Episode 42:

[Cut to city street. Li Liang's mother and Xiaoqian are walking along and

Li Liang's mother: You've been walking with me all day. You must be tired.

Xiaoqian: Oh, no, I'm not tired at all. Ever since my father passed away, I
haven't had a day where I've been this happy.

Li Liang's mother: Don't mention such sad topics. In future, no one will
dare abuse you if you stay with me.

Xiaoqian: It is truly the luck earned from three lifetimes that allowed me
to meet you, Elder Mistress.

Li Liang's mother: It's the same for me. If you hadn't arrived, I would be
hard put to find someone to spend time with.

Xiaoqian: What about Miss Yiren? I haven't seen her in several days.

Li Liang's mother [frowns]: When a girl gets older it gets harder to keep
her home. She doesn't have time to spend with an old lady like me.

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress, you are surrounded with admirers. If you only said
the word, you'd have so many people wanting to spend time with you that you
wouldn't have room to walk.

Li Liang's mother [smiles]: You are even more silver-tongued than Yiren. Be
careful. I won't want to part with you and I'll prevent the matchmaker from
finding a match for you.

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress, if you don't mind my company, I'd be willing to
stay at your side and do whatever you need me to do.

Li Liang's mother: There you go again, cheering me up. I don't want to
interfere with you getting married; that would be bad karma for me. [She
turns around starts heading in another direction] Hey, let's go over here to

Xiaoqian [hurries after her]: Oh. Okay.

[We see they are at a street vendor's table. Li Liang's mother is sitting
down while the vendor pours two cups of tea]

Li Liang's mother: Bring whatever is your specialty out.

Vendor: Okay.

Li Liang's mother [to Xiaoqian]: We've been walking quite a while; it's time
to take a break.

Xiaoqian: That's true. I do feel a little tired.

Li Liang's mother: I hear that this vendor's buns are quite good.

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress, please have some tea. [Li Liang's mother nods and
accepts tea. Behind them sits a fortuneteller. A customer is talking to him]

Customer: To tell the truth, I didn't take your advice and behold the
result. I couldn't salvage my family's business operations. Could you please
give me some advice on how to fix things now? [Hearing this, Li Liang's
mother turns around and glances at the fortuneteller]

Fortuneteller: I only advise people who have a destiny. Go on your way now.

Customer: Esteemed sir, I messed up last time.

Fortuneteller [holds up hand]: Say no more. Even if I encountered someone
with a destiny, I only show them how to invite good fortune and avoid bad
fortune once. Go consult someone else.

Customer [sighs]: It's all my fault. I'll give you some more money.

Fortuneteller: Money and riches are as common as dirt to me. Go on your way.
[Waves him off and the customer reluctantly leaves. Li Liang's mother gets
out of her seat and approaches the fortuneteller]

Li Liang's mother: Sir, I hear that you only advise people with a destiny.
Does this person have a destiny? [She pulls out a small piece of paper and
hands it to the fortuneteller]

Fortuneteller [reads it]: Are you asking if this person's descendents'
destiny is good?

Li Liang's mother: Yes, that's it. Is it good?

Fortuneteller: This life is precious beyond measure. He will achieve his
aspirations at a young age and become a high government official with great
influence with the royal family. Now, that's really odd. [He goes into a
long-winded astrological explanation that I can't translate] If this person
is a man, he has a bit of a feminine flavor to him. If this person is a
woman, she has a bit of a masculine flavor to her.

Li Liang's mother [impatiently]: So will this person have any descendents?

Fortuneteller [shakes head]: Nope.

Li Liang's mother: Could you calculate that over again?

Fortuneteller: Even if I look it over a thousand or ten thousand more times,
the answer remains the same. He will have no descendents. He is destined to
have no one of his flesh-and-blood. [Hearing this Xiaoqian comes over]

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress, who's signs are these?

Li Liang's mother [sighs]: Don't ask.

Fortuneteller: Speaking of a good match for a man, this young lady has a
good face that is one in ten thousand. Whichever family takes her in
marriage is guaranteed to have two children within three years, a virtuous
son and a filial daughter. Look at her uterus and you can see is without
fault, of an even temperament, her butt is nice and round, too.

Xiaoqian [getting embarrassed]: Hey, I didn't ask you to tell my fortune!
Why are you looking me over like that?

Fortuneteller [chuckles]: If you pluck a flower on purpose it won't open. If
you plant a shoot of willow by accident it will become a shade tree. Madam,
that's all you'll get from me today. [He gets up and laughs loudly, then

Li Liang's mother: Hey, I haven't paid you yet!

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress, we should go home now. [Li Liang's mother looks
puzzled and disturbed by what the fortuneteller said, but allows Xiaoqian to
lead her away] Elder Mistress, are you all right?

Li Liang's mother [fretfully]: I'm seeing the Li family line end here. How
could I be all right?

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress, are you saying that the birthsigns just now
belonged to General Hua?

Li Liang's mother: Well, since we know each other so well already, I may as
well tell you. If it wasn't for her, would I have to worry?

Xiaoqian: But Elder Mistress, you can't rely on superstitious beliefs like
that, right?

Li Liang's mother: I was telling myself that, too. But you have no idea how
many people I've consulted regarding her birthsigns. The paper I wrote it on
is falling apart already. Each person has the same thing to say: "there's no

Xiaoqian: Marshal Li and General Hua have done so much for the empire and
its people. The gods will not doom them to childlessness.

Li Liang's mother: Li Liang's paternal uncle was also a famous and
accomplished marshal, always marching off to battle and serving his country.
And look what happened to him. He died on the battlefield and left no
descendents. It's a good thing that someone of blood, Li Liang, helped
handle his funeral arrangements. Since Li Liang just HAD to marry Hua Mulan,
he can't outfight her and he can't out-argue her. Every day I see the Li
family's funeral markers just watching the world go by and no children to tend
them. You tell me if Ishouldn't feel badly about this.

