[Cut to headquarters after quitting time. Mulan and Li Liang walk out as the sun sets]

Li Liang: So, where would you like to have dinner?

Mulan: We've been eating out a lot lately. I don't know where to go today. What do you want to eat?

Li Liang [eyes Mulan shrewdly]: Not going home?

Mulan: Um. Ever since we came back from battle, your mother has always looked at me crossly. You want to go home?

Li Liang [sighs]: Well, it looks like we're a true military family then. Out of three meals in the day it doesn't look we can have a single one at home. How about Tianxianglo?

Mulan: That place again? Aren't you sick of eating there? How about some place a little fresher?

Li Liang: Someplace fresher? Alright, let's go home then. [Mulan grabs his arm]

Mulan: If you asked me to eat at Tianxianglo for the rest of my days I wouldn't get tired of it. I'd do it without a word of protest. [She grins at him]

[Cut to Li Liang and Mulan's Tianxianglo that evening. They are both sitting at a table reading. Li Liang is reading a book on the Iron Fist. He is so engrossed in it that he absentmindedly slams his hand on the table, making Mulan jump]

Li Liang: Oh, I'm sorry. Did I startle you? Continue.

[This time, Mulan gets so engrossed in her book that she starts talking to herself. She moves the teapot and cups as if arranging troops for battle. She quotes from Sun's "Art of War" as she arranges things. She resumes reading. This time, Li Liang sticks his hand out expecting open air over the table and instead his palm meets the hot teapot side. He gasps at the heat]

Mulan: Did you burn yourself?

Li Liang: No. I'm all right. [Puzzled] Now how did that end up over there? [Mulan guiltily looks away]

Mulan: Brother Liang, have you noticed that we really haven't spoken much to each other the past few days.

Li Liang: Do you think it's because we've been spending all our time together? I know what you're doing and you know what I'm doing. [Mulan nods] Mulan, do you feel bored?

Mulan: Bored? How could I? I get to spend my time with someone I like. I couldn't ask for anything more. What about you? Are you feeling bored?

Li Liang: Me? Of course not. I get to spend time with my wife and stay at her side all day. I'm the luckiest man alive. [Mulan smiles in response] Um. Mulan, I need to go use the outhouse. Do you want to accompany me?

Mulan: Um. No, I won't. I'll let you have a little freedom and go by yourself. [Li Liang gets up and leaves the room. As he is about to step into the hallway, he hears the sound of laughter. He goes to an adjoining room and peers inside. He breaks into a wide grin when he recognizes three of his generals sitting at a table wining and dining]

Li Liang: Ahoy! Some friends you are, coming here to wine and dine but you didn't think to ask me? [The other generals cheer when they see him and invite him to join them]

General Liu: It's not that we didn't want to invite you, but that we didn't want to disturb you and General Hua. [Loud chuckles come from the rest of the table]

A General: That's right. Didn't you and General Hua have an agreement? In future, when you advance or retreat you'd hate to accidentally leave the other behind, right?

Li Liang: Had an agreement? How did you know about that?

General Liu [teasing]: So, you're trying to hide your movements from everyone? And you're saying that I'm not a true friend, when you went with the Crown Prince to the local brothel to wine and dine, yet told other people you were visiting my home? [Chiding] Isn't that making me cover for you? [Grins] It's a good thing General Hua didn't investigate, because you know full well I can't outfight her, so please, stop getting me in trouble, wll you? [Laughs out loud with the other generals. Li Liang tries to smile but he looks perturbed]

Li Liang: General Liu, you still haven't told me how you found out.

General Liu: Simple. My wife heard from the wife of another official. She said that General Hua canceled all her visits to people for the sake of keeping an eye on you. Now, our movements are free as the wind. However, it seems that the various consorts of the princesses aren't able to come out and play anymore. Supposedly, it's because if General Hua doesn't keep company with the princesses, the consorts have to stay home and spend time with their wives.

A General: Comrade Li, this is where you have done wrong. One man's weakness caused a hundred men's punishment.

Other General: General Li, if General Hua goes out, you'd best be careful. [All laugh except Li Liang, who smiles weakly]

Li Liang: Gentlemen, I need to go out for a few minutes to run an errand. I'll be back shortly. [He turns to leave, but not before he hears one of the generals make another comment to General Liu]

A General: I think he has to hurry out to explain himself.

General Liu: Of course. General Hua is the apple of the Emperor's eye right now. If I had married her, I'd be careful how I steppedd around her, too. It's really too funny how this turned out. [All laugh]

[Cut to Li Liang and Mulan's quarters at night. They are in bed, but Li Liang seems to be having problems falling asleep. He turns on his side, waking Mulan]

Mulan [murmuring]: Why are you still awake?

Li Liang [sits up]: It must be because I had too much strong tea right before bed. You needn't worry about me.

Mulan [sits up]: Are you really alright?

Li Liang: What makes you ask that?

Mulan: Your tone of voice already tells me that there's something on your mind.

Li Liang [teasing]: Are you really that sharp?

Mulan [smiles and starts to tickle him]: So are you going to tell me or not?

Li Liang: Mulan, after we had our argument, did you tell people about our agreement?

Mulan: Of course I did. I had agreed to go have tea with Lady Xiangguo, so I had to explain to her why. Is there something wrong?

Li Liang: Er, nothing much. Just in future, don't tell other people about our business, please?

Mulan [somewhat concerned]: Did I cause trouble for you?

