Episode 48:

[Cut to scene the next day in the Generals' Residence. Li Liang is asleep on the table with a cloak draped over his shoulders. Mulan, Jili, and Yiren tiptoe in the room. Mulan gestures to Jili and Yiren to stay quiet, but Jili clumsily trips on a bench and wakes up Li Liang. He jumps to his feet]

Li Liang [surprised]: It's you?

Yiren: Cousin, we came here to warn you that Zhuang Xiaoqian is not your average woman. She's a spy! When she communicates with her people she uses words that aren't Chinese. I asked Cousin-In-Law already and she said it's Tujue writing.

Li Liang's mother [walks in on Xiaoqian's arm]: Li Liang? [Sees Yiren] Yiren!

Yiren: Aunt.

Li Liang's mother: You're okay now?

Yiren: Aunt, I'm fine now. The person who made me insane with poison is this woman! [She points at Xiaoqian. Jili comes over to protect Yiren]

Li Liang's mother: What are you talking about? When you were ill, Xiaoqian watched over you for three days and three nights. How can you turn around and backstab her like this?

Xiaoqian: Elder Mistress, it's quite alright. I suspect that Yiren's illness is at least partially due to my impending marriage to the Marshal. So I'm sure it's because of her bitterness that she is jealous of me.

Jili: If she's jealous of you, then what about me?

Li Liang's mother: You? You're a demon from the lowest levels of hell. [She reaches over and pulls Yiren to her side]

Yiren: Aunt!

Li Liang's mother: Don't be afraid. I won't let them take you away again.

Yiren [shoves away Li Liang's mother's hand]: Aunt, Jili was framed! The person who framed him is probably that woman!

Li Liang's mother: You look fine outwardly. How come your words are still so crazed?

Mulan: Brother Liang, I'm willing to swear, based on the years we've known each other, that Zhuang Xiaoqian's origins are decidedly suspicious.

Li Liang [sighs]: Mulan, I understand how you feel. You are very unhappy that I'm taking a concubine. But it's something the law allows. Besides, the Emperor has blessed it. I have already vowed to you that your place in my heart will not change, but you won't believe me. Now your commission is gone and now the Emperor is after you. Do you think it's worth all this heartache?

Jili [shakes his head]: I never thought that I would hear you say such things. You have sorely disappointed me. Li Liang, I had eyes but did not see. I misjudged you. Fine. We'll wait and see how this woman will be the curse of you. When you have nowhere to turn, you'll know then who is true and who is false. Let's go! [He starts to head out the door]

Li Liang: Stop! [Jili turns around] First you say that the Second Prince sent her. Then you say that she is a spy of the Tujue. Words mean nothing. Where is the proof?

Mulan: Fine. I'll give you your evidence! [She lunges for Xiaoqian and puts her fingers on her throat]

Xiaoqian: Marshal!

Mulan: Stop pretending.

Li Liang: Mulan, let her go!

Jili: Let her go? Mulan, kill her. Kill her first, then release her.

Mulan: Jili said it well. I'll kill you and then we'll see if you'll sprout horns and throw fire!

Li Liang's mother: Save her! Someone come help!

Li Liang [sternly]: Let her go, Mulan!

Mulan: No!

Jili: Kill her! Kill her!

Li Liang: You won't let her go? Don't blame me then for using force! [He lunges at Mulan, strikes a few pressure points on her arm, causing her to release Xiaoqian. Mulan grimaces in pain and rubs her arm. Li Liang glares at Jili and Mulan] If you don't all leave immediately, I will arrest all of you!

[Mulan glares at Li Liang, then leaves the room quickly]

Jili: You have been such a disappointment! [He turns to leave but trips over his own feet. He picks himself up, then follows Mulan. Yiren is initially undecided about what to do, but after seeing both Mulan and Jili leave, she follows them]

Li Liang's mother: Yiren! [Seeing Yiren is gone, she approaches Xiaoqian in concern] Xiaoqian, are you okay? [Xiaoqian nods] Do you need to have the doctor check you?

Xiaoqian: I'm fine. I just need to rest a little.

[Cut to Li Liang's study in the early evening. Li Liang is absentmindedly thumbing through a book. He is deep in thought when Xiaoqian knocks on the door and comes in with a tray containing a bowl of soup]

Xiaoqian: Marshal?

Li Liang: Xiaoqian, please come in and have a seat.

Xiaoqian [puts tray on table and sits down]: What's the matter? Still upset about what happened today?

Li Liang [sighs]: No matter what you say, we're still husband and wife. How can I be at ease knowing things are in the state they are now? Oh. You don't mind my saying that, do you?

Xiaoqian: Why would I? If you didn't hold relationships dearly, I wouldn't admire you as much as I do.

Li Liang [smiles]: It's great that you have such an even temper. If Mulan was so understanding and forgiving, then all would be well.

Xiaoqian: If you get down to it, though, I snatched half of your love from her. I have actually felt rather guilty about that. I think after we get married, you should say a few words on her behalf to the Emperor so he will restore her commission. Then, bring her back to the Generals' Residence. I promise to honor and respect her and treat her well

Li Liang: That is a relief for me to hear you say that. [Sighs and frowns] As for dealing with the Emperor?

Xiaoqian: I don't think you need to worry about that. He will eventually remember General Hua's positive aspects.

Li Liang: I hope so.

Xiaoqian: Oh, by the way, I brewed some medicinal chicken broth for you. Try some and let me know what you think. [She uncovers the bowl of soup, then hands it to him. Li Liang takes the spoon and tastes some of the soup]

Li Liang: Mm. Not bad.

Xiaoqian: If you like it, drink some more of it. In the future, I'll make a batch for you everyday.

Li Liang [smiles]: If only Mulan were half as doting as you are. [Xiaoqian smiles in return. She seems happy to see Li Liang drinking up the soup with gusto]

[Cut to walls outside the Generals' Residence. Li Liang's mother is working with Xiaoqian to supervise the decoration of the exterior of the building in preparation for the wedding]

Li Liang's mother: Take a look at this. Does it look good to you?

Xiaoqian: This one? It looks good.

