Agreeing to the marriage was easy. Deciding where to live was hard.
The late General Li’s estate was on the other side of the country, and because Li Shang was the oldest son by his father’s first wife, he had inherited the largest portion of it. Tradition would dictate that he would bring his wife to his home, and have her and his mother look after it in his absence while he served in the Imperial army.
Fa Mulan had no siblings, and she outranked him. Furthermore, Fa Zhou’s house was closer to the Imperial City, an important consideration for a family where the first wife would often attend the Imperial presence.
Ultimately, Li Shang’s mother remained in her husband’s house, and Li Shang took up residence in the house of his wife-to-be.
Mulan received a letter about a month before the wedding. It was from Shang’s mother, and it said a great many things. Among them was her intention to attend the wedding, which was scheduled for the fall, not long after the harvest but before travel would become too difficult. She also discussed her delight at knowing that her son had found a woman he wished to wed; that she had begun to worry, as his inclinations had been other than marriage and it was just as well that a woman had managed to join the army, as it was the only way Shang would have met a woman he would have chosen for himself, and how long did Mulan keep her sleeves anyway?
Mulan stared at the letter.
Then she looked at her blouse, which was properly feminine.
Then she stared out the window at her fiancé, who was practicing his stances in the garden. His face was blank with concentration, his body strong, and Mulan smiled to herself, because now she was certain she would always be first wife.
She closed the letter, changed her clothes to something easier to move in, and went to join him.
The wedding was a small affair, only some community members but mostly family. The Imperial house sent a letter of congratulations, quite beyond their expectations, and rather embarrassing for Fa Zhou.
Fa Mulan was beautiful, and Li Shang was handsome, and that was the most that was said about the ceremony itself in official circles.
The groom and his mother had a polite argument over where she was to sit, the bride’s dog ate a significant portion of the roast pork, the late General Li’s younger brother was most rude to the bride’s grandmother while he was deep in his cups, and the village matchmaker barged in during the party demanding that she receive a fee as it was as a result of her advice that Fa Mulan had joined the army.
Fa Li, the bride’s mother, had some choice things to say about that.
All in all, it was a most successful wedding, and everyone wished the newlyweds well.
Following the wedding, both Shang and Mulan were called to the Imperial City, where Mulan was officially appointed to her position as Imperial adviser. She accepted the seal of her station with all due ceremony, and as she was backing out of the room, tripped on an uneven edge in the floor and ended up flipping backwards so as not to fall down.
The Emperor, it is said, laughed, and ordered that she not be punished for insolence, as it had quite clearly been an accident. He also instructed her to commend her husband on his training of his soldiers, if all of Captain Li Shang’s former and present subordinates were so skilled.
Some months after their wedding, Mulan said to Shang one night, “Does this marriage bother you?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean…does it bother you that you came to live with me? And that I’m higher-ranked than you? And that – ”
Shang brushed her hair out of the way on his pillow. “I thought I’d never be happy in a marriage. Instead I found someone I admire, and I am happily married to her. I didn’t marry land, or buildings. I married you.”
Mulan paused, then laid her hand on the side of his face. “Well,” she said. “I’m glad to hear that.”
“No promises in return?” Shang asked, smiling.
“I’d rather show you than make promises,” Mulan said, smiling back as she reached out to touch him.