[Cut to sitting room. Li Liang's mother is on a pallet and groaning in pain while Yiren is trying to massage her tight muscles]
Yiren: Aunt, is this any better?
Li Liang's mother: It's no use.
Yiren: There. Do you feel any better?
Li Liang's mother: I feel like I have an air bubble stuck halfway down to my stomach. It won't go up and it won't go down. It's SO uncomfortable! [Groans some more to emphasize her discomfort]
Yiren: Then we should go fetch a doctor for you.
Li Liang's mother: Don’t bother. This air bubble is caused by stress and there's nothing you can do about it.
Yiren: I know that, Aunt. But didn't you hear what Cousin said? Even he can't win in a fight with her (Mulan). I think this woman has us pegged for good! [Continues to massage her aunt's shoulders]
Li Liang's mother: This is unacceptable! She's already climbed so high and she has only just joined our family. In future, I won't even have a place to stand! I have to think of a way to fix her good!
[Cut to city street. Su Jili is walking along an alley in the mud. He looks tired and out-of-breath and sits down at the door of a hut]
Jili [muttering to himself and slapping his face]: Serves me right…I love food too much. Now I have absolutely zero magical power. Before, if I wanted to fly I just had to think it and I could fly. Now that I can't fly, it takes me all day to run this far by foot. [Turns to door to hut] Hey, when's this dude coming out? [Shouts] Come on out! Come out!
[A flash of light happens and a god appears. This god is an old man with long white whiskers, a peaked black hat, a white cloak, and carrying a large walking stick]
Old Man: Su Jili, you're making such a racket! What are you doing here?
Jili [standing up]: What am I doing here? I'm sure you've heard the whole story about how I offended the Jade Emperor.
Old Man [shaking his head]: Of course I've heard of it. Who hasn't? Of all people to offend, you have to go and insult the Jade Emperor
Jili [frowning]: Mulan is too good of a person. I didn't have the heart to hurt her (by not helping).
Old Man: So instead of hurting her, you ended up hurting yourself?
Jili: I remember the day the Imperial Guard came to drag me back to the Celestial Palace. I heard the Jade Emperor say he was going to punish me severely. Have you heard how he is going to punish me? Have you heard anything through the grapevine?
Old Man [surprised]: You mean you haven't heard?
Jili [impatient]: If I heard anything, I wouldn't need to ask you, would I?
Old Man: Have you been able to use any of your magical powers lately?
Jili [sheepishly]: I've always been rather a glutton; you know that's true. I had too much to eat on Mulan's wedding night. That's why I haven't been able to use my magic (due to indigestion?).
Old Man: My word! It's not just for the past few days, but for the rest of your days. You will never be able to use magic again.
Jili: What? The Jade Emperor is going to punish me by taking away all my magical powers?
Old Man: It's not just your magic. You've already been exiled from the immortal realms.
Jili [shocked]: What? I've been kicked out of the immortal ranks?
Old Man: You are now a regular mortal! I advise you to take care of yourself in the future, because if anything happens, you will die.
Jili: I'm a mortal?
Old Man: The Jade Emperor wants you to suffer from the burden of aging, illness, and death.
Jili [grabbing Old Man]: Hey, we're all in the same family. Couldn't you go back up to heaven and intercede for me before the Jade Emperor? Ask if he'll reconsider this punishment? Please? Please?
Old Man [shakes off Jili's hand]: We are in the same boat, my friend. Neither of us has much weight with the Jade Emperor. I have the will but not the power to help you. Good day. [Vanishes in a flash of light. Jili starts pacing nervously around when he realizes the Old Man is gone. He keeps muttering to himself in a panic]
Jili: Old Man, please come back and have a chat with me. Please! Please! [Stops after a few seconds when it looks like he will get no response] I don't want to be mortal… I don't want to be mortal…I want to be a god again…. I want to be a god…
[Starts to break into a run. He keeps running until he arrives at a local temple dedicated to Guanyin. He runs inside and shoves the other worshippers aside. He trips at the foot of the statue and ends up on his back. Looking up, he recognizes the statue dedicated to Guanyin and he scrambles to his feet]
Jili: It's Guanyin! [He starts to climb the statue to get up close and personal with Guanyin. When he is face to face with the statue (it's about fifteen feet tall), he starts to address Guanyin] Guanyin, I beg you to please help me. My name is Su Jili. [Starts to cry] I don't want to be mortal. I want to continue being a god. [Whispers in the statue's ear] My name is Su Jili. Please say a few nice things for me in front of the Jade Emperor, will you? Please? Pretty please? Don't forget, my name is Su Jili.
[Hears a sound behind him. He turns and sees the crowd of worshippers are all gawking at him as he is high atop the statue] Hey, what are YOU looking at? This is none of your business. Go on with your praying. [The onlookers are all muttering to each other with phrases like "he must be sick." Jili remains oblivious and continues to talk to the statue] Come on, please give me a sign that you hear me? [Waves his hand in front of statue's face] Hello? Anyone home? Look, I know the Jade Emperor is punishing me, but… we're all part of the immortal family, right? I don't mind if you don't appear now, but at the very least could you tell me if you are going to help or not? [Sees there is still no response. He starts to frown] So, you're still acting stubborn? What kind of god are you? Aren't you supposed to help people? Answer me!
[The onlookers are getting more and more worried as they Jili start to scold the statue. One of the bolder worshippers gets on a stool and starts to whack Jili with a cane]
Jili: Hey, why are you hitting me? [A few more blows land]
Onlooker: Get down here! [Lands a solid blow to Jili's head, making him lose his grip on the statue and tumble down]
[Cut to city street. Jili is staggering along the snowy road with legs of rubber. He can't see straight and looks quite disoriented. He takes a few steps, then faints on the road. A litter carried by six men in bright orange uniforms comes down the same street and pauses a few feet in front of the fallen Jili. The occupant (Mulan) opens the door and steps outside before noticing the fallen man]
Mulan [hurries to his side]: Jili! Hey, Jili, what's the matter? [Cradles his head in her arms]
Jili [opening his eyes]: Mulan… I'm dying. I can die with no regrets since I can take one last look of your face… [passes out]
Mulan [alarmed]: Hey! Hey!
