[Cut to the Emperor's throne room in the palace. The Emperor is looking very displeased. He thumps the table to emphasize his point]

Emperor: You have gone too far! [We see the Crown Prince, General Li, and Mulan all kneeling before the Emperor] You dare to go raise a ruckus in a brothel of all places! You raised such a commotion that everyone knows the story already! Do you realize what you have done?

General Li and Mulan: Your humble servants know.

Crown Prince: Yes, I know.

Emperor: Your actions have sorely disappointed me.

Empress: Your Majesty, in my opinion, this whole fiasco started with our son. We should punish him severely.

Second Prince: Father, mother, while it's true that my brother has erred, since this is his first offense, perhaps you could show him some mercy.

Empress: Wining and dining like that is something that he's an old hand with already. How can you say it's his first offense?

Second Prince: Mother, my brother is young and immature. It's only natural that he's a bit of a playboy.

Empress: Aren't you even younger than he is? Stop trying to make excuses for him. If he doesn't mend his ways, how can we hand over the reins of this empire into his keeping? Your Majesty, you must punish our son severely!

Emperor [nods]: You have a point. My son?

Crown Prince: Yes, father.

Emperor: I order you to go visit the ancestral temple and meditate upon your offenses. Without my express consent you are not to return to the palace.

Crown Prince: Yes, father.

Empress: Well, what are you waiting for?

Crown Prince: I'll take my leave now. [He leaves like a dog with his tail between his legs]

Emperor: Hua Mulan, Li Liang?

General Li and Mulan: Yes, your Majesty?

Emperor: As your punishment, your stipends are suspended for three months. Are you unhappy about this?

Mulan: Your Majesty, I willingly accept this punishment.

General Li: Your Majesty, so do I.

Emperor: You're dismissed.

General Li and Mulan: Thank you, your Majesty.

[Cut to city streets. Yiren and Li Liang's mother are walking together. They hear a noise and suddenly stop in their tracks. They look at each other, then whirl around as if they recognize something. They look but do not recognize anything. Chagrined, they turn around again to resume their journey, but they hear someone mutter something. Li Liang's mother immediately whirls back around and glares at a vendor who is smirking at her. She walks over and grabs the vendor]

Li Liang's mother [in a huff]: What did you just say about me?

Vendor [turns his head nonchalantly]: I didn't say anything.

Yiren: Still trying to squirm out of this? You want to go to the Generals' Residence and sit there a while? (Presumably in the brig)

Vendor [still smirks]: Who told you to throw out your good food for the pigs outside?

Li Liang's mother [bewildered]: What are you talking about?

Vendor: Who told your son to go visiting brothels and consorting with prostitutes while your daughter-in-law sends her flowers for someone else to pluck? (In Chinese, "hua" means "flower," which is also Mulan's surname; this is a pun on her name)

Li Liang's mother [livid]: How dare you say such nonsense!

Yiren [angry]: You're completely unreasonable! [They both raise their hands as if to strike the vendor. He holds up his hands]

Vendor: You don't want to hit me, for every word I say is the truth. [Li Liang's mother looks ready to attack the vendor, but Yiren drags her aunt aside and leads her away]

Yiren: Aunt, let's leave and not make a scene. Come on, let's leave. [She hustles her aunt off]

[Cut to Generals' Residence. Li Liang's mother and Yiren walk inside. A manservant follows them]

Servant: Elder Mistress, Young Mistress actually.

Li Liang's mother [interrupts]: Don't speak that name in front of me!

Servant: But Young Mistress said.

Li Liang's mother [irate]: I thought I told you already not to speak that name! [She raises her hand and the servant cringes. From the doorway, Mulan's mother's voice echoes inside]

Mulan's mother: In-Law, you have come home just in time. I had something I wanted you to clarify for me. [Starts yelling] How in the name of all your Ancestors did you raise that son of yours?!

Li Liang's mother [angry]: What about how in the name of all your Ancestors have you brought up your daughter and you're here accusing me?

Mulan's mother: My daughter is hard as iron on the outside and soft as velvet on the inside. She's literate and martially adept and also brave and heroic. Everyone knows that. Besides, I brought her up under strict discipline and I have my methods. So it's true that you need to learn from me. However, since things have come to a head today, it's too late to mend your ways!

Li Liang's mother [sneers]: You expect me to ask advice from you? [Spits on ground] Your daughter went to a brothel to drink with men. Don't expect me to believe that you knew about that!

Mulan's mother [crosses arms]: Of course I knew. However, you know that we're dealing with an amoral husband! If your son hadn't been hanging around in such disgraceful surroundings, do you think she would go raising a ruckus in a brothel? It's all because you didn't manage your son well; that's why he frequented a place like that. You didn't raise him well. What kind of a mother are you?

Li Liang's mother [outraged]: You! You dare come to my house to make a scene?

Mulan's mother: Oh, so you ran out of better ammunition to argue with, so you're resorting to that old saying to put me in my place? Your house? You're forgetting that the Emperor bestowed this house on Mulan and Li Liang. I understand protocol and manners; that's why I moved to another place to live. Who dares to stand in my way if I want to come visit?

