written by Karen
It was a cold night. Li Shang could feel the rain pounding on his back. He spotted a stable closeby, and quickly rode to it on his white stallion. Dismounting his horse, he opened the stable doors and entered.
"Glad you could make it." spoke a genial but sinister voice.
"Show yourself." Shang said confidently. A massive figure emerged from the darkness into a patch of moonlight coming from a nearby window . He looked closer, and realized that it wasn't just one figure, but two. "Shan-Yu" he muttered under his breath as he slowly drew his sword. Shang's eyes grew wider as he recognized the second person. He said nothing.
"Now, I suppose you'll try to stop me," came Shan-Yu's voice over the chattering rain. Shang retained his calm composure. He knew somehow that he had to stop Shan-Yu. He would continue to go after the emperor, letting nothing get in his way. Not even Shang himself, or even Mulan, whose writhing figure was struggling to escape his grasp. "..which is why I decided to take an extra precaution." Shan-Yu told him as he drew his sword. He layed the blade on Mulan's neck, unafraid to press harder and draw blood. "Drop your sword."
It took Shang awhile to do what he was told. He felt his face grow hot. There was no way he could get to Mulan. It was a hard decision for him to make-- between the emperor whom he was sworn to serve, and the woman whom he loved. A line of blood appeared on the neck of Mulan. She let out a cry. She was trying to be brave, but the pain was nearly unbearable. "DROP IT" came Shan-Yu's commanding voice again. Shang's sword clattered to the stone floor. The stable was momentarily lit by some sheet lightning. "Now I have you where I want you." Shan-Yu said softly a s he jerked his sword into Mulan's neck. He held out her limp, lifeless body at arm's length, and simply let go. It collapsed into a heap on the cold stone floor.
"No!!" yelled Shang. But his voice was carried away with the sound of Thunder.. or was it just sinister laughter? Shang rushed forward to Mulan, but realized it was already too late. She was dead. Shang quickly lifted his sword from the cold, hard floor, and turned to advance toward Shan-Yu. But he was gone. Tears flowed steadily down his face as he ran to the stable doors, his cape flowing gracefully with every movement. He couldn't bear the pain. He had to run.. Hard. When he stopped, he found himself in the outskirts of a forest, on a cliff overlooking a breathtaking waterfall. He walked to the edge. He knew he wasn't going to kill himself-- he had to avenge Mulan's death. He heard that laughter again. He turned around quickly, but his vigor was gone.
"Stop me now" said the deep voice of Shan-Yu as he slowly advanced toward Shang. He pushed his face into Shang's. "Just try." Shan-Yu spoke slowly. He widened his eyes, and they gave off a blinding flash.Chapter Two
Shang's eyes jerked open. This was the same nightmare he'd had night after night, since his dinner with Mulan. Thunder sounded and lightning flashed outside his window. He lit his candle and sat on his bed, pondering what this dream was trying to tell him. He slept no more for the duration of the night. After what seemed like an eternity, the sun finally chased the moon out of the sky. He put on his robe and joined his mother for breakfast.
Shang and his mother were very close. He and his father were close too, but it was his mother who raised him and taught him traditional values-- basically, everything that had nothing to do with the Chinese army.
"Mother?" he asked.
"What is it, my son?" Li Mei replied.
"I keep having this recurring dream.. or nightmare.."
"Does it concern this.. Fa Mulan?" she asked. She had heard about Mulan, primarily from Shang, but had not yet met this legend. Shang felt a tingle in his stomach upon hearing her name.
"Well, yes.." he continued to tell her his dream. His mother seemed concerned.
"Sometimes it is said that dreams like these are given to us as signs of the future," She saw Shang's face grow pale. "Signs-- so that we can change the future. It is your fate to meet this evil man.. this.. Shan-Yu.. but the outcome of this meeting is determined by your actions."
"What am I to do?" He said this to both himself and his mother.
"I would suggest paying Fa Mulan a visit. During the day."
Shang spent the rest of the day analyzing the ways that he could free Mulan from Shan-Yu's grasp. Soon it was evening. Shang sat indian-style on his floor. He looked up to see his mother entering his room. P>
"So, Shang.. what are you wearing tomorrow?"
