Chapter 3 : Shang’s Visit
Mei Yin was having the time of her life flirting with the handsome Chinese army Captain Li Shang. Mulan just watched her friend in amusement, chuckling softly to herself whenever Shang tried to politely shun her off. Shang had a rest when he joined Fa Zhou and Wan Shan for lunch while the women had their lunch in the women’s sitting room. But once they were done, Shang, Mulan and Mei Yin joined up again in the gardens, with Mei Yin chatting away like there was no tomorrow.
Once in a while Grandmother Fa would appear on the porch and give Mulan looks, saying why-aren’t-you-protecting-what-is-yours? Mulan just grinned and tried to get into the conversation which seemed to include only one person : Mei Yin.
"And then father said, ‘Mei Yin, what are you wearing?’" Mei Yin told Shang, finishing off her story. Then she laughed as if it were the most hysterical thing in the world.
Shang looked over at Mulan and raised an eyebrow. Mulan shrugged. Mei Yin could be quite strange at times. Mei Yin was trying her best to make a good impression on Shang, but it all was backfiring. It was just impossible to be jealous of her.
"It’s been nice talking to you, Mei Yin," Shang said, standing up.
"Where are you going?" Mei Yin squealed.
Shang cleared his throat. "Uh… I have to…"
"Go to visit Chien Po, Yao and Ling," Mulan finished off, smiling broadly. "We had planned to do it just after lunch."
"Ahem, yes," Shang nodded vigorously. "Perhaps we should go… right now?"
Mulan bit her lip to stop her from laughing. Poor Mei Yin, she thought. Maybe she should have told her about the relationship between Shang and herself. But if she did it wouldn’t be so funny. Shang was just so darned polite.
"I’ll go tell Ama first," Mulan said and rushed off, leaving a horrified Shang to put up with the giggling Mei Yin alone.
"It’s not funny," Shang grumbled.
"Sure it is," Mulan laughed. "You should have seen the look on your face when I went off to tell my mother. You looked as if -"
"As if I had been left alone with Mei Yin," Shang muttered. Mulan just grinned at him, and Shang couldn’t help but burst out laughing. The two were riding side by side, Mulan on Khan and Shang on Chin just outside of Mulan’s home.
"I’m sorry, Shang," Mulan apologised. "But it was an irresistible moment."
Shang smiled lopsidedly. Mulan felt her heart melt when she saw it. He looked distinguished, even without his soldier uniform, wearing a plain Chinese outfit, sleek dark hair tied up perfectly as always. Mulan felt like she had under-dressed, only wearing a simple blouse and skirt. But then, Chien Po, Yao and Ling wouldn’t mind.
"I can’t wait to see my friends again," Mulan told Shang.
Shang didn’t respond, but continued to lead the way. Mulan did not know exactly where the Gang of 3 lived because she had never actually visited any of their homes. She didn’t know even whose house they were going. She had only met up with them twice since she left the army, and that was in Xi’an during the Chinese New Year parade and the Chap Goh Mei festival.
"It’s really good to see you again," Shang said quietly.
"Yes, it is," Mulan agreed, smiling at Shang. "I’ve missed you."
If there was one thing Mulan prided herself, is being a good judge of moods. And Shang was nervous. It was quite obvious since he was quite rigid and quieter than usual.
"Shang, is something wrong?"
"Something wrong?" Shang echoed quickly. "No! No! Nothing’s wrong!" He laughed nervously, and Mulan stopped herself from laughing from his adorable effort to cover it up. He was so obviously worried about something.
They rode on for a few minutes until Shang took a pathway off the main road. "Down through here," was all he said. Mulan obediently followed. The pathway was narrow so Mulan had to ride behind Shang. She noticed he was constantly looking over his shoulder at her. Mulan cocked her head, trying to figure out what was wrong with him.
Soon they came to a wide clearing. The grass was growing wild and blossoms blooming everywhere in sight. A pond was not far from where they were and there was a temple near the hills on the other side. Other than that, there was no sign of civilisation.
"Shang? Are you sure this is the place?" Mulan asked, looking around. Shang just jumped down from his horse and tied Chin to a nearby tree. Mulan did the same, tying Khan to a neighbouring tree. Mulan just followed Shang quietly as he walked through the wild grass to the pond. Then to her surprise, he sat down.
"Sit down," Shang urged her gently. "Have a look."
Mulan sat down next to him and peered into the pond. She gasped when she saw how clear the water was, and deep. She could see the different types of fish swimming in the bottom and the temple carvings which were put there. What caught her eye were the water lilies growing on submerged rock, something she had never seen before.
"It’s beautiful," Mulan whispered.
"So are you," Shang said softly.
Mulan looked at Shang shyly. Shang lowered his head.
"I lied to you," Shang said bluntly. "Yao, Ling and Chien Po are nowhere near here. Ling is in Xi’an while Chien Po and Yao are on the other side of Wan country. They had no idea I was bringing you here."
