My Son, Li Shang,
I understand fully your request for me to go on the frontline as a representation of the Li family. I agree with you that Ping may be not ready for battlefront, and sending him to the frontline could be an unwise decision. I support your settlement in taking his place to represent that Fa household.
I pray the spirit of our ancestor will be in our side as we defend the freedom and dignity of our people.
Until we meet again,
Your Father, Li Jiang.
Shang was alerted to the sound of iron weights clinking together. He seethed that someone dared to disturb his short, needy rest after a long night playing catch up with hours of missed training.
Emerging from his private quarters, Shang swept his gaze. The tents are a dusky peach in the light of dawn, the sun still below the distant hills. At first, he can't quite see who it is that's climbing the pole in the middle of their camp, a black silhouette against an indigo sky.
Gods, for once, let it be not Fa Ping again? Shang berated himself as he approached to inspect the ruckus, hoping that his brother-in-law hadn't embroiled himself in much trouble this early in the morning.
"Fa Ping… Fa Ping!" the men chanted.
"You can do it!" Ling's high-pitch voice hollered.
"Way to go Ping!"
"One cheer for Fa Ping!"
Word spreads, and soon half the men stand outside their tents, watching their unknown comrade drag himself upward, inching toward the arrow that's sat unmolested for so long. Finally, the sun breaks over the hills, spilling into the valley. The soldier on the pole pulls himself into its reach, and a gasp escaped Shang's throat. Even from this distance, he can see the set of Ping's jaw, the rivers of sweat running down his temple and the muscles standing out from his neck.
The young man had proved him wrong. Despite the prejudice of many people around him, Ping had risen against his challenge and won.
Shang could only smile as he folded back his father's letter and stashed it into the pocket of his robe.
Perhaps, he shouldn't have rushed into writing to his father at all.
"See you later Ping!"
A few other recruits patted her back as they went past. She laughed, indulging in the moment. "It's nothing. You all can do the same, credit to my teacher," she politely crediting Shao Wei.
"Whatever. You did great!"
"Yeah, that was awesome!"
She knew her giggle was somewhat undignified, but nobody care. All men did a lot of undignified habits anyway (like burping, spitting and farting) so at the moment, Mulan didn't feel too embarrassed. "Thanks," she said, by no means sounding presumptuous.
She let herself stare at the retrieved arrow in her hands a while longer, smiling until her face hurt. Yes, being unfamiliarly very far from the ground made her feel dizzy, but her dizziness quickly placated by the adrenaline rush from her phenomenal accomplishment.
Let Captain Shirtless eats his words. Shao's word resonated in her head, alternating with the whoop and hoot of encouragement and praise as she replayed her success in retrieving Shang's arrow from the top of the mast. But, no. She had no desire to proof Shang was wrong anymore. Although she couldn't deny there was a great feeling of satisfaction seeing Shang's disbelieving expression as he emerged from his tent. There was undeniable pride in her having to accomplish what Shang thought impossible but there was also a sense of happiness that he smiled proudly on her victory.
The news of her to be the first recruit to pass Captain Li's notorious standard went like wildfire. It was no surprise that the Prince had immediately aware of her recent unprecedented success.
"Congratulation, Fa Ping. You are the first soldier to grab the arrow from the mast," Shang said, handing her a scroll.
Was that unguarded pride in his voice?
"It's down to yours and Prince of Wei's training," she said humbly. "But, thank you."
"Yeah, why did you actually fool us and pretend to be absolute incompetent?" Chef Zhang said presumptively as he passed by, pulling a large crate of vegetables before disappearing behind the tent.
Mulan just smiled, basking on the strange warmth that spreading on her chest while her hand working to open the letter. It was then her eyes caught the Prince of Wei lavish insignia on it.
"That's was quick...," she muttered to herself.
Shang cleared his throat. "He actually left it with me prior to his departure."
"Oh!" It seemed like Shao had more confidence in her more than she knew.
As suspected, Shao's message was brief. It was a short congratulation and a note on the end.
Every man dies, but not every man really lives. Thus, live to the fullest.
Mulan smiled. There were rare moments when the unforgivably psychotic prince could impart the wisdom of the universe in a very few simple words, this was one of them.
"Ping…" The voice caused her to look up, stashing the scroll into the pocket of her training outfit.
Shang took off his robe and picked up some bamboo sticks. "It's still early, do you fancy a quick spar?"
