Episode 43:

[Cut to the Crown Prince's quarters in the palace. The Crown Prince is
sitting at a table with Li Liang, playing a game of chess. A eunuch is
warming the wine and another eunuch is serving the food]

Crown Prince: Well?

Eunuch: Your Highness, the wine is warm now.

Crown Prince [to Li Liang]: We'll continue this later.

Li Liang: Okay. [The eunuch takes away the board with the chess pieces from
the table. A second eunuch comes with the warmed wine and starts placing the
bottles on the table along with some snacks] Your Highness, your chess
skills are quite good.

Crown Prince: Thank you, but you know that's not quite true. [Turns to
eunuch] We'll handle this ourselves. You're dismissed. [The eunuch bows and
leaves the room] Comrade, I toast you. [They toast and down the cups of
wine] Miss Zhuang looks quite gentle and kind. It also looks like your
family treats her quite well. So why did she decide to leave all of a
sudden? Is there a reason?

Li Liang: Um. She didn't tell you?

Crown Prince: No, she didn't. I just saw that she looked a little put upon.

Li Liang: Oh?

Crown Prince: Is it that some of the servants had wagging tongues and spread
innuendoes about her, so she felt compelled to leave?

Li Liang: Your Highness, don't worry. I'll tell my mother to keep an eye out
for such things.

Crown Prince: That's good. By the way, has Mulan sent any letters home yet?

Li Liang: Not yet.

Crown Prince: I'm quite puzzled why my sire sent her to such a bitterly cold
place. The empire has many male generals to choose from. Did none of them

Li Liang: Perhaps His Majesty felt Mulan's temperament had a more delicate
touch with such things, so he sent her instead.

Crown Prince [nodding]: That's true. Mulan definitely has her strong points.
You are truly blessed to have such a woman as a wife. It's what I would call
a double-edge sword, though. [Smirks at Li Liang, who looks surprised at the
Crown Prince's comment]

Li Liang: Your Highness, what do you mean by that?

Crown Prince [smiling]: When you marry a skillful woman, you naturally have
some the benefit of not having to worry about her, but you also have to
worry that your every move will not pass unnoticed under her watchful gaze.
[He chuckles at Li Liang, who tries to laugh off the joke] Comrade Li, I
have a suspicion that you will never get to enjoy the pleasures of having
multiple wives under one roof.

Li Liang [joking]: And I thought you meant something really serious. I'm but
a common warrior. I couldn't possibly keep up with your fun-loving ways. I'm
content with one wife that I get along with and truly care for.

Crown Prince: A wife that you get along with and truly care for? It's
because I can't find such a woman that I'm not yet content.

Li Liang [puzzled]: Your Highness, you're of royal blood. You could have any
kind of woman you wanted.

Crown Prince [glumly]: It shouldn't be hard, but it's something that just
happens and isn't something you can plan for. If you happen upon it and then
also want to have mutual feelings, then that's what makes it even harder.

Li Liang [slyly]: Well, judging by the look on Your Highness's face, I
suspect this person has already shown up.

Crown Prince: This person has arrived, but I don't know if perhaps she's
just a pipe dream of mine. [He chuckles at his joke]

Li Liang: Your Highness, if you need a place to do your courting, you're
welcome to use my home.

Crown Prince: Don't worry. When the time comes and I need your help, I won't
be shy asking for it.

Li Liang [picks up cup]: Come, Your Highness. Let me toast you. May your
endeavors bear fruit.

Crown Prince [toasts]: I hope that comes true.

[Cut to camp at night. There is a brazier burning for light and heat as
soldiers walk by. We next see inside Mulan's tent. She is seated at a desk
writing a letter. There is an inkstone and a stick of ink prepared for use]

Mulan [in letter]: "Brother Liang, I have been here for ten days now. It
might be bitterly cold here, but it's not quite as bad as I thought it would
be." [She sneezes, then looks up from her writing. She mutters to herself] I
suspect the gods are punishing me for lying. But what would be the use of
telling him the truth? He can't help me all the way over there. When I
return to the capitol, I'll make sure to report the harsh conditions here to
the Emperor. Hopefully, he'll increase the rations for the troops stationed
out here so they can live a little more comfortably.

Soldier [at doorway]: General Hua, your dinner is here.

Mulan [looks up]: Come in.

Soldier [carries tray of food]: General Hua, please take your time. [He
places the tray on her table and starts to serve the dishes]

Mulan: Three dishes and one soup? What did you soldiers have today?

Soldier: A meal of processed millet. (Considered a very poor food;
equivalent to living off of macaroni and cheese and top ramen in modern

Mulan [sternly]: Take it back and exchange it.

Soldier [blankly]: Exchange it?

Mulan [scolds]: How many times have I told you already that I will eat
whatever everyone else eats. Take this food and give it to the sick and
wounded soldiers to eat.

Soldier [protesting]: But General.

Mulan [gently]: You'd best hurry. If the food gets cold it won't do anyone
any good.

Soldier: Yes, ma'am. [He collects the dishes again and carries it back
outside. Mulan starts a new letter]

Mulan [in letter]: "Brother Liang, ever since arriving here ten days ago, I
finally know what life is like on the battlefront. It truly is a warrior's
most glorious days. Although neither side appears to have a clear advantage,
at least it's better than sitting around waiting for someone to attack. The
soldiers have been stationed here for ten years already and haven't had a
chance to return home yet. It seems as if the Emperor and the rest of the
empire have forgotten them. The rations that come here are never enough,
only about half what we normally issue a fighting army. It's unusual to make
sure they have a square meal once a day. If a soldier dies out here from
either illness or battle, no one really cares nor inquires about them. It's
truly a difficult situation."

