Before we got too far, Mulan realized that she needed to put on more than a blanket, and she found a tunic and dress in her saddle-bags. We stopped in a grove of trees, and Mulan turned to me. "Do you mind?"
I frowned at her. "Sorry?"
She sighed impatiently. "I need to change my clothes, so you have to at least turn around and give me so privacy."
I felt dissapointed, and shrugged. "I'm going to see you naked rather soon, so-" Blushing profusely, she grabbed me by the collar, and shoved me away.
"Just do it, Al!"
Pretending to grumble, I did so.
It wasn't like I hadn't seen her naked before.
When we got to the big capital city, we found it in a party atmosphere. It didn't take us long to find the troops.
"My job isn't done. Shan Yu lives, and he is here now." I informed them.
"Neither of you belong here. Go home." Shang replied.
Mulan scowled, and rode in front of his horse, stopping him. "Why else would I come back? You said you trusted us, or rather, Ping. How is Mulan any different?"
Shang simply ignored us, and Mulan said to Yao, Chien-Po, and Ling: "Keep your eyes open. I know they're here. Hya!" Mulan and I rode into the palace entrance, and we dismounted, and made to run into the yard.
"Now where are you going?" Mushu asked.
"To find someone who will believe us." She replied, but I stopped her. "Wait, luv. Who would listen to either of us?"
Mulan glared at me. "We have to do something!"
I nodded. "Aye, and we will, but we need to focus our energy on finding and eliminating the bastards. To do that, we can't go gallivanting around, trying to persuade people of something that they won't even listen to."
In the meantime, the parade that centered on Shang and our friends stopped in front of the Emperor on the steps of the palace.
He was a tall stately old man, with long grey hair and beard, and he wore a yellow robe and a small black hat.
A large dragon puppet stopped behind Shang, and I turned on my Eagle-Vision, and then grabbed Mulan's shoulder. "The dragon puppet! Follow me!"
Unfortunately, the crowd was dense enough to make the going difficult. Chi-Fu, stepping up beside Shang, handed the sword of Shan Yu to Shang.
"My children, heaven smiles upon the Middle Kingdom. China will sleep safely tonight thanks to our brave warriors!" The Emperor called, his voice deep and reedy.
The crowd cheered, and I lost my patience, and started to shove people aside, ignoring their protests.
Ahead of us, Shang knelt in front of the Emperor, giving him the sword of his enemy. "Your Majesty, I present to you the sword of Shan Yu."
The Emperor nodded. "I know what this means to you, Captain Li Shang. Your father would have been proud."
Suddenly, A black falcon swooped down and took the sword as Shang gave it to the Emperor. It rose above the roof and drops the sword to Shan Yu, who was sitting next to the gargoyles, blending in with the shadows.
The masses of people gasped as Shang drew his sword, but all of Shan Yu's men, five in all, jumped out from behind the dragon. They knocked down Shang, and dragged the Emperor into the palace to be safe from rescue attempts.
Shan Yu laughed mockingly as Shang and his men battered at the doors unsuccessfully with a large stone statue.
Mulan and I arrived shortly afterwards. "They'll never reach the Emperor in time." Mulan said, and then looked at the columns of the palace. I did the same, and we smiled at each other, before running up to the soldiers.
Mulan whistled, and they turned to her. "Hey guys! I've got an idea."
Yao, Ling, and Shien Po looked at each other, and followed us to the columns.
I watched as Yao, Ling, and Shien Po dressed as women, since they would provide a screen for me to surprise the enemy. Once the transformation was complete, the others took off their sashes and prepared to shimmy up the columns.
I didn't need such instruments, since I was an Assassin, and was used to climbing with my bare hands.
Just before we started, Shang tapped me on the shoulder, removed his cape, and wrapped it around the column next to me.
"I knew you would join us sooner or later." I said, smiling at him, as we began our way up the columns.
It did not take us long to scale them, and make our way to the balcony, whose doors were guarded by all of the Huns, except for Shan Yu.
