Episode 38:

[Cut to palace. The Emperor is on his throne, reading some papers. The Empress is standing by his side when she catches the sound of fighting nearby. Soon, the Emperor also notices it. He calls a eunuch over]

Emperor: Go see what all the ruckus is about. [The eunuch bows and leaves. The Empress sighs loudly] Empress, what's the matter? Why are you glum?

Empress: I've been thinking about our son, Yang Yong. I can't figure out how he turned out so irresponsible.

Emperor: Oh, he's still young. It's natural to want to play and have fun at his age. Let him spend some more time thinking things over. Let us hope he will discover the error of his ways and mend them. [He resumes reading when the eunuch comes in and bows]

Eunuch: Your Majesties, the Second Prince is outside practicing his martial arts.

Emperor [stands up]: Empress, let's go see how our son is doing.

Empress [smiles]: I was just thinking the same thing. I want to know how Yang Guang is coming along with his martial arts. [They walk out together, with a few ladies-in-waiting and eunuchs following them]

[They soon arrive at a large room where the Second Prince is sparring with several guards. He is thrashing them all soundly. When none of the guards are still standing, the Emperor starts clapping out loud]

Emperor: Excellent! Well-fought!

Second Prince [bows]: Father, mother. I apologize for not greeting you sooner.

Empress: My son, your father and I couldn't be happier that you are practicing, so don't worry formalities.

Emperor: I never thought that the imperial line would have a descendant with such martial arts skills as our son here. That's truly special.

Second Prince: I am only a small bug in this. How could I compare myself with the best?

Empress: Now, now, let us have no more false modesty. Didn't you just win quite handily a few moments ago?

Second Prince: Those were just everyday guards. Their skills are only average. It was easy for me to handle them. If my opponent was Marshal Li, I doubt I could defeat him.

Emperor: Li Liang? Well, since you mentioned it, why don't we give it a try?

[Cut to Generals' Residence. Two eunuchs from the palace have arrived and are reading out the imperial announcement. Li Liang, Mulan, and Li Liang's mother are kneeling before them]

Eunuch: His Royal Majesty the Emperor, on this auspicious day, requests the presence of Marshal Li, of renowned martial arts ability, to appear before him tomorrow in the palace to participate in a fencing competition with the Second Prince. [Li Liang's mother is beaming with pride at the announcement. Li Liang and Mulan look concerned. When the eunuch is finished reading the writ, Li Liang salutes the Emperor and all rise. The eunuch hands the writ to Li Liang]

Li Liang's mother: Eunuch, sir, please stay and rest awhile. I'll have my servants prepare a snack for you.

Eunuch: That won't be necessary. I must hurry back to the palace to attend to my duties. I must take my leave now. [He starts to leave]

Li Liang's mother: Li Liang, escort our guest to the door.

Li Liang [to Eunuch]: After you. Safe journey. [Mulan follows him. Li Liang's mother claps her hands together and starts praising the skies]

Li Liang's mother: Ancestors, you've answered my prayers. Our Li Liang has finally started to make his mark at court. The Emperor is looking with favor upon him. [Sees Li Liang and Mulan have returned, so she grabs his arm] Li Liang, hurry and go to the family altar to burn a stick of incense to the ancestors.

Mulan [soberly]: You'd best go and light a stick. Pray that the ancestors will protect you and help us come up with a way to get out of this no-win situation.

Li Liang's mother [perplexed]: No-win situation? The Emperor has asked him to go to the palace and you're saying this is a no-win situation?

Li Liang: Mother, I'll be competing with the Second Prince. No matter if I win or lose, I don't come out ahead. If I'm unlucky, I may even lose my head.

Li Liang's mother [shocked]: Then, what are we to do? What are we going to do?

[Cut to palace the next day. The Second Prince, Empress, and Emperor are walking into a room where the match will be held. With them are Li Liang and Mulan, the former dressed in civilian clothing and the latter in her armor. There are also several guards and ladies-in-waiting in attendance]

Emperor: This match is mainly so I can see how much my son has improved in his martial arts. Don't take things too far and get carried away, do you understand? [He gestures at both Li Liang and the Second Prince] Don't hurt each other now.  [Empress nods]

Li Liang [saluting]: Your humble servant understands.

Second Prince [saluting]: I understand.

Emperor: My son, how do you wish to spar with Li Liang?

Second Prince: I wish to try various weapons with Marshal Li. [Mulan looks to Li Liang in concern. The Empress also looks worried]

Empress: My son, steel is unforgiving. I fear that something may happen.

Second Prince: Mother, Marshal Li has practiced with weapons for many years. He knows how to handle them safely. Nothing will go wrong. [The Empress is about to protest some more when the Emperor interrupts her]

Emperor: Empress, you needn't worry anymore. Let them compete. Servants! Fetch weapons for them to choose from.

Li Liang [salutes]: Your Majesty, your humble servant is used to using his personal sword. When I came in the palace, I checked it with the guard at the gate. I request that I may use it in this match.

Emperor: That's fine. Guard, fetch Marshal Li's sword here.

Li Liang: Thank you, your Majesty. [Mulan gives him a look of "be careful;" he nods in reply. The Emperor and Empress sit down to watch the match]

Emperor: Let the match begin!

[Immediately, the Second Prince and Li Liang starts sparring with their swords. There is a mighty clash of metal as they furiously go back and forth. The Empress looks on, pleased, while Mulan is quietly watching in great fear for her husband's safety]

Empress [in awe]: I didn't know our son's skills were so great. You see, Marshal Li is finding him hard to handle.

Emperor: Our son's main flaw is he is too aggressive. However, that is also his strong point. [The Empress nods in agreement, while Mulan continues to watch worriedly. The match continues and at one point, the two lock swords. Li Liang then executes a quick move where he grabs the Second Prince and throws him on his back. The Second Prince goes flying across the room and lands in a heap. He is clutching his side. The Emperor and Empress rush to his side, while Mulan goes to Li Liang]

Empress: My son!

Emperor: My son, are you all right? [The Second Prince doesn't reply, but he takes his hand from his side and we see it is covered in blood. The Empress gasps at the sight] Guards! Arrest Li Liang!

Second Prince: Father, this doesn't concern Marshal Li. It's my own fault my skills are so poor.