[She puts down her brush and starts putting the letter into an envelope
addressed to General Li Liang]

[Cut to Generals' Residence. There is a heavy rainstorm pouring vast
quantities of rain down. A maid hurries to bring in the wash from the drying
racks. Xiaoqian sees the rain and hurries out]

Xiaoqian: Here, let me help you. [She runs out into the rain and grabs some
of the laundry, then dashes back under cover]

Maid: Thank you for helping, Miss Xiaoqian.

Xiaoqian: It was no trouble. If we didn't get the laundry in then everything
would have gotten all wet again.

Maid: Let me take those clothes for you.

Xiaoqian: That's okay. I have some free time on my hands so I'll help you
bring it in.

Maid: Thank you.

[Later, we see Xiaoqian has folded the laundry neatly, then proceeds to take
it into Li Liang and Mulan's quarters. The bundle of laundry has a hat that
Li Liang wears. She places the bundle on the table, then turns to leave, but
returns to fondly caress the hat. While she is daydreaming, Li Liang's
mother walks down the hall and spots Xiaoqian through the open door. She is
shocked to see the demure smile playing on Xiaoqian's lips as she holds the

Li Liang's mother [eyes wide in surprise]: No wonder as soon as I mentioned
a match for her she bolted. [Gets a determined look on her face] Well, the
fortuneteller said she would make a good match for any man. He also said
something about if you deliberately pluck a flower it will not bloom, but if
you plant a willow shoot by accident it will bear fruit. The flower of
course refers to Hua Mulan. Perhaps he meant Xiaoqian when he talked about
the willow? [She slyly peers into the room, then walks in] Xiaoqian!

Xiaoqian [nervously tries to hide the hat]: Um. Elder Mistress! I was
helping the maid bring in Marshal Li's clothing.

Li Liang's mother: You don't need to explain anything. I understand
everything. Come. I have something to tell you.

[Cut to scene several minutes later]

Xiaoqian [protesting]: No. I can't do that.

Li Liang's mother: What do you mean you can't? Your actions earlier told me
you have fallen for my Li Liang.

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress, it's all my fault. I shouldn't have cast my eyes
in that direction. I have shamed you and shamed General Hua even more.

Li Liang's mother [scoffing]: Silly girl. You can't help your feelings. If
we could control our loves, then there would never be anything such as
falling head over heels for someone. I was young once. Is there anything
more enjoyable than spending you life with someone you care for? What do you
keep pushing it away?

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress, but, Marshal Li already, um.

Li Liang's mother: Already married? What's the big deal? He's a man; it's a
commonplace for me to have multiple wives. Besides, you heard what the
fortuneteller said. He said that Hua Mulan has no descendents, so even if
you didn't care for Li Liang, couldn't you take pity on an old lady and
agree to do this. You won't be the loser. Don't worry. Li Liang is an honest
man. If you treat him well he won't abandon you. Now, since you haven't said
anything, I'll take that as a "yes?" [Xiaoqian still remains silent but
smiles happily. Li Liang's mother continues to coax] You're agreeing?

[Cut to road outside the capital. Li Liang, Li Liang's mother, Xiaoqian, and
a maid are walking down the road together. The sky is overcast and the trees
are bare]

Li Liang's mother: I didn't realize the monastery at Fahua was this far.

Li Liang: Mother, if you're tired, you can sit down over there and rest a

Li Liang's mother [scolds]: No, no, no. I checked the almanac and the timing
would be off if we stopped.

Xiaoqian: Here, you can use my arm for support.

Li Liang's mother [smiles at Xiaoqian and glares at Li Liang]: You see,
Xiaoqian is so considerate.

[Li Liang doesn't say anything but pouts a little. The group resumes their
journey, with the maid carrying a basket of food offerings. After a while,
Li Liang's mother is out-of-breath and tired out]

Li Liang's mother [huffing]: It's too far. I can't make it.

Li Liang: Mother, let me go find a porter to carry you up.

Li Liang's mother: By the time you find a porter the most auspicious time
for this offering will have passed.

Li Liang: So what? You came with good intentions. The gods will not hold it
against you.

Li Liang's mother [shortly]: What do you know? I came all the way here to
ask that everything go well. How can I be late? How about this? You take
Xiaoqian up ahead to worship. Leave the maid here to keep me company.

Li Liang: Me? I only came along to keep you company. [Frowns] We should hire
someone to carry you up there.

Li Liang's mother [scolds]: I spent all this time to make this offering
because I wanted to garner good fortune for you. You go on now. And don't be

Li Liang [protesting]: Mother.

Li Liang's mother [turns around]: Xiaoqian, you know what I wish for. When
he makes the offering, go ahead and speak my heart's desire. [Xiaoqian
smiles, then starts following Li Liang up the road. They walk on for a
while, with Li Liang leading the way and Xiaoqian carrying the basket]

Li Liang [pauses]: Here, let me carry that for you.

Xiaoqian: That's okay. It wouldn't look good for a man to carry such things.

Li Liang [looks around]: There's no one out here. Hand it to me.

Xiaoqian: Thank you. [She hands the basket over and continues smiling at
him. He walks a few steps, then stops and turns around]

Li Liang: Miss Xiaoqian, if you are tired, we can stop and rest a while.

Xiaoqian: That's okay. If we miss the most auspicious time we'll waste all
of Elder Mistress's earnest efforts.

Li Liang: Well, then we'll just walk a little more slowly, okay? [They
continue walking down the road to the monastery]

Xiaoqian: I want to apologize for leaving all of a sudden like that
recently. I know I unsettled everyone in the household by doing that.

Li Liang: That's okay. But since my mother has persuaded you to stay, please
treat my home as your home. If you need something, just say the word.

Xiaoqian: Well, that poem I wrote you that day? I was swept up in a lot of
emotion when I wrote it, so I hope you won't read too much into it.

Li Liang: Poem? What poem? [He walks on ahead and Xiaoqian has to scramble
to catch up. She turns her foot on a rock in the road and lets out a cry as
she falls. Li Liang whirls around and catches her in his arms to keep her
from falling. He sheepishly lets go of her quickly when she is standing
again] Um. Be careful. Are you hurt?

