[Cut to the archery practice yard. General Li and Su Jili are in the midst of practice. Jili puts a single coin (the kind with a square hole in the center) in the middle of the bulls-eye target. The general lines up his shot, fires, and transfixes the coin with one arrow. Jili blinks in amazement, then starts to look smug and rather condescending]

Jili: So what? Considering you joined the army at age 15 and practiced day and night to get to this level, this doesnít surprise me. Practice makes perfect.

General Li: Please hand over your belt. I want you to blindfold me with it.

[Jili obeys, tying the belt securely about General Liís eyes]

General Li: Turn me around a few times.

Jili: How many times?

General Li: As many as you want.

[Gleefully, Jili spins the general several times, then deliberately places him with his back to the target]

General Li: My bow, please.

[Jili hands him his bow, then stands between General Li and the target. He barely ducks in time when General Li draws back the bow (heís still facing the wrong way), spins around 180 degrees, makes a leap, and releases the arrow. It thuds into the target, splitting the shaft of the first arrow. Jili is dumbfounded]

General Li [removing the blindfold]: Youíre right, Jili. Practice makes perfect. If you keep practicing, youíll eventually match me, or even surpass me.

[General Li starts to walk away]

Jili [muttering]: How hard can it be to hit a target while blindfolded?

Monkey: If it isnít hard, why donít you try to do it? Or are you afraid of making a fool of yourself?

[Hearing this, Jili puts a blindfold on himself. Pulling back his bow, he spins around a few times, then shoots the arrow wildly into the air. Unbeknownst to him, Mulanís father is walking in the field. The arrow grazes his arm, sending him to the ground, groaning in pain. General Li comes running up to assist him]

General Li: Elderly Sir, are you all right?

Hua Hu: Yes, Iím all right. Itís just a graze.

General Li: Let me take you to the camp doctor.

[General Li starts to walk Hua Hu back towards the camp]

[Cut to tent in the military camp. General Li is helping Hua Hu sit down and put a cloak over his newly bandaged arm. Mulan comes running in, looking quite concerned and excited]

Mulan: Father, how come youíre injured? Is it serious? Does it hurt?

Hua Hu: Itís nothing serious, just a small graze.

General Li [to Mulan]: This is your father?

Mulan [not responding to General Li]: Are you sure youíre okay?

Hua Hu: Really, Iím fine.

General Li: Iíll make sure I find who did this and punish the offender accordingly.

Hua Hu: Itís just a minor wound; you donít need to make a fuss over this.

[After a brief pause, General Li says he has other duties to attend to, and leaves the tent. Mulan and her father watch him go, she with a look of admiration (and dreaminess) upon her face that is not lost upon her father. Her father, after seeing her gape for several seconds, grunts to get her attention. Mulan quickly stands up straight and tries to look nonchalant, but instead looks quite sheepish]

Hua Hu: What are you gawking at all day like that for? And who was he (referring to General Li)?

Mulan [shyly]: He? Heís LiliangÖ heís a general.

Hua Hu [not deceived a whit]: I know heís a general. What I want to know is, are you interested in him?

Mulan [starts at this question, begins to stammer and blush]: Why are you teasing me?

Hua Hu [chuckling]: The way you were dreamily gazing at his retreating figure, it was the spitting image of me back when I first courted your mother, to a T.

Mulan [muttering but sheepishly smiling]: That's not nice.

Hua Hu: But thatís neither here nor there. Tell me, who is in charge of this camp?

Mulan [still looking sheepish, points in the direction General Li went]: Is there something you need from him?

Hua Hu [trying to look innocent]: Oh, nothing in particular. I just wanted to pay my respects to him before I leave.

[Mulan nods her head, agreeing with the wisdom of this statement and does not suspect any ulterior motives]

[Cut to an empty field outside Three Mile camp, with snow covering much of the ground. Mulan is supporting her father across the field. He limps along slowly, in marked contrast to his hearty and hale daughter beside him. The pair is heading towards General Li, who is standing about fifty paces ahead of them with his back towards them. Hua Hu calls out to him and General Li comes forward to greet Mulanís father]

General Li: Is your arm doing all right?

