[Cut to another scene of the soldiers training. This time, Jili is leading them in set martial arts moves]
Jili: Fighting stance! [The recruits emulate his moves, going step by step through a routine. One overzealous routine punches the back of the one in front of him, sending the line of soldiers falling like dominoes. The one in front ends up falling on Jili and kissing him on the lips]
[Cut to lumber room where Yiren is letting down her hair. She hears a knock at the door so she hurriedly tries to wrap her long hair in a scarf]
Yiren: Who is it? Wait a minute, I'll be right there. [She walks over to the door and opens it. It is Jili]
Jili: You haven't gone to sleep yet?
Yiren [shortly]: In future, you can lock up the door at your leisure. You don't need to come by and disturb me.
Jili: I put you recruits through training all day, so I trust you are very tired. Thus, it's impossible for you to go out and cause mischief now.
Yiren: Then what are you here for? [Jili brings out a bundle of bedding. Yiren's eyes open wide in alarm] What?! You're going to stay here and keep an eye on me? You can forget about it! [She stomps on his toe, making him cry out in pain]
Jili: Arrgg! do you think I'd do anything that is guaranteed to give me the short end of the stick? [Sighs in frustration as he walks over to her bed, pausing every few steps to rub his sore toe] I know you are no doubt aching and sore from all the recent training, so I brought over a heavier blanket for you to ensure you are more comfortable. [He spreads out the blanket and tucks it in for Yiren]
Yiren [sarcastically]: Would you be that nice to me? Are you afraid that I'll fail miserably and make a fool of Hua Mulan, or is it since we're a team of sorts I'll burden you and the other recruits will tease you?
Jili: Um... it doesn't matter what you think. The bottom line is we are both in the same boat. I... uh... really hope you're not the first one to fall over. [He scampers out the door and shuts it behind him, leaving Yiren puzzling over his words]
[Cut to Second Prince's quarters. The Second Prince is sitting at a low table enjoying a hot cup of tea. A eunuch comes in escorting General Ma]
Eunuch: Your Highness, General Ma is here to see you.
General Ma [kneeling]: Your Highness, your servant Ma Zhong salutes you!
Second Prince [walking over]: General Ma, you needn't be so formal. Please rise.
General Ma [standing up]: Your Highness, you asked me to come here. What orders do you have for me?
Second Prince: I know the generals are all busily training. I just wanted to know how things were going.
General Ma [saluting]: Thank you, your Highness.
Second Prince: Please, have a seat. [They walk over to table with food and drink set out. They both sit down and the Second Prince dismisses all of his servants. The Second Prince raises a cup of wine to drink a toast] General Ma, let me toast the future Marshal.
General Ma [protesting]: Your Highness, your humble servant wouldn't dare.
Second Prince: Are you referring to this toast, or the future post of Marshal?
General Ma: Um.. both, actually.
Second Prince: This is my personal suite. You needn't worry about anything, so don't refuse this toast.
General Ma [toasting]: Thank you, your Highness.
Second Prince: With regards to the future title of Marshal, I personally think it will go to no one else but you.
General Ma [saluting]: Your Highness, thank you for your kind words. I will do my utmost at the competition.
Second Prince: Good. I like your attitude. Out of the six generals in competition, I like you the best.
General Ma [salutes again]: Thank you, your Highness. I only fear I will let you down.
Second Prince: Why do you say that? Out of the six generals, only Li Liang poses a serious threat. The others aren't even in the running.
General Ma: Your Highness is very observant. Li Liang is a worthy opponent. I only worry that...
Second Prince [interrupting]: A real man doesn't speak humbly of his own skills, lest they be a self-fulfilling prophecy. True, Li Liang may be without peer in the bravery department, but his strict code of honor has probably offended many people along the way. I don't think he'd be a very effective Marshal. I have a premonition he will have an accident shortly before the competition. If so, the competition will be all yours.
General Ma: Your Highness, you are very shrewd. I am greatly relieved at your words.
Second Prince [approvingly]: That's the way a man destined to accomplish great things talks. Come, have some more wine with me.
[Cut to General Li's quarters. He is sitting at a table, reading a book, with a lone candle lit. We see there is a masked person, dressed all in black, just outside his window. The masked person throws what looks like either a ninja star or a small dagger in General Li's direction. At the last second, General Li dodges the object]
General Li [sternly]: Who's there? [He grabs his sword from a rack and runs out the door. He and the masked person fight with their swords, with General Li finally injuring the other person in the left shoulder. The masked person throws out a cloud of dust or other powder to temporarily distract General Li, giving him a chance to escape. General Li looks around for his attacker but all is quiet]
[Cut to field the next day. General Li is talking with another general]
General: I hear from one of your subordinates that someone tried to attack you last night. I trust you weren't injured?
General Li: By the Emperor's good luck, I managed to escape unscathed.
General Ma [sniffing]: Is there such a thing? General Li, do you know who is responsible?
General Li: No, I don't. The attacker escaped.
General Ma: My, that person certainly had guts. General Li, in future it looks like you'll have to increase surveillance around your camp.
General: That's a given. If anything happens to you, we'll lose a worthy adversary. You must be on your guard.
General Li: Yes, I know.
General Ma: Well, I am going to go and train my men now. [He starts to head off, but General Li comes over and places a firm hand on General Ma's left shoulder, making him flinch slightly]
General Li: General Ma, how about we have a friendly competition between our groups before the main competition? We can see the level of our preparedness.
