Okay, I just want to say that I have rather enjoyed this story. It was a fun little piece to work on. I also want to say that writing lines for a song is hard to make it work right with the specific moment and specific music. The song "A Girl Worth Fighting For" showed up in both "Mulan" and "Mulan 2" with different lyrics. I figured that it could return again. Enjoy.
"For a long time we've been beating up real freaks," a familiar, deep, scratchy voice sang off-key.
"And all these losers are ugly sneaks," a higher, but still familiar person sang.
"We came here to stop the plans of those who would harm our friends," sang a third, softer voice.
The three singers concluded in unison, "Because in the end, she's a girl worth fighting for."
As the song finished, Mulan recognized her trio of friends as they come out and joined her and Shang. The three soldiers seemed to be in high spirits. In addition to their cheerful singing, both Yao and Chien Po were dragging limp figures behind them. One was large and lumpy. The other was a more normal sized person. Neither of the two captives seemed to be aware that they were being treated as unwanted luggage.
"Hey guys," she smiled. "Having fun?"
"Mulan, what are you doing here?" asked Ling, his expression stunned.
"Chasing down my friends and husband," the female warrior answered tiredly. 'Du Heng was here a moment ago. You just missed him."
Yao produced an evil grin and held up his burden, "No, we didn't miss him."
Both she and Shang simply stared at the knocked out figure of Heng that the stocky soldier had been dragging. It seemed that his attempted escape was not as successful as they thought.
"After we dealt with Shing," explained the short man, pointing at the larger burden Chien Po was carrying behind him, "he told us everything. Including how to recognize Heng. So when this ugly chump comes running by, we trip him and hit him over the head. The loser wasn't even looking where he was going."
"What do you want us to do with them?" Ling asked, glancing at the two limp shapes. On the one hand, these individuals were traitors, cowards, and attempted murderers. They'd surrendered their honor with their actions and could be considered no better than bandits. No one would miss them or care how they were dealt with. Their families would likely refuse to acknowledge their existence to keep this huge dishonor from staining their entire line. On the other hand, they were currently helpless. "Mulan? Shang?"
She shook her head, "Take them home. Make sure their family, friends, and neighbors know everything. That great of a dishonor and that commonly known… it'll be a punishment worse than death for them."
"We'll go talk to Gang," Chien Po nodded. "He might know where they live. We'll meet you back at your home."
"And tell Ting-Ting not to worry about us," added Ling. "I told her we'd be fine."
Her three friends waved at her encouragingly as they dragged the unconscious pair back into the shadowy forest. Doubtless they were going back to where they left the horses. Of course, Shang's steed was likely at the same spot. But they didn't have to hurry back. They could take their time.
"How did you go through training with this dragon on your back?" her husband asked, shifting his shoulders.
Smiling softly, she answered, "At the time, I had bigger issues on my mind. Like the fact my shirtless captain apparently trying to train us to death. Or that every other trainee wanted to punch my face in. Or I might have been distracted by the fact I was running off to war in disguise."
"That could be distracting," he admitted, gaining an amused grin. "Shouldn't he have crawled out of my shirt by now?"
He reached back and fished around in his shirt. After a moment or two, Shang pulled out the long, serpentine dragon. To the man's surprise and Mulan's amusement, Mushu was asleep. Without a word, the exhausted dragon was passed over to her and she wrapped him around her neck. The guardian didn't even stir in his sleep.
Heng was captured. Disgrace for the entire Du family was imminent. There was no hope for redemption for the man. Even if Heng was freed, the three bumbling idiots would ensure that he would suffer great dishonor. As much as it pained Wei to admit it, he'd failed.
According to the rules, he must now return to the family shrine, admit his failure, and accept his punishment and dishonor. Or he could choose death and retain a small amount of honor. Either of the options was terrible and he blamed it on that crimson lizard. If Mushu had not interfered, then the plan would have worked. And Wei wouldn't be facing this choice.
Growling while he stalked through the undergrowth, the feline guardian began to consider another possible option. By this point, he had no real chance of retaining his honor. And no matter how many rules he obeyed, it would not help him. So what was the point of continuing to do so?
The miniature tiger vanished into the night. He did not intend to return to the Du family shrine. Nor would he become a lifeless statue for all eternity. Instead, he would stalk those who destroyed his life and find a way to return the favor. His desire for revenge was against the rules, but he no longer saw the point.
After all, Wei was no longer a guardian. He was, essentially, a rebel and traitor.
Grandmother Fa spotted the couple's return first. She'd been heading out of the house for an errand, but caught sight of the young pair on her way. Mulan was nearly asleep on Kahn's back, her husband riding beside her on his own steed. The old woman spotted a red shape wrapped around her grand-daughter's neck like a thick necklace. Before her keen eyes could judge for certain what it was, Shang gently reached over and removed the crimson object. The man then eased it up his sleeve, concealing it out of sight.