She immediately felt heat travelling up her face, heart pounding hard.
In order to cover up whatever strange reaction she was having, she held up her fists and held her stance and lulled in her most masculine voice for theatrics sake. "Is this a rematch?" In a non-sexual way she thoughted in her head, averting her face and pretended to throw empty kicks to hide her reddening cheeks. Why he had to be shirtless for heaven sake?!
"I think you can handle me now," Shang smiled amusedly. "Just imagine this is a fight for life. Don't hesitate to attack me."
Mulan took a big, fortifying breath. "Okay."
She held out her hand and Shang gave her one of the bamboo sticks.
She tested the weight of it in her hand, surprised at how much lighter it felt than she thought it would be. That could probably be partially attributed to her increased strength, and partially to the excitement which was flowing through her veins. When she hoisted it overhead and sent it slamming into the trees around them, the sound of a loud thud echoing in the air, she felt the tiniest bit of that frustration simmer away.
Following him over to the centre clearing, she planted her feet and raised her stick, "Ready?"
"Remember to vary the speed of your attacks to keep your opponent guessing."
She nodded and they began to spar. This was a part of her training that she had come to enjoy, especially now that she wasn't a total disaster at it.
"If I was actually trying, I would have you on your back in five seconds and this would no longer be a training exercise," Shang argued when nearly a minute past and she hadn't;t even attempt any meaningful attacks.
Mulan raised a teasing eyebrow, "Oh rea―"
The next thing she knew she was, in fact, lying on the ground, with his stick across her neck and his sweaty body hovering right over the top of her. Their eyes locked and it was like one of those moments in a sappy romance novel, unsurprising as her life had basically become some wild fiction plot as of late, and if things went as they typically did in the romance story.
What if, he kissed you? Said the voice in her head. Mulan froze. She didn't know what she should do, what she wanted to do. This had all happened so suddenly and she wasn't prepared.
So you've let him defeat you? Just because you think he might… kiss you? rebuked other part of her consciousness.
Suddenly, the reality of losing the battle dawned upon her. So she bounced back to her heel and stepped into her fighting stance. "Not yet, Captain," and raced towards him again with a sequence of blows.
But for every punch she threw, every swing of the weapon she made, Shang deflected with ease.
As the spar wore on, Mulan began to tire and her movement became sluggish. It seemed that Shang had decided that he was going to see Ping's capability and his limit, so he played defensive and tried to wear him out. Realizing that she would have to conclude this fight quickly, she formed a plan.
Oh yes, that feminine philosophy Shao had taught her.
She internally grimaced at her own ploy. It's dirty, but a fight for life was a fight to be won. Then she put her plan into action.
"Ouch!" Mulan yelled a fake pain as she grabbed her left shoulder. It was nowhere Shang had struck her―which was entirely purposeful to send him a signal this injury was outside the combat plan.
"Ping? Are you..." Shang fretted and let his guard down for a split second. Mulan felt a little guilty for making use of Shang's caring inclination extended her leg and kicked him right on his nose.
"Ah!" Shang brought his hand to his nose with a scowl, nursing the exact spot where Ping had accidentally hit him a couple of weeks ago. The kick wasn't at all lethal, but enough to make his whole face went numb.
Caught in own surprise for an unexpected victory, Mulan could only watch Shang who was still holding his nose with a pained expression as though the pain ricocheting to his skull.
She wasn't sure which one took the beating more, his nose or his pride.
"Captain Li...Are you okay?" It took her all her extra brain cell in her head to remind herself not to comfort him more than a comrade would. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have..."
"No I'm fine," he reassured. It took him at least one whole minutes before he could form a functional sentence. "You fought well, Ping. I like your approach. A warrior should never hesitate in battle. You can't outmatch my strength, but you outthink me," he praised her.
"Girl, you just busted up his nose again," Mushu broke in. As usual, his timing was impeccable. "...which I might have been told was his best feature!" he reprimanded. "But man, he does have quite a nose, doesn't he? I mean―that thing has never even bleed! Wait, have you check that's it is real?"
"How do I suppose to know?"
"You are his wife! A wife should know her husband's best asset!"
"That's ridiculous. His eyes are his best feature," she cut him off dismissively before freezing, an intense blush growing on her entire face.
Truthfully, Shang had never been vain about his astonishingly handsome look (in contrast to the gregarious prince who seemed to seek them), he seemed to regard the generous attention from the fairer kind was down to his achievement and his military status.
