The Wood Orchid

Chapter 1: The Dinner

Why? Why was her heart trying to escape from her chest? Why was a smile sewn onto her face which she could not unstitch? It was the evil man across the table that was at fault. It was he who was unwittingly committing thievery with her heart. He was the culprit who was attempting to runaway with object which she vowed she would protect and guard fiercely. Oh… Why him? Why was it a man whose very presence in a room could make even the most conservative lady blush? She shouldn't allow the liberty of dreaming a future with him or else she would be giving her heart away to someone who didn't even care, or at least he seemed that way. He was not the type to express his feelings; not his true feelings.

It was just two hours ago that he had shown up unexpectedly after a few months after she had returned home from the Imperial City. The summer had turned into a crisp autumn, colder weather threatening before arriving with winter. The awkward arrival with her helmet in tow foreshadowed the awkward interactions between him and her in the impending night to come; though it did not turn out as bad as she expected. She had personally put it upon herself to assist her mother and grandmother to prepare the meal while her father and their guest discussed the recent occurrences of the Emperor's court and the military.

She was not much help in the kitchen and she thought she was doomed to be forever unskilled in the art of food. When she voiced this opinion aloud, she received an answer from her mother that surprised her.

"Don't be too harsh on yourself; you've improved tremendously."

That uplifted her spirits for a while until her grandmother jokingly made the comment that she wouldn't have to worry about cooking if she married to a wealthy man. While the two older women chuckled at the comment, she briefly remembered the time where she had humiliated herself at the matchmakers. This memory made her cringe in panic, a knotting, twisting feeling in her stomach that would not come undone. She was snapped back to reality when her mother and grandmother headed through the door to the dining area, their arms full of food. She grabbed her share and followed them reluctantly, cheeks flushed and her stomach still in tangles.

They all took their seats, the guest of honor at her father's right, her mother to the left, her grandmother beside the guest, and she sat to her mother's right, across from the honorable guest. Her eyes stayed down, she did not dare look up in fear that he was looking at her. Fiddling with the ends of her sleeves under the table, she sent a silent prayer to He-Xiangu in hopes for some sort of feminine charm. Her father began the prayers to the ancestors and Gods and the dinner began.

Disclaimer: The author does not own the motion picture "Mulan" or any of its characters. This story is written for creative purposes only; there is no monetary benefit.