A Broken Flower, or a Raging Fire
Ok, now we get down to the nitty gritty, I don't even think I spelt that right, anyway, I know last chapter was a little heavy *looks guilty at keyboard muttering, "it's your fault, you put me up to it"* but this should give you some Shang appearance and there's an important question you need to answer at the end ok? And I know the characters could be considered out of character, but the way I look at it, I'm just expressing their full potential. I mean, yes Mulan nearly had a complete and utter break down, but look at how she reacted when Fa-Zhou told her that she should maybe learn her place? She was out in the rain crying for hours, needed the column for support. The way I see it, this would be the only way for Mulan to reacts to a death in the family, and that her only distraction was being trained to be a soldier, logically the only distraction now would be to carry out her duties, so Thank you all for listening and enjoy the chapter!
Song: Seether (feat. Amy Lee)-Broken
Mulan looked in the darkening sky as Khan rode her fast over the dirt tracks. Mulan's tears fell silently as she pulled out an ink painting of her family, she traced her mother's smiling face, the painting didn't do her justice but it was a reminder.
Mulan couldn't believe she was on her own, her mother's still had so much to teach her, how was she to know how to be a wife? A good wife. Or a mother? A daughter! Mulan bit her lip as she let out a sharp breath, she couldn't breathe, quick breaths left her, tears still streaming. Was she going to die?
"Mama?" She managed to gasp out; Mulan didn't know if she was strong enough to hold herself together anymore. Khan whined but didn't stop, knowing he needed to get his beloved rider to safety, near warmth and around people who could stop her being sad.
"Oh Mama! Why? You were fine not a day ago!" Mulan wept as she regained control of her breathing. Her mother's laughter filled her mind, I was my sweetheart, but sometimes fate has ideas for us that we can't get in the way of. Mulan choked on her own saliva as she heard her mother voice.
She tried to shake her head to get rid of the intruding voice she knew she just made up,
"I'm going crazy, oh no, oh no, ohonohno-" Mulan started hyperventilating again, Breath Mulan, you'll be no use to the emperor if you can't breathe.
"Go away!" Mulan shouted, or attempted to, I came out as more of a squeak as she couldn't speak very loudly with her throbbing throat. Mulan rod, shaking her head between her hands, she didn't like that she made things up in her head, it scared her. As you wish darling and then the voice faded, and Mulan felt lifted, lighter.
"Let go Khan" Mulan said, straight faced, denying to herself what had happened, and the voice of her mother. It never happen, it couldn't have.
Mulan finally rode up to the Imperial palace, Khan neighed merrily at Mulan as she gave him a pat well done, he'd made it to the palace at twice his usual speed, it was the least he deserved.
Mulan slid of his back gracefully and lightly took his reins, knowing she didn't need to; he would follow her wherever she needed him to. Yet, it would keep everyone at ease, they didn't like loose horses.
Mulan jogged up the steps in unison with Khan when the large doors opened, revealing the emperor,
"Fa Mulan!" He called joyously, Mulan gave him a tight smile, then General Shang appeared behind the emperor and followed his majesty down the steps to greet her, a stone look on his face.
Mulan averted her eyes, looking away as she couldn't bear to let them see her true state.
The emperor met her and tilted her chin up, a calculating look on his face,
"And what has made so upset such a pretty face as yours" Mulan turned away from his grasp, her jaw tightening in an attempt to hold back tears.
"With all dew respect your majesty, A face such as mine deserves to cry, it is not pretty-" ha! She thought, never.
"It is the face of a traitor, a traitor gladly accepting the chance to make up for her offensive-though necessary-actions, by being at you aid and service" Mulan bowed down on one knee, resting her hands on the standing knee.
Mulan stays down, and so missed the worried glance the Emperor gave General Shang, and then the pointed one, as if telling him to "Do something!", Shang cleared his throat,
"To your feet soldier" Mulan didn't look up but rose to her feet,
"And you'll do well to look at you General" he said sharply, Mulan bit her lip again and looked over his head, as to still avoid his eyes.
Shang still saw her though, her tear trailed face, her hurt eyes, the dull colour of her skin, the shaky hands. Her hands. Shang looked at the Emperor to see if he had noticed, but he hadn't.
