[Cut to an inn in the city. Mulan walks in while covering her right eye with her hand. She asks the clerk inside if there are rooms available. He directs her to the innkeeper at the front desk]

Innkeeper: That will be five ounces of silver in deposit, please.

Mulan: What?

Innkeeper: You've come to Three Mile Camp to report for boot camp, haven't you? [She nods] I ask all recruits to leave a deposit [points to sign on wall]. I've had some people deliberately stay here for a few days, saying they are here to report to camp, but then leave me with the bill when they run off. [She nods and pulls out the money to hand to the innkeeper] Sorry for the inconvenience. [Spots her black eye] What's wrong with your eye? Do you need me to call a doctor to check you out?

Mulan: Oh, it's nothing serious. I'll be fine in a few days. I ran into something by accident.

Innkeeper: Oh. [Calls his clerk] Come take our guest to his room upstairs. [The clerk escorts Mulan to her room]

[Soon, Jili walks in the inn and asks the innkeeper for a room also]

Innkeeper: That will be five ounces of silver in deposit, please.

Jili: Deposit? What's a deposit?

Innkeeper: All you need to do is pay me first.

Jili: Okay. [Pulls out a large purse stuffed with paper money. Unfortunately, it's the paper money that is burned to serve as money for the deceased (the bright yellow round sheets used at funerals and stuff). Jili doesn't seem to know the difference. He counts out five and hands it to the innkeeper]

Innkeeper: Sir, what kind of money is this? What do you mean by giving me this?

Jili: This is for the deposit.

Innkeeper: Where did you get this money?

Jili: Not enough? Okay, I'll give you some more. [Counts out some more "bills"] Here's an extra one. I want your best food brought up to my room for me.

Innkeeper [protesting]: Sir, stop having fun with me. Sir, this money is only usable in the realms of the dead; it isn't worth anything here.

Jili [puzzled]: It isn't?

[The innkeeper calls his clerks in to "escort" Jili out the door, saying he is trying to cheat them out of a room. The clerks each grab Jili and proceed to drag him away, but he gets into a fighting stance, looking very much like a samurai warrior. In the background, the theme song from "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" plays, as Jili draws the Anti-Demon Sword in an attempt at scaring off the clerks. Unfortunately, he grabs the wrong end of the sword and ends up drawing the scabbard while the sword clatters to the ground]

Jili: If any of you so much as harm a hair on my head, the Jade Emperor will send you to the eighteenth ring of hell as punishment! [The clerks blink a second, then jump at him en masse and proceed to beat him up. They then throw him out of the inn into the snow outside]

[Cut to Mulan's room at the inn. She is gingerly sponging her black eye and muttering that she will pay back the person that gave it to her, with interest on top]

[Cut to abandoned hut. Jili is inside and is hollering for one the gods above called Tianzao (don't know what he does)]

Jili: An evil person beat up Hua Mulan today. You must go fetch the Thunder God and Lightning Goddess to remove him from the mortal realms and punish him for his deeds.

Tianzao: It seems to me, Kitchen God, that you enjoy making up things about other people.

Jili: I'm not making this up. I saw it with my own eyes that this person is evil. He tried to catch two young children to sell, but Mulan stopped him.

Tianzao: Nonsense. Those two boys were pickpockets; they had stolen the gentleman's purse. And he's not an evil person. His name is Li Liang. He is the general in charge of the camp Mulan is reporting to.

Jili: Really?

Tianzao: Looks like you're pretty clueless, Kitchen God. Is there anything else you wish to ask me?

Jili: No, I can't think of anything.

Tianzao: Then I'll take my leave now.

Jili [suddenly remembering]: No, wait. There is one more thing. [Fishes out the wad of paper money he has] This money doesn't seem to have any value here in the mortal realms. Could you take it back to heaven and exchange it for some silver that I can use down here? Please?

Tianzao: Empress Wangmu has made you temporarily mortal, Kitchen God. She did not intend for you to rely on magic to solve things. You'd best think of something else. Good-bye. [Leaves Jili]

Jili: Tianzao! Tianzao! [Gets no response] So what am I going to do with this stuff? Of all the gods and goddesses in the universe, I'm the most unlucky one. Wait, I can take this money to a bank and exchange it for some silver.

[Cut to a city street, where Jili is hiding behind a stone doorway. He has the flag gripped in his teeth while he watches for Mulan. Spotting her, he mutters]

Jili: You little brat, I'm going to get back at you for all you've done to me.

[Mulan is oblivious to his presence and continues to walk down the street, carrying a package in one arm and a nice black eye on her face. Jili pulls out his umbrella and chants a few words, thus making himself invisible. He knocks the package out of her hands and hurls it across the street. It ends up barely missing Li Liang, who is sitting at a local tavern eating a meal. Mulan goes chasing after her package]

Li Liang [spotting Mulan]: You again?

Mulan: You animal with a human face. You have no respect for law and order and you're shameless to boot. I let you get away yesterday, but you won't be as lucky today. I won't let you off the hook so easily!

Li Liang [condescendingly]: You won't let me go? And you are going to stop me? Have you taken a good look at yourself lately? Your face looks like that of a panda. And frankly, you asked for it.

Mulan [not backing down]: I wasn't careful yesterday. But today, I intend to repay you with interest and give you twice what I received.

Li Liang: Fine! Bring it on!

