DISCLAIMER: the first 13 chapters of this story do not belong to me, they are owned by the awesome icedragon6171. By publishing this story again, I'm not trying to gain the credit which rightfully belongs to her, I just want to finish it because I think (and many other readers will do so too) such an amazing story deserves to be finished. I will try to keep the standards as high as the original writer has set them, so I'm open to any suggestions referring to the grammar, vocabulary...etc. But please note that I'll try to write this story in the same way I think the original writer would have done!
Having said all of that, ENJOY! (please note that I have changed absolutely NOTHING in the story! The first 13 chapters remain exactly the same as they do in the story posted by icedragon6171.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters mentioned in this story. They are the rightful property of Disney.
A/N: This is the first time I have written a fanfic for Mulan, and I am hoping that people will enjoy my work, as this my ultimate aim. Please read and leave a review! Criticism will be accepted so long as it is constructive, but I'm sure there won't be any :)
The main events in this story will (hopefully) be somewhat historically accurate.
Towards the Setting Sun
The Fa Family estate was quiet this morning, save for the quiet splash of water coming from the courtyard, where Mulan sat, scrubbing clothes in a vat of water. The rest of her family had gone to the market in town, and Mulan would have been going too, had she not lost that bet to her grandmother. Grumbling, she pulled the sleeves of her dress up for what must have been the hundredth time that morning, trying and failing miserably to keep them dry. Her mother would kill her when she saw the sorry state of what had been a fine dress in shades of blue and green.
In the five months that Mulan had been home from the army, life had almost returned back to the way it had been. Now, of course, Mulan's military training aided her somewhat with the daily household routine. To her parent's initial shock after her return, Mulan would wake up early in the morning - although by no means anywhere near how early she had to rise at Wu Zhong – and carried out her chores with a newfound ease and efficiency. Whereas she used to finish her tasks at sundown, now she finished almost three hours earlier, giving her time to practice the Kung-Fu she had been taught. Mulan wasn't yet ready to give that up just yet. The last time Li Shang had visited, almost a month ago now, he had demanded a sparring match, in which he easily defeated Mulan. Being a proud girl, Mulan wanted a rematch, and this time she wouldn't let Shang win.
The subject of Shang brought a slow smile to Mulan's lips as she wrung out the last of the clothes and set them aside on the warm stone of the courtyard for the hot afternoon sun to dry them. He had continued visiting her after the war, and his visits were always something to look forward to. Recently, however, he had been called to the imperial palace for matters of state he had to attend to, but Mulan didn't hold grudges on account of his absence. He would come in his own time.
And when he does, Mulan thought to herself, while emptying the vat of water into the gutter outside the gate, I'll hear no end from Grandma about how perfect we'd be together.
Mulan wouldn't deny that she had thought about that herself on more than one occasion, but she knew that, for the time being at least, they were only friends. Hopes of anything more were exactly that for now, but she could always dream.
With the washing done, Mulan took the bronze tub back inside the house, leaving it in the kitchen before heading to her own room to change her clothes before her parents returned to see what she had done to her dress. Unfortunately for her, the sound of distant hoof-beats reached her ears before she could even close the door, and, knowing that her parents had gone to the market by foot, leaving Khan in the stable, she would have to receive whoever was approaching wearing her current, slightly soggy, attire. Stepping back out into the courtyard, she hurried to the gates and peered out.
The white stallion gave away the identity of the visitor before she could even see his face. Leaning against the gate-post, she waited for her visitor to draw nearer before hailing him.
"Good afternoon General," Mulan called, smiling widely, as Shang slowed his horse to a walk. Opening the gate wider, she waited for him to dismount and lead his horse inside. "What brings you here?"
Shang returned a small smile, but he was otherwise stone-faced. "Are your family home?" He asked, changing the subject.
"No," Mulan replied, frowning, "They're at the market, but they'll be home soon. Why?" She took his horse from him, and led it into the corral. After locking the corral's gate, she turned back to Shang, and tried to catch his eyes.
Shang didn't answer right away, sighing almost inaudibly. His gaze wandered up to the sky above them. "The Emperor is sending an army west, to fight the Western Turks. I am leading it…" He trailed off, and glanced down at her. Mulan, thinking he was studying the wet sleeves of her dress and generally dishevelled appearance, blushed and folded her arms across her chest in an effort to conceal them.