Li Liang: Oh, it's just a small issue. Go to sleep. [They both turn over and go to sleep]

[Cut to city street the next morning. Li Liang and Mulan and walking along the crowded streets. Li Liang stops when he realizes Mulan isn't following anymore. He turns to look for her]

Li Liang: Mulan? [Sees her a few paces back, so he walks over] What's the matter? [Sees she is watching intently at something] You want to buy makeup?

Mulan: Yes. Come with me.

Li Liang: No, I think you'd better go by yourself. I'll come look for you in a little while.

[They part ways and Mulan walks in the shop. She runs into two ladies dressed in bright red gowns]

Lady: General Hua, fancy meeting you here.

Mulan: Mrs. Chairman, nice to see you again.

Mrs. Chairman: General Hua, I'd like to introduce you to Lady Zhou.

Mulan: Lady Zhou, how are you.

Lady Zhou: You called her General Hua. I take it this is the famous heroine of our empire, the one that saved untold thousands, General Hua Mulan?

Mrs. Chairman: Exactly. This is she.

Lady Zhou: I've been following the news the past couple of years but haven't followed the military news much. However, I am no stranger to your accomplishments. Today, I finally get to meet you.

Mulan: Lady Zhou, you are being too kind.

Lady Zhou: How could I? Did you know that the commoners are all talking about your deeds and accomplishments? Many people want to have a daughter in the hopes that she'll grow up just like you, faithful, honorable, courageous, filial, and bring glory to her family.

Mulan [starts to blush]: I'm touched.

Lady Zhou: I was visiting Princess Jun the other day and she said that she didn't know when you'd have time to go visit her and have a good gossip.

Mulan: Um. Perhaps another day?

Mrs. Chairman: Fine. We'll arrange this another day.

[Meanwhile, Li Liang is walking the snowy streets alone. He is looking at a vendors' wares when he recognizes the Crown Prince]

Li Liang: Your High, I mean, Brother Yang.

[The next scene shows Mulan sitting at a tavern drinking some tea while she waits for Li Liang to return. He hurries over]

Li Liang: Mulan, did you buy your makeup?

Mulan: No. I didn't see any that I liked.

Li Liang: Oh. [He sits down and pours himself a cup. After a brief pause, both start talking at the same time, then stop] You go first.

Mulan: No, you go first.

Li Liang: No, you go first.

Mulan: Oh. Alright. I just ran into a serving girl of my mother's. She said my mother had urgent business and was just on her way to find me at the Generals' Residence.

Li Liang: Is it something serious? Would you like me to accompany you?

Mulan: Oh, that won't be necessary. [She fidgets slightly, no doubt because she's fibbing] We'll just be talking girl talk, that's all. What did you have to say?

Li Liang: Um. Oh, nothing much. I just ran into a monk of a secret society and I wanted to go play some chess with him.

Mulan: Perfect. I'll go see my mother and you can go play some chess. Take your time. I may spend some more time with my mother.

Li Liang: Of course. No problem. Spend some more time with your mother. You don't need to worry about me.

[Cut to scene of Mulan visiting with the noblewomen. They are having a grand time chatting and having tea. Meanwhile, Li Liang is wining and dining with the Crown Prince in the local brothel. They are getting entertained by several dancers and other ladies]

Crown Prince: Brother Liang, have some more wine.

[They are having a merry time and it is late when Li Liang finally comes home. He staggers in the door with the assistance of his manservant]

Li Liang [concerned]: Is Young Mistress home yet?

Servant: No, sir. Do you want the kitchen to prepare something for you?

Li Liang: No, that won't be necessary. You're dismissed. [The servant leaves. Li Liang walks back to his quarters. When he steps inside, he goes over to the teapot and guzzles a large quantity of tea directly from the pot. He then puts his hand over his mouth to check his breath. Satisfied that the smell of the alcohol is masked, he sniffs his sleeves. He notices the smells of the brothel on his clothing, so he walks over to the potpourri container, takes the lid off, and fans some of the smell onto himself. He is about to open up his shirt to let more of the smell in when Mulan walks in the door, making him hurriedly straighten]

Mulan: Brother Liang, what are you doing?

Li Liang: Oh, nothing much. I'm just adding some fragrance. [He starts to spoon more fragrance into the [potpourri container]

Mulan: Have you been home long?

Li Liang: No, not really. I just didn't want to go to bed without you.

Mulan: Sorry. You know how my mother gets. When she starts talking about my father and stepmother, she won't stop. You should go to bed first. And you needn't wait up for me tomorrow.

Li Liang [brow furrows]: Tomorrow? Why?

Mulan: Er. You know how my mother's temperament is; she's very much like your mother. If I don't spend time with her when she's in a bad mood, that'll just make her mood even worse. So I'd like to spend some more time with her in the next few days.

Li Liang [relieved]: Well, you should. In that case, I should?

Mulan: You can ask the admiral to play chess with you. Or you could go drinking with General Liu and friends. However, I just don't want you to go with the Crown Prince to those low places.

Li Liang [nervous]: I know.

Mulan: Time to go to bed.

[Cut to Jili's bachelor quarters. He is sitting on the bed twiddling his thumbs when Xiangzi walks in the room. He trips on a basin left in the middle of the floor, making him sit down and grab his foot]

Xiangzi [scolding]: What's the matter with you? You use my basin but you don't put it back where it belongs.

Jili [absentmindedly]: I forgot to put it back next to the well after I finished washing my feet in it.

Xiangzi [shocked]: You washed your feet in it? I use that basin for washing vegetables, but you took it to wash your feet?! What about the other basins in the place?

Jili [shortly]: How was I supposed to know you use that basin for washing vegetables? If I could find another basin to use would I have used that one?