General Ma: Fine. Let us plan this another day. I will take my leave now. [He walks off, leading General Li deep in thought]
[Cut to Mulan and General Li meeting. She has just heard the news of what happened to General Li the previous night]
Mulan [shortly]: That's preposterous! Ma Zhong must have done this! I'll go with you right now to report this to the Emperor. We'll see how he weasels out of this one!
General Li [alarmed, he puts a hand on her shoulder]: Hey, calm down first! It would be our word against his. He could easily give an alibi and forswear all responsibility.
Mulan: Didn't you say when you pressed his shoulder you realized he was wounded there? That's evidence.
General Li: He's a soldier. A small wound like that does not demonstrate he is the person that tried to assassinate me.
Mulan [protesting]: So you're saying that even if he kills someone we are to let him off the hook?
General Li: I want to catch him and bring him before the Emperor just as much as you do. However, I don't have enough evidence yet. We'd end up shooting ourselves in the foot if we tried.
Mulan: Well, since he means you harm you'd best be on your guard.
General Li: I know. I pressed his wound that time to warn him that I already suspect him. I hope he realizes the peril of continuing and will back down.
Mulan: I hope so. Actually, I've been thinking of bringing my men back to camp. That way, I can also keep an eye on you.
General Li [teasing]: Oh... so your troops are no longer such an embarrassment they can't be seen public?
Mulan [smugly]: You'd best not underestimate them.just like you'd best not underestimate me. Be careful, lest you fall under my hand.
General Li: Well, bring it on, then.
Mulan [smiles]: By the way, I have something else to tell you. You'll never guess what happened.
General Li: Go ahead.
Mulan: That precious cousin of yours somehow sneaked into my troop.
General Li [shocked]: What?!
Mulan: There's more. The only reason she did it was to sabotage my efforts. She and your mother worried that you would lose to me, so she joined as a spy to undermine things.
General Li: They went too far. Mulan, how are you going to dispatch Yiren?
Mulan: Don't worry. Even if I didn't care about her, I would care about your reputation. I will leave her in the army, partly to teach her the harshness of military life and partly to help me meet my quota.
General Li [sheepish]: Mulan, I'm sorry about all this. I just don't understand why my mother is always at odds with you.
Mulan: Actually, your mother is doing this for your sake, so I won't blame her.
General Li [lays hand on her shoulder]: That's good.
Mulan: I need to go now. I'll return after I take care of a few things in camp.
General Li: Alright. Mulan, you'd better watch your back, too.
Mulan [stifling a laugh]: Don't worry. Ma Zhong is only concerned about you because you pose a threat. He doesn't even notice my existence. He wouldn't condescend to worry about me.
General Li [teasing]: That's just like you. The sky can fall down and you won't worry.
Mulan: That all depends on the situation. If he so much as harms a hair on your head, I will skin him and break all his bones!
General Li [chuckling]: We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. Let's go. [They walk off together]
[Cut to General Ma's quarters in Three Mile Camp. General Ma is sitting at a table when a soldier comes running inside]
Soldier: General, sir, Hua Mulan has just returned to camp with her troops.
General Ma [snickering]: Oh, she had the nerve to come back? If my subordinates were as pathetic as hers, I would have long since bashed my head against the wall.
Soldier: General, sir, they look a lot better than they did when they left.
General Ma [skeptical]: Really? Now this I want to see.
[Cut to grove of trees just outside camp. Mulan is addressing her troops]
Mulan: I want everyone to go back to camp and put your stuff down, then reconvene here. Is that clear?
Soldiers: Yes, ma'am! [They head off into camp. General Ma approaches Mulan with a smirk on his face]
General Ma: So it's true that a change of scenery will work wonders with troops. [Mulan turns to face him] General Hua, you seem to have a knack.
Mulan [demurring]: I have only learned the basics of the art and have done my best. I do not have your shrewdness and calculating mind, General Ma. I could never hold a candle to you in that department.
General Ma: General Hua, you give me too much credit. I am just like you; I do the best I can. [Laughs out loud but Mulan continues to look grim]
[Cut to empty field outside camp. Four horsemen are riding at a gallop across the field. Yiren is among them, though she can barely stay on her horse. We see a shot of one horseman performing tricks such as running off and on the horse with ease and jumping tall fences. The next scene shows Mulan's troops in a row practicing archery. Most of them can't even hit the target, but Zhang Xi draws back his bow and shoots a perfect bull's eye. The other recruits applaud his efforts]
[Cut to Mulan's quarters at night. She has a lone lamp burning for light on the table as she paces back and forth, deep in thought]
Mulan: That's really weird. Sometimes Zhang Xi can hit the bull's eye a hundred times out of a hundred shots. Other times half will only hit air and the other half will hit the ground. I just can't figure it out. [Sighs in frustration. Jili calls from outside her window]
Jili: Mulan? [Walks inside, dragging an archery target with about twenty arrows embedded in the bull's eye] Zhang Xi just shot all of these arrows. Every one of them is in the center. There's no room left for any additional arrows. If we send him to represent us in the archery competition we're sure to win.
Mulan [sighing]: If he could do this each time he practiced archery, then we'd have nothing to worry about. It's a pity he isn't consistent, though.
Jili: That's true. We just did this round outside and it was pretty dark with only a little moon to light the way. You can see he hit the target each time. But when we practice during the daytime, he seems to completely lose his skill.
Mulan [getting an epiphany]: Do you think he is only accurate when it's nighttime?
