[Cut to city street. Jili and Xiangzi are sauntering side by side with their swords in hand and wearing their armor]

Jili: Working the graveyard shift is really tiring. I'm thankful you are here to keep me company.

Xiangzi: Hey, look over there! See how crowded and exciting everything is. Maybe one day when we have money and time we can go over and join in the fun.

Jili [teasing]: There you go again, dreaming beyond your means. Let's go. [He backtracks to get a better look at what Xiangzi noticed earlier. He sees Li Liang and the Crown Prince leaving the brothel arm in arm]

Li Liang: This way, Brother Yang. [Both men are staggering around. The sun is just about to set and the streets are otherwise deserted]

Jili [shocked]: Wow! [He is bent over with his back facing the retreating forms of the Crown Prince and Li Liang and watching them between his legs]

Crown Prince: With such plentiful wine, a thousand cups is not too many. We must do this again tomorrow. Same place, same time.

Li Liang [pales]: What? We're going to do this again tomorrow?

Crown Prince: Yes, tomorrow. I'll be waiting for you. [He staggers away]

Li Liang: Fine. Tomorrow it is. [Murmurs to himself] Anything is better than staying home listening to my mother gripe about everything. [He walks off in another direction]

[Jili is still bent over double when Xiangzi walks over to see what is keeping Jili. He leans over to peer at Jili and puts his head mere inches from Jili's rear. A loud noise erupts and Xiangzi backs away hurriedly, waving his hand and holding his nose in chagrin]

Jili [stands up straight and gets defensive]: What are you trying to smell?

Xiangzi [still holds nose]: I'm not trying to smell anything. I'm wondering why you stopped walking. [Starts grinning] You must have spotted a pretty girl. Let me take a look, too.

Jili [tries to distract Xiangzi]: Oh, no, no. The more you gawk the more perverted you get. [He leads Xiangzi away down the street]

[Cut to a tavern where Mulan and Jili are sharing a meal together. Jili is busily putting food into Mulan's bowl for her]

Jili: Here, eat. Eat some of this, too. [He keeps heaping more and more food in her bowl until it's overflowing] This egg is good, too. [Mulan is puzzled and suspicious of his behavior] Eat. Eat.

Mulan [shortly]: Hey! Do you have nothing better to do than put food in my bowl?

Jili: Um. Well, you started to get thin yesterday so you have to start eating more today. [He picks up his chopsticks again and starts to get more food for her]

Mulan [impatient]: Would you stop that? Just tell me whatever it is you need to say. You've been hemming and hawing all day already. To eat this meal with you I had to cancel an appointment with Lady Shangshu.

Jili: Do you really have that many appointments with people recently?

Mulan [sheepish]: Well, everyone is showing me great favor. It's hard to push away these favors. When I first joined the army I never expected to be in this situation. It's just like my mother. Ever since she moved to the capital, you wouldn't believe how many appointments she has. She has all but forgotten to look after my father.

Jili [grumbling]: That's really funny that you end up forgetting your own husband.

Mulan [gets starry-eyed]: Just think about it, though. All those people that are inviting you admire you greatly. They only say good things about you to your face. When you sit with them, you are a great person in their midst. That feeling is something incomparable.

Jili: But have you ever considered that Li Liang will be bored and lonesome sitting at home alone all the time?

Mulan [pouting]: Well, people have invited him to go along, too. He just didn't want to go. Besides, you know how filial he is. He can stay home and spend more time with his mother; if anything, he'd be happier that way.

Jili [muttering]: How did she get so naïve so quickly?

Mulan: What? What did you say?

Jili: Nothing. Nothing. [Nibbles on some food]

Mulan [impatient]: Jili, what exactly did you want to tell me? Hurry up. In a little while I need to go to the palace to see the Empress.

Jili: I wanted to say that you shouldn't get too wrapped up in your own affairs and alienate Li Liang.

Mulan [fixes a look]: Did he tell you to come tell me this?

Jili: No.

Mulan [scoffs]: Would you stop borrowing trouble? You don't know how happy Brother Liang is with this arrangement.

Jili [mumbles]: I know.

Mulan: Good. He's happy and I'm happy. What's wrong with that?

Jili [laughs weakly]: Okay. Let's eat then.

Mulan: Enough. I can't eat all this. [She transfers some food from her bowl over to Jili's bowl]

[After the meal, Mulan leaves the tavern but Jili hurriedly blocks her way, then starts circling around her rapidly and chanting what sounds like a rhyming poem]

Jili: Mulan, a husband (in Chinese, "zhang fu") is a man within ten feet of you. With Li Liang, you must stick closer to him.

Mulan: Are you saying that Brother Liang hasn't been himself lately?

Jili [feigns innocence]: Nothing. Nothing. I just want you to guard against things.

Mulan: Oh, I see. Guard against things. Well, I still have matters to attend, so I'm leaving now. [Turns and walks down the street. Jili is chagrined that Mulan doesn't seem to take him seriously, so he chases her as she goes. In the shadows, Yiren peers around and glares at the retreating Jili. She is positively seething for some reason, probably because she thinks Jili is flirting with Mulan]

[Cut to room inside the Generals' Residence. Yiren storms in and shuts the door behind her. She stamps her feet in frustration]

Yiren: That damned fool Su Jili! That damned fool! [She sits at a bench and starts punching the covering in fury. Li Liang's mother walks in the room and is surprised at the scene before her]

Li Liang's mother: Yiren, what's the matter? Who has offended our Mistress Xu?

Yiren: Nothing much. Just now I was on the street and saw two rabid dogs.

Li Liang's mother: Is that all? I just heard some good news. I guarantee you'll be happy as soon as you hear it. [Yiren turns around in curiosity]

Yiren: What good news?

Li Liang's mother: That Hua Mulan is always out and about all day now. In our case, if we don't seize this opportunity then when are we going to strike? So, I took the liberty of telling Li Liang to go rowing on the lake with us tomorrow. I want you to dress to the nines so when he sees you, he'll know what a real woman looks like.

Yiren [somewhat chagrined]: Tomorrow?

Li Liang's mother: Of course. [Sees Yiren isn't very excited so she sobers also] What's the matter? You don't look very happy. Are you still upset over the two dogs? Well, I can tell Li Liang to postpone this trip for another day.

