[Cut to front door of the Marshal's quarters. Mulan is leaving when Colonel Yu walks toward her]

Colonel Yu: Mulan.

Mulan [finally noticing him]: Oh. What?

Colonel Yu: Why are you in such a rush?

Mulan: Nothing much. General Li gave me a lot of things before he left, but now that he isn't leaving the army, I'm going to return everything.

Colonel Yu [grabbing her arm]: I have something to tell you. Come with me to my quarters. [Puzzled, Mulan allows herself to be dragged away]

[Cut to Colonel Yu's quarters. He drags her in the door without shutting the door behind them]

Colonel Yu: Marry me.

Mulan: Huh?

Colonel Yu: I said marry me.

Mulan [pulls her hand away]: Stop joking.

Colonel Yu [in earnest]: I'm not joking. I want to take your hand in marriage. [Mulan looks away with some sadness. He walks around to face her again] You joined the army in your father's place not only to do your filial duty, but more importantly, to find glory and keep your mother from looking down on you. There's a way for you now. You won't have to keep hiding your identity, and you won't have to live in such hardship anymore. [Doesn't notice Mulan looks a bit pained at his words and continues on] With my ability, within ten years I'll have surpassed Uncle Li (the Marshal) and who will sneer at you then? [Mulan frowns slightly; it looks like she's not terribly pleased with the proposal but isn't angry] I'll take care of everything here. I think the soonest we can leave Youzhou is the day after tomorrow. We'll head back home and talk to your parents about the marriage. You'll never have to bear your mother again. [He still hasn't noticed Mulan continuing to frown; he grabs her shoulders and forces her to look at him] After we are wed, we'll return here and I'll ask the Marshal to forgive you. I'm sure that for my sake he won't punish you for joining the army to serve in your father's place.

Mulan [weakly]: Why do you suddenly want to marry me?

Colonel Yu [smiling]: Crazy wench. Do you take me for a fool? Do you think I believed your lie that your whole charade of being possessed and blathering all those lovesick things wasn't truly you? Do you think I can't see into your heart?

Mulan [chagrined]: Actually, I wasn't pretending that day.

Colonel Yu: You were more than convincing.

Mulan [protesting]: No, Brother Yu. I really wasn't pretending. I really was possessed. It was all Su Jili's fault. You've been the victim of his witchcraft.

Colonel Yu: What reason would he have for doing such a thing? Besides, aren't you two good friends now? Good friends only help each other; they don't harm each other. I know you've always had feelings for me but you didn't have the nerve to confess them to me, so you had Su Jili put a spell on you so you could test my reaction, didn't you?

Mulan [still protesting]: Brother Yu, I didn't ask Su Jili to put a spell on me. He did it of his own accord.

Colonel Yu [interrupting]: So you admit you do have feelings for me. You've always cared for me and wanted to be my wife. [Mulan continues to frown. He grabs her hand and puts it on his chest] Your wish is coming true. Why do you frown? Shouldn't you be smiling?

Mulan: It's because of Li Liang, isn't it? [Colonel Yu's face drops and he lets go of her hand] You're the one that said it before. If it weren't for Li Liang, you would never consider marrying a girl like me. You wouldn't go against the divine order of things and take a man's hand in marriage. [Turns away]

Colonel Yu [grabs her hand again]: That doesn't matter anymore. Your dream is coming true now. I'm willing to take you as my wife.

Mulan: Brother Yu…I did have feelings for you. But that's all in the past now. If I hadn't joined the army and spent so much time with you, I'd still love you. I think if I had stayed back at the home village, I'd love you until my dying day.

Colonel Yu [looking pained; he grabs her shoulder]: Mulan.

Mulan: But your actions in the army have been too childish and hard to stomach. Have you asked yourself honestly if the reason you're proposing to me today is because you truly love me and admire me, or because you don't want to let Li Liang off so easily?

[Colonel Yu gets a stunned expression on his face. He looks like Mulan has just stabbed him in the heart. Wordlessly, she walks out the door]

[Cut to General Li's quarters. Mulan is handing back the last of his belongings that he had given away prior to his last return home]

Mulan: Here. Now you don't have to buy anything new to furnish your quarters. [She grins at him]

General Li: Of course not. Watch for your chest! [He tries to punch her playfully in the chest but she neatly sidesteps the blow, grabs his arm, and twists it behind his back]

Mulan [fiercely]: In future, never touch my chest again! Do you understand?

General Li [grimacing in pain]: I understand. Please let go! [She lets him go roughly and he shakes out his arm to regain the feeling again] Wow…such force! Why should you be so sensitive about people touching your chest? You're not a woman…

Mulan [gruffly]: I just don't like it, that's all. What's it to you if I'm a man or a woman? [General Li starts eyeing her chest, which makes Mulan very nervous. She asks roughly] What are you looking at?

General Li: Hmm…last time when we were in the Tujue jail you were paranoid that they'd try to take off your clothing or even touch your chest. Your chest must have something wrong with it, I bet!

Mulan [full of bravado]: What problems with my chest?

General Li: No problems? Then you won't object if I check! [Grabs her and swings her around. Mulan struggles to free herself from his grip but soon realizes he is stronger than she is, so she stops fighting and starts bawling loudly. He is so dumbfounded that he looks on in dismay and releases his grip] Um… Mulan? What's the matter?

Mulan [keeps on bawling]: There really is something wrong with my chest. When I was thirteen, the entire family was enjoying the moon during the Mid-Autumn Festival (Moon Festival) in the backyard. All of a sudden, my mother got mad at me for some reason. I sassed back, and that just enraged her completely. She grabbed two lit candles, one in each hand, and then thrust them
into my chest. I ended up with two dimpled burns. My chest now is deeply scarred, so whenever I look at it, I wonder why I have such a vicious mother. [Bawls some more. General Li is at a complete loss for words]

General Li [gently touching her shoulder]: Mulan… [She shrugs his hand away]

Mulan [whimpering]: But if you wish to see anyway, sir, then I'll let you have your fill of the sight! [Makes motions as if she is stripping her armor to expose her chest]

General Li [stops her]: Mulan. You don't need to do that. I'm sorry, Mulan. [She continues to throw in a few sobs for effect. He looks as guilty as if he had kicked a dog]

[Cut to Li Liang having a meal with Yiren's father. They are enjoying some wine together and Yiren's father is looking as happy as a clam]

Yiren's father: Li Liang, I've already picked out a site for the future commissary.

Li Liang [vaguely]: Is that true?

Yiren's father: Yes. It's very nearby. As soon as you leave Three Mile Camp, you go down about a kilometer and turn. It's a very convenient location.

Li Liang [surprised]: Uncle, don't tell me that you've already bought the land?