Xiangzi [irritated]: It's all your fault. You use something and then you don't put it back where you found it, so the next time you need it, you can't find it. [Picks up basin and puts it on the table] What's the matter with you? You've been absentminded and distracted the past few days.

Jili: No, I won't talk about it. Stop reminding me.

Xiangzi [concerned]: What has happened?

Jili [hesistates]: It's. Um. [Gestures for Xiangzi to sit down] Sit down first and let me tell you all about it.

Xiangzi [sits]: Shoot.

Jili: Um. Well, it's like this. There's a woman who will go to any length to snatch a man away and make him marry her, no matter what the cost. [Xiangzi starts to count on his fingers] However, this man already has a wife. Don't you think this woman is just cheapening and whoring herself? Don't you think that's enough to infuriate anyone?

Xiangzi [stops counting]: This woman is your younger sister?

Jili [eyes bulge]: If I had a younger sister like that, I would have long since stomped her to death!

Xiangzi [sighs]: Well, I see it all now. It's all clear to me.

Jili [excited]: You do? Hey, wait a minute, see what? I was asking you if this woman was detestable.

Xiangzi [patiently]: I was saying that I completely understand now why you're so upset over this. I also understand now why you've been distracted and absentminded lately. You, sir, have fallen for this girl, haven't you? [Smiles at Jili, who smiles in response but then looks upset again] Are you going to tell me who she is?

Jili [gets up and starts pacing]: What nonsense are you talking about? Liking her would be preposterous!

Xiangzi: An outsider sees the big picture best.  Maybe you don't know yourself that you like her. [Chuckles] Now, I'm nowhere near as good as you are, Esteemed One, but even I can do a quick figuring to somewhat accurately predict your predicament. You can run but you can't hide.

Jili [shortly]: If I liked her that would mean I'm insane and blind. This person is headstrong, proud, egotistical, and sharp-tongued. She has no mercy and offers no quarter. She's truly a tigress!

Xiangzi [shakes his head]: Oh my, oh my. You've already gotten stuck in quicksand and can't pull yourself out.

Jili [turns his head in surprise]: Pull what out? What are you talking about?

Xiangzi: I'm still talking about you. You've already fallen head over heels. You're so deep now that you can't pull yourself out.

Jili: You're right. You're absolutely right. I hate her to the marrow of her bones, such that I can't change how I think now.

Xiangzi [chiding]: You see? Believe it if you want. You say that she is trying to latch on to another man and make him marry her? Well, I advise you to hurry up and make your feelings known to her and win her over heart and soul. Otherwise, you'll regret it the rest of your life.

Jili [incredulous]: Win her over? In that case, then I'd rather go jump down the outhouse and commit suicide instead! [He runs out the door, ignoring the calls of Xiangzi]

Xiangzi: Hey, wait! [Sees Jili is gone] Are you really going to jump down the outhouse? That's truly going from the frying pan into the fire.

[Cut to city street. Yiren is walking along when she notices Jili is sitting at a tea stall, talking to himself. She hurriedly hides so she can eavesdrop on him]

Jili: I've fallen for her? Humph! Only if the sun suddenly decided to rise from the west. Xiangzi, you're just way too bumbling. Do you think I wouldn't know who I liked? I like Hua Mulan. I detest Xu Yiren. That little chili pepper! If you dare break up Hua Mulan and Li Liang's relationship, [He doesn't notice Yiren is standing over his shoulder and glaring at him] I will first kill you, then. [Scratches his head as he ponders what dire punishment to inflict on Yiren; she is still standing there, but she looks livid and about to attack Jili] I'll think it through before doing anything else.

Yiren: Su Jili! You turtle, with your shrinking ways! [Jili turns around to find the source of the sound, but Yiren stays behind him as he circles in his seat] You dare scold me behind my back?! What kind of a man are you? I'm warning you, if you have balls then stand still here and scold me to my face. Go ahead! [Jili is still trying to figure where Yiren is]

Jili: You're in front of me? [He turns around with a yell] Have you no shame? You're telling me to scold you in public? Are you even human?

Yiren [grabs Jili's ear and speaks calmly]: If I'm not human, then you're not any better yourself! Now, look at you. The person you like is already married to someone else, yet you still keep hanging around and won't mind your own business. [Jili is grimacing from the pain of his ear and finally breaks free of her grip]

Jili [angrily]: What's it to you?

Yiren: Then why do you care who I like?

Jili [stands up over her]: You're whoring yourself happily!

Yiren [stands over him]: What's it to you? You're no better!

Jili [stands over her]: You're shameless!

Yiren [stands over him]: You're useless!

Jili [stands over her]: You're amoral!

Yiren [stands over him]: You're slimy!

[They start fighting and tussling in the street. Yiren shoves two fingers in Jili's nose, while Jili manages to put a hand on her throat and choke her. A passerby stops to comment on the scene]

Passerby: That's a sight we'd all rather not see. Why don't you just talk things over with her instead?

[Yiren and Jili break apart and glare at each other]

Yiren: Who is going out with him? Butt out!

Jili: Hit him!

