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Meeting Again

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            Life was new for Hua Mulan. She had just fought alongside the country armies against the Rourans and played a huge role in defeating them. She was now a famous figure in the country and

            Mulan was training in the fields alone, brandishing the new sword that had been given by the army. Mulan moved swiftly through the air as she was training, enjoying the feeling of truly being herself.

            It was a fine day in the village, Hua Xiu was at her usual stall, selling woven cloths. Then, someone caught her eye, a man. The others were looking at him, the stranger. Hua Xiu wondered who the man could be.

            The man was rugged, seemingly traveled a long way, a visitor. The man approached her stall, looking around.

            "Hello," Hua Xiu called out to the man. "May I help you today, sir?"

            "Oh, no... I'm not looking to buy anything, maybe some other time," the man replied. "You do some fine work." Hua Xiu blushed upon hearing the man's compliment.

            "You're a visitor, aren't you?" asked Hua Xiu curiously.

            "Yeah, how could you tell?" the man asked.

            "Well, our village is only so big. It's easy to spot visitors," Hua Xiu replied.

            "Well, it is not every day we see visitors around here," the Hua Xiu said."What brings you here?"

            "I'm looking for someone," the man answered.

            "May I know who you are looking for?" asked Hua Xiu. "I may be able to help you."

            “I’m looking for Hua Mulan,” the man replied.

            Hua Xiu was surprised to hear the man mention her sister's name. The only men that came looking for her were those from the army. Could this man possibly be from the army too?

            “May I know you're name, sir?" asked the girl.

            “My name is Chen Honghui, a friend of Mulan from the army,” said the man.

            "Ah, my sister mentioned you a couple of times," the girl said.

            "Your sister?"

            "Yes, I'm Hua Xiu, Hua Mulan's sister," she introduced herself as she bowed her head. “It’s an honor to meet one of my sister’s fellow soldiers. She thinks very profoundly of you all and says she could not have achieved what she'd done without your help.”

            "Delighted to meet you," Honghui said. "She had done the same to us too, we are equally grateful to her," Honghui replied. "So may I know where can I find her?" asked Honghui.

            "Gosh, he is really eager to find her... could it be..." Hua Xiu thought to herself, looking at Honghui.

            "She is out in the fields nearby, probably riding her horse or training," Hua Xiu said.

            "Will she be back soon?" asked Honghui.

            "She probably won't come back till evening. I suggest you go and find her yourself, sir," Hua Xiu said.

            "Thanks, Hua Xiu. No need for formality," Honghui said.

            "You're welcome, Honghui. I expect my sister will be surprised to see you," Hua Xiu said smilingly.

            "Well, I intend to give her one," Honghui chuckled.

            "Good luck!" Honghui heard Hua Xiu as he was leaving the gates of the village.

            Mulan rested by the banks of a lake as her horse lapped at the waters. She was admiring the beauty of nature as she leaned on a huge rock. Then, she heard the sound of a horse galloping. Mulan turned around in curiosity and saw someone masked riding a horse coming close. Her smile turned into a frown.

            The rider seemingly saw Mulan and began heading in her direction. Mulan stood there motionlessly, preparing to draw out her sword as the rider got closer and closer, before finally stopping a few feet in front of her. Mulan eyed the person dangerously. Her hands prepared to draw out her sword if the person was hostile.

            "Hmm... you're still the same I see, Hua Mulan," the person said.

            The person's voice sounded very familiar to the woman. "Where have I heard this voice before?" Mulan thought to herself. "Who are you?" asked Mulan with a fierce tone.

            "Calm down, Mulan, it's me, Chen Honghui. Don't you remember?" Honghui said as he took off the black piece of cloth he used as a mask.

            Mulan stood there. Her hand went a little numb as she couldn't believe her own eyes. "Honghui, is it really you? I'm not dreaming, am I?" Mulan asked unsurely.

            "Huh, don't worry, Mulan. I assure you. I'm as real as you are," Honghui chuckled.

            "Feels like I'm dreaming," Mulan muttered to herself, blinking her eyes a couple of times in disbelief.

            "Come on, Mulan, do you need to touch me to be convinced?" asked Honghui jokingly as he held his hand out.

            To his surprised, Mulan moved forward and touched his hand, quite like the last time, for a brief moment. Mulan's face turned from a puzzled look to a small smile.

            "It's really you," Mulan mutters.