[Jili is hiding underneath a vat with a lid and watching everything. He cheers on Mulan because he wants her to get in a heap of trouble with her commanding officer. Mulan and Li Liang begin to fight while people in the tavern scramble to get out of their way and secure good seats to watch the duel. They go back and forth, with neither one gaining the upper hand. Jili decides to help by using magic to hold Li Liang up off the ground. Li Liang wriggles but can't figure out why he is floating off the ground. While he is thus distracted, Mulan comes in and slugs him in the face with both fists, sending him flying into the wall]

Mulan: I told you I was going to give you back twice what you gave me yesterday!

[Li Liang shakes his head dazedly. He is now sporting two black eyes. He then slumps back to the ground as Mulan turns heel and leaves the tavern with a decided swagger in her step]

[Cut to dark hut. Jili is talking to himself and dressed in dark clothing and a reed hat. He puts his hand on the Anti-Demon Sword and the theme to "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" plays again]

Jili: Hua Mulan, the more you gain glory now, the harder it will be to stomach defeat later. And I will see to it you get your full share.

[Cut to inn where Mulan is staying. A man is walking down the hallway but looks rather suspicious. He knocks on the door of one of the rooms. Not getting a response, he goes to another door. This time, someone opens the door and asks who he is looking for]

Suspicious Man: Are you one of the new recruits heading to Three Mile Camp? [The room's resident nods] Great! So am I! I'm trying to find a fellow recruit to while away the time with. We fellow recruits must look after each other, right?

Resident: That's great! My name is Ling Dabao, and I'm from Shangdong Province…[his remaining words are choked off when the Suspicious Man grabs him by the throat and breaks his neck. The lifeless body falls to the floor. The Suspicious Man then searches the dead man's pockets for his draft papers. Finding them, he tucks them in his own robe and leaves the room]

[Cut back to hallway outside. While the Suspicious Man is killing the recruit, Mulan is walking down the hallway reliving her fight with Li Liang earlier. She is looking rather ridiculous, but she doesn't seem to care what other people think. She is so engrossed in her martial arts that she nearly hits the Suspicious Man as he walks out of the dead recruit's room]

Mulan [hastily]: I'm sorry. Sorry about that.

Suspicious Man: Do you live here? [Points to room across the hall]

Mulan: Yes, I do.

Suspicious Man: Your lucky star is in the sky today; you will have great fortune today. [Pats her arm]

Mulan [tickled]: How did you know that? Do you know how to read fortunes? I met a criminal today… and fought him, and fought him, and beat him up, and I had such fun…[continues to ramble on while the Suspicious Man leaves] Does that count as good luck? [Sees he is gone] What the heck was that all about?

[Cut to training field at Three Mile Camp. Colonel Yu is training soldiers with spear drills. In the meantime, Mulan is jammed with numerous other raw recruits at the reporting station. Everyone is trying to register and there is a lot of jostling, but the clerks eventually restore some order and make everyone stand in a semblance of a line. One soldier tries to cut in front of Mulan. He is a large and rather pudgy soldier and doesn't seem to notice Mulan]

Mulan [tapping pudgy soldier]: Hey, I was here first.

Pudgy Soldier: What are you going to do about it? [He eyes her slight build and turns around to ignore her]

[Mulan is speechless. She can't decide whether to make a fuss, as this soldier looks quite threatening. The Suspicious Man reaches over and grabs the Pudgy Soldier and roughly shoves him towards the back of the line. The soldier initially protests, but when he sees the look in the other man's face, he backs off. Mulan lets the Suspicious Man cut in front of her in gratitude]

Mulan: Brother, what a coincidence to see you again. What should I call you? My name is Hua Mu…er…[needs to think of boy's name] Hua Mulan. That's "lan" as in waves of water (refer to Character Intro for more information on the naming scheme I use for her in these transcripts). Did you know that last night the person who lived in the room right next to mine was found dead? [The Suspicious Man shakes his head at Mulan's constant chatter, but seems to take it all in stride] What was strange is that nothing was found missing or stolen. I think it was a revenge killing. Hey, don't you live in that room? Do you know the dead man?

[The Suspicious Man continues to ignore Mulan. It is obvious he has more important things on his mind. He hands over the stolen draft papers to the recruit sergeant]

Sergeant: Stand over there. Your name is Ling Dabao? [Suspicious Man nods. From now on, we'll call him that]

Mulan: That's your name? I'll call you Brother Dabao (title of respect). [He glares at her, then turns and goes to pick up his uniform and supplies. Mulan is next in line. She gingerly hands over her draft papers, quaking with nervousness. She is worried the sergeant will spot she is a girl in disguise, but tries her best to maintain her composure]

Sergeant: Are you Hua Hu?

Mulan: Hua Hu is my father. He is old and has a lame leg, so he can't go to fight anymore. I'm serving in his place. My name is Hua Mulan, and that's "lan" as in waves.

Sergeant: Okay. Go over there and pick up your uniform. [Mulan can barely hide her satisfaction at seemingly passing this first test. She hurries to pick up her uniform and tries to catch up to Dabao. In the background, Jili is tussling with the Pudgy Soldier as they fight for position in the line]

Mulan [to Dabao]: What type of fortunetelling did you use yesterday? It was really quite accurate. Can you help me out again? Can you tell me if I will have a good luck day or a bad luck day?