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress? [Li Liang's mother doesn't answer and sighs]

[Cut to Li Liang and Mulan's quarters. Mulan is sitting on a chair with her
hand under her chin. Li Liang, noticing she appears distracted, comes over]

Li Liang: Mulan, what's the matter now?

Mulan: What's the matter now? Haven't you noticed that ever since we
finished dinner Popo has kept looking askance at me? She blows hot then she
blows cold. I don't know what I've done wrong to offend her.

Li Liang: Maybe you're being oversensitive?

Mulan: I'm being oversensitive? I'm already less sensitive than most other
women. A short while ago while we were busy nursing you and Miss Zhuang, we
got along fine. Things finally calmed down recently and now she's reverted
back to her old form. [Pouts] Maybe I'm fated to such a life? When I was
growing up my mother treated me variably, too. I didn't think that once I
married you that your mother would do the same.

Li Liang: Mulan, there's nothing wrong. It could be that my mother's been
feeling a little depressed lately. [Sighs] It's too bad that there aren't
any holidays around now, or we could buy a little present for her and help
her fix some good food; that would make her happy.

Mulan: It's almost November. There aren't any big holidays coming up soon.

Li Liang [surprised]: November?

Mulan: Yes, What's the matter?

Li Liang [thinks]: Oh, that's right.

[Cut to sitting room, where Li Liang's mother is sitting on a bench by
herself. She looks distracted and depressed]

Li Liang's mother: Li Liang's father, please don't blame me for shirking my
responsibilities. If you're looking for someone to blame, blame that son of
yours for being too stubborn and insisting on listening to his wife. If you
really have any powers as a spirit, change the fate of Hua Mulan so she can
give birth to a plump and healthy son. Otherwise, help Li Liang change his
mind so he will take on some concubines. That way, we can spread the seed
and extend the reach of the Li family. [Sighs and gets up] Wait, today is
the October 7. Next month is my fiftieth birthday. How could I forget?
[Sighs again] These past few days, what with nursing Xiaoqian and Li Liang,
I've been so busy I don't have time to think. But Li Liang, how come he didn
't remember? In the past, he would start preparations two to three months
ahead of time. [Frowns] Ever since he got married he's forgotten his old
mother. Humph! [She sits back down and slams her hand on the table. A maid
walks in]

Maid: Elder Mistress, please have some tea.

Li Liang's mother: Have you seen Young Master and Young Mistress?

Maid: Young Master said that he's feeling much better the past few days, so
early this morning he and Young Mistress went to army headquarters.

Li Liang's mother: Well, what about Miss Yiren?

Maid: Mr. Su came for her this morning and took her out.

[Li Liang's mother doesn't say anything but sighs forlornly]

[Cut to Li Liang's mother's quarters late at night. Li Liang's mother is
asleep in her chair with her head propped on her elbow. A lamp is burning on
the table. She stirs awake when the hour is chimed]

Li Liang's mother [mumbling]: It's already the middle of the night. They
should be home by now. [She gets up and wraps a cloak around herself, then
walks out of the room and down the hall to check in on Li Liang and Mulan.
She tries to gently push their door open but it doesn't budge. She then goes
to a side entrance and peers in. We see Mulan and Li Liang fast asleep in
bed. Li Liang's mother frowns at the sight and mutters] They didn't even
check in on me before going to sleep. Seems to me that if I don't swallow my
pride and ask them to celebrate my birthday they won't get it done

[Cut to sitting room the next morning. A maid is arranging flowers for a
vase when Li Liang's mother walks in. Li Liang's mother calls the maid]

Li Liang's mother: Have you seen Young Master and Young Mistress?

Maid [stands up]: Yes, I have.

Li Liang's mother: Where are they?

Maid: They just went out.

Li Liang's mother: Did they say where they were going?

Maid: No, they didn't.

Li Liang's mother [purses her lips]: Well, what about Miss Yiren? No, wait,
I bet that Su fellow took her out.

Maid: Yes.

Li Liang's mother [grumbling]: One after another. Once they have a lover
they don't seem to have any love left for anyone else.

Maid: Elder Mistress, do you have something you need from them? I can tell
the gatekeeper to go fetch Young Master and see you.

Li Liang's mother [shortly]: That won't be needed. If they can't think of
me, then seeing me won't do any good. [Xiaoqian walks in the room]

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress, are you all right?

Li Liang's mother [sighs]: I have a sorrow but I can't explain it.

[Cut to front door of the army headquarters. Xiaoqian is leading Li Liang's
mother towards the entrance, but the latter stops and refuses to enter]

Li Liang's mother: Forget it; I'm not going.

Xiaoqian: They're probably just really busy recently. If you don't tell them
you aren't happy how are they supposed to know?

Li Liang's mother [sarcastically]: With a daughter-in-law like that, one who
can't even give me a grandson, and now can't even remember my birthday, then
what's the point of my sticking around?

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress, they're probably just busy. Besides, Marshal Li
was injured recently and I was disturbing things in your home, so you should
cut them a little slack if they forgot your birthday. Come, let us go inside
first. [Li Liang's mother doesn't say anything but allows Xiaoqian to lead
her to the entrance. There are two guards at the door. Xiaoqian addresses
one of the guards] Sir, this is Marshal Li's mother. We need to see him to
discuss something. Could you please send word ahead?

Guard: Marshal Li hasn't been here the past few days.

Li Liang's mother [annoyed]: They haven't been here? Then where have they
been recently? They leave early and return late.

Guard: I heard that Elder Mistress Li lives with Marshal Li, but you don't
even know where Marshal Li is. Are you just impersonating her?

Li Liang's mother [irate]: I'm impersonating her? I carried him for ten
months and endured twenty years of widowhood to raise him! Go get him right
this minute! Who do you think you are?