Li Liang's mother: Why don't you go outside and see the sign over the door? It says in big letters, "House of Li." While the Emperor may have said one thing, the fact remains that it belongs to the Li family, not the Hua family.

Mulan's mother: So what you say goes? Why don't you take the imperial command out and read it thoroughly? If my daughter hadn't propped up your son, he may not have come home alive from war, let alone return victorious. He doesn't have the sense to appreciate what she's done and instead he runs off to tomcat around. Is he even human? How can he face Mulan?

Li Liang's mother [sniffs]: Humph! The Li family is made up of generals. What is Hua Mulan compared to that? [Yiren looks as if she is aghast at the argument, but doesn't dare try to break it up] If it weren't for Li Liang, she would still be a mess hall soldier. You call that gratitude? Now that she's going around drinking with men, that just shows how far she's fallen.

Mulan's mother: Your son going out to brothels to consort with harlots shows he's no better than a prodigal and licentious son.

Li Liang's mother: Oh, and your daughter is a virtuous wife?!

Mulan's mother: Your son is a damn fool!

[The two mothers look like they are about to start resorting to blows when Yiren separates them]

Yiren: That's enough. Stop fighting!

Li Liang's mother [calls to servant]: Go fetch some people to kick her out!

Mulan's mother [roars]: You dare? [Calls to servants] Protect your mistress! [The servants get into a fighting stance. So does Yiren]

Yiren [throws up her hands]: Oh come now, let's stop this.

Li Liang's mother: Throw her out!

Mulan's mother: Not so fast! If anyone dares to move us we'll manhandle him first!

Li Liang's mother: In that case, let me do it myself! Let's see what you're made of! [She starts fighting Mulan's mother] I'm going for broke!

[The two ladies are fighting tooth and nail. Yiren tries to break them up but they aren't listening. The servants stand aside and do not get involved]

Yiren: Stop fighting! Stop fighting!

[Li Liang's mother pins Mulan's mother against the wall and starts pummeling her]

Mulan's mother: Help!

[At this moment, Mulan and Li Liang come in the door and stare in shock at the sight]

Li Liang: Mother! Stop it!

Mulan: Mother! [They both go running to their mothers. Li Liang pulls his mother aside. Her fists are bruised from fighting. Yiren cringes at the sight. Mulan pulls her mother aside. Her mother is covering her face]

Li Liang's mother [smiles at her son]: My fist is pretty effective, isn't it?

[Mulan is trying to get her mother to show how badly she's injured. She slowly removes her hands from her battered face. It is bruised, her lip is cut, and she has several scratches on her face from Li Liang's mother's nails]

Mulan's mother: I didn't let you lose too much face, did I? [Everyone is eyeing her injuries and cringing slightly. Li Liang's mother in particular is trying not to smile, but also looks rather sheepish, as if she is embarrassed about her actions]

[Cut to sitting room, where Mulan's mother is sitting down with Mulan. A maid is helping anoint Mulan's mother's wounds. She flinches occasionally from the sting of the medicine. Mulan is looking sternly at her mother]

Mulan's mother [waves off maid]: That's enough, you're too clumsy to do it right. Go now. [The maid leaves the room] That popo of yours is really something!

Mulan [mumbles to herself and hides a smile]: I think the two of you are about equal.

Mulan's mother [looks to Mulan]: What did you say?

Mulan: Nothing. Why did you go there and raise a ruckus?

Mulan's mother: Do you think I have nothing better to do than twiddle my thumbs here? If it weren't for your sake, do you think I would go up against that old spitfire?

Mulan: Mother, you needn't worry about my affairs.

Mulan's mother [chiding]: Take a look at that attitude of yours. I went to help show you how to handle things and you're criticizing me instead. [Mulan doesn't say anything] Sooner or later, that mother and son will push you so hard that you'll have no place to let out steam. That's your only failing. You should have told me earlier that Li Liang had gone to a sleazy place like that. Why did you go to a brothel yourself? Now look, everyone's talking about you. [Calms down when she sees Mulan hang her head in shame] I've already told the servants to prepare a guest room. You should go get some rest.

Mulan [bewildered]: Guest room?

Mulan's mother: Of course. After a fight like that you're going to go back?

Mulan: Don't go back?

Mulan's mother: If you're going to return, at least wait until Li Liang invites you back. This is a great opportunity for you to show him who is boss. Otherwise, he'll always have the upper hand.

[Mulan thinks a minute, then nods her head grimly]

[Cut to road outside the capital. The Crown Prince is preparing to leave to serve out his exile. The carriage is waiting for him to board. He looks wistfully about him]

Eunuch [bowing]: Your Highness, the carriage awaits. [The Crown Prince nods and starts heading to towards the carriage. The Second Prince calls after him. There is a servant with him carrying a bundle of items]

Crown Prince [turns around]: Brother? Is there something you need?

Second Prince: Where you are going, things are lonely and quiet. I am afraid you may not have adequate clothing to guard against the cold there. I brought some goose down bedding for you to help make sure you are warm enough.

Crown Prince [looks touched]: Thank you for looking out for me. I will remember this debt as long as I live.