Dabao [glaring at her but softly threatening]: If you don't knock it off, it will definitely be a bad day for you. [He turns and leaves her, while she sticks out her tongue at his retreating figure. Jili comes bumbling by and runs into Mulan and hastily apologizes]

Jili: You must be Hua Mulan. [She nods] My name is Su Jili. [They start to bow to each other, back and forth, neither wanting to seem rude. Another sergeant enters the room]

Sergeant: Everyone who has already registered and picked up his uniform go out to assemble at the main yard. The General wishes to address you. [Sees Mulan and Jili are still bowing back and forth, he roughly yells at them] What are you two doing? Get your tails out to the main yard! Now! On the double! [Sees Jili is still a bit slow so he whacks him hard against his butt, causing him to scamper even more quickly with the rest of the recruits out the door]

[Cut to yard outside the barracks. The new recruits are getting shoved into some semblance of order by the drill sergeant. They are ordered to stand at attention. Mulan is standing next to Jili and is trying to stifle a yawn. Her shiner is starting to fade but is still noticeable. The recruits wait expectantly to meet their commanding officer. General Li walks before them, sporting two obvious black eyes. When Mulan sees General Li, she is initially surprised, then has to suppress an unholy desire to laugh out loud. Jili also notices their commanding officer but doesn't feel like laughing at all. General Li starts to walk the line of soldiers in front of him]

General Li [sternly]: Do any of you know why you are here? [He glares at Mulan in particular, noticing she is trying hard not to laugh in his face]

Jili: We are here to 1, protect our country, and 2, protect our country, and 3, protect our country…[General Li grabs Jili by the shoulder and shoves him roughly aside. He starts to push all the soldiers away and knock them to the ground. When he gets to Mulan, she puts up a fight and stays on her feet the longest out of all the other recruits, but she is no match for General Li and he gets her in an armlock. She winces in pain as he refuses to let go]

General Li [scolding recruits]: We're supposed to protect the country with you sorry excuses for soldiers?

Mulan [protesting]: General, it's unfair of you to say such things about us!

General Li: And who do you think you are? What's your name?

Mulan [with spirit]: Hua Mulan! And that's "lan" as in waves of water!

General Li [softly dangerous]: Do you know whom you are speaking to?

Mulan [not missing a beat]: I know. You must be a general. You're in charge of this camp, aren't you? If we had the best skills in the world we still wouldn't dare offend you. But I strongly object to you labeling us all useless!

General Li: Sergeant, take them to our usual training place to begin work.

[Cut to field outside of camp. The recruits are all hauling filled gunnysacks and running with them. Mulan is in the lead while Jili is barely able to keep up with the rest of the group. His sacks are dragging on the ground and he looks about ready to collapse. General Li looks on with a critical eye. Finally, Jili slips on a rock and starts to tumble down the side of a ledge. He yells for help but none of the recruits, except for Mulan, come over to help him. She runs over, drops her sacks, and helps haul him back from the edge]

Jili: You saved my life! From now on, I'll do anything you tell me to do, Boss (honorable title). You just say the word and I'll do it. Since fate has thrown us thus together, we may as well become blood brothers. What do you say?

Mulan [shies away]: That won't be necessary! [Scrambles to her feet] Stop yammering! We need to catch up with the rest of them! [She runs back to the rest of the group with Jili trailing behind]

[Cut to scene with all the recruits standing in a line, huffing and puffing, with the gunnysacks at their feet. General Li walks along the line and picks out four recruits: Monkey, Pudgy, Jili, and Mulan]

General Li: Sergeant, take these four useless cowards away and give them something else to do. They aren't suited to be soldiers.

Mulan [protesting]: General, might I ask what the criteria you used were?

General Li: Based on if you finished your laps before the time was up.

Mulan: But we finished before the time was up!

General Li: Then where are your gunnysacks?

Mulan [sheepish]: Well, I was helping out when he had his accident, so I must have… forgotten them.

General Li: That's bull! The first rule of any soldier is to obey his commanding officer's orders. Sergeant, did you instruct him to go rescue anyone?

Sergeant: No sir!

General Li: Then did you instruct him to leave his gunnysacks?

Sergeant: No sir! [Mulan is looking scared and lost and at a loss for words. She mutely listens to General Li's lecture, but you can see she is secretly seething]

General Li: You ignored the basic rule of all soldiers. You took things into your own hands and tried to play the hero. You are even less deserving of these other three useless cowards to serve as a soldier! [Mulan tries to retort but General Li silences her with a glare] Sergeant, if this recruit sasses back anymore, I give you leave to give him 100 strokes! The rest of you, come with me! [The recruits all fall in behind General Li, except for the four who have been demoted]

Monkey [jumping up and down]: Hooray! We don't need to serve anymore! We can go home!

Sergeant: Who said you don't have to serve anymore?

[As the other recruits walk away, Mulan gazes after them with a look of determination in her eyes. She'll show General Li that she is a better soldier than he thinks!]

[Cut to mess hall kitchen. Monkey, Pudgy, and Jili are working in the kitchen preparing food. Two soldiers walk in with smirks on their faces and put up a sign on the wall. It reads, "Repository for Useless Goods," (i.e.-Army rejects)]

Mulan: Hey, what are you doing?

Soldiers: This is none of your business. We've been ordered to put this sign up. [They leave]

[Mulan goes to read the sign and bristles in outrage when she realizes what it implies. She seethes in anger but doesn't say anything, angrily thumping the basin she is carrying on the table. Jili comes over and grabs her shoulder, saying he has something urgent to tell her. He drags her to a tent nearby]

Mulan: What are you doing?

Jili: Less talk, more action. Here. We need to burn this incense. [He proceeds to light several sticks of incense and hands a bundle to Mulan. He kneels on the ground while Mulan looks on in great puzzlement] Gods above, on this day in this month of this year, I, Su Jili, want to become sworn brothers with Hua Mulan. We wish to be joined forever through thick and thin, sickness and in health, till we both leave this earth.

Mulan [trying to stop Jili, eventually resorts to throwing the incense into the brazier]: Why are you doing this? We're comrades-in-arms. You needn't be so formal.

Jili: But you saved my life.

Mulan: It was a small thing.