Yiren: Hold him down so I can hit him! [Jili grabs the passerby and lets Yiren beat him. A crowd of onlookers has arrived and is watching with interest the scene before them. After landing several blows, Yiren turns and spots Li Liang. She stops hitting the man and takes out her handkerchief to wipe her face, then primps slightly before following after her cousin. Jili is still tussling with the passerby and doesn't notice her leave]

[Li Liang is now in front of the local brothel. He looks around him to make sure no one notices him enter the brothel, then goes in. Yiren is watching from behind a wall and she is shocked when she realizes where he is going. She hurries over to catch him but he stays one step ahead of her. She then ducks behind another wall, as it would look very unladylike for her to try and enter a brothel. She is chagrined that her cousin is frequenting such a place and she tries to think of what to do next. Behind her is the trusted eunuch of the Second Prince. Neither person notices the other. He looks smugly satisfied that he has seen Li Liang enter the brothel, as if he has found blackmail material to report to his master. He leaves with the same smug smile on his face]

[Cut back to place where Jili and Yiren were fighting. The passerby is slowly picking himself off the ground and leaves with a satisfied smile on his face. Jili also stands up, but his back is to us. He continues to berate the retreating passerby]

Jili: If you've got balls you won't let me see you again! [Talks to the onlookers] Well, what are you looking at, never seen someone thrash someone else? [The onlookers murmur and scatter. Jili turns around and we see his nose is badly bruised, as if the passerby had done the thrashing and not the other way around]

[Cut to city street. Mulan is cautiously walking down the street and checking to make sure no one recognizes her. There is a rack of masks at a vendor's stall nearby where Jili is hiding. He has a mask on to help disguise himself from Mulan. Thinking no one is following her, she resumes her journey. She walks into the Chairman's residence, where Mrs. Chairman greets her]

Mrs. Chairman: General Hua, did you just arrive? I was wondering who was visiting this early. I didn't expect General Hua to come. Come inside. The princess is inside already. [Jili continues to follow Mulan, watching from behind a wall. He still has a mask over his face] Hurry inside. We don't want to keep her waiting. [Jili is watching the scene in some consternation and shakes his head] Last time when you refused to visit, we were left fending for ourselves, so the conversation fell a little flat. This time, if you don't give us our fill of good gossip and good tea, we won't let you go! [Jili leaves his hiding place]

[Cut to the Second Prince's quarters. He is sitting at a chair drinking wine and brooding. There are several dancers performing a routine for him, but this does not seem to soothe is temper. After a few minutes, he gets up suddenly and hurls a wine cup at the dancers, making them scream in terror]

Second Prince [enraged]: Scram! All of you! Scram! [The dancers hurriedly curtsy, then leave. He stalks to another part of the room. His trusted eunuch comes in and bows before him]

Eunuch: Your Highness.

Second Prince [grumbling]: They think I will never amount to anything. And it's all due to useless cowards like you! Where have you been all this time?

Eunuch [protesting]: Your Highness, I went to spy on the Crown Prince.

Second Prince [grabs his arm]: Haven't you caused me enough trouble? The past few days when my mother sees me, she has remained cold and distant. I made a mistake in trusting your information and telling her that my royal brother is wining and dining his life away. Now see what's happened!

Eunuch [grovels]: Your Highness, please calm down. There is no doubt that the past few days the Crown Prince has been with Li Liang wining and dining at the local brothel.

Second Prince [shortly]: You still dare to make excuses?

Eunuch: I'm not making this up. It's just that the Crown Prince's lucky star is risen and it's protecting him. He lucked out that time. [Face gets grim] However, this time he won't get off so easily.

Second Prince: What have you found this time?

Eunuch: It's easier to change geography than to change someone's personality. These past few days he has gone gallivanting about town with Li Liang.

Second Prince [perks up]: Really?

Eunuch [confidently]: I'm sure about it.

Second Prince: Well, it won't do any good, because my mother won't believe a word I say. If I go to her and complain again, she'll just think I'm tattling.

Eunuch: Your Highness, your humble servant has a plan that will solve all your problems.

Second Prince [puzzled]: You do?

[Cut to Generals' Residence. Li Liang is about to leave when his manservant comes over]

Servant: Sir, are you going out?

Li Liang: Yes.

Servant: Do you want to saddle a horse or get a litter?

Li Liang: That won't be necessary. [The servant bows and leaves the room. Yiren spots her cousin leaving and hurries over]

Yiren: Cousin!

Li Liang [turns around]: What's the matter?

Yiren: The ancients have a saying, that if you play with fire you risk getting burned. You'd be better off not going to such places.

Li Liang [scoffs]: What are you talking about? I don't understand what you're saying.

Yiren [surprised]: Whether you've been visiting a house of monks or a house of whores is something you know in your heart.

Li Liang [nervous]: How did you know?

Yiren: If you don't want people to find things out then don't do anything questionable.

Li Liang [scared]: Cousin, under no circumstances are you to tell Mulan about this. What do you want? Feel free to speak up.

Yiren [perturbed]: I want you to stop going to those brothels. Can you do that?

Li Liang [protesting]: Cousin, I visit those brothels only to drink and chat with the Crown Prince. I'm not doing anything else. Besides, you know how bored I'm getting staying at home.

Yiren: You could ask Cousin-In-Law to spend some time with you instead.

Li Liang [scoffs]: She's so busy; she wouldn't have any interest in that.

Yiren [sighs]: But playing around like this hurts your career.

Li Liang: Cousin, you know I'm not a reckless person. I promise you that when Mulan returns from visiting her mother, I will refuse to accompany the Crown Prince anymore. Cousin, help me keep this secret, okay? [Sees Yiren is hesitating, so he pleads] Please?

Yiren [reluctantly]: Okay.

[Cut to place outside the Chairman's residence. Jili is waiting in the falling snow for Mulan to come out. When she does, he hurriedly grabs her and pulls her aside]

Mulan [protesting]: What are you doing?

Jili: What happened to keeping your husband within ten feet of you? [He shivers from the cold]

Mulan: Brother Liang went to play chess with the admiral. Oh come on, he wouldn't be a husband worth having if I had to keep him at my side all the time. It's just too inconvenient.