Xiaoqian: No.

Li Liang: Then we'd best hurry on our way.

[Cut to temple. Li Liang and Xiaoqian enter the temple in the monastery.
Xiaoqian kneels before the altar and starts to pray. Li Liang pays his
respects standing up. After several minutes, Li Liang peeks at Xiaoqian. She
looks up and exchanges a glance with him. He hurriedly looks away and
appears briefly flustered. She resumes her prayer, but you can see both are
nervously trying to look away]

[Cut to Li Liang and Mulan's quarters. Li Liang is seated at a table with
his books. He lifts the top book and opens it to read, but then spots the
farewell poem from Xiaoqian underneath it. He picks it up and rereads it.
There is a knock on the door]

Li Liang: Who is it?

Xiaoqian: Marshal Li, may I enter?

Li Liang [hurriedly stuffs the poem in his shirtsleeve]: Come in. [Xiaoqian
enters the room carrying a tray with a bowl of soup in it]

Xiaoqian: I made some ginseng soup for Elder Mistress, so I made you a bowl,
too. [She hands the bowl to him. As he reaches to pick it up, the poem falls
from his sleeve onto the book. He pretends not to notice in the hopes that
Xiaoqian hasn't noticed either, but she reaches over and picks up the paper]
Didn't you say that you hadn't read my poem? Then what's this? [Li Liang
looks sheepish but doesn't say anything. He hides in the bowl of soup he is
drinking] I was filled with emotion when I wrote it. Don't think too much of
it. [She turns and leaves]

Li Liang: Miss Xiaoqian? [Xiaoqian stops and turns around. He picks up the
poem and brings it to her] I think you better take this with you.

Xiaoqian: Since you already read it, then I will place the decision in your
hands what to do. [She turns and leaves the room. Li Liang looks disturbed
in mind as he sits back down at the table. He eyes the lit candle, as if
thinking of burning the poem, but then ends up hiding the poem back under a
book. He looks very ill at ease over the whole situation]

[Cut to Crown Prince's quarters. A eunuch comes in the room]

Eunuch: Your Highness, Marshal Li requests an audience with you.

Crown Prince: Li Liang? Bring him in.

[Before the eunuch has a chance to fetch Li Liang, he has already walked
into the sitting room and salutes the Crown Prince]

Crown Prince: Is there something urgent you needed to see me about?

Li Liang: Oh, there's nothing much. I just wanted to chat and drink with you
today. [He heads to a seat to sit down but the Crown Prince tugs his sleeve]

Crown Prince [smiles]: Then you have picked the wrong day for that. I was on
my way out.

Li Liang: Then may I join you?

Crown Prince [smiles slyly]: No.

Li Liang [grins]: Oh, I see. The prince's dream girl is here and she feels
likewise about him.

Crown Prince: I hope so. Well, I'm off.

Li Liang: Your Highness, do you have any objections to my seeing you to the

Crown Prince: But only to the door.

[Cut to pavilion next to the edge of the creek. Xiaoqian is kneeling before
the Crown Prince]

Xiaoqian: Greetings, Your Highness.

Crown Prince [helps her up]: That's okay. [Xiaoqian looks at her hands and
notices the Crown Prince is holding them and gently caressing them. He
suddenly realizes what he is doing and sheepishly jerks his hands away] Um.
Sorry about that.

Xiaoqian: Your Highness escorted me back to the Generals' Residence only a
few days ago. Did you ask me to come here because you have something you
wished me to do?

Crown Prince: You still don't want to tell me why you left the Li family?
The only reason I'm asking is because I wanted to make sure you weren't
uncomfortable staying there. That's also the reason I asked you to meet me
here. I wanted to see what your plans are.

Xiaoqian: Thank you, Your Highness, for your concern. The incident last time
was entirely due to my headstrong nature. Elder Mistress and Marshal Li have
treated me very well.

Crown Prince: Um. That's good. The entire Li family is generous by nature.
Um. However, you need to realize that not everything goes according to what
we want. If you have anything on your mind, you can go ahead and tell me. I'
m willing to listen.

Xiaoqian [smiles]: Really? I'm just afraid that you'll think less of me if I
do that.

Crown Prince [excitedly]: Of course not! [Tries to calm down] Um. How about
this, then. We agree to meet her in three days time. What do you think?

Xiaoqian: I would be honored. I wouldn't dare refuse.

Crown Prince [laughing out loud]: That's great! That's super! [He continues
to laugh and grin like a schoolboy]

[Cut to front door of the Generals' Residence. The Crown Prince is walking
with Xiaoqian and talking to her, but we can't hear the words. He is still
grinning and enjoying himself. Xiaoqian looks up at him and doesn't say
anything, but continues to smile demurely. It is obvious the Crown Prince is
smitten with her charm]

[Cut to sitting room in the Generals' Residence. Li Liang is seated at the
table when one of the servants comes in]

Servant: Young Master, there are no letters for you at army headquarters.

Li Liang [puzzled]: Oh? How come Mulan hasn't sent any word at all yet?

Servant: The mountains there are a wild and untamed place. Even if Young
Mistress wanted to write a letter home it would be quite a challenge for it
to get here.

Li Liang: Perhaps so. You're dismissed. [The servant bows, then leaves the
room. Li Liang resumes reading a book he holds in his hand. Li Liang's
mother walks in the room]

Li Liang's mother [scolding]: There you go again. If you're not at
headquarters or practicing your martial arts, you're holed up in here
reading military books. You're a man. Why are you spending all day at home?

Li Liang [protesting]: But there's nothing much to do outside. I don't see
the point of wandering out and about all day.

Li Liang's mother: Did your wife give you an edict forbidding you to go out
while she's not home?

Li Liang: Mother, would you please stop blaming everything on Mulan?

