One of my favorite Disney movies (among several… I love Disney and have lots of favorites) is "Mulan." Partially, it was because this female character was the opposite of a damsel in distress in every way. She did not wait for Prince Charming to wake her up from an enchanted sleep ("Snow White" or "Sleeping Beauty"…), to slay a dragon or giant sea witch("Sleeping Beauty" or "The Little Mermaid"…), or even to admit that he isn't really a prince, but he loves her anyway and he just faced an evil genie to save her from an hourglass of death ("Aladdin"…). Sure some were fairly strong characters like Belle from "Beauty and the Beast" or Jasmine from "Aladdin," but Mulan was in her a league of her own. I ended up watching it in theaters (between seeing with my friends, family, and school trips) about eight times. The most I've ever seen a movie in theaters.
Another reason I loved it was because of Mushu. He was too fun to have around, especially with Cri-Kee. The little dragon was too interesting. So, I figured I'd write up a fanfiction for this category. If nothing else, I'll enjoy it. Updates should be fairly slow. Still, it should be an interesting story. I love feedback.
Quick note: there will be flashbacks/scenes from the movies. They will be in italics. Hope you like it.
Vengeance Will Be Mine
It was such a nice day. Things were perfect actually. Mulan and Shang were the cutest couple to ever exist, but they weren't the only happy pair present today. The recently married heroes of China had decided to invite Yao, Ling, and Chien Po, and their new (princess) girlfriends for dinner. Thinking back on the last time a soldier stayed for dinner, Mushu guessed that his charge intended to play "matchmaker" for her friends and help their relationships. And since the emperor was actually a nice guy (demonstrated by his respectful behavior towards a certain female warrior), he let his daughters chose their own path now that the treaty was in place without them being wedded to another kingdom's royalty. He may have poor choices in advisors (Mushu still thought that Mulan should have taken that stupid Chi Fu's job), but he seemed to be a romantic at heart.
The red serpentine guardian lay stretched out in the branches of a tree. After eating, the group decided to make themselves comfortable under a certain blossoming tree; the same one where Fa Zhou would comfort his daughter, where Shang eventually proposed, and where Mushu currently hid. He listened lazily as the men (and Mulan) recounted war stories to Su, Mei, and Ting-Ting, chuckling as Ling tried to impress the oldest sister with his highly exaggerated role in saving the emperor. Yao glared at the thin man with his good eye.
"Aren't you forgetting how you got into the palace? I doubt that Shan Yu would 'tremble with fear at your might' while you was in a dress," the stocky soldier reminded. "Though it was kind of scary."
"Yeah, well… your dress made you look fat," he shot back.
Mei hugged Yao lovingly, "I'm sure you looked fine. Besides, it was for a good cause."
"And I never want to see any of them like that again," Mushu muttered, earning a laugh from Cri-Kee. "Still gives me nightmares."
Because the only living souls that knew he existed were Mulan and, recently, Shang, the fire-breathing dragon couldn't tell the trio exactly how bad they were at playing women. If Mulan had been that bad (and lacked the assistance of a certain travel-sized guardian), she'd been discovered in no time. Still, even if he couldn't join the party, that didn't mean he couldn't enjoy the talk.
"So, General Shang," began Ling uneasily, unsure how to address the man who was both his military superior and husband to one of his best friends. Shang's friendly smile, likely the result of Mulan cultivating his less strict side, encouraged the young man to continue, "I was kind of wondering why you combined your and Mulan's family shrines?"
"Think of it this way. When has she ever done things the easy way?" he asked, smiling at his wife as she gave him a playful shove. "This way, no one can say I'm trying to domesticate her or change her. She is, and always will be, Fa Mulan and she represents the Fa family."
Mushu grinned down at the pretty-boy. While that explanation made sense and might even be partly true, the general's move served a greater purpose than simply sharing equal importance in the relationship. By keeping the girl as part of the Fa family, the dragon remained her guardian and a guardian in general. This small act raised the man in his respect and began a tentative friendship. After all, they both loved Mulan in their own way: one as her husband and one in a guardian/familial way. They need to get along. Mushu just remained wary in case Shang chose to gain revenge for the dragon's attempt to break up the pair.