"I- really-- don't know, mother," he said.
"Well, then, lets find you something, eh?" Shang smiled. He loved his mother dearly. She was always so warm and friendly, and.. well, 'laid back' -- as long as there wasn't company over, or something. "I always thought you looked handsome in this wonderful cape of yours." She told him as she pulled out his cape from his closet.
"Then that is what I will wear," he said, smiling. He was standing now, watching his mother return the cape to his closet. "I love you, mother," he told her, embracing her in a warm hug.
"I love you too, son. Good luck. I assume you'll be leaving at dawn, so be careful. I'll most likely not see you until the day after tomorrow?"
"That's correct. Good night."
"Good night, my son. Be careful." She said as she left Shang's room. She quickly payed the family shrine a visit, and then settled into bed.Chapter Three
Disclaimer: This part contains lyrics to Celine Dion's song "tell him." If it shouldn't be there, email me, and I will take care of it.
Shang knew that he would have to leave early, so he quickly got dressed (or undressed ;) ) for bed, and retired earlier than usual. He awoke with the sun, refreshed and relaxed. He then realized that he didn't have that nightmare again. He could hardly wait to see Mulan. Quickly he bathed, dressed (in his wonderful uniform which his mom recommended that he wear), and ate breakfast. Mulan was all he could think of as he saddled his horse and headed off, and Mulan was all he could think of on his entire journey. He developed a plan the previous evening on how he would save Mulan from Shan-Yu, and now all he had to do was tell Mulan.
He finally reached the Fa house. Tying his stallion to a tree, he looked around for her whereabouts. He quieted his horse, and used his keen (and lovely, might I add) ears to try to single out Mulan's sweet voice. Wait.. he heard something. Was that singing?? He smiled to himself. The thought of catching Mulan singing was perfect. He walked regularly towards what he knew to be her voice. Now he heard her clearly. All that separated them was a relatively tall bush. He listened to her sweet soprano voice ring through her garden.
"I'm scared.. So afraid to show I care. Will he think me weak- if I tremble when I speak? Oooh what if there's another one he's thinking of? Maybe he's in love. I'd feel like a fool.. Life can be so cruel. I don't know what to do.. Should I .. Tell him, tell him that the sun and moon rise in his eyes? Reach out to him. And whisper " She stopped, conscious of another presence. "Hello? Is anyone- there?" She looked around her. Everything was still. Shang, of course, then realized that it was probably a bad idea to go listen to her. But he didn't make a noise, did he?
"My, Mulan, you are becoming more of a young woman every day." Came her father's voice from the garden entrance. Shang saw this as his way out, and quickly seized the moment. He pretended to come in from the entrance a few minutes later.
"* ahem *Hello?" Shang asked.
"Shang! Hello! Come in!" Mulan enthusiastically greeted him. He smiled at her, shaking off the flashback to his dreams, envisioning this lively creature as a lifeless body.
"Fa Zhou," he said, confidently shaking hands with this military legend.
"Li Shang. I was wondering if you were ever going to pay us another visit. You know you are always welcome here. Where is your horse?" Fa Zhou asked.
"I tied him to a tree outside your walls." Shang answered.
"Mulan, will you escort his stallion to the stable?" At the mention of the word "stable", Shang's heart jumped. He felt his adrenaline begin to pump.
"May I accompany Mulan?" Shang asked demurely.
"As you wish." Fa Zhou complied with a smile. The two young adults turned and walked towards where Shang had tied his horse.
"Are you alright, Shang? You look pale." Mulan asked, concerned.
"Yes. It's just that- I came .. I came because of a dream I had." He studied Mulan's countenance. She was serious nd concerned. She said nothing. "Well, actually, a recurring nightmare.." Shang went on to tell her about his dream. Of course, he didn't tell her how he felt after she was killed, and he didn't say anything about being asked to drop his sword for her. Only about the stable, Shan-Yu, and her death.Chapter Four
They reached the stable. Once they retired Shang's horse, they each sat down on an opposing bale of hay. "Everything will be fine, Shang. Don't worry." Mulan comforted him after they had finished discussing Shang's plan and how they were going to carry it out.