Second Prince: We are brothers. Blood is always thicker than water. Besides, you are leaving over a small issue and we don't know what it will take to bring you back.

Crown Prince: After I go into exile and think things over, please look after our parents.

Second Prince: Have no fear. I promise to take good care of them and when the timing is right, I'll say a good word for you so you can come home sooner.

Crown Prince: I'd better be going. [He clasps his brother's hands, then leaves. As the carriage departs, the Second Prince gets a grimly satisfied look on his face]

[Cut to Li Liang and Mulan's quarters in the Generals' Residence. Li Liang is sitting at the table alone drinking cup after cup of wine. It is daylight out. Jili comes in and takes the cup away from Li Liang]

Jili: Stop it! This wine was almost the death of you and you're still drinking?

Li Liang [grabs back cup]: What are you talking about? [Pours another cup of wine]

Jili [protesting]: Hey, what are you doing? You should hurry up and fetch Mulan home is what you should do.

[At this moment, Li Liang's mother and Yiren walk in the room]

Li Liang's mother: She has her faculties about her; she can come home on her own.

Jili: Now, madam, you shouldn't say that. You're better off teaching someone how to beat a child than how to split husband and wife. Moreover, she's your daughter-in-law.

Li Liang's mother [sniffs]: Daughter-in-law? Do I dare be her popo? [Starts gesturing grandly] One minute she's leading an army behind her and the next minute she's consorting with prostitutes in brothels. Or maybe she'll sick her mother on our family, banging at the front door and raising a ruckus. Every day since my son took her to wife, my heart aches for him. [Li Liang looks chagrined and irritated by his mother's comments. Even Yiren feels Li Liang's mother has gone a little too far]

Li Liang [shortly]: Mother, could you please stop speaking of her that way?

Li Liang's mother: Oh my, you mean I can't even say a sentence in gripe? Li Liang, if you can handle more punishment, then go to the Hua home and fetch her home. Your mother has already arranged everything in her mind, though. As long as she doesn't lose all the face the Li family has to lose, I can put up with anything. Her mother can come break down the door, scolding and raising her hand against me, and I won't return anything. You can count on me.

Jili: Madam, you're manipulating him.

Li Liang's mother [sweetly]: Manipulate? Would I dare? She's the great General Hua. I am not the only one afraid of her. Even Li Liang is afraid of drawing her ire. Spending time with the Crown Prince made her raise such a stink that the entire city knows about it. [Pats her son on the shoulder as she sits down next to him] Li Liang, it's going to be difficult keeping your head up after this. But alas, there isn't anything you can do; such is life. [Li Liang finally slams the cup on the table and storms out of the room]

Jili [following]: Hey, Li Liang! [Whirls on Yiren] Are you happy now? See what you've done!

Yiren [starts to protest, then changes tack]: Of course I'm happy. You go tell Hua Mulan to come home quickly, because sooner or later, I'll be the Young Mistress of the Li family. [Li Liang's mother's eyes light up when she hears this. Jili's jaw drops briefly]

Jili [shakes a finger at her]: Oh, so you finally said what you really think. Well, then let me tell you that I for one look down on you, because you are: [Makes a rude gesture with his elbow] a whore! [Scampers out of the room. Yiren is about to chase after him but Li Liang's mother restrains her]

Li Liang's mother: Yiren, ignore that Su Jili. The past few days I thought you had changed your mind about Li Liang. But the words you just said put my mind at ease. Don't worry. No matter what it is I'll be cheering for you.

Yiren [protesting]: Aunt.

Li Liang's mother: Say no more. I am 100% clear about everything. Absolutely crystal clear. [Bounds out of the room happily]

Yiren: Aunt! [Exasperated, she hurries after her aunt]

[Cut to Mulan's mother's residence. Mulan is sitting at a table, pouting and talking to herself]

Mulan [sighs]: It's already been two days. Nary a letter has come by, either. What is he thinking? [A maid walks in and curtsies]

Maid: Miss, there is someone here to see you.

Mulan: Hurry up and bring him in. [The maid leaves. Mulan starts primping a little, then adopts a nonchalant air, expecting Li Liang has arrived. Instead, Jili walks in]

Jili [puts on a deep voice]: Miss, you needn't put on that act any later. It's me. [Mulan whirls around, looks to make sure Li Liang isn't with Jili, then pouts again. Jili turns to the maid] You're dismissed. Thank you. [The maid turns and leaves]

Mulan: Didn't you say you would drag Li Liang here?

Jili: How can I drag him here? I can't push him nor can I move him. I can't beat him in a fight, either. What am I supposed to do, use an ox to pull?

Mulan [exasperated]: Then go ask him what he wants? Is our relationship going to end on this note?

Jili [sits down]: You need to do the asking, not me. In the last skirmish he was the loser on many fronts. True, his mother is unreasonable and loves to stir up trouble, but if you keep butting heads like this he'll have no where to go. I truly feel sorry for him in this case.

Mulan [retorting]: Oh, so his going to such immoral and disreputable places is something I should just wink at and ignore?

Jili: True. He erred in some areas, but last time you already made him lose face so you could patch things up. I think you should go home first and then discuss things with him, don't you think? If you want to fight and scold, at least do it face to face, right?