We stopped around the corner, and I prepared my knives and sword for the attack, and Shang did the same.
"Okay, any questions?" Mulan whispered to the 'women.'
"Does this dress make me look fat?" Yao asked, and I grinned as Mulan slapped him, making him yelp.
Mulan, Yao, Ling and Chien Po walked out, smiling and giggling, acting lady-like. I hunkered behind them, trying to keep from sniggering.
The guards didn't suspect a thing, thinking that the 'girls' were concubines, although they did remark on how ugly they looked.
I leaped out from behind their cover, two of my knives killing two huge bald men that looked like twins. Another knife took down a sallow-faced man holding a bow, and the 'ladies' made short work of the others.
"Concentrate on the Emperor. Shan Yu is mine." I told the others, who nodded.
With that, Shang and I charged up to the balcony.
"Then you will kneel in pieces!" Shan Yu was saying to the Emperor, his sword raised. I charged in, blocking his with my sword, and I was about to follow it up, but Shan Yu grabbed my arm, and threw me toward the edge of the balcony.
I used the momentum to swing around one of the columns, and land a kick on Shan Yu.
"The Emperor!" I shouted, as I pinned Shan Yu to the floor.
As we fought like two lions for supremacy, Shang and the others grabbed the Emperor, and used a rope attached to a column to ride to the ground, using their sashes as pulleys.
"No!" Shan Yu roared from the floor, unable to do anything but watch. I used this opportunity to flick my right wrist, preparing my Hidden Blade, but Shan Yu slammed his elbow into my chin, knocking me back.
He rose, and slammed me down with a head-butt to my face, stunning me momentarily.
Mulan watched her love fall, but forced herself to concentrate on the rope that her friends had used to escape with the Emperor, and before Shan Yu could reach it, she picked up Shan Yu's sword, and cut the rope.
Shan Yu roared as the rope fell away, and grabbed his sword, and advanced on Alaric, who was just rising to his feet. I looked up at the irate former Assassin, and reached for my sword, but his boot slammed down on my hand before I could reach it.
Shan Yu lifted me by the collar, and snarled into my face, "You! You took away my victory!"
Mulan threw one of her shoes, hitting him in the head, and he turned toward her. "No! I did!" She said, and pulled her hair back to make herself look like a soldier again.
"The soldier from the mountains!" Shan Yu said, and threw me at her feet. She pulled me to my feet, and we both ran down the stairs, and through the doors to the balcony.
After we had turned and slammed them shut, I turned to Mulan. "This won't hold him forever, but long enough for you to get help."
Mulan glared at me. "Don't even think about asking me not to fight with you!"
I took her face in my hands. "You have my word that I will not keep you from battle ever again, but he and I are Assassins, and if anyone can keep him occupied, it's me."
Mulan paused, and demanded angrily: "Is that your colossal ego talking, or your Assassin bravado?"
I smiled, and kissed her. "Maybe both, but I don't think anyone's got a better chance, but I just might need help. Only you can get that for me." She nodded, and retreated further down the stairs.
I turned to the door as Shan Yu punched a fist through it. "Come on, you treacherous bastard! It's just you and me!" I called.
A second later, the doors slammed open, and Shan Yu stood framed in the door-way.
He was a tall man with long black hair, and was built stronger than any man I had ever seen. He was dressed in furs, and his eyes were dark yellow, seeming to radiate with anger and hatred.
"So here we are, at last. " Shan Yu said, his voice deep and dark, with a grating edge that seemed to fill the room.
I glared at him, my sword out and ready. "You weren't delusional enough to think that we would not come for you? That you would not pay for your heinous deeds? You and I have a score to settle: you Betrayed the Order, you killed hundreds of innocent people, and you tried to kill my woman. You aren't going to get out of this alive, or in one piece!"
In the meantime, Mulan sprinted down several flights of steps, Mushu at her side, riding Shan Yu's falcon like a horse. The latter hat just been cooked by the dragon's flame, and now resembled a hairless chicken.
"So what's the plan?" Mushu asked. Mulan, still troubled over Alaric, said nothing.