Yiren's father: You're right. I have bought it already! [Drains his cup] I was afraid that word about a new commissary opening would leak out and all the landowners in the area of Three Mile Camp would start jacking up the prices on their land. So, I struck while the iron was hot and persuaded one of the landowners to sell the plot to me. You should have seen the look on his face when we signed the papers. He thought I was the world's biggest fool for wanting to buy it. You know, his land has very poor soil on it; it couldn't grow a weed. Only a fool would want to buy it, right? [Chuckles at his own joke but Li Liang looks nervous]

Li Liang: Um… Uncle…you really were a fool. [Yiren's father laughs it off, thinking Li Liang is joking, but then his eyes bulge when he realizes Li Liang wasn't joking]

Yiren's father: What did you say?

Li Liang: Uncle, you see, actually, I lied to you. My uncle (the Marshal) has no intention of opening a commissary here.

Yiren's father [eyes wide]: What did you say? Say that again!

Li Liang: My uncle has no intention of opening a commissary.

Yiren's father [livid]: You…you hoodwinked me! [Jumps for him but misses, then starts to chase Li Liang around the table. All of a sudden, the Second Prince steps in and restrains Yiren's father]

Second Prince: Uncle Xu (honorable title), please calm down. Your nephew was only playing a joke on you. Why act as if it were real?

Li Liang [recognizing the Second Prince]: Second…

Second Prince [interrupting]: Don't go calling me Second Stupid again.

Li Liang [puzzled]: Second Stupid?

Second Prince: I just told you not to call me that. My friends all call me Xiaoguang (informal version of his name). Just call me that instead.

Li Liang [still puzzled]: Xiaoguang?

Second Prince: Yes, that's right. [Turns to Yiren's father] Uncle Xu, your nephew is a good friend of mine. My name is Yang Xiaoguang. I think you've misjudged him. He's already handled this business of the commissary for you. You can go and continue your planning.

Yiren's father [breaks out into a smile]: Oh, so you were just playing a trick on me. [Gently scolds Li Liang, who is still looking puzzled with the Second Prince's actions. The Second Prince gives a slight nod in Li Liang's direction] I didn't mean all those things I said about you. I didn't know you were just pulling my leg. I hope I didn't frighten you. I'm sorry if I did.

[Cut to city street outside. Li Liang is walking with the Second Prince, along with a couple of servants following behind]

Second Prince: You must be very puzzled why I suddenly appeared in the same tavern as you, that I knew Xu Fugui is your uncle, and that I knew about the commissary business.

Li Liang [saluting]: Actually, there isn't much of a mystery. Your Highness has widespread influence and connections. It's very easy for you to find out information on any of your subjects. But your humble servant is puzzled why your Highness has suddenly shown such interest in me.

Second Prince: My greatest regret in my life is not being able to make friends like everyday people do. The eunuchs and guards at my side can only remember that they must show me the proper respect and deference. I never before knew your heroism and stature, so I didn't pay you much attention before. I hope you don't feel affronted.

Li Liang [saluting]: Your Highness, you speak too highly of me. You are a royal prince. I'm only a soldier. I know my place in the scheme of things. Your Highness needn't apologize.

Second Prince: I have a small favor to ask of you. I don't know if you can forget about our differences in social rank and allow us to be friends.

Li Liang [bowing slightly]: I wouldn't dare, your Highness. Your humble servant wouldn't dare forget his place and think so highly of himself to act on equal footing with your Highness.

Second Prince: If we continue our acquaintance, you will soon learn my genuineness. [Looks Li Liang in the eye] In comparison to my brother, I'm sure you admire him more.

Li Liang [taken aback by the comment, but he quickly recovers]: The Crown Prince is of delicate and rich upbringing. Your humble servant naturally has to treat him accordingly.

Second Prince: You speak carefully and diplomatically. I need to take lessons from you in the future.

Li Liang [laughs slightly, then changes the subject]: That's right, I haven't seen the Crown Prince recently. He hasn't been to camp to practice martial arts. Is he ill?

Second Prince: You know my brother. He does everything with great gusto in the beginning stages then grows tired of it quickly. The past few days he's been taking lessons from a blind zither teacher. How would he have time to practice martial arts with you?

[Cut to camp. The Second Prince and several of the troops in Mulan's platoon are playing some sort of game. It seems to consist of the Second Prince throwing a pebble into the mouth of a large vase with great accuracy. The soldiers are loudly cheering on the Second Prince when General Li walks up. General Li notices the fun and eyes the Second Prince narrowly from the other side of the fence. The troops are all praising the Second Prince for his humble behavior around them, for not putting on airs or thinking too highly of himself. General Li walks away unnoticed by anyone but Mulan. She sees he doesn't look pleased with the Second Prince's actions but she can't fathom why, so she follows him]

[Cut to General Li sitting on a large rock off in the forest just outside camp. He is sighing and looks deep in thought. Mulan walks over and sits down next to him]

Mulan: What are you so thinking so deeply about?

General Li: I'm thinking about you.

Mulan: You miss your mother, don't you?

General Li: My mother's temperament is volatile and tough as nails. Besides, I really made a mess of things recently, so it's going to be at least two or three months before I can go back home. When I was a kid, I used to run away from home every time I got into a scrape and made her angry. I'd stay away for several days before going home.

Mulan: Ah…this way her temper would have cooled and she would have become worried about you and miss you. She wouldn't scold you or spank you then.

General Li [nodding]: Yup. This method has always worked for me.

Mulan [looks at him]: Selfish. You only care about your own physical suffering but didn't give a thought to your mother's emotional suffering. If that isn't being selfish then I don't know what is.

General Li [protesting]: And why is that? Firstly, I can avoid any physical suffering. Secondly, it gives my mother's temper a chance to cool. Thirdly, it improves our relationship with each other.

Mulan: So you're using this method this time to improve your relationship?

General Li: Yup.

Mulan: So you haven't gone home to visit her lately?

General Li: No. My mother really went too far this time. She almost scared me to death.

Mulan: True, your mother did go too far. But she's getting up in years and she wants to have a grandchild. That's not an unreasonable request. You should cut her a little more slack.

General Li: Humph! You certainly know how to plead on her behalf.

Mulan [standing before him]: Do you love your mother?

General Li: That goes without saying. If I didn't love her, would I be so easily bullied into getting married when I first heard she was ill? I really suffered at her hands this time.

Mulan [grabbing his hand and dragging him]: Come on, then.

General Li: Where are we going?

Mulan: We're off to give your mother a grand present.

General Li: What present?

Mulan: Your self-respect. Come on.

[Cut to the front door of Yiren's father's house in Youzhou. Li Liang's mother is staying there while she's in Youzhou. Mulan shoves General Li to the front door]

Mulan: Come on. [General Li walks up the door and is about to knock but turns around] What's the matter now?

General Li: My mother's temper is still flaring. Let's wait until she's cooled off first.

Mulan: Your mother won't eat you. Go back and knock on the door.

General Li: I don't want to cause myself more grief.

Mulan [scolding]: Be a man! How can you be so wishy-washy? You have to keep your word. [Knocks on the door for him. They wait for a response and soon the door opens. A young maidservant opens the door]

Maid: Who are you looking for?