Mulan: No!

Jili [puzzled]: Why?

Mulan: He started it. Let him come here to fetch me. Is that so hard?

Jili: But he's a man; he has his pride.

Mulan: Oh, so we women don't have any pride? If he doesn't come here in person, I refuse to go back.

Jili: Why are you like this?

[Cut to city street. Li Liang's mother is looking high and low for someone]

Li Liang's mother: Hmm. How come when I look for him I can't find him and when I don't look for him he crops up? [Turns to vendor] Proprietor, do you have any chicken grass?

Proprietor: Of course. How much did you want?

Li Liang's mother: All of it.

Proprietor [surprised]: All of it? Uh. Okay, here. [He hands over the bundle and takes Li Liang's mother's money. She happily takes the package and scampers off. Jili comes forward]

Jili: Hey, Proprietor, what did she buy?

Proprietor: Chicken grass. It's for brewing in soups. It's a guaranteed cure for insomnia. You'll sleep like the dead.

Jili: Wow. [Starts to walk away, then turns around] Didn't I buy those ba beans from you before?

Proprietor [nods vigorously]: Yes, yes, that was me.

Jili: Oh my. [Hurries off]

[Cut to Generals' Residence. Li Liang's mother enters the kitchen, where several servants are busily cooking]

Li Liang's mother [clears her throat]: Everyone, you're dismissed.

Servant: Mistress, what about tonight's supper?

Li Liang's mother: I'm going to cook it personally. Is there a problem with that?

Servant: Oh, nothing. That's fine.

Li Liang's mother: Then all of you, please leave. Leave now. [Shoos everyone out. Once the kitchen is empty, Li Liang's mother walks over to the boiling wok of soup. She removes the lid and pops the contents of her package into the wok, stirring to make sure everything cooks. She then replaces the lid, not noticing that Jili is watching aghast from the doorway]

[Cut to dining room. Li Liang's mother is bringing in a large bowl of soup and places it on the table. The table is already set for three people, but no one else is there yet]

Li Liang's mother: Li Liang is too prim and proper. Yiren is a girl, plus she's too shy. If I waited for them to get together on their own, goodness knows when that would be. All my hair would probably be white already and they still wouldn't have gotten anywhere. That's why I had to nudge things on a little. Once they drink a bowl of this soup, a little spark will become a wild fire,. No matter how vicious Hua Mulan is, these two will have to get married. [She doesn't notice Yiren has walked into the room already]

Yiren: Aunt? [Li Liang's mother jumps and smiles sheepishly] What were you talking to yourself about just now?

Li Liang's mother: I made some good dishes for everyone tonight. They're really special. [Yiren sniffs appreciatively] Where's Li Liang?

Yiren: Um. I don't know.

Li Liang's mother [chiding]: Tut tut. This is your golden opportunity now that Hua Mulan left home. You should spend more time with Li Liang.

Yiren [uncomfortable]: Aunt.

Li Liang [walking in]: Mother.

Li Liang's mother [grinning]: Come in. I made several dishes for you tonight.

Li Liang: Mother, you should have had the servants do the cooking. You don't need to do it yourself.

Li Liang's mother: Hey, servants can't do as good a job as I can. Your wife, now, knows what she's doing, so I have no comment. From now on, I'll try to cook for you more often.  Oh, and look at this fantastic soup I made! [She starts ladling it into two bowls] For you and for you.

Yiren: Aunt, what about you?

Li Liang's mother: Um. This soup is too rich for someone my age. It's not suited for me.

Yiren: Oh.

Li Liang's mother: Hurry and drink up while it's hot. [Li Liang and Yiren start drinking the soup]

Li Liang [frowns]: This soup tastes funny.

Yiren: It's really good!

Li Liang [tries some more]: Well, it's pretty good. [Li Liang's mother beams as the two of them continue to drink up the soup]

[Cut to Li Liang and Mulan's quarters. Li Liang is fast asleep when his mother comes in the room, staggering as she drags Yiren inside. Yiren is fast asleep, too, from the soup, so she doesn't awaken when Li Liang's mother lays her in Li Liang's bed. As she is tucking Yiren under the covers, Jili is peeping from the window and watching in horrified fascination at the scene. Li Liang's mother looks touched at the sight of her son with Yiren. Jili hurries off before Li Liang's mother can spot him]

Li Liang's mother: Yiren, if things come to fruition, don't forget that I meant well for the two of you. Please be careful [She leaves the room]

[Cut to Yiren's quarters the next morning. Li Liang's mother is raising a ruckus amongst the servants, inquiring about Yiren's whereabouts]

Li Liang's mother: You're sure you didn't see Misstress Yiren leave this morning?

Servant: I'm sure. I was up all night until early this morning on gate duty and I didn't see her leave.

