The Chewed Off End of the Staff: Book I
written by Aurora
Chapter One Chapter Two

On to Book II

Disclaimer: No, I, unfortunately, do not own any of these characters. Except for the occasional reference to Ling’s family, I own those lunatics, I guess. Of course, in the sequel to this, I actually HAVE original characters! How exciting! Read on.......and don’t sue me!

Author’s note: Hey, guess what, everyone, after awhile you’ll probably figure out that this actually IS the movie Mulan........but don’t stop reading it here and now because of that.......don’tcha think it would be to see how I interpret stuff? Maybe? ............I left out some stuff just because I was getting sick of rewriting the whole it’s not that I don’t know what really happens at certain parts, it’s just that I was too lazy to put them in and that I didn’t want to bore anyone too much.(by the way, the epilogue is obviously after the movie and basically was going to be part two, but it really had no plot so I made it the epilogue)

Chapter One

“Ooh, ten, and he’s down!” a lanky young man crowed. “Chien Po is the victor!”
A large, shaven headed Buddha got up and bowed to another man-this one short and stocky. “It was a great honor to wrestle with you, Yao,” the large man, obviously Chien Po(the victor), said. The other man just grunted and stood up.
Yawning, the skinny man leaned against a tree. “Yeah, good fight, Yao, you almost held down his arm for a second there!” This comment caused him to break down laughing, holding his knees for support.
Yao clenched his fists and said tightly with a glare, “Your turn, beanpole, we’ll see who’s laughing then.”
“Oh, no,” the skinny man gasped. “It just wouldn’t be fair, having seen your brilliant tactics!”
“Argh!” Yao roared. “I’ll kill you!”
“Now now, Yao, let’s not be hasty,” Chien Po said serenely, clamping the short man’s hands to his sides. To the skinny man, he said, “Ling, do not provoke Yao, you know how quickly he angers.”
“You bet I know,” Ling agreed. “But you think that stops me?”
He danced away as Yao, screaming bloody murder, chased him out of the forest and across the field that lay beyond it. “Aw, the day we play hooky has to end like this,” Ling groaned as he sprinted into the army camp where he was temporarily making his home. Confirming that Yao was far behind(as they went through this routine almost every day, Ling knew to expect Yao puffing along about a mile behind his quarry), he grinned and strolled towards the mess hall(which was actually just an open space in the camp). Seating himself with some of his fellow soldiers, he greeted, “Hiya, fellas!”
Their conversations halted as they all looked at him. Ling got up quickly, saying, “Okay, then, I get the message, you don’t want me here, right?”
As he walked away, he heard someone snicker, “Yeah, that’s right, beanpole, go sit with your loser friends.”
“Loser Lingy,” someone added.
Ling smirked and peered around the room. As Yao was going to kill him, he wouldn’t be sitting anywhere near him....once he got back, that was. So, spotting someone as unpopular as he was(if not more so), the young man sat down across from him. “Ping, how are you? Hungry?”
When you came right down to it, Ling hated Ping. The kid(they were actually around the same age, there was just something about Ping that made him seem younger)had gotten him in trouble(along with basically everyone else)with the captain the day he’d gotten to camp. He and Yao had caused the other man plenty of grief since then. Ling grinned wickedly as he recalled the cockroach he’d dropped down Ping’s tunic the previous day.
Glancing up from his dinner, Ping replied guardedly, “Good.”
Giving the young man a bright smile, Ling said, “That’s just great.” Grabbing an apple off Ping’s plate, he quickly said, “If you see Yao, I wasn’t here, okay? Righto, I’ll see you ‘round, bye!”