Li Liang's mother: Fine. I won't talk about that anymore. You're never home
for any meals, not breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Li Liang: Mother, you already have Miss Xiaoqian to keep you company. Isn't
that the same?

Li Liang's mother: How is that the same? Are you trying to avoid her or
avoid me?

Li Liang: It's not that, Mother. I'm not that familiar with her so I really
don't have much to talk about.

Li Liang's mother: With you, unless you're talking up a storm with your
wife, you have nothing to say to anyone else. You just sit there like a bump
on a log. What's not to like about Xiaoqian? Not only did she save your
life, she's also friendly and much more womanly than that wife of yours.

Li Liang [shortly]: Mother.

Li Liang's mother: I call it as I see it. Whoever marries her is a truly
lucky man.

[Xiaoqian walks in the door]

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress. Marshal Li.

Li Liang's mother: Oh, Xiaoqian, where have you been?

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress, I heard you coughing yesterday so I went out to
buy some medicine. I'll brew some up for you to drink.

Li Liang's mother: Oh my, she's even more thoughtful and careful than my
niece or daughter-in-law. [Li Liang looks away and rolls his eyes]

Xiaoqian: It was nothing, really. I was sitting around the house with
nothing to do anyway. How about you two continue your chat while I go to the
kitchen to start brewing this soup? [She turns and leaves the room]

Li Liang's mother [looks at Li Liang significantly]: Well, aren't you going
into the kitchen, too?

Li Liang [puzzled]: Go in the kitchen? Why?

Li Liang's mother: Um. Oh, I forgot that I'm fasting from meat today. You
need to tell Xiaoqian not to put any meat into that soup.

Li Liang: Me?

Li Liang's mother: Um. Oww. [She starts feigning a backache] I think I've
slept too soundly the past couple of nights; my back has been hurting again.
You can't even do this errand for your own mother. Fine. I'll go myself. It'
s easier said than done.

Li Liang: Okay, okay, I'll go. You sit here and rest. [He helps his mother
sit down, then heads to the kitchen. Li Liang's mother sits and smirks at
her son's retreating back]

[Cut to kitchen. Xiaoqian enters and smiles at the servants]

Xiaoqian: Busy? Don't mind me.

Servants: Yes, ma'am. [Xiaoqian heads to a large vat and removes the lid. Li
Liang walks in the kitchen at this time]

Xiaoqian: Marshal Li.

Li Liang: Miss Xiaoqian. I want to thank you for your efforts at looking
after my mother these past several days.

Xiaoqian: Oh, it was no trouble.

Li Liang: Um. By the way, my mother said she's fasting from meat today, so
could you please not put any meat in the soup?

Xiaoqian: Okay. [Li Liang turns to leave, but Xiaoqian calls out] Wait!

Li Liang [turns around]: Yes?

Xiaoqian: You've been avoiding me lately. I think perhaps you have guessed
my innermost desires?

Li Liang: Miss Xiaoqian, you're thinking too much.

Xiaoqian: Please, let me finish. Humans have always felt awe towards
heroism. Marshal, you are brave and heroic. I couldn't help myself in such a
basic human emotion. But I also know that you are loyal towards Mistress
(i.e.-Mulan) and will not hold a candle for anyone else. I do not want to
tear you two apart. I just want you to treat me the way you did before. I'll
be content with that.

Li Liang [blank look]: Hm? [Rubs his ear] I'm not sure why, but my ears seem
to be ringing lately. Oh wait a minute, it must be because when practicing
earlier I accidentally hit my ear. I didn't hear clearly whatever it was you
just told me.

Xiaoqian [desperate]: Marshal, I.

Li Liang [interrupting]: Miss Xiaoqian, how about we talk about this another
day? I didn't hear what you said earlier and my ears aren't working too well
today anyway. I understand your concerns and promise to treat you like my
own kid sister. Don't worry about a thing. [He runs away before Xiaoqian can
say anything else]

[Cut to distant outpost where Mulan is stationed. She is talking to one of
her officers at what appears to be a warning beacon]

Mulan: This beacon is in such sorry shape. What would we do if the enemy
were to attack?

Officer: We don't know, either, but it's been many years since the capitol
sent us supplies for such things. Our hands are tied.

Mulan: Don't worry. When I return to the capitol, I will report the
situation to the Emperor.

Officer: Thank you, General Hua.

[Mulan walks over to a soldier standing guard nearby]

Mulan: How long have you been stationed here?

Soldier [sighs]: Fifteen years. [Mulan raises her eyebrows but doesn't say
anything] When I first came here, my son was only three years old. He should
be eighteen years old this year. [Sighs again] If I'm lucky enough to return
home alive, I doubt he will recognize me. [Mulan looks very disturbed and
saddened at this soldier's story but remains silent]

[Cut to Mulan's tent later that night. She is seated at her desk writing a

Mulan [in letter]: "Brother Liang, I visited the northernmost warning beacon
here today. Everything is old and falling apart. The garrison consists of
old and weak soldiers. I happened to ask one of them how long he was
stationed here. He started pouring out his woe to me. It seems these old
soldiers have sacrificed so much to serve the Sui Empire all these years. It
gives me such a sense of sadness to see it. I have promised them to hang in
there and that when I return to the capitol I will make things right for

[A soldier walks in with her dinner]

Soldier: General Hua, your dinner is here. [He places a dish of vegetables
and a bowl of buns for her]

Mulan: Is everyone eating this, too?

Soldier: Yes.

Mulan: Good. By the way, have any letters arrived for me?

Soldier: No.