[Cut to doctor's office. Mulan rushes in as doctor is sitting at his desk]
Mulan: Doctor, it's an emergency! [Directs her servants to bring Jili inside. They carry him through the doors but are rather careless about it, moving him as if he was a battering ram] Hey, be careful! [The servants place Jili in a chair at the doctor's desk while Mulan sits down in the seat next to him, supporting him] Please hurry and examine him!
[Doctor takes Jili's pulse (usual diagnostic tool for the era) while Mulan impatiently waits]
Mulan: What? How is he? Hurry up and tell me! [Sees Doctor remains silent] Could you PLEASE just say something? I don't care how much it costs; you must save him!
Jili [mumbling]: Mulan… you treat me so well. Even if I died, it wouldn't be a useless death.
Mulan [sharply]: I won't allow such negative thoughts! You're a god… [Suddenly remembering that she must keep this secret, she lowers her voice and whispers to him] You're a god. How can you die?
Jili [mumbling]: BTW, I forgot to tell you that I've been cast into the mortal realm. The Jade Emperor wants me to taste the three curses of aging, illness, and death.
Mulan [concerned]: Really?
Jili: I'm doomed to die this time…[Mulan hugs him closer in her arms as if to give him some comfort before he goes]
Mulan [to Doctor]: Doctor, what have you found?
Doctor: Strange…Very strange…
Mulan [alarmed]: There is no hope for him?
Doctor: No, his pulse shows no signs of illness.
Mulan [skeptical]: Are you really a doctor? I don't know anything about medicine, but even I can tell just by looking at him that he is seriously ill. How can you say that there is nothing wrong with him?
Doctor: It's true though.
Mulan [getting mad]: You're still stubbornly clinging to that diagnosis? [To servants] Come on, let's take him to another clinic. [Mulan glares at the doctor as they get up to leave]
Doctor: Hold on! [To Jili] How many days has it been since you last ate anything?
Jili: Let me think a minute… Three… no four days. [The doctor looks dismayed while Mulan looks sheepish that she doubted the doctor's skill]
Doctor: You haven't eaten in four days? No wonder! You aren't sick; you're just hungry. [Mulan looks very chagrined at this point as she helps Jili leave]
[Cut to Generals' Residence where Jili and Mulan are sitting at the dining table. There are several dishes of food in front of Jili and he is busily cleaning off item after item]
Mulan: Do you feel better now?
Jili [lets out a loud burp]: Hoo boy! Much better. [Takes a drink of tea to wash down the food]
Mulan [rebukingly]: If you were hungry, you should have found something to eat. You should know better than that. You almost scared me to death when I found you unconscious on the street just because you were so faint from hunger.
Jili [wiping his mouth on his sleeve]: But I used to be a god. When I ate food then, it was only to get the flavor of the food. I never had to keep track of such things as hunger.
Mulan: Well, keep eating, okay? [Jili hangs his head and goes silent. He looks like he is saddened by something] What's the matter?
Jili [tears in his eyes]: Now that I have been banished to the mortal realms, I don't know what I'm going to do with myself in the future. I don't know how to live like a human being. [Starts to cry] I want to go back to heaven. I don't want to be a human; I want to be a god. [Leans on Mulan's shoulder to cry. She pats his head tenderly] Take me back to heaven, will you? I don't want to be a human and have to put up with being hungry all the time…
[Cut to a guest cottage somewhere in the Generals' Residence. There is a table with a teapot and two bowls in the middle of the main room and baskets lying around. Mulan escorts Jili inside]
Mulan: Well, what do you think? Not bad, eh? Do you like it?
Jili [walks around for a good look]: One place is just as good as another since I'm only waiting to die. [Sits down on the bed]
Mulan: Jili, you need to keep a stiff upper lip.
Jili: My previous life as a god consisted of eternal youth and the power to do anything I wanted. Now, I'm someone who can't even handle hunger easily. I've become a lower-class animal…
Mulan [protesting]: Hey, don't forget that I am one of those "lower-class animals."
Jili: It's not the same for you because you were born a lower-class animal.
Mulan: Jili, humans can achieve anything as long as they are willing to work hard.
Li Liang [walking in]: Exactly. Mulan is a prime example.
Mulan [to Li Liang]: Did you get all the bedding items?
Li Liang [handing them to Mulan]: Yes, it's all here.
Mulan [concerned]: You didn't notify anyone else, did you?
Li Liang: Of course not. How can I tell people that a god is staying with us? They'd think I was some weirdo.
Mulan [smiling]: Smart boy. You two chat a bit while I go fix up your bed, okay?
Jili: Sorry for the inconvenience.
Mulan: You are in this situation because of me. You don’t need to be so formal, okay? [Walks off to bedroom to set up Jili's bedding. Jili hangs his head dejectedly. Li Liang sits down next to him and places a hand on his shoulder]
Li Liang [comforting him]: Jili, don't worry. You took care of Mulan in the past, so it's our turn now to take care of you.
Jili: Really? Then I will count on you to handle all my needs from cradle to grave, okay?
Li Liang: That goes without saying! You'll eventually learn that there are pluses to being human after you've been here awhile.
Jili: You don't need to make up stuff to make me feel better. How could being a human possibly be happier than being a god? Haven't you heard the saying, "There is only one word to describe being human, and that's annoyed?" (In Chinese, the word for "mortal" rhymes with the word for "annoyed," hence the pun)
[Cut to the main foyer for the Generals' Residence. Yiren is escorting her aunt inside when the clamor of several voices is heard. They are all greeting "Elder Mistress (i.e.-mother of the lord of the house)," so Li Liang's mother smiles and thinks they are greeting her. Her face changes when she realizes that Mulan's mother has entered and that the servants are calling her instead]
Mulan's mother: It's really cold outside. Could someone get me some hot tea? Go about your business… [The servants scamper off, though one comes over to Li Liang's mother]
Servant: Elder Mistress, do you have any orders for me?