Li Liang's mother: Take a look at this. [Xiangzi is hiding behind several posts as he watches Li Liang's mother and Xiaoqian] Put it higher. No, higher. No, higher. Make it even higher. Yes, higher. Could you put that higher? Yes. [Xiangzi turns around and leaves] Now go to the left a little. Yes, like that. [Both Xiaoqian and Li Liang's mother are smiling happily] Isn't that better?

Xiaoqian: Much better.

[Cut to place where Yiren, Jili, and Mulan are hiding. The three of them are sitting at a table with Xiangzi as they hold a conference]

Xiangzi: Aside from helping out Elder Mistress (Li Liang's mother) all day today, Xiaoqian hasn't set foot away from the Generals' Residence.

Jili: On the wedding day, all you need to do is kill her with brute strength. That way, you'll send her to meet her maker. [Yiren nods in agreement. Jili notices Mulan doesn't look enthused] Unless you really want to see her marry Li Liang?

Mulan [smugly]: Do you really think Zhuang Xiaoqian is marrying Li Liang for love?

Yiren: What? Are you saying she has another motive? Doesn't that mean that Cousin and Aunt are in a great deal of danger?

Jili: That's her and Li Liang's own doing if it comes to that. They couldn't distinguish wheat from chaff. [Yiren pokes Jili in the ribs with her elbow in warning]

Mulan: You can't say that, though. We still have to find some way to solve this problem. I have it. [She starts whispering in Xiangzi's ear, who nods, then starts whispering in Jili's ear. He nods, then starts whispering in Yiren's ear. Yiren then whispers in Mulan's ear] Is everyone clear now? Good. [She puts her hand palm face down over the table. Xiangzi puts his hand over hers, Jili puts his over Xiangzi's, and Yiren puts her hand over Jili's. The four chant in unison like a football team before starting a game]

[Cut to Generals' Residence. Mulan, Yiren, Xiangzi, and Jili are dressed as servants in dark gray outfits and headscarves. Mulan peers around a corner and the others follow, making sure the coast is clear. Jili stumbles over his feet and the others help him up. A lead servant spots them. All four lower their heads, with Xiangzi trying to hide his eyes with his fingers in a sideways V-pattern]

Lead Servant: What are you four doing here? Hurry up and go help prepare the vegetables. [He turns and walks away down the hall. Yiren bows at him while Jili mutters]

Jili: Yes. A washing we will go. [They walk towards the kitchen when a group of four servants runs into them and shoves them aside before continuing on their way. Jili is annoyed with their rudeness] They didn't even apologize for bumping into us! [He tries to catch up to them to complain but Mulan puts a restraining arm in front of him]

Mulan: Calm down.

Jili: We may be in difficult times now, but we don't need to grovel before such people as that! [He tries to follow them but Mulan again restrains him]

Mulan [shortly]: What do you know? I'm sure those people's martial arts are in no way inferior to ours.

Xiangzi: Really? Then what are we going to do? [Mulan impatiently pulls Xiangzi's hands away from his eyes]

Mulan: It seems this Zhuang Xiaoqian has a lot of people behind her.

Yiren: But can we take on so many people?

Mulan: We have to find that out. You stay here. I'm going to take a better look. [Jili pats her shoulder]

Jili: Be careful. [Mulan nods grimly, then leaves]

[Cut to scene in sitting room somewhere in the Generals' Residence. Xiaoqian has just handed Li Liang a bowl of broth to drink. He drinks it all down in one gulp, then smacks his lips happily when he finishes. Xiaoqian takes a handkerchief and dabs the corners of his mouth afterwards]

Li Liang's mother [walking in]: Li Liang? [Spots him] Li Liang. How come you haven't changed your clothes yet? It's almost time for the ceremony.

Li Liang [teases Xiaoqian]: You see how my mother is even more anxious than we are?

Li Liang's mother: I'm not the only one. Look at Xiaoqian. She hasn't even gone through the ceremony and already she's acting like a doting wife. So how was the soup?

Xiaoqian [smiling]: Elder Mistress, don't tease me.

Li Liang's mother: Okay, okay, I won't laugh at you anymore. Hurry and get changed. The guests are about to arrive. Xiaoqian, come with me. [She waves to Xiaoqian and walks out of the room with her]

[Cut to front door of the Generals' Residence. The outside is gaily decorated with red bunting. A servant opens the front door and a steady stream of guests, all bearing wedding presents of varying sizes, starts to arrive. Meanwhile, another servant is giving the kitchen crew instructions]

Servant: Hurry up. The guests are here. Bring out the tea. Hurry. [We then see someone opening the pot of boiling water and adding some type of powder from a folded piece of paper]

[The next scene shows the boiling water getting poured into tea pots and the tea distributed to the guests. The guests all drink their cups, toasting each other and emptying cup after cup. There are numerous generals and other high government officials in attendance]

[Cut to scene of Li Liang entering the main ceremony room. He is dressed in a bright red wedding outfit. Seeing some of his guests, the greets them]

A General: Congratulations!

Li Liang: Thank you.

Official: Marshal, congratulations!

Li Liang: Thank you. [He then turns and heads towards the Chairman] Chairman.

Chairman: Marshal, congratulations.

Li Liang: Thank you.

Chairman: Have a seat. [They both sit at a table together as numerous guests mill around] Oh, the Second Prince is here. [They both stand up again and go to greet the Second Prince, who has arrived with his trusted eunuch. The eunuch is carrying a bundle of wedding presents wrapped with red ribbon]

Li Liang and Chairman [saluting]: Your Highness.

Second Prince: Marshal Li, congratulations. This is truly an event to celebrate, with you taking a concubine.

Li Liang: I humbly apologize to Your Highness for welcoming you earlier. Please forgive me.

Second Prince [waves it away]: That's quite alright. Marshal Li, you have served our country well for so long. I have only the greatest admiration and respect for you. We don't need to be so formal. [Turns to eunuch] Give him the presents.

Eunuch [bows]: General Li, these are for you.

Li Liang [bows]: Thank you, Your Highness. [He accepts the presents and hands them to a servant to put away] Your Highness, this way please. [They both sit down at a table, where a maid comes around with a tray of tea cups. The Second Prince picks up one and Li Liang picks up another. They toast and drink the tea]

Li Liang's mother [calling]: Li Liang? Li Liang! [Runs over and notices the Second Prince, then curtsies] Your Highness

Second Prince: Mistress Li. [Li Liang stands up]

Li Liang's mother: Li Liang, the time is here. It's time for the ceremony.