Mulan: Well, if one does, please make sure to notify me. [The soldier nods]
Good. You're dismissed. [The soldier bows, then leaves the tent. Mulan picks
up a bun and is about to bite into it when she pauses] That's odd. I've
already written several letters home. How come he hasn't even written one in
response? Maybe he's just been too busy at headquarters. Well, if you're not
going to write to me, I'll just write a few more to you and make you feel
guilty. [She dips her brush in the ink and resumes her writing]

[Cut to mail sorting room for the army. A clerk is going through the mail
when the Second Prince's trusted eunuch enters and clears his throat. The
clerk turns around at the sound then goes to greet the eunuch]

Eunuch: Is there a letter that the Second Prince is looking for in today's

Clerk: Well what do you know, there just happens to be one today. [He fishes
in a pile of letters and hands one over to the eunuch]

Eunuch: Now, as for this?

Clerk: Oh, no one else knows about this arrangement. I couldn't afford to
let anyone find out. [He bows]

Eunuch: Sharp lad. [Pinches the clerk's cheek] You won't be the loser, I can
guarantee you that.

Clerk: Thank you, Esteemed Sir! [The eunuch leaves the room]

[Cut to Generals' Residence. Li Liang walks into the main sitting room, just
in time to see the doctor leaving]

Doctor [bows]: Marshal Li. [He turns and leaves. Li Liang looks at Li Liang'
s mother quizzically]

Li Liang: Are you feeling poorly, Mother?

Li Liang's mother: No, it's not me. It's Xiaoqian. You know, considering she
saved your life you haven't been too observant. She's been sick for several
days now. How could you not notice and do something?

Li Liang: What illness?

Li Liang's mother: The doctor can't figure it out. She's just listless and
dull, without any appetite or energy, just kind of mopes around all day. It'
s got me worried sick.

[Li Liang looks as if he has a guess as to the nature of Xiaoqian's illness
but doesn't want to tell his mother]

[Cut to Xiaoqian's quarters. Li Liang walks in the room. Xiaoqian is sitting
at a table looking absentmindedly at something]

Li Liang: Miss Xiaoqian?

Xiaoqian [stands up]: Marshal Li.

Li Liang: I heard that you're not feeling well.

Xiaoqian [sits back down]: I brought this illness upon myself. You don't
need to worry about me. [She starts to pour tea for the two of them]

Li Liang [also sits down]: Miss Xiaoqian, you saved this life of mine. I owe
you such a debt already. Why do this to yourself?

Xiaoqian: I know. But I can't help myself. I truly don't desire anything
else but to have you laugh and joke with me like you used to. I'll be
content with that. [Li Liang turns away and sighs. Xiaoqian stands up in a
bit of a huff] If you can't even grant such a small wish for me, then please
tell Elder Mistress to let me return to my home village.

Li Liang [also stands]: Um. Miss Xiaoqian? Please stay here with an easy
heart. I won't avoid you in the future. But you must understand that nothing
can ever happen between us.

Xiaoqian: I understand.

Li Liang: Please take care of yourself. One day, I'm sure you'll find a
worthy suitor who is a thousand times my better.

[He turns and leaves the room. Xiaoqian remains standing there with a
woebegone expression on her face]

[Cut to dining room table. There are several dishes of food laid out. Li
Liang's mother is sitting between Li Liang and Xiaoqian]

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress, please try this. I cooked it myself.

Li Liang's mother: Did you do all of this yourself? [Xiaoqian nods] Then I
have to try it. [Xiaoqian puts some food into Li Liang's mother's bowl for
her to try. Li Liang's mother samples it and nods in appreciation] It's
good. It's really good. [The three of them continue to eat their meal
together. Li Liang tries some and also nods] See? What did I tell you? It's
good, right? Hm. This is good, too. And this, too.

Li Liang: Here, Mother, try some yourself. [He picks up some food and places
it in his mother's bowl]

[Cut to courtyard in the Generals' Residence. Xiaoqian is seated at a stone
bench with a zither atop it. She is playing music for Li Liang's mother and
Li Liang, who are both standing nearby. Li Liang's mother has to keep
tugging on her son's sleeve to keep him from slinking away. Xiaoqian
continues to play. Li Liang's mother keeps shooting looks at Li Liang to
check for signs of falling for Xiaoqian's charms]

[Cut to city street. Jili and Yiren are walking together, with the former
leaning on her shoulder. They stop briefly while Yiren straightens Jili's

Yiren [scolds gently]: Look at you. [She turns and spots someone] Hey, isn't
that Aunt and company? [She tries to drag Jili over but he holds her back]
What's the matter?

Jili [frowns]: Why does that scene look so familiar? [We then see Li Liang's
mother, Xiaoqian, and Li Liang out shopping together. Li Liang's mother is
enthusiastically picking out a pretty scarf for Xiaoqian and soliciting Li
Liang's opinions] That's it! Remember when your aunt dragged you and Li
Liang together the same way? It looked just like that.

Yiren [scoffing]: My aunt and her? I doubt it.

Jili: Sometimes the most blatant things are the ones you watch out for. I
think we better go back now. Otherwise, when Mulan returns and something
happens, I won't be able to face her. [He turns to leave but Yiren tugs on
his sleeve]

Yiren: Hey, what's wrong with that? The one that lets her down would be
Cousin, not you.

Jili: What's the matter? Jealous? I'm telling you that her and I are like
brother and sister now, nothing more. Don't be jealous. Don't be jealous.
Don't smear an upright man.

Yiren [gruffly]: Who's jealous?

Jili: Okay, you're not jealous, then. Come on, we need to keep an eye on

Yiren: I'm not going.

Jili: Are you going or not? [He raises his hand as if to strike her but
instead caresses her cheek gently with his index finger] Come on, let's go.
[Yiren starts smirking and relents. Jili then gives her a hearty shove
towards the direction where Li Liang's mother and company are shopping]

[Cut to Jili sitting next to a vendor's stall. He is loudly cheering]

Jili: Go get 'em, Yiren! Go get 'em! [Yiren comes over and swats Jili]

Yiren: Jili! Jili! [Swats him harder until he stands up]

Jili: I thought I told you to follow your aunt? What are you doing here,
watching the show?