Li Liang's mother: Where has she gone so early in the morning? [Makes as if checking Yiren's bed] This bed looks like she didn't sleep in it last night. I'm so worried about her. Go check everywhere and look for her! [She starts running around like a chicken with its head cut off. The servants are trailing her like little puppies. She bursts into Li Liang and Mulan's quarters, hollering at the top of her lungs] Oh my goodness, oh my goodness! [She runs to the inner chamber, where Li Liang and someone else is sleeping] Li Liang, get up! [We now see that Yiren is no longer sleeping next to Li Liang. Mulan is there and she gets up and looks Li Liang's mother squarely in the eye] It's you?

Mulan: Why wouldn't it be me? I'm Brother Liang's wife. [Sees Li Liang's mother stammering and at a loss for words] What's the matter, cat got your tongue?

Li Liang's mother [weakly]: How come the gatekeeper didn't even know you had returned?

Mulan [smugly]: Popo, you're forgetting that I'm skilled in the martial arts. If I wanted to enter, do you think I'd have any problems? Coming and going doesn't require passing through the front door. What were you saying just now, that Yiren is missing?

Li Liang's mother [dazed]: Um. I think she must have just gone out for a little stroll. Um. Go back to sleep, please? Go back to sleep. [She turns tail and runs from the room in a panic] Oh my goodness, I have to find Yiren! [Mulan openly smirks at this]

[Cut to Jili and Xiangzi's bachelor quarters. Yiren is fast asleep on the bed. She slowly wakes up, then sits up with a start when she realizes where she is]

Yiren: Isn't this Su Jili's room? How did I end up here? [In a panic, she starts to check to see if everything is in place. Jili comes in the room carrying a teapot of water]

Jili: Oh, you're awake. [Yiren glares at him and gives him a stiff slap that sends him sprawling]

Yiren: Damned bastard!

Jili [stands up and rubs his cheek]: Why did you hit me?

Yiren [angry]: Tell me, what immoral reason did you bring me here for? [Nervously tucks her clothing more closely about herself]

Jili [mirrors her actions]: Immoral reason? I'd be scared of YOU having immoral thoughts about me!

Yiren: Oh, so you're being stubborn? Well, I'm going to report you to the authorities. I'm going to drag you there with me! [Grabs his arm but he breaks free]

Jili: Let go! You really have no shame, do you? Well, go right ahead and report this to the authorities. Go ahead!

Yiren [blanching]: You took advantage of me, didn't you? [Goes crazy and attacks Jili, pummeling him to the bed and slams her fists repeatedly into his back] I'm going to have it out with you!

[During a pause in the action, both are trying to catch their breath]

Jili: I didn't even touch a hair on your head, let alone touch you any other way.

Yiren: Whom are you trying to kid? If you didn't bring me here, then how did I end up sleeping here?

Jili: How? Mulan carried you over here.

Yiren [shocked]: Cousin-in-law? What are you two trying to do, conspire against me?

Jili [glaring]: Conspiracy? I ought to ask that of you and that precious meddling aunt of yours.

Yiren [shortly]: Stop trying to pin the blame on someone else. We know full well that the two of you are responsible for bringing me here.

Jili [sneers]: Still trying to keep up the charade, aren't you? This conspiracy is to damage Li Liang and Mulan's relationship and break apart their marriage, isn't it? However, I never imagined that you would stoop to such tactics, that you would drug him and then [makes odd hand gestures], then you would [makes some more hand gestures], and that you'd turn this raw rice into cooked rice, and that you'd turn this raw flour into cooked noodles. [Yiren's eyes are wide in shock and incredulity at Jili's words] Then you would force him to marry you, isn't that right?

Yiren [shocked]: What did you say?

Jili: Stop pretending you don't know what I'm talking about. Even though your aunt is responsible for the opening act of getting the chicken grass into the soup, you must have known ahead of time and used it as an excuse to satisfy those urges of yours. You could get the job done without even being aware of it. [He doesn't notice Yiren is aghast and chagrined] Fortunately, I found out about it in time, otherwise it would be something Li Liang would never wash off even if he jumped in the Yellow River. [Yiren lets out a loud wail and slaps Jili again, sending him sprawling on the bed once more. He jumps up and gingerly rubs his cheek, whimpering] Hey, why did you hit me again?

Yiren [mortified]: I'm not as amoral as you think I am! Su Jili, I hate you! I hate you, hate you, hate you! [Goes running out of his room, crying loudly]

[Meanwhile, Li Liang's mother is running to and fro inside the Generals' Residence]

Li Liang's mother: Where is Yiren? Where the hell did she go? [Servants come running inside]

Servants: Mistress, we have searched inside and outside. We have not seen any sign of Misstress Yiren.

Li Liang's mother: Go back outside and ask around to see if anyone has seen her. [They bow and hurry back out] Oh, where are you, Yiren? [Thinks a bit] Wait a minute. I'm sure that Hua Mulan is at the bottom of this. But I can't go and ask her, or she'll just rebuke me for what I've done. But where did she hide her? [A stomping noise comes from the hallway. She turns in surprise to see Yiren is back] Yiren! You had me so worried. Where were you? [Sees she is crying] What's the matter? Did someone pick on you? Just tell me who did it and I'll teach them a lesson for you.

Yiren [crying]: Aunt! Did you give Cousin and I some of that wierd grass so that our raw rice would more easily become cooked rice, so he'd be forced to marry me?