Hua Hu: Yes, it was only a scratch. I wanted to come and thank you for looking after Mulan while he is in the army. I brought some specialties from back home for you, some salt vegetables, Gao Liang (a grain liquor), and cured pork. Please accept them as a token of my esteem.

General Li: Iím sorry, but I couldnít possibly accept them.

Hua Hu: Please take them; itís not much.

Mulan: My father brought this all the way from back home, so please accept them.

[General Li, turning away, silently refuses. Seeing this, Hua Hu drops to his knees in front of him, surprising both Mulan and General Li]

General Li [grabs Hua Hu and helps lift him to his feet again]: What are you doing?

Hua Hu: General Li, thereís something I must tell you. Ever since Mulan joined the army, his mother has been sick in bed, calling for him, begging his superiors to excuse him from military service so he can return home. Please, let me take Mulanís place in the army. [Mulan is puzzled at her father's words, since she is well aware that her mother was more than happy to get rid of her; she realizes her father must be up to something, but she doesn't know what]

Mulan [whispering loudly]: Father, what are you doing? [Tries to tug him away from General Li]

Hua Hu [ignores Mulan and grabs General Liís sleeve at this point, pleading]: I used to lead a troop of 1000 men, and even though itís true that Iím a bit older now, I can still handle a few pesky soldiers. I beg you to have mercy and let Mulan return home. Please? Please?

[Mulan has been trying to drag her father away after he started to plead his case before the general. She finally succeeds after several tries, pulling him out of the generalís earshot]

Mulan [annoyed]: Father, I joined the army because you are in no physical condition for military service. What are you trying to do, telling General Li all this stuff?

Hua Hu: Mulan, Iíve always let you have your way growing up, but this time you have to obey me. If you donít leave the army immediately, you are in danger of losing your life.

Mulan [startled]: Why?

Hua Hu: I met a fortuneteller when I arrived here. He said I had one family member in the army and that this family member would suffer a catastrophe unless he left the service immediately.

Mulan [looks skeptical]: Hogwash.

Hua Hu: Seriously, Mulan, I have to hand it to him. Letís seeÖ he knew I had two wives, that I had four daughters and one son. He knew I was lame because of a war wound. Even more amazing, he knew that I had one child that was born a daughter but liked to act like a son (i.e.-tomboy). Thatís you!

[Mulan scoffs at this, too. Jili cringes into their presence, trying to hide his face from Hua Hu]

Jili: Mr. Hua, Mulan. General Li told me to come here and apologize to you (meaning Hua Hu).

Mulan: Apologize? Why?

Jili [shrinking even more]: WellÖforÖ well, it all happened when I was practicing archery. Somehow, my arrow flew of its own accord and hit your father, almost killing him.

[Mulan, upon hearing this, begins to look sternly at Jili, while her father chuckles at Jiliís obvious nervousness]

Hua Hu [still chuckling]: It wasnít nearly that bad; you donít need to exaggerate. No apology is needed.

Mulan [to Jili]: No way! Apologize immediately!

[She draws herself up, emphasizing she is his officer and demands discipline. Jili, still trying to hide his face from Hua Hu and cringing, turns quickly]

Jili [blurts out]: Sorry, sir! [He immediately hides his face again]

[Mulan jerks Jili into a more upright position and sternly orders him to repeat the apology, this time with more sincerity. Jili repeats the apology in the same manner, ducking quickly, hoping Hua Hu doesnít recognize him as the fortuneteller]

Hua Hu: Donít worry about it, youngster. Why are you so shy? When I first glanced at you, I thought I had seen you somewhere beforeÖ

[Hearing this, Mulan starts to put two-and-two together, then grabs Jili by the chin and forces him to look at her father]

Mulan: Father, is this the fortuneteller you met?

Hua Hu: No, his face is familiar, but the fortuneteller had whiskers.

Mulan: Can do. Wait a minute.

[She walks off screen, while Jili heaves a sigh of relief that Hua Hu did not recognize him]

Hua Hu: You know, Iím sure Iíve seen you somewhere before, but I canít pin down where.

Jili: You know, I am also sure Iíve seen you before. Didnít I see you at the Chamber of Ten Thousand Springs (a local brothel)? You were in the company of several ladies.