Emperor: Stop trying to make excuses for him. [Stands up] Li Liang! You dare to injure the Second Prince in my presence! How should I punish you? [Both Li Liang and Mulan get on their knees]

Li Liang: Your Majesty, I couldn't have injured the Second Prince. Please investigate this.

Empress: How dare you! You have pierced the flesh of our son in our presence and you're trying to argue that you are not to blame?!

Mulan: Your Majesties, please investigate this. Li Liang didn't cause the Second Prince's wound. I request you seek the truth of the matter.

Emperor: Preposterous. I have always looked upon you two favorably, yet you have the nerve to act so outrageously today.

Mulan: I wouldn't dare. However, Li Liang's sword is one I gave him just yesterday. It has not been sharpened yet and cannot even open an envelope. [The Second Prince's face changes when he hears this] How could a sword that is so dull possibly injure someone? [The Emperor and Empress look at each other. Li Liang presents his sword to the Emperor]

Li Liang: Your Majesty, please see for yourself.

[The Emperor takes the sword and checks the edge with his finger]

Emperor: It's true. Then, how did my son get injured?

Li Liang: Your Majesty, I think it's because his Highness was overly enthusiastic in the match. [He picks up a bloodstained sword from the floor that the Second Prince had used] He must have accidentally cut himself. [The Empress takes the sword from Li Liang]

Empress: Our son's sword does have blood on it.

Emperor [gruffly to Second Prince]: You were too careless. [To servants] Take the Second Prince back to his quarters. Fetch the imperial doctor to tend to him. [The servants leave supporting the injured Second Prince] Li Liang and Hua Mulan, it looks like I almost mistakenly blamed you for something.

Li Liang [saluting]: Your Majesty, I thank you for finding the truth of the matter. [Mulan also salutes]

[Cut to family altar in Generals' Residence. Li Liang's mother is kneeling before the stones in prayer]

Li Liang's mother: Li family ancestors, if Hua Mulan can bring back Li Liang in one piece, I promise to treat her well from now on. I won't butt heads with her anymore. Ancestors. Ancestors.

Yiren [from outside]: Aunt! Aunt! [She bursts in the room] Cousin and Cousin-in-Law have returned! [Li Liang and Mulan walk in close behind]

Li Liang's mother [turns]: Really?

Li Liang [bounds over]: Mother!

Li Liang's mother [grabs his hand]: You're all right, right?

Li Liang: It's a good thing Mulan had a clever plan in place already, or else I wouldn't be able to wash this off even if I jumped in the Yellow River.

Li Liang's mother [to Mulan]: The Ancestors thank you!

Mulan: Popo, Brother Liang is my husband. Of course I ought to help him. You needn't thank me.

Yiren [gesturing]: So how did your match with the Second Prince go?

Li Liang: We almost fell into his trap. I'll tell you all about it later.

Yiren: Alright. [Starts to help Li Liang's mother to her feet] Aunt, let me help you up first. [Li Liang's mother grimaces in pain, so both Li Liang and Mulan come over to help her up]

Li Liang [concerned]: Mother, what's wrong?

Li Liang's mother: My legs are asleep.

Yiren [chiding]: It's small wonder they are. She's been kneeling here since you two left for the palace.

Li Liang: Mother, didn't I tell you we'd be fine?

Li Liang's mother: How could I relax before I knew you were home safe and sound?

Mulan: Popo, where does it hurt? [Kneels over] Here, let me rub it out for you.

Li Liang's mother [jumps]: Oh, that's quite alright. That's not necessary.

Mulan: Well, then let me help you back to your quarters. [Mulan, Yiren, and Li Liang all help Li Liang's mother out the door]

[Cut to Second Prince's quarters. The Second Prince is lying on a daybed while the imperial doctor tends to his wound. His trusted eunuch is nearby, along with a few other servants]

Doctor: Your Highness, your wound is not serious. You have nothing to worry about. [The Second Prince grimaces in pain as the doctor applies a new dressing to the wound]

Second Prince [sharply]: It hurts like the devil and you're telling me not to worry?

Doctor: Your Highness, this type of wound, while shallow, will still take some time to heal. While it's healing, it's going to hurt some and that can't be avoided.

Second Prince [scolds]: Preposterous! If there were nothing wrong, I wouldn't ask you to come here night after night. I'm warning you, if you can't figure out a way to stop the pain, then I'll have you dismissed from your duties!. Servants! Drag him away!

Doctor [in a panic]: Your Highness, please have mercy! Your humble servant will go immediately to find some painkillers for you.

Second Prince: Then go now! [The doctor falls over himself in his haste to leave. The eunuch comes over as the Second Prince continues to groan in pain]

Eunuch: Your Highness, a real man has the patience to wait ten years for his vengeance. You should not be too impatient.

Second Prince [grumbles]: I didn't expect that I would fail at dragging down Li Liang with this incident when I cut myself. How am I going to stomach this insult? [He slams his fist on the bed and grimaces at the pain of his injured side]

Eunuch: Your Highness, you're highest priority should be trying to heal your wound. As for Li Liang and Hua Mulan, we will have many opportunities in the future to take care of them, right?

[Cut to streets. Jili is walking down the street when Yiren peeps from around a corner. He doesn't see her and continues walking. We next see him in a tavern with Li Liang and Mulan. The three are seated at a table together for a meal. A waiter brings several dishes and lays them out]

Waiter: Bon appetit! [Leaves]

Mulan: Wow, Jili, this is going to break your bank.

Jili: Well, you know how I normally don't skimp on food, right? So since we're celebrating Li Liang's close shave, then that's all the more reason to go all out, right?

Li Liang: Thank you, then.

Jili: Don't mention it. Come on, dig in! [The all pick up their chopsticks and start eating. Mulan and Jili both end up spearing the same piece of chicken. Seeing this, Jili removes his chopsticks]

Mulan [teasing]: Oh, I know that Jili's favorite is chicken drumsticks. [She moves as if to give the drumstick to Jili, who holds his bowl up for her] However, I also know that Brother Liang likes them, too. [She gives the drumstick to Li Liang instead and grins at Jili]

Jili: You know, you've changed. Even though we're foster brother and sister, it seems to me you're forgetting your friends.

Mulan: Which is closer, a husband or a foster brother, don't you know? If you want someone to treat you better, then here's what you need to do. Go find me a sister-in-law, alright?