Yiren [gets stern]: That's quite alright. I'm fine.

Li Liang's mother [skeptical]: Really?

Yiren: Really. I'm fine. Aunt, don't worry. Tomorrow I promise to put all my effort into making a great impression and giving Hua Mulan a run for her money.

Li Liang's mother [hugs Yiren]: Now that's what I like to hear! [Yiren gives her aunt a weak smile in response]

[Cut to the next morning. Li Liang's mother and Yiren are about to set off with Li Liang on a shopping trip. There is snow on the ground and they appear just outside the city gates. Li Liang's mother pulls Yiren aside to whisper some last minute admonitions, then shoves the reluctant Yiren in Li Liang's direction. Yiren fusses with her hair before walking towards Li Liang and fluttering her eyes a little]

Yiren [coquettishly]: Oh, cousin?

Li Liang [absently]: Yes?

Yiren: Are you quite tired?

Li Liang [straightens]: No.

Li Liang's mother: You've been off chatting with your friends for the past several days for hours on end. At this rate, your little brain is going to burn out.

Li Liang [protesting]: Mother, stop exaggerating.

Li Liang's mother: Would your mother lie to you? If you don't believe me, ask Yiren.

Yiren [puts her arm under his]: Cousin, it's true. You look a little thinner. Do you have some affair of the heart that is making you unhappy?

Li Liang [shortly]: What affairs?

Li Liang's mother [chiding]: I gave birth to you and raised you. Do you think I don't know better than anyone else when something is on your mind? If you aren't happy, then the solution isn't to go looking for General Liu to get drunk with. You should come looking for Yiren and I to spend time with. We can go walking along the river. Oh, yes, don't you remember how you two used to love skipping stones across the water when you were little children? [Yiren smiles shyly at Li Liang but he doesn't notice] Do you want to go skip some stones again?

Li Liang [shocked]: What? At my age, you still want us to go skip stones?

Yiren [turning on charm]: Cousin, it's such a special treat to make Aunt happy. Why not?

Li Liang's mother [coaxing]: Exactly. Come on, do it one more time.

Li Liang [reluctantly]: Fine. I'll go first. [Walks over to the water's edge with Yiren. Li Liang's mother looks on approvingly]

Yiren: Cousin, but I don't know how.

Li Liang [exasperated]: How can you not remember? I taught you when we were young.

Yiren: Just teach me again, please?

Li Liang: Fine. Like this. First, keep your feet apart, then hook your fingers over the rock like so. [Li Liang demonstrates to Yiren. She deliberately feigns complete incompetence so he has to spend more time with her] Not like that, like this. You have to grip it tightly.

Yiren: Oh, I don't know how to throw it.

Li Liang: Just throw it out in a straight line and that's it.

Yiren [whiningly]: Oh, I can't hold on to it.

Li Liang [patiently]: Just hold it like this and throw it.

Yiren: I can't, oh, I can't. It's too heavy.

[Li Liang and Yiren continue to try and figure out how to skip a stone as Li Liang's mother looks on. Jili is peeking at the scene from behind a tree and he doesn't look very pleased with what he sees. After a bit of tussling, Li Liang finally helps Yiren toss a rock across the water's surface successfully]

Jili [mutters]: Xu Yiren, you are truly debasing yourself.

[Cut to the Generals' Residence later that day. Yiren opens the back door and walks outside, looking hither and thither]

Yiren: What visitor? I don't see anyone. [She is about to turn around to go back inside when Jili pops up, wearing a large openwork basket on his head. Yiren shrieks in surprise when she sees him] What do want with me? Did you have to come to the back door? You're acting awfully suspicious; do you have something to hide?

Jili [shucks basket]: Who is acting suspiciously? And you have the nerve to act high and mighty with me?

Yiren [puts hands on hips]: And what is that supposed to mean?

Jili [laughs in a sinister voice]: You know full well what you've done recently. [He runs into the small stone pagoda that is on either side of the back door and disappears from view]

Yiren [angry]: What's that have to do with me? If you have some crap to spill then go ahead and spill it. [Jili pops back up behind Yiren]

Jili: True. When this crap comes out it will definitely stink up the place. You don't need me to tell you what you did at Shadow Lake today, right? I know, I know. You really like Li Liang, but he already has a wife. If you keep trying to get between them like this, isn't that merely whoring yourself?

Yiren [furious]: Whoring myself? What about you? You keep following that Hua Mulan around like a lost puppy. Is that any more dignified?

Jili [acts nonchalant]: Who says? [Barks slightly and yaps like a puppy]

Yiren: Who was at the Fragrant Heaven Tavern not two days ago? Well?

Jili: Well, all I did was shoot the breeze with her. Nothing more.

Yiren: Well, all I did with my cousin was take a trip down memory lane.

Jili [scolds]: That's not true! [Sputters] You're just trying to alienate his affections!

Yiren: True! And what of it? I want to get between them and do all I can to make Hua Mulan suffer. And you can't do a thing to me about it. [She smirks and turns around, then goes back in the Generals' Residence, leaving an openmouthed Jili standing outside]

[Cut to Generals' Residence, where Li Liang has just entered the front door. A manservant greets him]

Li Liang: Has Younger Mistress returned yet?

Servant: No, not yet.

Li Liang: That's all for now. Get me some tea. And make it a good strong cup, too. [The servant bows and hurries off. Yiren walks in and slides up to Li Liang]

Yiren: Cousin, why are you still drinking strong tea at this hour? (I think strong teas are reserved for earlier in the day, but I'm not sure) [She leans in closer and notices the smell of alcohol on his breath, then waves away the smell with her handkerchief] Oh, I see. You want to dissipate the smell of liquor, lest Cousin-In-Law find out and get upset with you.

Li Liang: What does she have to be upset about? She's always off at all those visits.

Yiren: You know, Cousin-In-Law really ought to know better. Ever since returning victoriously from battle, she's never around to properly look after the home. No wonder Aunt is upset with her.

Li Liang [shortly]: There you go, spouting nonsense again.

Yiren [feigns innocence]: But I'm speaking the truth. [Takes another tack] I feel for you; I really do. I know that with Cousin-In-Law always out that you deliberately spend as much time as possible outside, too, just to avoid Aunt's nagging, isn't that true?