Li Liang: Oh. Your Highness, after you.

Second Prince: Very well. [The party heads to the other room for the ceremony]

[The next scene has Li Liang and Xiaoqian each holding one end of a large red ribbon. The crowd is cheering as they enter the room together. The Second Prince is following behind Li Liang. The couple approaches the altar and bow before the altar. Mulan is at the back of the room trying to get a better view of the ceremony. She squeezes her way past other guests and gets a clear view of Li Liang finishing the ceremony with Xiaoqian. Everyone starts clapping at the end, with Li Liang's mother beaming in pleasure]

[Suddenly, we hear several darts or knives start flying through the air. Mulan alertly jumps towards Li Liang and Xiaoqian and kicks a table to block the oncoming knives. Xiaoqian reveals a small dagger she hid in her clothing and grabs Li Liang. She puts the knife against his neck]

Li Liang [surprised]: Xiaoqian? What are you doing?

Xiaoqian: Li Liang! Prepare to die!

Mulan: Brother Liang! Watch out!

Xiaoqian [sneers]: Watching out will do him no good. He had already drunk my bone-dissolving potion. He is a cripple now! Hua Mulan, watch your husband's death throes!

[Li Liang breaks free from Xiaoqian and kicks her aside. He stands by Mulan's side. Xiaoqian is shocked at what just happened]

Xiaoqian [bewildered]: But you drank my bone-dissolving potion. How come you haven't suffered the effects?

Li Liang [sniffs]: If you can drink a soup, you can also spit it out. Uncle Tang, show these Tujue just what the Flying Tiger Troop can do!

Second Prince [blankly]: Tujue?

Tang Jing: Flying Tiger Troop, attack!

Soldiers: Yes, sir! [They array themselves around Xiaoqian, Li Liang, and Mulan]

Xiaoqian: Li Liang, you dare resist me?

Li Liang: A soldier is not beneath using deception. It's a trick Mulan taught me.

Mulan [smiles]: Brother Liang.

Li Liang: Mulan, I'm sorry to make you suffer like that. For the sake of deceiving her, I had to deceive you, too.

Mulan: That's okay. We'll show them today our power.

Xiaoqian [smug]: It doesn't matter how powerful you two are. All the people here today are going to die!

Li Liang: Stop making things up.

Xiaoqian [laughs]: I'm making this up? Do you know how all your generals died not too long ago? They died because they had eaten our Tujue specialty pills: Shattered Heart in Five Steps. In the time it takes a stick of incense to burn (about twenty minutes?), all of you will be on the ground! [Li Liang's mother looks scared and upset at what is happening before her eyes]

Li Liang's mother [whimpering]: You're so vicious! Son, you have to save your mother!

Yiren [pushes her way to the front, along with Jili and Xiangzi]: Aunt, don't worry. She may have poisons, but we can still swap out the poisoned goods for unadulterated goods. Everyone, you can rest assured. What you just drank was top grade pure tea!

[A huge sigh from the guests is heard. Li Liang's mother also breathes a sigh of relief]

Li Liang's mother: Oh. That's good.

Jili: Zhuang Xiaoqian, I'm going to see to it that you are carried out of here!

[Suddenly, the doors fly open and numerous soldiers come pouring in. They attack Xiaoqian, who manages to fight them off. Mulan and Li Liang then jump in the fray. The three fight on as the guests watch. The Second Prince quietly leaves the room. When his eunuch looks around for him, he can't find him]

Eunuch: Your Highness? Where did he go?

[Mulan, Xiaoqian, and Li Liang continue to fight. Neither side is gaining an advantage. More soldiers pour in the door and start attacking Xiaoqian's henchmen. One by one, her henchman fall under the flashing swords of the soldiers. One dies spouting blood from his mouth and lands at Li Liang's mother's feet. She shrieks in dismay. Seeing an opening, Xiaoqian throws out some white powder into the air. Mulan and Li Liang vainly try to wave it away to see where Xiaoqian is]

Xiangzi: Be careful! It's poisonous. [He leads the guests back away from the cloud. Seizing her opportunity, Xiaoqian runs out the door as Mulan and Li Liang wait for the cloud to disperse]

Mulan: After her! [She runs after her with Li Liang close behind]

[Xiaoqian bounds and flies through the air (please suspend your disbelief in the next few scenes) and Mulan follows suit. Mulan finally manages to catch up with her]

Mulan: You can't escape. Give yourself up.

Xiaoqian: Bullshit! What, honorable war hero? Underneath all those scarves, the only reason you rise so high is because you Chinese women are all so pathetic. The Tujue have plenty of women whose martial arts surpass yours a hundred times over.

Mulan: Is that true? However, we Chinese have our strengths in fair play and honor, and are willing to die for it. We would never be like you, resorting to deception to achieve our goals. What's even more laughable is that you thought you could seduce Li Liang. It turns out he was only leading you on. To be a woman and stoop to such levels, what can she do but die?

Xiaoqian: I want to see just which of us is going to die.

[Li Liang comes flying into the scene, still dressed in his wedding outfit]

Li Liang: Mulan, such rough and tumble chores should of course be delegated to the husband to do.

Xiaoqian: Stop acting the gallant knight before your wife. Are you saying that I didn't manage to touch your heart even slightly?

Li Liang: Even women, let alone men, will be touched if someone is willing to live and die for them. True. I admit that I once felt something for you, but that was only gratitude for your esteem. There was nothing else.

Xiaoqian [flustered]: You lie! I must have been careless in my deception. You care for me!

Mulan [snidely]: Oh, I see now. You Tujue seem to have another type of art you are skilled in, something that I think we Chinese will never figure out how to learn no matter what. It's called "relying on crooked and slick spies." Since you insist with such fervor, then Brother Liang, please give her a sign, so she can give up this dream and die with some peace.

Li Liang: Fine.