"I better go check on my family," smiled Mulan. "No doubt Grandmother is taking bets on which one of you proposes first."
Three princesses and three soldiers turned bright red as a cricket and dragon laughed above them. That was his girl. She did so much better being herself than trying to be a proper, delicate, demur, young lady that the hag of a matchmaker wanted her to be. Cri-Kee told interesting stories of that day. Only Mulan would end up setting fire to that woman. Even with that insect causing trouble.
He should have seen it coming. How he could have, Mushu didn't know. All he wished was that it hadn't happened. The change from paradise to nightmare only took a heartbeat. But the event made him feel as if his heart stopped.
A thin, lightning-fast shape flew through the air. It made contact with Mulan in the back as she walked towards the house. A scream of shock and extreme pain escaped her lips as she fell to the ground. An arrow sprouted out of her, having easily passed through the thin cloth of her quickly-turning-red dress. Shouts of alarm erupted below the guardian, but he didn't hear. He could only stare.
Cri-Kee started chirping insistently. Mushu glanced at the insect's indicated direction. Sliding off the wall and out of sight, a man held a strung bow and a triumphant expression across his homely features. Even if the dragon only saw the face, with its scar across his chin and a lumpy nose, for a moment, the image burned into his mind. He did this.
"Mulan!" called Shang, snapping the guardian's attention back to his fallen charge.
Her husband knelt by her still form. Her parents and grandmother were rushing out to the tragic scene. Ling, Yao, and Chien Po were already out of sight, hopefully trying to fetch help.
"Cri-kee, get down there and stay with her," the dragon ordered. He couldn't go down there. One of the main rules of being a guardian was remaining a secret. Even Shang knowing was pushing it. As much as it killed him to see his girl like this, he couldn't get near her. Random lucky crickets were another story. "Stay with her and tell me if anything…"
Chirping a confirmation, the insect hopped out of the tree and followed the group as they moved Mulan into the house. A certain crimson, serpentine creature was left to worry outside.
"These are the family guardians," explained the Great Ancestor, indicating the statues behind him. Each one matched a zodiac animal. They were powerful, nearly-immortal beings that served as defense for various members of the family through the generations. They did so loyally and faithful, not necessarily because they cared deeply about the particular human, but because it was an honor to serve this role and it would be the highest disgrace to fail in this duty (sort of like a certain red, reptilian being did). Sure, some might enjoy their charges' company. But it was their duty first and foremost. The ancestor stared at the small dragon expectantly. "They…?"
Mushu rolled his eyes and sighed, "Protect the family."
Protect the family. He was a guardian again. He was supposed to protect her. He's the guardian and she was his charge. The guardian protects his charge and guides them in difficult situations. It was so simple. He was supposed to keep things like this from happening.
The dragon lurked beneath the window of Mulan's room. Well, hers and Shang's room now. More than anything, the tiny red creature wanted to go in, shake the doctor, and beg him to say she'd be alright. But he couldn't. He didn't even dare try to find Shang to get answers. Even if the man happened to be alone, Mushu had little doubt the worried husband wouldn't try to blame him for not guarding the girl. And even if the accusations would only be the result of concern, would the general be wrong?
His last charge, Fa Deng, lost his head. Literally. The dead spirit would never stop blaming him either. That bungling lost the dragon his guardian position for quite a while. And now things seemed to be repeating. He'd failed again. But this time, it was worse. No one liked Deng in life. Why else would they cut his head off? Okay, a certain dragon's bad advice helped him along, but the man had few friends to begin with. Mushu never really liked Deng.
Mulan, however, was a different story. Her bravery, her intelligence, her independence, her creative thinking, her spirit, and essentially everything that made her an unappealing bride in many people's eyes made her different and special to those who cared for her. They saw her for who she truly was instead of a painted face. Shang fell in love with the woman for her differences to him: yin and yang. Mushu loved her because of her differences to any of the other Fa family members, or other people period, that he'd ever met. If he ever had a daughter, he only wished she'd be like Mulan.
A heavy sigh from the doctor reached the dragon's ears. It wasn't a good sigh. It sounded regretful and hopeless. The soft sound made him feel cold.