Li Liang: Exactly. You should be old enough now. [Turns to Mulan] Do you think he's at least 3000 years old?

Mulan [puzzled]: A few days in heaven equals a thousand years on earth. That's frightening; I can't calculate the numbers.

Jili: Okay, okay, I know I'm older than your Emperor by several tens of thousands of years, but what of it? My heart is young.

Li Liang: Jili, stop thinking so much. You're a mortal now, so you should do mortal things. If there is a young lady you have your eye on, tell Mulan. She can try to pull some strings for you.

Mulan [excited]: Oh, that'd be so exciting! I've never been a matchmaker. I trust it will be lots of fun. So is there anyone you have your eye on?

Jili [quickly]: No. No, there's no one.

Mulan [pouts]: What? You're that big of a loser?

Li Liang: That's alright. Luckily, the army doesn't have any pressing issues in the next few days. How about we help him look?

Jili: That won't be necessary. If you have some free time, I think you'd best keep a sharp eye on Yiren.

Mulan [puzzled]: Yiren?

Jili: Yeah. Didn't you hear her the other day? She no longer is smitten with you and has a new sweetheart. [Shakes his head] Her head is that addled that I'm afraid she'll be conned.

Li Liang [chuckling]: Conned? You must be dreaming. Anyone who's been under my mother's influence is not allowed to be that gullible and slow.

Mulan [suspicious]: Hey. How come you're suddenly concerned about Yiren's welfare?

Jili: This isn't concern, it's curiosity. Think about it. For a woman with a temperament like that do you think anyone would like her, right? [Tries to laugh] Have you seen her sweetheart?

Mulan: No, I haven't. However, come to think of it, she hasn't mentioned him since that day.

Jili: Yes, yes, that is truly odd. There are two possibilities. One: this person doesn't even exist. Two: this person must be as attractive as an outhouse, so he can't be shown to anyone else, right? [Mulan and Li Liang both eye Jili suspiciously] What's the matter? Why are you looking at me like that?

Mulan: You very rarely are so earnest about anything. The more I look at you, the more you seem like a.

Jili: Like what?

Mulan: Like a mother hen! [Everyone chuckles at this]

Jili: Well, dig in. Let's eat. [They resume their meal]

[Cut to Jili's quarters. Yiren walks in carrying a basket of food. She frowns when she sees the bed unmade and clutter all over]

Yiren: Oh my, now doesn't that look as filthy as some animal's den? How can he live like that? [She sets down her basket and starts making the bed. Xiangzi walks in humming a tune and stops when he spots Yiren. She doesn't see him enter]

Xiangzi: Hey, what are you doing here, Misstress Xu? [Hearing his voice, Yiren is so startled she drops the blanket and tries to regain her composure]

Yiren: Um. The Generals' Residence's kitchen fixed some treats today. I know you and Su Jili rarely start a cook fire, so I brought over some food for you to enjoy.

Xiangzi [grabs some]: Oh, great! [He crams one biscuit in his mouth and grabs another with his free hand] Then pardon me while I dig in. [He is about to grab another one when Yiren pulls the basket away]

Yiren: Er. I think we should leave this two for Su Jili, don't you think?

Xiangzi [mouth full]: Oh. Yeah, that would be a good idea.

Yiren: Just make sure you do not tell him that I brought them over, alright? [Sees Xiangzi looks puzzled] You know how greedy Jili can get. He'd always be over at the Generals' Residence and refuse to leave.

Xiangzi: Oh, I see. How about I just tell him that I bought these pastries, okay?

Yiren: That's good. That's good. [Frowns at the slovenliness of the room] Look at this. This room is so filthy! Let me help you clean it up a little.

Xiangzi [mouth full]: How could I ask you to do that? [Sees she is starting anyway] Well, then go right ahead.

Yiren: Don't mind me. Keep eating.

Xiangzi: You are so nice.

Yiren: Oh, that's quite all right. [Continues cleaning. Meanwhile, Jili is coming down the street back to his quarters. He walks in the door, but neither Xiangzi nor Yiren notice him initially]

Xiangzi: When you go back, please say hello to General Hua for me. I haven't seen her in a long time.

Yiren: Okay. That's no problem. [Jili is watching from the doorway and his eyes open wide in shock and jealousy at the scene before him. He grits his teeth, then throws a lid on the ground to make some noise. Both Yiren and Xiangzi jump at the sound]

Xiangzi: Is there something wrong?

Jili [nonchalant]: I came back to get my purse. Don't let me interrupt anything. [He has his nose in the air and saunters by Yiren]

Xiangzi: Oh. Wait a minute. Misstress Xu brought over some treats. Here, have some. They're still warm.

Jili: Oh, that's quite alright. I'm so full I could vomit. [Hearing these words, Yiren gets annoyed and picks up her basket]

Yiren: Liu Xiangzi, I'll be leaving now. [She hurries out the room]

Xiangzi: Um. Misstress Xu? [Sees she is gone. He turns around to face Jili] You know, Misstress Xu is a pretty nice person. Do you have some sort of misunderstanding with her?

Jili [irritated]: Liu! [Raises his hand as if to strike Xiangzi, but he calms down, then scurries out of the room]

Xiangzi [puzzled]: What's his problem?

[Cut to city street. Jili bumps into Yiren, literally. Both glare at each other]

Yiren [scolds]: Su Jili! Don't you have anything better to do than to follow me all over the place?

Jili [shortly]: Who's following you? Don't think so highly of yourself.

Yiren [scoffs]: Still denying it? What's the matter? You couldn't let things rest because you just have to know whom I like?

Jili: Stop pretending! I knew long ago, what with you always coming over to bring me goodies to eat. I thought you were doing that out of gratitude for helping you when we were in the army together. But I know the truth now. You have designs up on Liu Xiangzi, don't you?

Yiren [blankly]: Liu Xiangzi?

Jili: Caught you, didn't I? You needn't go counting on that. Maybe this time it's a case of Venus wanting one thing and Cupid another. [Turns away in a huff]

Yiren [to herself]: So he thinks I like Liu Xiangzi. Then why the heck is he mad at me? [Gets a gleam in her eye when she adds two and two together] In that case, he also? [Starts to blush and hide shyly behind her handkerchief. Seeing this, Jili mistakes it for embarrassment at being discovered]

Jili: So, you realize you don't have much of a chance, right? You don't know what to do, eh?