Jili [shivering]: Don't be so sure. If Li Liang ever takes a misstep or errs, you'll be to blame.

Mulan [shortly]: Su Jili, since when did you start taking his side with things? Haven't you always been on my side?

Jili: While I may be stuck in the mortal realms for punishment, underneath it all I'm still an immortal. I also understand when to help the just side instead of the blood side.

Mulan [pouts]: Have I done something wrong?

Jili [unconvinced]: You haven't done anything wrong? [Coughs] Then can you please explain the agreement you had with Li Liang? [He walks over and leans against the stone lion at the gate. It ends up sliding off its pedestal and crashing on the ground] Didn't you say that you wouldn't go gallivanting to all those VIP homes? [He struggles to lift the stone lion] And recently, Li Liang hasn't been out on the town with the Crown Prince. [He moves the lion back to its pedestal and tries to push it back in place] But what's this all about with you leaving early and returning late everyday? [He finally settles the lion back on the pedestal, but now it's facing the house instead of facing the street] Why? [He tries to shake some feeling back in his arms]

Mulan: Did you know that trying to stay at someone's side day in and day out all day long is really quite difficult. As soon as we rise in the morning it's just like watching paint dry. It's boring as heck.

Jili: But.

Mulan: I know. I like to hear people praise me. But when you were the Kitchen God, didn't you enjoy people kissing up to you? Or would you rather they ignore you instead?

Jili: Well, you have a point.

Mulan: Besides, with Popo treating me the way she does, think of it as letting me go out to unwind.

Jili: But lately, you've really been ignoring Li Liang.

Mulan: But Brother Liang has also been going out everyday to play chess with the admiral. Don't tell him where I go, okay? [Jili tries to protest but Mulan interrupts] Good, you've agreed. Bye now. [She hurries off, leaving a sputtering Jili]

Jili: Mulan. Mulan!

[Cut to temple. Mulan and several other ladies are visiting. One lady, presumably a princess, speaks to the nun]

Princess: Madam, could you please tell your staff to prepare a vegetarian meal for us?

Nun [bowing]: Yes, ma'am. [Leaves]

Princess: General Hua, please have a seat.

Mrs. Zhou: General Hua, please have a seat.

[Mulan and the Princess sit down while the other ladies remain standing]

Mrs. Zhou: Princess, you were praying at the chapel all morning. What was it you were asking for?

Princess: Well, I needn't hide anything from you. My husband has started to make plans to take a second wife.

Mulan [sharply]: What? You're a princess; how dare he start having second thoughts.

Princess: So what if I'm a princess? Imperial law says a man may take more than one wife. As women, all we can do is bear it.

Mulan: The Empress forbids the Emperor from having any concubines. You could complain to her Majesty and let her handle things. We'll see if your consort can do anything about it!

Princess: The Empress can only stop him temporarily, not forever. All I can do now is hope that he doesn't forget about his old love with the advent of his new one. As long as he still has some affection for me, I'll be content.

Mulan [protesting]: Princess, this is asking too much, don't you think?

Mrs. Zhou: General Hua, you are a unique woman. You don't understand the bitter lot of us common women.

Mrs. Chairman: That's true. The day that the Chairman wanted to take another wife, I steeled myself and put on a good face. I even sought out a matchmaker for him. In reality, it felt like I was getting stabbed with a knife. Ah, it hurt like nothing else.

Mrs. Zhou: At least when Chairman Ling took a mistress he very properly married her. My husband instead frequents brothels all the time. If I say anything to him, he ignores me. If I scold him, he still ignores me. All I can do is wink at it.

Mulan [grimly]: Princess, Mrs. Ling, Mrs. Zhou, you're too meek and mild. How can you let your husbands act like this?

Princess: Do you really think we're happy sharing half our bed with someone else? [Sighs] It's our fate as women; all we can do is try to bear it.

Mulan: So what if we're women? If we keep backing down, the men will keep taking things away from us.

Princess: General Hua, do you have any words of wisdom for us?

Mulan: Be just like her Majesty: if he wants to take another wife, refuse to allow it till your dying day.

Princess: But I'm afraid of getting called a dragon lady.

Mulan: Princess, so if we don't allow our husbands to take additional wives we're dragon ladies? That's just an excuse men use to curb our adulterous tendencies. I'd rather be considered a dragon lady than pretend I'm happy about the whole situation. Princess, you're the Emperor's niece. If you allow your husband to take another wife, how are the rest of us going to make a stand in the future? You must put your foot down and fight to the finish.

[The other ladies heartily agree to Mulan's suggestion. Two young ladies walk in, but they look like prostitutes]

First young lady: Sister Qing, you are so lucky! Even when praying to the gods you get the best prayers answered.

Second young lady: Actually, I didn't need to pray to the gods. I know that I'm in a lucky streak.

First young lady: General Li Liang has visited again looking for you. [Mulan's jaw drops when she hears his name mentioned] You are truly lucky to have a patron like him. Which sister wouldn't be jealous of you?

Second young lady: Isn't that the truth?

[Mulan gets to her feet and approaches the two young ladies]

Mulan [sharply]: Are you talking about the General Li who lives on East Gate Road?

Second young lady: Um. We didn't say anything. Sorry. [The two of them leave a bewildered Mulan]

[Cut to alleyway somewhere. The Second Prince's trusted eunuch is talking to the two young ladies]

Eunuch: So, I take it General Hua now knows where Li Liang has been recently?

First young lady: We do things quickly and efficiently. Sir, you can relax.

