On Mulan 's way to the training camp, she was captivated by the Yellow River. "What are you daydreaming of?" Mushu asked. Mulan jumped a bit, and hastened her step, but she still couldn't help but stared at the river. Mulan thought she knew all about water. There was a stream near her home. She used to play so often there with her friends in the summer that she would claim herself as a competent swimmer. She was fond of the stream. It was friendly and familiar. Nothing prepared her for the Yellow River. The river 's roar was deafening and the river was so wide that there seemed to be no boundary. It reminded her of a hungry beast, ready to devour everything foolish enough to step into its territory. Mulan had an uneasy feeling that anything later on would be like this, unknown and dangerous. Once again she worried whether she made a good choice, whether or not she would disgrace her family. The twinkle of worry surfaced, but Mulan ignored it. She could not return now. Her family counted on her.
When Mulan was young, she always asked for her father to tell her stories and with some persuasion, her father told her some stories about the war he fought in. However, Mulan was sure that when her father recalled about the war, he didn't mention the chilling winter, the slimy mud everywhere, or the poor diet. She swore to herself that when she returned home, she would pay more attention to her father's war stories. She now had a new respect for him.
The first day at the camp was a disaster. She tried very hard to follow Mushu 's instructions to act like a man, but then managed to start the biggest fight she has ever seen and alienated every one there. The Captain singled her out as a trouble maker. Things only went worse from then on. Everything at the camp seemed so alien to her. At home, she had helped with the housework, but that was nothing compared to the harsh training she was enduring now. She tried her very best to keep up, but it was wearing her down. As hard as she tried, she still lagged behind the others. The other soldiers must have sensed her weakness and like hungry dogs to flesh, they picked on and played pranks on her.
On the first day of training she nearly escaped being beaten, but when they started martial arts practice, the soldier next to her had his revenge by tripping her. Then someone threw an insect into her clothes and she suffered from the shame of public humiliation. She would cry, but there she would have been showing yet another sign of weakness to the others. The breaking point was when she collapsed under the heavy weight of water in the buckets. The Captain picked it up as easy as picking up a feather and threw her a glance full of disgust. When the Captain scolded at her and said she'd better go home, she was ashamed to admit that for a moment she almost agreed, almost hoping that she could return home right away, but then she remembered why she was here. She would not shame her family in any way. She clung to the spark of anger at his mistrust and insult, fueling her determination to prove her worth to the frustrating Captain and the others.
From that day on she practiced whenever she had the time to do so. She collapsed several times and wanted to give up, but then she recalled the Captain's words, picked herself up again and tried. And when that day she climbed up the pole, reached the top and threw down the arrow, she was almost bursting with pride. She looked straight into the Captain's eyes. There was reluctant admiration in them, but there was something she couldn't decipher. Was it surprise? Was it disbelief? For a moment she felt insecure. Nonetheless, she decided not to let it affect her. She had proven herself to all. That was the most important thing.
After her success, the other soldiers started to accept her as one of their own. The pranks stopped. Even the Captain showed grudging respect to her. It was great, but sometimes it was embarrassing. The time when she was bathing and the other soldiers rushed in? She nearly screamed although thanks to Mushu 's help she managed to leave undetected. Or Like that time when the soldiers were all hungrily talking about women. They talked about how they wanted their girls to have a face pale as the moon, eyes that shined as stars, and willing to do everything the men wished for. She didn't say anything at first, but finally she asked what about a girl with a brain and a tongue. Her question was met by an uncomfortable silence. Finally, she tried to mix in by joining their song, but she still felt really awkward.
Trying to disguise herself as a man was difficult. When at the beginning the Captain shouted whether he was sent a daughter instead of a son, her heart nearly jumped out of her chest and she thought he'd seen through her disguise. She kept her clothes on for as long as possible, and only sneaked out to take a bath when she felt like she was about to crawl out of her skin. Every night she slept fully clothed. Luckily for her other soldiers felt the cold too, so she did not stand out too much. But she still felt like she was walking on the edge of a cliff, every step a possible pitfall. She had to be careful at all times, not letting any slip to ruin her efforts. She spoke loudly, laughed with the others when they told jokes she couldn't understand, and it felt strange. It was as if she was wearing another person's skin. She felt like she was playing a role without a script.
Sometimes she thought about how fast time flew. Not long ago she was preparing to be a bride, ready to start a new family. She was supposed to stay in the same place for the rest of her life. But now she had traveled and saw what most women hadn't even heard of, did what they would have never dreamed of doing. Soon she would be at the front line, fighting for her country, killing Hun soldiers. Some mornings she woke up, not sure where she was, half expecting to see her family, only to abruptly woke up to the reality of her situation.
Mulan realized that the society expected the men and women differently back a home, but being at the war really opened Mulan 's eyes to how different it was. There was only one way for a girl to honour her family, by finding a good husband. To do this, she was supposed to be meek, hold her tongue and look pretty enough so she could successfully become a bride and wife. The ideal of a woman was to be like a perfect porcelain doll. However, she completely failed to meet it, and made a fool of herself before the matchmaker. What she truly was wasn't good enough for the society. She could not uphold he family honour. Although her father comforted her afterward, she knew that her parents were disappointed too. But now when she was here, she was supposed to be the reverse of what she'd been expected home. To act manly, she needed to be loud and rude, and the way to bring her family honour was to kill as many men as possible. While her behaviour now would earn scorn and disgust back at home, she earned respect among her peers. It worried her that she fit better in this role than that back home. Did it mean that she would only be successful as a man, as a role that she pretended? It had seldom come to her before, but sometimes, at the dark night, she would wonder whether her parents would feel like this too. Did they lament that they had a tomboyish daughter and wished that she could be a son instead? Quickly she brushed away the thought. Her family surely loved her, though she may no be what they expected . However, she was doubtful that she could find a husband as accepting of her as them.