Li Liang's mother [in no good mood]: Humph! You still recognize that I'm the Elder Mistress here? [She and Yiren saunter off with their noses in the air. Seeing Mulan's mother, they greet each other civilly (on the surface), but look daggers at each other in reality] In-Law, you are up awfully early.
Mulan's mother: Two days ago, Mulan visited me and I was shocked at how thin she had become. While I'm sure some of it is because she's homesick, I asked one of my maids to make a large pot of chicken broth. I'm came to bring it over for her.
Li Liang's mother [sitting down]: Since she has married into our family, you needn't concern yourself anymore with her food and drink.
Mulan's mother [shaking her head]: Oh no, haven't you heard the saying that "To raise a child takes a hundred years, but you worry about them for ninety of those years?" Beside, my Mulan is not the same as other people's children. She is special. It's best if I spend a bit more time and effort on her, you know? Just think, ever since the dawn of human history, how many women have had the ability to give birth to such a super kid as Mulan? Your family must have spent several lifetimes earning the right for your Li Liang to marry her.
Li Liang's mother [demurring]: Actually, you mean it's three lifetimes of luck, don't you?
Mulan's mother: Exactly! That's exactly right! I'm not sure if you know this, but originally the Emperor and Empress wanted Mulan to marry the Crown Prince. But my stupid daughter threw away the chance to become the Crown Prince's consort, all because she fell for your son. Such a waste…
Yiren [piping up]: Hey wait a minute, my cousin is quite a catch in his own right!
Mulan's mother: My dear miss, you must be joking! Do you think a mere general can compare to the Crown Prince? I'm telling you, Li Liang must have done some great good deeds in a previous life to earn such fortune in this life, so I'll say no more on the subject. [Calls her maid to bring the pot of soup over, which she places on the table] In-Law, I heard from the butler that Mulan and Li Liang have returned to camp. Please keep this soup warm on the stove; when they get back, just heat it up a bit and it'll be ready to eat, okay?
Li Liang's mother [smiling falsely]: Not a problem. I'll take care of it. Just leave it there.
Mulan's mother: Then… I'll be taking my leave now. I have an appointment with a Cabinet Minister's wife. We are to go looking at flower gardens. Would you like to join us? If you go with me, they won't mind.
Li Liang's mother: That won't be necessary. I don't enjoy gallivanting about town. [Yiren's face is quite a sight to behold during this exchange. She alternates between shock and disgust at the way Mulan's mother is treating her aunt. She is also puzzled why her aunt isn't responding in kind]
Mulan's mother: That's true…people fear fame as much as pigs fear gaining weight. I'm telling you, running to this manor and then running to that manor to visit so many people is quite tiring. Then… I'll leave now. [She turns to leave. She takes a few steps towards the door before Li Liang's mother calls after her]
Li Liang's mother: By the way, since Mulan has married into our family, you needn't worry about her food and drink. I'll handle it all myself. [Yiren shakes her aunt in dismay, but her aunt ignores her hint]
Mulan's mother: In-Law, it relieves me to hear you say that. Let's see… Mulan likes fish and chicken best. She really isn't terribly fussy about anything else. However… there are two things she can't stand.
Li Liang's mother [gets a scheming look]: Really? What are they?
Mulan's mother: She can't stand toads and blackfish. When she sees either item, it ruins her appetite so she won't eat a thing.
Li Liang's mother: I never expected to find anything that she is afraid of. If you hadn't mentioned it, I would never have known.
Mulan's mother: Just don't fix either of those two items for her, okay? She'll eat anything else.
Li Liang's mother: Don't worry, I'll handle everything. Weren't you supposed to meet the Cabinet Minister's wife? You'd best not be late.
Mulan's mother: You're right. I'll take my leave now. [She leaves with her maid. As soon as they are out of earshot, Yiren grabs her aunt's arm]
Yiren: Aunt…[Li Liang's mother has a smug expression on her face. She goes over to the pot of soup and lifts the lid]
Li Liang's mother: It's still hot. [Replaces lid] Yiren, what do you say to my fixing Mulan a tasty meal myself? We can split this soup between the two of us first.
Yiren: What?! [She thinks a minute and it slowly dawns on her what her aunt is planning. Her face breaks into a wide smile as her aunt slowly nods]
[Cut to dining room of the Generals' Residence. A servant is setting the table for dinner as Li Liang and Mulan walk in]
Li Liang [to servant]: Where are my mother and cousin?
Servant: Elder Mistress is fixing dinner tonight; Miss Xu is helping her in the kitchen.
Li Liang [looking excited]: Mulan, you are in luck tonight. My mother's cooking is famous in our hometown.
Li Liang: Of course.
[Li Liang's mother and Yiren walk into the dining room]
Li Liang's mother: You're home? Come on, sit down and have dinner. You've had a long day. [Everyone sits down to the meal]
Li Liang: Mother, you've gone to quite a bit of trouble. You must be tired.
Li Liang's mother: Don't worry about that. You have no idea how much joy it gave me to cook this meal. Go ahead, eat.
Mulan [alarmed at the dishes of food]: What kind of fish is that?
Yiren: Oh that? It's sautéed blackfish. [Notices with glee Mulan's suddenly green face] Cousin-In-Law, you must try some of it. I've heard it is great for the blood and body.
Li Liang's mother: And don't forget the toad. There is a dish of stir-fried toad slices that I'm sure you'll enjoy. I've noticed that you are very thin, daughter-in-law, so eat up!
[Mulan hurriedly gets up, covers her mouth, and gets up to leave the room. Yiren gets up to stop her]
Yiren: Cousin-in-law, you mustn't leave yet. There are still toad dumplings in the kitchen!
[Mulan turns a deeper shade of green and runs out of the room. Li Liang hurries after her while his mother and cousin are having a huge laugh at Mulan's discomfort. Mulan enters their quarters with Li Liang right behind her. She looks very unhappy and sick]
Li Liang: Mulan, what's the matter?
Mulan: There's nothing in this world I am scared of more than eating toad and blackfish.
Li Liang [puzzled]: Toads? But they are very tasty.
Mulan [frowning]: You wouldn't think they were tasty if you once had a skinned toad hopping up your leg as a kid…
Li Liang [incredulous]: A skinned toad would still hop?