Eunuch [chuckles]: Good. Take this. [He hands a small purse of money to them. They bow and leave]

[Cut to place in street right outside the brothel. Mulan approaches, but she is dressed as a young man. The madam of the establishment comes out and greets her]

Madam: Sir, are there any young ladies you recognize?

Mulan: Um. No.

Madam: Oh, come on in. [Starts pulling her arm as she protests and eventually drags Mulan inside]

[Inside the brothel, she is led to a small room with a table and setting for tea. She is asked to sit while a prostitute comes to sit with her]

Mulan: Um, gentle lady, you can leave me, too. [The prostitute leaves. Mulan gets up and starts snooping along the hallway]

[Meanwhile, in a large sitting room Li Liang, the Crown Prince, and a few ladies are enjoying themselves. One lady is playing the a zither while the other two are keeping the men company]

Li Liang [toasts the Crown Prince]: Come, Brother Yang, another drink. [The men toast and down their cups of wine. Both are tipsy and partly drunk from the wine. Li Liang in particular is red in the face]

Crown Prince: So, Brother Li, what do you think?

Li Liang: Brother Yang, I'm unfamiliar with the intricacies of the fine arts. However, Miss Yu's song today has opened my ears to things of beauty.

Crown Prince [laughing]: Oh, so your ears are now open? [Gets up unsteadily and carries a cup of wine] Miss Yu, this cup of wine I bequeath to you.

Miss Yu: Thank you, Mr. Yang. [She drinks the wine]

Crown Prince: Brother Li, you really don't know a thing about music and instruments?

Li Liang [gets up and teeters over to where the Crown Prince is standing]: Brother Yang, I'm a rough-born person. How could I understand such delicate things? However, since I've had the chance the last few days to hear more music in your company, I think I have picked up a thing or two.

Crown Prince: That's all you need. Life is short and bitter. You have to enjoy what you can when you can. Miss Yu! Come teach my comrade here how to play a song.

Li Liang [protests]: Brother Yang, I really can't.

Crown Prince: What are you afraid of? The best teachers produce the best students. Come on. Miss Yu, teach him how to play a song. It's entirely up to you, now. [A reluctant Li Liang is ushered to the zither and is forced to sit down. He has a silly grin on his face] Now, play a good song.

Miss Yu [helps Li Liang place his hands]: Mr. Li, put your hands over here. This side is for counting. [She goes on to explain some other intricacies of the instrument. Li Liang begins to pluck the strings and creates a string of notes] See, it's pretty easy, isn't it?

Li Liang: Hey, this isn't that difficult.

Crown Prince: Of course not. It's not supposed to be hard. Miss Yu, hurry up and show him how to play a song. We'd like to listen to it. [Li Liang proceeds to pluck several more notes. Unbeknownst to anyone in the room, Mulan is outside the door. Her eyes open wide in shock and pain when she recognizes her husband inside] Hey, that's pretty good, isn't it? [Miss Yu puts her hands over Li Liang's to help him play the right notes. He still has a silly grin on his face. Mulan's face hardens grimly]

[Cut to the entrance to the Generals' Residence. Li Liang looks around himself to make sure no one sees him. He doesn't notice that Mulan is watching him from behind the stone lion at the gate. She is still in her male disguise]

Li Liang [to servant]: Has Young Mistress returned yet?

Servant: Not yet, sir. [Li Liang smiles and hurries in. The servant starts to close the door, but Mulan comes out of the shadows and hurries to the gate] Young Mistress, you're home. [She nods and walks in quickly. The servant shuts the door behind her]

[Back in Li Liang and Mulan's quarters, Li Liang is drinking from the teapot directly. He swishes and gargles his mouth to rid it of the smell of alcohol. Mulan walks in and stands directly next to him. He suddenly notices her presence and stops gargling and swallows the tea. He looks like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar]

Mulan: Look at you. You even drink tea funny. [She leans forward and takes a sniff of his clothing. He flinches and tries to back away but she draws closer. She walks around and sniffs him up and down. Li Liang looks very guilty and nervous while this is going on] How come you reek of alcohol?

Li Liang: Um. I do? [Laughs nervously] After playing chess with the admiral, I ran into General Liu, so we had a few cups of wine together. That's probably why there's a smell of alcohol on me. Hey, by the way, how has your mother been doing the past few days?

Mulan: She's doing much better. I've had to leave you alone these few days. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Li Liang [scoffs]: Oh, come on. Don't worry about it.

Mulan: So, I've decided that tomorrow I'm going to ask Jili to go spend time with my mother. [She sits down in a chair]

Li Liang [slightly worried]: So what about you?

Mulan: I'm going to stay home and spend time with you.

Li Liang [getting alarmed]: Spend time with me? [He thinks to himself, "I'm in for it; I've already made a date with the Crown Prince tomorrow"] Oh, you don't need to do that. You'd better spend time with your mother.

Mulan: Then what about you?

Li Liang [falsely bright]: Me? I'm a big boy; I'm sure I can find something to do. [Sits down next to her] Your mother is getting up in years. That's when they start getting addled and easily distracted. You should spend more time with her and chatting with her.

Mulan [smiles]: It's a good thing you're so considerate of me. Okay. I'll spend a few more days with her.

Li Liang: Don't worry about a thing and go spend some time with her. Take her out walking about, too. [Mulan nods absently. Li Liang, when Mulan is looking away, breathes into his hand to check his breath. He frowns at the smell]

[Cut to sitting room near brothel. Mulan is dressed as a lady now and is sitting waiting for someone. Her face is set in a grim line. A manservant brings the madam of the brothel]

Servant: Madam, this young lady wishes to see you.