Li Liang's mother: But I meant well! Your cousin is too much of a gentleman. And you're a girl. I couldn't let you just linger like that. After a drugged sleep everything is okay now. This way, you get your heart's desire! What's wrong with that? [Yiren bursts into another fit of crying. At this time, Li Liang storms into the room. He is aghast at what his mother has done]

Li Liang: Mother! Where did you get such a cockamamie solution?

Mulan: You wouldn't believe me before. Now you know I wasn't blaming her without just cause.

Li Liang: It's a good thing Mulan and Jili discovered this early enough, otherwise, what do you expect me to do?

Li Liang's mother: Well, the only thing you can do now is marry Yiren. What's the big deal about a man having multiple wives? Since we're making this huge ruckus now, I'll be blunt with you. [Goes to Mulan] Li Liang spent all his time outside around town because you didn't perform your duties as a wife. For the sake of the Li family line continuing, for the sake of maintaining the reach of the Li family, I insist that Li Liang take another wife!

Mulan: What?!

Li Liang [grabs his mother's arm]: Mother!

Li Liang's mother: I've already made up my mind. Go pick a good day. [Grabs Li Liang's hand and tries to put it with Yiren's hand] You are to marry Yiren! [Both Yiren and Li Liang jump as if shocked]

Yiren and Li Liang: No! [Jili bursts in the room]

Jili: No! [Everyone stares at Jili. Li Liang's mother walks over and pulls Yiren aside]

Li Liang's mother: Yiren, if those two (meaning Li Liang and Mulan) say "no," that's one thing. You can ignore what Su Jili says. But what about you? Why do you say "no?"

Yiren [squirms]: Aunt. I. I don't like Cousin like that anymore.

Li Liang's mother: What?

Yiren: I've been trying to tell you for a long time now, but you kept on going.

Li Liang's mother: Didn't you always like your Cousin? Oh. It's because you're scared of Hua Mulan? I promise that as soon as you join the family, I will make sure no one picks on you.

Yiren [frustrated]: I just don't want to marry Cousin!

Li Liang's mother: You've fallen for someone else, haven't you? [Jili looks elated at the news]

Yiren: Yes.

Li Liang's mother: Who is it?

Yiren [exasperated]: You don't know him! I met him on the street. [Jili comes over and starts scolding her]

Jili: You're as unpredictable as water! You're like a sunflower.

Yiren [turns on him]: What's it to you! [Jili, sensing the fury in her voice, covers his cheek (the one she slapped earlier) and backs away] Eh? What's it to you! [He falls over trying to back away]

Mulan [sweetly]: Popo, since Yiren doesn't want to marry Brother Liang, you could always go get a matchmaker to find a suitable wife for him. If you want, I can keep an ear out for a recommendation.

Li Liang: Mother, would you stop doing such outrageous things? [He storms off in a huff. Mulan sniffs contentedly at Li Liang's mother before following Li Liang. Li Liang's mother turns and leaves in a huff, leaving only Jili and Yiren in the room together. Yiren stomps over to a table and sits down. She puts her chin on her hands and starts whimpering]

Jili [sarcastically]: Oh, I feel so sorry for her. [Gets to his feet and walks over] I wonder who is more pathetic, someone who would want a firecracker like you or the firecracker herself. I suspect you were willing to marry Li Liang at all costs, but alas, he doesn't think of you that way. [Leans over on the table] The more I think about it, the sadder it is.

Yiren [glaring at him]: Are you quite finished?

Jili: No, I'm not. If you had an ounce of sense you'd bring out this blind bloke who has no taste and show us who he is. My suspicion is there is no such person. I think your overly romantic mind made him up because you needed somewhere to turn your blighted affections.

Yiren: Whether it's a two-way street or a one-way street is really none of your business. I don't know you very well, so why should I introduce you to him?

Jili [stands up]: You don't know me very well? Then what about all that time we spent in the army together? We went through thick and thin together. True, I didn't have any good feelings about you, but I still don't want to see you get cheated.

Yiren [livid]: You don't have any good feelings towards me? I knew that a long time ago! In that case, you needn't worry about any of my affairs, you meddling mother hen!

Jili: You are really as changeable as water and moody as a sunflower. When you get cheated later, then I'll be saying "serves you right!"

Yiren: Humph! I don't have a one-track mind like you. She's already married and you're still mooning about.

Jili: True! But I finish what I start. While we may not be destined to get together in this lifetime, I'll still always have her best interests at heart. Not like you, only coming up with things that hurt him. You think of something amoral and you do it. You think it and you do it. [Yiren hauls back and slaps him on the other cheek. Jili holds it and whimpers as she leaves] You're too cruel! I covered up one cheek and you slapped the other cheek! She hit me three times today; she's going to loosen the skin off my face at this rate! [Whimpers loudly and gingerly rubs his cheeks] You're mean! One of these days, I'm going to pay you back double what you've given me!