Xiaoqian: Well, we'll see who takes the first step! [She lunges at Li Liang and they start sparring back and forth. Mulan is tempted to join, but from the corner of her eye she spots the Second Prince watching from around a corner. He spots Mulan and tries to leave quickly. She follows him while Li Liang and Xiaoqian continue fighting. Xiaoqian uses the white powder again to escape from Li Liang]

[Cut to alley. The Second Prince is hurrying away. Mulan appears suddenly and blocks his path]

Mulan: What's the hurry?

Second Prince: This is a game of international politics. You'd best stay out of it. [Mulan looks puzzled but doesn't do anything else]

[Cut to a cave. Xiaoqian and Li Liang are inside. He is sitting on a rock while Xiaoqian is standing]

Xiaoqian: I'm sure never in your wildest dreams did you think that your Second Prince, Yangguang, would be the one to help me get away. [Smiles wickedly] Oh. I almost forgot. You have words to say but you can't speak. [It appears Li Liang is paralyzed with some poison that Xiaoqian used on him] I was going to let you share some of the credit of this plot. [She hits some pressure points on him]

Li Liang: Yangguang really did have a conspiracy with you.

Xiaoqian: That's right. However, in his eyes, I was but a simple girl fallen on hard times, one that just wants to earn some fast gold.

Li Liang: In that case, Yangguang sent you to undermine the Crown Prince.

Xiaoqian: I used him to get closer to you two and get deep military secrets that way. I originally thought I could slaughter all your generals at once. I never imagined that you would ruin my plans. Tell me, what aroused your suspicions?

Li Liang [sneers]: You lost to a basin of water.

Xiaoqian [sharply]: What basin of water?

Li Liang: When the Crown Prince first proposed to you, you tried to hang yourself instead. At the time, I was quite moved by your actions. However, as I was washing my face one day, I saw my reflection in the water. I posed a question to myself. Although I was pretty good looking, the Crown Prince is also quite comely and will become emperor one day. Yet, you weren't moved at all. That was too suspicious. You forget that we Chinese have a saying: "a gifted person knows he is gifted." Besides, I understand the Crown Prince very well. He might be a playboy, but he is certainly never cruel and vicious. If you had told him that you had another love, he would never have proposed to you. In fact, he would have done everything in his power to help you. Don't you think you were worthy of suspicion?

Xiaoqian: I didn't know that although you are a warrior, you also have a careful and deliberate mind. It doesn't matter how you found out. The fate of the lands of the Sui Empire will not change because of your discovery. Soon, the Tujue army will take the shortcut through your defenses and annex the empire. When that happens, I will first annex your martial arts, then ship your body back to the Tujue Empire. There are countless numbers of Tujue who wish to eat your flesh and flay your hide.

Li Liang: Oh? The shortcut you mentioned earlier, do you have that because you stole one of the army's maps? It's really a pity. That agent called Black Eagle, well, I killed him already. I also destroyed the map he carried.

Xiaoqian [irritated]: I was originally going to let you enjoy a few more days of your miserable life, but now? [Li Liang moves his hand slightly and Xiaoqian immediately hits a few more pressure points to paralyze him again] Do you think I would be so stupid as to give you enough time to break free of the obstructions I've placed on your qi? I'm going to kill you today!

[A knife flashes in the air and buries itself in Xiaoqian's left shoulder. She turns around to see her attacker. Mulan has appeared]

Mulan: What's the matter? From love comes hate? You want to kill my husband? It's not that easy! Brother Liang, are you alright?

Li Liang: I'm fine.

[The two women start fighting each other in hand-to-hand combat. Both lands blows against the other, but Xiaoqian manages to land a hard blow that sends Mulan flying against the cave wall. She slumps to the ground. Meanwhile, Li Liang has focused his qi until he manages to break free of the obstructions Xiaoqian placed on him. He jumps to his feet and attacks Xiaoqian. Xiaoqian tries to lunge with a dagger but he catches the blade between his fingers, stopping her momentum. He then breaks the blade with a twist of his wrist. Xiaoqian gasps in dismay and fear when she sees this. Li Liang then lands several blows against her chest and finally sends Xiaoqian flying through the air against the wall of the cave. She falls to the ground with blood flowing from her mouth and dies. Li Liang runs over to the fallen Mulan. He helps her sit up]

Li Liang: Mulan? Mulan? [Mulan is dazedly looking at Li Liang, then passes out. Panic starts to enter Li Liang's voice] Mulan! Mulan!

[Cut to Generals' Residence. Mulan is lying on a bed unconscious while the doctor checks her pulse. He shakes his head and gets to his feet. The room is filled with doctors, servants, and the rest of the family]

Li Liang's mother [anxiously]: Doctor, how is she? [Li Liang watches Mulan sorrowfully] Doctor, you've discussed her case with the other doctors. How does it look? How are you going to heal my daughter-in-law? [Li Liang sits down next to Mulan's bed and takes her hand in his] The Emperor has already said to use whatever medicines are required and not to worry about the cost. The palace has whatever you need.

Doctor: I'm sorry, but she was injured when someone's fist damaged numerous meridian lines. [Li Liang continues to watch over Mulan as he listens intently to the doctor's explanation] We really can do nothing for her.

Mulan's mother: What's that supposed to mean? You say sorry and then you throw your hands up and give up on my daughter's life? Do you know that the reason she was beaten into this condition was because she wanted to save her husband? She can't just die like this!

Doctor: Elder Mistress Hua, we understand General Hua's greatness. However, this isn't something that we can cure with a simple prescription. Even if you were to shorten our lives, we would still have nothing we could offer her.

Mulan's mother [shakes head tearfully]: No! You're lying to me! She won't die like this! [She turns to Jili and grabs his arm] Jili? Jili! Hurry up and get another specialist here!

Jili [gently]: These are the best doctors available. We've fetched all the ones we could find.

Mulan's mother [kneels]: Doctor! I beg you, save Mulan!

Li Liang's mother [also drops to her knees]: Doctor, look at us! We beg you, prescribe something! [The doctors gently help Li Liang's mother to her feet, while Yiren and Jili help Mulan's mother stand up]

Li Liang [quietly]: Mother? Don't give them a hard time. They've already tried their best.

Li Liang's mother: Li Liang.

Li Liang: I'd like to say a few words to Mulan. Everyone, please leave.