General Li [puzzled]: That's odd. This is really the House of Fugui.

Maid: Who are you looking for?

General Li [turns to Mulan]: I think they've moved already.

Mulan: Really?

General Li [back to the door]: It must be that my mother forced my uncle to sell the house and move somewhere else. She wants to make me worry, so she deliberately did this.

Maid [getting impatient]: Who are you looking for?

Mulan: Oh. We're looking for his uncle and mother. They were living here yesterday but we can't seem to figure out where they moved to today. His uncle's name is Xu Fugui. Do you know where they've moved?

Maid: Oh. So it's Master Li. They haven't moved anywhere. They still live here. [General Li and Mulan exchange puzzled glances]

[Cut to kitchen area inside the house. Li Liang's mother and the Second Prince are busily making dumplings. Yiren's father is watching Li Liang's mother demonstrate the proper dumpling wrapping techniques]

Li Liang's mother: Don't put too much in each one…now make sure you squeeze this area here a bit tighter…

[Mulan and General Li walk in. Mulan, upon recognizing the Second Prince, suddenly drops to her knees to greet him]

Mulan: Second…[The Second Prince hurriedly stands up and interrupts her]

Second Prince: Hey, don't you go calling me Second Stupid. Follow Li Liang and call me Xiaoguang, okay? [Mulan looks very bewildered]

Li Liang [greets]: Xiaoguang. [Turns to his mother] Mother. [Li Liang's mother deliberately ignores him and Mulan]

Second Prince: You two are in luck! We're almost done making the dumplings. You'll be able to share in the eating of them.

Li Liang's mother [disagreeably]: Dumplings are for humans to eat. Are you fit to eat them? [Turns to servant] What are you doing, letting this brat into the house? Send them out!

Yiren's father: Sister, he's still your son. There's no call for such virulence against him.

Li Liang's mother [snappishly]: This is something between the two of us only. What business is it of yours? Stand aside. [He turns away in a huff]

Mulan: Madam, you're all still of the same flesh and blood. Big things become small things and small things become no things. General Li came here today expressly to apologize.

Li Liang's mother [snapping again]: Didn't you hear me the first time? This is something between the two of us only. We don't need any outsiders butting in! [Mulan look a bit taken aback; she lowers her head slightly and backs away a few steps]

General Li: Mother, Mulan meant well. If you must scold someone you can scold me. Don't take it out on him.

Li Liang's mother: You come home to eat but then disappear the rest of the time. What don't you understand about get out? Get out!

General Li: Mother… [Li Liang's mother continues to mutter, so Yiren's father goes up to the Second Prince and whispers in his ear]

Yiren's father: Xiaoguang, you are silver-tongued. Go over and say a few words to my sister and help out Li Liang a bit, okay?

Second Prince: Madam, please don't stay angry. If you stay angry, you'll stop wrapping dumplings. If you stop wrapping dumplings, then I won't be able to enjoy them (I can't translate the exact idiom, so I'm filling it in with something that fits). [Takes a sniff of the half finished dumpling in his hand] The stuffing in today's batch is unusually fragrant.

Li Liang's mother: Didn't you say that you liked a richer flavor in them? [The Second Prince nods his head] That's why I added more garlic and other spices.

Second Prince: No wonder. See, for some reason I can't unite the two edges of this dumpling. [Shows Li Liang's mother his half finished dumpling]

Li Liang's mother: That's because you used too little dough. [Demonstrates the proper proportions] You have to do it like this. Watch. [They are soon deep into discussion over the dumplings. Mulan turns to General Li with a smile on her face]

Mulan: Looks like this "Second Stupid" really has a way about him. [Walks over for a closer look. Yiren's father walks over to talk to General Li]

Yiren's father: What do you think, Li Liang? Xiaoguang is truly silver-tongued. He can even charm your mother, which is no mean feat.

General Li [looking jealous]: How did they get so close?

Yiren's father [grinning]: What's the matter? You're afraid your mother and him are…having a December-May romance? You're worried that he might one day become your father and will reign over you? [Starts chuckling loudly]

General Li [turns to his mother]: Mother, I'm going to step outside for a minute. [He jerks his uncle out the door with him. In puzzlement, Mulan hastily bows to Li Liang's mother and follows General Li outside. Li Liang's mother eyes them suspiciously but continues her work]

[In the courtyard outside, General Li starts to interrogate his uncle]

General Li: Stop talking nonsense. How did he come here? And how did he get so familiar with my mother?

Yiren's father: He's been following me on all my errands the past several days, so he's visited here several times, too. Naturally, he's become acquainted with your mother.

General Li [puzzled]: Running errands with you?

Yiren's father: That's right. The day after I met him at the local tavern, he came by saying he didn't have much to do and wanted to kill some time. He also said he wanted to help me start up a commissary. In Youzhou, it looks like he wields great influence. If
there are any problems, he can resolve them just by seeing a few people. Plus, he is big-hearted. He had only met your mother a few days when he sent over some maidservants, plus a large quantity of gold, silver, and other treasures. He said they were presents to your mother for making her acquaintance. [His eyes grow wide] Is his father some sort of high official? How else would he have so much money at his disposal?

General Li [shortly]: Why don't you go ask him yourself?

Yiren's father: I already did. But each time I do he just smiles benignly and refuses to answer. I can't do a thing with him. However, I am sure about one thing. He must have lost his mother already. [Mulan starts to laugh and can barely hold it in]

General Li [sternly]: Nonsense!

Yiren's father: Why is it nonsense? I can tell at a glance that he must really miss receiving maternal love. Ever since he met your mother he's been showering attention on her, treating her better than Buddha. [Mulan is openly grinning from ear to ear while General Li has a patient look on his face] He either lost his mother at a young age or his mother died soon after he was born. That's why he's so willing to spend time with your mother and get close to her.

Mulan [chuckling openly]: Oh, it's not like that at all! The Second Prince and the Crown Prince are both sons of the Empress.

Yiren's father [blanching]: What did you say? [Mulan hurriedly clams up and gets a guilty look on her face] He's the Second Prince? [Starts following Mulan, but she steadfastly refuses to open her mouth again and keeps shaking her head] You're not pulling my leg right? I could have sworn you said he was the Second Prince. [Turns to General Li] He's really the Second Prince?

General Li [with a sigh]: Since you know he's the Second Prince, then why do you need to ask?

Yiren's father [jaw drops]: He's really the Second Prince! Oh my goodness, I've been making my way through the world all these years; how could I not tell he's the Second Prince? [A sudden idea pops in his head] When opportunity knocks, you have to answer it. [Scampers off]

Mulan [chagrined]: Uh-oh! I didn't mean to do that. Now what?