Mulan: Yes. When I was a kid, my mother often asked me to help in the kitchen because she hated the fact I was a daughter and not a son. Once, she asked me to carry a basket of food into the kitchen. Little did I know that the lid wasn't securely fastened. A skinned toad managed to jump out and started trying to climb my foot. [Shivers at the recollection] Eww… let's not talk about it anymore…
Li Liang: So that's why… [Getting a mischievous look in his eyes, he starts to chase Mulan, pretending he is a toad. She shrieks in dismay and scolds him for scaring her, but she can't help smiling a little] Okay, okay. If you ever see a toad again, I'll make it disappear with the blink of an eye, okay? Now, what's the story about the blackfish?
Mulan [a bit embarrassed]: Actually, that one isn't as big a deal. Did you know that blackfish still move long after they've died? It's horribly unnerving…
Li Liang: Okay. I'll just let the kitchen know not to fix those dishes in the future.
Li Liang's mother [walking in with Yiren on her arm]: That won't do.
Li Liang: Why not, Mother?
Yiren: Did you know that Aunt recently has been having dizzy spells? She also has a gas bubble stuck in her chest that won't get unstuck.
Li Liang [walking over]: Mother, why didn't you tell me you weren't feeling well?
Li Liang's mother [sitting down]: Oh, you have just gotten married; I didn't want to hurt the mood.
Li Liang: Then, have you seen a doctor yet?
Li Liang's mother: I have. It's the doctor that has told me the only way to stop my dizzy spells and help my gas is to eat toad and blackfish. That's why today I bought two baskets of toads and fifty blackfish. [Mulan looks shocked and scared at the thought of having to deal with so many toads and blackfish] There is enough to last us at least a month.
Li Liang [remembering Mulan]: Don't worry, Mulan. I'll ask the kitchen to fix you something else.
Li Liang's mother [smooth as cream]: That's right. We wouldn't dream of starving our female general, would we? I would suggest, though, that you stay away from the kitchen. Who knows, but a toad might suddenly jump out of nowhere, bouncing everywhere. [She demonstrates the toads' jumping motions quite vividly. You can see Mulan visibly shrink away in loathing and fear] We wouldn't want you to make a fool of yourself.
Yiren [eyeing Mulan]: Aunt, I think we'd best head back to our dinner, since it appears Cousin-In-Law is all right. We wouldn't want the toad and blackfish to get cold. It wouldn't taste any good once it got cold.
Li Liang's mother: True. My son, shall we head back to dinner? [He nods. Li Liang's mother turns to Mulan] Mulan, since you don't care for blackfish, I'm sure you'd prefer some soup. [She nods silently] Excellent! I'll have the servants prepare you some blackfish soup and rice for you to eat. [Mulan jerks as if struck and swallows hard. She looks like she'd much rather be elsewhere]
[Cut to scene in courtyard at the Generals' Residence. Li Liang and Mulan are having a sparring match. Halfway through, she stops suddenly]
Mulan [pouting]: I don't want to spar anymore.
Li Liang: What's the matter Mulan? You've been sparring with little energy and focus.
Mulan: Do you get the feeling your mother really doesn't like me?
Li Liang: Why would she? [Thinks a minute] Oh, so you're still sore over the blackfish and toad, aren't you?
Mulan: Am I such a petty person to be sore over that still?
Li Liang: Then why do you ask?
Mulan: Ever since we got married, your mother has been giving me odd looks every time I see her. She never smiles at me and she always speaks to me with a rather condescending air.
Li Liang: You're being oversensitive, Mulan. My mother was widowed at a young age; she's suffered a lot in life. She may seem overbearing at times, but she is actually a really nice person, especially towards me.
Mulan: We're talking about how she treats ME; it doesn't matter if she coddles you.
Li Liang: Then, have you heard of the saying "Love me, love my family?" [Tenderly pats her cheek] I remember how you looked when you first joined the army. You looked like a newly freed bird, still wet from hatching out of your egg. [Mulan starts to look embarrassed at his simile]
Mulan: What are you saying about me? [Starts to grin and then tries to tickle her husband. He tries to run but she grabs his ear in mock sternness]
Li Liang [protesting and laughing]: Wife, please forgive me! Please have mercy! [They laugh for several moments until Li Liang's mother and Yiren come in the courtyard. They are frowning at the undignified carousing of Mulan and Li Liang. Li Liang's mother coughs to get their attention. Mulan and Li Liang immediately stop their horseplay and stand still]
Li Liang: Mother.
Li Liang's mother [grimly]: My son, come with me. I need to speak with you.
Li Liang: Yes, mother. [He goes to follow her, but not before first giving Mulan a reassuring pat on her shoulder. Mulan watches him leave with distrust in her eyes]
[Cut to a sitting room inside the Generals' Residence. Li Liang's mother and Li Liang walk inside. Li Liang's mother tells Yiren to guard the door to make sure no one interrupts her conversation with her son]
Li Liang: Mother, why do we need to worry about disturbing others? This is our home and everyone here is family.
Li Liang's mother: You still consider it our family home? Tell me, why do we have 300 rules for living at the Generals' Residence?
Li Liang: That is according to military rules.
Li Liang's mother: Why does the military have to govern what we do in our own home? It's all for your precious wife's benefit…[She walks off in a huff and sits down. Li Liang walks over]
Li Liang: Mother, this doesn't concern Mulan.
Li Liang's mother [sharply]: Shut up. How long have you been married? You are constantly unsettled and playing around. All you care about is Mulan. Your don’t care at all about your old mother anymore!
Li Liang [trying to reason]: Mother, Mulan is a very good person.
Li Liang's mother [unconvinced]: Good? How is she good? I have yet to drink any tea that she has made, nor has she ever come by to pay respects in the morning.
Li Liang [soothing]: Mother, that's just the way Mulan is. She has never stood much upon ceremony.
Li Liang's mother [snapping]: You're still defending her! What has she done for you? She lets you fetch bath water for her and all you two do all day is make a ruckus. You two have no sense of dignity.
Li Liang [protesting]: Mother, we were only playing in fun.