Yiren [teases]: Humph! I'm not afraid of that. I am much deeper than you think. You have no idea how nicely Liu Xiangzi treats me. You'd best start saving up your money so you can buy us a wedding present in the future. [She minces away, leaving Jili dumbfounded and irate. He grabs her by the shoulders and starts shouting in her ear, making her cringe and wince]

Jili: What?! You two are getting married?

Yiren [rubs her ear]: I'm not going to talk to you anymore. You have a big mouth and an even bigger voice. [She starts walking away]

Jili [desperately]: Where are you going?

Yiren [teasingly]: Don't worry. When it's time for me to shop for my bridal wardrobe, I will make sure to bring you along, because when all is said and done, you are built just like an ox. (Suited for hauling things?) [She waves and saunters off]

Jili [about to cry]: They're getting married?

[Cut to tavern. Jili walks inside and a clerk greets him]

Clerk: Sir, what would you like?

Jili [sits down]: I want wine!

Clerk: Sir, what kind do you want?

Jili [shortly]: Anything that's stiff and edible. Bring it all over.

Clerk: Yes, sir. Right away, sir.

[The clerk returns shortly with the wine. He also returns later with a plate of peanuts. Jili is staring out into space, looking very forlorn and lost. He starts to drink cup after cup of wine. He winces after the first cup, but then seems numb to the stiffness of the alcohol. He doesn't notice Yiren has walked in and spotted him. She watches him, first in shock then later in concern and some pain. After a lot of wine, Jili eventually passes out on the table. She hurries over and prods him]

Yiren: Su Jili? [Pokes again] Su Jili, what's the matter? [Sees he isn't responding]

[Cut to Jili's quarters. Xiangzi is dipping a washcloth in a basin of very hot water. He wrings it out gingerly, then tries to carry it over to the bed where Jili is sprawled out in a drunken stupor. He tosses the hot cloth back and forth as if he is handling a hot potato, finally sending it flying. It lands on Jili's face. The heat of the cloth makes him jerk awake and hurl it off. He also sends Xiangzi sprawling with his foot]

Jili: Ahh! What are you trying to do, scald me to death?

Xiangzi [recovering]: Oh. Good. You're awake now. I thought you were going to die of alcohol poisoning.

Jili [yelling]: You'd like that, wouldn't you?

Xiangzi [shortly]: What are you talking about? Still raving like a drunk? I've already brewed a pot of extra strong tea for you. [Turns to go pour a cup]

Jili: I don't want any! [Hiccups] I'm warning you; don't treat me so well in the future. [Hiccups again]

Xiangzi [puzzled]: What are you on? What has rocked your world? Is it anything to do with that woman who is just a smidgen prettier than an average?

Jili [glares and grabs Xiangzi's arm]: Don't you ever mention her again, or else I will definitely cut all ties with you!

Xiangzi [cringes]: Okay, okay. I won't mention her. When dealing with someone who has just lost a love, the spirits themselves have to give a wide berth. [Jili grabs Xiangzi's shirt this time and threatens him with his fist] Okay. Okay. I'll make myself scarce. Right now. [He backs away slowly and leaves the room. Jili watches him leave and hiccups the entire time]

Jili: Why are you making it so hard for me? No matter what, we're still comrades. How can I fight you to the finish? She's already gone over to your side. Su Jili, you damned bastard, you useless knave. You're a failure as an immortal and a failure as a mortal. Su Jili, you're a fool. [He passes out on the bed. Xiangzi and Yiren pop their heads in to see that Jili is asleep. Yiren is giggling like a schoolgirl]

Xiangzi: Something's just not right with him. What should we do?

Yiren: Don't worry about it. Keep an eye on him. I'm going to leave now.

Xiangzi: Wait, before you go, do you happen to know which family's young lady he has fallen for?

Yiren [nervously]: Um. No, I don't know.

Xiangzi [sighs]: Well, there's nothing for it then. Even though I want to help him I can't. [Sighs again while Yiren is looking shyly pleased by everything. She hurries out the door, leaving Xiangzi sighing]

[Cut to Generals' Residence courtyard. A maid brings over a couple bowls of soup and places it on a table. Mulan and Li Liang walk in, along with Li Liang's mother. Li Liang's mother picks up a bowl and hands it to Mulan]

Li Liang's mother: This lotus seed soup is soothing and tasty. Mulan, come have a bowl.

Mulan [puzzled]: Thank you, Popo.

Li Liang's mother [takes a second bowl]: Li Liang, come have a bowl also. [He picks up a bowl also. Li Liang's mother turns to Mulan] How is it? Do you like it?

Mulan [takes a sip and nods]: Yes. It's sweet and very tasty.

Li Liang's mother: Good. If you like it, I'll make some more tomorrow.

Mulan: Won't that be too much trouble for you?

Li Liang's mother [brushes her aside]: Oh, it's nothing. Enjoy your soup slowly, okay? When you're done, go back to your quarters and rest. I'll call you when it's time for supper. [She leaves with the maid trailing after her. Mulan looks very puzzled by Li Liang's mother's behavior, while Li Liang is beaming at her]

[Cut to Li Liang and Mulan's quarters. Li Liang is pouring a cup of tea while Mulan is sitting on the bench]

Mulan: Brother Liang, have you noticed that your mother has been treating me very well lately?

[Li Liang sits down next to her and hands her a cup of tea]

Li Liang: I told you before that my mother would realize sooner or later that you were an excellent daughter-in-law.

Mulan: Well, that's a given. [Drinks the tea]

Li Liang: Mulan, I hear that the Second Prince's wound still hasn't healed. They've already changed doctors three times.

Mulan: From what I saw that day, it didn't look like a very serious wound. I wonder what's taking so long?

Li Liang: I don't know. I'm just worried that he's got a grudge against me since his scheme failed.

Mulan [nods]: He's petty and shrewd. I'm worried about him, too. Brother Liang, since the army doesn't have any urgent issues now, how about we ask for a leave to go back to the home village and pay respects to the ancestors. We can stay away from everything for a little while at least. We'll figure out what to do next when the Crown Prince returns to the palace. The Crown Prince is generous and fair. If anything happens, he will make sure we are treated fairly.

Li Liang: Sounds good. I'm going to fire off a letter to the Chairman right away and let the Emperor know of our plans.