"You don't have a plan?!" Mushu asked incredulously.
"I'm making this up as I...go." She finished, stopping by a window and spying the fireworks tower next to the palace.
"Mushu, Alaric needs help." She said, pointing to the tower.
"I'm way ahead of you, sister! C'mon Cri-Kee!" Mushu and Cri-Kee jumped onto a kite and used the wings to soar toward the fireworks tower.
Mulan waited there, next to the window, praying to her ancestors that Alaric would hold on for just a little while longer.
Not far away, Shan Yu snorted as we circled each other, both of us descending the steps into a large room with many columns lining the walls. "I thought that everything was permitted? All I did was take my own destiny into my hands."
I offered him a series of slashes and lunges, one of which caught him across his right cheek. "Don't play word games with me! You are but you betrayed and killed your brothers!"
Shan Yu snarled in my face, as we locked blades. "They were lap-dogs of the Emperor, who used them for his own ends. I was the wisest of them, and I could see the truth! Those fools were fighting for a corrupt old man whose hunger for power turned them against me, when I tried to remind them that we make a point of killing men such as him!"
My hackles rose, and my voice rose with them. Shan Yu roared with pain as I slashed him across the hip, then drop-kicked him to the floor. "You slaughtered your kin! They were our brothers, and you killed them because they wouldn't agree with you! This isn't about the Emperor, and it never was! It's all about you!"
I pointed my sword at him accusingly, as the man rose back to his feet. "You only care for yourself! Your ego and your lust for power and blood has corrupted your mind-" Before I could continue, Shan Yu charged forward, his sword slamming down on my upraised blade in vertical blows that made the wound on my back burn with protest.
"My vision is lost on you. You are just like your brothers, so you will now perish like they did!"
I moved forward, slamming my shoulder into his chest. I used his resulting surprise and pain to climb up the nearest pillar to us, intending to use it to dive on him with my Hidden Blade.
I was too slow.
His sword chopped through the pillar with one blow, and sending the pillar smashing through a nearby window, dangling me over the crowd, who gasped collectively as I scrambled to right myself on the capsized pillar.
"Bugger! Bugger! Bugger!" I cursed repeatedly, balancing myself on the beam.
Mulan, who watched from a nearby window, felt sick at heart. "Come on, Mushu! Where are you?" She asked, as the leader of the Huns joined Alaric on the pillar.
Suddenly, she spotted Mushu arriving at the fireworks tower. Mushu landed near the two firework lighters on the edge of the tower.
"Citizens! I need firepower."
They both trembled. "Who are you?"
Mushu spread out the wings from the kite to look threatening, and Cri-kee did the same things with his own wings. "Your worst nightmare!" Mushu snarled.
The two men leaped from the tower, and Mushu returned to Mulan, carrying a huge pack of dynamite.
Then both of them began to make their way to their beleaguered friend, keeping an eye on him as they went.
I ducked a vertical punch, and a slammed an uppercut onto his chin, then I leaped for the roof above me, gritting my teeth as my back protested asI climbed to the roof. I stood there for a moment, breathing heavily.
For the first time in my life, I was trapped and I needed help. I sent a prayer to whatever diety was listening to protect Mulan, but was interrupted when Shan Yu broke through the roof in front on me.
"This is the end of the road for you, Assassin!"
I shook my head, smiling. I wasn't done, not by a long shot!. "For you it is, traitor!"
I ran forward, but fell on my back, my swords dropping from my hands, as he pinned me to the floor with his hand on my throat, raising then flicking his right wrist, exposing his own Hidden Blade.
"And now, boy, you shall meet the same end as your brothers: at the end of this blade. The irony of it still satisfies me: Assassin's being killed by their own toys!"
His blade descended, and I caught his wrist, trying to stop its descent, but he was too strong. "Speaking of gifts, I will enjoy that little thing that stole my victory from me tonight-"
He was interrupted by a voice behind him: "I'm right here, traitor! Get away from him!" Shan Yu turned to Mulan, who climbed onto the roof through the hole that he had made earlier. In her hand, she held her fan.