Li Liang's mother [sternly]: It's still unacceptable. You are a man now. How do you expect to hold your head outside if you let her order you around all day? I know that you won't be able to cure her, so I intend to do it for you!
[Li Liang tries to protest, but finds he really has nothing left to say. His mother keeps glaring at him and he looks as if he is stuck between a rock and a hard place]
[Cut to hut where Jili is staying. He is drunkenly looking around the empty wine jugs for one that still has some wine inside. He finds a partially filled jug and sits on his bed to begin drinking]
Jili: Drink. I want to drink myself to death. [Chugs the wine]
[Li Liang walks in the hut. He sees Jili is obviously drunk, so he comes over and snatches the wine jug out of his hand]
Li Liang: Jili, what the heck are you doing? Every time I see you you're drunk as a skunk.
Jili [swaying on his bed]: I have to die sooner or later, so I may as well drink myself to death. [Reaches for wine jug but Li Liang keeps it just out of his reach]
Li Liang: Jili, pull yourself together. It's not that miserable to be a human.
Jili: Pull myself together how? I'm not an immortal anymore, so I may as well hurry up and die so I can report to the God of the Dead and ask him to let me reincarnate into something better. [He tries to reach for the jug again but Li Liang pushes his hand away]
Li Liang: Jili, stop that. I have enough to annoy me right now. Stop blathering for a minute, will you? I need to speak with you about something.
Jili [hiccuping]: I don't have any magical powers anymore, so I can't help you with anything.
Li Liang: There are some things that don't require magic to accomplish. Come on. Let's brainstorm a bit.
Jili [puts arm on Li Liang's shoulder]: You've already married a wonderful woman in Mulan, so what is there for you to be depressed about?
Li Liang: I finally understand what the saying "Every household has a difficult chant to recite" means. The hardest thing for me to deal with in my family is the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship.
Jili [gets up]: That's BS! [Li Liang grabs Jili's shoulder and jerks him back to his seat]
Li Liang: Hey, wait a minute, where do you think you're going?
Jili: Mulan is a great person so I know she isn't the cause of this strife. It must be that precious mother of yours that has been mistreating her, isn't it? I'm going to go teach her a lesson. [Gets up again but Li Liang again jerks him back]
Li Liang: Hey! I came here to discuss options with you, not for you to go add more fuel to the fire! Hurry up and think of something.
Jili [mumbling]: I'm sorry. Let me think… hmm… think, think, think…To tell the truth, similar personalities are bound to clash, no matter what you do. You and Mulan are going to have to live away from your mother sooner or later. Your mother will eventually want to return to the ancestral home to live out her retirement. [Hiccups] So here's the plan: get your mother to return to the ancestral home sooner rather than later to retire. Otherwise, when the family gets split because of clashing personalities things will get ugly, if you know what I mean.
Li Liang [eyes lighting up]: Now why didn't I think of that? [Slaps Jili on the back] You're still an immortal, through and through. [Gives him another hearty slap which knocks Jili on his back. Li Liang runs out the door but calls back to Jili] Don't forget, stop drinking so much; you need to become a new person, okay?
Jili [mumbling]: Wine. I want to drink wine…[He tries to find some more wine and even tries drinking out of a pencil holder, thinking it is a wine jug] Alas, it's such a pain to be human… [Lies back on his bed and passes out]
[Cut to tavern. Li Liang is eating with his mother]
Li Liang [placing some food in her bowl]: Mother, try some of this roast pork. It's really good.
Li Liang's mother [tries some]: It's okay. The restaurant back home does a much better job with this dish.
Li Liang: Well, then try some of this sautéed fish. It's precious. Here, I'll feed you. [He places some in her mouth]
Li Liang's mother [tries it and promptly spits it out]: My word, why is it so fishy? It must not be very fresh. How much did you pay for all this food?
Li Liang: It came out to about one ounce of silver.
Li Liang's mother [shocked]: One ounce? It seems that aside from everything being more expensive here in the capital, I have yet to see any positive aspects to living here. Even the weather is freezing cold and dry.
Li Liang: This isn't cold, Mother. Just wait until winter arrives; it'll be a lot colder than this.
Li Liang's mother [worried]: Really?
Li Liang [gets a wheedling tone]: Mother, there's something I want to discuss with you. Once winter is over, the army is going to send out troops for patrol missions. Mulan and I may get sent to Bienyang (other side of the country?).
Li Liang's mother: For how long?
Li Liang: At least two years.
Li Liang's mother: Ever since you became a general, we've known you are destined to live an unsettled life, moving here and there with the army. What is there for me to say?
Li Liang [relieved]: I'm glad you see it that way, Mother. It is a great relief for me to hear that.
Li Liang's mother [patting Li Liang on arm]: Don't worry about me. I've learned how to take care of myself after all these years.
Li Liang [looking conniving]: Mother, how about I escort you back to our ancestral home before the winter sets in? That way you won't have to deal with the cold. There really isn't much to keep you here in the capital, what with the poor food and weather, and you aren't enjoying yourself.
Li Liang's mother: We old people have to do whatever you young folk wish. Who am I to say no?
Li Liang [not noticing the sarcasm]: That's great! I'll go ask my superiors in a few days for leave to take you home.
Li Liang's mother: In a few days? Why wait that long? Why not we head out today?
Li Liang [even happier, but puzzled]: Right now? How can we do that?
Li Liang's mother: Why not? [Face turns angry] You can just have the servants hurl my luggage out into the street! How dare I not leave?
Li Liang [soothing]: Mother…
Li Liang's mother [getting up angrily]: I don't have such an unfilial son as you! As soon as you got a wife you forgot you have a mother! Whose idea was this? Was it that well-rounded and precious wife of yours?
Li Liang [protesting]: Mother, that's not how it happened…this was all my…
Li Liang's mother [interrupting]: I intend to ask her face to face whether there is no room in the Generals' Residence for an old woman like me! [Storms off]
Li Liang: Mother! Mother, come back! [He starts to leave, then hurries back to throw some money on the table for the tavern keeper and runs back out] Mother!
[Cut to courtyard of the Generals' Residence. Mulan is dressed as a general, in a red uniform with elaborate armor, and is showing the several other generals and fellow officers the grounds]
General: This is a wonderful and beautiful house the Emperor has deeded to you.