Xiaoqian: Sorry. She's not feeling well. [She hurriedly leads Li Liang's
mother away from the guards]

[Cut to front entrance to Generals' Residence. One of the male servants is
sweeping the front steps when Li Liang's mother and Xiaoqian approach. Li
Liang's mother curtly addresses the servant]

Li Liang's mother: Have Young Master and Young Mistress returned yet?

Servant: Yes, they have. They finished lunch and even took a nap already.
They are currently sparring in the backyard.

Li Liang's mother [livid]: What?! [She starts running towards the backyard.
Xiaoqian chases after her]

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress!

[There is a crowd in the back courtyard, consisting of all the household
servants, Mulan, Jili, and Yiren. Li Liang is demonstrating his martial
skills with a spear, executing leaps and spins with great speed. Everyone is
watching with rapt attention]

Yiren [claps]: Super, Cousin! Great skills! [Everyone else joins in the

Mulan: Brother Liang, let me join you for a few rounds.

Li Liang [pauses]: Sure. [Mulan jumps into the routine and grabs two swords
from the rack. She uses both of them and spars with Li Liang and his spear]

Yiren: Wow, Cousin and Cousin-In-Law are truly a fated pair. [Hearing this,
Jili grabs Yiren by the shoulder and hugs her close]

Jili: Well, we're not too shabby a couple, either. [He starts to preen in
front of her]

Yiren [smirks]: Do you have Cousin's skills?

Jili: If I had those skills, I'd punt you into the sky and have you dangle
for three days and three nights. But that wouldn't be any fun, right?

Yiren: Oh, so you'd punt me? You dare? I'd like to see you try.

Jili: Of course I wouldn't dare. Those two like to spar physically, while we
like to spar verbally. Isn't that just as good?

Yiren [pouts]: Who's sparring with you?

Jili: I'd like to court this way.

Yiren [gently slaps his cheeks]: How nauseating. [They continue to watch as
Mulan and Li Liang continue sparring] Wow, watch them go!

[During a pause in the match, Li Liang's mother comes storming into the
courtyard with Xiaoqian in tow]

Li Liang's mother [yelling]: What are you doing? [Li Liang and Mulan look up
in surprise. Li Liang's mother starts to scold all the servants] We pay you
a lot of money and it's not for you to stand around and gawk!

Li Liang [approaches]: Mother, I told them to come watch me practice.

Li Liang's mother [scolds]: You two decide to practice and you need that
many people to watch? I can't even scold the servants a little? [While Li
Liang's mother isn't looking, Mulan gestures to the servants to hurry up and
leave; they scramble away. Jili holds back Yiren]

Jili [whispers]: What kind of pet is your aunt in now?

Yiren [hushes him]: Don't go adding fuel to the fire. [She walks over to Li
Liang's mother and smiles up sweetly at her] Aunt, you and Miss Xiaoqian
have been walking about all day. You must be tired.

Li Liang's mother [snaps]: I'm not tired. Not nearly as tired as you folks
must be, leaving early and returning home late. [Yiren is taken aback at her
aunt's words and steps back a few feet. Jili pulls her aside and whispers in
her ear]

Jili: You wanted me to keep a secret, so how come everyone knows now?

Yiren [gruffly]: If she knew, then she wouldn't be acting this way.

Jili: Oh. That's true.

Li Liang's mother: Li Liang? Go prepare two litters. Xiaoqian and I are
returning to the home village.

Xiaoqian: Um. Elder Mistress?

Li Liang's mother: If you don't want to go with me, then I'll go by myself.

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress, that isn't what I meant.

Li Liang: Mother, how long are you going to be gone?

Li Liang's mother: I'm never, ever, coming back! Happy?

Li Liang [pulls aside his mother]: Hold on. You can leave if you want to,
but please make sure you return in time for your birthday next month. The
Crown Prince has already agreed to come help you celebrate your birthday.

Li Liang's mother: So, is the Crown Prince coming to our house to celebrate?

Li Liang: Yes. The past few days we've been busily inviting guests, perhaps
about twenty tables worth.

Li Liang's mother [starts to smile]: So why didn't you tell me sooner?

Li Liang: It was Mulan's idea. She wanted to give you a pleasant surprise.
[Li Liang's mother smiles slightly in Mulan's direction]

Mulan: Oh, and by the way, Popo, Yiren and Jili have booked a local theatre
and performance troupe to come and perform for us. Are you pleased?

Li Liang's mother: Yes, I am. It shows that you do care.

Yiren [comes over]: Aunt, then how come just now you were so unhappy?

Li Liang's mother [stammers]: I wasn't unhappy. [Xiaoqian smiles at this and
Yiren looks incredulous]

Yiren: You weren't?

Li Liang's mother: No, I wasn't.

Yiren: First you said to pack your bags because you were going to return to
the home village, then that you would never return.

Xiaoqian: Yiren, that's not what Elder Mistress meant. I wanted to go with
Elder Mistress back to the home village for a little jaunt and was a little
impatient. I didn't realize that next month would be Elder Mistress's
birthday. [Li Liang's mother looks gratefully at Xiaoqian for rescuing her
from this predicament] Elder Mistress needs to stay and get things ready,

Li Liang's mother: Um. Yes, that's right. So how about we postpone the trip
till later? [Yiren looks bewildered but doesn't say anything]

Xiaoqian: Okay. Elder Mistress, I don't have anything to give you, so I will
do a special dance for you, okay?

Li Liang's mother: You know how to dance?

Xiaoqian: When my father was still alive he loved to watch dance. He had my
teacher show me a couple dances.

Li Liang's mother: Oh, so that's why. Yiren, have those dancers come a few
days earlier so they can practice with Xiaoqian.

Yiren: Sure!