Jili [frowning]: Then we're in trouble, because the competition is sure to take place in the daytime. This is the one event we have the best chance at winning. It looks like we'll have to give up that thought.
Mulan [sighing]: That's what I've been stressing over lately. But don't worry. We still have Liu Xiangzi's horsemanship. At least we have a good chance of winning one event for our troop.
Jili [suddenly starts laughing]: How could I forget that? His family has always bought and sold horses for a living. He grew up with horses. Ten years ago, his family suddenly fell on hard times, that's why he switched from horses to fortunetelling.
Mulan: Oh... no wonder he has such skill with horses.
Jili: That's right. [Sobering] Mulan, this troop is made of odds and ends. They asked me to tell you that they don't have any dreams of winning it all. All they want is to defeat General Ma's troops in two events. Just two events. We're can put up with any amount of hard work if we can just accomplish that.
Mulan: I understand what they're feeling. Next to Li Liang's troop, General Ma's is probably the next strongest. I don't think it will be easy to defeat them.
Jili [crestfallen]: Boss, are you saying that no matter how hard we try, we'll still be laughed at by those horses? (Pun on General Ma's name; "ma" is Chinese for horse)
Mulan [pats Jili on the shoulder]: Competitions always have winners and losers. We just have to make sure we show earnest effort and put on a good show. Even if we lose, we will have no cause to hold our heads in shame. Go and tell them that as long as they give it their best shot, the Emperor will know we tried our best.
Jili [salutes]: Yes, Boss! [Turns to leave her quarters]
[Cut to a scene somewhere in camp, perhaps the Marshal's quarters. A eunuch from the emperor is reading a royal decree out loud. The generals are all lined up listening to the their orders]
Eunuch: His Majesty's Orders! [The generals all kneel]
Generals [in unison]: Long live the Emperor!
Eunuch: At his Majesty's bidding, the two months allotted for the training of new recruits is up. His Majesty orders each troop to submit ten members for the competition. They are to perform in front of his Majesty and demonstrate their skills. [The generals all salute and get to their feet] Generals, I will now draw lots. [He pulls a stick out of a jar] General Hua.
Mulan [salutes]: Here. [The Eunuch pulls another stick out]
Eunuch: General Ma.
General Ma [salutes]: Here.
Eunuch: The first round will consist of General Hua against General Ma.
General Ma [turns to Mulan]: General Hua, I hope you remember to have mercy on us when we compete. Don't make me lose too badly, hmm? [Mulan doesn't answer but her face is grim at his words]
[Cut to field outside camp. Mulan's troops are standing around waiting for Mulan's return. When they spot her, they excitedly run over to her]
Zhu You: Hey, the general is back!
Recruit: Ow, you stepped on my foot!
Another Recruit: Oops. I'm sorry.
Zhu You: What happened? [Several other voices repeat the question]
Mulan [soberly]: Do you really want to know?
Jili: Of course. Stop keeping us in suspense.
Mulan: It's General Ma's troops. [The recruits all groan loudly and fall to the ground]
[A little later, Mulan is training with her troops when General Ma leads his troops jogging by Mulan. General Ma stops to chat]
General Ma: My, my, my, fancy running into you here, General Hua. I see you're training your troops? [Mulan keeps her back to him and rolls her eyes in irritation] Actually, you don't need to train. How can we compete against you? Take a look at your troop. You have such a variety of recruits. How can we be a match for you? [Sighs condescendingly] You may as well go home and cook a good meal instead of staying out here in the sun and rain.
[The scene changes to show Mulan's recruits lined up several yards away from her, all standing at attention]
Zhang Xi [speaking loudly]: General, ma'am, we're ready for training! [General Ma turns in surprise. Mulan starts beaming at her troops]
Mulan: Good! Prepare to receive a grueling training session from hell!
[Cut to Li Liang and Mulan's quarters. They are both sitting at the table]
Li Liang: What's up? I take it you're almost done writing up your plan of attack for the competition?
Mulan [sighs]: I've only got a few blanks filled out. I still have a lot more to do. [Li Liang looks over her chart]
Li Liang [surprised]: If you're only competing against Ma Zhong's troop tomorrow, why do you have so many pages of strategy plotted out?
Mulan: The Emperor hasn't decided what format his competition will cover. I want to be prepared for any situation. That way, I can be assured of victory.
Li Liang: You're that sure? Just be careful. Whatever you do, don't give yourself too much pressure.
Mulan [smiling]: Don't worry about me. Haven't you heard the saying, "trying to heal a dead horse as if it was a live horse?" I'm applying that concept with my troops. These men are trying so hard; I just want them to have the best chance at succeeding and earning some bragging rights. We will try our best and leave the rest to providence. I understand.
Li Liang: It's good that you see that. Hey, actually, you've done pretty well getting them to this point, considering they were a group of jackdaws when you started.
Mulan [teasing]: You better not keep that up. [Flutters her eyelashes] I might get proud.
Li Liang [grins]: Oh, I don't have to worry about that happening, because I.will take care of that! [Gets up, walks over, and starts to tickle her, making Mulan shriek and laugh. He grabs a brush from the inkwell and threatens to paint her face, but they are interrupted when Li Liang's mother enters the room]
Li Liang's mother [clearing throat]: Ahem! Even though this is home, the servants may enter at any time. You should behave with more decorum and dignity. [Mulan and Li Liang look sheepish, with the latter barely holding in a smile and the latter somehow managing to keep a straight face]
Li Liang: Mother.