Xiangzi: Um. Doctors? Please come with me. [He escorts the doctors out of the room. Jili and Yiren herd the wailing Li Liang's mother and Mulan's mother out, too. Li Liang continues to hold Mulan's hand]

Li Liang [starts to cry]: Mulan. I know the thing you worried about most was that I would forsake you for someone newer and fresher. But I can tell you that I never once did that. Before, when someone told me she liked me, I was flattered and thought highly of myself. But if anyone in the future throws herself at me, I will ignore her. You can't die. You promised me that we would grow old together. If you die, then I won't stay alive much longer. Mulan. [Sniffs] I beg you, Mulan. Wake up, Mulan. Did you forget about the time we captured that kidnapper together? The time we walked together along the riverbanks? [He starts to breakdown]

[Meanwhile, right outside the door, Li Liang's mother and Mulan's mother are waiting and listening for Li Liang. Li Liang's mother has been eavesdropping on her son. She looks touched at his words and turns sorrowfully to Mulan's mother, who is also crying]

Li Liang's mother: in-law, it's all my fault. Ever since Mulan joined our family I haven't treated her well even once. I even thought Zhuang Xiaoqian was a good person. You see, I brought this upon her. It's all my fault! Hit me! [She takes Mulan's mother's hand and starts hitting herself with it] Hit me!

Mulan's mother [protesting]: in-law, stop doing that to yourself. Compared to you, I am no prize, either. Ever since Mulan was born, I've thrown bones and sops in her direction. [Jili looks like he is about to cry, too] I finally realized her good traits recently and started to care for her. And now? [She can't finish her words and starts to cry in earnest]

Li Liang's mother: I let down Mulan. I let down Mulan.

Yiren: Aunt, please stop doing that to yourselves.

[Jili gets a resolute look on his face and walks out the door. Xiangzi and Yiren are surprised to see him leave]

Yiren: Liu Xiangzi, please look after them. I'm going to see how Jili is doing. [She hurries down the hallway after Jili, leaving the two women crying in each other's arms]

[Cut to kitchen. Jili is there alone when he picks up a large cleaver. He puts it against his neck and closes his eyes, then puts it down before putting the cleaver against the other side of his neck. Yiren comes rushing in]

Yiren [livid]: Are you crazy? What the heck do you think you're doing? [She hits Jili's back and he is so shocked he lowers the cleaver, then checks his neck for signs of blood]

Jili: I'm trying to save Mulan. Don't stop me, okay? But, you have to help me pick a knife that is sharpest and most effective so it won't hurt so much when I die. I want something a little more comfortable.

Yiren [aghast]: What? I won't do it! What are you talking about?

Jili: I'm going up to the celestial realms to beg an extension on Mulan's life. However, I don't have any magic to get me up there anymore. The most direct, fast, clean-cut, and hygienic way is to die. Now, we have two ways of doing this. One is for you to hug my body, because I'm afraid that when I die it will hurt so much I will spasm uncontrollably. The other method is I'll hold my own head and you do the deed for me. [Yiren shakes her head tearfully] But, if I bleed a lot and don't die, you have to help me stop the bleeding.

Yiren: I don't like either method! I don't want you to die!

Jili: If I don't die, Mulan will die. If I die, only you will grieve. If Mulan dies, the whole nation will grieve and be sad. You have to help me. Hurry, or else Mulan will die. You can't save her and can't help her.

Yiren: I won't! I don't want you to die! [She grabs the cleaver and tries to wrestle it away from him]

Jili: I can't do that. We can't for the sake of our own selfish romantic interests walk away from this.

Yiren: I don't want it!

Jili: We can't be that selfish. We can't.

Yiren [calms down]: Okay. We mustn't be selfish. Then kill me first! [She tries to get him to cut her neck with cleaver but Jili refuses]

Jili: No!

Yiren: Kill me first!

Jili: If you die I'll be sad and feel badly. I refuse!

Yiren: If you die I won't feel bad, because I won't want to live anyway. Jili, we mustn't die. You mustn't die. Cousin-In-Law mustn't die. Hurry up and think of a solution. Don't just stand there!

Jili: What plan? Or how about you boil up a pot of water and scald me to death. [Yiren shakes her head] Or how about you burn me at the stake?

Yiren: You crazy fool! Put some effort into it. Use your noggin! If the effort isn't there the doors won't open.

Jili: But I only can think of that one solution. [Suddenly gets an idea] If the effort isn't there the doors won't open. That's it. That's it! [He hurriedly leaves the kitchen] Li Liang!

Yiren [takes a while to notice he has left]: Jili!

[Cut to courtyard in the Generals' Residence. Mulan has been laid on a large platform with a pillow under her head. She is still unconscious. Li Liang and Jili are genuflecting over and over before her bed. Yiren is anxiously watching]

Yiren: Jili, you've been genuflecting most of the day away. [She looks up at the sky] There isn't a breath of wind in response. Will this even work?

Jili [doesn't pause]: If the effort isn't there the doors won't open. You're the one that told me to do it this way. Stop bothering me. [He continues to genuflect over and over]

Yiren [walks over to Li Liang's side]: Cousin. Cousin, Jili is a nut. Don't follow his nutty lead. [Li Liang continues to genuflect nonstop. His forehead is bleeding from the hard floor] Look at yourself. Your forehead is bruised and bleeding already.

Li Liang [distantly]: This is the only thing I can do for Mulan now. Do you understand? [He continues]

[Xiangzi walks in from the hallway]

Xiangzi: Things aren't looking good. The two elderly ladies (Mulan's mother and Li Liang's mother) are wailing and moaning again. What should we do?

Yiren: Oh. Well, then we have to go see how they're doing. [She hurries off with Xiangzi down the hall, leaving Jili and Li Liang alone with Mulan. They continue to genuflect and soon, a shimmery light appears. One of the goddesses from the heavens materializes next to Jili and taps him on the shoulder]

Jili [shortly]: Don't bother me. If I stop, I won't move the gods above. [He continues to genuflect, then finally realizes who tapped him on his shoulder] Sister Goddess! [Turns to Li Liang and grabs his arm] Li Liang, you can stop genuflecting now. We've succeeded. We've been saved.