Xiaoqian: I'm afraid I'm not that skilled. If I mess up, please excuse my
faux pas.

[Both Yiren and Li Liang's mother wave aside the comment]

Yiren: Of course not.

Li Liang's mother: Xiaoqian, you performing a dance for me that day will
give me such joy.

[Cut to Jili and Yiren walking hand-in-hand at the front steps to the
Generals' Residence]

Jili: You'd better go back inside.

Yiren: I don't have anything better to do, so I may as well walk you out.

Jili: That's just as well.

[They proceed to walk down the steps and down a city street, this time
walking with linked fingers. Jili keeps turning to look at Yiren until she's

Yiren: What do you keep looking at?

Jili: How come no matter how I look at you, I see shades of your aunt?

Yiren [gruffly]: My father and my aunt are siblings. What's so strange of
looking like my aunt?

Jili: Looking like her isn't strange. If you really were like her in
physical appearance, I could live with it, but please don't become like her,
always criticizing others and never happy, okay?

Yiren: Hey, even when you're giving me a compliment you have to lecture me.
Forget it. You can walk home by yourself. [She turns around but Jili grabs
her sleeve]

Jili: But don't you think your aunt is very high maintenance?

Yiren [arms akimbo]: Well, ever since I was little people have said I was
just like my aunt. While our temperaments may not be 100% identical, we're
at least 80% similar. If you're afraid, then you better hurry and run off,
lest you regret it later. [Jili doesn't say anything but starts scratching
his cheek] So why aren't you leaving?

Jili: I just thought of a way to handle people like you.

Yiren: And how, pray tell?

Jili: Why, just be even more critical of others and less tolerant. I suspect
you'll get sick of it first. [Chuckles]

Yiren [smirks]: I knew you couldn't bear to leave. Well, if you're not
going, I'm going.

Jili [grabs her sleeve again]: Wait a minute. [They blow kisses to each
other, then Yiren turns and starts waddling away]

[Cut to Li Liang and Mulan's quarters. Mulan walks in the door with a big
smile on her face. She is holding a thin book in her hand. Li Liang is
sitting at the table]

Mulan: Brother Liang?

Li Liang: How did it go? My mother has no objections, right?

Mulan: Of course not. The entire list consists of people who are either VIP'
s themselves are relatives of VIP's. When I was reading her the guest list
she kept grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Li Liang: I bet the reason she was unhappy the past few days is because she
thought we had forgotten her birthday. Come. [Pulls Mulan into a seat] After
the birthday celebration is over, I'm sure she'll see you in a different

Mulan: I hope so. When dealing with your mother I am scared silly.

Li Liang: Scared? Of what? As long as you treat her honestly, the day will
come when she'll see the light. [Mulan nods]

[Cut to Generals' Residence. The family servants are busily arranging things
for the birthday celebration, draping fancy red tablecloths on the tables
and cleaning and polishing all the furniture. Mulan brings in a large vase
of flowers and places it on one of the side tables before arranging the cut
flowers. Li Liang is attaching red papercuts of the character for
 "longevity" on the walls and lanterns. Servants hang a red quilt on the
wall, also containing the character for "longevity." In the kitchen, Jili is
helping try to catch a duck that has scampered away for dear life. For some
odd reason, it's clucking like a chicken. He finally grabs it in both hands]

Jili [to servant]: Open the pot of boiling water. [A servant lifts the lid
on the vat of boiling water. Jili apologizes to the duck before throwing it
in the water]

[Other servants are cooking the food for the banquet, ranging from chopped
vegetables to special longevity buns]

[Meanwhile, Xiaoqian is in another room applying her makeup. She uses a
folded section of red paper to apply lip color, then uses a small pencil for
her eyebrows. At this moment, Li Liang comes barging in the room]

Li Liang: Mother? Mother, are you here? [Xiaoqian looks up in surprise at
the sound of his voice. She hurriedly stands up and tries to cover herself
(she is in her underwear; it looks rather like a bathing suit). Li Liang
hurriedly turns around to look away when he spots her. He starts to blush
and stammer] I'm sorry! Where's my mother?

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress isn't here.

Li Liang: Oh. Um. [He hurries out the door and runs right into his mother in
the hallway] Oh, Mother!

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

Li Liang: Um. I was just checking to see if you were ready. The guests are
almost all here.

Li Liang's mother: What's the hurry? I'm an old lady, so it won't take me
very long to don something simple and put on some jewelry.

Li Liang: Well, you still need to hurry.

Li Liang's mother: Li Liang, that reminds me. Are there any guests who are

Li Liang: Sure.

Li Liang's mother: Later, when Xiaoqian comes on the scene, help me keep an
eye out for the reactions of those guests.

Li Liang [sternly]: And what are you planning now?

Li Liang's mother: Didn't I promise to help Xiaoqian find a good family to
marry in to? Well, this is the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with
one stone. [Slaps Li Liang on the chest lightly]

Li Liang: Mother, it's your birthday tonight, so you're the guest of honor,
not the matchmaker. Cut the chichat and hurry up and get ready. [Starts
hurrying away]

Li Liang's mother: Hey, don't forget to keep an eye open for me.

[Cut to scene outside the main entrance to the Generals' Residence. The
Crown Prince has arrived in his litter with his entourage. The servants and
the rest of the family are all kneeling before him to greet him]

Crown Prince: Elder Mistress Li, I wish you luck as vast as the east ocean
and longevity as great as the south mountain.

Li Liang's mother [bows]: Thank you, Your Highness.

Crown Prince [to eunuch]: Bring forth the presents. [Two eunuchs come
forward laden with gifts on trays]

Li Liang's mother: Your Highness, you have already bestowed great honor upon
me with your visit. You don't need to send me gifts.