"What about my eyes?" Shang questioned, completely baffled. Mulan winced awkwardly, he knew Shang didn't like some noisy praise in any form, no matter how positive it was. Next to her, Mushu grinned like a loon.
"I… I never said that. I mean...Uh. Yes. Your eyes... is n-nice, but I was talking in a very neutral, impartial way."
"Yes, one second she hates you, another second I can see hearts coming out of her eyes. One minute it looked like she wants to lob the training staff on your head, another minute she may want to kiss the teeth out of your skull!" Mushu told Shang as though he could hear him.
"Oh," came Shang's equally awkward reply. "Anyway, good spar Ping," he said before closing the match with a bow and even dared to give her a smile. A Smile!
"Mulan, did you see that? He smiled! The man you thought only capable of a static face actually can smile!"
Mulan shushed the Dragon, but Mushu prattled on. "His eyes or nose, for the record, in the realm of men you could've been potentially ended up married to, he is not a bad catch," he said squarely. "I mean, look at those abs. I'd have six wives if I had those!"
"Which thankfully you didn't have. Because I hate to see my spiritual advisor becoming one of the lecherous jerk," Mulan retorted.
"A six pack abs man whose having six wives isn't lecherous. It's called blessed."
"Still a jerk," she debated.
"Fine, blessed jerk. Whatever."
Shang watched as Ping animatedly bowing his thanks and waved towards the other recruits who were chorusing words of praise to him.
Ping was a mystery. One second he could look timid and terrified, like a puppy in a thunderous night. The next second he could be the wittiest, most maverick and insane person he ever dreamt recruiting.
While learning martial art techniques required real, organic talent, the perfection of such combat essentially needed a raw power and precision―in which could only be attained by practice, and that what Ping relentlessly doing every night. The training wasn't a great success at the beginning, Ping fell and nearly injured himself until Shang lost count. But the fiery determination in his eyes and his spirit of perseverance propelled him to keep on repeating the exercise until he finally succeeded.
But it wasn't down to power that made Ping potentially an infallible opponent. It was his creativity that caught him by surprise time and time again.
Shang couldn't deny that Ping had an innate talent of thinking outside the box, one that surpassed many experienced soldiers, including, he admitted resentfully, himself. Still, he was nothing if not proud, and took comfort in knowing that when it came to fundamentals, he was still his superior by a significant margin.
But despite his sudden success, Ping remained humble, and openly encouraged other people to do better than him. Ping's positivity was infectious and allowed him to fight for what was important to him, which, he noticed more and more, tended to focus largely on his friends and family.
And that's included him, his brother-in-law... who perhaps, Ping had secretly admired.
As much as Shang dislike attention, he couldn't deny the flickers of adoration as the young soldier watched him bare-chested, moving fluently with the staff in his hand. It was short-lived and instantly hidden behind a flustered cough, but Shang still caught it. But that wasn't why it was bizarre. Deep down, not only Shang allowed such innocent devotion, but he also welcomed this feeling and felt somewhat like a badass hero in front of his adoring fans.
And unlike with his other comrade, Shang didn't feel a threat of masculine rivalry with Ping. In fact, quite the opposite. He felt protective and possessive around him. Like when they were sparring this morning.
Unsurprisingly, Ping was on the ground within minutes of their spar, but that didn't deter the boy. Not only Ping was persistent, but he had a unique ability to perceive the weaknesses of his opponent.
Like the way Ping knew that he cared a great deal of him.
Finally, after tiring twenty minutes, Ping executed his calculative plan and incapacitated him, even managed to land a lethal punch on his nose!
And no, Ping really didn't hold back when he delivered that punch.
"You fought well, Ping. I like your approach. A warrior should never hesitate in battle. You can't outmatch my strength, but you outthink me." Shang supposed his eyes must have widened with curious awe as he rubbed a fresh bump on his face.
"Thank you, Captain," the boy replied a little sheepishly, perhaps still thinking manipulating enemy's weaknesses were considered an unhonorable victory.
"You should be proud," Shang told him. "You are improving leaps this week."
"These past weeks, Shao―...I mean, the Prince and I spent almost the entire night practising," Ping admitted.
"The entire night?" He surprised himself how he disliked the idea. Shao's bad habit in overwriting his authority certainly had created tension between them. But deep down, Shang knew what he had labelled as irritation and annoyance could be just a mere excuse of a feeling he himself tried to deny - blistering jealousy.