General Li [pats her shoulder]: Forget about it. If he knows about it then he knows about it. Don't think about it. Besides, didn't you say the Second Prince is a great man? He won't blame you. [Mulan looks unconvinced and scared]

[Cut to Yiren's bedroom. She's sitting down and has a disgruntled look on her face. Yiren's father suddenly comes running inside and grabs her arm, then tries to pull her out the door]

Yiren's father [excitedly]: Yiren. Come with me. I need to take you to meet someone.

Yiren [pouting]: I'm not going out. I refuse to see him.

Yiren's father: What's the matter? Who did you think I was going to take you to meet?

Yiren: Of course I know. He's here with that Lieutenant Hua. Do you think I don't know about that? Since he doesn't want me, why should I keep trying to hang on to him? I'm only making him detest me. Why should I do that? I have my self-respect!

Yiren's father [chuckling]: Silly wench. You're wrong. I'm not taking you to see your cousin.

Yiren [pouting]: Then who do you want me to meet?

Yiren's father: Yiren, do you want some glory to your name? Do you want to force your cousin to look at you differently? Do you want him to kneel at your feet? Even more, do you want him to declare himself your loyal subject? If you do, then come with me. [He drags her out the door in a hurry]

Yiren [protesting]: Hey! Where are we going?

[Cut back to kitchen area. Li Liang's mother and Second Prince are having a grand time making dumplings. Mulan and General Li are watching. Every now and then Mulan laughs along to make it seem like she's paying attention]

Second Prince: Li Liang, your mother is truly a gifted hand at this. She can make several hundred dumplings all the same size and style.

General Li: That's nothing. Her embroidery skills are truly first-rate. They broke the mold when they created her.

Second Prince [to Li Liang's mother]: Is that true?

Li Liang's mother [to Second Prince]: Don't listen to his nonsense.

General Li: I'm not making this up. My mother once spent three years embroidering a silk ball ten feet across. Plus, on a piece of cloth the size of my thumb she embroidered nine horses in full gallop. Each was extremely lifelike and full of energy.

Second Prince: If I can only see such skill once in my lifetime then I'll die with no regrets. Madam, do you think you could embroider something for me? I'd willing pay you a thousand ounces of gold.

Li Liang's mother: Oh, I can't do that anymore. I'm old now, plus my eyes can't do it anymore. Besides, I haven't embroidered in over ten years. I'm afraid if I tried now I'd disappoint you.

Second Prince [sighs]: That's too bad.

Li Liang's mother: But there's someone I know that has taken up the mantle. She embroiders just like me. I'll ask her to embroider something for you and I won't charge you a penny. Consider it a gift from me to you.

Second Prince: Oh, thank you, madam.

[Yiren's father drags in Yiren to meet the Second Prince. Seeing Yiren, Li Liang's mother breaks into a grin]

Li Liang's mother: Speaking of the devil…

Yiren's father: Yiren…Yiren! Why aren't you on your knees before the Second Prince? [Mulan tries to drag Yiren's father to his feet again as she doesn't want the Second Prince to know she has let his secret out] Come on, on your knees! [The Second Prince stands up and sees Yiren's father is kneeling with Yiren at his side, looking very bewildered] Your Highness, please forgive your humble servant's ignorance in not recognizing your regal presence! [Mulan shoots the Second Prince a pained look] I realize that I have lacked some of the proper etiquette towards your Highness; please forgive me!

Li Liang's mother [puzzled]: Brother, what's this all about? You're telling me that Master Yang is actually the Second Prince?

Yiren's father: Sister, get on your knees before the Second Prince!

Mulan [dropping to her knees]: Your Highness! It's all my fault. I let slip your true identity. It had nothing to do with General Li. Please punish me accordingly.

Li Liang's mother [also getting on her knees]: Your Highness!

Second Prince [lifting Li Liang's mother to her feet]: Hey! Madam! You needn't be so formal. [To rest of the group] You can all rise.

Li Liang's mother [timidly]: Your Highness, if there was an instance in the past where I didn't show you the proper respect, please forgive me.

Second Prince: Madam, you're being too hard on yourself. If you didn't realize it was wrong then there's no crime. I withheld my true identity all this time because I wanted to get to know people without the trappings of my social standing. I didn't want people to treat me differently just because I'm a prince. Since you all know the truth now, all I ask is that you treat me just like you
treated me in the past.

Yiren's father: Oh, your Highness! Look at his humility and consideration of his subjects! There's no one that can hold a candle to him! Your Highness is really our wonderful…wonderful prince!

Second Prince: Mr. Xu, you're praising me too highly. I'm afraid I can't live up to them.

Yiren's father: Your Highness, you mustn't call me Mr. Xu. I couldn't be so presumptuous. Your Highness…[drags Yiren over] This is my daughter, Yiren. What do you think of her looks? [Yiren is taken aback at her father's cheek]

Second Prince [surprised]: Er…a daughter is truly a precious thing. She is a special one.

Yiren's father [gets even more ingratiating]: Oh, your Highness, you honor your humble subject beyond measure. To pay you back, your humble servant is willing to serve you all your days. [Everyone is startled at his words]

Second Prince: You?

Yiren's father [goes and brings Yiren over]: I meant my daughter would willingly serve you. [Yiren looks shocked at her father's words; she throws him a glare but he doesn't notice] Your Highness is a man without peer. My daughter is a servant without peer. You are a born match. Her goal is to make sure you are always happy.

Second Prince: In matrimonial matters, my father has already made arrangements for me. I will remember your good intentions, though. [Yiren sighs visibly in relief at his words; her father's face falls, though]

Yiren's father [taking another tack]: Since my daughter does not have the fortune to become one of your wives, then perhaps she can serve as one of your ladies-in-waiting? [Yiren's jaw drops when she hears this] She can take care of your every need. [Li Liang's mother also glares at her brother but doesn't say anything]

Second Prince: It would be a waste for a daughter as precious and rare as yours to serve in the palace as a mere lady-in-waiting. I'm sure it won't be long before you'll find a suitable match for her. [Li Liang's mother nods her approval] There's no need for to spend the rest of her days in the palace.

[Mulan begins to snicker in the background, much to Yiren's father's embarrassment. He elbows her but she continues to laugh at his expense]

[Cut to front door of Yiren's father's house. Mulan, General Li, Li Liang's mother, and Yiren's father are escorting the Second Prince out the door]

General Li: Mother, watch your step.

Second Prince [addressing group]: Everyone, you don't need to escort me. [To Li Liang's mother] Madam, it's windy out here. You should go back inside, lest you catch cold.

Li Liang's mother [shrugs him off]: Oh, there's no problem. I'm as strong as an ox. But you, on the other hand, ought to add another layer. [Turns to Yiren] Yiren, hurry and fetch a cloak. [Yiren nods and is about to go back inside]

Second Prince: That won't be necessary. I'll warm up before long when I start walking.

Mulan: Your Highness, it's dark and deserted on the streets now. Plus, you don't have any of your guards with you. If something were to happen to you that would be horrible. You'd best let your humble servant escort you back to your quarters.