Crown Prince: Elder Mistress, you have gone through much to raise such a
talent as Marshal Li. Plus, you have General Hua as a daughter-in-law. That
is truly a great combination. These are just tokens of my esteem and are
nothing compared to the honors already bestowed upon you.

Li Liang and Mulan: Your Highness, you're too kind.

Li Liang's mother: Thank you, Your Highness.

Li Liang: Your Highness, please enter and have some tea.

[Cut to inside of Generals' Residence. Everything is gaily decorated in red
and lots of guests are milling around. The Crown Prince and Li Liang's
mother both take a seat while the other guests remain standing]

Crown Prince: My, it's quite a crowd you have here.

[Soon, the dancers enter the main room, fluttering fans and wearing silken
outfits. Xiaoqian wears a more colorful outfit so as to stand out more from
the other dancers]

Li Liang: Your Highness, after you. [He gestures towards a better seat for
watching the dancers]

Crown Prince: Let's all go together. [The family walks over to the main room
to watch the dance. When the Crown Prince sees Xiaoqian, he starts openly
staring at her. She notices and smiles demurely at him. Li Liang's mother is
avidly enjoying the dance, too]

Li Liang: Mother, are you content?

Li Liang's mother [to Yiren, who is standing next to her]: My, doesn't
Xiaoqian look beautiful?

Yiren [nods]: Yes, she really is. [Turns to Jili, who is next to her] She's
really beautiful, isn't she?

Jili [nods]: Yes, beautiful. [He turns to the Crown Prince, who is next to
him] Isn't that right?

[The Crown Prince just nods silently and drinks in the sight of Xiaoqian.
Every now and then, Xiaoqian flashes a smile in his direction as if flirting
with him]

Mulan: Brother Liang, Miss Zhuang looks really pretty in that outfit. [Li
Liang doesn't seem to hear her] Isn't that right?

Li Liang: Um. Yeah. That's right.

[The dance continues, with Xiaoqian still flirting with the Crown Prince.
Both the Crown Prince and Li Liang are openly gaping at Xiaoqian. When the
dance ends, everyone starts clapping. The Crown Prince approaches Xiaoqian]

Crown Prince: That was wonderful! That was absolutely wonderful! [Xiaoqian
looks down demurely] Everyone, wasn't that wonderful? [The clapping
continues and Xiaoqian continues to smile at the Crown Prince]

[Cut to Li Liang and Mulan's quarters. The birthday celebration is over and
Li Liang sits down stiffly at the table. Mulan comes over and starts
massaging his shoulders]

Mulan: Did Popo go to bed yet?

Li Liang: No, she hasn't. She's still tallying up her presents. Have you
paid the servants and performers yet?

Mulan: It's all taken care of. Brother Liang, promise me that when I get old
you'll help me celebrate my birthday with just the immediate family around.
Whatever else, don't make it a big event like it was today.

Li Liang: I'm fine with that. I'm just afraid that when the time comes, you'
ll want to make it a hundred times bigger than my mother's birthday today.

Mulan [shortly]: Preposterous! I would never do that.

Li Liang [takes her hand]: Mulan, you must be tired after such a long day.
Seeing my mother so happy makes it all worth it, though.

Mulan: That's true. Hey, Brother Liang, I noticed that Miss Zhuang, who
normally is rather pale and plain, looked unusually gifted and special on
stage tonight. I'm a woman and I even felt charmed, let alone what you men
must have thought. [She grins at this and doesn't notice Li Liang's face. He
flashes back to the sight of Xiaoqian earlier when he walked in on her.
Mulan waves a hand in front of his vacant eyes when she notices the blank
expression on his face] What are you thinking of?

Li Liang: Um. Oh, it's nothing much. [Stretches] Boy, I'm tired. Time to go
to bed. [He gets up and walks to the bed. Mulan gets up to follow]

[Cut to sitting room the next morning. Mulan is pouring a cup of tea for Li
Liang's mother, who is seated]

Mulan: Popo, please have some tea.

Li Liang's mother [smiling]: Mulan, you went through a lot yesterday.

Mulan: That's okay. As long as you are happy, I don't mind a bit of work.

Li Liang's mother: I appreciate your filial piety. However, nothing is more
important than keeping the Li family line going. [Mulan's face falls at her
words] If within a year and a half you haven't produced at least one son,
then you mustn't get in the way of Li Liang taking a concubine. If you do
that, then you'll truly be a gracious wife. [Mulan looks like she wants to
say something but Li Liang restrains her]

Li Liang: Mother, didn't you say that you received a Guanyin of Producing
Heirs yesterday? That means that it won't be long now, so don't worry.

Li Liang's mother [sighs]: I hope that's true. It'll be a load off my mind.
[Mulan is silently fuming, so she pulls Li Liang aside and whispers at him]

Mulan: Why won't you let me speak my mind? Day in and day out, your mother
is always harping on having kids. Who can accurately predict such things? It
's not as if it's my fault.

Li Liang: Well, this is one of those things you can't win no matter what you
say. It's best to keep your mouth shut and not say anything.

Mulan: Have you thought over what you're going to do if I don't have any
children by your mother's deadline? Will you take a concubine?

Li Liang: Of course not.

Li Liang's mother: Hey, you two, what are you talking about over there?

Li Liang [walks over]: We were just discussing what to do for your birthday
next year.

Li Liang's mother [waves it away]: Oh, you don't need to do that. You
managed to get the Crown Prince himself here last night. You have no idea
how happy I am about that. However, if next year you can give me a grandson
to help me celebrate my birthday, that would make me even happier. [Mulan
smiles wryly and rolls her eyes, then nudges Li Liang in the arm]

Li Liang: Um, Mother, we need to go back to army headquarters. [The two of
them start to head out the door when a servant comes in]

Servant: Young Master, the Second Prince is here to see you. [Li Liang's
mother hurriedly stands up. Li Liang and Mulan give each other worried and
puzzled looks. The Second Prince soon walks in the room with his trusted
eunuch at his side, who is holding a present wrapped in gold paper and a
bright red ribbon. Everyone kneels before the Second Prince and greets him.
He waves them up]

Second Prince: I hope I didn't get here too early for you this morning.