Yiren: If folks would let me spy on them easily then that would be simple.
But the Crown Prince invited them to go see flowers and I wasn't included,
so how could I follow?

Jili: He brought Xiaoqian with him on a trip with the Crown Prince? What
does Li Liang have in mind?

Yiren: Hey, maybe it has nothing to do with Cousin. Remember when my aunt
said a while ago that she was trying to find a match for Xiaoqian? Then she
bolted without a second word. Didn't I say that she had someone in her heart
already? I'm afraid that the person she is smitten with is Cousin!

Jili: When a man chases a woman it's like a lava flow. When a woman chases a
man it's like sand in the wind. What if? [He falls silent as the wheels start
turning in his brain] What if Xiaoqian has decided to take the battle into
the enemy camp, so to speak? What are we going to do?

Yiren [sighs]: What to do? What can we do? We can only hope that
Cousin-In-Law returns home soon. That way, Xiaoqian will back off when she
finds the going too rough.

[Cut to scene of Mulan striding down the road in her armor. She approaches a
cluster of soldiers at a stopping place along the road. They block her way]

Mulan [raising her ID plaque]: I am General Hua Mulan. Let me pass.

Sergeant: Arrest General Hua Mulan! [The other soldiers all level their
spears at her and she is arrested]

[Cut to scene in an underground jail. Torches flicker on the walls for

Sergeant: General Hua, I am only following orders. Please forgive me. [Mulan
crawls into the cell (the jail has a low door that forces prisoners to
either crawl inside on hands and knees or walk stooped)] Lock the doors!

Mulan: Hey, I want to know if Marshal Li has also been arrested and thrown
in jail.

Sergeant: I don't know.

Mulan: What am I being charged with?

Sergeant: I don't know.

Mulan: Then who ordered you to arrest me?

Sergeant: The Emperor. He sent an imperial writ.

Mulan [puzzled]: The Emperor?

[Cut to main entrance to Generals' Residence. It is night and the Second
Prince is leading a group of soldiers with torches. His trusted eunuch is
with him]

Second Prince: Seal all the exits! No one is allowed in or out without my
consent! [The soldiers rush to follow his orders. He strides into the house
with the rest of the soldiers and his eunuch. They storm into the main
sitting room. Li Liang's mother comes from her quarters]

Li Liang's mother: What's the ruckus about? It's pretty late. [She hurriedly
kneels when she spots the Second Prince] Your Highness.

Second Prince [with malice]: Elder Mistress. We meet again. [Li Liang's
mother looks confused about the Second Prince's tone of voice. The other
servants are also puzzled about what is happening. Li Liang hurries from
another part of the house. Yiren and Xiaoqian are behind him. He salutes the
Second Prince]

Li Liang: Your Highness, why have you brought soldiers into this house at
such a late hour?

Second Prince: You know the saying, "Where there's smoke, there's fire?" I
came here today in person, so it couldn't be for a good thing. Guards!
Arrest them all!

[The guards hurry to start herding the entire household into custody]

Li Liang: Halt! Your Highness, no matter what, I am still and officer of the
realm. What have I done that calls for Your Highness to come and personally
arrest me?

Second Prince: You really want to know?

Li Liang: Feel free to say it.

Second Prince: I'm afraid if I tell you I'll scare you.

Yiren [scoffing]: If you have something to say, spit it out; if you have gas
to expel, blow it out.  [The Second Prince starts as
the insult hits home] You've already stormed in here with troops, so stop
the charade of being a kind and sensitive soul.

Second Prince: So it seems Hua Mulan certainly has a way with manipulating
people. Even her relatives all have sharp tongues. [Yiren lunges for the
Second Prince but Xiaoqian holds her back. Li Liang puts his hand up to
signal for Yiren to keep quiet]

Li Liang: Your Highness, an honest man doesn't hide his actions in the dark.
You can jerk me around and lock me up, but at the very least, you need to
give me a reason.

Second Prince: Fine. Listen up. Traitorous acts that hurt the military's
morale. Encouraging soldiers to criticize the government.

Li Liang's mother [lets out a strangled cry]: Our family has always been
faithful and patriotic. We would never do such things. Please, you have to
investigate the truth of the matter. You can't smear the innocent.

Second Prince: Of course not. If it wasn't for the fact that I have
irrefutable evidence, I wouldn't dare to touch a hair on either General Hua'
s or Marshal Li's heads. Guards! Arrest them all! [The guards start ushering
the entire household into custody, with everyone hollering and calling. Li
Liang remains silent, as does the Second Prince. The Second Prince looks
unmoved by the whole scene, but a slight smile plays at his lips]

[Cut to underground jail. The guards are leading the Li household into a
large cell. Li Liang is not with them, but the rest of the family is here,
except for Jili and Mulan. The servants enter the cell first, followed by
Xiaoqian and Yiren. A guard shoves Li Liang's mother to hurry her into the
cell but she snaps at him]

Li Liang's mother [sharply]: What are you pushing for? I can walk in under
my own steam. [Grumbles] How unreasonable!

Guard: You're in jail now! What kind of attitude is that? Do you want to get

[Yiren helps Li Liang's mother up and rubs her shoulder]

Yiren: Aunt, calm down. Are you okay?

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress, you aren't hurt anywhere, are you?

Li Liang's mother [sadly]: I never expected to be so insulted and humiliated
at my age.

Yiren: Don't think that way. I'm sure it will all work out.

Li Liang's mother: I'm not really worried about myself. I'm worried about Li
Liang. I don't know where he's been locked up?

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress, don't worry. Marshal Li has served the empire for
many years loyally and faithfully. He must have been framed this time. When
the Emperor finished his investigation, I'm sure it will all work out.

Li Liang's mother: I hope it all works out. If I find out who brought this
calamity upon us and made me sit in jail, I vow to give them what for!