Was he lustful of Ping?
"Yes, but still not nearly as good as you," Ping said, breaking his pondering. "You literally incapacitate me within the first minute. I have never seen that technique!"
Shang tried not to get the boy's compliment getting to his head, but it was hard not to beam at his gushing praise. "I can teach you if you want."
"Really?" Ping's face lit up in excitement. "That would be great! Could it be… tonight? Maybe after dinner? Only if you are free of course."
Shang sighed. How could this naive young man become a weapon all at once? But at least, his heart was in the right place.
"Yes, of course."
After Ping retrieving his arrow from the mast, he had no more qualm of letting the boy joined the war. Except for one nagging thought of Ling's revelation of Ping's medical situation.
"I see that your wounds heal nicely," announced the healer once he checked on Shang.
Dr. Di Tan was the appointed Imperial Army physician that had been contracted by Shao Wei to assess every recruit's physical condition before they're heading for the battlefront. And as a result of this exercise, Shang was able to address his concern about Ping's health discreetly.
"So everyone in this encampment has passed the test?"
"Yes, everyone. No health issues. Short term or long term," Di Tan clarified.
The old man shook his head, smiling a little mysteriously. "Is there someone that concerns you?"
"No...oh, no," Shang was caught off guard. Although he had reason meticulously that sending Ping home was for the best, he felt oddly bereft at the idea of having the boy absent. So, when Di Tan was able to confirm―contrary to Ling's testimony―that Ping was actually in a good health, Shang was left feeling unwittingly relieved.
"However, you, Captain―You, on the other hand, I saw that your blood pressure is a little bit elevated. Are you experiencing great pressure lately? Or has something bothering your mind?"
That's very perceptive of him, Shang's thought. In fact, he'd been experiencing unexplained tension, insomnia, inability to focus and ..―
"Do you experience unexplained anxiety? Fatigue... or even... territorial feeling?"
"Me…?" Shang asked, intrigued.
"Yes, you know… like you perhaps became overly obsessive and protective of something…?" Di Tan elaborated. "Don't worry. This kind of anomaly is very common among men in this kind of setting because this artificial male-only environment tends to amplified our inclination to compete even more. You see, men are, by design, a territorial creature."
"Maybe?" he rasped, digesting the sobering thought. "Why?… Is that relevant?"
"Let me put it the other way. Is this thing that you are protective about... does this affect your mood and your ability to concentrate?"
"Ugh, yes." In fact, the feeling had rooted deep like an anvil chained to his leg that only came off when he was at the encampment and saw Ping, where he could quietly admire the tenacity and ferociousness that came out of his little form. Yet the enticement he felt followed by equal revulsion, all mixed together in a bag of energy-sapping emotion he had no idea what to do about.
"Did you try to address this?"
"I…―" Shang stuttered, finding no way to explain his absurd romantic fantasy. "I can't."
Di Tan blinked owlishly as though had troubled understanding. "You can't?"
When the healer wrung his hand and silently urging to elaborate, Shang finally capitulated. "He is my brother-in-law," he said with shame-tinged voice. "I don't know why… I became so…" he bit his lips, turning his face away. "Possessive around him," he admitted, finding himself losing all his usual controlled, performative composure under the doctor's scrutiny.
"Have you feel this way to anyone else before? You mentioned you have a wife, yes?" the healer asked understandingly. And for once, Shang was relieved there was no judgemental tone in his voice even after hearing the extent of his scandalous dalliances.
"Not, I haven't told her yet," Shang said, fermenting a massive headache every time he remembered about his rebellious wife and all of her possible reaction. "I haven't told anyone." Although he had a strong suspicion that his action spoke louder than words. He considered this fantastical dalliance slanderous, even to his own brand of gallantry, which was considered modern compared to his father's time.
"Do you love your wife?"
"I…―" he blinked, finding himself overthrown twice. "I….I don't know."
"Okay. But given the circumstances she was in grim danger or serious threat, would you sacrifice yourself for her?"
"Without second thoughts," Shang said without hesitation.
"I see," the doctor said vaguely. Di Tan recognized the battle inside his patient's minds when he saw one. So he turned to his desk, appeared to busy himself with paperwork.