Mulan: Your Highness, is there something you needed us for?

Second Prince: I heard that yesterday was madam's birthday celebration. I
decided to bring a present in your honor. I hope you don't mind that it is a
little late and will only remember my good intentions. Please forgive this
oversight, madam, that this present is a day late.

Li Liang's mother: You're too kind, Your Highness. [Turns to servant] Please
take it inside.

Mulan: Your Highness, your humble servants know that you are a busy person,
so we dared not disturb you with word of Popo's birthday. Please forgive us.

Second Prince: You're being too kind. It's true that my elder brother has
more leisure time than I do, plus I suspect he'd be better company for you.
[Li Liang shoots Mulan a worried look] You needn't worry that I came here to
punish you for anything. My visit today isn't just to bring a birthday
present to madam. I'm also here to bring tidings of great joy for General

Mulan: Tidings of great joy?

[Cut to Li Liang and Mulan's quarters later. Mulan is packing a bundle for
her armor when Li Liang comes with a bundle of clothing]

Li Liang: Mulan, the mountains are a bitterly cold place. Don't forget to
wear layered clothing to keep warm. [Hands her the bundle of clothing. His
brows are creased with worry] The mountains are so far from here. Can you
handle it with just a few soldiers? How about you delay your start tomorrow.
Let me ask the Emperor for permission to go with you.

Mulan: No, we couldn't do that. Are you saying the Emperor needs to send
both of us out for any missions he wants accomplished? [Teases] People will
talk, you know.

Li Liang [sighs]: Well, this mission of yours is certainly no plum
assignment. I'd much prefer to go in your stead.

Mulan: I may be a woman, but I am still an officer of the empire, so I have
to take the plum assignments with the less desirable ones, too. How can I
pick and choose with the Emperor? True, this trip is quite far, but I'll be
going with skilled soldiers with adequate arms and I know who is the enemy.
I'm more worried about you staying here where it'll be difficult to guard
against unknown enemies.

Li Liang [concerned]: You're saying?

Mulan: Didn't you notice what the Second Prince said today? Everything had
an ulterior meaning between the lines. He readily admitted that we are much
closer to the Crown Prince. Also, he was the one to bring the news that the
Emperor is sending me to Bienguan to inspect the garrison. I'm worried that
sending me out of the capitol is his idea, too.

Li Liang: Are you saying he will take this opportunity to try and get rid of

Mulan: With someone like that, you can never be too careful.

Li Liang: Don't worry. While you're gone, I'll try to minimize my trips
outside of the house. That way, he won't have the opportunity to do

Mulan [nods]: Good. That's a load off my mind.

[They continue to bundle Mulan's clothing and armor in preparation for her

[Cut to road the next morning. Mulan is in her armor preparing to start]

Mulan: Brother Liang, you should go back now.

Li Liang: Take care of yourself.

Mulan: You, too. [He nods, then leaves. He only walks a few yards before
turning around to give her one last look of farewell before leaving]

[Cut to Li Liang and Mulan's quarters. Li Liang is asleep on the table. The
lamp has burned down and all is quiet. Someone opens the door with a low
creak and approaches quietly. Li Liang opens his eyes but doesn't move. When
the intruder places a hand on his shoulder he springs and grabs the intruder
by the arm. The intruder shrieks in alarm. He expresses great surprise that
it is Xiaoqian]

Li Liang: Oh, it's you?

Xiaoqian [scared]: I'm sorry. I was walking by your room and saw that you
were asleep. I was afraid you would catch cold, so I brought a cloak for

Li Liang [sheepish]: I'm the one who should apologize. I've spent so many
years in the army that sometimes I tend to overreact to things.

Xiaoqian: That's okay. I'll leave you alone now. [She turns to leave but Li
Liang calls her back]

Li Liang: Miss Xiaoqian, don't forget your cloak. [He picks up the cloak
that fell on the floor and hands it to her. When her hands touch his, he
jerks back as if shocked. She looks at him quizzically, then smiles slightly
before turning away. Li Liang is left with his thoughts swimming in his

[Cut to next morning in the courtyard. Li Liang is practicing staff
fighting. When he finishes, he replaces the staff in the rack. At this
moment, Li Liang's mother comes out and approaches him]

Li Liang's mother: Li Liang?

Li Liang: Mother?

Li Liang's mother [scolds]: Look at you. [She feels his forehead] It's still
so early and already you've worked up a full head of sweat. Oh, by the way,
is inspecting the garrison at Bienguan an important task?

Li Liang [puzzled]: Why are you asking something like that out of the blue?

Li Liang's mother: I wanted to know if the Emperor looks upon your wife with

Li Liang [annoyed]: There you go again, Mother.

Li Liang's mother: Practicing martial arts all day isn't going to do you any
good, Li Liang. You need to take a page from Mulan's book and learn how to
be silver-tongued. You need to know how to curry favor. [Li Liang listens
patiently to her tirade, but looks quite bored] She can get along with
everyone from the Emperor to the princesses to the duchesses. That's why
when there is a plum assignment all she needs is to say the word and that
will be more effective than you successfully training a few dozen troops.

Li Liang: Missions for the empire are a lot more complicated than you think.
This was no plum assignment for Mulan to go to Bienguan.

Li Liang's mother [in a huff]: There you again, always defending her. You
don't know what people outside say. They say that the Emperor favors her
more than he favors you.

Li Liang [shortly]: Is that what other people say, or is that what you

Li Liang's mother [flustered]: Um. Well. Um.

Li Liang: Let's change the subject. Mother, before your birthday banquet,
didn't you say that you wanted to find a suitable match for Miss Xiaoqian?