Second Prince: That won't be necessary. If you don't remember that I'm the Second Prince, then you won't think I'm in danger.

Mulan [protesting]: But…

Second Prince: Life and death are things fated by Heaven. If the gods want me dead, then no one can stand up against them, not even Lieutenant Hua. [Mulan grins slightly at his teasing]

Yiren's father: Your Highness, please come again! Even though we couldn't become relatives by marriage, you have my utmost respect and admiration, till the oceans run dry and rocks fall apart, I will never change.

Second Prince: As long as you don't mind my presence, then I promise to return to enjoy some more of madam's excellent dumplings. [Turns to leave] Good bye. [Everyone waves to his retreating form. Mulan in particular looks charmed by the Second Prince]

Mulan [looking dreamily after the Second Prince]: He's so easy-going. Is he really a prince?

General Li [sarcastically]: If he's genuine, I'll eat my hat.

Mulan [shakes her head]: He must not be human.

General Li [surprised]: What?

Mulan: How can a prince not be overbearing in the least? [Li Liang's mother frowns when she sees Mulan and General Li still standing around; she angrily brushes by Yiren's father to walk in the door, then shuts the door after Yiren's father enters. Mulan is oblivious to what is going on] He must be a god.

General Li [seeing the door shut]: Hey, mother! [Hurries to try to get back in but the door has been barred shut. He pounds the door] Mother! Mother!

Li Liang's mother [from inside]: Stop hollering! I'm not going to let you in, you little brat!

Mulan [finally coming out of her reverie]: Madam, it's really cold out here! Let's talk about this inside, okay? [Starts rubbing her hands to keep warm]

General Li: That's right, mother! Mother? [Gets no response; he turns away in disgust]

Mulan: What are we going to do now?

General Li [grumpily]: I knew this wouldn't gain us anything. [Starts to leave but Mulan grabs his arm]

Mulan: Where are we going?

General Li [sighing]: It's dark and the city gates have already shut for the night. All we can do is go the nearest inn and spend the night, then return in the morning to camp.

Mulan: Don't you want to make amends with your mother?

General Li: Just because I want it to happen isn't enough.

Mulan: If you just think of it you can come up with an idea.

General Li [interested]: You have a plan?

Mulan: Sit down. Sit down first and we'll talk.

[Cut to inside the house. Li Liang's mother is walking back to the inner rooms of the house with Yiren's father behind her]

Li Liang's mother [muttering]: If he has the nerve to go up against me then he'd better not expect to come back smiling and expect my forgiveness. [She notices her brother has already sat down with a dreamy expression on his face] Brother. Brother! [He keeps grinning into space. Li Liang's mother pinches him to get his attention]

Yiren's father [grimacing and rubbing his arm]: What's the matter, sister? Have you gone mad?

Li Liang's mother [shortly]: You're the one that's gone mad, sitting there stupidly smiling.

Yiren's father: Sister, I was thinking that our father really gave me a good name. Fugui…Fugui…(In Chinese, the name translates to "prosperous and wealthy") I am destined to become prosperous and wealthy! [Li Liang's mother elbows him] What the heck?

Li Liang's mother: You're dreaming.

Yiren's father: How is this a dream? See, the Second Prince treats our family so well. He not only gave us expensive presents he also sent us servants. Now that we know such a high-ranking person as the Second Prince, I'd be hard put not to become prosperous and wealthy. [Rubs his hands together in glee]

Yiren [walking in]: Aunt, Cousin is still standing outside the front door.

Li Liang's mother: You mustn't let him in. On no account are you to open the door for him.

Yiren: But I just took a peek outside and it looks like he's sitting at the front step. I think he intends to spend the night there.

Li Liang's mother: If he wants to sleep there, then let him sleep his fill there.

Yiren [alarmed]: But it's really cold outside.

Li Liang's mother: Then it's his own fault. He asked for it. You are not to help him. No one here is to help him, do you hear? [Yiren's father nods in agreement, but Yiren looks unhappy at her aunt's edict]

[Cut to front door. General Li has his ear on the door and he is trying to hear sounds of activity inside, but can't hear anything. He sits down next to Mulan, who is rubbing her hands together to keep warm]

General Li: There's no movement at all inside.

Mulan: You just sat down. Of course there's no movement yet.

General Li: Do you really think idly sitting here all night will get my mother to forgive me?

Mulan: Is there a mother in the world that doesn't love her children (note the irony, considering Mulan's mother is an exception to this rule). This is called a guilt trip.

General Li [blowing on his hands]: That's true. It's just that it's getting colder and colder.

Mulan: Yes. And if it snows, it'll work even better!

General Li [worried]: It won't, will it?

Mulan: The colder it gets, the more effective our charade will be. Your mother's concern for you will outweigh her anger with you and she won't be mad anymore.

General Li: Mulan, I think you ought to go find an inn and get some rest. You don't need to stay in the cold with me like this.

Mulan: The night is long and it'll pass the time better with two people. Tell the truth, it really is pretty cold. [Jumps up] Jogging! [Starts to jog back and forth in front of the house to warm up]

[Cut to inside of the house. Li Liang's mother is walking down a hallway late at night when she hears someone opening a door and going into the courtyard. It's Yiren, with her arms full of blankets and bedding]

Li Liang's mother [accosting her]: Yiren. What are you doing? You're bringing blankets to that brat, aren't you?

Yiren [pleading]: Aunt, it's really cold outside, though. It will freeze people to death.

Li Liang's mother: He deserves it if he freezes to death. Are you forgetting how he treated you? Why are you going through all this for that heartless, dishonorable, unfilial person?

Yiren: But Aunt, it's too cold outside. I'm afraid Cousin will get sick.

Li Liang's mother: This is just to guilt trip me.  I'll not be hoodwinked! I refuse to
believe that he'll stay there till morning. When he realizes that I'm not going to fall for his wiles, he'll run off. There's nothing here for you to do, so go back to bed. [Ushers Yiren back to her room] Go on. Go to bed. [Yiren tries to protest but decides not to go up against her aunt. After she returns to her room, Li Liang's mother feels a sudden gust of wind and shivers. She finally starts to look a little concerned about her son's welfare]

[Cut to front door. General Li is still sitting on the step. Mulan is tired out from jogging so she plunks down heavily next to him]

Mulan [puffing]: Oh my, I'm tired. I'm going to rest for a bit.

General Li: Let me give you my coat. [Starts to take off his outer suit but Mulan stops him]

Mulan: I don't need it.

General Li [pulls Mulan closer]: Well, then we can get closer. We'll keep warmer that way. [He puts his arm around her shoulder and huddles next to her. Mulan looks very uncomfortable but he doesn't notice. He snuggles a little and Mulan's face is looking more and more alarmed] True, having two men snuggling like this is really is a bit nauseating…

Mulan [muttering]: I'm not complaining about getting the short end of the stick, so why should you complain?

General Li [surprised]: Why would you be getting the short end of the stick?

Mulan [shoving him away]: Um…I was saying that you have strong body odor.