[Cut to Li Liang and Mulan's quarters that night. They are both in white pajamas. Mulan is sitting on the daybed reading a book while Li Liang is sitting in a chair at the table, cleaning a sword. He turns to look at Mulan, then resumes his polishing. Mulan looks up, but then resumes reading. Li Liang looks at her again, then puts away his sword. He deliberately makes some noise while sheathing the sword to see if Mulan is paying attention. He then sits down at the table and pours some tea for himself. His back is to Mulan as she looks up, then resumes reading again. She closes her book with a thump, tosses it on the table, and wordlessly goes to bed. Li Liang finishes his tea, then follows Mulan to bed. Neither has said anything to the other. He makes as if to say something, then decides against it. He turns on his side, to which Mulan also turns on her side so their backs are facing each other]

Li Liang: Hey. [Turns back away from Mulan. He does it again and Mulan nudges him with an elbow, then both go to sleep]

[Cut to courtyard the next morning. Mulan is wandering around alone. She is looking for Li Liang and goes the sword rack and fingers the hilt on one of the blades. A maid comes out]

Maid: Young Mistress, you're up. Young Master said he is practicing in the grove out back. He said he wishes to speak to you about something and would you please go see him.

Mulan: Oh. [She hurries off]

[Meanwhile, we see Li Liang performing an elaborate routine in the yard with his sword, swinging it round and round while executing elaborate moves with his arms and feet. Mulan is watching in some awe. When he stops, he walks over and Mulan tries to look stern]

Mulan: What did you want to speak to me about?

Li Liang [quietly]: I've already said everything. [Indicates the ground. Mulan looks and her face softens] Mulan, don't be angry anymore, okay?

Mulan: Actually, I am partly to blame, too.

Li Liang [smiles]: Then in future, how about we just forget about this? [Mulan smiles and nods. He puts his arm around her shoulder and they walk back into the house. We now see the writing in the earth. It says "sorry"]

[Cut to sitting room. Li Liang's mother is sitting at a table plucking the petals off a flower. She is looking very glum and discontent. Yiren walks in and looks very happy, in contrast. She is carrying a cup of tea]

Yiren [sweetly]: Aunt, I brewed up some of your favorite jasmine tea. Have some.

Li Liang's mother [crossly]: That won't be necessary. Right now, nothing tastes good.

Yiren: But Aunt, just take a sniff. It's really quite fragrant. [She lifts the cover off the cup and puts the cup under Li Liang's mother's nose. She frowns at Yiren]

Li Liang's mother: You are such a disappointment. Tell me, who do you like?

Yiren: Who do I like? Um. Actually, Aunt, who I like is not important. What is important is that I don't like Cousin anymore that way. [Sees her aunt sigh in frustration] Actually, Aunt, Cousin-in-Law isn't that bad. She's just a little stubborn, that's all.

Li Liang's mother [thumps table in exasperation]: What did she drug you with? You're still sweet-talking for her!

Yiren [protesting]: It's true, though. Perhaps in the past you always found fault with her because you had your eye on making me your daughter-in-law. But if you really take a good look at her, you'll find out she's pretty decent.

[Li Liang and Mulan come in the sitting room]

Li Liang: Mother.

Mulan: Popo.

Li Liang's mother: Humph.

Mulan [comes over and pours tea]: Here, let me. [She hands a cup to Li Liang's mother, who begrudgingly accepts it] Popo, you spoke true. I really haven't been a good wife, but I can change for the better.

Li Liang's mother [snidely]: If you can really think that way, then it just goes to show that the Li family ancestors are watching out for us.

Mulan: I will do my best. [Li Liang's mother feigns a brief coughing fit. In concern, Mulan pours some more tea] Popo, your throat seems like it's irritating you. Please, have some more tea. [Li Liang's mother picks up the tea cup reluctantly and sips some more. At this moment, a servant walks in]

Servant: Young Master and Young Mistress a letter just arrived from the Second Prince. [He hands it to Li Liang. Li Liang's mother looks to Yiren in puzzlement while Li Liang opens the letter and reads it]

Mulan: What does it say?

Li Liang: The Second Prince asked us to meet him in his retreat.

[Cut to the Second Prince's quarters. Mulan and General Li are dressed in their armor. The Second Prince is there, along with his trusted eunuch. Several ladies are dancing for them. After the dance ends, everyone politely claps]

Second Prince: You're dismissed. [The dancers curtsy, then leave. The Second Prince leads them inside to a sitting room] I'm not very well versed in this field. I hope I didn't do anything unmannerly with that musical presentation. [The three of them sit down at a table, while the eunuch looks on] Marshal Li, I know that you have spent much time in the recent past cavorting around town with my brother. You have experience in this area. How do you rate their dancing?

Mulan [shoots her husband a look]: Your Highness, Li Liang is a soldier. He only accompanied the Crown Prince out of duty. How would he know anything about the appreciation of the finer arts?

Second Prince: I see that General Hua and Marshal Li have now reconciled between themselves. It is truly worthy of celebration. Come. [He picks up a cup of wine] Let me toast you first. May you always be of one heart and one mind. [The three of them toast]

Mulan and General Li: Your Highness, thank you. [The eunuch comes over to refill their cups. General Li salutes the Second Prince]

General Li: Your Highness, did you have any orders for us?