[Cut to Jili's quarters. He is huddled under his blankets when Mulan steps in and starts shaking him to wake him up. Jili throws the covers off angrily]

Jili: I told you already! I'm not eating anything! [He bites off the rest of his tirade when he recognizes Mulan]

Mulan [sternly]: Su Jili, what kind of attitude is that?

Jili [mumbles]: I thought you were Liu Xiangzi.

Mulan: So you normally treat Liu Xiangzi this way?

Xiangzi [walking in]: General, he rarely is like this. He has been in a bad mood lately, that's why.

Jili [interrupting]: Shut up! I don't need you to explain things for me. [Catching Mulan's glare, Jili quiets down]

Xiangzi: I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything to make you upset.

Mulan: What's the matter with you two? I told you before that you're soldiers, so you must treat each other like brothers. You ought to be nice to each other. [Looks to Jili] Get up. [He reluctantly gets up] You were the one who invited him to live with you. Now you're treating him like this?

Xiangzi: General, don't be too hard on him. He's lost his love. [Mulan's eyes open in surprise]

Mulan: Lost his love?

Jili [irate]: Have you said quite enough?

Xiangzi: Okay, okay. I'm going to go for a little walk outside. [Whispers to Mulan] Don't mention his recent loss. [Turns and leaves the room]

Jili: Mulan, don't listen to his nonsense. [He sits down on the bed and doesn't dare look Mulan in the eye]

Mulan: Of course I won't listen to him. [Sits down next to him] Although you are banished to the mortal realms, you are still an immortal, so how could you possibly have love problems?

Jili [mumbles sheepishly]: Did you need me for something?

Mulan: Nothing much. I heard from headquarters that you are on sick leave. That's why I came to see how you're doing. [Reaches over to check his forehead] How are you?

Jili: It's nothing major.

Mulan: That's good. Then you can come with us on our trip.

Jili: Where are we going?

Mulan: Brother Liang and I are going back to the home village to visit our relatives. The Emperor has already consented to the trip.

Jili: Oh? Then is Yi.[bites off the rest of the sentence]

Mulan [sharply]: Yi what?

Jili: Um. I meant, I assume you'll bring your popo along with you. Then what about Yiren?

Mulan: Of course they're going with us.

Jili: In that case, I'm not going.

Mulan: Why not?

Jili: Um. Because Liu Xiangzi is afraid of the dark. If I leave him here by himself he won't be able to sleep at night.

Mulan: If you treated others that well all the time, then I wouldn't worry about you. Don't worry. He's going with us also.

Jili: What? He's going, too?

Mulan: Of course. I asked for leave for both of you. However, if you're not going, then I'll just go find someone else. [She gets up to leave but Jili grabs her arm]

Jili: Who said I wasn't going? I'm going.

[Mulan eyes him strangely but doesn't say anything]

[Cut to forest scene. Li Liang is helping his mother take a seat, presumably on a bench or fallen trunk]

Li Liang: Mother, you must be tired after riding a carriage all day.

Li Liang's mother: I'm happy beyond measure that you are willing to come with me to visit our relatives. I'm not that tired, just a little hot.

Mulan: Um. How about I go get some water so you can wash your face? [Turns to Xiangzi] Xiangzi, can you please come with me? [He nods and follows Mulan]

Jili: Hey, why didn't you ask me? [Mulan ignores him and walks off. Yiren starts ribbing Jili]

Yiren: Of course not. Liu Xiangzi is more helpful and likable than you are.

Jili: Humph!

[Meanwhile, Xiangzi and Mulan are at a creek, where he is testing the water with his hand]

Xiangzi: General, this water is very nice and cool. [Sees Mulan is staring off into space]

Mulan: Liu Xiangzi, we've been too busy the past few days packing for the journey for me to ask you. You said Jili lost at love. Do you know whom he is smitten with?

Xiangzi [shakes head and sighs]: I don't know. A while ago, he asked me if anyone could fall for a woman who was vicious and petty and selfish. I asked him if he was this person and he kept denying it. Then he reluctantly admitted he did. So I told him that he needed to never let go and keep fighting. He agreed with my approach. He also said he was going to find out who his rival was. But you see how he's been the last few days.

Mulan: It must be because his rival is too strong, so he has given up from his lack of self-confidence.

Xiangzi: General, I think you've hit the nail on the head. But what can we do to help him? It's really hard humoring him day in and day out like this.

Mulan: The only thing left to do is to encourage him to go up against his rival and have it out.

Xiangzi: That's true. But what if he loses?

Mulan: Um. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it. For now, at least we can stir up his competitive spirit.

Xiangzi: That's true. Do what you can with what you have; that's one of the many military strategies, isn't it? [Out of nowhere, Jili pops up and starts choking Xiangzi. Surprisingly, Xiangzi remains quite calm and manages to disengage Jili] No, no, no, Brother Jili. You are much more magnanimous than that. How could there possibly be anything bad we could say about you behind your back, right? [He nods towards Mulan, who nervously follows the charade and nods with this starched smile on her face]

Jili: That knave. He has the cheek to satirize me to my face. [Raises his voice] Hey, you petty little man. I look down on you! [He suddenly disappears from the screen as if the floor fell out from under him. Mulan watches in some surprise]

Xiangzi: That's okay. You have to keep trying and trying. [He looks puzzled when he realizes what he has just said]

Mulan: It looks like Jili was very badly hurt in all this. We have to think of a way to help him.

[Cut to Li family residence in home village. The caretaker greets the party when they arrive]

Caretaker: Elderly Mistress. Young Master. Young Mistress. [Li Liang's mother walks in on Yiren's arm. Li Liang and Mulan follow behind, with Jili and Xiangzi behind them, along with their servants]

Li Liang's mother: Caretaker, has everything gone well in my absence?

Caretaker: Everything is well. You can rest assured, Elderly Mistress.

Li Liang: Caretaker, what are all these gifts for? [There is a pile of gifts in the sitting room, all wrapped in bright red paper]

Caretaker: Those are presents from all the relatives and other villagers. They heard that you and Young Mistress were coming to pay your respects, so they were very happy. They left these presents first thing this morning to await your arrival. They said that tomorrow morning they await the introduction of Young Mistress to the family. [Li Liang's mother's face is a little crestfallen at the news, while Yiren looks excited]

Mulan [demurely]: Actually, I'm just a common woman. I haven't done anything special, it's just that everyone else seems to exaggerate what I've done.