Li Liang [turns to leave]: There you go again, misconstruing things.

Yiren [grabs his arm]: Cousin, since you don't want to hear that, then let me change the subject. You keep telling us that you're spending your time with General Liu. However, he hasn't seen you around recently. [Li Liang looks alarmed and hurries over to Yiren]

Li Liang: What nonsense are you talking about?

Yiren [smirks]: Oh, I'm talking nonsense, am I? Well, when Cousin-In-Law returns, I'll just ask her to get some proof from the Liu residence. [She starts to walk off but Li Liang grabs her shoulders in a panic]

Li Liang: What else do you know?

Yiren [innocent]: Nothing. I just happened to walk by the Liu residence today and noticed the entire family packing up for an extended vacation, so I thought it a little odd. I went over and found out that you haven't visited them in quite a long time. As for your other activities, I really have no knowledge of them, nor do I have an interest in finding out. I'll leave that for your wife to find out when she comes home.

Li Liang [resigned]: Very well. What do you want then?

Yiren: I want a pearl necklace, two pairs of embroidered shoes, three outfits.

Li Liang [pulls out chunk of silver]: Here. That should cover it.

Yiren: But I want you to go buy them with me. [Sees Li Liang hesitate] What's the matter? You take a wife and all of a sudden we're like strangers? Are you forgetting how we used to eat and sleep together when we were children?

Li Liang: We were still little kids then. We're adults now.

Yiren: I don't have any brothers and you don't have any sisters. Just pretend I'm your younger sister, alright?

Li Liang [looks her in the eye]: Is that really what you think?

Yiren [muttering]: I don't have much choice, do I? I'm not going to marry you and be your concubine. [Mutters to herself] I'm not going to whore myself.

Li Liang: It's good that you think that way, Cousin. That puts my mind at ease.

Yiren: So you'll go shopping with me tomorrow?

Li Liang: No problem. [Whispers to her] Just make sure you don't tell anyone that I didn't really go to visit General Liu all those times, alright?

Yiren: Don't worry. I promise to keep this secret for you. [Whispers to him] So, can you tell me, where did you really go?

Li Liang [sternly]: If you ask again, I'm not going to buy anything for you!

Yiren [soothing]: Fine, fine, I won't ask. Look at how sensitive you are to such a question. [Giggles at him. Mulan walks in]

Mulan: Still up?

Li Liang: Oh, you're back.

Mulan: What are you talking about that's so entertaining?

Yiren: Oh, nothing much. I was just reminiscing with Cousin about things we did as little kids. Did he ever tell you about the time he jumped in the water to save me and almost drowned?

Mulan [eyes Li Liang evenly]: Don't you know how to swim? [Li Liang starts to squirm under her gaze and Yiren jumps in to save him]

Yiren: Er, actually, he learned after that incident.

Mulan: Oh, I see. If you hadn't told me, I wouldn't have known.

[Cut to Li Liang and Mulan's quarters at night. They are preparing for bed]

Mulan: You know how Yiren feels about you, right?

Li Liang: Now what are you talking about? I have always looked upon her as my younger sister.

Mulan: I wasn't talking about you, I was talking about her. You'd better not be too nice to her, or else she'll get the wrong idea about your intentions.

Li Liang: That reminds me, we had a talk about that and she understands that since I am married now, she won't keep hoping for something that cannot be.

Mulan [eyes light up]: Really?

Li Liang: Of course. If nothing else, she could never best you, so she's not a match against you to try to fight over me.

Mulan [teasing]: Fight over you? I wouldn't resort to brawling. If you ever change your feelings for me, I won't say a word and will willingly give you up with both hands.

Li Liang: Hey, you said it, I didn't. Don't regret it later.

Mulan: Do you think I really would?

Li Liang: Hm. I think we'd need to test that out to find out for sure.

Mulan [raises her hand as if to strike him]: You wouldn't dare!

Li Liang: Of course not. Mulan, I hope you're not going to visit with those high class people again tomorrow, are you?

Mulan: I still do. Tomorrow morning I have to go to the Sangsu residence, then I head to the Duke's residence in the afternoon. If you don't have anything to do, come with me.

Li Liang: That's all right. I'll find someone to shoot the breeze with.

Mulan [disappointed]: Oh.

[Cut to next morning. Li Liang and Yiren are roaming the streets. Li Liang is trying to keep up with Yiren as she looks here and there]

Li Liang: Yiren. Hey, Yiren, what exactly are you trying to buy?

Yiren: Hm? Oh, I'm trying to remember where that store is. Give me a minute; I'm sure I'll recall it. [She thinks to herself, "This is on the path to the Sangsu residence; I'm sure Hua Mulan will have to go by this way on her way to the Sangsu residence"]

Li Liang: Cousin, tell you what, let me give you the money and let you figure out where to buy what you want. [He hands over some money in a small sack and tries to leave, but Yiren clutches his arm]

Yiren: Cousin, I'm a lone girl out shopping; I'll be an easy target for unscrupulous dealers. Just stay with me a little longer, please. If you do that, then I promise I won't tell Cousin-In-Law where you've been the past few days.

Li Liang: Fine. I will warn you, though, that you are not to blackmail me with this in the future. Actually, it really wasn't much. I just went out drinking with the Crown Prince.

Yiren [surprised]: Oh, the Crown Prince? You mean the same Crown Prince that is known for roaming the red-light district? [Grimaces] Brr. No wonder you've been acting so secretive lately.

Li Liang [alarmed]: Hey, don't you go digging for any more dirt. We really only did some drinking and chatting. There was nothing else we did.

Yiren: Oh, calm down. I'm not going to tell Cousin-In-Law anything. As for me, I just want some company today. I'd like someone to be my sugar daddy today and buy things for me.

Li Liang [sighs and glares at Yiren]: Fine. You win. Where do you want to go? [In the distance, we see a litter approaching, presumably taking Mulan to the Sangsu residence. Yiren spots the litter and immediately turns to Li Liang. She feigns getting something in her eye]

Yiren: Oh, Cousin, I got something in my eye!