General Li [sniffing himself]: Really? No I don't… [Mulan grins slyly]

Mulan: Often, people with bad body odor can't tell that they stink.

General Li [crestfallen]: Oh. I apologize then. [He scoots farther away from Mulan; he has a hurt expression on his face]

Mulan [grinning]: I was teasing you. Come on, let's sit together. [She scoots back over next to him, not noticing that he is eyeing her strangely. He stares for a few seconds before she turns around and spots him] What are you looking at?

General Li [smiling]: Can't you see? It's a look of gratitude. [Snuggles closer] Thank you for putting up with my body odor. [Mulan gets an oddly pleased smile on her face; perhaps she enjoys being so close to General Li]

[Suddenly a bucketful of water comes cascading from the inside of the house]

Li Liang's mother [wielding the basin]: This is a private residence. What's all that racket about in the middle of the night?

[Both Mulan and General Li stand bolt upright, shivering in the cold. I'm guessing the water landed on them and combined with the chill wind is making them very cold. General Li is glaring angrily at Mulan, more out of frustration with his mother than anything else]

Mulan: It didn't snow, but it rained…. Your mother is really vicious…[Chattering in the cold]

[Cut to the Crown Prince's temporary quarters. The Crown Prince walks in the room with Eunuch Gui behind him. The Second Prince spots his brother and greets him]

Second Prince: Brother, where have you been the past several days? I've been worried about you.

Crown Prince: I'm not a three year old. I can take care of myself.

Eunuch Gui [bowing]: Your Highness, we've been away from the palace for many days already. We should return soon, lest their Majesties worry about and miss you.

Crown Prince: Return to the palace? No problem. Really.

Eunuch Gui: In that case, I'll make the arrangements immediately so we can leave without delay for the palace. [He turns to go]

Crown Prince: I said you could return to the palace. I didn't say that I was returning to the palace. [Eunuch Gui looks at him incredulously] I still want to go see Liaoxi. I hear that the ice there has locked up the land for a thousand miles around. We can walk out on the lake because it's frozen now. It'll be great fun. [Turns to the Second Prince] Brother, let's go together!

Second Prince: Um…well… I really don't think…

[A servant walks in and salutes]

Servant [to Second Prince]: Your Highness, Xu Fugui requests an audience with you.

Second Prince: Bring him in. [The servant bows then leaves the room]

Crown Prince: Xu Fugui? Who's he?

Second Prince: Oh. He's Li Liang's maternal uncle.

[Yiren's father is presented and he walks in the room]

Yiren's father: Xiaoguang!

Crown Prince [puzzled]: What did he call you?

Yiren's father: Um… I mean, your Highness! [Ignoring the Crown Prince, he pulls the Second Prince aside. The Crown Prince follows behind] Your Highness, I want to ask if you can host the grand opening of the commissary. Do you think you can bless us with the glory of your presence?

Crown Prince: What are you two muttering about? What's the big secret? [Yiren's father brushes off the Crown Prince, not realizing who he is]

Second Prince: Oh yes, let me introduce you two. [To Yiren's father] This is my brother.

Yiren's father [shocked]: Brother? [His eyes start to bulge and you can see the schemes begin to boil in his head] The Crown Prince? You're the Crown Prince?

Crown Prince: That's right. I'm the Crown Prince. What's the matter? I don't have three heads and six arms. I'm just an average person. Are you disappointed?

Yiren's father [drops to his knees]: Your Highness! Your humble servant, Xu Fugui, salutes you! I wish you long life, good fortune, and great wealth and prosperity!

Crown Prince [pulling him to his feet]: You can cut the crap. Please get up. I haven't seen General Li in a while. How is he?

Second Prince: Mr. Xu, my brother has always liked social occasions. He'd be a much better person to have host the grand opening of the commissary. He's a great people person, too.

Crown Prince [sounding interested]: What commissary?

[Cut to the barracks of Mulan's platoon. The soldiers are all busily donning their armor and preening for best effect. Mulan walks in]

Mulan: Is everyone ready?

Monkey: Boss, do you think we all look heroic and handsome today?

Mulan [elbows him]: Outward appearances are not enough. When I think of how you looked when you were eating at General Li's mother's birthday banquet, it embarrasses me all over again to be your commanding officer.

Pudgy: Boss, we promise to behave ourselves this time. We won't let you down again.

Mulan: alright, you promised…[Looks around] Where's Su Jili?

Monkey [points to bunk]: He's still sleeping. I've tried getting him out of bed but he won't get up.

Pudgy: Yeah, me too.

[Mulan reaches for his blanket and removes it from the head of the bunk, expecting to see Jili's face. She sees his feet instead, so she lifts the blanket from the foot of the bed. Seeing his face, she starts to berate him]

Mulan: Hey, Su Jili, we told the Crown Prince we would attend the grand opening of the commissary.

Jili [eyes still shut]: But I'm not done sleeping yet.

Mulan: Are you going or not?

Jili: If I go will there be anything to eat?

Mulan: We are going to a grand opening, not a banquet. How can there be food there?

Jili: If I can't get full from going then I'm not going! [Pulls the blanket back over his head. Mulan reaches for the blanket put when she flips it over all she sees is Jili's feet (somehow he flipped around). In disgust, she drops the blanket]

Mulan: Come on. We're leaving now. [Leads her platoon out the tent]

[Cut to city street. Mulan's troops are milling around preparing for the grand opening. General Li is in the foreground directing the men]

General Li [pointing to a soldier]: You, take those knives over there. And you, put the spears on that side. [Sees his mother approaching with Yiren, so he goes over to talk to them] Mother, why are you here?

Li Liang's mother [shortly]: Why can't I come here? Or do I need a special permit from the great General Li to come here?

General Li [patiently]: That's not what I meant. You have never liked being in social situations with large crowds of people. I thought it was odd that you'd be here, that's all. Did Uncle (maternal) ask you to come?

Li Liang's mother [sniffing]: Him? He couldn't get me to come here for his sake. I'm the guest of the Second Prince.

General Li [puzzled]: The Second Prince?

Li Liang's mother: That's right. I received an express invitation from the Second Prince to attend. [General Li gets a thoughtful look on his face as he tries to reason out the Second Prince's actions. Li Liang's mother sniffs again] Humph! I must be crazy; why should I be telling you any of this? [Turns and leaves. Yiren scampers to catch up. General Li starts to say something but stops. Mulan sees General Li's expression but can't figure out why he looks leery of his mother's presence at the grand opening]

[The Crown Prince, Second Prince, and their entourage are also now approaching the commissary]

Second Prince: Brother, I'll be but a minute. [Heads towards Li Liang's mother]

Crown Prince: Alright.

Second Prince [greets Li Liang's mother]: Madam. You've come, too?

Li Liang's mother [teasingly]: Would I dare blow off an invitation from the Second Prince himself?

Second Prince: When I think about those dumplings of yours, I start to miss them and wonder when I can enjoy your wonderful cooking again.