"Mulan" The Emperor corrected with a nod. Shang looked a little taken aback,
"It's alright, he may call me what he wishes, I am merely of aid"
"But it is your name" The emperor reminded,
"Are you sure this time?" Shang joked, Mulan smiled weakly at his attempt to make her lighten up, but she wasn't ready yet.
"No, it's Mushu" She did try to humour him,
"Really?" Shang said, taking her seriously,
"No! Her name is Fa-Mulan" The emperor chuckled, and ushered them back inside, as they were still standing on the golden palace steps at this point.
Khan had been taken to the stables after Mulan said goodbye, hugging the horse tightly before letting the young boy take him away to be fed, watered and supplied with a stable.
Her and the Emperor sat in a small but ornate room, it had a oval table large enough to seat 6 people and was lit dimly with wall lamps, there was also a tall and thin bookcase to the back of the room that seemed to hold more strategic plans than books; though, there were a few.
"Now, Mulan, How about you tell us about your hands" The Emperor prompted as he sipped it his tea, looking down to make sure his beard didn't catch in the beverage, Mulan's brow furrowed,
"My hands?" She said quietly, her voice quiet as she still couldn't speak very well from all the crying and the shouting she'd done that day. Mulan looked down at her hands and saw that her bandages had fallen off, revealing her raw skin and dried blood all around her knuckles.
She hadn't even felt them whilst riding, in fact, she didn't remember riding at all. Mulan's mouth fell into a little 'o' as she looked at her hands,
"Oh" She said aloud,
"The floor, and I fell, a-and father-" Mulan rambled incoherently, the Emperor waited intently for her to carry on, as if he didn't mind what a state she was in,
"And now she's moved away, p-papa's all alone THE CHICKENS! I DIDN'T FEED THE CHICKENS!" Mulan again tried to shout, but it came out quiet, that did not distract from the urgency in her tone. Mulan stood up, and strode to the huge golden designed doors, half jogging in her haste.
"Mulan?" The Emperor said calmly, Mulan froze, realised what she was doing and went back to sit down.
"I'm sorry" She said, and quickly bowed.
"I'm a disgrace" Mulan muttered harshly to herself, The Emperor smiled kindly,
"No you are regarded as the bravest, most modest and determined woman in all of China. And I believe I know of one young man whole holds you in the upmost regard, higher than me!" Mulan scoffed, The Emperor raised an eyebrow,
"Do you not believe me?" He said, acting offended,
"No! well, yes. I mean-" he chuckled,
"Well it's true"
"Oh and who's this mystery man?" Mulan asked, if he could give her a legit name, she may believe him,
"Ah, I cannot tell you my dear" Mulan raised an eyebrow just like he had,
"Then how can I believe you?"
"I don't expect you to…right away. But I will tell you more about him as the days progress" Mulan shook her head.
"You need to sleep, but I do want to know what happened today Fa Mulan, in your own time though. There is no rush, in the morning General Li will come for you, and make sure you're up. Your room are beside each other for convenience, if you have any…troubling dreams, I'm sure he wouldn't mind you talking things through with him"
"I'm sure he would, but I'm sure I'll be fine nether the less" The Emperor smiled at her naive view of all things emotionally orientated. It was obvious the two soldiers could be highly compatible, if they could get past their differences.
"Goodnight your highness"
"Goodnight Fa Mulan"
"C'mon cri-kee! She can't do this without us!" Mushu said urgently as he tried to prise the window open to the room Mulan was sleeping in.
"What do you mean I'll mess it up? Mess what up?" Mushu grumbled as he made no progress with the window,
"Are you going to help or just watch?" Mushu asked the tiny Cricket, Cri-kee can over and lifted the window up without the help of Mushu, who looked extremely put out.
"Yeah, well, I loosened it up" The little red dragon hopped in through the window and ran over to Mulan's bed side,
"Is she sick? Is she dying? Aw my baby girl couldn't last two seconds without me!" Cri-kee rolled his eyes and hopped onto the chair in the corner, reading a small bug sized book with reading glasses on,
"Mulan!" Mushu cried out dramatically whilst covering his eyes with his arm.