Li Liang [gets to his feet]: Oh? [Hurries over to the goddess] Sister Goddess! Sister Goddess! [Drags her over to Mulan's bedside] I beg you, please save my wife Mulan. I beg you!

Goddess: Empress Wangmu was touched with your devotion. She sent me to take all of you up to the celestial realms. Come with me. [She waves her arms and the souls of all three of them accompany her back up to the celestial realms. Their physical shells remain on earth and appear frozen in place]

[Meanwhile, Yiren is escorting Li Liang's mother down the hall]

Yiren: Aunt, Jili and Cousin are in the middle of begging the gods for a boon on Cousin-In-Law's behalf. I'm sure the gods will be moved and will allow her to recover quickly. [They walk together into the courtyard. Mulan's mother and Xiangzi are following close behind. They stop in their tracks when they notice Li Liang and Jili frozen in mid-action]

Xiangzi: What's the matter with them?

[Mulan's mother runs over to Mulan and first checks her pulse, then if she is breathing]

Mulan's mother [panicking]: Mulan has no breath! Mulan! Mulan! [Shakes Mulan]

Li Liang's mother [panicking]: Li Liang? [Checks Li Liang for signs of breathing]

Mulan's mother: Mulan! Mulan!

Li Liang's mother: Li Liang has no breath either! [Yiren check on Jili]

Mulan's mother: Mulan! Mulan!

Li Liang's mother: Li Liang!

Yiren: Jili, what happened to you? [Shakes him]

Mulan's mother [continues to moan]: Mulan!

Li Liang's mother: Li Liang!

[They continue to shake the three of them but they get no response]

[Cut to the celestial realms. Numerous gods and goddesses are arrayed before the Jade Emperor's and Empress Wangmu's thrones]

Empress Wangmu [waves her arm]: Materialize their bodies.

[Mulan, Li Liang, and Jili all materialize out of the ether before the throne. They dazedly look around to figure out where they are]

Jili [drops to his knees]: Greetings to Your Majesties! [Mulan and Li Liang follow suit]

Jade Emperor [sternly]: How dare you! Hua Mulan, Li Liang, Su Jili, although you are mortals you used whatever hook or crook you could to persuade Empress Wangmu to allow your souls to enter the celestial realm. Do you realize your crime?

Jili: Your humble servant knows.

Jade Emperor: Silence! You have long since been banished to the mortal realms. You do not have the right to call yourself my servant. You are utterly shameless.

Empress Wangmu [protesting]: Jade Emperor, since they are here now, why make a fuss over the past? Hua Mulan, since your soul was brought here, do you feel any sense of déjà vu?

Mulan: Your Majesty, I do get the feeling that I've been here before.

Empress Wangmu: Mulan, all the difficulties and trials of your life to date originated here, so it's only fair that they end here.

Jili: Your Majesty, please have mercy. Although Hua Mulan in her past and present life is very stubborn, His Majesty has already punished her by making her a woman. He also subjected her to a distant and uncaring mother who always abused and picked on her. That she was able to gain the love and adoration of so many is entirely due to her hard work and labor. I hope Your Majesties will have mercy on her and let her return to her life.

Jade Emperor [sneers]: Humph! Her lifeline has long since been set in stone. Do you think we can change that just because you asked for it?

Li Liang: Your Majesty, although I don't know what sins Mulan committed in her previous life, but in this life she has sacrificed a lot of blood, sweat, and tears for the sake of the Sui Empire. Besides, she is still quite young. She shouldn't die at such a young age. Your Majesty, please have mercy.

Jade Emperor [sniffs]: Old Man of the Sky, bring forth the life and death scrolls.

Old Man: Yes, Your Majesty. [He climbs the steps that lead to the throne and hands the silver booklet to the Jade Emperor]

Jade Emperor [reads aloud]: Hua Mulan, originally destined to be born a man because of her previous lifetime's good works, also to become a high official, with numerous children and grandchildren, prosperous and long-lived. Death at age 86. Unfortunately, while in the celestial realms, mouthed off to the Jade Emperor, and chose to live a life as a woman instead. Your life and death scroll has already been changed to set a life of adversity. You have laurels you cannot enjoy. You have prosperity but you will not live long to enjoy it. Death at age 23. Not survived by any children. [Smiles wickedly] Hua Mulan, now you know that your death was predetermined.

Mulan [angry]: Predetermined? [Stands up] Hey, this is all based on whatever you darn well want to happen and what makes you happy! [Jili and Li Liang also stand up, with the former trying to persuade Mulan to keep her mouth shut. She angrily shakes him off] I'm not going to accept that!

Jade Emperor [irritated]: Just can't seem to break that habit, eh? Celestial Guards! Kick them out! Charon, immediately prepare to ferry Mulan's soul!

Li Liang: Your Majesty, please grant mercy!

Mulan [sarcastically]: Brother Liang, don't bother begging him! All this "the gods above have eyes and see both good and evil deeds and will reward you at the end" is just stuff made up to con people. [She shakes off Jili's restraining hand again] If you want prosperity and wealth one only needs to bribe and brown-nose you. What "your previous life will determine your next life?" It turns out you just can't stand to hear a word said against you!

Jade Emperor [furious]: How dare you! I punished you once and you still have the nerve to act disrespectfully here!

Mulan [doesn't bat an eye]: And what of it? In your eyes, my life is filled with trials and tribulation. However, with my own two hands and plenty of determination, I managed to accomplish great things for my country and help my people. I also won the respect of many people, won in Su Jili a friendship that can't be severed, and also won a love with Li Liang that will never be forsaken or forgotten. Even if you want to kill me immediately, I still stand here and yell to the world that I lived this life very happily! [Jili pats her on the back and Li Liang looks at her approvingly]

Li Liang: Mulan.

Jade Emperor [livid]: Fine. Since you obviously stated that you have no regrets whatsoever, then you can die right now! Guards!

Li Liang [holds up hand]: Hold on!

Jade Emperor [barks]: Still trying to ask for mercy?

Li Liang: I want to make a wish.

Empress Wangmu: What request do you have? Speak freely.

Li Liang [looks to Mulan]: Since Mulan must die, I do not want to live alone the rest of my life. I beg Your Majesties to allow us to remain eternally husband and wife.