Only after that did the elder allow herself to be spotted by her grandson-in-law. Grandmother Fa stepped into view, shaking her head at the younger pair. She did her best to look like the classic old woman marveling at the antics of today's youth.
"Why don't you take her on inside," she suggested. "I can put the horses up."
Shang silently agreed, helped her exhausted wife down, and led her into the house. Once the pair left, she glanced at the black stallion.
"You let yourself in and out often enough," she remarked. "Show this fellow how it's done," instructed the old woman, pointing at the other horse. "I'll come take his saddle off later."
Rather than ignoring her crazy-sounding order, Kahn snorted and jerked his head before leading Shang's mount away. She cackled softly to herself as the two animals trotted off docilely.
That problem dealt with, Grandmother Fa decided to continue her earlier mission to respectfully approach the family shrine to address the ancestors. She entered the small building, lit a stick of incense (and placed it in a new burner that lacked any animal shape in its design, just in case), and bowed to the polished stone slabs that resided there.
"Most honorable ancestors," she began solemnly, "we are thankful for our good fortune of late. Not only has our family received great honor by the actions of Fa Mulan in battle, but she has gained a husband worthy of status as the hero of China and who loves her. Now, she has survived an attack by a traitorous assassin. She has gained honor, status, happiness, and is once again safe."
At this point, the old woman gained a more stern expression. She stared at the largest stone slab with as much force as possible.
"And I know why this is so," explained the grandparent. "You gave her a guardian. Don't bother denying it," she added, not really expecting a response anyway. The spirits rarely spoke with the living directly, after all. "I'm not blind or senile yet. I could probably even make a few guesses about what kind of guardian it is, but I'm not going to. Instead of that, I'm going to explain a few things."
Standing up, the white-haired woman glared at the various slabs of the family shrine. She had no doubt that any ancestors would be cringing at the look. Even if she was not a male heir, trained for battle, and raised to be head of the family, she could still use the ancient art of the "mother/wife/occasional matchmaker glares" to create a sense of guilt and shame. Those looks were specially designed to work on anyone who was a man.
"Whoever the guardian is, they make my grand-daughter happy. And since she's not your average girl, I'm willing to bet her guardian isn't necessarily your standard one if they get along well with her. They likely break away from tradition and rules in order to do what is needed. Just like Mulan. Now, here's how it's going to work."
Crossing her arms, Grandmother Fa continued her discussion with her mute, invisible audience. She intended to make her position perfectly clear.
"I know I will be joining you soon enough and I accept this. As long as my family is happy, so am I. But if you should destroy that happiness in any way, like punishing her guardian for not protecting her yesterday or anything else that would sadden the girl, I promise that I will spend all eternity making you suffer. I know that ancestors of the Li family are now joined with those of the Fa and do not know me, but ask my husband if you do not feel I can make your existence miserable."
She paused, giving the ancestors a chance to talk among themselves if they chose. For all she knew, they could be ignoring her or sleeping. But if they were listening, she felt that this would be the perfect moment to stop for a second.
"Don't make my grand-daughter upset, don't bother her guardian too much, listen to their suggestions because those who are different are the future, and don't give me a reason to come back and yell at you again. And don't send me nightmares to tell me Mulan has gone to join the army. It's annoying. Life is for the living. We don't need the dead messing with our lives beyond what is necessary."
Nodding with satisfaction, the elderly woman left the family shrine. She might be old, but that didn't mean she couldn't be assertive. After all, at least some of Mulan's spiritedness was inherited.
"Guess it's time to face the music," Mushu sighed.
The dragon didn't remember falling asleep after he hid down Shang's shirt, but he ended up waking up back at the Fa household. Specifically, he found himself curled up on the pillow next to the window, all damage from the day before gone. Both Shang and Mulan were still asleep in their bed, but Cri-kee hopped over to the crimson guardian as soon as he began moving.
Mushu held no doubts in his mind of what kind of reaction to expect from the ancestors. His previous proud and egotistical behavior after his charge saved China had created even more resentment from the ancestors and they'd been excited that Mulan's marrying Shang meant they could knock him back to gong duty. And now he'd given them more reasons to get rid of him. He'd essentially tossed the rules out the window after all.
If he was extremely lucky, he might be able to grovel his way back to gong ringer rather than being completely tossed out. Hence, he was bringing Cri-Kee with him.
The tiny insect and the serpentine dragon crept into the family shrine. Most of the ancestors wouldn't wake up properly without someone ringing the gong. Unfortunately, two could be and they were awake at that moment. Both glanced at the two living beings as they entered.