Madam: My lady, you seem highborn and well bred. I would never have pegged you for a degenerate and dirty person. An honest person doesn't speak in circles. We can discuss whatever you wish. Don't go trying to toy with this madam.

Mulan [eyes her narrowly]: I'm not here to toy with you. I wish to come here and serve someone.

Madam [protesting]: Hah! All the ladies I have here were bought with gold and silver. They've been trained since they were young to be adept in music, chess, literature, and art. I've never accepted someone like you whose origins are unknown! If you insist on acting degenerate and dirty, this establishment doesn't want you, so you can look for some other place. [Calls for her servant] Show her out. [The madam turns to leave. Mulan glares, slams her hand on the table, and jumps to her feet. She leaps over the madam (please suspend your disbelief) and lands in front of her. Mulan clamps the madam's shoulder with her hand]

Mulan [sternly]: I'm not done talking to you. Where do you think you're going?

Madam [frightened]: What do you want? We can discuss things; please don't be hard with me!

Mulan: I want to serve someone! [The madam cringes and nods in fear]

[Cut to Generals' Residence. Li Liang walks in the hall and sees the maid dusting the furniture]

Li Liang [to maid]: Hm. Where's Young Mistress?

Maid: She went out at noon. Sir, if you need her, I'll ask one of the servants to fetch her from her mother's home.

Li Liang: Oh, that won't be necessary. When you see Elder Mistress, tell her not to wait up for me. [He starts to head out the door but runs into his mother. Yiren is with her and has a basket on her arm]

Li Liang's mother: Li Liang, where are you going?

Li Liang: Mother.

Li Liang's mother: Yiren and I just bought this fish. I'm going to make your favorite pine nut fish. [She beams]

Li Liang: That's okay, mother, I won't be in.

Li Liang's mother [frowns]: Is it because you're still mad at me for being at odds with your wife? The two of you are off to gallivant about town?

Yiren: Of course not. If Cousin was out on a date with Cousin-In-Law, then that would be a good thing!

Li Liang [alarmed]: Yiren!

Li Liang's mother [puzzled]: Huh? What did you say?

Li Liang [smiles at his mother]: Nothing much, mother. [He pulls Yiren aside] Stop talking nonsense.

Yiren: I'm talking nonsense? You're the one acting nonsense.

Li Liang: I promise you that tonight is the last night. I'll refuse the Crown Prince in future.

Yiren: You gave your word; you have to keep it. It's for your own good.

Li Liang: I know, I know. [To Li Liang's mother] Mother, I'm heading out now.

Li Liang's mother: Be sure to come home soon.

Li Liang [leaves]: I know.

Li Liang's mother [gets huge grin on face]: You can tell your aunt. Yiren, what sweet nothings did you and your cousin exchange just now? [Yiren is about to protest but Li Liang's mother holds up her hand] You don't need to tell me everything. I was young once, too. As long as you and Li Liang are nice and intimate, I won't pry into your affairs. I won't ask you what you two talk about.

Yiren [protesting]: But Aunt, I really didn't do anything.

Li Liang's mother: Anyway, sooner or later you will be my daughter-in-law. Go get some rest first. [Takes basket from Yiren] I'll take the groceries to the kitchen. I'll be fine. [She hurries off, leaving a frustrated Yiren]

[Cut to brothel. Li Liang and the Crown Prince are back and wining and dining some more. There are several dancers performing a routine for them. There is a commotion outside]

Crown Prince: Miss Hong, can you go outside and see what's going on? [Miss Hong bows and goes out. Li Liang is sprawled against the table drunkenly] Come on, have some more wine.

Li Liang: More wine. Another cup. No going home until we're good and drunk. [They toast]

Crown Prince: I won't go home even if I'm drunk. [They down their cups. Miss Hong comes running back in the sitting room]

Miss Hong: It's a new lady in the establishment. She's demonstrating swordplay at the back garden. It's very exciting!

Crown Prince: Brother Li, you've been coming to this place for so long yet you haven't met a lady you like, one you can get intimate with. I think maybe this lady who knows martial arts might be more to your taste.

Li Liang: Brother Yang, don't tease me.

Crown Prince: With women. [He kisses the cheek of the lady at his side] All they want is commitment and planning for the future. With men, all we want is to seize the moment and enjoy ourselves. [Slaps him on the back] Go out! Come on, let's go out and see! [Shoves Li Liang but he doesn't budge] You're really heavy! I can't move you. [The two ladies help the men to their feet]

Li Liang: We can't live this down, Brother Yang.

Crown Prince: Go! Let's go out now! [After much shoving and assistance, they go outside to see the swordplay]

Li Liang: Let's stay here; I'll toast you thirty cups in a row, how's that?

[They walk arm in arm and stagger down the hallway. The lady performing the swordplay is putting on a very good show. She is dressed in a red silk outfit and has a veil over her face. Just as they arrive, Li Liang recalls something]

Li Liang: Brother Yang, do you need to worry about exposing your identity?

Crown Prince [scoffs]: Don't worry about that. With you at my side, what do I have to fear? [They both watch the woman demonstrate her martial arts] Brother Li, what do you think of this woman's skills?

Li Liang [in some awe]: It's truly special. [There is a crowd of onlookers. After watching several moments, everyone starts to clap loudly] Why is someone with such skills at swordplay reduced to working in such a place?

Miss Hong: It's all the fault of you men. I heard that her husband is unkind, that's why she has this fate.

Crown Prince [waves her away and laughs]: Oh, get on with you.

Li Liang [quietly]: That's a pity.