Jili: It may have been a small thing to you, but it was a huge thing for me! Come on [grabs her hand but she shakes him off], we need to finish the ceremony, okay? [Sees Mulan hesitate and act displeased] Do you think I'm not worthy to be your brother?

Mulan: No, no, that's not what I mean. It's just that I have a rule to never become blood brothers with anyone, no matter how close they are to me. I'm funny that way.

Jili: Well, there's a first time for everything. It's a perfect day to become brothers. Come on! [He tries to drag her back but she fights him. They end up wrestling and are in a rather compromising position when their sergeant walks in]

Sergeant: Hey, what are you two doing? [Mulan and Jili hurriedly stand up and try to look innocent]

Mulan: Nothing.

Sergeant: What are you standing there for? Hurry up and deliver supper to the Marshal's quarters! [Mulan and Jili hurry out the door, but he still keeps trying to drag Mulan to finish off the brotherhood ceremony, while she keeps fighting to get away]

[Cut to scene outside the Marshal's quarters. Mulan is carrying a tray of food while Jili is carrying a tub of other items. The guards at the front door stop them]

Guard: What are you doing here?

Mulan: We're here to deliver supper to the Marshal.

Guard: I know you're here to deliver supper. Why are you going through the front door? Use the back door!

Mulan: Fine, we'll use the back door if you insist. No need to get huffy about it. You're just a cock crowing on your dunghill (i.e.-abusing your authority so you can bully people).

Guard: What did you say?

Jili: He said you were a cock crowing on a dunghill.

Guard [grabbing Mulan's shoulder]: You stinking scum. Are you tired of living?

Mulan: Brother Soldier, this is a camp. It isn't the marketplace, so you'd best stop acting like that. [To Jili] Let's take the back door. [They take a few steps away and she whispers to Jili] Don't think just because I'm small that I don't have guts.

Jili: It's not guts that you have; it's idiocy. If you can manage to offend even the Marshal's men then how do you expect us to live in peace here in the future?

Mulan [impatiently]: Why are you scared of those bullies?

Jili: You may not be scared of them, but I am. They don't care who you are. They will only remember that the soldier that insulted them worked in the mess hall kitchen. And you're still glaring at them! Come on.

[Mulan turns to follow Jili, but she first throws a sneer in the direction of the guards]

[Cut to inside of Marshal's quarters. The Marshal is discussing tactics with his officers. Colonel Yu suggests a charge to beat back the Tujue army. A loud snore is heard coming from General Li. He looks bored and condescending to Colonel Yu, who shakes him awake]

General Li [rousing himself]: Good idea. Good idea.

Marshal: Li Liang, did you hear what Chenen suggested?

General Li [yawning]: Oh yes. He's asking us to commit suicide.

Colonel Yu [angry]: What are you saying?

General Li: Before you decide to charge the enemy, you have to make sure of your own army's abilities first. We are no match currently for the Tujue army, in either manpower or skill. If we attacked now, we'd lose for certain. We only have the ability to defend against an attack, but we cannot yet wage an attack.

Colonel Yu [protesting]: Marshal, General Li is trying to undercut me. His actions are demoralizing to our army. I suggest you punish him accordingly.

General Li: I'm speaking the truth. If we ignore reality and insist on attacking, we are only guaranteed defeat.

Colonel Yu: Marshal, based on the example of a great warrior, I believe that as long as we have enough grit and determination, we can overcome any deficiencies in numbers and skill to defeat the Tujue army. I beg you to give me a chance; I promise you won't regret it. [To the side, General Li bursts out in loud laughter] What are you laughing at?

General Li: I'm laughing at your naiveté. In battle such things do not happen.

Marshal [sternly]: General Li.

General Li: Marshal, do you mean you agree with Chenen's view that we should attack?

Marshal: I think you both have valid points in your arguments. We must not make a hasty decision. All of you, you're dismissed. Think carefully through Colonel Yu's plan and give me a report later. [His officers salute and leave] Li Liang, stay for dinner.

General Li: Marshal, I think I better not. The food you prefer does not match my appetite. (Maybe he doesn't like Chenen's company?) I'll take my leave now. [Exits tent]

Colonel Yu: Uncle Li, it's not that I have a grudge against Li Liang, but did you see the way he was acting just now?

Marshal: Chenen, Li Liang has served with me in the army since he was fifteen years old. He has a lot of experience.

Colonel Yu [muttering]: It seems more like he's been in the army too long; his brain's already hardened and set in its ways.

Marshal [chuckling]: I've been in the army even longer than my nephew has. In that case, I should be even more fossilized than he is…

Colonel Yu: Uncle Li, you are a military genius. You know when to attack and when to defend. [Jili and Mulan walk in carrying the Marshal's dinner on trays. Mulan and Chenen's eyes meet; they are both surprised to see the other. Hurriedly, Mulan lays her tray down on the table and places the food down, then scurries away while trying to hide her face]

Marshal [not noticing Chenen's face]: Come along now. It's time to eat.

[Cut to the mess hall. The soldiers and Dabao are noisily gambling with dice. General Li walks in and the soldiers all rush to hide the dice, as it is against rules to gamble]

General Li: Hello, everyone. What are you having for dinner tonight?

Dabao: Sir, it's braised pork and stir-fried vegetables.