Li Liang's mother: Tomorrow is the competition. [Turns to Mulan] Your troop is a sure loser, so you don't even need to compete. However, Li Liang's troop is the favorite to win. At a time like this you're still preoccupying him with games and other tomfoolery. [Mulan looks a little nettled but doesn't say anything] What if he messes up royally tomorrow and lets everyone down? What then?
Li Liang [protesting]: Mother, actually, I was the one that.[Mulan interrupts him and shoots him a look]
Mulan: Popo, you're right. I made a mistake. Brother Liang, you should go to bed and get your rest.
Li Liang's mother [snickering]: That's more like it. He should have done that long ago. That's the proper way for a wife to act. [Li Liang starts to protest but Mulan tugs his sleeve to restrain him]
Mulan [whispering]: Go to bed. I haven't finished planning out my strategy yet.
Li Liang [resignedly]: Okay. Mother, I'm turning in, then. [He walks to the bedroom is adjoining the sitting room. Li Liang's mother walks over and sits down]
Li Liang's mother [sighs]: Women. Why bother stubbornly striving for victory? You gained your glory when you joined the army in your father's place. Now, since the empire is at peace, you should give up this life and retire, lest you make yourself the butt of everyone's jokes.
Mulan [protesting]: Popo, the empire's welfare is everyone's responsibility. As long as I have my breath, I will always serve and protect her.
Li Liang's mother [sighs]: Haven't you heard the saying that men and women are predestined for their roles in life? Oh, wait, you won't understand such things since you're not an educated and deep thinker. It's like expecting a cow to appreciate fine art. [Mulan is still grimly remaining silent. She isn't happy to hear Li Liang's mother's words but realizes that once she opens her mouth she'll just get herself in more trouble] When you lose badly tomorrow, then what of all your grand talk about serving and protecting your country? Besides, how could the Emperor possibly consider handing such an important job to someone like you? Oh, never mind. I don't know why I bothered telling you all this. I may as well have saved my breath. [Waddles out the door]
Mulan [muttering]: Well, aren't you a woman, too? Because you look down on me so much, that just makes me even more determined to win and show you what I can do. [She sits back down at the table and continues arranging and planning out her strategy]
[Cut to brothel, where General Ma and two other generals are enjoying the company of several ladies of the evening. There is a table laid out with food and wine, which they are all merrily taking in]
General Ma: Fill it up!
Lady: General, your liquor capacity is so impressive. Here, have some more wine. [She pours out more for him, which he drinks readily, planting a kiss on her cheek at the same time]
General Ma [arm around her shoulder]: You certainly know how to take care of me. When I become Marshal, I promise to buy you and take you home to be my concubine.?
Lady: Thank you, General Ma. No, wait. I mean, thank you, Marshal.
General Ma [eyes lighting up]: Oh.well said, my lady. Well said. Come, let's drink some more.
General: Brother Ma, tomorrow is the start of the competition. Don't you need to prepare?
Second General [chiding]: You forget that Brother Ma's opponent is Hua Mulan. You think he needs to prepare to go against that riff-raff? I think you're underestimating Brother Ma's abilities.
General: Of course. I had a slip of the tongue. I will take three shots as punishment.
General Ma: Yes, you ought to be punished. Tell the truth, it's completely devoid of excitement to have her as an opponent. Actually, if you hadn't joined me tonight to partake of this wine and entertainment, I wouldn't know how to spend the long hours before tomorrow without going insane with boredom. Let's drink! [He starts drinking some more, as do the other two generals] If you don't get drunk, you don't get to leave.
[Cut to competition grounds the next day. It is cold and there is snow on the ground. A soldier is beating a large drum to announce the call to attention. The soldiers are all standing in formation and at attention. The royal family is in their open-walled tent, watching with keen interest]
Announcer: The first event will be hand-to-hand combat. Each troop is allowed three competitors.
[General Ma eyes Mulan with a smirk on his face. Mulan looks coldly back at him. Jili is at her side and shoots General Ma a dirty look]
Jili: Mulan, who will we send first? [Mulan thinks a bit]
Zhu You: General, ma'am, send me up first! I'll teach them a lesson!
Mulan: Wait a minute. Don't be impatient. Yu Xiong, you go in this round.
Yiren [blanching]: I? Do you think I can?
Jili [concerned]: Mulan, I think you should send Zhu You up first. We'll have a much better chance at victory.
Mulan [sternly]: Silence! That's an order! Am I the general here or are you the general? Yu Xiong, prepare for combat.
Yiren [walks over to whisper in Mulan's ear]: Now, I know that what happened in the past is all my fault, but this competition affects our entire troop's reputation. If you want to get back at me couldn't we pick a better time for it?
Mulan [barely moving her lips]: Don't think so much. If I wanted to give you a hard time it would be a piece of cake. When you go up against the competition, don't concern yourself with putting up a good fight; just focus on running away and dodging.
Yiren [puzzled]: Running away?
Mulan: Yes. I want you to stall for time. The longer you can stall the better. I also want you to lose badly. The worse it looks the better.
Yiren [protesting]: But... but...
Mulan [shoves her gently]: Go now.
[Yiren reluctantly goes up against a soldier from General Ma's troop. He starts attacking Yiren, who darts away and starts screaming at the top of her lungs. He keeps chasing her but she manages to ward off his attack briefly, though she eventually is slammed into the ground on her stomach. The Second Prince watches and can't help but smirk at the caliber of Mulan's troops]
Second Prince: Father, mother. It looks like Hua Mulan's troops aren't worth a damn. We may as well declare Ma Zhong the victor of this round and save everyone's time.