Another General: Of course it is. This was earned through the labors of General Hua's own two hands in love for her country. The Emperor wouldn't think it too much to give such a prize as reward.
Mulan [deprecating]: Oh, the Emperor gave this to reward both my husband and I.
General: Speaking of General Li, I haven't seen him around. Where is he?
Mulan: He had some business in the city, but he will be back soon. [Clamor in the distance is getting nearer. The ruckus is coming from Li Liang's mother, though the words are indistinct. As the noise gets louder, you can distinctly hear her yelling for people to get out of her way and let her die. Mulan gets a bit concerned as the other generals look at each other and wonder what the commotion is about] Er…gentlemen, wait here a bit and enjoy the garden. I'll be right back. [The officers nod and wait. You can see they are full of curiosity but are too polite to inquire]
[Cut to inner courtyard. Li Liang's mother is standing beneath a long length of red cloth that is looped over the roof rafter. Yiren and a maid are trying to restrain Li Liang's mother. Yiren keeps asking her aunt what happened but Li Liang's mother does not respond. (The cloth loop is the equivalent of a noose; Li Liang's mother is trying to hang herself) Mulan strides in the courtyard with her fellow officers behind her]
Mulan [sternly]: What's all the noise for?
Li Liang's mother [furious]: So, you want to kick me back home, do you? Well, I hope this makes you happy! [She climbs up to the cloth using a chair]
Mulan [both alarmed and angry]: Popo, what the heck are you doing?
Li Liang's mother: I spent twenty years of my life as a virtuous widow of the Li family, raising my son to manhood. Once he married you, you tell him to force me away. Fine! Since you want me dead, I'll die here right in front of you. We'll see if you have a clear conscience from now on! [Starts to open loop so she can place her head inside]
Mulan [upset]: Since when did I tell Brother Liang to kick you out of the house? [The officers are all muttering to each other over this turn of events]
Li Liang's mother: Don't give me that innocent tone! If it wasn't you, who else could it be? It MUST have been you! [Puts her head in the cloth and tries to hang herself, but Mulan rushes forward to support her body so she doesn't hurt herself. Li Liang rushes in]
Li Liang [eyes wide at the sight]: Mother! What are you doing? Mother! [Restrains his mother and pulls her down]
Li Liang's mother: Let me die! I don't want to live anymore! Let me die! [Mulan is getting more and more mortified as this drags on. The officers wonder what to do and seem unsure if they should leave as quickly as possible, or stay behind]
[Cut to Li Liang's mother's quarters. Li Liang escorts his mother and Yiren inside. Li Liang's mother keeps wailing that she wants to die, while Yiren keeps telling her aunt not to leave her. It's all very melodramatic and you can see Li Liang is in a bind]
Li Liang's mother [wailing]: There's nothing for me to live for, so you may as well let me die, lest I annoy others with my presence on this earth…
Li Liang [consoling]: Mother, don't do this to yourself. Calm down.
Li Liang's mother: What else am I supposed to do? My own son doesn't want me around anymore! I have nothing to look forward to in this life…
Li Liang: Mother, what are you talking about? Why would I not want you around anymore?
Li Liang's mother [turning on him]: Oh, so now you changed your mind? Didn't you try to push me back to our family home? How could you have the heart to do such a thing?
Yiren [rebuking]: Cousin, how could you? Nothing is more important than filial duty. How could you treat Aunt in such a fashion?
Li Liang: Mother, I was worried that you wouldn't be happy living here.
Li Liang's mother [still crying]: Would I dare not be happy here? The Emperor gave the Generals' Residence to you and your wife. I'm only a third wheel here; does it matter what I think and feel? If I'm not careful and break a rule, I have to go before the military court and maybe even go to jail! And what is it all for? It's all so I can spend more time with my son… and others think I'm irritating to have around… [wails louder]
Yiren [consoling her aunt]: Aunt, Cousin has always been a dutiful son. Someone must have influenced him to make him act this way.
Li Liang [seeing the direction of the conversation]: Hey, Mulan was not a part of any of this!
Li Liang's mother [starts crying again]: You're still defending her? Let me die, oh, let me die…
Yiren: Cousin, why are you standing here? Go and get Cousin-In-Law to come here and ask Aunt's forgiveness! [Li Liang tries to protest, but he cannot stand up to his mother and cousin's constant wailing and crying. He hurries off to fetch Mulan. As soon as he leaves the room, his mother stops crying and gets a smug look on her face]
[Cut to main entrance of Generals' Residence. Mulan is escorting the generals out the door and apologizing for the scene they had to witness. They assure her that it was nothing to worry about. She tries to invite them back inside for a bit of tea and snacks, but they politely refuse. It is obvious they are uncomfortable staying any longer in the Generals' Residence. They salute and leave the premises. Mulan heaves a sigh of relief and partial disgust. Li Liang walks in]
Li Liang: Mulan, are they gone?
Mulan [sighs]: If you were in their shoes, would you want to stay?
Li Liang [shaking his head]: I just don't understand why she did what she did today.
Mulan: You're not to blame. Your mother is as deep as the ocean; no one can fathom what she is really thinking.
Li Liang: All I wanted was for my mother to go back to the family home and retire in peace. This way, everyone will be happier.
Mulan [frowning at Li Liang]: But why didn't you discuss this with me first? She's sure to assume this was all my idea and blame me for it. Did you explain that with her?
Li Liang: I did explain it. But…
Mulan [resignedly]: Then in other words, even if I were to jump in the Yellow River I'd never wash this one off, right?
Li Liang [in a wheedling tone]: Mulan, how about… you go back in there and apologize to my mother.
Mulan [looking up sharply]: I haven't done anything wrong. Why should I apologize?
Li Liang: I know you didn't do anything wrong. It's all my fault. But Mother keeps wailing non-stop and carrying on. Consider it a favor to me, will you?
Mulan: She made us both completely lose face in front of our fellow officers. Not only will she not apologize to me, but I have to apologize to her?
Li Liang [pleading]: But she's my mother. I can't change that. Please, do it for me? Give her some face.