Yiren: If you want to give them what for you still need to figure out how to
get out of this jail first.

Guard [enters cell]: The jailkeeper is here! Stand in a row against the
wall, or I'll thrash you! [The group creeps towards the wall]

Jailkeeper [enters and holds a large sheaf of papers]: I'm going to read off
the names of the accused. When I call out your name, respond loudly. Li Xu
Si? (Note: In Chinese, a married woman can be called by her husband's
surname and her own maiden name, with the word "si" appended at the end. Her
given name is dropped. This is a rather impolite form of address. In this
case, this refers to Li Liang's mother) [No response] Well? We're going to
call out roll each day.

Guard [barks]: Hurry and respond to the jailkeeper's commands, or I'm going
to thrash you!

Li Liang's mother [glumly]: Here.

Jailkeeper: Xu Yiren?

Yiren: Here.

[The jailkeeper calls out the remaining names of the servants and other
members of the household. He doesn't call out Xiaoqian's name, though. When
he finishes his list, he admonishes all of them]

Jailkeeper: I don't care how high and mighty you were before. Now that you'
re in here, you have to listen to my orders. If you dare start something in
here, I'll see to it that you're sent packing. [He turns to leave, but
Xiaoqian calls out]

Xiaoqian: Sir, my name is Zhuang Xiaoqian. [The jailkeeper turns around] My
name wasn't on your list.

Jailkeeper [puzzled]: It wasn't?

[Cut to jail where Mulan is sleeping against a cell wall. She stirs awake
when she hears the sound of an approaching guard]

Guard: Marshal Li, this way.

Mulan [rushes to cell wall]: Brother Liang? Brother Liang! [Li Liang is
still in the hallway. The cell walls consists of thick wooden posts arranged
in a crossing pattern]

Li Liang: Mulan.

Guard: Marshal Li, please come here. [He points to the cell next to Mulan's.
Li Liang enters, then goes to the wall between his and Mulan's cells to

Li Liang: Mulan.

Mulan: Brother Liang, what the heck is going on?

Li Liang: I don't know. However, just now the Second Prince himself went to
our house to arrest everyone. My mother and Yiren and everyone else have all
been arrested.

Mulan [reproachfully]: Didn't you promise me that after I left the capitol
you would spend as little time as possible out and about? Why did you go get
into another scrape?

Li Liang [protesting]: I didn't. However, I heard the Second Prince say that
we've committed a capital offense. While you were off in the mountains, did
you get into a scrape?

Mulan [scoffing]: Me? It's freezing cold there. How would I have the energy
to get into a scrape?

Li Liang: Then what the heck is going on?

[Cut to jail cell where Yiren and Li Liang's mother and company are staying.
They are all sitting on the straw on the floor when the guard opens the door
to their cell and the jailkeeper walks in. Everyone stands up]

Jailkeeper: Take away Zhuang Xiaoqian.

Guard: Yes, sir. [He grabs Xiaoqian by the arm and starts to drag her away.
Xiaoqian looks frightened]

Xiaoqian [pleads]: Sir!

Jailkeeper [gruffly]: Your name is not on the list. Today's your lucky day.
You are free to go.

Xiaoqian [elated]: Thank you, sir!

Li Liang's mother: Xiaoqian? [Xiaoqian turns around to whisper some words to
Li Liang's mother and Yiren]

Xiaoqian: Don't worry. I promise to find a way to get you out.

Guard [roughly]: Leave! [Xiaoqian gives one more farewell glance to Li Liang
's mother, then walks out of the cell]

[Cut to the Second Prince's quarters. He is talking to his trusted eunuch]

Second Prince: My sire only saw one letter out of several and he was already
fuming. If I hadn't been there to calm him down, he would already have sent
soldiers to the mountain outpost to arrest everyone. I think that even if Li
Liang and Hua Mulan can escape with their lives this time they will never be
able to wash this stain away.

Eunuch: Your Highness, when you arranged to have Hua Mulan sent to that
outpost, did you already anticipate she'd have played into our hands like

Second Prince: This was an unanticipated stroke of luck. Originally, I only
wanted her out of the capitol to make it easier for me to make my next move.
Who knew that she was so anxious to throw her life away?

[The eunuch chuckles at this but doesn't say anything]

[Cut to throne room in the palace. The Emperor is sitting at this throne]

Emperor: Guards! Bring forward Li Liang and Hua Mulan! [The guards bring
forward Li Liang and Mulan. Both kneel before the Emperor and greet him]
Humph! You still have respect for me?

Mulan: Your Majesty, Li Liang and I have always served loyally and
faithfully and will move the sun and moon for you.

Emperor [sneers]: Oh, so you've "always served loyally and faithfully and
will move the sun and moon" for me? My son, bring forth the evidence.

Second Prince: Yes, sire. These letters are written in your own hand, Hua
Mulan. [He presents a few letters and throws them in front of Mulan. She
picks one up and starts to protest, but the Second Prince interrupts her] If
you don't want people to catch you doing less than ethical things, then
maybe you shouldn't do them in the first place.

Li Liang [puzzled]: Mulan, what letters are these? [Mulan glares at the
Second Prince as she tries to keep her temper under check]

Mulan: Your Majesty, I can explain.

Emperor: Hua Mulan, how dare you criticize me and sabotage military morale!
Guards! Drag Li Liang and Hua Mulan out through the Noon Gate. Execute them!
[Li Liang and Mulan open their eyes wide in shock and disbelief]

[Cut to city street. The Crown Prince is walking down the street when
Xiaoqian bumps into him]

Crown Prince [surprised]: Miss Xiaoqian. I was just looking for you. Where
are Li Liang and Hua Mulan?

Xiaoqian: Your Highness. You know that they are in trouble already?

Crown Prince [nods]: Yes. This morning Su Jili came to me asking for my
help. That's how I found out.

Xiaoqian: That's great. I was just looking for you to ask for your help.