"How nice of you to join us! However, it looks like you are out of ideas!" He used my other sword to pin me to the roof by my right shoulder, and lunged for at her with his sword.
"NO!" I screamed, but I should never have doubted her.
Mulan dodged to her right, catching the sword with hers, twisted it with both hands so that he lost his grip, and caught Shan Yu's blade in her hands, as he had lost his grip on his blade.
"Not quite!" She said grimly, as I ripped the sword from my shoulder, and rose to my feet.
Brandishing Shan Yu's sword in the face of it's surprised owner, she called over her shoulder, "Ready, Mushu?"
Standing behind her, tied to the large firework twice his size, Mushu cried: "I am ready, Baby!" He blew fire onto a stick, and handed the stick to Cri-Kee, who was on said firework. "Light me!"
As the lucky cricket did so, Mulan lunged at Shan Yu, but not before tossing his blade to me. Then she sweep-kicked Shan Yu, who fell to the ground, and I pinned his cape to the ground with his sword.
As the fuse to the firework lit, I snatched his Hidden Blade from his wrist, and put it in my pocket before giving him a ferocious grin. "You don't deserve to carry that, but the one thing you do deserve is your death. Do me a favor: give my best to the hellfire that awaits you, you son of bitch!"
Mulan ducked as the rocket ignited, and I fell prone to avoid the rocket, which sped over her and toward our hated enemy. He tried to run, but his own sword had him pinned to the spot.
Mushu and Cri-Kee dropped from the combustible object as it hit him square in the belly, propelling him toward the firework tower, as I ducked to avoid him, retrieving my blade in time to see Mulan grab both of our friends.
Together, we ran from the tower, with Mulan saying as we ran: "Get off the roof, get off the roof, get off the roof!"
The rocket carried the former Assassin into the tower, causing masses of explosions and fireworks to fly everywhere. Mulan and I jumped from the edge of the roof.
Propelled by the explosion, she and grabbed onto lanterns that were hanging on a taught rope, and started to slide down them.
We looked down, and dropped ourselves onto the back of Shang, who was charging up the stairs, and the three of us collapsed to the ground.
"Much appreciated, old friend!" I gasped, helping him and Mulan to their feet.
Mushu landed backwards on his butt a couple of times, pointing and laughing mockingly at the fireworks. A second later, he caught Cri-Kee, and pinched out the fire on Cri-Kee's antenna. "You are one lucky bug!"
Chi Fu, walking down the stairs in a tattered and burned outfit, was seething. "That was a deliberate attempt on my life! Where is she? Stand aside! This creature is not worth protecting." He continued, as Shang and I stepped in front of him.
I got right in his face. "She's a hero, unlike you."
Chi Fu sneered. "She's a woman! She will never be worth anything."
I drew my Hidden Blade. "Eat steel, you pompous-"
The Emperor interrupted us, walking down the steps. "That is enough!"
Shang stepped in front of him. "Your Majesty, I can explain." The Emperor motioned him aside, and I stood in front of the old man.
"Emperor, I beg you to listen-" I cried out as hands seized me from behind, and forced me to the ground.
I turned to Shang, but he gestured for me to wait.
Mulan stepped forward, and bowed before the Emperor as Chi-Fu awaited to write down the words of the Emperor, who began to speak: "I've heard a great deal about you, Fa Mulan. You stole your father's armor, ran away from home, impersonated a soldier, deceived your commanding officer, dishonored the Chinese army, destroyed my palace, AND..." He paused, his voice rising with each word.
I snarled like a wild animal, but the hands held me back.
"You have saved us all." The Emperor finished gently, and bowed to Mulan. Everybody around me and the Emperor fell prostrate towards Mulan, who looked around, then behind her at the huge crowd, which did the same, as if they combined as a wave on the British Channel.
Smiling, relieved and proud of Mulan beyond words, I went down to one knee, ignoring the many wounds and pains I had sustained. Kahn, and my own horse bowed their heads, with Mushu and Cri-Kee on each of their backs.