Mulan: If I give her some face, who's going to give me face? [Sternly] No.
Li Liang [begging in earnest]: Mulan, I'm begging you. We're all family now. You can't just turn the other way with all this going on. Beside, let my mother cool off first and then we discuss our options.
Mulan: Then what am I to do?
Li Liang: That's easy. All you need to do is make the appropriate mouth noises in front of my mother; if you do that, then I'll do whatever you say from now on.
Mulan [trying not to smile but failing]: Really?
Li Liang: Of course!
Mulan: All right, I'll do it. But remember, I'm only doing it for you.
Li Liang [kneeling and grinning]: Wife, I will never forget this.
Mulan [grinning back]: Since when did you become such a silver-tongued person? [He leads her out the door towards his mother's quarters]
[Cut back to Li Liang's mother's quarters. Yiren is on the lookout for the return of her cousin. She spots Mulan and Li Liang coming so she signals to her aunt to start the waterworks. Li Liang leads Mulan in the room, the former looking happy and the latter looking like she is going before a firing squad. Li Liang's mother is sitting at a table while Yiren is massaging her shoulders. She deliberately turns her back on Mulan when she enters the room]
Li Liang [dragging Mulan before his mother]: Mother, Mulan is here to see you.
Li Liang's mother [wailing in earnest]: My, I've had such a bitter life. I had only married into the Li family two years when I became a widow. I spent the past twenty years raising him, but who would know… [cries even louder]
Mulan [interrupting]: All right, all right. You needn't go on. I admit that I was wrong to do what I did. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. [She sounds like she is reading her lines and has not an ounce of warmth in what she is saying]
Li Liang's mother [surprised]: That's it?
Li Liang: Mother, Mulan is admitting her guilt before you.
Li Liang's mother [turning her back again]: That's admitting guilt?
Mulan: Popo, to tell you the truth, I didn't have a thing to do with Brother Liang asking you to go home. However, you are my mother-in-law, so if you insist on believing that I did, there's nothing I can do about it. I only hope that in future you don't resort to crying, scolding, and threatening suicide to make your point and instead live out your life in peace and quiet.
Li Liang's mother [irate]: What? You dare scold me?
Li Liang [restraining her]: Mother, that is not Mulan's intent at all. [Pours a cup of tea and hands it to Mulan] Why don't you toast a cup of tea to my mother, Mulan? [Mulan reluctantly takes the cup of tea from Li Liang and pastes a smile on her face]
Mulan: Popo, please have a cup of tea. [Li Liang's mother sniffs and turns to refuse her, but Li Liang pulls her back to take the cup of tea from Mulan. She drinks it under protest and cannot resist lecturing her son]
Li Liang's mother: Listen up, my son. If you ever act unfilial towards me again, be careful you don't get hit by lightning!
Li Liang: I know, Mother.
Li Liang's mother [significantly]: It's not enough that you know it. [Hints in Mulan's direction]
Li Liang: Mulan knows this, too. Right Mulan?
Mulan [falsely sweet]: Yes.
Li Liang: Okay, everything's okay now. Let's go now, Mulan. [Starts to drag her out but she cannot resist having the last word]
Mulan: Wait, Popo. Might I trouble you to check if there are any outsiders around before you throw your next temper tantrum? Brother Liang and I still have to face other people when we go out, you know. [Mulan leaves the room with Li Liang in tow, while Li Liang's mother is sputtering in great anger and frustration]
[Cut to cottage where Jili is staying. He is sitting with his head on his hands at the table with Mulan]
Jili: Why are you so depressed and quiet today? Is it because you are having some problems getting along with Li Liang's mother?
Mulan: How did you know? [Eyes light up] You got your magic back?
Jili: You think it's that simple? No, I know because Li Liang came by earlier and told me all about it.
Mulan [crestfallen]: Oh.
Jili: Hey, how did it go with the suggestion I gave him?
Mulan [puzzled]: What suggestion?
Jili: Telling his mother to go back to the family home.
Mulan [realizing the significance, she grabs him roughly]: Su Jili! So you're the source of all this strife!
Jili [alarmed]: Calm down. Calm down. Let's talk peaceably about what has happened.
Mulan [releasing him roughly]: What has happened? His mother adamantly believes I suggested this. In front of several of our guests, she threatened to hang herself!
Jili: What? What happened next? Is she dead?
Mulan: No, his mother isn't dead, but your actions will be the death of me!
Jili [sorry]: I'm so sorry. I didn't know things would get to this point. Sorry!
Mulan: Don't worry about it. You didn't mean any harm. By the way, how have your spirits been the past few days? Do you feel any better?
Jili [depressed]: How could I feel good? I feel like I'm stuck between two worlds: I can't go to heaven to be a god and I can't reside on earth as a human.
Mulan: Don't do this to yourself. You're making me feel guilty.
Jili: I told you this has nothing to do with you. [Smiles weakly]
Mulan: Tell you what, how about we find something for you to do? That will make your days a little easier to bear.
Jili: I've already found a really good thing to do. It's called, "Sitting and waiting for death."
Mulan: Jili, stop it.
Jili [waving her away]: Don't mind me. Go take care of your household stuff.
[Li Liang walks in the hut and spots Mulan. She sees who has come in and turns her back to him and pouts]
Li Liang: Mulan, why didn't you let me know that you were going out?
Mulan: I came out for a breath of fresh air, okay?
Li Liang [quietly]: Still mad?
Mulan: Your mother is not the only person in the world who can get mad. [Jili tries to pretend he's not hearing the couple's conversation, instead focusing on the bowl of tea in his hands]
Li Liang: How about we do this in the future: you listen to my mother, I listen to you. Whatever my mother asks you to do for her, I'll also do for you. How's that sound?
Mulan [smiling at him]: Really?
Li Liang: Of course. A man's word is his honor.
Mulan [starts to tease]: In that case… I seem to recall that I had to toast a cup of tea as an apology to your mother.
Li Liang: No problem. [Pours a bowl of tea for Mulan and hands it to her] Wife, I'm sorry for what you had to go through just now.