At first, Shang thought that he was a man who cared less about his family happiness and just played it out superficially for the public to see, but as the time went on, he realized he didn't like the sombre, heartbroken look in Mulan's eyes. He wished to make her happy.
"So… I guess, I do?" Shang managed to articulate after collecting his thoughts.
"Have you ever told her that?"
"No," Shang replied. "My relationship with her is…. complicated."
"You see," Di Tan said after a contemplative moment, analysing. "I don't think you truly desire your brother-in-law the way you think. His semblance to your wife had awakened a series of emotion that had been lurking underneath," he said, clearing his throat as he paused. "Although, it's not unheard of for a man to favour more than one spouses. It's perfectly possible to find emotional connections with another spouse in the absence of the other."
Shang just stared at him blankly. Didn't quite believe the result of his health assessment. "Are you saying, I am a polygamist?"
"That's not for me to decide. All I am saying is: Sometimes, when our affection isn't allowed to be expressed freely, they can twist and bend into things they are not," Di Tan said serenely.
"You desire to love and to be loved. But you are not allowing yourself, and this feeling began to fester and grow in a strange way it did not belong. Sometimes when we long for a certain person we couldn't have…. Or we thought we couldn't have, well… our emotions settled with what we think we may be able to get."
Shang took a long, deep breath, mind twisting and turning violently. "So… what should I do?"
"When you get home, you should tell her…. Or even better, show her. Don't delay," the old man advised. "Time is a fragile thing, Captain Li. Because today you may have something that you might lose tomorrow."
The next evening, Mulan was surrounded by her closest friends. Shao Wei had come to specially congratulate her in person, and not even Shang bothered to lecture him on the importance of his safety.
"Only one night," he promised. "And I'll return to Venerable Yen's place. You don't think Ms. Xin won't let me leave without saying a proper goodbye, right?"
Shang could only roll his eyes in response.
And as a homage to Mulan's unprecedented victory, Ling had decided to try his hand on the distant world of culinary art. Just say he was inspired to try something outside his comfort zone.
"So, how is it?" Ling squatted closer, clasping his hands expectantly as he served the dinner for everyone.
"It's uh... " Mulan began. "Different…" she said, gazing towards her friends around the table. Shao Wei on her left while Chien-Po and Yao right on the opposite side.
"Very different," Shao piped up. "It's a very interesting take on chow-mein," he said, scooping some up on his chopstick and letting it slip back to the bowl.
There was a strange shift in their friendship after the night Mulan retrieved Shang's arrow from the mast. Her victory didn't just inspire the whole encampment to train harder, but it had strengthened their friendship, anchoring them, unifying differences―even Ling who initially sceptical about Shao's true intention (among other negative adjectives he might feel for him)―had decided to give it a shot. (Mulan suspected it had something to with prospective brother-in-law syndrome).
"I told you I have never cooked before!" Ling aimed his aggressive chopstick at Shao. For a split second, Mulan thought about Ling's threatening line. This would be an auspicious night if she had to witness her friend emasculate a prince with nothing but chopsticks.
"Cooking rice may have been your limit," Shao said, unfazed. "...Or washing rice sounds more like it."
"Geez,… I am trying to do something special and this is the thanks I've got?" Ling replied, but his voice carried no malice.
Chien-Po gave a big, over the top, cloying. "Awwww…" and the rest instantly joined in, making a comically huge fuss over sulking Ling.
"Stop… stooop, I ugh…―can't breathe. Guys. GUYS. Staaaappphhh!"
"Such a royal pain," Ling grumbled audibly. But Shao was busy regaling Chien-Po, his new bench-mate which happened to be equally passionate about Tan Xiang wine.
"I've calculated exactly 104 ways to eliminate this dimwitted aristocrat, should I run them by you?" Yao whispered to Ling lowly. Their friendship had kindled during the night after Ling received the shocking revelation about Ting Ting's true identity. Although he didn't share it out loud, perhaps Yao had sensed the growing tension and dislike between him and the Prince.
"No thanks," Ling exasperated, observing the Prince who remained incognizance as he laughed and joked with Ping. He couldn't believe his bad luck, how could the universe let him love a woman with such narcissistic, annoying brother?
"Well, if you change your mind just asked," Yao said, smirking.
"Ok, so what's for dinner?" Mulan chimed in, her stomach grumbled.
"Sorry, my stomach didn't agree with this cooking," Shao Wei said again to no one in particular but Ling had a nagging feeling that was directed to him.