Crown Prince [worried]: Brother, we shouldn't stop a competition of such importance after so little time has elapsed. We should keep watching.
Emperor: Yang Guang, your brother speaks wisely. Important decisions must not be rushed.
[They all turn to see the announcer. The soldier beats the drum again to get everyone's attention]
Announcer: The first round goes to Ma Zhong's troop.
[Meanwhile, Jili is helping Yiren, who is sprawled on the snow and looking somewhat thrashed. Mulan is kneeling at her side]
Jili [concerned]: Are you injured? Do you need to see a doctor?
Yiren [in pain]: General, just now I.
Mulan: You did well. Jili, it's your turn now.
Jili: Okay. What?! [Faints]
[General Ma walks over to his next competitor]
General Ma: Go over and see what those clowns will do next.
Soldier: Yes, sir!
[He and Jili meet to start their combat. Jili gets into a fighting stance, but his legs are visibly shaking as the other soldier approaches. Jili initially is snarling ferociously but as the other soldier nears him he starts to whimper. When the other soldier is only a few feet away, Jili ducks and wildly punches out, neatly landing a fist at the groin of the other soldier. The other soldier freezes, so Jili gingerly uses his index finger to lightly push his forehead, sending him toppling to the ground. Seeing that his opponent is out cold, Jili starts posing as if everything was planned. He salutes the Crown Prince, who grins in appreciation]
[Meanwhile, Zhu You is flexing his muscles and warming up. Mulan walks over to his side]
Mulan: Zhu You, it's your turn now.
Zhu You [saluting]: Yes, General! [He walks over to meet his opponent. They start sparring and initially they are fairly evenly matched. Eventually, Zhu You lands a punch to his opponent's chest, sending him sprawling and winning the match]
Emperor [nods approvingly]: Well done.
[The next scene shows two soldiers fighting with swords. Mulan's soldier loses but not without putting up a pretty good fight. The Second Prince is smiling while the Crown Prince looks worried]
General Ma [muttering]: You want to defeat me? Humph! In your dreams!
[The next scene shows the combatants fighting with staffs]
Empress: Even though Hua Mulan's recruits aren't much to look at, they can give a run for your money. They're doing pretty well considering.
Emperor [nods]: I can see she has put a lot of hard effort into training them. After the competition is over, I ought to give her a reward for her efforts.
Second Prince [walking over]: Father, the competition between Hua Mulan and General Ma hasn't finished yet, so isn't it a little premature to talk about rewards? Besides, Hua Mulan still has two rounds left against General Ma. She may not be able to beat him.
Emperor: I wanted to have this competition to encourage our troops to do their utmost. Hua Mulan's troops may not be victorious, but they have a lot of heart and honor.
Empress [nodding]: I agree. Victory and defeat are the life of a soldier. If all our soldiers in the Sui Empire had Hua Mulan's valorous enthusiasm, I'm sure we'd be secure for a very long time.
Crown Prince: Father, Mother, you know best. If Hua Mulan is victorious today, we must give her a big reward.
Second Prince: Brother, isn't a little premature to be speaking of rewards? No matter how hard they try, they may not be able to overcome previous rounds where they came up short. Besides, I think it's wishful dreaming to think she can defeat General Ma.
Emperor [rebukingly]: Now, now.don't keep bickering, you two. The competition is about to resume.
[Mulan is addressing her troops during a break in the action]
Mulan: Ma Zhong's soldiers are sure to try to grab the best horse first. Do you think you can get there before them?
Xiangzi [starts counting on his fingers, then grins]: That tall horse over yonder you couldn't give to me. That small horse is the one that is the good one, with excellent stamina and obedient to orders.
Mulan [amazed]: Really?
Xiangzi: Ma'am, I wouldn't miscalculate that. However, to allay the competition's suspicions, I will make a show of at least trying for the tall horse.
Mulan [weakly]: Well, do your best. If we lose this round, even if Zhang Xi were to shoot perfectly we'd still lose the competition.
Xiangzi: General, ma'am, don't worry. I understand.
[The next scene shows Xiangzi fighting with staffs against a fellow horseman. He manages to unseat the other horseman then switch horses and rides off to claim victory. General Ma is livid when he sees this. The Emperor is pleased at the results]
General Ma [to his troops]: If you lose this next round, I'll have you all beheaded when we return to camp!
[Meanwhile, Mulan is giving final instructions to Zhang Xi]
Mulan: The sun is about to set. Seize your chance, okay? [Zhang Xi nods grimly and advances to the line to start the archery competition. He manages to shoot with pinpoint accuracy, splitting his first arrow with his second arrow. This draws cheers from the Emperor and Empress, as well as the Crown Prince. The Second Prince looks grim. A soldier bangs on the drum again as the announcer readies his last announcement]
Announcer: The competition today is over. General Hua Mulan is the victor! [General Li positively beams with pride when he hears those words. Mulan and her troops start loudly cheering and jumping up and down in joy]
[Cut to what looks like a tavern in the village. Mulan's troops are enjoying a feast and fine rice wine in celebration of their victory. General Li is next to Mulan and also enjoying the festivities. One by one the troops toast Mulan]
Jili [to Zhang Xi]: If it wasn't for your skill without peer in archery how could we have so easily beaten them today? Here, let me toast you!