"I hope so, Mulan. I-- I'd uh, hate for... forsomethingbadtohappentoyou." Shang said uncomfortably. He wrinkled his forehead in anticipation of Mulan's reaction. Nothing. Mulan rose from her bale of hay. The lighting in the stable made it seem as if a halo were encircling her head. She moved toward him, and knelt down by his knee, putting both hands on his right leg. She looked up sweetly at Shang, who was REALLY uncomfortable by now. He leaned forward a little, his head inclined toward her as if she were about to tell him a secret.
"Shang," she began softly, "Look at me." It was hard, but Shang finally brought himself to look her in the eye. Mulan smiled to herself. He really was nervous. She calmly lifted up her right hand to cradle the side of his face. "I trust you." She looked into his eyes. He wasn't that nervous anymore. He began to stand up, as did Mulan. He raised his left arm out to catch Mulan's right hand. She looked at him curiously when he caught it. Shang sighed deeply, turning his head slightly to the right. He looked down and around nervously, but finally met Mulan's questioning gaze with his own confident one. He gently took her left hand in his right.
"Mulan, there's something I need to tell you," Shang told her, searching her face for some sort of a response. She halfway smiled.
"Yes?" she asked, softly biting the inside of her lip. His nervousness returned.
"I-- the um.. well," Shang took a deep breath. "I have never met a woman as.. brave- and spirited and sweet--and.. beautiful-- as you. Every time I see you, or even hear your name--it's like- I feel like.. I get this weird feeling in my stomach.. it's.."
"I make you sick?" Mulan asked, smiling. Her heart was racing. She knew she loved Shang. He was like her other half, somehow. He quickly began again.
"NO--no.. I mean, when you are around, or with me, I feel my heart light up. The idea of something happening to you is like.. looking on the face of death." He looked at Mulan. Tears were starting to form in the corners of her seemingly perfect eyes. "Mulan," he continued, letting go of her left hand and raising his right hand to run his fingers through her short (but growing) hair, "My mother and father always taught me to follow my heart," he had a glint of determination in his eyes now, "And.. Fa Mulan," Mulan's mouth opened slightly as she looked up at the handsome Captain, "You" he -sort of- quietly * gulped *, " ARE my heart," he told her softly. He looked into her eyes with such concern. He gently wiped away her tears of happiness. She let go of his left hand and hugged him around his waist, her head resting on his muscular chest, her face looking up at his.
"Thank you, Shang." Shang could barely hear her whisper.
"Now, come on. Let's get out of here. This place does not give me a pleasant feeling," he told her. Encasing her petite waist in his firm left arm, and holing her left hand in his right, they headed to the door of the barn. Mulan departed (reluctantly) from Shang, and opened the stable doors to exit. They walked side by side towards Mulan's house, smiling at the beautiful, cool day, and smiling at their good fortune of finding each ther.Chapter Five
They entered Mulan's house. "Whew!" Granny Fa mumbled to Fa Li, "What a rush!" Fa Li smiled at her mother, who apparently still thought she was eighteen. The entire day was spent entertaining the Fa family's attractive young guest.
Mulan sat at her window, watching her father talk with Shang. They were standing, facing away from the house. Every now and then, Shang would turn his head in Fa Zhou's direction, and Mulan would watch his expressions with interest. He stood tall. His height of 6'1" made her father look short, even though he was about 5'10". He was really muscular.. but not the overpowering muscular that makes you sick. It was the athletic kind.. the kind where if you played a lot of sports, and did maybe a little exercise, this is what you'd get.
The two men began to walk towards the bridge. Mulan's eyes followed the taller figure. He moved with such coordination- his every step displaying an unthinking unity of movement. His broad shoulders harbored his red officer's cape, and his thick jet black hair was held up in the traditional ponytail with a matching piece of cloth. She loved that cape on him.
"He's hot stuff, ain't he?" came Granny Fa's voice. "Quite a catch."
"Just like the fish we are going to have for dinner." Fa Li's voice was heard at Mulan's doorway. "Come to the kitchen, Mulan. Your help is needed." Mulan gazed once more at the window.
"Ooohh.. that cape " she thought, and got up to make her way to the kitchen.
The two men sat down on a bench in the garden, and looked on towards the lake.