"My little baby's all grown up and savin' China." Mushu said, then looked at Cri-Kee. "You have a tissue?"
Shaking my head at them, I was surprised to feel my own tears on my cheeks. I had not wept in years, but these were tears nothing else then ones of pride, love, and joy.
"Chi-Fu, see to it that this woman is made a member of my council."
Chi Fu stammered, and tried to disuade the Emperor. "There are no positions open, you Majesty."
The Emperor nodded, and informed him that Mulan could have his job, firing him on the spot.
I smiled ferally. "Can I take him now, Emperor?" I advanced on the man, who fainted from fright and shock from losing his coveted position.
"That will not be necessary, Assassin." The Emperor said, and I stepped back with the upmost regret as Mulan smiled and answered: "With all due respect, your Excellency, I have been away from home long enough."
The Emperor nodded, and took off his pendant, which was a necklace of a red dragon's head on a white field. "Then take this, so that your family will know what you have done for me."
Next, he handed her the sword of Shan Yu. "And this, so that the world will know what you have done for China."
Mulan took the gifts, then hugged the old man. "Is she allowed to do that?" Yao asked Shang, who shrugged.
Mulan walked away from the Emperor, and hugged Yao, Ling, Chien-Po, the gargantuan man lifting all three into the air with a bear hug. I bowed to each of the men, but they took it upon themselves to hug me.
Mulan stopped in front of Shang, and he gave her a bow, acknowledging her as best Shang could. Shang was never a touchy-feely person, but unbeknownst to me, a former apprentice of mine would change that.
"You...fight good." Shang congratulated her, and she gave him her thanks, looking amused.
Shang and I approached each other, and I took him by the shoulder.
Out of all the men, I had come to know Shang the most. He was a man of honor and duty, an exceptional warrior, and a great leader. But most of all, he was a good friend, and I have never been known for making or keeping friends.
"The Emperor was correct in saying that your father would be very proud of you. I have the feeling that this will not be the last time I will see you, Captain." Shang nodded, and we shook hands.
I turned to follow Mulan, who was making her way to her horse, but a hand gripped my arm, the owner of the hand being the Emperor. "Your uncle's high regard for you is now shared by me, young Assassin."
He handed me a large satchel, which contained a new Assassin's uniform, crimson in color, bearing the Emperor's Seal of the Dragon on it's front. "Take this, so that the world will know that there are Assassins in China once again. I name you Mentor of the East."
I bowed, smiling. "I thank you for this honor, Emperor, and will wear this proudly."
With that, I turned to go, but his grip on my arm remained. "The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all."
I tilted my head in curiosity, and the Emperor smiled. "You don't meet a girl like that every dynasty!" With that, the Emperor placed his hat back onto his head, and walked back up the steps to his palace.
Chuckling, I placed the new uniform back into the satchel. "Very true, Emperor, and I'll never forget it." I said to myself, my voice choked with emotion.
Mulan had done so much good in so little time, and saved China as well as my own life.
She is a woman unlike any other.
With that, I mounted my horse, and joined Mulan, who looked down at Kahn. "Kahn, let's go home."
Kahn and my own horse didn't need telling twice, and we left the Imperial City, with the crowd cheering us as we left.
It was morning when we arrived at Mulan's home. Before Mulan dismounted, I could feel her tension as she gripped my arm. I bent down, and kissed her. "Go on, luv. I'll always be where you need me. You are ready." She nodded, and I climbed onto the wall surrounding their house, and used it to spring onto their roof, finding a good position to keep an eye on things.
Fa Zhou sat beneath the blossom tree, and as Mulan appeared on the threshold, a blossom fell from the tree and landed on his leg.
"Mulan." He said, starting to stand. Mulan quickly moved in front of him, and knelt at his feet, causing him to remain seated.
When Mulan spoke, her voice was shaking with emotion and nerves. "Father, I brought you the sword of Shan Yu, and the crest of the Emperor." She said, handing both to him. "They're gifts to honor the Fa Family." She finished, bowing her head.