Li Liang [concerned]: A bit of sand? [Yiren starts wailing] Here, let me blow it free for you. [He leans over and blows into her eye]

Yiren: It hurts! It hurts so much! [The litter goes by and Yiren raises her voice even more, hoping to attract the attention of the occupant. Amidst all the ruckus, Mulan lifts the curtain in the litter to see the source of all the commotion. Her eyes open wide in surprise at the scene before her eyes. Yiren spots Mulan watching and deliberately puts on an even bigger show for her to see. From Mulan's vantage point, it looks like Li Liang is making out with Yiren. Mulan hurriedly lets the curtain fall and sits back in her seat, looking very perturbed]

Li Liang: Is it out yet?

Yiren: No! It's still there! Get it out! It hurts!

Mulan [murmuring]: How could this happen?

[Cut to quarters where Jili is staying. He is seated at the table and enjoying a meal. He burps in contentment, then pulls a long reed about a meter long from the wall. He proceeds to use it as a toothpick. Mulan walks in looking very grim]

Mulan: Su Jili.

Jili [standing up]: Hey, you don't need to go visiting today?

Mulan [grabs him by the collar]: You kept telling me about husbands and some such, then you say that a husband (in Chinese, "zhang fu") is a man within ten feet of you. Are you hiding something from me that I should know about?

Jili [cringes]: Let go first, alright? Let go first. [She roughly lets go of his collar and glares at him] So you know?

Mulan [face despairs]: Then it's true! And you knew a long time ago?!

Jili [looks ashamed and starts to pick his teeth and mumbles]: I, um, found out just a short time ago.

Mulan: Then why didn't you tell me?

Jili: I was afraid you'd be unhappy. But I did drop some hints, though. I was hoping you'd take notice of things yourself. I didn't want to state things so plainly for you.

Mulan [exasperated]: With something this important, you expect to just casually throw out a couple sentences to tell me? If we wait till their spark becomes a wildfire, then what am I going to do? It'll be on your head! [Slugs his arm]

Jili: Oh, I think he's just putting on a show, otherwise he would have long since done the deed.

Mulan [puzzled]: What show? All I know is that I saw him getting very intimate with Yiren on the street not too long ago. I thought you were talking about that. [Jili's eyes grow wide when he realizes what he has said. Mulan looks even more alarmed] Are you saying there's someone else, too?

Jili [shocked, he grabs Mulan's collar]: What did you say Yiren was doing with Li Liang?

Mulan [roughly shoves him]: Answer me, where did he go to put on a show?

Jili: Answer me first! Tell me how intimate did Yiren get with Li Liang?

Mulan: Hey, I asked you for some answers; how come you've turned the tables and are asking me for answers now?

[Cut to sitting room where Li Liang's mother is drinking some tea and getting a shoulder massage from one of her maids. She sees Yiren and Li Liang returning from their trip. He is laden with several boxes and parcels. Li Liang's mother bounces out of her chair to go over to them]

Li Liang's mother: Li Liang, Yiren, where did you go? [Yiren is about to spill the beans when Li Liang interrupts her]

Li Liang: Yiren insisted I go shopping with her, so since I had a little free time, I did. [Looks to Yiren and his voice becomes stern] Remember, scout's honor.

Yiren: Yes, I know.

Li Liang: Mother, I'm going to get changed. I'll be heading over to General Liu's place.

Yiren [eyes him significantly]: Oh? [Li Liang shoots her a look but doesn't say anything, then leaves the room. Li Liang's mother excitedly pulls Yiren over to the table]

Li Liang's mother: Yiren, over here. [Turns to maid] Go get some snacks, will you? [The maid curtsies and leaves the room] Yiren, you were gone a long time with Li Liang. What did you two talk about?

Yiren [looking uncomfortable]: Nothing much.

Li Liang's mother: Nothing much? You know full well all my personal troubles. You don't need to hide any of your personal thoughts from me.

Yiren [protesting]: Really, there was nothing much that happened.

[At this moment, Mulan storms into the sitting room, with Jili following close behind her. Her mouth is set grimly and she heads straight for the startled Yiren, then grabs her by the arm]

Mulan: Yiren, where is my husband?

Li Liang's mother [protesting]: My good General Hua, this is not the army. You can't go throwing your weight around here.

Jili: This isn't called throwing your weight around. It's called maintaining order in the family. What kind of aunt are you? If you're not going to meddle in her affairs, that's one thing. But now you're encouraging her to pursue a man who already has a wife!

Yiren: Su Jili! We don't know each other very well, so watch what words you use! What's this about pursuing a man who already has a wife?

Jili: A blind man could see the designs you have upon Li Liang! Did all the men of the world die so you have to resort to forcing yourself on someone?

Yiren: Oh no, the men of the world didn't all die off. However, there aren't very many left who are any good. Just leftovers like you. If I don't choose someone like Cousin, then I ought to choose someone like you?!

[Jili and Yiren get into a staring match, with the former growling like an angry dog]

Mulan: Jili, calm down. Yiren, just what kind of designs do you have?

Li Liang's mother: Daughter-In-Law, what's to worry? Men, you see, often have three or four wives. Especially with a wife like you, who is not always around and may have to don armor to go to battle at a moment's notice, then who is going to run the household and wait on the popo and have children to spread the Li family name? [Mulan is looking daggers at Li Liang's mother, but she doesn't seem to notice, nor care] Of course Li Liang should get a second wife. And if he's going to marry another woman, he's better off marrying someone he's familiar with instead of someone he doesn't know. That's why Yiren would be the perfect match. [Yiren's eyes bug out in shock] I wasn't going to tell you this until later, but since you've brought it up now, I may as well lay my cards on the table.

Mulan [upset]: Popo, Brother Liang and I have only been married a few months, and you already want him to take concubine?

Li Liang's mother [breezily]: Hey, lots of men take concubines even before they take wives. [Yiren hurries over to try and stop her aunt] Yiren, I won't give you a hard time over this. You are a daughter from a good family. If we bring you into the family (i.e.-marry Li Liang), it won't be as a concubine, but as an equal wife. [Yiren is even more shocked and dismayed at the prospect. Mulan looks like she's about to faint]

Mulan [murmuring]: Equal wife?

Li Liang [walks in]: Who is getting an equal wife?

Mulan: Stop pretending! When you married me, you said you'd be faithful till death do us part.