"...Your father's death must have been hard, Captain Li," Fa Zhou commented on their discussion.
"It was. But I've learned something." He and Fa Zhou stood, and strode towards the lake. "This.. will represent my father," Shang said, picking up a small stone. "And this lake will represent me." He glanced at Fa Zhou, who was watching him as if he were a great teacher, and Zhou the student. Shang tossed the rock into the river. "See, the rock disturbs the lake, as my father's death caused waves in my heart. But look.. the lake is calm once more." He turned to look at Fa Zhou.
"But the rock remains." Fa Zhou told him, prodding Shang for an extension to his analogy.
"I know. It is part of the lake now, as my father's death is now a part of me. " Fa Zhou looked approvingly at Shang.. Zhou was one who highly valued wisdom. He knew that Shang and Mulan were fond of each other, and now he was sure of Shang's worth as a potential husband.
That evening, the group of five joined together at the table. It was a cold night, and the tea felt good on Shang's throat.
"Thank you for having me here. The fish is delicious, and the tea is formidable." Shang said to all the women. He really said this to break the silence and permit the women to speak, even though the food really was delicious.
"Thank you," Granny Fa spoke. "So, what brings you here?" Shang and Mulan had decided not to tell the family, because they didn't want to worry anyone.
"Well," Shang began. He looked at Mulan, who raised her eyebrows as if to say 'Why are you here' . But her eyes showed her true thoughts. She saw the glint in Shang's eyes and knew he was going to say something unpredictable... something different from the story they had formulated in the stable. She shook her head, almost unnoticeably, seemingly saying 'Don't you dare'. He put down his chopstics, and rubbed his hands on his well-toned quadriceps. "I came because I wanted to ask you," he was talking to Fa Zhou now, "..if perhaps I could see your daughter on a steady basis." He quickly looked at Mulan and raised his eyebrows to ask her permission..after the fact. The right corner of her mouth was slightly raised. She was okay with the idea. 'Good' Shang thought. 'How awful it'd be if she wasn't pleased.'
Fa Zhou looked at his wife, who smiled approvingly, but not eagerly , and then at Granny Fa, who was busy drooling over Shang. He cleared his throat loudly, which called her back to the real world. Shang let out a deep breath.
"Hm?" she asked. Mulan smiled, laughing silently at her grandmother, and then turned to smile very approvingly at her father. P>
"You have my permission." Fa Zhou answered genially, bowing his head once to Shang, who smiled widely at him and then at Mulan.
"Thank you" He said to Fa Zhou.
"Thank you, father." Mulan added. Now it was official. He and Mulan could now take walks alone together, and not be thought of badly (in lieu of tradition).
After dinner, Shang was invited to stay for the night. He declined, stating that he had to be elsewhere by the next morning. So he and Mulan walked to the stable under the pretense of her 'seeing him off'. They entered the stable. Mulan grabbed some blankets from the corner, where she hid them earlier that day. She made him a bed out of the soft straw and blankets, and then turned to talk to him. He stood up from his bale of hay.
"Will you be okay?"
"I'll be fine. Just-Mulan-" he said, placing his hands on her arms, "Stay away from here tonight."
"I will." She said.
"Promise me, Mulan. I don't want anything bad to happen to you." She crossed her fingers.
"Okay." He turned his head slightly to the right, looked around slowly, and then into Mulan's eyes. It was a sort of habit of his when he spoke to Mulan. He knew she would come anyways. "Okay," he reiterated, more softly this time. "Goodnight, Fa Mulan."
"Goodnight, Li Shang." She said quietly. She quitted him. Shang watched her buoyant figure walk to the stable doors. She turned and looked at him for one last time, and left. Shang sat down on the bed Mulan so lovingly made for him. To night is the night, he thought as he heard the thunder roll and saw the lightning flash. Shan-Yu would come tonight. And he would be ready.Chapter Six
Mulan sat down on her bed. It was way past the time she was usually in bed, but she just couldn't sleep. She figured it was because Shang was so closeby. "I wonder how he's doing" she thought to herself. Against her promise, Mulan gathered a fruit and some bread, and quickly left the house.
It was truly a cold night. Fa Mulan could feel the rain pounding on her back. She spotted the stable, quickly moved towards it, opened the stable doors, and entered.
