaimer: I do not know Axis Powers Hetalia, or The Ballad of Mulan


The Blossoming Magnolia

Last night I saw conscription lists,
The Khan is calling troops army's rolls were in twelve scrolls,
And every scroll held Father's father has no older son,
Mulan has no big brother.

I wish to go buy horse and gear
And march to the wars for father.

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'This woman… she is incredibly strong.' It was his very first impression of her, the first time he ever saw her. He was sitting atop his horse, reigns held loosely in his hands, an accompaniment to the men of his government as they traveled through the many towns of the nation. War was on the horizon, and China needed men to fight; draft letters were being passed out. One to a family, regardless of the family. Young men lined up to accept duty in the place of aging, crippled father, while mothers dabbed at their eyes and bit their tongues. He saw the girl from the corner of his eye, her mother's hand over her wrist, acting as a restraint against the dishonorable act she wished to commit. He saw it, and his eyes caught hers for the briefest of moments, and then he knew.

In that instant, a smile bloomed on his face.

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In the east mart she bought a fine steed,
In the west mart she bought blanket and saddle.
In
the south mart bought bit and brittle,
In the north mart she bought a long whip,

At dawn she took her parents' leave.
By the Yellow River she camped at dusk.
She did not hear her parents' calls,
She heard only the sad whinnying

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He found himself reluctant to admit it, even within his own mind, but had it not been for those eyes, he would not have recognized her. Heavy armor shielded her secret, and she was a quick learner in the ways of the sword. Soon he became fascinated with her, the way she moved with grace and beauty, even on the most hostile and bloody of battlefields. In time he came to realize that it was not just admiration he felt watching her, but he did not at all want to admit to himself that there was anything more. Instead, her fixed his gaze and watched her dance.

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After many a battle the general died,
After ten years the stout troops went home.

She came back and saw the Emperor.
The Emperor
sat in his hall of light,
Her deeds raised her rank by twelve degrees,
He gave her a hundred thousand and more.

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When the war had finally ended, and he and his soldiers returned home, he had stood beside his emperor while he (she) was bestowed with honor upon honor, and caught her humble, hidden beam as her family was bestowed with honor in her name. And when she finally looked up from her kneel, his eyes were quick to catch hers. Once again, they wrinkled, and this time she understood.

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The Khan then asked her what she wished.
"I've no use to be grand secretary.
Just loan me a camel with far-running feet,
To carry me on its back to home."

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She was the humblest woman he'd ever had the fortune to meet. It struck him very hard; tradition dictated for women to be frail, delicate creatures, and yet the one who he would never forget, and never forget because he was proud of her, was the one who destroyed tradition. The one who, if she had been discovered, he would have had to have killed.

He then made a silent prayer, thanking any and all gods he could name that she was alive and with him. The world needed more people like her; strong, brave, intelligent, with a strong sense of justice, and yet humble, caring; a person who could kill with a sword or save with her knowledge, but who never saw herself as greater than she was. Who barely saw herself to be as great as she was. The world needed more of these people; he needed more of these people.

It made a strange little ache in his chest, when she had been granted her camel and had packed her armor and sword and herbs and set for home. He snuck out of his chambers and went out to the stables, and she smiled when she saw him but otherwise remained very silent. But, he later mused, we never needed words to speak.

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Then Mulan opened the door to her room in the east,
She sat on the bed in her room in the west.

She took off her buffcoat and armor,
And put on the skirt she used to wear.

At the window she combed her wispy locks,
In the mirror she put on rouge.

Then she went to the gate to see her companions,
And all her companions were struck with surprise.
"We marched together for twelve long years,
And you never knew that Mulan was a girl.