Hua Hu: Chamber of Ten Thousand Springs? [Huffily] I have never frequented such a place in my entire life.

[Mulan returns, holding a long stalk of some limp plant. Holding it up against Jiliís nose (to simulate false whiskers), she asks her father again if this was the fortuneteller he met]

Hua Hu [excitedly]: Itís him!

[Grabbing Jili by the collar, Mulan growls]: Jili, you are just itching for a beating arenít you?

[Cut to a later time in the same field. Hua Hu is preparing to begin the long journey home. Mulan tells her father to watch himself on his trip]

Hua Hu: Mulan, watch yourself every minute when you are in camp.

Mulan: Please tell Mother I will earn great honor and perform great deeds here; I wonít embarrass her with my conduct and actions.

Hua Hu: I know your noble intentions, Mulan. Just donít give yourself too much pressure. If you can accomplish what youíve set out to do, that would be ideal. If notÖlet me say it bluntly. [Tears start to form in his eyes] Even if you were to come home dishonored and disgraced, I wouldnít mind. Please remember that I will always love you regardless what happens.

[He turns to go, creeping slowly due to his limping gait. After about ten paces, Mulan calls after him]

Mulan [with spirit]: Father! I WILL do what I set out to do. I donít feel any pressure at all. Please donít worry about me.

[Hua Hu, after hearing this, turns to go again, with tears still in his eyes. Mulan turns away, too, touched by the depth of her fatherís love for her]

[She turns to head back to the camp. Seeing General Li, she goes in his direction. As she nears, she notices he is staring at the sky abstractedly, deep in thought. Turning up her nose, she deliberately walks in front of him]

Mulan [muttering just loud enough for General Li to hear]: Gutless worm.

[She turns to walk away. General Li grabs her shoulder to stop her]

Mulan [loudly and brashly]: You know Iím a confirmed rude person who is insubordinate towards his superiors. If you have the balls, put me in the brig.

General Li [quietly]: Iím sorry.

Mulan [dumbfounded]: Did I hear you correctly? Did you just apologize to me after I snapped at you?

General Li: I was wrong to let what other people say dictate how I will treat you. I donít care if you are a man or a woman, I promise weíll always be good friends.

Mulan [coyly]: I didnít hear you apologize the first time. Could you please speak up?

General Li: Iím sorry.

Mulan [even more coyly]: I still donít hear you.

[This time, General Li shouts into her ear. She winces in pain]

Mulan [snapping at General Li]: What the heck did you do that for? Are you trying to make me deaf?

General Li [grinning]: Well, you said to speak upÖ

Mulan [starts to yell]: That one doesn't count. I want you to apologize again.

General Li [still smiling]: Nope. I already apologized.

Mulan: The last apology was for last time. I want you to apologize for this offense. Now!

General Li: It will never do to repeat sweet talk.

[Screen starts to blur, but you can still clearly see the two of them arguing with each other.]

Mulan: Will you or won't you? [She keeps hounding him and shoves him around a bit]

General Li [he starts to dance around in circles, then chants playfully]: I'm sorry! Sorry! Sorry!Ö

[Cut to a distant camp. This is the military camp of the Tujue barbarians to the north. A man on horseback comes galloping into the camp. He dismounts at one of the tents, then walks in. It is Tiele, the younger brother of the Tujue Khan. He is dressed in clothing similar to the Chinese to the south, while his brother the Khan is dressed in the stereotypical barbarian outfit, with braided hair, fur robes, and fur hat]

Tiele: Brother, I heard that you are amassing an army to attack the Sui empire. Is this true?

King: I have waited a long time for this day. My armies are now ready and able. The time is ripe to attack the Sui empire.

Tiele: No matter what, brother, you must not do this. I have signed a peace treaty with General Li of the Sui empire. So long as I am alive, I promised that our people will not attack the Sui empire.

[Tujue Khan turns to glare at his younger brother, with hidden anger in his eyes]

Tujue Khan: I haven't even thanked you for doing that yet! Who gave you the right to sign such a treaty with Sui general and expect me to obey your wishes? [Looks away] More importantly, I am the Khan of the Tujue. No one has more power than I do in the military. I attack whom I want, when I want, and no one dares to say no to me!