Caretaker: Young Mistress is highly accomplished but doesn't have a high air. You have my respect.

Li Liang's mother [interrupting]: That's enough talk for now. Please get some people to take in the luggage and arrange things. [He bows and starts to direct the other servants. Li Liang's mother is still frowning slightly]

Li Liang: Mother, I was born and raised here. I'm quite familiar with everyone here, but this is Mulan's first time, so of course people will think it's a big deal.

Li Liang's mother: Stop pussyfooting around. Did I say I was unhappy? No matter how brave and capable Mulan is, she's still a member of the Li family now. When people praise her it's the same as praising you. It's not just anyone who can marry someone like her.

Mulan: Brother Liang, Popo speaks the truth. To the outside world, I'm just a common woman. When I come home, I still need to take care of my husband and wait on my popo.

Li Liang's mother: It's good that you see things that way. Li Liang thinks a great deal of you. Okay, I'm tired, so I'm going to head to my quarters to get some rest. Yiren, can you please escort me? [Li Liang's mother starts to head down the hall. Yiren hurries over to Xiangzi and whispers in his ear]

Yiren: Liu Xiangzi, keep a close eye on Su Jili. He hasn't been acting normal the past few days. [Sees Jili is watching her but trying to act nonchalant, so she raises her voice] Uh, then I'll be leaving now. [She throws a coquettish glance at Xiangzi and leaves the room]

Xiangzi: See you. [He turns and sees Jili is glaring at him, then feigns he is looking somewhere else. Mulan and Li Liang are going over the presents]

[Cut to Li Liang's mother's quarters. Li Liang's mother walks in with Yiren. The latter is trying to stop giggling]

Li Liang's mother: Yiren, what's so funny?

Yiren [sobers up]: Nothing.

Li Liang's mother: Stop denying it. Come sit down. [They both sit down] Didn't you tell me that you've found a new sweetheart? Is it that fellow Liu?

Yiren [grimacing]: Him? How could I like someone like that?

Li Liang's mother: Then who is it? While you can't be my daughter-in-law, I still want to make sure you marry into a good family.

Yiren: Um. Now is not the time to tell you. I promise when the time is right, I'll tell you who it is. [Hurriedly changes the subject] Aunt, I notice that you've been treating Cousin-In-Law pretty well lately. Have you discovered that she is really a good person?

Li Liang's mother: When Li Liang and the Second Prince had that sparring match, I made a wish to the ancestors. I promised that if Mulan brought him back safely I would treat her well from now on. [Yiren nods] Also, she has recently become more docile and graceful, and you know what kind of generous person I am, too. When someone gives me a foot, I give him a yard.

Yiren: I'm sure when Cousin sees you and Cousin-In-Law getting along so well he'll be tickled pink. [Pours a cup of tea for her aunt] Aunt, have some tea.

Li Liang's mother [takes tea]: Besides, no matter how glorious she is, when she has children they will be part of the Li family, so why should I be at odds with her?

Yiren: Exactly.

[Suddenly, Li Liang's mother drops her cup of tea and it splashes on both herself and Yiren. Yiren tries to wipe it off Li Liang's mother, but she has already started heading out the door]

Yiren [bewildered]: Aunt, what's the matter?

Li Liang's mother: Don't ask. [Runs out the door]

Yiren: What's happened, Aunt? [Follows her aunt]

[Li Liang's mother has hurried into the kitchen and then urgently ushers out all the servants. Puzzled, they leave quickly. Soon, only Li Liang's mother and Yiren are in the kitchen. Li Liang's mother starts hunting high and low for something]

Yiren: Aunt, what are you looking for? Here, let me help you find it.

Li Liang's mother: No, I don't need any help. Go keep an eye on Li Liang and make sure that no matter what, he doesn't see me in his rooms, alright?

Yiren [puzzled]: Whatever for?

Li Liang's mother: Don't mind that. Just do it. [Shoves her out the door. She gets a mischievous grin on her face as she rubs her hands in glee]

[The next scene shows Li Liang's mother secretly going into Li Liang and Mulan's quarters. She is carrying a small basket as she enters the inner chamber]

Li Liang's mother: I must have been out of my mind when they got married; how could I forget this present. No wonder Mulan hasn't shown any signs yet. Well, we'll fix that soon enough. [She opens the basket and starts to scatter what looks like nuts and dried fruit on the bed] Here's some red dates, some peanuts, and some lotus seeds. [She spreads them all over the bed happily. Note: in Chinese, the names for these fruits and nuts are homonyms for fertility] I hope they have many, many sons very soon. That way I'll have lots and lots of grandsons to keep me company. All in the hope of continuing the Li family line. [She clasps her hands together]

[Cut to sitting room somewhere else in the house. This one has large calligraphic paintings on display. Yiren walks in, leading Li Liang and Mulan]

Yiren: Well, we just finished a big circuit of everything. How about we sit down and rest a while? [Jili and Xiangzi troop in behind]

Mulan: Brother Liang, even though this place isn't quite as bustling as the capitol, it has it's own special flavor. If peace comes and we get discharged, it would be very nice to come here to live.

Li Liang: Liu Xiangzi, please fetch me a pen and paper.

Xiangzi [blankly]: Pen and paper?

Li Liang: Yes. I want to write down what Mulan just said, lest she regret it later.

Mulan [frowns]: Oh ho, I have always kept my word. The country needs me and the Tujue keep having designs on the empire. Otherwise, I would happily stay here.

Li Liang: Is that the truth?

Mulan: Of course. [Yiren pours a cup of tea but Jili takes it from her hands. She glares in response but doesn't say anything, then pours another cup] Now, you have to remember next time you go on a mission you have to return victorious. Defeat is not an option. Besides looking after the country, you also have to look after yourself. I'm waiting for you to spend a quiet lifetime together.

Jili [makes some noise]: Are you two quite finished yet? You seem to forget that there are other people in the world.

Yiren: What's the matter? You don't like seeing other persons so much in love? Liu Xiangzi, this is your first time in our home village. What do you think of it?

Xiangzi: I have one word to describe it: nice. If this wasn't such a special place, how could it produce such a genius as Marshal Li here? Isn't that right? [Mulan and Li Liang smile a little sheepishly]

Jili [eyes him narrowly]: Brother Xiangzi?