Second Prince: Marshal Li and General Hua, you are a husband-and-wife team that is our nation's treasure. I have long since appreciated your abilities, but I fear you have misinterpreted how I feel about you. [Mulan shoots a warning look to General Li]

Mulan: Li Liang and I have served this country and the Emperor with one heart. Besides, isn't your Highness our equal in effectiveness? How do you say so?

Second Prince: You two are faithful to the core. Of that I am well aware. However, in the future, I hope that we can better understand each other and work together towards improving the Sui Empire.

General Li: Your Highness, do not worry. Even if you hadn't invited us over tonight, Mulan and I would do our utmost to serve our country, till death to we part.

Second Prince: Then what you are saying is that my inviting you over tonight was an unneeded effort?

General Li: Your Highness, I wouldn't dare.

Second Prince: I know that when my brother asked you to accompany him, you went out of a sense of duty. When I invited you here, I suppose it was under similar circumstances.

General Li [salutes and kneels]: Your Highness! I never meant that. [Mulan hurriedly kneels by his side]

Mulan: Your Highness, Li Liang got in trouble with his Majesty over the recent situation with gallivanting about town. He was afraid of further drawing the ire of his Majesty should he accept your invitation. Please feel free to question anyone else.

Second Prince [chuckles]: I was only teasing you. Why take it for real? Come, back on your feet.

General Li: Thank you, your Highness. [They both get to their feet] Your Highness, I have urgent business at home. If you do not have anything else of importance for me, then we will take our leave now.

Second Prince [rising]: Okay. You are dismissed. [The two officers salute and leave]

Eunuch: Humph! It seems to me Li Liang and Hua Mulan don't have the sense to know who's the boss around here. Your Highness, you must be on your guard against them.

Second Prince [sits down and sips his wine]: Those who follow me shall live; those who don't shall die. [Angrily throws the cup across the room] They will learn this principle very quickly.

[Cut to Li Liang and Mulan's quarters. They have just returned from visiting the Second Prince and are sitting on chairs next to the table]

General Li [sighs]: Seems to me that life in the empire will get interesting in the future.

Mulan: Anyone can see what the Second Prince has in mind. I hope their Majesties don't get hoodwinked by him.

General Li: The Second Prince is a slick person. If the empire falls in his hands, I worry.

Mulan [interrupts him]: Brother Liang, the walls have ears. The less said about this subject the better.

General Li: I know.

[Cut to Jili's bachelor quarters. Jili is sitting on the bed and soaking his feet in a basin of water when Xiangzi walks in]

Jili: Ow! This water is so hot!

Xiangzi: It is? [Dips a finger in and jerks it back out] Ow! I'm surprised that you don't scald yourself with that water! What are you trying to do? Here, let me take that.

Jili: Wait. Leave it.

Xiangzi: But didn't you say you can't stand the hot water? I was going to move it out of the way for you.

Jili: It may be hot, but it's fun. [He dips his feet back in the water and grimaces at the temperature. He lifts it out a few seconds later]

Xiangzi: You're insane.

Jili: These past few days the skin on the soles of my feet have been rubbed thin. I'm so tired.

Xiangzi: Where have you been the past several days? Did you ask for leave from the army?

Jili [muttering]: Well, it's a long story.

Xiangzi [sits down]: So what's the matter?

Jili: Perhaps this is best. I'll chat things over with you and maybe you can give me your opinion on it.

Xiangzi: Okay. Shoot.

Jili: There's a woman. Now, I don't know her. I don't know her at all. She is just a smidgen prettier than the average woman is. [He indicates a small space between his fingers] Just this little bit. Her temper, now, is truly awful. If you offend her, she will tear the hide off both sides of your face. She also is small-hearted and will hold grudges till kingdom come. Is there anyone who would ever like a woman such as this?

Xiangzi: Of course.

Jili: Who?

Xiangzi: You.

Jili [scoffs]: Me? Who would like a woman like this?

Xiangzi [patiently]: Fine. Tell me who is this woman who is just a smidgen prettier than an average.

Jili: Um. You're asking me a question that doesn't have an answer. You haven't answered my question yet.

Xiangzi [shakes a finger]: I am not asking you a question that has no answer. You're just in denial that you are caught already.

Jili [snorts]: Bullshit.

Xiangzi: Fine. Then tell me, have you been running yourself ragged the past several days because of her? [Jili remains silent] Are you afraid of other people falling for her because you have rivals for her affections? You're worried about someone else coming and leaving you with nothing, isn't that right? [Sighs] You know I'm speaking the truth. You'd best hurry up and let her know how you feel. Otherwise, you'll regret it the rest of your life.

Jili: But what if she cares for someone else?

Xiangzi: Then there are only two options. One, congratulate her and wish her the best.

Jili: I've already wished her the best. Do I need to do it again?

Xiangzi: Really? Who did you congratulate?

Jili: I congratulated um, hey, stop trying to change the subject. What's the second option?

Xiangzi: The second option? It's fight for her affections and never give up till you succeed.

Jili: I want the third option, which is to flush out this knave first and then we'll decide what to do. Exactly. What do you think of the third option?

Xiangzi [puzzled]: Third option? Let me figure it out. [He counts on his fingers to calculate]