“Hey!” Ping exclaimed. “That’s mine!”
Looking back, Ling noticed Ping rising with a determined look on his face and mumbled, “Uh oh.” Taking off again, the young man bolted for the other side of the camp. Unfortunately, Ping was a lot faster than Yao and as a result was difficult to lose. In his flight, Ling failed to watch where he was going and ran into someone while going practically his full speed(which was pretty fast, with his long legs and light build he was a natural runner). Both men fell to the ground, and it was only then that he saw who it was he had practically killed. “Captain L-l-Li! I’m, uh, sorry.....”
Realizing he still held the apple, he linked his hands behind his back, but Li Shang had already seen something and demanded, “What do you have?”
“What, this?” Ling studied the apple with a somewhat astonished look on his face. “That guy, Fa Ping, he was trying to steal this from me-”
Ping reached them just in time to hear Ling’s last sentence. “That’s not true!” he yelped. “He took it from me!”
Shang looked between the two men, deciding who was telling the truth. “Ling, give it back. You are nothing more than a petty thief and a liar, with no family name and nowhere to go. If I ever find you have stolen from your fellow soldiers, you will be in very big trouble. Oh, and for skipping training today, you, Yao, and Chin Po will have extra tomorrow. And for this little stunt,” he gestured towards the apple, “you will have extra training the following day. Understood?”
Ling nodded and hung his head. For your commanding officer to renounce you, that was bad enough. But to be dishonored in front of Ping.....The kid hadn’t squealed about the cockroach, that was almost worse. If he had been in that position he wasn’t sure what he would have done. Ling shrugged abruptly. At least he would have his.....friends with him during that extra training. He kicked at a clod of earth and muttered mockingly, “Give it back, Ling, be nice to Ping. Don’t steal, you have no honor-”
“Hey, Lingy!”
He looked back, only to see Yao’s leering face. “Ah!” Ling screamed. “Stay away, monster!”
“Yer gonna die, you little worm!”
“No,” Chien Po interjected, approaching them serenely. “Yao, count to ten. Ling, chant with me.”
“No way!” Ling protested.
Sitting down, Chien Po crossed his legs, closed his eyes, and began, “Hummmmmm...................hummmmmmm...............I take refuge in the Buddha, om ah hum, om ah hum, I take refuge in the Dharma, om ah hum, om ah hum, I take refuge in the Sangha, om ah hum, om ah hum................”
“C’mon, Chien, I’m not chanting.”
“ two three four five six seven eight nine ten!”
“Make him chant,” Ling suggested, pointing to Yao. “He stopped counting.”
“Hey,” Yao warned, “I oughtta slit your skinny throat right now!”
“Yao, count,” Chien Po ordered.
“One five nine ten.”
“The whole way. You will never feel peace-”
“At the rate you’re going,” Ling interrupted. He snickered as Yao slowly turned red and started muttering various obscenities at his scrawny friend.
“Hey, yutzes, Captain Li’s making a speech!” someone called.
The gang looked at each other and rushed off to the area usually used for staff training, right in the center of camp. The three of them stood slightly apart from everyone else as Shang began, “Men! I am disappointed in all of you! Even now, Chi Fu is preparing a report that could have us all removed from the Imperial Army! I want you all working harder....put your backs into it!”
Stretching, Ling asked, “Do you think he’s right? I mean, maybe we should take this more seriously.......”
“Yes,” Chien Po agreed quietly. “It will not be good if we are called to war and are not able to defend ourselves.”
They both looked to Yao, who just grunted, “I’ll think on it.”