General Li: Oh boy! That's my favorite. Let me have some of that. [He walks over to the pot and grabs a bowl and some chopsticks, then sits down with his food. He notices he is the only one sitting down] What's the matter? Are you all finished eating already? [All the soldiers nod and say yes] Then, go about your business. [The soldiers start to head out the door, but he calls them back] Oh, and by the way. Don't forget that the army has rules against gambling in camp. Breaking the rules is cause for serious punishment. However, I realize it can get boring here sometimes, so I can understand if you do a bit of gambling for entertainment. Next time, though, try and pick a more secluded spot to have your fun, lest other people catch you too easily. And lastly, don't forget that gambling small amounts can be fun, but gambling large amounts is a sign of addiction. Keep your debts small, lest you get in trouble with large debts. [Sheepishly the soldiers nod and take their leave]

[Cut to mess hall kitchen. Pudgy is busily washing a stack of vegetables for the next meal]

Pudgy [sighs]: My two hands don't get to see the light of day because they are underwater all the time. It's such a waste of talent.

Mulan [walking over]: Brother Pudgy (honorable title, as she's probably the youngest recruit there), let me show you a way to keep from getting bored silly. Take this cabbage and pretend it's a small baby. [Peels off a leaf] Now, pretend you need to give it a bath. [She dunks it in the basin of water] Start by washing its feet. Make sure you clean it thoroughly. [Scrubs the leaf and then rinses it] Now, shake it dry and place it aside. Then continue with the rest. [She continues to wash the cabbage leaves, sometimes pretending two leaves are having a fight with each other as if they really were two small brats. Jili, Pudgy, and Monkey start staring at her as if she has gone insane, because she looks so comical standing there playing make-believe with cabbage leaves] There. Now you try it. [Pudgy looks at her with a puzzled expression on his face. Finally, Jili steps forward]

Jili: Let me do this. If we do it your way, we won't finish before tomorrow… If you ask me, you need to do more leaves at a time, like this. [He grabs an entire head of cabbage and peels off several leaves, enough to fill the basin to overflowing. Mulan looks on in horror and some disgust. Jili grabs a walking stick and stirs the leaves to wash them, slopping water over everyone else. He then grabs two large handfuls of leaves out of the basin and dumps them in the sieve] See? It's fast and easy this way.

Mulan: My goodness, how can you be so slovenly when it comes to washing vegetables?

Jili [defensive]: What's wrong with that?

Monkey: Mulan's right, though. Recently, there was a rash of food poisoning that killed a general and eighteen other soldiers. The investigation found the mess hall cook was a spy. The army had him executed by drawing and quartering! [Mulan and Jili look on in dismay. Jili in particular looks instantly chastened at this news]

Jili [murmuring]: I guess it's more important to make sure about cleanliness… [Mulan gives him an "I-told-you-so" look, then leaves the main kitchen for the storage room. She looks frustrated that she's stuck in the mess hall with losers instead of out fighting battles for her country. Colonel Yu hurriedly walks in]

Colonel Yu: Is there someone here called Hua Mulan?

Soldier: Yes, there is. He's off at the mess hall right now, collecting dishes.

[Cut to mess hall. General Li is walking from table to table, polishing off leftovers. Mulan is carrying a basket for collecting the dirty dishes when she spots him eating everything in sight]

General Li: Such a waste, so much good food. [Nibbles away, then he spots Mulan] Hey, go on about your business. What are you standing around for? [Mulan deliberately turns her face away and begins to collect dishes, one of which still has some braised pork in it] Wait a minute, let me get that first. [He grabs the last bit with his chopsticks, no noticing (or caring) that Mulan is looking at him with disgust] So, are you able to handle your duties in the mess hall?

Mulan: Sir, mess hall duties are light and simple for me. I never imagined that you would pick me out for mess duty.

General Li: Oh? Why do you say that?

Mulan: Because I am skilled in the martial arts and would make a rare and excellent soldier. It's a waste of my talents to be stuck doing kitchen duty.

[General Li suddenly leans forward and puts his nose about an inch from Mulan's neck to take a deep sniff. She is so shocked she cringes visibly as he resumes eating]

General Li: No wonder. You must have been eating garlic this morning, or else how would you suddenly get so brash? (Garlic makes you brave?)

Mulan: Sir, I haven't been eating garlic. I'm speaking the simple truth. I can understand if other people don't appreciate my skills, but I thought you of all people would know better, especially since you've been on the receiving end once before (reference to last episode where she gave him two black eyes).

General Li: Fighting in battle is not the same thing. Just because you are skilled in martial arts doesn't mean you'd make a good soldier.

Mulan [stubbornly]: Why not?!

General Li [chiding her]: See? That's exactly what I mean. You're too headstrong and hot-tempered. It's a soldier's curse.

Mulan: There are lots of people who are even more headstrong and hot-tempered than I am who get to serve. Frankly, I think you are using your position of authority to avenge a private wrong!

General Li: Really? How so?

Mulan [sheepish]: Well, I admit when I accosted you and accused you of harassing those pickpockets, I made a mistake and insulted you. But that doesn't excuse the fact that you are not making full use of my talents now, and instead are making me serve mess hall duty.

General Li: Hua Mulan, it's your good fortune that made me your commanding officer. If someone else were your leader, you might very well have already been executed because of that mouth of yours. [Pats her cheeks condescendingly, which makes her flinch] Besides, in the army we follow much sterner rules. Watch that tongue of yours, or you'll get in big trouble. I suggest you speak to your superiors with more respect. [He walks around Mulan slowly. She makes mouth movements as if mocking his lecture while pretending to listen to him talk] It's not every superior officer who is as forgiving and large-hearted as I am. Besides, it isn't an easy thing to be a good mess hall cook, either. [Walks away, leaving Mulan silently fuming. She is still fuming when Colonel Yu walks in]

Colonel Yu [grabbing her shoulder]: What possessed you to come here? [Grabs her hand] Come with me! [He drags Mulan out of the mess hall and back to his quarters. She is protesting the entire way] Are you trying to get yourself executed? Here. [Hands some money] Take this money to pay for your trip home. Leave Youzhou immediately!