Mulan stirred and groaned as the light streamed through the open window and hit her eyes, suddenly she froze. And a single tear trailed down her cheek, she remembered yesterday morning. She was foolish to think it was all a dream, Mulan scolded herself.
"The best way for me to get through this is to work, I'll make them proud, and no more stupid actions. I wasn't in my right mind last night, but today I have no excuses, I'll just say I was tired"
"Hey! Where's my hug girl?" Mushu popped up onto the bed smiling with his arm outstretched, Mulan grasped him to her,
"Mushu! You have no idea how much I've missed you" Mulan closed her eyes and hugged him closer to her.
"Oh I think I do" Mushu choked out as Mulan nearly completely cut off his breathing,
"Sorry" Mulan said letting his go and placing him down.
Mushu smiled comfortingly at Mulan,
"So…" He said suggestively,
"So what?" Mulan said suspicious,
"What's going on with you a pretty boy!" Mushu exclaimed his arms thrown wide with a dazzling smile, and a wink. Mulan covered her face,
"Mushu, he's right next door" Mulan said, her face serious,
"Yes, oops indeed" Mulan said, not exactly impressed.
"And nothing, at all, if anything, he thinks I'm crazy" Mushu frowned,
"Baby girl…" Mulan shook her head,
"It's fine, I'm just grateful he didn't slay me up in the mountains"
"Did you ever ask yourself why he didn't?"
"A life for a life. I didn't have to ask myself anything, he explained himself" Mushu rolled his eyes.
"Never mind, you need to get ready"
"Now go! I'll be here when you get back!" Mushu said as he shoved Mulan out of the room and into the red and gold corridor, Mulan studied herself and looked left and then right. Mulan slammed the door shut,
"Because I know exactly where I'm going" Mulan said sarcastically, she closed her eyes and took a breath. She was early so if she went the wrong way she could always come back right?
Mulan started going right but it wasn't long before she met another cross roads, this time four corridors were meeting, Mulan sighed but decided she would find a guard to point her in the right direction.
Mulan ran down the corridors and finally found a very tall, large man with his back to her. His armour with mainly metal but had blue as its regional colour.
"Excuse me-" The soldier turned round and Mulan's jaw dropped, but she quickly snapped it back up.
"Hello Chien-po, how are you?" Mulan had to stop from deepening her voice out of habit, she clearly looked a little uncomfortable because Chien-po lay his hand on her shoulder,
"I'm fine thank you, and I hope you are well. What was it you were going to say?" He was always so calm, and kind, Mulan had no idea why he wasn't married,
"Oh, I just can't find my way to the right room…" She blushed out of embarrassment, he smiled kindly,
"I take it you have an audience with the Emperor?" Mulan nodded,
"He'll be this way then"
As she and Chien-po walked in silence Mulan remembered what she was meant to have done this morning.
"Oh no" She breathed,
"What is it Pin-, sorry, Mulan?" Mulan didn't really notice his slip on her name,
"I was meant to wait for Shang, I mean General Li" her forehead creased while she thought,
"He was called out early this morning, I don't think you would have been seeing him" Mulan's head whipped to look at Chien po,
"What happened?" Chien po looked slightly uncomfortable,
"Well, the Emperor had called for you but-"
"Wait, then why on earth did-"
"I don't know" Chien-po quickly interrupted, cleverly stopping her from getting into a mess of confusion,
"Well, he did say something"
"What was that?" Mulan said, intrigued and also wanting answers,
"I was about to knock on you door, but the General came out and said not to and that he would go and aid the Emperor and that I was to make sure you slept" Mulan glared at the elaborate vermillion carpet,
"I should have gone" Mulan said bitterly,
"Don't be mad at him, General Li only did what he thought right"
"I still should have been consulted" Chien-po couldn't argue with that and just nodded.
"Here we are, I hope I'll see you soon. Yao and Ling have wanted to see you for a long time, but, you know how they felt-"
"I know it was odd, and I'm sorry, you know that don't you?" Chien-po smiled,
Mulan was standing in the throne room waiting for the Emperor, it would have been a lot more comfortable for her if she didn't have the less professional guards staring at her and making immature comments.
The Emperor emerged and all comments ceased, he sat down and smiled at Mulan,
"Hello Fa Mulan-" just then the doors behind her opened, their huge weight made them creak as they opened, and in marched the General.