Tiele: Brother, the Sui empire is powerful; the people are all united behind one Emperor. Their military is shrewd and cunning. If we were to attack them now, it would be suicide.

[Tujue Khan angrily strikes the table with his fist, then stands up]

Tujue Khan: Bull! We Tujue are always a match in valor and skill for any warrior out there. If we wanted to obliterate the Sui, it would be as easy as taking candy from a baby: just go and take what we want.

Tiele [comes forward]: Brother, your unfettered ambition will only lead to disaster for us. Please reconsider your position!

Tujue Khan: So, did the Sui promise some benefit to make you speak this way? Every way I turn, you speak on their behalf. Or, have they bought you lock, stock, and barrel?

Tiele [shocked]: Brother, I do this not for the Sui empire, but for the future of the Tujue. We do not have the strength to successfully fight the Sui. Your hunger will destroy the Tujue, do you realize that?

Tujue Khan [turns to face his brother]: You are a coward and a sneak. Even I feel pity for you. I'm telling you, this war is definitely going to be fought!

Tiele: Brother, if you insist on going to battle, you will be responsible for the deaths of thousands and thousands of soldiers. You will cause countless families to lose their husbands and sons. No! I will do everything in my power to make sure your ambition is held in check!

Tujue Khan: Do you think you can stop me?

Tiele: I will call a meeting of the Council and let them see your true colors. They will stop you from pursuing this course. Brother, we once tried to attack the Sui, but few if any of our troops returned. You must learn from our past mistakes and not take such a course lightly.

Tujue Khan [turns away]: You know, what you say makes some sense. [Tiele breathes a sigh of relief] You're right; I am impatient. Before undertaking such a grand journey, I should have solicited the advice of the Council. Thankfully, you are here to persuade me to see the error of my ways. [Tiele looks happy that he has persuaded his brother to not attack the Sui. He doesn't notice the hard look in his brother's eyes. Without warning, he spins around and stabs Tiele with a knife. Tiele's eyes open wide with surprise and shock] You coward. You traitor to the country. All you did was yammer about sedition and pacifism. Death is too good for you! [Jabs the knife even deeper into his brother's belly]

Tiele [with his last breath, as he slumps to the ground]: Brother, you will regret thisÖ

[Cut to a village in the Sui empire. It is most likely on one of the northern borders. Villagers are milling around, going about their daily business. They do not notice the sudden arrival of the Tujue on horseback until it is too late. The Tujue attack all the villagers, slaughtering them with spears and swords. After all of the villagers are dead, the Tujue quickly depart]

[Cut to the Sui military camp. The generals and other officers are amassed inside a meeting room, discussing the recent developments]

General Li: Tiele promised that as long as he was alive, the Tujue would not attack us. He seemed like an honorable man. I am surprised at this two-faced deception.

Chenen: General Li, you are too naïve. Can you trust the word of a barbarian? They were hoping we would let down our guard, so they could more easily attack us.

General Li: If they wanted to attack us, they could have done so the last time they came on our land. Why wait until now? At the time, I'm sure they had the intent.

Chenen: I'm sure they didn't attack us last time because their armies were not ready yet, so they had to bide their time before coming further south. That's why they offered to sign a treaty with us. Do you mean that you can't even see through this charade?

General Li: This is only your opinion.

Chenen [getting up]: So what you're saying is not "only your opinion?"

Marshal [raises his hand for silence]: That's enough! The Tujue, with an army of 400,000 strong, has already penetrated beyond Changchen and is headed toward Youzhou. I am interested in hearing any suggestions for how we can defeat this enemy.

Chenen: Sir, the enemy is moving very fast. In another couple of days, they will reach Xingyie. Sanjun is located at the mountain pass there. I vote we go make a stand at Xingyie so we can protect Sanjun.

General Li: Sir, we can only get 100,000 of our troops to Xingyie in two days. We cannot go against the Tujue's 400,000 men. Beside, there is very little ground cover in that area for us to hide. Our losses would be terrible against the superior numbers of our enemy. I vote we abandon Sanjun, evacuate the civilians, and make a stand further south. First, this would make it easier for us to defend our people (the geography is different?). Secondly, this would give us a full three days to collect our troops. This way, we improve our chances of success.