Li Liang [bewildered, he goes over to Yiren and whispers]: Yiren, did you spill the beans? [She waves her hands to indicate she hasn't said anything. Li Liang goes back to Mulan] Mulan, you're misunderstanding things. I went to that brothel only to drink and chat and for nothing else.

[Mulan looks displeased at the news and Li Liang's mother is shocked and aghast]

Li Liang's mother: You what? You went to a brothel? Oh, my son, that's courting disaster! If you go mingle with those women you'll end up full of disease, and then what are we going to do? [Li Liang looks frustrated with his mother's melodramatics] What am I going to tell the ancestors when I see them? [She grabs his arm and starts pulling] Come on, we have to go before them now and apologize!

Mulan [grabs his other arm]: How could you do this to me? The Emperor himself granted this marriage. I want you to explain yourself to him! [Both ladies pull back and forth. Finally, Li Liang breaks free and sits down in a huff]

Li Liang: Trust me! I didn't do anything but drink and chat! [His brows are furrowed in irritation] If you don't believe me, you can go ask the Crown Prince.

Mulan [aghast]: You went with the Crown Prince? You know full well that their Majesties don't like his playboy lifestyle, yet you went with him anyway. Aren't you afraid his Majesty will blame you?

Jili [comes over]: You've changed. You've really changed. Not only did you secretly go visit a brothel but you also made moves on Yiren. How can you do that to Mulan? How can you do that to me?

Li Liang [annoyed]: What business is it of yours? Don't butt into things that are between Mulan and I.

Jili [defensive]: Well, that's because she's my foster sister. If I didn't know in the beginning that you were an honest person, that you were a fool [hurriedly covers his mouth] I would never have let her marry you. Now you are chasing skirts left and right, so of course you have sinned against me.

Yiren [comes over and shoves Jili]: What's this about chasing skirts left and right? Don't you go spreading your contagion! Keep a civil tongue in your head!

Jili: Well, in that case, if I were to talk about your relationship with him, it would be with limbs going in the wrong places. If I were to make that a little more civil, I'd describe it as a secret affair, so which one do you prefer?

Yiren: You dare belittle and insult me? Fine. [She hauls back and throws a right cross at Jili's jaw, sending him reeling]

Jili [whimpers]: You hit me! [He straightens up, then shoves Yiren towards Li Liang's mother. The two of them start to tussle, but Mulan pulls Jili aside while Li Liang's mother pulls Yiren aside]

Mulan: Jili speaks the truth. All of you are in on this conspiracy. It's all your (Li Liang's mother's) fault, egging them on.

Li Liang's mother [surprised]: Mine?

Li Liang [steps in]: Mulan, we should resolve our own issues between ourselves. I forbid you to speak to my mother that way.

Mulan: You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. How can you do this to me?

Li Liang's mother: Humph! It is common for a man to have three or four wives, as common as snow in the winter. What's the big deal? Besides, you're never home anyway. What's he supposed to do, stay home and die of boredom?

Jili [still restrained by Mulan]: You are doing nothing but encouraging and abetting a criminal!

Li Liang's mother: This is a household affair. What's it to you?

Yiren [butts in]: Exactly! What's it to you? [She tries to attack Jili but Li Liang's mother holds her back]

[Cut to Li Liang and Mulan's quarters. Li Liang enters the doors and sees Mulan suddenly hurl a bundle of bedding in his direction]

Mulan [angrily]: Go sleep in the study!

Li Liang [bewildered]: What are you doing? [Protests] All I did was go out to help break the monotony; I didn't do anything to dishonor you.

Mulan [sits down in a huff]: Say what you like.

Li Liang: Mulan, if you don't believe me, you can go ask them.

Mulan [aghast]: Do you expect me to go to a brothel and ask those prostitutes which one laid a hand on you? You may not mind losing all face, but I still have to go out and face people.

Li Liang [resigned]: Well, if you're not going to believe me, then there isn't anything I can do.

Mulan: Fine, we'll discuss that later. So what's going on between you and Yiren?

Li Liang [protesting]: There's even less to talk about with that. If I wanted to marry her I'd have done it long ago.

Mulan: Nothing much?! Then why did I see the two of you getting physical in the street today?

Li Liang: That's because she discovered that I haven't actually been going to General Liu's residence the past few days. She blackmailed me into going shopping with her.

Mulan [sternly]: If you had a clear conscience, how could she possibly blackmail you?

Li Liang: Mulan, if you feel that I have wronged you, then I sincerely apologize.

Mulan: You're apologizing because I think you erred? Are you saying that you don't think you've erred?

Li Liang [sighs and puts bedding on table]: Mulan, truth to tell, ever since we came back from battle you've been going out daily visiting people. I only went out to help pass the time.

Mulan [sharply]: And passing the time means going to a brothel? Then doesn't that mean if you want to celebrate a gala event, you need to have a no holds barred party?

Li Liang [gets angry]: Where did that come from? [Takes a deep breath] One question. Are you willing to erase this event from your memory.

Mulan: Erase it? It's not so simple as that! [Li Liang picks up the bundle and starts to head out the door] Hey, stop! You dare lose your temper with me?

Li Liang [looking long-suffering]: I wouldn't dare lose my temper with you. I'm only following orders. Didn't you just tell me to go outside to sleep? [Turns around and stalks out the door, looking chagrined and frustrated about the whole situation. Mulan is about to break down and cry when she realizes he isn't staying]

[As Li Liang walks down the hall to the study, Li Liang's mother and Yiren are peeking from the shadows. The former is elated at the recent turn of events, while the latter is aghast at what has happened. Li Liang's mother drags Yiren to her quarters to gloat in private]

Li Liang's mother [beaming]: Oh, I never thought that this wouldn't take any effort at all. Li Liang can't stand Mulan right now. Yiren, you must wait for the right moment, like when the moon finally peeks out from behind the clouds.

Yiren [smiling weakly]: Aunt, isn't there a saying that it's better to teach someone how to fight than to teach him how to split married people apart? Don't you think that our actions are a little too selfish and cruel?