Xiangzi: Yes?

Jili: You're getting better and better at brown-nosing, but the results are starting to smell more and more.

Xiangzi: You really should try to say something that doesn't sound so crude when visiting someone's house. How can you call that brown-nosing?

Yiren: Exactly. Liu Xiangzi's greatest asset is his silver-tongue, unlike you. Heck, you couldn't even find your way out of a box.

Li Liang: Mulan, don't listen to their nonsense. Come, let's go see our quarters.

Yiren [gets in his way]: Oh, wait a minute. Cousin, Cousin-In-Law, why don't we just sit down and have a good chat? Otherwise, Liu Xiangzi and I will be forced to entertain Su Jili, and we know he's like an ox in every sense of the word. It'd be a miracle if we don't get bored silly with him.

Mulan: If you're afraid of getting bored, just go to your respective quarters. You needn't mind him.

Yiren: Why bother popping in and out of our rooms when it's almost time for dinner?

Mulan [suspicious]: You know, ever since we got back, you haven't let us go see our rooms. Are you planning something strange?

Yiren: Um. Planning something? [Starts to look flustered. Luckily for her, Li Liang's mother walks in]

Li Liang's mother: What strange thing is there to do? Before we arrived, I went to a fortuneteller to see the status of the family. He said that you two are not allowed to go to your rooms until after the sun has gone down. [Mulan and Li Liang look very puzzled at this news]

Mulan: Is that true?

Li Liang's mother: Well, it might be true and it might not be true. Just wait till after supper before retiring to your quarters. Yiren, take them to the dining room.

Yiren: Everyone, this way to the dining room. Liu Xiangzi, come with me. [Everyone troops to the dining room, while Li Liang's mother is looking very happy]

[Later that night, Li Liang and Mulan are fidgeting in bed uncomfortably. They both bolt out of bed when the irritating items become unbearable. Mulan shrieks, which rouses the whole family. Yiren, Li Liang's mother, Xiangzi, and Jili all come bolting in the room in their pajamas]

Li Liang's mother: What's the matter?

[Li Liang is helping Mulan swipe off what looks like ants on her pajamas]

Yiren: Aunt, don't you see that Cousin and Cousin-In-Law both have ants all over themselves?

Li Liang's mother: How could that happen? [Mulan races back to the bed and brings a handful of the nuts and fruits]

Mulan: I don't know who was the damned bastard who put these things in the bed. [She throws them on the floor in a large clatter] Jili, Xiangzi, what are you standing there for? Hurry and help clean out the bed! [They come forward and go with Mulan to the inner chamber. Li Liang's mother and Yiren are standing in the outer chamber, with the former looking very guilty] Throw them all out! [Yiren tries to hush her aunt]

Xiangzi: Hey, don't eat that. It's covered with ants. (Presumably, Jili tried to nibble the nuts and fruits)

Jili: No grabbing. Boy, they're yummy!

[Cut to the ancestral temple for the Li family. There is a large crowd of villagers congregating at the entrance, awaiting the arrival of Li Liang and Mulan]

Villagers [loudly chattering]: General Hua is here! So glorious! General Hua is here! [Mulan walks down the lane with General Li. Jili and Xiangzi are leading the way] Come on and see! General Hua is here!

[Li Liang's mother and Yiren are bringing up the rear. Li Liang's mother is smiling through gritted teeth because she hasn't heard a single person cheering for her son]

Li Liang's mother [muttering]: Don't get angry. Don't get angry. If she gets glory it's the same as the Li family gaining glory.

Yiren: Aunt, did you say something?

Li Liang's mother: Nothing. Nothing. I'm just quite happy.

Yiren [in awe]: Aunt, I had no idea Cousin-In-Law was this famous. It's amazing how many people are singing her praises here.

[Cut to inside of ancestral temple. General Li, Li Liang's mother, a Li relative, and Mulan are in a row genuflecting before the family altar. Yiren, Jili, and Xiangzi are bowing from the back of the room. When they are finished paying their respects, the get to their feet]

Relative: Li Liang, the Li family is truly blessed to have such a descendent as you.

General Li [salutes]: Headman, you are too kind.

Li Liang's mother [beaming]: Headman, don't keep praising him like that, or he will become proud.

Headman: I'm only telling the truth. If nothing else, just look at the woman he took as his wife. He has an eye for quality. Not everyone is so lucky.

Mulan [slightly embarrassed]: Headman, when you say such things it really makes me feel overwhelmed.

Headman: General Hua, is there anyone alive who doesn't know your name and fame? You needn't be so humble. Servants! Bring in the token of our esteem. [Everyone claps loudly as the servants bring in a large long item covered in red cloth. They present it before the Li family] This is a gift from the entire village, as a sign of our gratitude. I hope you like it.

General Li: Mother, you go ahead. [He gestures to the draped item. Li Liang's mother walks over and takes the red drape off. Her eyes are shocked and chagrined when she sees that it is a large wooden placard for hanging over the front gate. It says "A heroine among women". The room starts to loudly applaud. Jili laughs loudly when he sees what it says. The servants take away the placard and bring in a second one. Li Liang's mother's eyes light up as she approaches to take the drape off this one. She is on the verge of erupting in anger when she reads this one. It says "A tribute to womenkind." The crowd starts clapping again. Mulan looks concerned. General Li thanks the servants and dismisses them. Li Liang's mother is about ready to burst and keeps muttering under her breath]

Li Liang's mother: Stay calm. Don't get angry. No matter what, she is the mother of my grandsons. No matter how much glory she gains, it still will be to the Li family's credit. [Li Liang's mother grits her teeth and tries to smile. Mulan looks nervously at her popo]

[Cut to a fortuneteller's place. Li Liang's mother is getting a consultation]

Fortuneteller: How odd. How odd! [Counts on his fingers]

Li Liang's mother: What's the matter? Is something wrong?

Fortuneteller: These birthsigns are a woman's?

Li Liang's mother: Yes it is. Do a reading for her. Figure out if she'll have any children and how many sons will she have?

Fortuneteller: Mistress Li, I can't figure out these birthsigns. [Hands back the paper with Mulan's birthsigns]

Li Liang's mother [scoffs]: You're a fortuneteller. How can you not figure it out?