Chenen: Giving up Sanjun will only give the Tujue greater confidence and momentum. It will make it harder for us to defeat them later.

[The two of them debate back and forth (I can't quite figure out the military strategy, so you'll have to imagine it), with Chenen arguing for the more aggressive stance while General Li is voting for the more conservative approach]

Chenen: General Li, have you no faith in the troops you trained? The Tujue may have an army of 400,000 men, but the supply lines are long and they have been traveling many days and miles. I bet they only have 100,000 combat-ready troops. With our own 100,000 troops, I'm sure we can defeat them handily.

General Li: What if we make a stand at Xingyie, but are defeated? The road would be clear for them to attack Youzhou and go even deeper into our territory. We can't take such a risk!

Chenen: ButÖ

Marshal: That's enough! [Looking to the rest of the officers] Does anyone else agree with General Li's views? [One general steps forward] Now then, does anyone agree with Colonel Yu's views? [No one says anything, though a soldier rushes in from the door, announcing the arrival of the Crown Prince. All the officers kneel before him]

Crown Prince: The Tujue are closing in on Youzhou. Marshal, do you have any plans for repelling these invaders?

Marshal: Your Highness, since the Tujue are currently nearing Xingyie, I plan to abandon it and instead send my troops to defend the area south of Sanjun. We hope to make a stand there and defeat the enemy in a pincers movement.

[Cut to another room. The Crown Prince and Marshal walk in]

Marshal: Your Highness, please make yourself at home here. I need to take my leave now, as there are many things I must attend to prior to going to battle. [Leaves the room. The Crown Prince, seeing a battle map, picks it up and looks it over. Chenen walks in]

Chenen [bowing]: Your Highness, I desire a favor from you.

Crown Prince: What is it?

Chenen: I know this may be mutinous, but I disagree with the Marshal's decision to abandon Sanjun. Not only is he displacing all the civilians who live there, he will swell the confidence and power of the Tujue, both of which are not good for our empire.

Crown Prince: But isn't he being careful to prevent defeat by not taking any chances?

[They debate back and forth, with Chenen finally persuading the Crown Prince that the wise decision is to defend Xingyie first, then if necessary, defend Sanjun. The Marshal walks in. The Crown Prince tells the Marshal to follow the suggestions of Chenen, since he is a military genius, and that he (the Crown Prince) has the utmost faith in the empire's soldiers. He believes the army cannot be defeated, especially since he will personally join in the fighting to encourage the troops. The Marshal, while still showing misgivings, does not want to openly flout the Crown Prince's wishes. Despite his better judgment, he gives in]

[Cut to barracks. A bell is loudly sounding, calling the troops to morning roll call. Everyone in Mulan's platoon is rolling out of bed, except for Jili, who is still sound asleep. Monkey and Pudgy try to wake him up, but he ignores them. Finally, Mulan throws a basin of water on him]

Jili [sputtering awake and dripping wet]: The heck! You're asking for a thrashing, aren't you? [Sees who it is, then quiets down] Oh.

Mulan [sternly]: It's me. You better hurry up and get out there. Everyone's going to think you deserted.

Jili: We're marching out? Now?

Mulan: Sure. We head out now to engage the Tujue in battle.

Jili: You mean, we're going to fight?

Mulan: Of course. Soldiers are trained for just such an occasion. This is the time to follow duty and serve your country.

Jili: But, I'm scared.

Mulan [grabs his shoulder]: Come on! What are you scared of?

Jili [starts to cringe]: I'm scared of blood, I'm scared of pain, and I'm scared of battle. I'm really frightened!

Mulan [sternly]: Such fears are a coward's way of life. If you don't get out there right now I'll kill you myself!

Jili: All right, I'm going, I'm going right now [Grabs his armor and stumbles towards the door, then remembers he forgot something. He turns around to reach under his bed to grab a red umbrella]

Mulan [impatiently]: Now what? [Grabs the umbrella] We're going to war; what the heck do you need an umbrella for, playing water games?

Jili [takes his umbrella back]: It's my good luck charm. I must keep it with me, as it protects me from harm.