Li Liang's mother [surprised]: Yiren, are you out of your mind? You're feeling sorry for that woman now? If she hadn't come in the picture, you and Li Liang would have long since gotten married. The more alienated he is towards her, the better your opportunity. [Yiren looks very uncomfortable] You have to take every chance you can to act more tender and warm towards your cousin. Whatever Hua Mulan doesn't get you should grab. It's not a case of him not recognizing the goods in you, but a comparison of goods with your competition. Yiren, I guarantee that within three months time your cousin will ask to marry you of his own accord. [Sees Yiren looks less than happy about the proceedings] What's the matter, you're so happy that you're tongue-tied? Didn't I tell you that as long as I was at the helm, I'd arrange things for you, right? That Hua Mulan can't do a thing to you, not if I'm supporting you. [Yiren nods and grins weakly]

[Cut to study the next morning. Li Liang's mother gingerly walks inside and sees her son sleeping there]

Li Liang's mother: Li Liang, why are you sleeping here?

Li Liang [wakes up and sits up]: Mother.

Li Liang's mother: Did that wife of yours kick you out? I'm going to give her a piece of my mind. [Starts to leave but Li Liang grabs her arm]

Li Liang: Mother, don't go. Just, don't go and make an even bigger mess, alright?

Li Liang's mother: So she can kick you out but I can't go scold her a little?

Li Liang: No, she didn't kick me out. I came here voluntarily.

Li Liang's mother [chides]: Now there's where you erred. Husband and wife should never go to bed angry. You're a man; how can you hold grudges like that?

Li Liang [protesting]: I'm not holding a grudge. It's just that she.

Li Liang's mother: Oh, so she doesn't have enough glory during the daytime, she has to lord it over you at night, too?

Li Liang: Well, no matter how we look at it, I did err in going out drinking in a brothel.

Li Liang's mother: But didn't you explain that to her already? You went with the Crown Prince, plus you didn't do anything else, so what's wrong? You need to stand up for yourself and emphasize who wears the pants in the family. Otherwise, she already has you sleeping out here; tomorrow she'll have you sleeping in the lumber room.

Li Liang: Mother.

Li Liang's mother: No matter what, since you're out here now, you are not to go back unless she comes here to beg for your return.

Li Liang [puzzled]: Not return?

Li Liang's mother: Exactly. In the palace, when the concubines offend the Emperor, he throws them into a cold corner of the palace in exile. Now, you can't shut Mulan somewhere, but you can give her the silent treatment for a while. That'll teach her to see how she really is.

Li Liang: But.

Li Liang's mother: But what? She can go out gallivanting about town all day but you can't go out drinking with the Crown Prince? You're a man; if nothing else, for the sake of your advancement, you need to spend time with the Crown Prince. You haven't done a thing wrong. If she tries to punish you for anything or throw her weight around and you keep letting her have her way, then where will it end? Now, I'm not trying to antagonize her. I just don't want to see you suffer. [Li Liang nods] Good, so you understand where I'm coming from. If the Crown Prince asks you out drinking again, go right ahead. But you must have your priorities straight. The Li family only has you left to carry on the line, so don't do anything that will make you sick. (Brothels were notorious for spreading disease at the time)

Li Liang [protesting]: Mother, what are you talking about?

Li Liang's mother [smiling]: As long as you understand, I'm content. I won't say any more.

Li Liang [puzzled]: What do I understand?

[Cut to Li Liang and Mulan's quarters. A maid is inside packing clothing in a bundle and greets Mulan when she walks in. Mulan eyes the maid suspiciously]

Mulan: What are you doing?

Maid: Young Master told me to take his clothes to the guest room for him. [Li Liang's mother walks in]

Mulan [sharply]: Where's Young Master then?

Li Liang's mother [coughs to get Mulan's attention]: You knew this day would come, so why feign surprise? [Turns to maid] When you get married one day, make sure you remember not to push people too far, lest you give your husband no where to go. Otherwise, when your husband tires of your games, you'll be the loser. [Mulan barely manages to hold her tongue, then storms out of the room after glaring at Li Liang's mother. Li Liang's mother smirks as she sees Mulan leave, then mutters under her breath] We'll see how long you can keep up those airs.

[Cut to guest room, where a manservant is helping Li Liang move his bedding. Li Liang is standing there watching when Mulan storms in the room looking very irate]

Mulan: Li Liang! (Notice how she is not using the usual honorable title) You told the servants to move your stuff out our quarters. What the heck do you mean by that?

Li Liang [turns to manservant]: You're dismissed. [He bows and leaves the room. After he leaves, Mulan continues]

Mulan: What is this? Are you saying that our relationship has soured to this point?

Li Liang [slightly annoyed]: Hey, don't forget that you were being unreasonable. Oh, so you expect me to put on a fake smile and pretend like nothing's wrong? And when night comes, I'm to go slink away to my own little sleeping bag in the study?

Mulan [pouts and looks penitent]: I never said I wouldn't forgive you.

Li Liang [sighs]: If you had just said this to me last night, then all would be well. However, [Mulan looks up in surprise] I had the whole night to think about this. I have come to the conclusion that this wasn't entirely my fault. [Mulan is about to say something but stops herself in time] True, I shouldn't have gone out drinking every day. But have you considered that when you go out gallivanting every day, I might possibly be bored and want to do something to break the monotony?

Mulan [pouts]: Well, what do you want me to do then?

[Li Liang doesn't say anything but has a look of the exasperated but indulgent parent who is trying his best to remain stern-faced]

[Cut to Yiren's quarters. She is sitting at a table drinking tea and talking to herself]

Yiren [sighs]: Cousin and Cousin-In-Law are quarreling and unhappy, while Su Jili is unhappy over Mulan's situation. Well, by rights, I should be happy. [She laughs out loud hollowly then looks as if she wants to cry] How come I can't seem to get in the mood? Oh my goodness. With these recent events, what will Su Jili think of me? Will he suspect that I'm a home wrecker? [Sits down] Well, who cares what he thinks of me? It's not as if I [pauses and gulps] like him? Oh no, that can't be. [Starts fidgeting around uncomfortably]

[Li Liang's mother barges in the door]

Li Liang's mother: Yiren. [Notices Yiren gesturing wildly] Are you alright?

Yiren: Um. Yes. [Dances around a little] Do I look like there's something wrong with me?