Idly, she wondered about the Captain. What would it be like to marry him? What would it be like to be held up in his strong arms? She brushed at her thoughts. A good girl should not think of those things. However, a good girl didn't wear men 's clothes, mixed up with men or go to war either. Besides, it was just a harmless fantasy. It was strange how her opinion on him had changed. At first she thought he was unreasonably harsh, but then she found him to be fair and serious about his job. They had things in common too, both needed to uphold their family honour and face hard judgement by others. The time when she heard him being dismissed by the counsel, she would have liked to comfort him but she didn't know how. She thought about him a lot, that even Mushu noticed. But it wouldn't matter anymore when she returned home, would it? She tried to imagine what her life would be like when she returned home, and came up with nothing. Too many things had happened and she was worried that she would not be able to step smoothly back into her old life again. She was not sure she completely wanted to, either.
It frightened her. She missed her home. She missed her father's firm but gentle teaching, her mother's kind words, and her grandmother's smile. She missed them all. She deeply regretted that she didn't pay enough attention and spent enough time there when she still could. Mushu 's chatter was a welcome distraction but even he was not enough to relieve the burden. Luckily, her busy life did not leave much place for her thoughts. Often she was so tired that she would drop dead to the bed as soon as she touched it. She was thankful that it kept away her homesickness.
The boot camp was hard, but Mulan never expected that the actual war would be so much harsher. When she arrived at her destination, the scene of total destruction shocked her. All was burnt to dust. The sick smell of burnt flesh lingered. She walked around to search survivors, only to retrieve a doll. A little girl, like herself when she was young, cared and loved by her parents, must have kept it as a treasure, probably holding it every night. But now... Other soldiers were completely silent, too. They were probably in shock, too. When it was time for her to go to the front line and stepped into the battle ground, her mind went blank and her body seemed to have a mind of her own. The training paid off, as she didn't hesitate to do what she had to do. However, the little doll was always in her mind. She never really hated anyone before, but now she hated the Huns, hating them with such intensity that it scared her a bit. The Captain would understand it, right? He 'd lost his father. He had had his share of grief too. At that time she found a strange kinship with the Captain.
The day the rain of arrows came down and the swarm of the Huns army ran toward them, death became a real possibility to her. At that moment she hardly had time to be scared. She took the last canon, lighted it up and caused the avalanche. The avalanche devoured the enemy, just like she'd planned, but it nearly devoured the Captain and herself as well. When Mushu shouted that it would be the death of them, she thought the same too. When they were finally safe, part of her still indulged on thought of the near escape from death. Life was so fragile. People who were so lively and energetic became lifeless corpses in a moment. What would her family feel if she didn't come back? Her father may stoically endure the pain, but he would blame himself. Her mother would collapse, and her grandmother...
But now they were alive, the enemy was defeated, and she had the Captain's gratitude and trust. She was proud and glad that they both survived. Soon, she couldn't think any more. The pain that she had ignored before threatened to engulf her, and she became weaker and weaker. The last thing she could recall was the Captain's worried face, telling her to hold on. Hold on? Hold on to what? She was tired. She needed to sleep now.
When she woke up again and found that her identity had been revealed, all she could think of was the fact that she'd lost it all. Her attempt at protecting her family had ended with nothing. The Captain, who had been proud of her and her peers, who claimed to be her friends, had abandoned her. If it had happened in the past she would have given up. However, she was much stronger now. When she saw that the Huns climbing out of the snow, she knew that she couldn't stay away. Determined, she started on her new journey to the Capital.
On her way there, the war scenes of the day sneaked up into her dreams. She tried to ignore them, but they had a way of crawling up on her when she least expected it. She told herself that the Huns were monsters and deserved to be killed, but somehow it didn't comfort her very much. She wanted to ask the Captain how he was able to remain stoic during the war, considering that he even lost his father, but then she remembered that they were parted now and she had probably lost his respect now. She told herself to swallow the pain and focused on the journey instead.
Reaching the capital was an unsettling experience. The city of light and laughter was so different from the harsh snow-filled battleground. If she had come here any other time, she would have been fascinated by the city 's glamour. But she had no time for that. The Captain didn't believe her ("You said you'd trust Ping. Why is Mulan so different?" she challenged, and he averted his eyes.), but when had she let a man's opposition stop her? When the Emperor was kidnapped by the Hun leader, her friends listened to her. (She nearly laughed when they were clumsily putting on disguises as women. Never had she thought the bride training would come of use this way.)
And the Captain also finally came to his mind. When he joined her, they smiled at each other. Then they started to act according to her plan. The stupid Huns fell for it, and Mulan and her friends overcame the enemy easily, thanks to the Captain's training. The Emperor was rescued, but when she saw the Captain at the feet of the Hun, she feared for the Captain's life and stayed to help. When the Hun realized she was the soldier in he mountain, he went for her, and though then she had to dodge and run for her life, she did it. She finished the Hun. It did not feel real though.
When the enemy is finally defeated, the Emperor asks her what she wants. It is simple, right? All she wants is to return home. But when she looks at the Captain... No, there is no time for idle gazing. Her family is waiting for her then. It should be enough. "Khan, let's go home!"