Li Liang's mother: Oh, I have a lot more goodies like that up my sleeve. The next time you honor us with your presence, I'll personally make a batch so you can enjoy them to your heart's content.

Second Prince: Then we are agreed? No backing out now.

[The Crown Prince and Eunuch Gui are chuckling when they see the way the Second Prince is bantering with Li Liang's mother. Yiren's father rushes in and grabs the Crown Prince's attention]

Yiren's father: Your Highness, you've been busy all day. You must be thirsty. Please come inside and have some tea to refresh yourself.

Crown Prince: Oh, that's quite all right. I'm not tired.

Yiren's father [pulling on his sleeve]: Come with me. This is "special tea." I'm sure you wouldn't want to pass it up.

Crown Prince [interested]: Really? [He allows himself to be escorted away, with Eunuch Gui bringing up the rear. Seeing the Second Prince is still behind, Yiren's father also brings him along. The Marshal watches the scene with chagrin. He realizes that Yiren's father is trying to use the Crown Prince and Second Prince for his own personal gain but he cannot do much about it]

[Inside the building, the Crown Prince is sitting down with the rest of the group while Yiren is pouring tea for him. He looks up and her beauty catches his eyes. Seeing his gaze, she nervously tries to hide behind her handkerchief. The Second Prince notices his brother is suddenly distracted and then spots the source. He gets a scheming look in his eyes. The Crown Prince is still looking over Yiren when Yiren's father suddenly plucks her aside]

Yiren's father: Your Highness, may I present my daughter, Yiren. Do you think she's pretty? [The Crown Prince nods and chuckles at his question. Yiren's father then drops to his knees] Your Highness, my daughter is eighteen years old and is well-rounded. If your Highness doesn't object, she is willing to stay at your side and serve you all her days.

Crown Prince [puzzled]: Um…could you slow down a bit? What did you say?

Yiren's father: Your Highness, you don't have to accept this offer. I realize my daughter is born of common stock. [He isn't noticing Yiren's shocked expression and the Second Prince's scheming one] She doesn't have the presumption to think she can be one of your concubines. However, she has always been intelligent and quick-witted. She is well-versed in music, chess, literature, and art. [Yiren is looking very exasperated with her father at this point but he continues to ramble on] If she could serve as one of your concubines' ladies-in-waiting, then that would be a blessing beyond measure.

Crown Prince [finally understanding]: Oh… I see…

Second Prince [seeing his opportunity to stir the pot]: Even though Mistress Yiren is a very accomplished young lady, I am afraid of what would happen if our mother found out.

Crown Prince: If you don't tell her, then how is she to know? [Turns to Yiren's father] How about this then? Send her to my quarters tomorrow.

Yiren's father [elated]: Oh, thank you, my master… I mean…your Highness! [He genuflects several times. Yiren looks like she is about to burst into tears and the Second Prince looks oddly happy about the whole proceedings]

[Cut to Yiren's father's house later that day. Yiren is standing in front of the window weeping into her handkerchief. Li Liang's mother comes over and pats her on the shoulder. Yiren breaks into tears and leans on her shoulder]

Yiren: Aunt! I don't want to! Aunt! I don't want to!

Li Liang's mother [pats her back]: Yiren, don't worry. I'll take care of things for you. [Sets her face and heads out the door, leaving Yiren loudly weeping behind her]

[Cut to city street. Li Liang's mother has run around the streets searching for the Second Prince. She hails him and runs over]

Li Liang's mother: Your Highness… your Highness! [Seeing she has the Second Prince's attention] My niece, Yiren, already has her heart set on someone else. That person is my son, Li Liang. Do you think you could use your influence and prevent her from entering the palace (once women enter, they usually do not leave)?

Second Prince [hesitating]: Er…this…

Li Liang's mother: Please, help me out with this. Please help me.

Second Prince: Once my brother gets something he wants, he will never let it go. I've learned that the hard way in the past. It's not that I don't want to help you, but that I don't have the ability to help you. I'm sorry. [He bows and leaves]

[Meanwhile, Mulan and General Li are in another part of the city, near the commissary. She walks over and leans her elbow on General Li's shoulder while he is sitting down]

Mulan [sighing]: Your uncle (maternal) is really too much. How can he sell his daughter like a trinket hawked on the street? He's ruining her future. [She loudly sighs again, then spots Li Liang's mother walking towards them, deep in thought and looking very worried. When Li Liang's mother sees them, she purses her lips as if she is about to do something distasteful but necessary. As she approaches, Mulan smiles politely and bows] Madam. [Mulan then discreetly backs away to give them some privacy to talk]

Li Liang's mother [to General Li]: Well, you little brat, do you want me to forgive you? [They don't notice that Mulan is trying inch closer to eavesdrop on their conversation]

General Li: Of course I do, mother.

Li Liang's mother: Alright. This is a prime opportunity for you to get back in my good graces. [Leaning over, she starts to whisper her plan in General Li's ear. Mulan's eyes open wide as she listens in]

[Cut to Crown Prince's quarters in Youzhou. He walks in, holding a chicken in one hand, with Eunuch Gui behind him carrying his archery equipment]

Crown Prince [smiling]: Not bad. I got a pheasant today.

General Li [seeing the Crown Prince, he hurriedly kneels]: Your Highness! I salute you!

Crown Prince: You needn't be so formal. Have you been waiting long for me?

General Li: Yes, I have.

Crown Prince: If I knew you had some free time, I would have asked you to come hunting with me. Do you need to see me about something? [General Li looks significantly at Eunuch Gui and the Crown Prince catches the hint] Eunuch Gui, you're dismissed. Take this bird with you to the kitchen to dress. [Eunuch Gui bows and leaves the room with the pheasant] Well, what is it? You can speak freely.

General Li [hesitating]: Your Highness, remember when you promised to give me anything I wanted in exchange for teaching you martial arts?

Crown Prince: At the time, you said you didn't want a boon.

General Li: But your Highness said that if I ever wanted one, I could ask for it and I would receive it.

Crown Prince: So what would you like?

General Li: Your Highness, that boon can be anything I want, right?

Crown Prince [sitting down and picking up a tea cup]: Yes, that's right.

General Li: I want the woman that your Highness has his eye on.

Crown Prince [surprised]: What did you say?

General Li: Mistress Yiren is your humble servant's younger cousin.

Crown Prince: I know she's your cousin. What does that have to do with anything?

General Li: I was hoping you would bestow my cousin on me as my boon.

Crown Prince [slamming the table]: How dare you ask such a favor of me! If you wanted riches or titles or land, I could easily grant you your wish. You want me to give you my woman? Impossible!

General Li: But Mistress Yiren has not yet been given to your Highness, so she isn't your woman yet.

Crown Prince [heatedly]: Your uncle gave her to me in front of all those officials. That means she's my woman!