Zhang Xi [puts up his hand]: No, I refuse to drink to that! Today's victory is because everyone stuck together, isn't that right?
Jili: Oh. Yeah, that's right.
Zhang Xi: If Yu Xiong hadn't managed to stall for time, or your (Jili's) "under the moon" technique [he imitates the way Jili punched his opponent in the groin], or Zhu You's great strength, or Liu Xiangzi's great horsemanship, how could we have won? By the way, he took a risk of eating dung if he messed up. Also, our entire troop's unwavering spirit won this for us. If we lacked even a single member we wouldn't be here celebrating right now. So I vote we drink a toast to all of us! Don't you agree, General, ma'am? [The troops all loudly cheer, with Xiangzi interrupting]
Xiangzi: Hold on, we are forgetting one person. If it weren't for her, we wouldn't have won today. Now, who could that be? [A loud cheer comes from the other soldiers]
Zhang Xi: So, what do you fellows say to drinking a toast to the General? [Another loud cheer erupts from the soldiers and they toast. Mulan and General Li stand up to toast everyone. After they finish toasting, Mulan calls for everyone's attention]
Mulan: Everyone, to tell the truth, I ought to be the one toasting everyone else here. If it hadn't been for everyone's efforts and energy, I very likely would have gone home already to write a letter of apology to the Emperor. So, I want to drink a toast to everyone. [Everyone drinks]
Zhang Xi [teasingly]: Looks like you know how to give credit where credit is due.
[As everyone continues to refill their cups, Mulan starts to cry tears of joy. General Li pats her shoulder]
General Li: Mulan, you won a great victory today. You ought to be happy beyond belief.
Mulan: I am happy. That's why I want to cry. [Her face crumples and she begins to cry again]
General Li [getting everyone's attention]: Hey, have any of you fellows seen a general act like this?
General Li: In that case, then General Hua is one of a kind, isn't that right?
General Li: Come! I'd like to drink a toast to everyone here, too. Remember, only you know how to make your general cry and laugh at the same time. [He is about to down his cup of wine when Mulan takes it from his hand]
Mulan: Oh no you don't. Tomorrow it's your turn to compete. If you got drunk then that would be a disaster. [Toasts her troops] I will drink it for you. [She downs the cup of wine, with her soldiers following her example]
General Li: That's good. When I return after the competition we'll party then, okay? [Salutes] Hope everyone has a good time. I'll take my leave now. Oh, and by the way. [He puts his arm around Mulan] I want you to look after her; don't let her get too wild.
Zhang Xi [teasing]: Don't worry, General Li. We promise to make sure she gets drunk.
General Li [mockingly chides him]: You knave, you.
Zhang Xi: I mean, I hope you have a great victory tomorrow.
General Li: Well, I'll take my leave now. [He walks out the door. Jili turns to Yiren and their eyes lock. Yiren nervously tries to look away, but Jili blinks his eyes a few times. Startled, Yiren starts fluttering her eyes, too. Both look away and act nonchalant]
[Cut to field at night amongst a group of trees. Jili is walking around a tree and talking to someone]
Jili: What's the matter? You're unhappy because you saw a married couple acting lovingly towards each other? [Snickers] Is that why you can't sleep? [Snickers again. We then see Yiren is sitting on the ground and glares at Jili, then starts snickering at him in return]
Yiren: And what about you? Oh, I see. You think the married couple doesn't act loving enough, so you want to pray to the gods for even more happiness?
Jili [scoffs]: I don't know what you're talking about.
Yiren: Oh really? Look me in the eye and tell me the truth. Have you felt any obsessive feelings for Hua Mulan?
Jili [suddenly gets nervous]: I.um, I.well, um, I never have felt any obsessive feelings toward her. I only want the best for her. I only ask that she be happy and content. That would make me happy. That isn't called an obsession. What you have is an obsession.
Yiren [glaring]: Hey! Don't make it sound so bad!
Jili: I think it sounds accurate. You are always plotting schemes with that precious aunt of yours. Now, you've finagled your way into the army. If that's not an obsession, then what is it? Hm? Tell me, what is it then?
Yiren [getting angry]: You! [She points a figure accusingly at Jili, who responds in kind. They fence with their index fingers like arguing kids]
Jili [puts his face right in front of hers]: You don't have anything to say for yourself, do you?! [Yiren looks away and remains silent. Jili puts his arm on her shoulder and tones down his voice] You know, you're actually a pretty good girl. If it weren't for those wicked schemes and tricks you play, you'd easily find someone to marry. [Yiren starts to lean on his shoulder and weep] Trust me. There will come such a day. [He lifts her head and forces her to look in his eyes] Look at me. [He starts gazing into her eyes. Without warning, she takes two fingers and shoves them in Jili's nose]
Yiren [warningly]: You needn't concern yourself with my affairs! [She then turns and walks away, leaving Jili gingerly rubbing his sore nose]
[Cut to field the next morning. Li Liang's mother is wearing a large hat with a brim and a large cloth draped over the hat to better shield her identity from onlookers. Yiren is creeping along the ground and accidentally runs into her aunt and screeches at the contact. She hurriedly gets to her feet to talk to her aunt in private, but not before she looks around to make sure no one else is around]
Li Liang's mother: Li Liang told me Hua Mulan won. Tell me, how could she win? [Shakes an accusing finger at Yiren] Did that woman give you some sort of incentive to help her win? Did you help her?