Shang strode to where Mulan stood and bowed to the Emperor,
"Is everything rectified?" His Majesty asked, Mulan crossed her arms and attempted not to pout as she was excluded,
"Yes, everything has been dealt with; it was merely as tree branch and a loose horse"
"Ah, very well" it was only then the two men noticed Mulan. Both looked at each other as if not wanting to address the visibly fuming woman.
"Mulan I-" Shang started,
"I'm not talking to you" The Emperor shook his head as he looked at the two of them.
Mulan had her arms folded and her body partially turned away from Shang, the general himself had first stood closer to her, trying to get her attention so she'd look at him or listen, yet, now he stood in a similar stance to Mulan, facing away. Neither of them being the adult and talking.
"Must I remind you that this is no squabbling matter, the safety of my daughters?" Mulan apologised but looked embarrassed,
"I do not understand how I was overlooked, I thought that I would not be penalized because of my gender, I believe at least the Emperor and my commanding officer could look past-" Mulan was still turned away from Shang but her arms moved as she talked passionately,
"Fa Mulan" the Emperor interrupted her, she carried on,
"-The fact that I wasn't a man, but obviously I was wrong. But I'm always wrong according to-"
"MULAN!" Shang shouted at her, much like he did when she was in training. She reddened in anger and shame. Mulan resisted the urge to storm away.
"Don't shout at me!" She said to the general, turning to face him with a stern glare,
"I am still your commanding officer, if you step out of line, I can make you march to the other side of China and back" Mulan held her toung but her glare stayed in place. Her arms went back to their folded position.
The Emperor chuckled,
"Calm down, I want my most trusted warriors to at least be on speaking terms"
"Fat chance of that, my girl fights for her place!" Mushu said from behind a nearby curtain, he scuttled behind Mulan's neck. Just what I need Mulan thought.
"You're meant to be in the room!" Mulan muttered,
"What?" Shang said suspiciously as he narrowed his calculating eyes at her,
"Oh, um, this is a big room. Really big" Mulan felt like giving herself a hard face-palm.
"You know, you did that the first day of training. When you lied about your name" Shang was surely onto her, she let out a breath,
"Would it make you feel better if-" Shang's hope lifted, would she finally open up and tell him what made her act so strangely,
"-I said that I didn't want to talk to you?" Mulan smiled sweetly, but it didn't have the desired effect.
Instead of angering her Commanding officer, he just stared at her. Like he was actually seeing her as her for the first time.
Mulan obviously didn't understand and her brow furrowed, this snapped Shang out of his seemingly unbreakable daze.
"I don't know what to do with you" He said bewildered,
"Excuse me?" Mulan said,
"You rudely addressed me, and ignored his majesty…" Mulan let out a slow breath,
"Are you going to kill me now? Because obviously it's been a long time coming" Mulan said, bitter, under her breath. As much as she had denied it, she still didn't really understand why Shang, honourable general, would spare her life. A favour would not keep him from up keeping the law. Mulan was now constantly keeping her guard up, in case he wanted to do what he should have on the mountain.
Both men looked at her in shock, Mulan felt her cheeks blush and tear's behind her eyes, don't cry, don't cry, she recited in her head.
"Fa Mulan, You are under no threat here, you are respected and honoured" Her lips smashed together a silent protest. Shang still stood there, looking at her in disbelief.
"I think you should meet my daughters" The Emperor said, filling the heavy silence that had settled over the room. Even the guards stationed around the edges were fidgeting awkwardly.
Mulan only nodded,
"I believe your old friends are outside to show you the way there" The Emperor smiled and Mulan's face lit up, a beautiful feminine grin making her radiance glow, and it did not escape his majesty's notice that Shang's face fell further as he realised that Mulan valued her friends more than him. But he did really look at her, when she smiled, like it was important to him…a realisation.
"You may go" The Emperor said, seeing her eagerness, Mulan ran up and hugged the Emperor, he was ready this time and hugged her briefly back, he pointed at the slightly smaller door to his left with on hand,
"You are dismissed" Mulan let out a small laugh of glee and ran to the door, already open by two coy looking guards.