Heavy footsteps entered the room. Shang's tread was familiar after all the time spent lurking around the camp and after the man moved in. Mushu closed his eyes and listened hopefully. He could be wrong about the doctor's reaction.
"How is she?" the general asked, trying to sound in control even as concern made his voice tremble.
Again, the doctor sighed, "She doesn't look good. She might pull through," Mushu could imagine him shrugging apologetically, "or she might not. She is strong though. I've done what I can. All that can be done now is to pray."
Shang uttered a soft thanks as the doctor left. Doubtless, the man intended to stay by her side until she awoke or… Technically, the dragon could probably enter the room. Most of the family and her friends were in the other room as they spoke with the doctor. Only Shang and Mulan occupied this one. But Mushu couldn't convince his serpentine form to enter. He couldn't bear to see his girl so pale and lifeless.
A soft wetness rolled down his snout. The guardian realized he was crying and had been for a while. Even if he knew that he'd still see her even if she… He shook his head sharply. He didn't want Mulan moving into the family shrine yet. Not only would that be the end of the Fa family (though the Li family could continue theoretically), but he'd lose his guardian position and Mulan would probably never speak to him again. She and all the other spirits would scorn him even more than now.
The dragon gave a pathetic chuckle. He was doing it again. He was being self-centered; even after the disaster he almost caused the last time he was, he was only thinking of how it would affect him. The girl would be dead. Her living family, her friends, and Shang would lose her. And worse, she'd be confined to a small building, unseen and unheard by those she loved, and forced to watch life pass her by. Mushu didn't want that for his girl. But there wasn't a thing the small dragon could do to prevent it now.
"Mulan, I'm so sorry," he whispered softly
A quite chirp emerged from the window sill. Cri-Kee jumped down, his antennas dragging and his small purple face concerned. The insect glanced at the guardian.
The dragon nodded sadly, "I heard, Cri-Kee. I'm a failure."
When the lucky cricket gave an inquiring chirp, Mushu picked up his friend. The little guy followed him and Mulan through all the girl's adventures. He was even when she last hurt and they waited in hope, only for "Ping's" secret to be revealed at last. The bug would want to know what he meant.
"I'm her guardian, and I couldn't even manage to protect her. She survived war, Huns, bandits, and everything. She should have been safe in her own garden, but she wasn't."
A soft, reassuring chirp tried to comfort the heart-broken guardian, but Mushu dismissed it.
"I should have seen it coming. There must have been something I missed. I'm sure a real guardian wouldn't let this sort of thing happen to his charge. Like Stoney, giant dragon of falling apart at the worst times. The spirits loved him. He could have kept one little girl safe."
Cri-Kee scolded his friend gently, the tiny insect voice firm. But the cricket didn't have it in him to try harder in his assertions.
"I know she wouldn't want to see me acting like this," Mushu sighed. "She'd say not to give up and that she wouldn't trade me for any other guardian, blah blah blah. But even you don't sound convinced of that. You know she doesn't stand much of a chance. And you're wondering if she should have been partnered with a better guardian. I know I am a failure and you do to."
Cri-Kee tried to argue, claiming he didn't think that, but the serpentine guardian ignored the insistent chirps. Mushu glanced up towards the sky. The sun had already set long ago, turning the sky blood-red in an uncomforting reminder of the day's events. Now, darkness greeted his eyes. Only glittering stars interrupted the infinite blackness. Any other time, it would seem rather pretty. The dragon briefly wondered how something so tragic could happen and the universe didn't even seem to care. You'd expect at least a slow rainstorm.
Two new sets of footsteps entered the room. A soft, female cry followed. The dragon identified the newcomers as Mulan's parents. Apparently the doctor (whose bedside manner left much to be desired in a certain dragon's opinion) finished explaining her slim chances. The guardian eased away from the window.
What could he do? He couldn't do anything for Mulan. Mushu didn't even think he would be able to stand there listening to the family weep over her either. But where else could he be? If he went back to the family shrine, the ancestors would begin screeching at him about his ineptitude. Was there a role lower than gong ringer? If it existed, then that would likely be his new job. Maybe he should just hide in the tree until there was no other choice but to go back.