Mulan [folds her arms and pouts]: No. I refuse to leave.

Colonel Yu: Do you understand what you are doing? How could you come here, dressed as a man, and try to make your way in the army? Leave now while no one knows the truth yet. I'll handle things here for you after you're gone.

Mulan: How do you propose to handle things? Didn't you say that every family must send one male representative to join the army? You said not even the nobility was exempt. Do you want my father to come here instead with his game leg? Or do you want my little brother to come here and slay the enemy instead?

Colonel Yu: Regardless, if you don't want to die you must leave here immediately. Go!

Mulan: Why?

Colonel Yu: Because you're a woman. Don't you think what you're trying to do is preposterous?

Mulan: Why? If you don’t say anything and I don't say anything, who's to know I'm not really a man? If you really want to help me, forget about the old Hua Mulan. [He angrily turns away, but she steps in front of him to face him] Before you stands the son of Hua Hu, Hua Mulan, and that's "lan" as in waves of water. [Places her hand on his shoulder] I've already made up my mind to serve in my father's place. I want my father to know that whatever a son can do, a daughter can also do. I want to make my father proud. I want to work my way up in the army through my hard efforts. If you still want me to leave, there's only one way that's going to happen. [Turns around suddenly and stands right in his face] Report me to the authorities.

Colonel Yu [exasperated]: This is no joking matter to join the army and go to battle. Aren't you afraid to die?

Mulan [impatient]: If I was afraid to die, do you think I'd still be standing here? Brother Yu, stop worrying about me. I'll be okay, as long as you preserve my secret. [Sees he is still protesting] I have full confidence that I can make a name for myself.

Colonel Yu: Make a name for yourself? So serving mess hall duty is how you intend to make a name for yourself?

Mulan: Of course not. I have just gotten started. All I need is one chance. I'm sure I'll soar like an eagle when I'm finally given my chance to prove myself.

Colonel Yu [seeing he is getting nowhere, changes topics]: Hey, what's the relationship between you and Li Liang?

Mulan [face clouding]: Don't mention that person's name to me. Just thinking of him makes boil with rage. Here, take back your silver [hands back sack]. I'm leaving. [Leaves his quarters]

[Cut to barracks. The rest of the troops are asleep but Mulan is tossing and turning. She sits up and starts staring at the wall, deep in thought. Jili notices she is awake and stealthily crawls across the room to sit next to her. He taps her on the shoulder to get her attention]

Jili: Hey, don't worry. It's me, your sworn brother.

Mulan [muttering]: I never swore to become brothers with you.

Jili: That's okay. We can perform the ceremony tomorrow to make it up.

Mulan: Stop your fussing and go back to sleep.

Jili: You must have something on your mind. You can talk to me about it, you know.

Mulan: I don't have anything on my mind. [She lies back down and pulls her blanket over her head. Jili pulls it off again, then Mulan pulls it on, and then he pulls it off again. Angrily, Mulan sits back up] What are you doing?

Jili: See. Your eyes are full of unshed tears. You're about to cry, aren't you?

Mulan [hurriedly wiping her eyes]: Who wants to cry? [Lays back down with her back to him]

Jili: Actually, I want to cry, too. If I had known that being physically unfit meant I could avoid going to battle, I wouldn't have come to serve in my crippled elder brother's place. [Mulan is trying hard not to cry out of frustration with her situation and Jili is not helping (which is probably why he's doing this)] I never thought that the army would have so many rules and regulations. People like us who chafe under rules are not meant to survive here; eventually it'll kill us. Hey, are you listening to me? [Mulan is doing her best to ignore him, curling into a ball under her blanket]

[The sergeant comes in banging a gong and waking up all the troops]

Sergeant: Everyone, up and out of bed! Assemble at the field outside. The last person to arrive has to run 100 laps around the field! [Sees the mess hall duty soldiers] This doesn't mean you four.

Mulan: Why not?

Sergeant: It's General Li's orders. Go back to sleep.

[Mulan looks mightily displeased and even more frustrated. You can see she is itching to prove herself a capable soldier and chafing at the fact she is not going to get the chance]

[Cut to field outside. General Li is watching the soldiers run laps and barks at them]

General Li: Last one to finish his laps gets 100 strokes!

[Hidden behind a tree, Mulan is watching the troops wistfully. Jili is there, too]

Jili: Seems to me being a warrior is even harsher than being a mess soldier. Why would you want to join them? Come on. Let's go back to sleep. [Seeing that Mulan is still gaping at the soldiers, he drags her away]

[Cut to General Li shouting after the soldiers to keep up. They are still running full speed ahead with their armor on]

General Li: Hurry! Into the water! [Sees Dabao hesitate to go in the water. He sternly addresses him] What's the matter? Why aren't you going in the water?

Dabao: Sir, I don't know how to swim.

General Li: I don't care if you do or don't know how to swim. You still have to go in the water. And that's an order! [Grabs Dabao and forcibly hurls him into the creek]

[Cut to barracks. The Marshal and Colonel Yu enter. The soldiers are all lying in bed even though it is broad daylight outside]

Colonel Yu [protesting]: Sir, General Li may be in charge of this camp, but training the new recruits is Lieutenant Huang's job. His high-handed ways almost cost a few soldiers their lives. [Quiets down when the Marshal gives him a look]

Marshal [addressing soldiers]: The medic has already examined you and reports that you only swallowed some creek water and overexerted last night. You'll all be fine after a few days of rest.