They must have made a comment, as Mulan froze looked them both in the eyes,
"Oh god" Shang said, knowing that look in her eyes, he only saw it briefly as she turned her head to look at the other guard but there was no mistaking it.
Her let swung out as she crouched down, knocking both guards to the floor,
"You'll do well to learn to hold those comments for a woman who will sink to your level of filth" Mulan spat and strode out of the room fuming, her fists clenched. Her three friends stood by the open door, mouths agape as she strode past them. The three turned slowly to follow her with their eyes as she walked away.
Shang bowed and excused himself from the Emperor, he jogged after Mulan. Knowing she hadn't got rid of all her anger, he followed her, whatever they had said; the hero of China didn't deserve it. And, she also had a sword, Shang knew she wouldn't harm anyone innocent, but one cocky young soldier could lose his head if he wasn't careful.
"Stupid *thud* insolent *thud* MAN! *thud*" Mulan kicked the makeshift dummy in the yard, her hands were still too sore to do much more than clench. General Li watched, leaning against a sturdy tree near the stabled.
Mulan stopped attacking the dummy that was really for the princesses training, and started walking in loose circles as she ranted, her arms flailing as she did so,
"I understand it's hard for a man to realise I can kick his butt, but I never do anything without being provoked! I'm completely harmless…ok, not completely harmless, that I admit, but- urgh!" Mulan swung round and her fist connected with the dummy's stomach.
The wooden pole that held the straw man up audibly hit her hand,
"Ow! Ow! Ow!" Mulan hopped up and down as she hissed, Mulan stopped then, her eyes clenching shut as she cradled her hand to her chest. Shang knew something else was up, he just didn't know what.
Hesitantly, the young General made his way silently over to Mulan,
"Mulan-" His hand outstretched to touch her should, Mulan swung his foot round and hit his side, her hand still cradled. Shang bent over, grasping his side and looked up at her,
"What happened to not attacking without being provoked?" He croaked, Mulan but her lip,
"Sorry" Shang froze,
"Did you just…apologise?" He asked, shell shocked, Mulan looked away,
"Yes you did" Shang said in a teasing tone,
"I can take it back"
"That's what everyone said about a woman joining the army"
"You just like to break rules"
"I don't see them as rules…just suggestions. And seeing as I won't be told how to live my life, those said suggestions are ignored"
"Yes, like me suggesting you don't run head on at Shun-Yo"
"But if I hadn't we'd all be dead" Shang sighed, he didn't like arguing with his warriors. Especially his best.
"Soldier, I want you cleaned up and outside my room in 15 minutes, don't be late" Who was he kidding? She was always late.
"Yes Sir" Mulan muttered and went to the stables.
"I said clean up not go for a ride" Shang repeated, obviously irritated,
"I'm seeing Khan; I learnt that I can't take long to clean around male soldiers. I won't take long" Shang didn't have a response for that.
Sometimes he forgot to look back and see that Ping was actually the woman in front of him. All the sacrifices, the worrying, and the lies she had to keep up. He would give any other soldier credit, but, with Mulan, you could never tell if that would improve the terms they were on or make it worse.
Ten minutes later Mulan was outside Shang's room waiting patiently,
"Hey baby girl!" Mushu called as he stepped out of her room,
"Come back to see me?" Mulan glared playfully at him,
"You nearly got yourself discovered earlier, you're lucky no one minds me talking to myself" She teased and Mushu grinned,
"Well, pretty boy got used to it all through your training, the Emperor however, is acting suspiciously"
"You shouldn't spy on the Emperor Mushu!" Mulan scolded, just then Shang's door opened and Mushu ran inside Mulan's room.
"Who's were you talking to?" Shang asked, confused,
"Oh, no one. I mean, myself" Mulan nodded, Shang just shook his head, I give up trying to understand her he thought to himself.
"We need to introduce you to the princesses, this way" Shang was being noticeably more detached from her, Mulan didn't like it.
But really, could she blame him?
Ok, so what did you think? Please review, it would mean a lot ^_^ oh, and your important question:
Well, seeing as not many people review I don't know what you want, as readers. I mean, I have my own ideas but I don't want to make people stop reading because they hate the plot line, so, please leave a review or pm saying what you would HATE to happen, or equally what you would absolutely LOVE to see.
Thank you, and please review,