Mulan was silent for a moment, weighing the situation as they walked towards the garden and letting the flames in her cheeks die down. Shang appeared to have nothing further to say, and so Mulan took it upon herself to ask the question foremost on her mind.
"Well," she began, unsure of whether she really wished to hear an answer or not, "What does that have to do with me?". Mulan moved towards the stone bench beneath the magnolia tree and sat down on its polished white surface. Shang sat down next to her, looking uneasy. Mulan could see he was tense despite the light armour he wore, judging from the way in which he moved, as though he were expecting a blow. Mulan had learnt to read Shang's movements back at camp, and their different surroundings now made no difference.
"That is what I need to speak to your father about." He replied. A certain quality in his voice made it clear that he wasn't willing to talk more on the subject, and no amount of prodding would make him do so. Resigned, Mulan busied herself with studying the canopy of the tree above them.
An awkward silence stretched between the two of them as they sat beneath the shade of the magnolia, neither of them knowing quite what to say to the other. Mulan was the first to gather the courage to speak.
"So…" She asked, slowly, "How have you been?" It was at least something Mulan would be interested to hear about, although it wasn't the most pressing of questions. She hadn't seen Shang for a month, after all.
"Busy," He began, straightening where he sat and taking in a deep breath, "The Emperor has required my services in the recruitment and training of a competent Palace Guard, and I have also had to deal with a lot of administrative paperwork concerning the war at the North-Eastern border." Shang sighed heavily, a deep frown scarring his brow, "It would seem that there are none capable of properly organising everything from the reports I have read. The second week into the campaign and they were already low on supplies, which causes a great deal of problems back at the capital, many of which have been my business to deal with."
"Do the other Generals have as much work as you?" Mulan asked. It didn't seem fair for Shang to do so much, being as new to the position as he was.
Shang managed a small chuckle at that. "The other Generals? They do more, I should think, though I haven't asked. I should count myself lucky, I suppose, that the Emperor knows I am young yet, and inexperienced in comparison." He turned to her with a smile on his face that made Mulan light-headed. All she could do was stare back stupidly as he gazed at her with his handsome brown eyes. Unfortunately for Mulan he broke the contact of their eyes, the smile fading as he looked down at his lap, as though he had been caught doing something inappropriate. Had Mulan not been so giddy, she might have thought him nervous.
The slam of the gate cut Shang short, and he clearly jumped at the sound, hurriedly getting to his feet. Mulan, annoyed at the interruption, was almost ready to curse her family for their bad timing, but instead pursed her lips and moved to go to her parents. Mulan paused for a split second as she passed Shang, wondering at her reaction. What had she expected? Some profession of undying love? Considering who it was coming from, it was unlikely. Shang was too shy to say anything of the sort; especially to a girl he had only begun to really know. Resuming her walk back to the courtyard, Mulan made to cover her hesitation by adjusting the damp sleeves of her dress.
Mulan's mother was the first to notice her arrival in the courtyard, and immediately, as Mulan had expected, spotted the wet sleeves of Mulan's dress. Her face fell into a disparaging frown, while Mulan's father merely smiled and limped his way back to the house.
"Mulan…" She sighed, disapproval heavy in her voice, "What happened to your dress?"
Mulan opened her mouth to reply, a sheepish smile on her face, but her Grandmother cut in first.
"Who's our visitor Mulan?" She called from over at the corral, where she had a hand on the nose of Shang's stallion. The answer would have been obvious, even if Shang hadn't walked into the courtyard behind Mulan, but the older woman liked to tease her grand-daughter in this way.
"Shang's come to visit," Mulan announced to her gathered family, "He has something important to tell us." Only after Mulan noticed the wide grin on her grandmother's face and her mother's inquisitive expression did she realise how what she had said could misinterpreted. Only Mulan's father seemed to get what her meaning was, and he invited Shang into the house. Mulan's face was on fire with embarrassment, only made worse by the sideways wink her grandmother threw her on the way inside. Bringing her hands up to shield her red cheeks from view, Mulan followed her grandmother into the house.
A/N: I hope people liked the first chapter, and are kind enough to leave a review. So, what does Shang have to say? How will Mulan and her family react? All will be explained in the next chapter!