"Glad you could make it." Spoke a genial but sinister voice.
"Show yourself." Mulan said as confidently as she could, slowly putting down the food she had brought. Shang was right. Shan-Yu was here. His overbearing, massive figure emerged from the darkness into a patch of moonlight coming from a nearby window.
"Shan-Yu..but I thought-"
"You thought you killed me, didn't you?" he asked, moving slowly towards her, like a wildcat observing its prey.
"Well.. yes." She answered.
"You are going to learn, my dear, that you cannot shake me so easily." He continued to steadily move towards her. Mulan heard a * swoosh *, and saw Shan-Yu's face jerk back. She quickly ran deeper into the stable to hide. Shan-Yu turned his head to where Mulan was formerly standing. Realizing she was gone, he began walking slowly, stealthily, deeper into the stable. "You are also going to learn that we Huns have a rather keenly developed sense of smell. You brought an orange and some bread into the stable," he said definitively, after inhaling the air.
Shan-Yu looked to his right at a white horse. He knew that this was not Mulan's horse- he remembered the black beast from that humiliating night-. Lifting his right eyebrow, our villian looked forward once more. The cut on his left cheek, deep as it was, didn't seem to bother him.
Mulan looked around frantically.. first for Shang, and then for a way out. She knew this barn like the back of her hand, yet all of a sudden, with all these thoughts racing through her mind, she blanked out. She used a silver horse-brush to reflect to her Shan-Yu's position. She saw him.. he was getting closer. There was a movement behind him- not much, but just a flash of something dark red. She noticed Shan-Yu's face was bleeding. "Nice job, Shang" she thought, smiling almost unnoticeably. She averted her eyes to Khan, whom she was sitting near. He was neighing like crazy. She quickly looked back into the silver brush- but Shan-Yu was gone. She slowly turned her head towards the center path of the stable. Her eyes widened. Shan-Yu's face was no more than one inch from her own.
He swiftly grasped her neck in one of his large overbearing hands, and twisted her body up and against his own.
"Captain Shang" he said, almost singing.
"Here I am," Shang said nobly.
"Ah yes. You are a man of honor." Shan-Yu said as he turned to face Shang, who was behind him. The thunder rolled, and the barn doors burst open, flinging back and forth in the wind. "But I, am not." He said, drawing his dagger. Shang recognized this scene. He drew his own dagger, quickly thrust it at Shan-Yu, and ran towards him and Mulan as fast as he could. Mulan felt Shan-Yu's body cringe, yet he pulled her to him more forcefully than ever. She didn't see where Shang's dagger ended up, but she was positive it struck him. She looked down to bearly see the glint of metal swiftly nearing her neck. She began to feel pain.
Shan jumped at Shan-Yu, knocking his body away from Mulan. He wasn't sure if Mulan was okay, but first he had to be sure Shan-Yu was taken care of. He had been unusually easy to take down. Shang made a nice somersault out of hitting the ground, and looked at Shan-Yu.
He did not stir. Shang moved a little closer, to see just where he had hit him with is dagger. Shang was the one who threw it, and even HE didn't know where it struck. Seeing that Shan-Yu was not moving, Shang crawled to his side. Lightning flashed just long enough for Shang to see where his dagger had stopped.
"Hya!" Mulan's voice came from behind him. He turned to see a Hun standing over him, sword raised. He wasn't striking. He slowly keeled over, and hit the stone floor with a * slap *. In his place stood Mulan, who quickly joined Shang from across Shan-Yu's body. "Where did you hit him?" she asked Shang.
"Let's not talk about this." Shang said strangely, quietly, standing up from his kneeling position. He stared at the ground, and walked towards the stable entrance. Lightning flashed. Mulan was still looking at Shan-Yu's body, almost in disbelief that he was dead. Her eyes widened when they discovered the destination of Shang's dagger. He hit Shan-Yu squarely in the throat. A perfectly executed shot. She looked at Shang, who was leaning on a pillar, facing the clattering stable doors.
Mulan walked slowly towards him, the pain in her neck getting worse. She placed her hand on his shoulder.
"Shang, I--" She fell unconscious. Shang quickly moved his arms under her toppling figure, and ran to the house.