            "Are you that surprised to see me? I told you I would see you again," Honghui said.

            "Well, I wasn't expecting to see you today. Plus, I wasn't expecting you to come dressed as a bandit either," Mulan replied, looking at the black piece of cloth in Honghui's hand.

            "Yeah, that was just to surprise you," Honghui smiled awkwardly.

            "So, what brings you here?" asked Mulan.

            "Well, just finished training, got me some time off for a couple of days. Thought that I would go home and visit my family and come to visit you," Honghui explained.

            "Wait, how did you know I was here?" asked Mulan, confused.

            "I met your sister when I was looking for you in your village," Honghui answered. "She told me I would find you around here."

            "Well, you could have waited for me to return," said Mulan.

            "Nah, I wanted to surprise you," Honghui said, giving off a look that used to annoy Mulan. But this time, Honghui could hear a soft chuckle from the woman "So your sister said that you would be training here," Honghui said, abruptly changing the topic.

            "Yeah, I'm taking a break now," Mulan said.

            "You train alone?" asked Honghui.

            "Well, sometimes my father or my sister join me, but mostly is just me," Mulan said.

            "How about a sparring partner?" offered Honghui.

            Mulan's mouth broke into a smile on hearing Honghui's offer. You do remember what happened last time, right?" asked Mulan chuckling as she grabbed two bamboo sticks near her other stuff.

            "I remember that fight well, Mulan. So what are you trying to say?" asked Honghui knowingly.

            "Well, if you want a rematch, I daresay the results are going to be the same," Mulan chuckled as she tossed one of the sticks towards Honghui.

            "Don't get too confident, Mulan. My abilities have doubled since we last fought," Honghui said, smiling as he caught the stick.

            "We shall see," Mulan said as she stood as if she was ready to pounce and attack Honghui.

            "Bring it," Honghui challenged, holding the stick.

            The two comrades fought as fiercely as they did during their first duel in the army camp. The two of them getting on the edge of each other. Mulan realized Honghui was right. His skills had indeed improved a lot. The sounds of sticks clashing and grunting filled the peaceful plains. Honghui and Mulan were clearly enjoying this duel more than the last one as they swept through the fields. Honghui landed three consecutive hits, managing to knock Mulan's stick out of her hand.

            “Huh, you’ve improved a lot,” Mulan said as they stopped briefly. Mulan moved slowly towards her stick lying on the ground behind her.

            “Thanks, sounds flattering coming from you,” Honghui replied, chuckling.

            Seeing Honghui was briefly distracted, Mulan quickly kicked her stick up in the air, then jumped up in the air, kicking the stick and sent it flying in the direction of Honghui.

            Instead of dodging it like Mulan had expected Honghui to do, Honghui caught the stick with his bare hands. The surprised look on Mulan's face was now obvious.

            "Wow," Mulan whispered.

            "I told you my abilities doubled since we last fought," Honghui said triumphantly as he tossed Mulan's stick back to her.

            “Don’t get cocky, Honghui. Overconfidence might be your downfall,” Mulan warned jokingly, as she caught her stick, obviously ready for another round

           “We shall see,” Honghui smirked as he charged towards her.

            After a long while of dueling each other, the two friends sat down at the banks of the lake, exhausted.

            "Wow, that was tiring," Honghui said, breathing heavily.

            "Yeah," Mulan agreed. She was exhausted too. "But fun."

            "So, you haven't accepted the Emperor's offer yet?" asked Honghui casually.

            "No, I want to rest for a while before accepting the offer," Mulan said as her eyes looked across the lake.

            "I don't blame you. It must have been tiring for you," said Honghui. "Oh, I forgot, your chi is strong," Honghui suddenly remembered.

            "Well, it was still tiring and stressful for me even with my chi," Mulan confessed.

            "Really? Why is that so?" asked Honghui purposely.

            "Think about it Honghui, I think my answer is obvious," Mulan said.

            "Oh, now I remember, I guess it was quite painful to hide your chest under all that," Honghui said.

            "Well, that was one of the reasons," said Mulan. "And don't get me started on all the things going on in camp," Mulan scoffed.

            "Oh, ha, I remember now," Honghui chuckled. "Oh gosh, the guys talked about girls in front of you, a woman. You didn't bathe for days when you first arrived," Honghui recalled. "I expected that staying in a camp full of guys had already mentally scarred you?" asked Honghui jokingly.