Mulan: Go now! [Tosses the umbrella aside] You're full of excuses! Go! Come on! [Starts to shove him out the door and finally succeeds after several tries]

[Cut to General Li's quarters. He is inside, checking his sword. Mulan walks in and salutes]

Mulan: Sir, General Li, sir. My troops are ready for inspection. Just give the word and we can head out.

General Li: Good.

Mulan: Sir, I hear that the Crown Prince will be joining us in battle. Is this true?

General Li: Yes, it's true.

Mulan: In that case, I'm sure our troops will be victorious. [Notices General Li is not very happy looking] What's the matter? You look worried.

General Li: Ever since we decided to head out for battle, I haven't been able to rest easily. I haven't felt like this in the fifty-odd battles I've fought in previously. I do not feel comfortable with what might happen in battle, plus I'm concerned that the Crown Prince is placing himself in too much risk.

Mulan: Don't worry. You trained all our troops, so they are capable soldiers. I'm sure we can defeat the enemy.

General Li [still looking doubtful]: If it were only that simpleÖ

[Cut to scene out in the deserts north of China. The troops are marching out to do battle with the Tujue army. They stop for the night and set up camp. Chenen is sitting before a fire, polishing and cleaning his sword. He is wearing a bemused expression, looking as if he is dreaming of the glorious deeds he will do in battle the next day. The Marshal walks in the tent]

Marshal: You're still up?

Chenen [standing up and wearing a big grin]: Uncle Li (honorable title, since the Marshal has mentored Chenen many years), I have been thinking of the lesson we will give the Tujue tomorrow, so I get so anxious I can't fall asleep. [Suddenly sobers when he sees the look on the Marshal's face] Uncle Li, are you angry with me for convincing the Crown Prince to change and dismiss your battle plans? Did I dishonor you?

Marshal [harrumphs]: I don't care what other people think. I am only concerned with the safety of the empire. You were out of line to persuade the Crown Prince to take such chances. What if we lose tomorrow? How do you expect me to explain this to the Emperor?

Chenen [puzzled at this rebuke]: I wanted the Crown Prince to join us because I felt it was good for morale. When our soldiers see the Crown Prince's presence, they will fight with more determination and confidence, thus ensuring our victory.

Marshal [sternly]: You think it's that easy, don't you?

Chenen: Uncle Li, why don't you trust my judgment? After all these years of training and guidance you have given me, don't you hope I will do great deeds and make a name for myself?

Marshal: Of course I want and expect you to do great deeds. I will greet your achievements with great pride. That's why I have such high expectations for you; I don't want you to setback your career from an error in judgment due to youthful enthusiasm.

Chenen [earnestly]: I have already thought this plan through thoroughly. I can't possibly fail.

Marshal: I originally wanted to make a case before the Emperor to continue with my original plans, but I didn't want to take that route because it would hurt your standing. Moreover, I don't know for certain that your plan won't work, so I've decided to let you take this one chance.

Chenen: Thank you, Uncle Li!

Marshal: You are now a grown man. I have done all I can for you. You must take care of yourself now. [Pats Chenen on the shoulder]

[Cut to the next morning. The two armies are arrayed against each other on both sides of a large desert field. The Tujue footsoldiers wear yellow uniforms with armor and carry round shields, swords, and spears. The Sui footsoldiers use hexagonal shields and wear black uniforms with yellow armor. The officers on both sides are mounted and wield swords and maces. With a command, General Li orders the Sui army to attack. Arrows begin to fly and the two armies meet with a tremendous clash of arms and noise. Mulan is in the midst of the attack, though she is not on a horse. After some intense fighting, the Marshal yells for Chenen to protect the Crown Prince. Chenen takes the Crown Prince and his troops and flees the battle, in the direction he judges leads to safety]

[Cut to the camp at night, after the fighting has stopped. The Marshal and General Li are walking around, looking for Chenen and/or the Crown Prince. They question various soldiers, but have no luck finding the missing men. The Marshal begins to look very worried, but tries to hide it from his men. Mulan is in another part of the camp bandaging a hand wound on Jili. He whimpers in pain]

Mulan: Boy, you are sure making a fuss over such a small wound (it's a small scrape on a finger). What would you do if you were hurt much worse, like some of these other troops?