Fortuneteller [wrinkles brow and tries again]: These signs are never wrong; they are of a heroic and achieving man. Yet you tell me this is from a woman and then you ask me if she will have children? How do you expect me to give you a reading?

Li Liang's mother [worried]: Definitely a man?

Fortuneteller: Exactly! You must have made a mistake.

Li Liang's mother [mumbling]: In that case, it seems the Li family line will end here.

Fortuneteller: She's your daughter-in-law? Then these signs must belong to General Hua. No wonder! No wonder she is so brave and heroic. It's a woman's body but a man's life.

Li Liang's mother [shortly]: Just take another look at it, okay? See if she will have any children.

Fortuneteller: When she married into your family she became part of your family. She can gain great glory and prestige for the Li family.

Li Liang's mother [brushes this aside]: We don't need her for that. Li Liang can handle that well enough alone. Tell me the  truth. Will she have any children?

Fortuneteller [smiling]: With this daughter-in-law, I suggest you treat her as if you had a second son.

Li Liang's mother [blanching]: What?! Treat Hua Mulan like my son?

Fortuneteller: Yes. Like a son.

[Cut to sitting room at home. Li Liang's mother is in a chair, moaning and groaning. Li Liang walks in the room]

Li Liang: Mother? Mother, are you feeling any better?

Li Liang's mother: It's all just the same. I have an air bubble stuck in my esophagus. [Mulan walks in. At the sound of her voice, Li Liang's mother hurriedly sits up straight]

Mulan: Popo, do you need us to fetch a doctor?

Li Liang's mother: That's quite alright. It's nothing serious.

Mulan: Popo, it may be serious or it may not be serious. We should get a doctor to come check you out anyway.

Li Liang's mother [holds hands up]: Keep away.

Mulan: Popo, is there something wrong?

Li Liang's mother: Nothing. There's nothing wrong. [Mutters to herself] You're the one with something wrong, you hermaphrodite.

Li Liang: Mother, did you say something?

Li Liang's mother: Um. No, I didn't say anything. I was just saying you two should stay away as I might be contagious. [Yiren comes in the room carrying a cup of tea]

Yiren: Aunt, here's that ginseng tea you wanted. [Hands tea over to her aunt]

Li Liang's mother: Um. Yiren can take care of me. You two can leave now.

Li Liang: Oh. Okay. Take care of yourself then.

Li Liang's mother: You take care of yourself, too.

Li Liang: What?

Li Liang's mother [weakly]: You can leave now. [Li Liang and Mulan leave the room. At the doorway, Mulan whispers to Li Liang]

Mulan: Hey, did you notice that Popo is acting very strangely today?

Li Liang [nods]: Yes, I think she is acting strangely. But, I'm sure this time that it's not because of you.

Mulan [sharply]: Are you saying I'm self-centered?

Li Liang [teasingly]: Would I dare? I think my mother is fine. She's just a little tired. Let me take you for a walk. [Mulan nods and the two leave the room. After seeing them leave, Li Liang's mother starts shivering violently. Yiren is cooling the cup of tea when she notices her aunt shivering]

Yiren: Aunt, are you cold? Here, let me get you a blanket.

Li Liang [forlornly]: I'm not physically cold. My soul feels cold.

Yiren: Your soul feels cold? What's that mean?

Li Liang: Nevermind. Tell me the truth, do you really have someone you're smitten with? [Yiren smiles, then nods shyly] Then Li Liang is just unlucky.

Yiren [alarmed]: What? Are you still trying to get a concubine for Cousin?

Li Liang's mother: There are just some things you wouldn't understand.

Yiren: But Aunt, Cousin-In-Law is really good.

Li Liang's mother: Why are you speaking for her now? [Blanches] Are you saying you've fallen for her?

Yiren [alarmed]: What? Cousin-In-Law is a woman. How could I fall for her? Aunt, you really don't look well. I'd better go fetch a doctor for you. [Starts to head out the door but Li Liang's mother grabs her arm]

Li Liang's mother: No, don't go! [Yiren has a puzzled expression on her face as her aunt repeatedly sighs]

[Cut to forested area. Jili is sitting at the base of a tree when Yiren comes over and deliberately kicks his leg]

Yiren: What's the matter? You're sitting around on a nice day like this. What are you doing, working on your tan?

Jili: People walk by every now and then; stop wasting my time. [Starts to blow on a reed like a flute]

Yiren: You don't want me to speak? Well, I insist on talking. [Sits down next to him and jostles him] In fact, I'm going to sit right next to you.

Jili: Hey, what are you doing so close? Men and women who are unrelated shouldn't be so close. If you want to annoy someone go pick on Liu Xiangzi and leave me alone.

Yiren: Oh, I like Liu Xiangzi too much to go annoy him. If I want to find someone to irritate, then you're better suited for that. [Prods his arm]

Jili [gets up in a huff]: Who wants to spend time with you? [Starts walking away quickly. Yiren glares, then gets up also. After walking several yards, Jili hears a rustling sound behind him, so he whirls around. He is surprised not to see Yiren around anymore] Eh? How did she disappear so quickly? [Suddenly, Yiren puts her arm around his shoulders]

Yiren: Looking for me?

Jili [shortly]: I don't have time for this.

Yiren: Why are you so bad-tempered lately? I hear from Liu Xiangzi that you recently lost a love, right? We've been in the army together, so you can tell me who this young lady is. I'll help you test the waters and see if there's any hope for you. You never know. [She teases him mercilessly]

Jili [snaps]: Are you quite finished?

Yiren: See? What's with the bad temper? [Takes his chin in her hand] You see, women like soft words, not hard ones. It's small wonder you failed yet again. By the way, didn't you carry a torch for General Hua all this time? How did you end up falling for someone else?

Jili: Are you finished?

Yiren: Of course not! I've asked you all these questions but you haven't answered a single one of them.

Jili [gets sheepish smile on his face]: Do you want to hear the truth?

Yiren [suddenly shy]: Of course I do.

Jili: Come over here and I'll whisper it to you. [Yiren leans over and Jili yells loudly in her ear] What's it to you?! [Yiren suddenly holds her ear in pain] You have your insane moments and I have my crabby ones. In future, mind your own business! [He tweaks her nose hard a few times, then walks off. After going several paces, he turns around and makes a face at Yiren, then resumes his walk]

Yiren [irate]: Su Jili! You damned bastard!