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The next time they met, she was dressed in her skirts again, and he could do nothing but stare. To him it felt as though he were beholding her for the very first time, in his mind there was no way that the person alongside whom he'd fought was the same greeting him with a warm smile and a tea tray, a satchel of chicken feed on the floor beside the back door. The years her body had spent hiding in it's metal cocoon, it had also spent blossoming like the most beautiful of magnolia. He could not believe that this delicate, curvaceous, feminine being was the very one who had shed blood in his name, both the enemies', and her own.

But, her hands were calloused from the hilt of a sword, and her eyes darkened as only those which had beheld war could be. Her frame was lithe, but toned muscles peeked out from a dress not shaped for such a form. When her hair was tucked behind her ear, he could see the gash on her neck that had bled for hours, hours during which he'd not once left her side, even when he wasn't there; the gash on her neck that made him shake with the fear that he might loose her. She was the same woman that he'd fallen for, the very same to whom he, Wang Yao, and he, China, both owed so much.

And then they sat opposite one another at the table, and both could hear the voices of her mother and father planning a courtship and marriage for them; her cheeks flushed at the talk, and he simply chuckled at the embarrassment.

"But… they're wrong. I cannot marry you…" If she had more to say, and it sounded like she did, he would never know it.

"Why not?" There was the barest hint of a teasing smile on his face, but his tone was all curiosity; he had known her secret, how much did she figure out about his?

She hesitated.

"I'm not sure." She answered finally, not looking him in the eye and instead tracing characters into the table. "But I know that I cannot." When she did look up at him, he could have sworn there were tears in her eyes. He was torn between ignoring them with the shrug that warriors did not cry, and wiping them away with the claim that women did, and could.

It was his turn to drop his gaze, down to hands that were wringing one another beneath the table. If she knew he was doing it, she chose not to comment.

"I'm sorry. I-"

"Please. Do not tell me why. I'm not sure what it is, but I know that it is a secret, and I know the value of a secret. All I ask of you is one favor."

"A-anything." He stuttered, and when she forced his eyes to look at her again, her war-hardened fingers resting lightly under his chin and forcing it up, that was when he realized that she had aged. He'd known her for 12 years, and only just now did it hit him that she had been aging all along.

Or maybe it was only just now that he allowed himself to come to this realization.

Tears prickled in his eyes, but before they fell, before he could say another word or think another thought, her lips had been laid over his own. They were warm, soft, but betrayed a past harshness. They were sweet with the taste of tea, but by the time his hands had wrapped around her waist and pulled her in they both tasted the salt of tears.

'Please, don't forget me.'

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The male hare's legs have a nervous spring,
The eye of the girl hare wanders.
But
when two hares run side by side,
Who can tell if they're boy or girl?

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The clink of wind chimes could just barely be made out from where he was standing, and the smell of wet grass and blossoming magnolias filled his nose. It would have been an oddly appropriate coincidence, he mused, if he hadn't been the one who planted the flowers there himself all those years ago. And continued to plant them when they died.

In the middle of the many beautiful pink-purple blossoms was a very old gravestone. The inscription on it was beginning to fade, and he made a mental note to come refresh it again. A small voice in his mind laughed at that; only one person of the world's six billion knew this grave existed, knew that this person existed, and he had the entire inscription memorized. He got down on his knees and lit his incense sticks, before making his prayers. When he got up and found that his vision was blurred, much like it had been on that day nearly two thousand years ago (and had it really been so long? wasn't it just yesterday, when they sat huddled around a campfire on a snowy mountaintop, their armor not enough protection from the cold?), he did not make to wipe them away, instead letting them fall and slide down his faint smile.

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"Now tell me girl, who's in your heart,
And tell me girl, who's on your mind?"
"There's no one in my heart at all
And no one on my mind."

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End.


The italicized lines in between dividers are excerpts from the poem itself, which I got from here http://en. wikipedia. org/ wiki/ Hua_Mulan. The title comes from the translation of the name, Mulan, which means "magnolia". Please, please, please levave a review and tell me what you thought of this fic!!

Thank you all for reading!

crimson-obsidian-rose