Yiren [hurt]: Aunt! You think too highly of me! [Looks away]
Li Liang's mother: Then how come you haven't written any letters to me?
Yiren [sits on the ground in a huff]: Don't mention that! If it weren't for that letter I wouldn't be stuck between a rock and hard place like I am now.
Li Liang's mother [squats down next to Yiren]: What is the matter? [Yiren starts to whisper in aunt's ear, using hand gestures to indicate recent events. Li Liang's mother's eyes open wide in alarm and chagrin] What?! She wants to drag me before the military tribunal for trial? Then what the heck are you staying here for? Why don't you leave immediately? [Yiren remains silent] I'm afraid of underestimating Hua Mulan and her ability to have me dragged away in such disgrace.
Yiren [impatient]: Aunt, forget about it. I mean, if you get down to it, we were in the wrong first.
Li Liang's mother [starts shouting]: What? Why are you on that woman's side now? [Yiren scrambles to her feet and looks around left and right in a panic, worried that someone will have heard her aunt's outburst] Has that woman scared you witless? I'm telling you, in a few more days, after Li Liang has won the entire competition, I will haul her away and get back at her for everything! [Yiren is dancing around in a panic, trying to hush her aunt. She finally pushes her aunt to the ground and puts her hand over her mouth]
Yiren: Aunt, please keep your voice down! Don't make a bigger mess than it already is. It will negatively affect Cousin, plus I will lose all face before other people.
Li Liang's mother [struggles to free her mouth]: If it wasn't for your sake, I wouldn't be scared of them at all, but you have to remember that no matter what we can't let Hua Mulan become Marshal.
Yiren [nodding]: Yes. Yes, I understand.
Li Liang's mother: Don't forget. You must remember that.
Yiren: Okay, Aunt. I need to go now. [She dashes off and leaves her aunt sprawled on the ground]
[Cut to palace. The Emperor is on his throne and addressing his generals]
Emperor: My subjects, you have worked hard these past two months. I wish to drink a toast with you. [The generals are all sitting at low tables arranged along the aisle to the throne. They lift their wine cups in unison. After everyone drinks, the Emperor turns to Mulan] General Hua, the saying "a blink of an eye and everything has changed" is unusually accurate for your troops. Your men have truly demonstrated a Jekyll-and-Hyde transformation. It really opened my eyes, I must admit.
Mulan [saluting]: Your Majesty, you are too kind. I only rode on your coattails for this good fortune to befall me. My men did this to serve your Majesty so they gave it their all.
Crown Prince: General Hua, you're being too humble. That day at the competition your strategy in picking which soldier for which event is truly inspirational.
Mulan [saluting]: Your Highness, you're too kind. We were victorious only because I was the recipient of a rare bit of good luck.
Emperor: General Hua, you can stop being humble. Are you saying you're not a true military genius and only a one-hit wonder? Do you think neither I nor the Crown Prince can tell the difference? Come. I wish to toast you another cup of wine.
Mulan [saluting and drinking]: Thank you, your Majesty.
Second Prince: Father, with a one-of-a-kind woman like General Hua assisting us, the Sui Empire is destined to prosper with peace reigning in all the land. This is truly something worthy of celebrating and enjoying.
Emperor: That's right. Generals, prepare to receive your orders. [The generals all rise from their seats and kneel in two columns before the Emperor] I want you to continue training the new recruits so if the Tujue dare attack us again, we can deal with them swiftly and effectively.
Generals: Yes, your Majesty!
Emperor: General Hua, General Li, and General Liu? [They all respond in unison] The second round of competition will start in ten days. I want the three of you to continue training without pause. When the day comes, I want you to perform to your utmost abilities before all my ministers.
Generals [saluting]: Yes, your Majesty!
[Cut to the generals walking down the hall returning from the Emperor's throne room. Mulan and General Li are in the lead. They are about to enter a sitting room when a eunuch comes running inside]
Eunuch: General Hua. General Hua.
Mulan: Eunuch Ho, did you need something?
Eunuch Ho: The Empress heard you were in the palace and she has specifically requested your presence in her quarters. [Mulan looks to General Li for support; he smiles at her and nods his head]
Mulan: Thank you for your time, Eunuch Ho. Could you please lead the way? [She walks off to the Empress' quarters behind Eunuch Ho. General Li continues to smile at Mulan's retreating form with a look of great pride. This is not lost on the other generals]
General Liu [grinning]: Seems to me their Majesties look upon General Hua with great favor. How does that make you feel as her husband? [The other generals laugh at the jest. General Li takes the ribbing in stride]
General Li: General Liu, when Ling Li (famous person?) praised your sister-in-law for her great housekeeping abilities, how did you feel?
General Liu: Why, I felt great pride and satisfaction.
General Li: When their Majesties were praising Mulan just now, I felt exactly the same way.
General Liu [protesting]: That's not the same thing. Is great housekeeping to be compared and interchanged with great skill military skills?
General Li: There's no difference. Both are examples of capable women.
General Ma [scoffing at General Liu]: You're something else. Why all the rigmarole? Don't you know that this is good luck that General Li has earned? None of you need be jealous because it'll never happen to you. Perhaps there will come a day when the husband is common and the wife is extraordinary. Not like the rest of us, running hither and thither, serving under General Hua's standard. When the times that a woman will say jump and the husband will ask how high, won't that be something to celebrate? [It's hard to miss the scorn General Ma is heaping in his tone of voice]
General Li [needling]: General Ma, I started serving in the army because I wanted to do my duty for my country and help protect her. If the Emperor has such a fate planned for me, then I have no arguments. However, since General Ma lost to Mulan, then such musings are really a moot point, aren't they?