Crown Prince [reaches inside his cloak and pulls out a jade]: Take this jade
to the Junma's household. Show it to the princess and she will help you. Don
't go running off anywhere. When I rescue Li Liang, I'll come and fetch you.

Xiaoqian [nods]: Thank you, Your Highness. [She takes the jade and leaves]

[Cut to throne room. A general is kneeling before the Emperor]

General: Your Majesty, I would willingly bet my head that neither Li Liang
nor Hua Mulan would ever do anything to sabotage military morale or any
other traitorous acts. Please investigate this.

Emperor [unmoved]: Hua Mulan has written all those things criticizing me in
black and white. You can't deny it. I forbid anyone to say anything else.
Otherwise, you can share their fate. Guards! Drag them out and execute them!
[The guards grab Li Liang and Mulan to take them away. Both struggle and
protest loudly that they are innocent. At this moment, the Empress, Crown
Prince, and their entourage enter the throne room]

Empress: Not so fast! [Everyone kneels before the Empress] You can all rise.
[Everyone gets back to their feet]

Crown Prince [bows to Emperor]: Sire.

Emperor [whispers fiercely to Empress]: Empress, I am in the middle of
ruling the empire.

Empress [calmly]: Of course I know Your Majesty is busy ruling the empire.
However, Hua Mulan and Li Liang are both precious assets of the Sui Empire.
Besides, today is a festival day. You cannot deny me a request on this day.

Emperor:  Hua Mulan has expressed dissatisfaction with me and hurt the army'
s morale. How can you say she is an asset to the empire?

Empress: Servants, bring the evidence for me to read. [A servant hurries to
fetch the letters at Mulan's feet, then hands it to the Empress. She opens
them and reads them quickly. While she is reading them, Mulan and Li Liang
look nervously at each other. The Crown Prince tries to look over his
brother's shoulder to see what the Empress is reading, but he doesn't get
the chance. When she finishes, she is irate] Hua Mulan! How dare you!

Mulan: Your Majesty, I only.

Empress [interrupts]: You're still trying to find excuses?

Second Prince: Mother, since you agree that Hua Mulan's crimes are severe,
then it stands to reason we should have her taken away and executed without
delay, lest her words poison things further.

Crown Prince: Mother, Li Liang and Hua Mulan have served the empire well all
these years. Today, it was a case of bad judgement that brought them here.
Give them a chance to start anew and wash away their crimes with earnest
effort. Please, Mother and Sire, please reconsider.

Second Prince: Sire, Hua Mulan has grown too cocky simply because she feels
she has served the empire a long time. If we you don't get rid of this
cancer before it grows worse, I fear it will have bad consequences for the
Sui Empire.

Empress: Shut up. Let me ask you, how did you come by these letters?

Second Prince: Mother, I found it amongst the pile of military mail that I
inspect. I accidentally read the contents of one, that's why I impounded all
of her letters.

Empress: That's enough. You don't need to say anything more.

Emperor: Empress, since you agree that Hua Mulan is hateful, then why do you
keep asking these questions?

Empress: Emperor, where I think Hua Mulan is hateful is different from what
you think Hua Mulan is hateful.

Emperor [smiles]: Really? How so?

Empress: Hua Mulan, the Emperor sent you to the outpost in the mountains. Do
you know why he sent you?

Mulan: Your Majesty, His Majesty sent me there to check out the garrison and
also to show the troops there that the government has not forgotten them.

Empress [nods]: Good. You know the heaviness of your responsibility, then.
And when you found out that supplies were short and the troops old and
infirm, that the facilities were falling apart, why did you only report this
to Li Liang and not to the Emperor? Based on what you've written those
troops are all complaining about the Emperor behind his back but you're not
giving him a chance to remedy things. Do you see what you did wrong?

Mulan [meekly]: Yes, Your Majesty, I do. I was going to report this to His
Majesty after I returned to the capitol.

Empress [rebuking]: With something as urgent as this, you should have
reported this immediately? Didn't you think it more important than telling
your husband first?

Mulan: I know I did wrong. Your Majesty, please punish me as you see fit.

Emperor: Empress, Hua Mulan in her letter obviously was criticizing my
treatment of the garrison at the outpost. Isn't that harming army morale?

Empress: Emperor, if the troops at that outpost were well fed and
well-clothed, then what Hua Mulan said is slander and she has grossly
disrespected you. However, if the conditions about the garrison truly are
that poor, and Hua Mulan only told Li Liang but not you, then wouldn't it
better to fix the situation than to punish her?

Emperor: Um.

Empress: Emperor, I heard from Hua Mulan's own lips that you sent her on
this trip to inspect conditions and to let the troops there know their
government still remembers and cares about their welfare. That you wanted to
know if they lacked for anything they needed. Are you saying you wanted to
her to find out the truth but won't let her tell you the truth?

Second Prince: Mother, although you have a good point, when Hua Mulan didn't
immediately report things to Sire, but instead said these things behind his
back, then it's obvious she didn't have his best intentions at heart. Please
investigate this.

Empress [turns around]: My son, Hua Mulan has always been in the Emperor's
good graces. Since when did you start keeping track of her affairs and
trying to get her in trouble?

Second Prince: I was only acting on what I saw happening.

Empress: Ferreting out such things in the army would only help the enemy.
[In a huff] Don't you think you have too much time on your hands if you're
stooping to inspecting military mail?

Second Prince [protesting]: But Mother.

Empress: Say no more. Your foot is already in your mouth; stop shoving it in
further.  [Turns to Emperor] Emperor, Hua Mulan may not have immediately
reported the true conditions to you, but that doesn't mean she deserves to die.

Emperor: Hm. You have a good point. It's a good thing you came here in time,
or I would have executed two patriotic and productive generals. Li Liang.
Hua Mulan. Your writs of execution are revoked.

Li Liang and Mulan: Thank you, Your Majesty.