One was the familiar figure of the Great Ancestor, head of the Fa spirits that resided in the shrine. That particular being had been annoyed by the crimson creature for centuries. With his long staff (well, it was actually one of those curved crooks that shepherds used, but staff sounded better and more "Great Ancestor-y"), he floated in front of the stone slabs beside his companion.
The other one was, well, the Great Ancestor for the Li family. He was thinner than the Great Fa Ancestor, but not by much. His white beard still had a thin, black streak down the middle (well, dark blue since they were completely blue as spirits) and his head was as bald as an egg. His staff was more crooked and the curve at the end larger. Mushu had been trying to avoid this particular individual. Why have both Great Ancestors hate him?
Waving slightly at the pair of spirits, the dragon tried a cautious greeting.
"Hey, guys. How are you doing? I could come back later if this is a bad time. I wouldn't mind at all."
"Not at all," replied the Fa ancestor. "We were just talking about you."
Swallowing hard, Mushu nervously grinned, "R-really? I can only imagine what that was like."
"I was suggesting we toss you out of here," the Great Li Ancestor confided. "We know you are trouble. Your history speaks for itself. It's your fault my family has been uprooted and stuffed into this overly full shrine. And I suspect that if we know what you were up to last night, you will have given us more than enough reason to remove you. It wouldn't even be hard to replace you since we're still trying to figure out what to do with twenty-four guardians."
Cringing slightly, the dragon tried to look smaller, "I'm sure that there is a reasonable solution to this without firing anyone. Especially me."
"Honestly, I'm surprised they didn't get rid of you after the Fa Deng fiasco," continued the spirit. "But they simply demoted you to gong ringer."
"And have I mentioned how much I loved that job?"
"Our dragon was a proper guardian. Never any problems."
Cri-Kee, his thin antennas twitching through the entire conversation, finally snapped and began a long rant at the ancestor. Mushu felt surprised at his small friend as the angry chirping continued. The insect never scolded anyone except for a certain red dragon.
"Did that cricket just call me a 'big-headed loser'?" asked the spirit after the chirping finally stopped.
Sighing slightly at the group, the Great Fa Ancestor commented, "That's the second time lately we've been scolded." He glanced at where Mushu was trying to silence the insect by covering his mouth. "You're not being thrown out of the shrine, Mushu. And you're still a guardian."
The serpentine dragon blinked in surprise at the statement. When it sunk in, he released a shout of triumph similar to when he first gained his status as a guardian. Both ancestors rolled their eyes.
"If you don't have any other loud exclamations," grumbled the Great Fa Ancestor, "I'm going back to sleep. We've had enough interruptions lately."
Feeling bolder, the reptilian guardian replied, "Actually, I do. You need a gong ringer and I doubt any of the other twenty-three guardians is going to volunteer for that job."
"Are you wanting it?" asked the Great Li Ancestor, half-way hoping that they could still demote the dragon.
"No, but I have your prefect candidate," Mushu answered. "Cri-Kee."
Two spirits and one insect stared at the dragon like he was crazy. The crimson guardian grinned confidently. He knew this would work. He knew he could convince them.
"It makes sense. He already is doing that job most of the time anyway and it wouldn't be a demotion for him. Near immortality versus normal cricket life span? Not really a contest there. And he already has his own power."
"What?" all three asked, Cri-Kee looking the most confused as he chirped.
"Luck," answered Mushu simply. "No matter what anyone says, he is one lucky bug. Everywhere we go, things work out and he survives through it too. Most insects would have been squashed or eaten by something by now."
The cricket began to dismiss the idea, reminding the dragon about the story of when Mulan was at the matchmaker's. Mushu shook his head.
"Nope, you were lucky then too. Your luck was just working on the big picture. If Mulan impressed the matchmaker, she would have got married, moved out, and ended up like any other girl. And China would have been conquered by the Huns and everyone would be dead. Seems kind of lucky to me."
Rubbing his forehead, the Great Fa Ancestor asked, "If we consider this, will you leave us alone for a while?"
"Already gone," called the guardian as he dashed out of the shrine.
Moving around the pond, the dragon and cricket headed back towards the house. Both seemed fairly satisfied with how things were. Their friends were safe, their enemies were gone, and the future seemed promising. Nothing could make this perfect morning better.
"You know," Mushu commented slowly, "Mulan and Shang need to hurry up and start a family. I want some grandkids already."
Cri-Kee simply rolled his eyes.
That's the end of this. Someday, I might write a sequel. But for now, I am going to focus on my other writing. I just thought that Mushu's last sentence would be interesting. Thanks for reading.