Shang was in for a surprise the following morning when three of the slackers attempted their training-and did fairly well. But there was still the question of Ping....the boy was worthless as a soldier, and after a couple weeks he ordered him to return home. He wouldn’t have lasted a second in battle.

Ling awoke to the sound of a body falling heavily to the ground. Ignoring it, he sighed and turned over in his bedroll. Another noise persisted, however, that of some kind of metal being persistently hit together. Finally his curiosity got the better of him, he opened the flap of his tent.
The young man considered himself very stupid for placing his tent directly across from the pole where Shang had shot that stupid arrow-that arrow no one could reach.....Ling rubbed his eyes. Was that...........? “No way,” Ling whispered.
Ping was climbing the pole.
It wasn’t long before other recruits began dribbling out of their tents. Ling clenched his fists, hoping the kid would make it. And when he did, a cheer went up.
From then on, Ping completed every activity better than everyone else. There was a change in attitude among the recruits. They all began being friendly to each other. But Ping, as always, remained somewhat of a loner.

It was a warm, clear night about a week later when Ling, Yao, and Chien Po were strolling down to a nearby pond.
“Hey, looky!” Ling exclaimed. “A horse!”
“Wow,” Yao commented dryly. “There’s something you don’t see every day.”
“It’s Ping’s horse, isn’t it?”
“It’s not Shang’s.”
“Yep, Ping must be here.”
Yao muttered something and removed his shirt. “Well, I’m going swimming.”
With that, they all removed their clothes and dove in.
“Hey, Ping!” Yao called.
“Oh, hi, guys,” Ping said nervously, appearing to notice them for the first time. “I was just taking a bath, so now I’m clean, and I’m gonna go-”
“Hey, come back!” Ling called. Swimming over to him, he said hesitantly, “Listen.....I know we were jerks to you before, so......let’s start over.”
Extending a hand, he continued, “Hi, I’m Ling.”
I’m Chien Po.”
“And I am Yao, King of the Rock.” Ling watched Ping suspiciously as Yao stood grinning down at them. “C’mon girls, or can’t you take me?”
“I think Ping and I can take you,” Ling replied with a grin.
“I don’t really want to take him anywhere,” Ping protested subtly, beginning to back away.
“But Ping,” Ling objected in a somewhat surprised tone, “we have to fight!”
“No, no, we don’t,” Ping corrected. “We could just....close our eyes and.....swim around.....”
“Close our-” Chien Po began.
“Aw, come-” Ling interrupted. Suddenly his eyes grew wide and he yelped, “Ow!” as he searched the surrounding water.
“What?” Yao asked.
“Something bit me!” A little red lizard thing pooped out of the water and Ling screeched, “Snake!”
The gang scrambled up onto Yao’s rock, yelling, until the water grew glassy again.
Ling watched Ping make a hasty escape until Yao’s elbow in his side tore his attention away. Batting at his friend, he said cynically, “Some kind of the rock.”
Yao just pushed him off his perch. When the skinny man resurfaced, sputtering, and pulled himself back up on the rock, he asked, “Do you guys ever think that there’s something......a little.......different about Ping?”
Yao shrugged. “He’s quiet.”
“But what else?” Ling persisted.
“He’ a strange voice?” Yao tried. “You know I’m no good at guessing games!”
Ling bit his lip, aware that what he was about to say was going to sound incredibly stupid. “Well, um...I......uh......I think Ping may be a woman.”
Yao and Chien Po immediately burst out laughing, but it was drowned out in the yells of the rest of the troop as they all jumped into the pond.
Ling slid into the water, indicating to his friends that if they wanted to know more they’d have to follow him.
They came, as he’d known they would, while he was getting dressed. “You wanna know why?”
They both nodded.
Ling took a deep breath. “When he first came...he said he had a “boy’s name”. Plus, once I saw him...well, looking at Shang. And then tonight, he wouldn’t look up, wouldn’t get out of the water, except to get away from the three of us, of course. Did you see how fast he got out of the water then? And I touched his arm, I mean, I know-” He broke off. “Er, never mind.”
Yao laughed. “Ooh, Lingy, yeah, we know you’ve got experience.”
Ling smiled sheepishly. “Yeah, I try.”
“You try, alright.”
“Do you have any proof?” Chien Po inquired.
“You are such an idiot,” Yao remarked.
“Well, what about you?”
“Oh, yeah, that hurts, Ling, that really hurts.”
“You started it.”
“Did not!”

The next day dawned cloudless and beautiful, and the men had the fortune to see it all. A call to war had come, sending them all on their way to the Tung Xiou Pass. Everyone was weary, between the walking and lack of sleep, traveling was not turning out to be fun.
Chien Po and Yao were complaining to each other when Ling appeared behind them and suggested, “Think of your girls instead!”
“Or in your case,” Yao mumbled, “the girl you wish you had.”
“A girl worth fighting for,” Ling continued dreamily.
“What’s she look like?”
“Eyes like stars, paler than the moon-”
Yao snorted. “My girl will think I’m a hero-”
Smacking his lips, Chien Po put in, “Well, I just want a girl who can cook.”
“Ping?” Ling asked slyly.
“Uh.....I’d kinda like someone who always speaks her mind....”
“Why would you want a girl like that?” Ling asked.
Ping shrugged and Yao said, “Don’t mind him, he thinks he’s a real lady killer.”
Ling grinned comically and responded, “At least I’ve had girls.”
“I have too!” Yao said defensively.
“Yeah, well-” He broke off abruptly as his eyes widened in shock.
Ahead were the remains of a once prosperous and peaceful village. They ventured in, and Shang promptly ordered, “Search for survivors!”
As Ling and Yao made their way further into the village, Yao asked, “Does he really think we’ll find anyone?”
Ling shrugged. “We won’t.”
“I know.”
Noticing everyone gathering by Shang, Ping, and Chien Po, the two of them hurried over there. Chien Po was holding General Li’s helmet, trying to blink back a tear.
“Move out,” Shang said quietly.