Li Liang's mother: Yes, that's right. Have you found someone?

[Cut to room somewhere within the Generals' Residence. Li Liang is walking
with two officers and a government official]

Official: General Li, you truly have great influence for good. You have my

Major: Of course. General Li is an officer without peer in the empire. He is
both learned and skilled in the martial arts. He learned it all from reading
all those military books.

Li Liang [demurring]: Oh, you're being too kind. [He calls for a servant]
Bring out some tea for our guests.

[Li Liang's mother comes hurrying out of the hallway, dragging Xiaoqian with

Li Liang's mother: Li Liang, why didn't you tell me that honored guests were
visiting? That would have given me time to prepare to receive them.

Li Liang: You don't need to, Mother. Oh, let me introduce you. This is
Official Zhou. This is Major Ho. This is Wang Qianhu. They all came to your
birthday banquet.

Li Liang's mother: I remember. [Introduces Xiaoqian] This is my niece (male
side, therefore with higher stature than Yiren), Zhuang Xiaoqian. Say hello
to our guests. [Xiaoqian curtsies and greets the guests. The guests all
salute in response]

Xiaoqian: I'm sorry. I have to leave now. [She leaves the room. Li Liang's
mother is a little puzzled at her abrupt exit]

Li Liang's mother: Um. Have a seat first. I'll go get the servants to bring
out some refreshments for you. [She hurries after Xiaoqian]

Li Liang: Sirs, please have a seat. [All the guests sit down]

[Meanwhile, Li Liang's mother is hurrying down the hallway to catch up to

Li Liang's mother: Xiaoqian! Xiaoqian! Don't walk so fast!

Xiaoqian [turns around]: Yes?

Li Liang's mother: Today is your big day. What do you think of their
physical and mental traits?

Xiaoqian [innocently]: What physical and mental traits?

Li Liang's mother: Why, those three government officials outside. They might
be a little low on the totem pole now, but they're still young. They have
room to advance. Didn't I promise you that I would help you find a good
family to marry into? Out of the three of them, pick one to be your husband.

Xiaoqian [protesting]: Elder Mistress.

Li Liang's mother: I know, a girl gets shy about such things. It's hard for
you to decide. How about you go sneak a peek at them and see which one is
the most eloquent, then decide. [Xiaoqian turns to leave but Li Liang's
mother pulls her back] Come on. [She starts pushing her back to the sitting
room where Li Liang and his guests are]

[Cut to dining room in the Generals' Residence. Yiren, Li Liang's mother,
and Li Liang are eating breakfast together]

Yiren: Hm. Aunt, usually Miss Xiaoqian is always up early. You don't suppose
she's feeling poorly, do you?

Li Liang's mother: That's true. I wonder if something's wrong?

[A maid runs in with a letter]

Maid: Elder Mistress! Elder Mistress, Miss Zhuang has disappeared. She only
left behind a letter for you. [She hands the letter to Li Liang's mother]

Li Liang's mother: Hm. Li Liang, you read it. [She hands the letter to Li
Liang. He opens it and starts reading its contents] Well, what does it say?

Li Liang: She left.

Li Liang's mother [blankly]: What? She left?

[Cut to Li Liang's mother's quarters. Li Liang's mother is sitting at a
table with a bundle of clothing. She looks very forlorn and depressed at
Xiaoqian's sudden disappearance. Li Liang comes in and Li Liang's mother
stands up quickly]

Li Liang's mother: Have you found her?

Li Liang: No. Logically, if she were to return to her home village, she
would have used the East Gate, but I've been looking around all day and I
haven't found any sign of her.

Li Liang's mother [sighs and sits down]: Look. She left behind all the
clothing I gave her, let alone any of the jewelry. I'm worried about what
will happen to a girl without kith or kin.

[Cut to city street. A fancy litter is getting carried down the street.
Xiaoqian is walking quickly down a different street and literally runs into
one of the litter carriers. She trips and falls down with a slight shriek.
The occupant of the litter opens the drape and we see it is the Crown
Prince. He expresses surprise at seeing a young lady, then steps out of the

Crown Prince: Miss, are you all right?

Xiaoqian: I'm fine. It's just a slight injury. [She turns to look up at the
Crown Prince and both recognize each other. The Crown Prince breaks into a

Crown Prince: Miss Xiaoqian?

Xiaoqian: Your Highness.

[Cut to the Crown Prince's quarters in the capitol. The Crown Prince is
pacing around the sitting room when Xiaoqian comes inside with a maid]

Crown Prince: Miss Xiaoqian. Are you feeling better?

Xiaoqian: Your Highness, thank you for asking. I'm doing much better.

Crown Prince: That's good. [Turns to maid] Tell the kitchen to prepare some
fresh and delectable dishes for us. [The maid bows and leaves the room] You
haven't told me yet why you were drifting across the city like that today.

Xiaoqian: Your Highness, do you mind if I don't talk about it?

Crown Prince [slightly flustered]: Of course not. You can stay here as long
as you like. When you wish to leave, just let me know.

Xiaoqian: Thank you, Your Highness. [The Crown Prince nervously rubs his
hands, then walks out of the room grinning like a schoolboy. He doesn't
notice the calculating look on Xiaoqian's face, but it disappears as quickly
as it appeared]

[Cut to Li Liang and Mulan's quarters. Li Liang is sitting at a table and
rereading Xiaoqian's farewell letter. It consists of a poem four lines in
length with five characters per line. (I can't do a literal translation as
it contains numerous double entendres and puns, but the gist of the poem is
that Xiaoqian says her life is bitter and she doesn't want to fight with
Mulan; she'd rather run away from the man she loves, Li Liang. The poem uses
homonyms for fruit names to hide her true meaning)]

Li Liang [deep in thought]: "Would rather leave the peaches and pears."
(Note: The homonyms for "peaches and pears" is "running from Li") Does that
mean.hmmm? [He shakes his head and shuts his eyes. Jili and Yiren's voices
are outside and they are approaching]

Yiren: I think she had some kind of ulterior motive for leaving.