Dabao [kneeling]: Sir, thank you for your concern for us.

Marshal [waving him away]: You can skip the formalities, soldier, and get some rest.

[Meanwhile, Mulan suddenly appears beside Colonel Yu and taps his shoulder to get his attention]

Mulan [whispering to him]: Hey, tell the Marshal about me. Go on and introduce me. Go! [Colonel Yu sees it is futile to shake off Mulan, so he heads towards the Marshal]

Marshal: I want all of you to take care of yourself and heal up quickly, okay? [He turns to leave but Colonel Yu gets his attention]

Colonel Yu: Sir, if I might have a moment of your time? [Brings out Mulan] This is Hua Mulan. He's a childhood friend of mine. He is skilled in martial arts, archery, and horseback skills. Because of a slight misunderstanding, he offended General Li and was sent to serve mess hall duty. In such a position, there is little hope for advancement and it is a great waste of such talents. Sir, I request that you give him other duties more suited to his abilities.

Marshal: Oh? Is that true? Looks to me that Li Liang was a bit too hasty in sentencing him to mess duty.

Colonel Yu: Mulan, hurry and demonstrate to the Marshal your martial prowess.

Mulan [saluting]: Yes, sir!

[She heads out of the barracks with the other soldiers and officers following to see the exhibition. Jili starts to go, too, but then heads back to his bunk to dig out his magic red umbrella. He opens it and starts to chant to start the invisibility spell, then goes outside to play havoc on Mulan. Using the umbrella, he plays all sorts of mischief, including grabbing her arrow out of midair so it misses the target and shooting a rock at her mount so she gets kicked off. The Marshal is too polite to comment on her seeming ineptitude, but Colonel Yu is very embarrassed and Jili is rolling on the ground laughing]

[Cut to mess hall kitchen. Mulan is sullenly washing vegetables while her fellow soldiers tease her about her mishaps earlier in the day]

Pudgy: And I thought you really were skilled. Who knew that you're all thunder with little rain? [Snickers]

Monkey: It's a good thing you didn't demonstrate your fencing skills today. If you had accidentally speared the Marshal, that would have been a capital offense! [Monkey and Pudgy both snicker at Mulan. She has finally had enough, so she steps in front of them with her hands on her hips and glares]

Mulan: That's enough! I'm in a bad mood day, so you'd best not mess with me!

Pudgy [starts shoving her]: Mess with you? Why shouldn’t I mess with you, eh? What are you going to do about it?

[Mulan doesn't say anything, but she grabs the cleaver on the nearby chopping block and starts to wave it in a complicated pattern in front of Pudgy with blinding speed. Pudgy, Monkey, and Jili watch in awe. After several seconds, she slams the flat of the cleaver down on Pudgy's shoulder, just a hair whisker away from his neck, then stalks out the door. We then see that Mulan has managed to slice three patches of cloth away from Pudgy's outer uniform: two on his chest and one right over his groin. He faints when he sees this]

Jili: Oh my goodness. With a temper like that, sooner or later someone's going to get killed…

[Cut to Marshal's quarters. The Marshal and Chenen are dressed in civilian clothing. Chenen is discussing his viewpoints on tactics and strategy (I won't translate it, as I can't really understand it myself!)]

Marshal: Chenen, write down your views and I will have one of my officers analyze it to see if it has merit.

Chenen [crestfallen]: Uncle Li, why do you keep putting me off?

Marshal [chuckling]: If I didn't think there was some value in your ideas, do you think I'd spend the time and effort of analyzing it for merit? Chenen, you have read much about military history and strategy. You have a rare military mind. All you need is some experience and trial under fire. Have patience. I will soon have a very important mission for you to accomplish for me.

Chenen [pouting]: But you always give the important stuff to Li Liang to perform.

Marshal [rebukingly]: Chenen! There you go again.

Chenen: Well, you do. He can do no wrong in your eyes. He almost cost us some soldiers because he forced the new recruits to jump in the water even though they have never been trained for that, yet he still comes up smelling like roses.

Marshal: Li Liang had his own reasons for doing what he did. Besides, he rescued them all. [Sees Chenen is still unhappy] Chenen, your father and I were friends for life. I look upon you as my own son. What kind of father takes his own son's abilities lightly? He is always preparing and grooming him in the hopes that one day he will make a name for himself and soar to the highest levels.

Chenen: Uncle Li, I won't let you down!

[Cut to field outside where the soldiers in Mulan's platoon are standing at attention before General Li. He is pacing back and forth addressing him]

General Li: The goal of any soldier is to defeat the enemy so that he may survive and go home. That's why we train. But some of you are only impressive to look at and nothing more. Ling Dabao!

Dabao: Yes, sir!

General Li: You are the likeliest looking soldier out of all these recruits. Yet you are afraid of the water. What if I wasn't the one who pushed you in the creek, but the enemy had done so? Then you would have long since gone to the next world. Do you want to die? [Sees Dabao looking shamefaced and silent] All right, I want all of you to jump in the water right now! Today, we learn how to tread water. Those who fail to learn I will drown! Now go!

[Cut to mess hall kitchen. Everyone is busily preparing the next meal when Mulan walks in carrying a large basket of vegetables]

Pudgy [taking basket from her]: Brother Hua, let me take that for you. You have a seat and rest a bit.

Monkey: Let me go get you a cup of water.

Mulan [puzzled]: That's okay. I'm not thirsty.

Jili: I'd like a drink of water.

Monkey: You? You're not crippled. You can go get your own water.

Jili: He's not crippled either, but you were about to get him a cup of water.

Monkey: Well, how can you compare to Brother Hua? He is brave and heroic. Compared to him… heck, one of you is a man and the other a mouse.