Li Liang's mother [puzzled]: Something just seems odd, that's all. Oh, I have some great news for you. [Leans over to tell Yiren] Li Liang has decided to move his things into the guest room! [Yiren's face falls when she hears this] That Hua Mulan will throw a fit when she finds out! [Li Liang's mother starts dancing around in glee and drags Yiren out the door] Come on, let's go see the fun!

[Cut to study, where Mulan and Li Liang are speaking to a maid]

Mulan: Take Young Master's belongings back to our quarters. [The maid curtsies and leaves with the bedding]

[Cut to courtyard outside the study. The maid walks across and runs into Li Liang's mother and Yiren]

Li Liang's mother [bewildered]: Where are you taking those?

Maid: Young Mistress told me to take these back. [She leaves. Li Liang's mother and Yiren look questions at each other]

[Mulan and Li Liang exit the study and enter the courtyard]

Li Liang: Mother.

Mulan: Popo.

Li Liang's mother: Er. So you two are?

Li Liang: Oh. You spoke the truth when you said a husband and wife should never go to bed angry. We're fine now. [He smiles at Mulan, who smiles at Li Liang's mother]

Mulan: Popo, I'm sure you're happy for us, too. [Li Liang's mother smiles weakly and watches the couple walk away. After they leave, she starts to frown while Yiren looks relieved]

[Cut to another courtyard in the Generals' Residence. Li Liang and Mulan are practicing martial arts against each other, whirling across the air and executing large leaps and moves. They are evenly matched and after several minutes of sparring, Mulan ends up in Li Liang's arms (how sweet; this seems to be there preferred method of spending quality time together). Li Liang's mother and Yiren enter the courtyard in time to see the two lovebirds and the former promptly looks ill at the sight. Mulan and Li Liang resume sparring, this time emphasizing hand-to-hand combat. Li Liang's mother and Yiren watch them and cringe slightly at the violent appearance of their moves. Mulan again ends up in Li Liang's arms. Li Liang's mother leaves the courtyard in a huff, with Yiren hurrying to follow]

Mulan [sighs]: So it's true that only diligent practice provides any benefits, and not just going through the motions. My martial arts skills have suffered a bit.

Li Liang: Hey, me too. If you hadn't pulled and loosened your grip at the last minute, I might have gotten hurt.

Mulan: Well, if you hadn't held me up, I would have lost for sure. Seems to me we've had too much fun lately and haven't done enough work. We'll have to put in some effort from now on.

Li Liang: Yes. Mulan, so what are we going to do next? How about you stop going to chat with worthy ladies and I'll stop going drinking with the Crown Prince. We'll focus on practicing our martial arts, eh? [Mulan nods in agreement] Your hair pin is crooked. [He reaches over and adjusts it for her. In response, she adjusts his hair pin, then he readjusts her hair pin. Finally, she chuckles and taps him on the nose]

[Cut to sitting room inside, where Li Liang's mother and Yiren are at a table. Yiren has poured some tea]

Yiren: Aunt, here, have some tea.

Li Liang's mother [looks perturbed, then slams a hand on the table]: You tell me, what spell is Li Liang under? It's not enough that she puts on all those airs. Now he has to do everything she says?

Yiren: They're still a young couple. Little spats just blow over quickly. There's nothing unusual about that.

Li Liang's mother: But it's not worth it! It's not worth it at all! You had an opportunity in front of you, but now, the two of them are back together again. [She throws up her hands in despair]

Yiren: Aunt, I've finally gotten it through my head that Cousin and I are probably the kind with karma on our side but not fate. I think we'd best forget about it.

Li Liang's mother [scoffs]: Yiren, what kind of talk is that? How many times have I told you that happiness is something you have to fight for yourself? You've been saying since you were five years old that you wanted to marry your cousin. And now because of a small little setback you're going to give it all up?

Yiren [protesting]: But, Aunt.

Li Liang's mother: But what? I know that it will be a hardship for you that Li Liang married Hua Mulan and you'll be second. But she has power and the admiration of so many high government officials. Just think of yourself as the Li family's baby making machine and you're set.

Yiren [protesting]: But, Aunt.

Li Liang's mother [pats her back]: Don't worry. As long as I'm at the helm, I won't let you be the loser.

Yiren: Er, Aunt, have a seat. Please, have a seat first. [Li Liang's mother sits back down when one of the menservants walks in and greets the pair]

Li Liang's mother: Why are you acting so suspiciously?

Servant: Young Master told me to take this letter to the Crown Prince.

Li Liang's mother: Hand it over.

Servant: Um. [Hesitates]

Li Liang's mother [sternly]: Hand it over. [The servant bows and turns over the letter. She opens it and reads its contents, then angrily crumples it] Go now. [After the servant leaves, she starts to pace] That precious son of mine is a fool. Would you believe that Hua Mulan actually wrote a letter to the Crown Prince telling him Li Liang is no longer permitted to go drinking with him? Did she even consider whom she is talking to? He will be the Emperor one day! [Wrings her hands in worry] If anything, they should take every opportunity to get close and curry favor with him, yet here they are pushing him away! I declare, I don't know what's gotten into him!

Yiren: True. However, if Cousin got into the habit of drinking a lot and frequenting such places, it wouldn't be a good thing, either.

Li Liang's mother: You know, you have a point. Oh, Yiren, I would be so relieved to hand Li Liang over to you to look after. I would not have any qualms on that point.

[Cut to temporary quarters for the Crown Prince. He is sitting at a low table practicing calligraphy. When a eunuch attempts to prepare more ink for his use, he waves him off]

Crown Prince: That won't be necessary. It's about time for me to go out and have some fun. Get the litter ready. [The eunuch bows and leaves. The Crown Prince hands his finished work to another eunuch] Take these finished poems and store them. [A guard comes in the room]

Guard: Your Highness, General Li sent a messenger to deliver a letter to you. [He bows, hands the letter to the Crown Prince, then leaves. The Crown Prince opens up the letter and reads it]

Crown Prince [to himself]: Li Liang isn't able to join me to go drinking. [Brightens when he thinks of something else to do] I'm on a roll right now anyway. I think I'll stay here and just keep writing. [Turns to another eunuch] I won't need the litter anymore.