Jili: And how would you know that?

Yiren: I just do.

[Li Liang looks up from the letter, then hurriedly shoves the letter
underneath one of the books on his table]

Yiren: I'm not going to explain myself anymore. [The door to the room Li
Liang is sitting in bursts open with a swift kick from Yiren. Jili has
fallen through the door ahead of her flying foot. She steps over the
sprawled Jili and approaches Li Liang] Cousin, please explain why Miss
Xiaoqian would leave without rhyme or reason? All Aunt was trying to do was
make a match for her. In my opinion, she already has someone she has fallen
for, but didn't dare make her intentions known, then was afraid she'd never
get the chance once a match is made, so running away was the only hope.

Jili [yanks Yiren over to his side]: You're just making a mountain out of a
molehill. Your aunt dotes on her constantly. All she had to do was say the
word and you're aunt would take care of things for her. I think she left for
some completely different reason.

Yiren: And what would that be? She has no kith or kin and we treat her
really well here. Tell me why she'd throw that all away and run off without
a good reason. Well? Explain.

Jili: The reason? How am I supposed to know the reason she left? It's not as
if I'm the little fly on her wall.

Yiren [smirks]: Of course not. You're not a girl. Know what I think? [Gets a
conspiratorial look on her face, then walks over to Li Liang's side] I think
she fell for someone she shouldn't have fallen for. [Li Liang looks up in

Jili: Then that'd have to be either him or me. [Points to Li Liang]

Li Liang [scoffs]: Look at you two. What are you getting to?

Jili [thinks]: Well, if it's not either of us, then maybe she's fallen for
the Emperor, and she's afraid that your aunt will willy-nilly marry her off
to someone else, that's why she left.

Yiren [scoffs]: I'm not going to debate this with you any longer. When we
finally find her, you'll see that I'm the one that's as accurate as an
immortal in such things.

Jili: You're accurate as an immortal? You're forgetting that I'm the one
around here who is really an immortal.

Yiren [sneers]: You? You're just a fallen immortal that's utterly useless.

Jili [face crumples and starts to cry]: Didn't we agree that you wouldn't
cast my past up to me? Why are you dragging that up again?

Yiren [defensively]: Well, who told you to go strutting around as if you
knew it all? If you didn't do that then I wouldn't bring it up.

Jili: But no matter what I say you shouldn't go insulting my origins.

Yiren: And I didn't speak the truth?

Jili: What kind of attitude is that? Watch that attitude of yours! [Yiren
sheepishly stops bickering and starts to cuddle with Jili]

Li Liang [sharply]: That's enough, you two! One minute you're bickering and
the next you're snuggling! I can't stand it. If you're going to argue, go
outside and argue. I want some peace around here by myself.

Jili: Oh, that reminds me, when Mulan was at Bienjian she couldn't stand us
either, but then again, when you two were at it those of us on the sidelines
found it difficult to stand, too.

Yiren: Hey, that's right. The pot.

Jili [finishing her sentence]: Mustn't call the kettle black.

Li Liang [scowling]: If you stay here you'll get a thrashing! [Jili and
Yiren link arms, then merrily hop out of the room together. Li Liang sits
back down with a grin at the sight. The grin fades as he remembers the
letter from Xiaoqian. He lifts the book hiding the letter, then replaces it]

[Cut to channel edge. Xiaoqian is sitting on the bank staring out into
space. The Crown Prince approaches with his servants. He spots Xiaoqian,
then waves off the servants. He grins when he spots her then starts to walk
towards her. Xiaoqian is absentmindedly fingering a foxtail in one hand,
then looks up to see the Crown Prince. She stands up to greet the Crown

Xiaoqian: Your Highness.

Crown Prince: That's all right. You needn't be so formal.

Xiaoqian: I didn't hear you arrive, or I would have greeted you properly.
Please forgive the oversight and my rudeness.

Crown Prince: Miss Zhuang, you mustn't say that. I've always detested too
many rules and regulations over such things. If you can follow your heart
and your likes, then that is truly the path to happiness as a human being.
[Xiaoqian smiles serenely at the Crown Prince] Every time I walk by here and
see the creek's water flowing by I get filled with emotion and I want to
jump into the water and play.

Xiaoqian: Really?

Crown Prince: Yes. It's a rare treat that the weather is so nice. Come take
a walk with me.

Xiaoqian: I'd be happy to.

Crown Prince: After you. [They walk along the water's edge together]

[Cut to Generals' Residence. Li Liang's mother and Li Liang are in the main
sitting room when one of their servants approaches and greets both]

Servant: Elder Mistress, Young Master, the Crown Prince has brought Miss
Zhuang back. [Li Liang's mother and Li Liang both express surprise. They,
along with their two servants, kneel before the Crown Prince when he enters
the room with Xiaoqian at his side]

Crown Prince [waves them up]: We're not in the palace, so you don't need to
do that. Rise. [Everyone rises. Li Liang's mother goes and pulls Xiaoqian
aside and gently scolds her]

Li Liang's mother: Where have you been? You had me worried sick.

Xiaoqian: I'm sorry to cause you such worry.

Li Liang's mother: As long as you're back is all that I care. We won't talk
about the past anymore.

Crown Prince: Well, it looks like all the loose ends have been tied up. It's
time for me to leave. [He nudges Li Liang and whispers to him] Let's go play
some chess. We can also have a little wine.

Li Liang [catching on]: Oh. Yes, that's a great idea. After you.

Crown Prince: Um. Elder Mistress? Miss Zhuang? I'll take my leave now.

Li Liang's mother: Safe journey.