I could hear the buzzing of voices outside my door. I was tempted to lock myself up, stay here until they left. Unfortunately, being the groom, I didn't have the luxery of that option. I sighed and shoved the cap onto my head. It was heavy and had a large, rectangular brim. I looked like... like something I was not. A knock at the door dragged me from my thoughts. My eyes refocused in the mirror, and I saw my beautiful bride behind me. She was leaning in the doorway.
"I was wondering where you were," she teased. "I thought you might have ran away." I look down at myself, then at Mulan.
"Leave? Never. Besides, I'm waiting for you to decide you made a mistake and run off." I am still talking to Mulan's reflection. The look on her face makes me panic. But when I turn to face my real wife, I see no trace of doubt in her expressionl. I sigh in relief. Mirrors always distort the world, make it backwards. She comes and wraps her arms around me.
"You can't get rid of me that easily," she whispers. I smile.
"Good. I need some stability in my life." She smiles mischieviously.
"I'm anything but stable..." I groan and laugh. Mulan's grandmother appears at the doorway.
"Are you two done? We have guests..." I sigh and nod. Grabbing my wife's hand, we depart the house and stand before the sea of people.
I immediately grew uncomfortable. I could stand tall in the wake of a brutal army of hundreds, but was unable to face the smiling, congratulating cheers of friends and family. How odd it was, how odd I am. I suppose it was the appreciation. I could easily be respected and feared, but I had never been praised or admired, at any time during my childhood and training. You either passed or failed. There was no congratulations. You either survived, or didn't.
I ate dinner in silence, listening to the excited banter of our future. The adults laughed at the table while small children raced around our feet. Several boys begged me to show them how to fight, while the young girls braided together a wreath of flowers for Mulan to wear in her hair. I tried not to blush to deeply, or choke on my food, as a group of older women began to discuss the multitude of imaginary children we had, or will have.
"Where will you live? Shang?" One of Mulan's old childhood friend asked me. I snapped out of my daze.
"I-uh..." I swalled deeply and continued. "The Emperor...granted us land for our...mission...a few months ago." She nodded excitedly and turned back to her friends. I tried to avoid any further conversation. When dinner was finished, I squeezed Mulan's hand and dragged her back to our room.
"Where are we going?" she pressed. I only shook my head and smiled. When we reached the bedroom, I dropped her hand and rummaged through my bags. The heavy stone was easy to find, and I grabbed the cloth package. I turned to Mulan. She was sitting on the bed now, watching me closely. I raised my eyebrows at her, and she smiled. I moved to the desk, holding the stone behind my back, and emptied out a small wooden chest used to hold wells of ink.
I set the stone inside and closed the lid. With a nod of satisfaction, I tucked the box under my arm and motioned for Mulan to follow me from the room.
My pulse quicked with excitement as we moved through the yard. We entered the temple, the small room seemed to vibrate with silence. I knelt in front of the rows of tablets. Mulan laughed in curiousity.
"Shang! What are you doing?" I opened the lid of the small chest and removed the polished rock. It gleamed and shimmered in the sunlight.
"Watch and see..." I teased. I set the stone down against the many others. Mulan read the characters and ran her fingers over the engraved characters.
"Oh, Shang..." she whispered. My father's name stood proud against the dark stone. I smiled.
"I am combining the family temples. My own was destroyed in war," I explained. "Besides, I figured I should have my own ancestors to pray to..." Mulan smiled and held out her hand. I took it and rose off the floor. The tiny stone was dwarfed by the others. Yet, it still seemed to shine against the others. I rather liked the thought of my father watching over me, instead of telling me what I was doing wrong.
A cry from above made our eyes shoot upwards. A thin snake fell from the ceiling and landed at my feet. I was about to step backwards when the lizard clapped it's hands over it's mouth. I looked at Mulan, her eyes filled with humour. Mushu? This is the one who helped save China? He looked more like he would be unable to defend himself from a pigeon, much less an evil soldier.
"So this is the famous Mushu," I try to keep from laughing. The animal at my feet blinks innocently. Mulan makes a noise of conformation. It sounds as if she is trying to keep from laughing herself. I absently rub my chin.
"Somehow I pictured you..." I struggle for the right words. Polite words. Threatening. Mighty. More than a garter snake. "Bigger." The eyes of the dragon widened.
"You told him about me? About us?" He cried. Mulan laughed and rested her palm on my chest; her head on my shoulder.
"I have no secrets from my husband, Mushu," she laughed. "I told him everything." The pocket-sized dragon gulped nervously.
"Everything?" He scurried behind the cloak of Mulan's robes. "Everything?" I smile and kneel.
"That's right, Great Golden Dragon of Unity." Somehow I cannot picture this little...creature...as someone who could pull that off. But he was the one who had kept Mulan sane during her training, who had saved her during the battle against Shan-Yu, who had mended the gap between me and Mulan and bent the laws of two nations while maintaining peace, and he lived to tell the tale. I owed him an enormous amount of gratitude.
Mushu let out something of a whimper. I straightened out.
"I still don't get it," Mulan pressed. "What does combining our do?" It gives me a physical home. It lets me know that someone is watching over me. It gives me somewhere to release my prayers, my thoughts, my hopes...
"It gives me back my pedestal!" cried Mushu, suddenly outgoing and cheerful. Mulan smiles broadly.
"Oh! Wait, but can you do this? Aren't there rules?" Rules? Now you're worried about rules?
"Of course," I reply, taking her hands. "Right next to the rules about dressing up like a man and joining the army." Mushu laughs and scales up to Mulan's shoulder and propels himself forward, landing on the wide brim of my hat.
"Well, what do you know? This thing might just work out after all!" Heavy weights seem to fall from my shoulders. He jumps back down and begins to call out random orders. I raise my eyebrows, confused, before wrapping my arms around Mulan and dragging her close to me. We stay like this for several seconds after Mushu winds out of site between the stones.
"We should probably head back," Mulan whispers. I laugh and pull away, slightly, picking at the crown of flowers that adorns her head. She laughs and swats my hand away.
"I'd rather not..."
"Yes, well, I don't know what I'll say to my grandmother when she is looking for you. You either come with me or she comes to find you..." I shudder as I imagine the determined woman, all four and a half feet of her, dragging me back to the party. She could probably take me, too. I groan and allow my wife to pull me back towards the celebrating guests. Although I complain loudly, and entertain her with my amusing protests, I am blissfully happy. For the first time. Besides, I would follow her anywhere.
Awww! I don't want to stop writing this yet :(