Jili [begins to blubber]: But Mulan, it was so frightening! I saw so many men next to me fall one by one onto the ground. They were all covered in blood, some missing their arms, some missing their legs, and some falling dead with wide and staring eyes. The sight of those eyes had me spooked; it was so scary.

Mulan [relenting her earlier harsh tone]: You should be thankful you got out of it all alive. Be more careful next time, okay?

Jili: But, even though I made it through today, that doesn't guarantee I'll survive tomorrow; if I survive tomorrow, that doesn't mean I'll survive the day after that. I really am frightened of bleeding. [Looks at the scrape on his finger, then winces] Mulan, am I going to die? You have to save me; I don't want to die!

[He reaches over and grabs Mulan; she gently pushes him away. He repeats this several more times until she finally gets up and leaves, telling him to just rest and not worry about anything]

[Cut to Marshal and General Li. A soldier walks up to them, saying he has found someone who knows the whereabouts of the Crown Prince and Chenen. He hurriedly leads the two officers to his source, an injured soldier with a head wound]

Marshal: Do you know where the Crown Prince is?

Soldier: Sir, I last saw Colonel Yu take the Crown Prince and about 3,000 men and head west. I was separated from them when I was injured.

General Li: West? [Thinks for a few seconds] Uh oh. That leads to Hulu Valley. (A dead-end?)

[Cut to a different camp in the darkness. This one contains the troops of Chenen and the Crown Prince. The men are tired and injured, so they silently rest in front of their campfires. Chenen is nervously pacing around camp. He finally enters the tent set up for the Crown Prince, who is pacing inside. Seeing Chenen enter, the Crown Prince steps forward]

Crown Prince [eagerly]: Do you see any signs of the Marshal? Has he sent a rescue party?

Chenen: Your Highness, I have sent out soldiers to look for the Marshal. We should get some news shortly. Please don't worry.

Crown Prince [getting animated]: Don't worry? How can you expect me not to worry? We don't know where we are, we don't know where the Marshal is, and we don't know where the enemy is. We know absolutely nothing! If the Tujue were to attack us, what would we do? Tell me, what the heck would we do?

Chenen [remaining calm]: Your Highness, it's dark outside now. The enemy can't see where we are, so they won't risk attacking us now. Don't worry.

Crown Prince [not convinced]: But the sun will come up sooner or later! Once it does, the Tujue will see we only have a few thousand troops here and attack us. What will we do then?

[Chenen is at a loss for words and remains silent. A soldier walks in the tent and salutes both men]

Soldier: Sir, we have already looked for a way out of this valley. The only pass is sealed off by the Tujue. Five miles east of us, there are tens of thousands of their troops. There is no way out and I don't think we can get word to the Marshal of our situation.

[The Crown Prince looks like he has lost all hope when the magnitude of the situation hits him]

Crown Prince: We're doomed. No one can save us now. We have no troops on their way to rescue us. We're doomed!

Chenen: Your Highness, I'm sure the Marshal will send reinforcements through somehow.

Crown Prince: How do I know we can hold out that long? Yu Chenen, I made a mistake in trusting you and your judgment. The way you explained your plan to me, I thought you were the cat's meow. Who knew you looked competent but acted incompetently. Real battle is completely different from theory. You'll be the death of me! [Storms out of the tent in anger and despair. Chenen remains behind and looks like his confidence has been completely shattered]

[Cut to Marshal's quarters back at the main camp. The Marshal and General Li are discussing their current situation]

Marshal: We must set out tomorrow for the Crown Prince's location at Hulu Valley. It's his only chance.

General Li: Sir, this is a risky move. The Tujue hold the pass into the valley. If they let us in, but seal off the pass afterward, we'd be cornered. We'd be ripe for the slaughtering.

Marshal: So we should leave the Crown Prince and Chenen high and dry?

General Li: Sir, we don't know how the outcome of this battle will fall. If we commit to rushing to Hulu Valley, we are guaranteeing our defeat here.

Marshal: They only have 3,000 troops! They can't hold out long enough for us to finish this battle! If the Crown Prince's life is forfeit, what good is victory? Once we get back to the capital, we'd be executed anyway. I shouldn't have listened to Chenen when he proposed bringing the Crown Prince along for this foolhardy plan. I'm responsible for their deaths.