"I think we still have some left over stir fry cabbage from lunch," Chien-Po said. "But we still need to prepare the rice."
"I'll make the rice. I guess," Ling said, inspiring a chorus of fake pitiful "Awwww".
"Scrapes him off the ground?" Shao asked after Chien-Po animatedly narrated Mulan's unprecedented victory against their captain. "You must have really done a number on him," a hint of pride simmering in his eyes. "Captain Li was beaten by a pipsqueak? Now, that's news!"
"I take that as a compliment," Mulan replied wryly. "However I did a trick on him."
"Win is still a win! War is not a competition, you won't be disqualified for winning unfairly," he said. When sparring, Shao had taught her to give her all, even to the extent to use every single dirty trick on her feminine arsenal to gain the upper hand.
As everyone had witnessed, Shao Wei was an excellent trainer. He challenged her, but never belittled nor patronised on repeated occasions when she didn't come up to scratch. Shao was difficult to impress, but he gave credit when it was due, and advice when needed.
"I witness it myself," Chien-Po testified. "The regiment should throw you a parade."
Mulan shrugged, "Oh, you know me. A real ass kicking extraordinaire."
Chien-Po laughed. "Sure you are! However, you should avoid his nose next time. I heard it is his best feature."
Shao Wei silently marvelled as he watched the amusing comical interaction among friends. He had never seen anything quite like it in the court. He had learned long ago not to expect unconditional friendship from anyone. In the court, even some people who shared blood ties had their own goals to focus on.
Chien-Po and Ling, despite their individual quirkiness, seemed to be good men. In this environment, Mulan seemed to be comfortable on her own skin, unafraid to show her true personality, cracking jokes and laughing freely.
Fa Mulan was not at all what he expected. As a prince, having been raised by the perfectly coiffed environment, his default setting of women had always been beautiful and agreeable, who had no voice on their own. Meeting an opinionated, full of personality woman like Mulan was definitely a rare sight.
Fa Mulan was a woman with her own right. She cared little about fashion and loved doing maths and beating him in the game of chess. But mostly, he just liked seeing that look of pride on her face whenever she mastered something new.
He was glad her relationship with Shang seemed to have improved with time, but it was Ling who seemed to be the closest man to her heart, the friend she chose to harbour all her secret with―which strangely irritated him.
He felt immediately guilty of his unjustifiable envy because he had no real claim to her.
Weren't they just friends...?
Shao figured that after all the time they had spent together they could be considered friends, which he was grateful for, but lately, it felt like there was something else…. simmering. Lingering looks and casual touches that lasted just a little too long. It was entirely plausible that he was imagining it, and there were so many logistical issues to them ever having anything between them.
"Your Highness…" A warm elderly voice halted his stupor.
"Oh, Dr. Di Tan Please come and sit with us," he invited.
The old man adjusted his spectacle, smiling and bowing politely. "Oh no, I am just about to return back to Chang'an. But I wish to speak to you in private."
Shao excused himself and went to the edge of clearing far from the danger of curious eavesdropper.
"This is about the woman soldier you told me earlier," Di Tan explained, eyes unwittingly gazing on Mulan's direction.
"I appreciate that you've been very cooperative and discreet about her," Shao told him.
Di Tan responded with a small smile. "Unfortunately, she wasn't as cooperative as me."
"Oh, I am sure." Shao could only imagine the girl's resistance during the health check fearing her identity left exposed to the world.
"But I'm managed to convince her somehow," Di Tan assured.
"I'm sorry if my request caused you some grief."
Di Tan smiled knowingly. "You are just being benevolent and wise as you usually are, my Prince. And I truly understand your concern, heading to war is a serious matter for everyman, let alone a woman."
Shao nodded at the old man's kind words. Di Tan was a handful man inside the court whom he trusted, for obvious reasons. As the only heir to the Wei's throne, there had been several attempts to poison him. Most were unsuccessful, but there had been a close call. And if it wasn't because of Di Tan's vast knowledge and experience, he would have lost his life long ago.
"So, is she in good health?"
"Indeed, my Prince."
Even in just a few short weeks, her body had started to transform. The softness was starting to disappear and in its place were muscles, just beginning to show their definition. Seemed like her months of physical conditioning began to bear its fruit.
"However, not only she is physically fit," Di Tan said, glancing over his shoulder.
"She's also pregnant."