"I'm telling you, they had to be targeting Mulan specifically," snapped Ling's voice angrily.
The red dragon paused. He seemed to have wandered near the window leading to the room housing the others. He carefully peered inside. All six inside looked deeply upset in one fashion or another and the candle light cast dark shadows across their faces that exaggerated their expressions. The princesses sat together, eyes red with crying. Ling and Yao stood facing each other. Both men wore expressions of fury, clearly wanting something they could fight against. Even normally calm Chien Po appeared highly concerned and tinged with a hint of quiet anger. Even that slight aggressive desire on the gentle giant seemed so out of place. He was supposed to keep Yao's temper under control by balancing with his peaceful demeanor. Mulan's injury seemed to have destroyed the group's normal dynamics.
The thin soldier continued, "She's famous. They had to know she lived here. They intended to kill her!"
"It was an assassination attempt," admitted Ting-Ting, "but they could have been looking for me or my sisters. Don't forget who we are. We might have brought this upon her."
Guilt flitted across the three girls' faces and a heavy weight settled in the pit of the reptile's stomach. He'd seen the creep's face, with his scar and odd nose. The monster knew exactly who he'd shot. But now the princesses thought it was because of them.
Ling shook his head, "No. Even in her dress, Mulan can't pass for one of you. The dress isn't feminine enough for any girl but her and she moves like a soldier. They were after her."
"So what do we do?" asked Yao. "We can't chase him down and make him pay for this if we don't know who to go after. Did anyone see the…" He then rattled off a very descriptive, very insultive, and very long name for the attacker that had the three girls blushing. "… so I know whose neck to wring?"
The group shook their heads regretfully. The best they'd caught was a vague impression of a man. They'd reached a dead end. The fight drained out of the soldiers, but it began to burn within Mushu.
He'd seen him. The man's face shone in his mind clearly. The dragon would recognize the assassin anywhere.
Dear, sweet, crazy Grandmother entered the room. She carried a tray with tea and began handing out cups to the group. But even through the comforting smell of the warm liquid, Mushu could make out the clear scent of incense. She'd gone to the family shrine to pray. Even if at times she would ask what kind of luck the dead could have, she still turned to them in a crisis. Which meant the ancestors knew exactly how bad he'd messed up. They knew his charge was hurt, likely dying, and would completely blame him. And it was his fault. But that man was just as much at fault.
The day he first met Mulan, soon to be joining the army as "Ping," the Great Ancestor awoke him from his incense burner shape. As it should be, the serpentine dragon decided to make a dramatic entrance in hopes of gaining a second chance.
He crashed to the ground, gong clattering beside him. The dragon rose out of the swirling smoke, arms out-stretched.
"I live!" he cried out. Glancing around, his eyes more reptilian than usual for effect, he started his super-guardian act. "So tell me what mortal needs my protection, Great Ancestor. You just say the word and I'm there."
"Mushu…" sighed the annoyed spirit, his patience clearly strained by the ex-guardian's antics.
Desperate to show he could still be guardian material, he hurried on to claim, "Now let me just say something. Anybody who's foolish enough to threaten our family, vengeance will be mine!"
Growling fiercely and snarling, the thin dragon barely noticed his own words. All that he needed to do was to gain enough credit with the spirit to get back his pedestal. Whatever it took, he'd say or do it.
But he did say it. And now, he truly meant it. That man threatened, harmed, his family. He shot Mulan in the back with an arrow. There was no way that he'd get away with this.
Sliding off the window sill, and ignoring the inquiring and concerned chirps from Cri-Kee, the guardian turned away from the house. He couldn't help anyone in there. In fact, as he thought about it, there was only one thing left he could do. Rather than remaining here, drowning in sorrow and guilt, he felt the flickering flames of fury licking over him and motivating him. Rage was easier to deal with than painful emotions.
"Vengeance will be mine," he repeated in a low voice.
Let me know what you think. Updates may be slow, but I hope to keep working on this in my spare time. If Mushu seems a little less selfish than usual, I think he has good reason. Besides, he was getting a little better by the end of "Mulan 2." Feedback is appreciated and speeds up updates. Thanks.