"Oh," was all Mulan could say. "Why…"
Shang smiled nervously. "Uh… I couldn’t think of any other way to get you out of the house alone without your parents getting nervous. Tradition doesn’t call for this kind of behaviour."
Mulan nodded. She knew it wasn’t very well thought-of when an unmarried Chinese man and woman went out alone together. All sorts of things could arise.
"I had to do this out here," Shang said. "I hope you don’t mind."
Mulan shook her head. "I lied to you before, remember?"
Shang took a deep breath. "This is… difficult for me," he said, laughing nervously. "I… I’m not used to doing this… Uh… Ahem… Mulan…. I…. I…. "
Mulan cocked her head to one side. "Yes?"
Suddenly Shang jumped up to a kneeling position and then bowed down to her, much to Mulan’s surprise. "Fa Mulan, I am madly in love with you and it would be the greatest honour if you would become my wife."
He just lay there, his head down on the ground, frozen in position. Mulan stared at him for a long time. Then she reached out and touched his head gently with her head. "Can you please… uh… get up? I prefer answering to your face."
"Yes, yes, of course," Shang said, rising up quickly and brushing himself off.
Mulan leaned forward and touched his cheek with her head. "It would be the greatest honour to be your wife," she said. "Yes, Shang. I love you and I accept."
Shang just sat there for a moment, staring at her.
Then he fainted.
Once Mulan had woken Shang up, the two just sat there alone in the fields, staring at the horizons and talking about the future. Their hands were intertwined, Mulan’s head resting gently on Shang’s broad shoulder. Shang had noticed Mulan was shivering and gave her his cape to help keep her warm.
"Shall I take you home now?" Shang asked.
"Home?" Mulan repeated.
"You know, your house where you live with your father, mother, grandmother?" Shang teased. "And you have two guests there whom I believe you have to entertain?"
"Mei Yin!" Mulan jerked. "I completely forgot about her. She’ll be so bored."
Both Shang and Mulan were disappointed that they had to leave. Mulan’s heart was glowing, both with love and happiness. For the look on Shang’s face, she knew he was feeling the exact same way.
"Just one more thing," Shang said, stopping her from standing up.
"What?" Mulan asked.
Shang leaned forward and kissed her gently on the mouth.
Mulan stared at him in shock. "What was that?"
Shang smiled shyly. "It’s a kiss," he answered. "It is done to show affection and love. Not very popular, yet, but I’m sure it will be." Mulan smiled and nodded, understanding. Then she kissed him back. Once she pulled away, they sat there staring at each other. Then Shang took Mulan’s face in his hands gently and kissed her again. Then Mulan wrapped her arms around Shang and kissed him. And on and on the cycle went.
"Where were you?" Mei Yin demanded. "You told me this visit wouldn’t take long."
"It didn’t," Mulan insisted. She jumped down from Khan, landing on extremely nimble feet. "There was just so much to talk about."
"Where is Shang going?" Mei Yin asked as Shang rushed past her into the house.
"He has to discuss some things with my parents," Mulan said matter-of-factly. She flashed Mei Yin a smirk and then led Khan into the stables. Mei Yin looked after Mulan, her lips pursed.
Once out of Mei Yin’s eyes, Mulan’s smirk broke out into a grin. She felt like she was on the billowy clouds, dancing on air. She hummed herself a tune as she twirled around the stables, tying Khan to his post but barely noticing what she did. Mulan then did a somersault, landing perfectly on her right foot and then did a 360 degrees spin the air.
"What?" she asked Khan, who was staring at her as if she were mad. Mulan giggled and then did a few backflips out of the stables into the gardens. Then she ran to the ancestor’s temple and kneeled down before the tombstones.
"Thank you for helping me, ancestors," Mulan said quietly, her hands in a praying stance. "Thank you for everything that you have done." Then she shut her eyes and prayed for a few minutes.
"Mulan?" her father’s voice came.
Mulan raised her head. When she saw her father, she burst into a smile and leapt into his embrace. Fa Zhou laughed and hugged his daughter tightly.
"You have my blessing," Fa Zhou said. "Both of you." From behind him Shang appeared, and he, too, was smiling like a mad man. Far behind him over his shoulder Mulan saw her mother and grandmother waving at her.
"Thank you," Mulan said. Then she released herself from her father and bowed to him. Shang then stood beside Mulan and did the same. Fa Zhou placed the palms of both his hands on both of their heads gently.
"No, thank you," Fa Zhou insisted.
Once her father was out of sight and hearing, Shang whispered, "Can you meet my mother tomorrow?"
"Of course I can," Mulan answered.
Shang nodded his head like an excited child. "Tomorrow? Before noon?"
"Before noon," Mulan agreed. Shang reached out, touched her cheek as a farewell, and then ran off.
In the shadows, watching their every move, stood the figure, silent and unmoving. Now was their time. Soon it would be his.