[Hearing this, Jili tries to attack Monkey with a cleaver but Mulan steps between them and breaks them apart]

Mulan: That's enough! We're all comrades here, so let's just get along and stop this bickering.

Monkey: I'm letting you off today out of respect for Brother Hua.

Pudgy: Brother Hua, your knife skills are almost godlike. You managed to slice up my clothing like it was a basket of vegetables, yet you didn't cut me.

Monkey: Brother Hua, with such skills as yours, you should be a general, not a mess hall soldier.

Mulan: Oh, what you saw was just a small sample of my abilities. You haven't seen my real skills yet.

Pudgy: Will you show us then?

Mulan: Okay. [A sudden clanging sounds] Oh my, it's time to serve dinner! Come on. [She goes over to the large steamer and tries out some of the meat inside. Nodding, she calls for someone to help her carry it out. Jili volunteers to do the honor, but while Mulan's back is turned, he pours an additional bowl of salt in the dish, along with a bowl of dried chili pepper flakes, and assorted other condiments. He then carries out the food and starts to distribute it amongst the troops. Each soldier that tries some spits it out almost immediately. The angry soldiers gang up on Mulan and demand to know why she is so incompetent as to serve such lousy food. Hearing the ruckus, the drill sergeant walks in]

Sergeant: What's all the commotion about? Why aren't you eating?

Dabao: Sir, you arrived just in time. This food is inedible!

Mulan [protesting]: It can't be. I tasted it before we served it. It tasted fine.

Dabao: Tasted fine my foot! Sergeant, if you don't believe me, you can try it for yourself. [The Sergeant tries some and immediately spits it out, too] See, I wasn't trying to frame him. It really is horrible.

Mulan: It can't be. [Tries some herself and also spits it out] That's impossible. I tried it earlier and it was fine.

Dabao: Bull! Tastes bad! Tastes bad! [The other soldiers begin to chant in unison, all aiming their derision at Mulan]

Mulan: Okay, okay. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes, right? You can't possibly be enjoying yourself scolding me on an empty stomach, so let us go and cook up some fresh food. After you've eaten, then you can resume scolding and chewing me out until you're satisfied. No matter what you say, I won't return anything to you. Okay? [To fellow mess hall soldiers] Come on, let's go cook some more food.

[Cut to area outside of the mess hall. Monkey, Pudgy, and Mulan are walking back to the barracks later. They are all looking downcast and depressed]

Pudgy: My mother never was yelled at by thousands of people…I'm such an unfilial son to drag her name down with me…

Monkey: My mother passed away a long time ago. Otherwise, I don't know where I'd hide my shame…

Mulan: How about this? To make sure we don't have this kind of thing happen again, I will personally taste and approve each dish before we bring it to the troops.

Monkey: What if something still goes wrong?

Mulan: I will take full responsibility.

[Pudgy and Monkey look at each, then head off back towards the kitchen. Mulan is about to follow when Jili drags her to another part of the camp]

Mulan [shaking him off]: What are you doing? [Sees Jili is acting very strange and careful to make sure no one sees them] You look awfully suspicious and sneaky.

Jili [whispers]: Hush. Tonight, both of us should not go to sleep. We can run off and escape this mess.

Mulan: Why should we have to run away?

Jili: Is this hellish camp a place you want to stay in? From dawn to dusk all we do is cook for the troops. All anyone ever says about us is that we are useless cowards. To top it off, they yell and criticize us as if there's no tomorrow. I don't have a mother anymore in this world, but it makes my heart hurt to hear them insult your mother so. [Hugs Mulan while she cringes a bit. She looks depressed]

Mulan: Who told us to screw up the way we did? If I were in their shoes, I'd probably scold even more harshly.

Jili: Regardless, I don’t think this place suits you. Especially with someone like General Li always keeping an eye out for any slips on your part. He is petty and small-hearted. His underlings treat you no better. If you insist on staying, you're certain to be smothered and harassed to death.

Mulan: I'm not afraid of him. Besides, if I'm not able to handle some adversity, that would be too lame.

Jili: But don't you want to go home and see your mother and father again?

Mulan: Of course I do. But I once swore that I would not return home to see my father until I had made a name for myself. [Sits down and sighs at the base of a tree while Jili is nervously pacing back and forth] Actually, I really miss my father. That's all the more incentive for me to hurry up and make a name for myself, otherwise I'll never be able to see him again.

Jili [squats next to her]: Why do you have to be so stubborn and unyielding? Okay. Let's say you become a warrior and go to the front lines to fight. Then what? Battle is very dangerous, with only about a 10% chance of surviving. Do you think your father would be happy sending his child off to fight when he knows it's suicide? I think your father just wants you to return home. He'd be content to just farm the rest of his days with you at his side and live in peace. Isn't that right?

Mulan [shakes her head]: No. If you want to leave, go right ahead. I won't be a deserter. I have to gain glory for the Hua family.

Jili: What if you are stuck serving as a mess soldier forever? Do you think you can make a name for yourself if you are in the kitchen all the time? [Stands up] Stop kidding yourself. Let's run away tonight. We can go and roam the world for the next one, two, three, four years. And never return. Why stay here and be the butt of everyone's jokes and slanders? I'm not snowing you. If you insist on staying here, you run the risk of losing your life at any time. [He doesn't notice that Mulan has already fallen asleep] Why, just the other day I heard about two soldiers that got on General Li's bad side… [he keeps rambling on for a while before he realizes Mulan is asleep. He makes some noise to try and wake her up but she continues sleeping. He mutters at her] It's as futile as playing music to a cow…