            "You have no idea," Mulan replied, chuckling sarcastically.

            "And the time when I first saw you bathing in the lake," Honghui recalled. "Now, I understand why you were so cold to me then."

            "I'm sorry," Mulan blurted out.

            "For what?" Honghui asked, surprised.

            "For being so cold to you then," Mulan said.

            "I don't understand you, Mulan."

            "I said things I didn't really mean at the lake, some harmful things. I didn't know how to confront you about it. Then, you stood up for me in front of the commander. I felt even guiltier for being so harsh to you. Even before I left the Imperial Place, I didn't even think of amending things with you," Mulan said, her voice straining a little.

            "Mulan... I had forgiven you a long time ago. In fact, I totally understand why you were so mad at me, our first meeting wasn't smooth either," Honghui revealed.

            "I still feel terrible remembering I said those things to you," Mulan said.

            "Don't fret about it, Mulan. I forgive you," Honghui said.

            "Why did you come to visit me?" asked Mulan out of curiosity.

            "Well, I wanted to amend our friendship and pay you a visit," confessed Honghui. "Well, I guess I can check these two to-dos off the list."

            "So, how are the others?" asked Mulan.

            "You mean Yao, Ling, Chien Po, and Cricket?" asked Honghui. "They are doing well, still the same though," Honghui said, making Mulan chuckle.

            "As "traumatic" being in the same camp with you guys are, I had some fun and good memories there too," Mulan confessed.

            "Ah, good memories, aren't they?" Honghui pondered.

            "I can't deny that" Mulan agreed.

            "Mulan, you're really one of the bravest if not the bravest person I ever met," said Honghui.

            Even Mulan had heard many people call her brave, her heart seemed to flutter when she heard Honghui call her brave.

            "Thanks, Honghui," Mulan thanked. "I think you are quite brave too," Mulan said. For some reason, Mulan thought she saw Honghui's facial expression changed a little when she had said that.

            "That's still flattering, coming from you," joked Honghui. Mulan chuckles with him.

            "The skies are getting dark, I think we better head back to the village," said Mulan after seeing the sky.

            "Yeah, let's go," agreed Honghui.

            "Race you back?" challenged Mulan.

            "Oh, you're on," Honghui agreed, smiling.

            The two friends rode their horses across the fields back to Mulan's village. Racing against each other, chuckling and smiling.

            After reaching the village they locked their horses together in the stables and headed to Mulan's place.

            "Don't worry about meeting my father, Honghui. He is a nice person," Mulan assured as Honghui expressed his fears of meeting her father.

            "If you say so," Honghui said unsurely as Mulan knocked on the door before entering.

            "Mother, Father, a friend from the army is here," Mulan said as she entered the house.

            Honghui watched Mulan's father and mother came to the door. He bowed before them introducing himself. "My name is Chen Honghui, a comrade of Mulan. It is my honor to meet you."

            "It is our honor to meet you too Honghui. Our daughter speaks very highly of you," Hua Zhou greeted as Honghui stood up and saw Mulan blushed a little.

            "Any friends of our daughter are welcome here," added Hua Li.

            "Don't hesitate to join us for dinner," Hua Zhou invited.

            "I'm honored to do so," Honghui said gratefully.

            "Come in, make yourself at home," Hua Li said warmly.

            "See, I told you there was nothing to worry about," Mulan whispered to Honghui as they turned around a corner and saw Hua Xiu.

            "Hey, sister, I see that your comrade found you,"  Hua Xiu said. "Hi, Honghui."

            "Hello, Hua Xiu," Honghui nodded.

            "Yeah, something like that. You didn't tell him too much right?" asked Mulan.

            "Tell me about what?' asked Honghui puzzled.

            "Oh, nothing," Mulan said quickly blushing as Hua Xiu chuckled a little.

            "What is it that I don't know?" asked Honghui, still confused.

            "Oh, you two will sort it out soon," Hua Xiu joked as she heads to the kitchen.

            "Hua Xiu, stop it all right?" Mulan groans as Hua Xiu laughed.

            "What was that about?" asked Honghui confused.

            "Don't bother about it," Mulan replied, blushing a little. "She's just a tease that's all."

            Honghui smiled. He knew that he will be going to enjoy his time here in Mulan's village and hopefully, reveal his secret to Mulan.