Jili [grabs Li Liang]: Be careful what you're saying. Do you realize what you just said?

Li Liang [shakes him off and talks sternly]: What is there to be afraid of? As long as I can stay with Mulan, I'm willing to do anything.

Jade Emperor: Fine. Since you also seem to be a fool who doesn't know any better, I'll grant you your wish!

[The other immortals standing around all kneel next to Mulan, Jili, and Li Liang]

Immortals: Your Majesty, please have mercy! [Jili drags Mulan and Li Liang back to their knees]

Jade Emperor [sputtering in fury]: You! What are you!

Empress Wangmu [quietly]: Jade Emperor, is it that you won't be content until the entire celestial realm sings a chorus of bitterness?

Jade Emperor [mutters]: But if I take back my order, that would undermine my infallibility.

Empress Wangmu: That's easily fixed. [She whispers in his ear. As he listens, his frown fades away and a quiet chuckle bubbles to his lips]

Jade Emperor: Well, seems to me you have all the tricks.

Empress Wangmu: That's why you should never underestimate women. Aren't you going to do it?

Jade Emperor [still chuckling]: All Immortals, rise.

Immortals: Your Majesty, if you do not take back your command, we refuse to get up.

Jade Emperor [laughs]: I was only testing the depth of love and devotion Hua Mulan and Li Liang share. Didn't you know that?

Immortals: Your Majesty, you are truly shrewd. [They rise to their feet. Jili nudges Mulan and the three of them rise also]

Jili: Thank you, Your Majesty. Thank you.

Jade Emperor: Hua Mulan, prepare to receive your orders.

Mulan [kneels]: Yes, Your Majesty.

Jade Emperor: Hua Mulan, although you have a sharp tongue, you never wavered in your convictions. You also dedicated yourself to  protecting your people from war and that is something truly worthwhile. I am restoring your life to that of a man, with your long life and high post. You will live to 86 after a long a fruitful life.

Mulan [blanching]: You want me to become a man again? [Gets to her feet] Then what are Brother Liang and I going to do?

Jade Emperor: You two weren't supposed to become husband and wife in the first place. Just pretend this romance was all a pipe dream, hmm?

Empress Wangmu [rolls her eyes]: Jade Emperor.

Jade Emperor [shortly]: Don't butt in.

Li Liang: Your Majesty, if you insist on turning Mulan into a man, then I am willing to become a woman so I can be with her for all time.

Mulan [protesting]: Brother Liang, don't do it.

Li Liang: As long as I can be with you, I don't care about anything else.

Jade Emperor [slyly]: Li Liang, being a woman entails enduring the pain of childbirth. You better not regret it later.

Li Liang: When Mulan was my wife on earth, she wasn't afraid, so why should I be afraid?

Jade Emperor: Fine. Switch their sexes and send them back to the mortal realms!

Empress Wangmu [protesting]: Jade Emperor! [The Jade Emperor holds up a hand to stop her words]

Jade Emperor: Take them away!

[Celestial Guards take away Mulan and Li Liang]

Jili: Your Majesty! [He tries to follow Mulan and Li Liang but the Jade Emperor stops him]

Jade Emperor [barks]: Su Jili! Hold it right there!

Jili [fidgets]: Your Majesty, what command do you have for me?

Jade Emperor: You have always been rather clumsy, especially when you were sent last time to assist Hua Mulan, in strict defiance of my orders. I originally sent you to the mortal realms permanently with no hope of ever returning to the celestial realms. However, since living in the mortal realms, you have done much good in the world. I wish to reinstate you as an immortal and also give you a promotion. You don't need to serve as a kitchen god anymore. You can serve as Gatekeeper for the South Gate. Starting now.

Jili [holds up hand]: Oh wait a minute, Your Majesty. Actually, I didn't do quite as much good in the mortal realms as you seem to believe. Um. I gambled a lot. And I also lost a lot money. Um. And I owe a lot of people back there, so I have to return to pay them back. And I also caroused around town with lots of mistresses. There's one waiting for me now. And I also frequently yelled and criticized the gods above when I was down there, saying they were too blind to pay attention to what was happening on earth. [The Jade Emperor looks shocked and starts to get angry] Now isn't that the same as criticizing you directly? So what are you going to do about it?

Jade Emperor [furious]: Su Jili! You have the nerve! Do you realize your crime?

Jili: Of course I do. I hope you punish me. Send me down to the mortal realms, never, ever to return here.

Jade Emperor [livid]: Preposterous! Take him away!

Jili [ecstatic]: Thank you, Your Majesty! [Turns to guards] Hurry and take me away. [Turns to Jade Emperor] Thank you, Your Majesty! [The guards drag Jili away] Thank you, Your Majesty!

[Cut to scene in Generals' Residence. Mulan's and Li Liang's bodies are both lying on a bed side by side. Mulan is dressed as a male soldier while Li Liang is wearing a woman's attire, complete with a wig (I assume) and makeup. They twitch in their sleep and slowly wake up. Mulan awakens first, opens her eyes, sits up, and screams]

Li Liang [sitting up]: What's the matter? Mulan, you really are a man now?

Mulan [turns and jerks when she sees Li Liang]: The Jade Emperor wasn't joking. You really are a woman now. [Li Liang looks at his clothing, then jumps out of bed and runs to the mirror. He sits down before it and shrieks at the sight. Mulan stands beside him and grimaces also]

Li Liang [shyly]: Mulan. Am I pretty?

Mulan [smiles weakly]: You'll pass.

Li Liang: Then, will you forsake me because I'm ugly and then look for someone else? [Nudges Mulan's arm]

Mulan: Don't worry. The only reason you are in your condition is for my sake. How could I abandon you?

Li Liang: Really?

Mulan [raises her hand to swear and orates grandly]: Really. If I, Hua Mulan, ever acts unfaithfully to my wife, then may the skies spit lightning and thunder and...

Li Liang [interrupts her with his hand]: I forbid you to speak such nonsense.

Mulan: Rest assured. I'm just not used to the sight, that's all. Once I'm used to it, it won't seem so strange.

Li Liang [sweetly]: Really?