Chapter Two

When the cannon went off, it nearly took off Ling’s head, too.”
“What was that?” Shang demanded of Ping.
“You just gave away our position!” Immediately after he said this, a volley of flaming arrows rained down on the men. “Save the cannons!” Shang shouted.
Ling and Yao just barely grabbed the last four before the wagon exploded.
Running up a slope to a small barricade of rocks, Ling panted, “We’re never gonna make it!”
“Just shutup and run, beanpole!”
Ling did as he was told(for once)and they soon reached the rocks, where Shang ordered them to fire at the mountain the arrows were being shot from. The archers disappeared after all but a single cannon remained.
“Hold the last cannon,” Shang commanded.
The men watched the smoke clear, and as it did, a figure became visible on the opposite hillside. “Shan Yu,” the captain whispered. Even as he said it, the entire Hun army appeared. “Stand your ground and prepare to fight,” Shang ordered. “If we die, we die with honor.”
Ling gulped and drew his sword, watching the Hun warriors charge.
“Yao, aim the cannon at Shan Yu,” Shang said. Before the man had a chance to do so, Ping snatched up the cannon and raced down the hill with it. “Ping! Come back!” Shang yelled, running after him.
Yao, Ling, and Chien Po looked at each other. “C’mon!” Yao rallied. “We gotta help!” The three of them took off, eyes fastened on Ping. “You still think he’s a girl?” Yao managed to ask.
“No,” Ling gasped, pointing. “No girl’s crazy enough to do that!”
They watched as the cannon hit a peak. A low rumble started, growing louder and louder as more snow fell. The avalanche quickly covered most of the Huns.
“Uh oh,” Ling said as they came to a halt. On an unspoken agreement the three dropped their weapons and raced for their lives back up the hill. The rest of the men were gathered under a large rock and it was towards this that the Ling, Yao, and Chien Po ran for. Just before he got to it, Ling slipped and fell on his face. Scrambling to his feet, he jumped over the rock just ahead of the tons of snow and was almost swept over the cliff edge but for Chien Po, who grabbed his arm. Ling drew a breath and smiled shakily. “That was close.”
Yao just hit him and said, “Let’s find Ping and Shang!”
As the snow was now flowing around the rock, the gang climbed up with a bow and arrow.
“Chien Po, you’re on the bottom, Ling, you stand on his shoulders,” Yao instructed.
“And you’re on top?” Ling asked. “Righto.”
Ling and Yao climbed to their designated positions and Chien Po called, “Do you see them?”
Peering around, Yao called back, “Yes!”
“So shoot the arrow!” Ling yelled.
Yao did so, then said, almost to himself, “Now, all I have to do is pull them to safe-” He broke off. “Um, Ling, weren’t you supposed to be holding the rope?”
“I thought you were!”
“You idiot!”
“It’s your fault, you’re on top!” Ling retorted defensively.
“I let them slip through my fingers!” Yao moaned. Immediately after he said this, an arrow landed neatly in his outstretched hands. “What the-” The sudden weight on the other end indicated that it was the same arrow he’d shot. He was yanked to the edge of the cliff.
“Hey!” Ling protested his being left behind. He and three other men leapt to the rescue, which, as Ling informed them as they were being pulled downward, was not enough to hold up two men in full armor and a horse. Chien Po, however, approached them slowly, and, in one motion, picked up the five soldiers and hauled them away from the abyss.
Once the aforementioned horse and two men were within reach, the gang helped them up. “Get back, guys, give ‘em some air!” Ling exclaimed.
“Ping,” Shang said, “you are the craziest man I’ve ever met. And for that......I owe you my life. From now on, you have my trust.”
Ling grinned and yelled, “Let’s hear it for Ping, the bravest of us all!” “You’re King of the Mountain!” Yao added.
Ping tried to stand up, but fell back with a cry of pain. “Ping!” Shang said in a concerned tone. Ping removed his hand from his side, revealing his blood stained clothes from a deep gash in his side. “He’s wounded!” Shang yelled. “Get help!”
Ling wasn’t sure, but he felt that Ping passed out at that point. A medic arrived shortly after and set up a tent.
“Is he gonna die?” Ling whimpered.
“I don’t know,” Shang snapped. The, with a sigh, he apologized, “I’m sorry, I’m just worried.”
“We all are,” Chien Po consoled.
At that moment the medic emerged and whispered something to Shang, who all but charged into the tent. Chi Fu felt he had to know what had happened too, and he barged in after Shang.
The gang looked at each other questioningly. “What-” Yao began, only to be interrupted by Chi Fu’s emergence with Ping in tow.
“A woman!” the man spat, throwing her to the ground. “Treacherous snake!”
“My name is Mulan,” she said through clenched teeth. Looking at Shang imploringly, she continued, “Please, it was the only-”
“You know the law!” Chi Fu snapped at Shang. “Death.”
The gang’s eyes grew wide and they began to rush forward only to be stopped by Chi Fu’s restraining hand. “Don’t interfere!”
Shang raised Mulan’s sword above her head-and dropped it. “A life for a life,” he said quietly. “My debt is repaid. Move out!”
“But-” Chi Fu protested.
I said move out!”
Ling took one last look at Mulan as they marched away. He just wished Shang wouldn’t have noticed......but then, he thought grimly, that would have been pretty difficult.
“Looks like you were right,” Yao muttered.
“Yeah,” Ling replied with absolutely no heart. After all, “Ping” had been his friend. Mulan, he supposed, was no different.

On to Book II

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