[Cut to Crown Prince's camp. Chenen is in his tent, sitting before a fire, pondering what the day will bring. A soldier rushes in to report that the Tujue are on the move]

Chenen: Pass the word to the troops to prepare for battle! [He hurries out after donning his armor]

[Cut to scenes of battle and lots of shouting, men falling, men dying, and Chenen going head to head against the Tujue Khan. It looks like the main Sui army is fighting their way towards the Crown Prince while Chenen's troops are fighting to defend the Crown Prince (it's all quite confusing)]

[Cut to Tujue Khan's tent. Two of his advisors are discussing tactics with him]

Advisor #1: Great Khan, why aren't you allowing us to finish off the small Sui army stuck in the Hulu Valley? We have them sealed off from the main army, so we can annihilate them easily. Why are you waiting for the main army to fight their way through to help?

Tujue Khan: Don't be impatient. While we could probably win this battle, we couldn't do it without losing large numbers of troops. As long as they are stuck in the Hulu Valley, they can't go anywhere. We have their exit sealed; I now hold their fates in the palm of my hand.

[Cut to Crown Prince's tent. The Marshal, General Li, and several troops rush in, bowing to the Crown Prince]

Marshal [kneeling]: Your Highness, I'm sorry we took so long to arrive. Please punish me as you see fit.

Crown Prince [angrily]: I almost died at the hands of the Tujue barbarians. What plan do you have for getting us out of here alive?

Marshal: Your Highness, I plan on leading my army on an attack against the Tujue to break us out of this valley.

Crown Prince [still angry]: You're still trying to lie to me! We are stuck here in a blind valley, with the Tujue sealing up the only exit. My current situation is no better than it was before you arrived.

[Cut to a field. Chenen is lying on the ground, bloody and injured. He slowly wakes up and manages to stagger to his feet]

[Cut to Marshal's tent. He is addressing his officers. General Li and Mulan are among them]

Marshal: We are in a perilous situation here. If we force our way through the valley exit, we will surely lose our entire army. Our only hope is to send a messenger for reinforcements. Before we left our last camp, the Imperial army had already amassed 500,000 troops at the capital and sent them towards Youzhou. They are under the command of the Second Prince. [Picks up a sealed letter] This is the Crown Prince's letter to his brother. It contains a plea for reinforcements. Our only problem is how to get this letter to the Second Prince.

General Li [stepping forward]: Marshal, sir, I was thinking of sending a small group of my men to undertake this mission. [Turns to his officers] This is a dangerous and arduous mission. Who among you has the confidence to take on this responsibility? [The troops all look at each other, with no one answering the General. Finally, Mulan speaks up]

Mulan: I'll go.

General Li: Mulan, this mission is very risky. You have a nine-in-ten chance of dying before you reach the Second Prince. You must be sure you want to do this before you decide to go.

Mulan: It's better than sitting here and not doing anything. You may as well let me try.

Marshal: Excellent! I'm pleased that you have the courage to undertake this mission. Our fortunes lie with you. Go round up your soldiers. Prepare to set out first thing tomorrow morning.

Mulan [saluting]: Yes, sir! [Turns and leaves the tent]

Marshal [to other officers]: Go get some rest. [The other soldiers leave the tent also, except for General Li]

General Li: Uncle, you have no need to worry. We can hold out for a few days against the enemy without any problems.

Marshal: I'm worried about Chenen. We still do not know what happened to him.

General Li: We may not know his fate, but we also have not found his body. He may have already escaped without harm. [Sees his uncle start to get choked up] Uncle?

Marshal [getting visibly emotional]: I doomed him. I doomed him to his fate. All these years, I've trained and mentored him and planned his career. I could never bring myself to let him suffer setbacks or other hard lessons from life, choosing instead to shield him time and again. Who knew that the first time he took command of an army in battle, he'd let his self-assuredness and over-confidence get in the way of cool thinking. If I had only allowed him to learn some hard lessons along the way, we might not be in the predicament we are in now.

General Li: Uncle, don't blame yourself. You've treated Chenen as well as, if not better, than what most mentors treat their students. Even a father could not treat his son any better.

Marshal [shaking]: ButÖ he IS my son.