Mulan [through gritted teeth]: Really.

Li Liang [nudges her]: Really?

Mulan [smiles weakly]: Really.

Li Liang [nudges her again]: Really?

Mulan [barks]: I already told you it's true!

[Li Liang's mother and Mulan's mother come hurrying into the room]

Mulan's mother: They're awake!

Li Liang's mother: They're awake now!

Mulan's mother: in-law, I told you this would be effective!

Li Liang's mother: Yes, it is quite effective!

Mulan's mother and Li Liang's mother [praying]: Thank you, gods and heavens. Thank you Buddha. [Mulan watches with a puzzled smile on her face]

Mulan's mother: Mulan, you scared me half to death.

Mulan [grins]: Mother, you finally got what you wished for. [Thumps herself on the chest] I am now a man.

Mulan's mother [slaps her lightly]: Stop dreaming. You two were able to awaken because you have a shrewd and cunning mother. I remembered that when I was little, I heard the villagers talking about if you ever find someone in your predicament, to turn the man into a woman and the woman into a man. This will confuse the evil spirits out to get your souls and they won't be able to take them. Just now, Li Liang's mother found a priest of the Tao to work his magic to bring you two back.

Li Liang's mother [excitedly]: Wasn't Mulan's mother so smart?

Mulan [stammers]: Then he? I? [The two mothers giggle uncontrollably. Mulan joins in when she sees Li Liang face as it finally dawns on him what happened]

Li Liang: Oh. So it was you two that did this to me. You're lucky you didn't scare Mulan and I to death.

Mulan: Actually, it's a good thing they struck gold by accident like this. Otherwise, if you really had turned into a woman.[She doesn't finish her sentence as Li Liang's mother and Mulan's mother burst into loud laughter. Mulan and Li Liang join in the laughter and laugh hard and long]

[Meanwhile, Yiren is sadly awaiting Jili's return. She hears the laughter of Mulan, Mulan's mother, Li Liang, and Li Liang's mother but she doesn't join in. She dazedly walks away and enters the empty kitchen. She spots the cleaver on the cutting board and picks it up, the checks its edge. She then fixes it into the cutting board with a thud]

Yiren: Not fast enough. [She picks up an even large cleaver and checks the edge. Satisfied, she nods grimly] Su Jili. You said you wouldn't return to the celestial realms. Cousin and Cousin-In-Law have returned yet you still haven't returned. Fine. I will now use the most direct, fast, clean-cut, and hygienic way to find you and collect this debt! [She takes the cleaver and leans it against her neck, but then puts it back on the chopping board. She tries again, but can't seem to do it]

[Suddenly, a loud crash sounds as an object falls through the ceiling and lands on the floor]

Jili [crawls to his feet and finally blurts]: Yiren. [She watches in amazement as Jili finally appears in the kitchen] Yiren, I've come home.

Yiren: Jili! [She steps back and maintains her distance] Have you come back to say good bye to me?

Jili: Yiren, I will never go back up there again. I will never say good bye to you again. We can be together from now on. We can be together.

Yiren [elated]: Jili! [She wraps him in a bear hug and whacks the side of the cleaver repeatedly on his back in her happiness] That's wonderful! Jili, that's wonderful!

Jili [grimacing]: Ow, that hurts! [Yiren finally realizes she is still holding the cleaver in her hand, then hastily casts it aside] Ow, that hurt. I'm really happy. We can be together again. [Yiren leans on Jili's shoulder happily] Thank you, Jade Emperor. Thank you.

[Cut to scene in a village somewhere. Li Liang, Mulan, Jili, and Yiren are busily chasing a flock of children around (presumably theirs). A man approaches them carrying a knapsack]

Man: May I ask where General Hua Mulan lives? [Li Liang and Jili stop to listen to his question, while Yiren and Mulan continue to play with the children. (Note: the next scene contains a ton of puns; each time the word "wood," "flower," "orchid," or "magnolia" is used, it is a pun on Mulan's name. All those terms can be created through rearranging some of the characters that make up her name)]

Li Liang: Hua Mulan? [The man nods] Now, I've seen many magnolias [mulan hua]. See, over there. [He points] There's a tree at the foot of the mountain there that is big and tall. It has lots of blossoms each year.

Mulan [joins in]: You're such a silly one. That's a cottonwood [mu mian hua] tree, not a magnolia.

Yiren [scoffs]: Neither a cottonwood nor a magnolia tree is that pretty. Our house has good orchids. [lan hua] If you want them, I'll sell them to you at a discount.

Man: You're mistaken. I am looking for the famous and illustrious General Hua Mulan. She once dressed as a man and joined the army in her father's place. I want to write a biography on her. However, ever since she resigned her commission no one knows where she went.

Mulan: A woman in a man's clothing? If that were true, how could she have escaped detection?

Li Liang: Exactly. Now, with rabbits, it's always difficult to tell the males from the females. However, we know the secret. [Turns to Mulan] Wife, tell him how to tell them apart.

Mulan [approaches man]: You see, a male rabbit and a female rabbit have very different feet. They also have different eyes. Only we know how to tell them apart easily. Um. What kind of flower did you say you were looking for?

Man [chagrined]: Hua Mulan.

Mulan [scoffs]: Nonsense. Nonsense. How could she have hidden in the army all those years and no one be the wiser? Now, young man, if you have free time, spend it reading books and planting flowers. Don't go around looking for a Hua Mulan or a magnolia. It's truly a waste of time.

Man [sighs]: Looks like Hua Mulan doesn't live in this village, either. [Bows] Thank you. [He turns to leave, then turns around again to ask Mulan one more question] Madam, you said earlier you knew how to tell a male from a female rabbit. How?

Mulan: Well, like this. A male rabbit will skip about, while the female rabbit has muddled eyes. But when you let them run together, side by side, you cannot tell which is he or she. 

Man: Oh. Thank you. [He turns and continues on his journey. Li Liang, Mulan, Yiren, and Jili resume playing and chasing the children. The final scene shows the last stanza of the Ballad of Mulan in the screen]

    The he-hare's feet go hop and skip,
    The she-hare's eyes are muddled and fuddled.
    Two hares running side by side close to the ground,
    How can they tell if I am he or she?