Fa Zhou took the gifts, and to the surprise of Mulan and I, threw them to the ground and embraced Mulan. "The greatest gift and honor is having you for a daughter."
Fa Zhou wiped away Mulan's tears, and embraced her again.
"I've missed you so." He finished. "I've missed you too, Papa," said Mulan tearfully.
I swallowed the lump in my throat, and blinked back my own tears, thinking of my own parents.
I was interrupted by a relieved sigh, and I turned to see them standing in the doorway Mulan had just used, her mother being the origin of the sigh.
Grandma Fa snorted. "Great, she brings home a sword. If you asked me, she should have brought home a ma-"
Grandma Fa's mouth remained open as I landed in front of the two women. "You called?" I asked, smiling at both of them.
Before either could speak, Mulan called me to her. As I walked over to her, I could hear Grandma Fa saying: "Woo, sign me up for the next war!"
I knelt in front of Fa Zhou, my new uniform making me stand out from the green grass and the blue stream. "Honorable Fa Zhou, I have kept my oath, and beg your forgivness for-" I was interrupted when Fa Zhou's hands pulled me to my feet.
"For what, Alaric? For returning my pride and joy to me alive? I have no words to thank you for this. Consider my house to be your own." He finished, bowing to me.
Mulan, who was watching with a huge smile, spoke to me. "Would you like to stay for dinner?"
Before I could answer, Grandma Fa called: "Would you like to stay forever?"
I grinned as Mulan blushed. "Is both possible?" I asked, and Mulan turned to her father. "Father, on our travels, Alaric and I fell in love."
The First Fa Ancestor watched the resulting action from Mulan's statement, a wide smile on his face. Next to him stood two adult ghosts in Assassin's Robes. The male, a man with short and messy red hair and sea-blue eyes, folded his arms, looking smug.
Next to him stood a woman with long blonde hair and grey eyes, had tears running down her face. She was slight and tall, whereas the man was strong and stout.
"I told you, luv." Aldric Rose said, his cockney accent sounding throughout the Fa family shrine, which all three were occupying currently, to the woman, who nodded.
"Yes, you are right, darling. He has never looked happier." Elizabeth said.
They were both interrupted by Mushu, who climbed up to the window sill by the First Ancestors head. "C'mon, who did a good job? C'mon, tell me who did a good job. If lover boy marries Mulan, somebody has to be the guardian, and ol' Stoney is out for the count, so a certain family's going to need a guardian!" He said, tugging at the old man's ethereal ear.
"Oh, all right. You can be guardian again." The ancestor said, although with a great deal of reluctance.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAAAA! WHO HO HO HO!" The little dragon leaped into the air, as Cri-Kee banged the gong, awakening the other ancestors.
A party broke out in the shrine, with Mushu being the life and soul of said party.
"Guardians!" Aldric said, shaking his head in disgust, as Elizabeth giggled, the Assassins then joining in the party.
Mushu landed on the steps outside the shrine, as Mulan and I walked up to him. "Thanks, Mushu." Mulan said, kissing him on the forehead as I patted him on the back.
I looked into the shrine, and saw the ghosts partying, picking out two in particular.
"Mum? Dad?" I asked, and both approached me.
Tears filled my eyes, staring into the two faces I had missed so much. "Is this real?"
My Father nodded. "Aye, you'd better believe it!"
My Mother spoke next: "We've been with you the whole time, never leaving you. Death is simply a transition into a new life, nothing to fear at all. We have always watched you and loved you, and we always will."
I stepped forward, and wrapped my arms around them. Although I didn't feel their embraces, I was able to see their arms wrapping around me.
Mulan stepped up beside me, and they embraced her as well. Mulan didn't feel their embrace, but she did feel their love and gratefulness, and that was enough for her.
Life was good, and she had the feeling that things could only get better!
And Cut, check the gate! Well, I certainly enjoyed rewriting this, and I hope you enjoyed it as well. Thanks for reading, lovies, and have a blast reading the sequel "The Mentor and His Blossom!"