[Hours later, the Crown Prince is still sitting at his table writing poetry. A guard comes in]

Guard: Your Highness, Eunuch Wang is here to see you. [The eunuch comes in, bows, and greets the Crown Prince]

Crown Prince: At ease. Eunuch Wang, did something happen at the palace?

Eunuch Wang: Her Majesty ordered me to come here to fetch your Highness and return to the palace.

Crown Prince [surprised]: Now? Why does she wish to see me?

Eunuch Wang: I have no idea. Her Majesty only said to make sure to bring your Highness back no matter what.

Crown Prince [puzzled, turns to another eunuch]: Get my things ready. We're heading back to the palace.

[Cut to throne room in the palace. The Second Prince is pacing back and forth and the Empress is sitting down with a few servants at her side]

Empress: They've been gone so long; how come they're not back yet?

Second Prince: This is to be expected. When Eunuch Wang went all the way there to fetch my brother, he would still need to spend some time persuading him to come. Besides, it's quite a ways from here to his lodgings. I think we have at least another hour to wait before they will return.

Empress [sighs in frustration]: Since you knew a long time ago that he goes out partying day and night, why didn't you tell me sooner?

Second Prince: I thought my brother was only playing a prank. I didn't think he really became hooked on it. Originally, I didn't want to tell you, but after reading a story today about an emperor in the Xia Dynasty who ruined his empire through such a lifestyle, I got worried. I'm worried that if my brother continues on this way he'll make a big mess of things. That's why I decided to tell you.

Empress [sighs]: That son of mine has really disappointed me. If he keeps this up, how can his Majesty feel comfortable leaving the empire for him to rule?

Second Prince: Mother, you needn't get upset. My brother only had a lapse in judgment. I'm sure that after you admonish him, he'll mend his ways.

Empress [waves him off]: It's easier to change geography than a person's innate nature. That brother of yours has already probably gotten stuck knee deep in quicksand.

[A eunuch walks in and kneels before the Empress]

Eunuch: Your humble servant greets your Majesty. The Crown Prince has returned.

Empress: Rise. [He rises and stands aside. The Crown Prince walks in and salutes his mother]

Crown Prince: Mother.

Empress [to eunuch]: Did Eunuch Wang tell you where he found the Crown Prince?

Eunuch: Your Majesty, Eunuch Wang said he found him at his lodgings, in his study, doing some writing. [The Crown Prince grins at his mother while the Second Prince looks chagrined that his attempt to frame his brother failed]

Empress: My son, you've been here for quite a while. What have you been up to?

Crown Prince: Mother, when I have nothing better to do, I spend my time reading or writing. I'm not sure if you called me here because of some issue?

Empress [chuckles]: Oh, it's nothing much. The night flowers in the garden are starting to bloom. I wanted you to accompany me in admiring them. That's why I asked you to return to the palace.

Crown Prince: Thank you for your concern, Mother.

Empress: Servants, prepare the gardens. I wish to go enjoy them with the Crown Prince. [The eunuch bows and leaves] My son, you must be tired after hurrying back to the palace on such short notice. You should rest a little first.

Crown Prince: Then I'll take my leave. [He bows and leaves the room. After the leaves, the Second Prince sputters and tries to plead his case, but the Empress interrupts him]

Empress [scolds]: Hold your tongue! Didn't you hear him say that your brother was busily writing and reading? What do you mean he is frequenting brothels daily?

Second Prince [protesting]: He must not have gone today.

Empress [holds up hand]: I don't want to hear any more slanderous words. You're dismissed.

Second Prince: But Mother.

Empress: Siblings are like limbs. Ever since you were little you've been smarter and more careful; you couldn't hold a candle to his love of fun and playboy ways. But when it comes to loyalty and humanity, you can't touch him. He has never said a cross word about you in front of either me or your father. Did you know that?

Second Prince: Mother, I wasn't trying to slander my brother, but only wanted you to know.

Empress: I don't want to hear anymore. Please leave. [The Second Prince swallows his frustration and leaves the room]

[The next scene shows him in his own quarters. He angrily shoos out the two maids and sits down on a chair. He sweeps the teapots off the table with a sweep of his arm, then slams a fist on the table]

Second Prince: Yangyong, you lucked out this time. There will come a day, however, when you'll fall into my clutches.

[Cut to the front steps to the Generals' Residence. Jili is sitting in the snow and sneezing from the cold. Yiren approaches but doesn't see him initially. He jumps up when he sees her but doesn't approach. Instead, he accosts a passerby]

Jili: Comrade, what does this word say? [He turns around and presents a placard that is hanging over his rear]

Passerby [sneers]: You don't even know how to read the character for "shame?" [Lifts his foot and kicks Jili, knocking him to the snow, then leaves. Jili gets back to his feet and sees Yiren is clapping her hands in glee]

Yiren: Oh, if asking strangers to insult you without rhyme or reason isn't whoring yourself then I don't know what is. [She continues to laugh loudly at the sight]

Jili [in a huff]: You'd better not laugh too heartily. Fate destined Li Liang and Mulan's marriage. You'd better save your energy and not go dreaming pipe dreams.

Yiren [sweetly]: What business is it of yours what I think? Take for example how you care for Hua Mulan. No one else can really say anything about it. You have a secret love while I openly pursue mine. We're traveling on opposite roads.

Jili [tugs on her shoulder]: You really won't let go?

Yiren: Oh, look at you, so pitiful. [She takes a handkerchief and starts dabbing at his face] If I refuse to let go what are you going to do to me, eh? [Pokes his forehead to emphasize her point, then she turns and leaves]

Jili [irate]: That shameless hussy! I spit on her! Ptooey, ptooey, ptooey!

[Cut to sitting room in the Generals' Residence. Li Liang's mother is sitting at a table with Li Liang and Mulan standing nearby. A maid is massaging Li Liang's mother's shoulders]

Li Liang: Mother. We're going to headquarters to take care of some things.

Li Liang's mother: So you won't be home for dinner?

Mulan: Um. Yes, that's true, since there recently has been more to do. We don't know when we'll be able to come home.

Li Liang's mother [rolls her eyes]: That's alright.

Li Liang: Mother, we'll take our leave now. [They turn and leave the sitting room. Li Liang's mother is secretly seething but she doesn't say anything]