[The woman finishes her routine and everyone starts loudly cheering. The madam of the brothel comes forward to say a few words]

Madam: Miss Cuixiu has finished her sword demonstration for tonight. However, she will have a drinking contest with anyone who has a good tolerance for alcohol. Whoever can outdrink her will get to enjoy her company tonight! [The Crown Prince laughs and looks excited. Li Liang looks interested, too] However, each participant must pay an entrance fee of ten ounces of silver. There are no refunds, no matter what the outcome.

Crown Prince: Comrade, you go try. Give it a try! [Tries to push him forward]

Li Liang [shocked]: Me? Oh no, I couldn't!

Crown Prince: Madam. Madam, this comrade of mine, he'd like to participate.

Madam: Okay. Wait a minute. [She goes to fetch the woman. The Crown Prince and Li Liang shove back and forth, with Li Liang trying to squirm away. The madam returns with the woman in red, who is looking demurely down at the ground] Gentlemen, you can start drinking. [The woman presents a cup of wine to Li Liang, who gingerly takes it]

Li Liang: Brother Yang, stop teasing me. [He reluctantly takes the cup of wine to toast the woman] Miss, I toast you. [At this point, the woman removes her veil and reveals the face of Mulan underneath. Her eyes are full of pain and reproach and are brimming with unshed tears. Li Liang blanches in shock at the sight]

[The next scene shows the madam leading all the men who wish to participate in the drinking competition back indoors. They sit down at a long table]

Madam: Okay, we'll start the competition now. [She counts up the participants] How come there are only seven? What happened to the other one? [Li Liang comes storming in the room]

Li Liang: Wait a minute! Count me in! [Mulan smiles wanly when she realizes her husband is going to try and "rescue" her]

Madam: Okay, let's pour the wine! [Li Liang comes over to Mulan's side and whispers to her]

Li Liang: Mulan, stop playing. We can go home and talk this over.

Mulan [smiles wickedly]: What? When we got married, didn't we say that we would always go everywhere together? Since you seem to like coming here to drink, I decided to come here to keep you company.

Li Liang [squirming]: I know I screwed up. I erred. [The Crown Prince is watching the scene with interest] We can go home and talk this over.

Gentleman: Hey, what are you saying to Miss Cuixiu all by your lonesome over there? Didn't we all agree that we'd compete to see who gets the beautiful lady? How can you be hogging her attentions to yourself like that?

Li Liang [irate]: What business is it to you what I say to her, eh? [The Crown Prince has to restrain Li Liang]

Mulan [sweetly]: Everyone, calm down. The competition will start immediately. [To Li Liang] If you want me to go home, then just outdrink everyone else.

Li Liang: But, what if I lose?

Mulan: Didn't you say that you only came here to drink and chat? Well, I only came here to chat and find out why men like to come to such places. [To Gentleman] I have known this gentleman for a long time, so I had a few more things to say to him. Come, let's start. [She walks over to the table, leaving Li Liang and Crown Prince a few yards away]

Crown Prince [tugs on Li Liang's sleeve]: Well, what are you doing still here? Hurry up and join them! You know that she always does what she says she will. [Li Liang looks caught. He walks over and joins the rest of the table. He grabs a bowl of wine]

Li Liang: Okay, first bowl! [He starts drinking it down] Who's afraid? Bring it on! [They down bowl after bowl of wine. Li Liang is getting very unsteady on his feet]

Madam: Gentlemen, you all have such a good tolerance for alcohol! You've almost drunk up my entire stock!

Gentleman across from Li Liang: More wine! You should bow to superior might. Give up. [He is still standing pretty steadily, while Li Liang is teetering on his feet. He tries to grit his teeth to keep on going] Miss Cuixiu is mine tonight!

Li Liang [angry]: You knave! What are you talking about?

Mulan: [walks over and whispers in his ear] Stop trying to buck up. You should know that even if I were to stay here the whole night drinking I wouldn't let him sample any of my goods. [His eyes bulge in shock. Mulan raises her voice to speak to Li Liang's main competition] Sir, I don't think he can drink anymore. If you finish that bowl, we'll consider you the winner.

Gentleman: Really? It's as easy as falling off a log.

[Li Liang stares at the bowl in his hand]

Crown Prince: Now! Drink! [He helps force Li Liang to down another bowl of wine. Mulan is giggling at the sight. When he finishes, he slams the bowl on the table]

Li Liang: Now, it's your turn!

Gentleman: Very well. [He downs his bowl with ease, then hands it over to the madam for refilling. He downs this bowl, then downs a third bowl] There, I finished three bowls of wine. It's your turn.

[Mulan is in a little awe of the gentleman's capacity for alcohol. Li Liang is blanching at the sight]

Crown Prince [incredulous]: You're still going to drink?

Li Liang: Bring it on! [He takes a bowl and manages to force it down, nearly choking with the effort]

Crown Prince: Brother Li.

Gentleman [laughs]: You've lost. [Goes over and takes Mulan's arm] Miss Cuixiu, come with me. [Mulan reluctantly leaves. Li Liang staggers to his feet and goes after the gentleman]

Li Liang: Wait a minute! [He attacks the gentleman and both start to fight. Li Liang might be drunk but he has superior fighting skills. Mulan is clapping her hands gleefully. He quickly dispatches the gentleman then grabs Mulan's arm. He roars] Who dares to touch my wife?! [Mulan throws off his grip and hurries from the brothel]

Crown Prince [calling after her]: Mulan! Mulan!

Madam [shocked]: What? That was the famous General Hua Mulan?

Crown Prince [waves her off and helps Li Liang out the door]: It's nothing. It's nothing. Let's go now.