General Ma [in a huff]: Armies suffer victory and defeat often. [Thumps his chest] I never dwell on such things! The empire's duties await me. I'll take me leave now. [Salutes coldly and leaves. General Li salutes back]
General Liu [soberly]: Ma Zhong is a touchy and sensitive fellow. After the way you just picked at his sore points, I'd be on my guard.
General Li: Even if today's events hadn't happened, I'd still be on my guard around him.
General Liu [puzzled]: General Li, what do you mean by that? Are you implying that he.
General Li [interrupts]: Never mind. Let's talk about something else. How about we return to our quarters? After you. [General Li and the other generals all leave the sitting room]
[Cut to a courtyard in the Generals' Residence. Li Liang is practicing staff fighting, rapidly whirling it around in a complicated maneuver. No one else is in the courtyard initially, but Li Liang's mother soon walks in with a maid at her side. She starts clapping and smiling broadly when she sees her son's skill]
Li Liang [stops and walks over]: Mother.
Li Liang's mother [wipes his brow]: Go on practicing. Am I disturbing you? Do you want me to leave?
Li Liang: Oh, I'm just about done here. Has Mulan returned yet?
Li Liang's mother [immediately frowning]: Is that all you ever think about?
Li Liang [turns to maid]: You're dismissed. [The maid curtsies, then leaves. Li Liang takes his mother aside] Mother, could you please stop being at odds with Mulan all the time?
Li Liang's mother: I? Would I dare? Do you think I've taken bravery pills?
Li Liang: Then why did you tell Yiren to infiltrate Mulan's troop?
Li Liang's mother [looks guilty]: Well.
Li Liang [frowns]: Mother, Mulan is my wife. That means we're all one family. Why can't we all just get along? What's wrong with that? Besides, if she wins the competition and becomes Marshal, it will be for the glory of the Li family.
Li Liang's mother: If you really think that way, then you're the world's biggest fool. Only if you become Marshal would that be for the glory of the Li family. If she wins and rules over you, what will people say? They'll say you are no match for your wife and you're a good-for-nothing rascal!
Li Liang [protesting]: Mother. If Mulan is truly superior, then it's no big deal if she becomes Marshal. Besides, I'm still a general. How many generals are there? I'm content with what I have.
Li Liang's mother [scolds]: You're so naïve. Think a minute. If she becomes Marshal then you become her subordinate. When you meet you have to bow and scrape before her. Are you saying that wouldn't bother you in the least? Hm? [Li Liang doesn't say anything. He starts to daydream about what life will be like with Mulan as the Marshal. We see a dream sequence, where everything is fuzzy. Mulan is sitting at a low desk and looks harsh and cruel]
Mulan [snarls]: Preposterous! How did we lose that fort? Who messed up?
General Ma: Marshal, ma'am, it's because General Li's troops arrived too late to save it. This allowed the Tujue to seize the opportunity and overwhelm us.
Mulan [glares at General Li]: Li Liang, how do you explain this?
General Li: Marshal, ma'am, my troops were on their way when we encountered another band of Tujue soldiers. They were massacring the inhabitants of a nearby village. So, um, we went to help them first.
Mulan [dangerously calm]: So out of the kindness of your heart, you went to rescue them. [Raises her voice and starts yelling] But do you know that this caused us to lose the fort? How am I going to explain this to the Emperor? [Starts lecturing] You disobeyed orders and took it upon yourself to do something you were not instructed to do. You screwed up our mission, do you understand?
General Li [steps forward and starts whispering]: Mulan, no matter what, I'm still your husband. Do you think you could.
Mulan [yells again]: Don't you "Mulan" me! So what if you're my husband? Anyone who breaks the law will be punished the same. Guards! [Some guards come forward] Take him away and give him 80 strokes! [The guards start to haul General Li away, but he starts to protest]
General Li [incredulous]: You're going to punish me?
Mulan: You're forgetting that I'm the Marshal. Not only can I punish you, I can have you executed!
General Li: Mulan.
Mulan: An order is an order! Drag him away! [The guards forcibly drag General Li away even as he keeps calling for Mulan. She starts to laugh wickedly]
General Li: Mulan, I'm your husband! Let me go! Mulan! [Mulan continues to laugh, this time doing the stereotypical evil laugh of villains in the movies]
[The echoes of Mulan's laugh continue as we come back to real life. Li Liang is asleep with his head propped on one arm as he sits in a chair. Mulan comes inside the room calling for him]
Mulan: Brother Liang? Brother Liang, are you asleep? [Sees he isn't responded, so she yells loudly] Li Liang! [Li Liang jumps up, startled badly]
Li Liang: What? Who?
Mulan: What were you doing?
Li Liang: Oh. Nothing much. The Empress asked to see you and she didn't let you go until now?
Mulan [sighs]: That's right. [They both sit back down at the table]
Li Liang: What were you talking about that took so long?
Mulan [smiles]: Oh, just the usual encouraging talk, like telling me to keep trying, keep working, become a female Sui Marshal, do it for all the women of the world! [Li Liang gets a worried look on his face when he hears these words]
Li Liang: You really want to become the Marshal so badly?
Mulan [sighs]: Actually, when I first joined the army I did so partly to help my father and also to accomplish something grand and great. If I really do become a female Marshal, that would be a happy occasion indeed.