General Li [face hardening]: Your Highness, let me ask you a question. Which is more precious, a bear's claw or a fish? (Bear's claw is a delicacy in Chinese cooking)

Crown Prince: Of course bear's claw is more precious.

General Li: Exactly. A fish is like a woman. A bear's claw is like your Highness's prestige. It may be tasty, but they are easily replaced if lost. Your Highness can easily find ten or even a hundred more to replace it. But if your Highness were to lose your prestige, that is something that money cannot buy back. Is it worth a mere common woman to break your word to your humble servant? Isn't that like losing the battle for want of a sword?

Crown Prince [thinks a minute then slowly breaks into a grin]: You have balls! I can never bandy words with you. In that case, I bestow this fish on you.

General Li [saluting]: Thank you very much, your Highness.

Crown Prince: Oh, it's nothing. By the way, since Mistress Yiren is your cousin and you seem to like her so much, why haven't you asked your uncle for her hand?

General Li: Oh. I grew up with her. She's always been like my sister. My uncle has always tried to gain prestige and power through associating with high-ranking people. That's why he gave her to you to serve as a lady-in-waiting.

Crown Prince: Oh, I see. Very well, then.

[Cut to Yiren's father's home. Yiren is crying forlornly and Li Liang's mother is trying to cheer her up]

Li Liang's mother: Don't be sad. You needn't cry. [She looks like she's about to start crying herself]

Yiren's father [angry at the tears]: What's the matter? It's a good thing the Crown Prince is willing to let you serve him at his side. You don't know how good you have it. All you do is cry all day. I'm warning you, if the Crown Prince gets annoyed with your antics, both you and I will…CRRKKK [makes a throat-slitting gesture] Be beheaded.

Li Liang's mother [annoyed]: What Crown Prince's consort? Has the Crown Prince agreed to make Yiren his consort?

Yiren's father [brushing her away]: What do you know? You have to take these things one step at a time according to a plan. First, you start as a lady-in-waiting for him. Then, you become his best friend. Lastly, you become his wife.

Yiren: I don't give a fig about a Crown Prince, much less becoming the Crown Prince's consort!

Yiren's father [slams table]: What's wrong with being the Crown Prince's consort? I'm telling you, when the Emperor shakes off this mortal coil, the Crown Prince will ascend the throne. You will then be the Empress! At that time, you can have what you want when you want it.  I'm doing this for your own good, silly wench!

Li Liang's mother [in a huff]: Who are you trying to kid? You're the one that wants prestige and wealth. That's why you rack your brains thinking up ways to throw your daughter into a fire pit. What's wrong with staying at home and being the young lady of the house? Why do you insist on debasing her by shoving her to the Crown Prince to be a mere servant?

Yiren's father: What do you mean jumping into a fire pit? What fire pit? Is asking her to be Empress jumping into a fire pit? Is being the Empress placing undue hardship on her?

Li Liang's mother: Who said she would become Empress for sure? Let's say she did become Empress or a concubine. The Crown Prince is such a playboy. His harem will consist of at least three thousand ladies! If he visits a different one each night it will take ten years before he will revisit the same woman again. Do you want our Yiren to live a life of virtual widowhood? Besides, life in the harem is full of politics and bickering. It's not as glorious as you'd like to believe. Many years ago, there was once a concubine who offended her mother-in-law, the Empress. The Empress ordered her hands and feet chopped off and her eyes gouged out. She became deaf and dumb, then was shoved to the farthest recesses of the palace. [Li Liang's mother uses hand gestures to emphasize these things. It's great fun to watch her]

Yiren [frightened]: I don't want that, Aunt! That's too scary!

Li Liang's mother [consoling Yiren]: Take it easy. Don't cry anymore.

Yiren's father [impatiently]: Alright... alright… alright. Stop scaring her. I'm telling you, you better stop scaring her. As long as she serves at the Crown Prince's side, I can arrange that she will rise above any other woman and keep the Crown Prince's heart for herself.

Li Liang's mother [jumping up angrily]: If you're so capable, why don't you go give your hand in marriage to the Crown Prince instead? Why do you insist on whoring your daughter?

Yiren's father: I'd like to! If the Crown Prince was smitten with me and if I were a woman, I'd jump at the chance willingly. But alas, the gods did not make me a woman.

Li Liang's mother: Then why don't you hurry up and get reincarnated? Go ask the King Milo (God of Death/Underworld?) to make you a woman in your next life.

Yiren's father [angrily]: You…you…you're insulting me!

Li Liang's mother [smiling]: I'm only doing this for your own good. Didn't you say you wanted to be a woman so you can give your hand to the Crown Prince and become his consort? At that time, you can have what you want when you want it!  [She uses exaggerated hand gestures to emphasize her words]

Yiren's father [still angry]: You…

[General Li walks in the room and everyone turns quiet]

General Li: Yiren, I have some very, very bad news for you. [Yiren whimpers] You won't ever become the Crown Prince's consort; the Crown Prince doesn't want you anymore! [Loud cheers from Li Liang's mother and Yiren erupt. They start to dance around the room in happiness]

Yiren's father [shocked]: What did you say?

General Li: Didn't you hear me the first time? The Crown Prince doesn't want Yiren anymore. You needn't send her to the palace tomorrow.

Yiren's father [grabbing General Li's shoulders]: It was you, wasn't it? You're the one who caused the Crown Prince to blow her off.

General Li [nods]: You could say that.

Yiren's father [getting angry]: Where have I offended you? I can understand if you didn't want Yiren for yourself, but why do you have to stick your oar in like this? You messed up all my grand plans!

Li Liang's mother [comes and shoves Yiren's father away from General Li]: I'm the one that messed up your grand plans. I told Li Liang to persuade the Crown Prince to give up Yiren. If you're going to scold someone…[She stands straighter and puffs out her chest] then scold me!

Yiren's father [livid]: You… you screwed me over! I've been holding it in for decades, but today I'm going to let it all out! All these years you've been keeping me down and going against me in every little thing. You've bossed me in all facets of my life. You don't want my daughter to become the Empress because then your precious son will have to bow to her and be her humble servant. You're afraid we'll take the wind out of your sails! You're afraid we'll stand in your light! You… you…you're shameless and amoral!

Li Liang's mother [hurt]: You called me shameless and amoral?

Yiren's father: Yes!

Li Liang's mother [starts to cry]: Oh…how I've treated you all these years. Who helped raise you all these years? When you were up to your ears in gambling debts, who bailed you out? [Yiren's father starts to look sheepish] I've treated you better than I treat my own son! Yet you called me shameless and amoral? [Gets very angry] You bastard! [Slaps him across the face] You have no conscience!

Yiren's father [shrinking]: You hit me!

Li Liang's mother: Yes, I hit you!

[They start getting into a cat fight, with both parties flailing and grabbing hair. Yiren's father chomps down on Li Liang's mother's arm, but somehow Yiren's father ends up looking like a cat scratched up his face. In alarm, General Li and Yiren try to break their parents apart]