Chapter 1 : Four Months of Peace
A white blanket of snow was stretched over the entire plain. It was deathly silent as the troupe trudged along through the snow, careful not to make any loud noises. The consequence of being found was very high. The pass went through two mountains, both covered with heavy snow. Other than the marching soldiers, there was no one in sight.
Mulan kept her eyes and ears open. The Huns could be hiding anywhere. Shang was up front, leading their troupe, always on guard and waiting. Mulan kept her head up as the weight of her helmet pressed down. Beside her Ling made a rustling sound. She could see that he was nervous. She gave him a comforting smile, hoping to relax the scrawny man.
Suddenly there was a roar.
"Huns!" Shang shouted, drawing his sword and pointing to the eastern pass.
Mulan turned. She stared in horror as thousands of Huns rose out from the snow, thousands more ran down the mountain toward them. She turned automatically turned around to grab a cannon.
The carriage was gone. Mulan turned around frantically. She gripped the handle of her sword, but it wouldnít budge. Her fingers began to shake with panic, but still the sword was stuck in the scabbard.
"Shang!" Mulan shouted over the din of roaring Huns. "My sword! It wonít come out!" Where were the cannons? Ling was screaming like a girl, Chien Po was just staring at the descending Huns like a statue. "Fight, men! Fight!" No one did anything. They were all frozen in shock.
Mulan spun around, looking for Shang. She saw him standing at the lead of the group, his sword out and ready, facing the Huns, but he didnít give out an order. She ran up to him.
"Shang! Whatís wrong?" Mulan asked.
Shang didnít say anything. Then, slowly, he turned around. Mulan gasped. It wasnít Shang. Those eyes... those glowing eyes.
"Shan-Yu," Mulan muttered under her breath.
It was Shan-Yu, but with Shangís body. "Little girl," he whispered hoarsely. "Go back to your village, your father will be waiting for you, Such a pity he shall be waiting forever!" He then threw his head back and laughed.
Mulan finally managed to pull out her sword and pointed it straight to Shan-Yuís head as a challenge.
"Mulan? What are you doing?"
Mulan blinked in disbelief. It wasnít Shan-Yu anymore. It was Shang. Mulanís eyes softened and she lowered her sword.
"You lied to me!" Shang shouted, his gentle face suddenly turning twisted. "You tricked me into believing that you were a man! How could you? I gave you my trust and you betrayed it."
"Please, no, Shang!"
"You dishonour my friendship," Shang whispered. Then he grinned evilly, and turned back into Shan-Yu.
"You will die!" Shan-Yu told her. He raised his sword.
"No!" Mulan screamed.
Mulan woke up drenched in sweat. She looked around, slowly letting her nightmare fade away. The familiar surroundings of her room helped calm her beating heart.
What a strange dream, she thought as she pulled the blanket tightly around her. She had never been that afraid of Shan-Yu, even when he tried to kill her. Even the crisp memory of her times as Ping the soldier didnít have the horrific picture of Shan-Yu. She shrugged the thought away.
"Little Brother," she whispered.
A dog leapt faithfully onto her stomach, blowing the air out of her. Mulan laughed as she got up, pushing the ball of a dog onto her legs.
Little Brotherís tongue drooped out of his mouth. Mulan hugged her dog, and Little Brother obediently slobbered Mulanís ruffled hair with his saliva. Mulan groaned in disgust as she pulled Little Brother away and wiped the saliva out of her hair.
"Disgusting thing," Mulan chuckled, scratching Little Brother behind his ear.
She made sure to keep her voice low, knowing her father and mother were sleeping silently in the room nearby. It was still dark, Mulan estimated it to be about 3 in the morning. Her eyes were adjusted to the dark. Her soldier training was still as effective as ever, even though it had been nearly 4 months since her infamous infiltration of the Chinese army.
"Okay, Little Brother, get down," Mulan told her dog. Little Brother just sat there like a statue, still panting away. Mulan nudged the dog gently, but he still wouldnít budge. Finally Mulan pushed Little Brother of her legs. Little Brotherís tongue went back into his mouth as he stared at Mulan for a few seconds, then it came back out as he started to chase his tail.
Mulan stood up, brushing dog furs off her night-dress. She stretched her legs and arms, shaking the sleepiness from her eyes. She had never needed much sleep unlike her grandmother who loved having Ďbeauty sleepí as she called it. Quietly, Mulan opened the sliding door of her room and looked about. There was no one about, so she silently stepped outside into the sitting room. She tiptoed across the wooden floor and went out the porch door.
The morning breeze greeted her when she stepped out into the garden. Cold blades of grass greeted her bare feet but Mulan just ignored it. She took a deep breath and stretched her arms again. She jogged across the perfectly manicured grass toward the pond. She loved sitting by the pond when she wanted to think. Usually she would sit on the Fa Stone Dragon statue, but it was no longer there. Her father said that he was in the garden thinking after she had run away and saw that the statue lying in rubble. He thought it to be a sign that the Great Stone Dragon had gone off to rescue her.
Mulan smiled at the thought. Mushu... the Great Stone Dragon? She never actually said goodbye to the little guy. She wondered where he was.
It was dark, but Mulan knew exactly where she was going. She stood on the spot where the statue used to be, and then sat down. Sitting in a yoga position, she shut her eyes and let her mind relax as nature stirred awake around her.
Everything was so peaceful. Mulan felt her life to be just as peaceful as the garden around her. She was silently happy and pleased with her life. Her plans for the day were lined out. First she would go into the marketplace to help Grandmother do some shopping. Then her childhood friend Wa Mei Yin was coming to visit, and later Shang was bringing her to visit Fao, Ling and Chien-Po. How perfect. She felt as though nothing could go wrong.
Hundreds of miles away, far across the Great Wall of China, deep in Hun territory, a small band of Huns were grouped together, away from their city. These were the few remaining Hun soldiers from the attack on China, exiled because of their defeat. In the deep woods they lived in shame, their lives shattered because of their failure, and because they survived.
But they felt not only shame. They also felt hatred. Anger and hatred toward those who were responsible for their failure. They never knew who caused the avalanche that ruined their attack, and foiled their attack on the Emperor. But their hatred was focused upon the people involved.
The men sitting around the fire all had hatred burning in their hearts. Shan-Yu was a great and powerful leader, and without him an act of revenge would be impossible. But they knew something very interesting that would bring them an advantage.
Shan-Yu was alive.