Mulan [takes tea]: Okay. You win. [She grins as she drinks the tea. Jili is looking on rather forlornly at the happy scene before him]
Li Liang: Mulan, however, when dealing with my mother you were just a little bit… [gestures with his fingers].
Mulan [puts down tea with a thud]: But your mother was really too much!
Li Liang: I know. In future, all you need to do is stay on her good side and not butt heads with her. Just keep her happy. How's that sound?
Li Liang: What do you have to lose? You keep her happy, I keep you happy.
Mulan: You agreed to this. No backing out later, okay?
Li Liang: Of course not. [Turns to Jili] Jili, you can be our witness. I agree to do whatever she tells me to do.
Jili: So you two finally noticed that I'm around.
Mulan [blushing]: Well, we just got married.
Li Liang: That's right, Jili. You are now a mortal. You can go find a good and pretty miss and settle down. [Mulan and Li Liang look at each other and grin] That way, you'll know firsthand that there are pluses to being mortal.
Mulan: Exactly. Tell us what kind of miss strikes your fancy and we'll keep an eye out for you.
Jili [excited]: I like… I like… [thinks in his head "It doesn't matter what kind of girl I like; you're already married to someone else;" gets depressed again] You two best go off and enjoy yourselves. Hurry! Go on. [He gets up and runs out the door. Li Liang and Mulan look at each other in puzzlement, then smile and chuckle in happiness]
[Cut to Mulan and Li Liang's quarters at night. Mulan is sitting before the mirror preparing for bed]
Li Liang: See, all you had to do was say a few sweet things to my mother. She's so happy now.
Mulan: I spend all day in camp ordering soldiers around and running an army, but when I come home I still need to pay my respects to your mother and kiss up all the time. It's so tiring! [Leans on his shoulder]
Li Liang: All right. I know it's been rough on you. Where does it ache? [Grinning, Mulan points to her left shoulder] Let me massage it for you. [He massages her shoulder for a few seconds but she stops him]
Mulan: Maybe you'd better stop. If your mother were to catch you, she'd scold me for sure.
Li Liang: I have already shut the doors and closed the windows, so don't worry. [Resumes the massage] How's this feel?
Mulan: It's okay. [He continues to massage her shoulders and arms while she smiles happily]
[Cut to city street. Jili is roaming the street and talking to himself]
Jili: It's such a hassle being mortal. You eat food and not much later you're hungry again; you sleep and not much later you're sleepy again. [Puts his hands together to pray] Jade Emperor, how long are you going to punish me? [He continues on his way and runs into Yiren. They have not met before]
Yiren [angrily]: Hey, you! Why don't you watch where you are going?
Jili: I'm sorry. I must have left my eyes at home. [Turns to go but comes back] Why did you have to be so mean?
Yiren: What of it? YOU hit ME! What, you deny it?
Jili: But I already apologized.
Yiren: Apologized? Tell me, what were you mumbling about just now?
Jili: Why should I tell you what I was mumbling about? What's it to you?
Yiren [irate]: You're trying to weasel out of this, aren't you? [Raises her hand as if to hit him]
Jili: What are you doing? You want to hit me, don’t you? Well, then go ahead and hit me. I'd appreciate if you kill me in one blow and not split it into two blows. I don't like being a mortal anymore, anyway.
Yiren [thinking he's insane]: Go away with you.
Jili: Go ahead. Hit me. Or have you changed your mind? If you don’t intend to hit me, then I'm leaving. [She remains speechless so he leaves. He takes several paces, then turns to make a face at her. She seethes in anger but doesn't say anything. However, she looks smug when he trips on a large stone. She walks down a street and comes upon a chicken seller. Seeing it is a good price, she walks over to buy a chicken. She asks the peddler to give her a chicken and he hands one over, but Jili takes it instead]
Yiren: You again?
Jili: What of it? Are you going to hit me again? I picked this chicken before you got here. [He pets the chicken]
Yiren: You're surely joking! I saw this chicken first!
Jili: It's mine! I'm not letting go!
[They bicker over the chicken, each grabbing a wing and tugging while the chicken is squawking for dear life. Feather are literally flying everywhere while they get in a fight, with Jili taking the worst of it when Yiren lands a solid kick right in his groin. He slowly topples to the ground in pain while Yiren walks off in triumph]
[Cut to Generals' Residence, where Li Liang's mother is sitting enjoying a cup of tea. She is asking one of her maids where Yiren is when Yiren comes in the house looking very disheveled, with dirt on her face and feathers in her hair]
Yiren: Aunt! Someone picked on me!
Li Liang's mother [alarmed]: Picked on you? [Immediately thinks the worst]
Yiren: No, not that! Someone got in a fight with me.
Li Liang's mother [angry]: How dare anyone hit the cousin of the General Li! Take me to this person at once; I'll give him a good talking to!
Yiren: Aunt, forget it. I don't know where he lives. However, he looked rather familiar. But I don't know where he lives. [Starts to cry again]
Li Liang's mother [soothing]: Go get cleaned up. As soon as I find this bastard, I'll avenge you! How could anyone have the heart to pick on such a sweet and gentle girl? Come on, my dear. Let's get you cleaned up.
[Cut to Li Liang's mother's quarters. Li Liang's mother is sitting at the table while Yiren and Mulan are standing nearby. Li Liang's mother loudly sighs and Yiren asks what is wrong]
Li Liang's mother: Oh, I'm just growing old and useless. I can only walk two steps before my legs get tired…[Hints to Mulan to give her a massage]
Mulan [catching on]: Oh. [Starts to massage Li Liang's mother's legs]
Li Liang's mother: Where's my son? How come he hasn't come home yet?
Mulan: He's at camp chatting with the officers.
Li Liang's mother: Well, a man's sphere is outside the home in the wide world. It's small wonder he spends time outside visiting. You must not restrain him in any way.
Mulan: Yes, I know.
Li Liang's mother: When he returns, you must take good care of him. We may have lots of servants, but there are some things that require a wife's special touch to handle.
Mulan: Yes. [She continues to massage Li Liang's mother's legs. Yiren and Li Liang's mother exchange smirks at having humbled the great Hua Mulan to mere home duties]