Tuyuhun: A Tale of Mulan
Captain Na\'s Daughter and Heba\'s Medal
When Chuo returned to the hosts camp with Alun, their arrival was met by a crowd of soldiers. When Fu approached, Chuo stared at his elder cousin with a somewhat nervous expression, but at the same time was just happy to see his kinsman.
Fu on the other hand was half relieved and half infuriated. With arms crossed, he said to the boy: ”Go forth by yourself again and I will give you a beating you won soon forget! ”
Smiling, Chuo merely said: ”Good to see you as well, Fu. ”
Riding past his cousin, it was the approach of Ping and Lieutenants Hege and Chili that caused Chuo to halt his steed. While he stared at the three, a chill running up his spine, Alun dismounted and ran over to her father, embracing him joyously.
His blue eyes upon his superiors, the Young Tuyuhun waited for one of them to speak. Ping stood there, stroking his chin as he thought, while Hege stared contemptuously at him, still thinking of Chuo as nothing more but the sickly boy who had been born before his time.
And then there was Chili, smiling proudly at the boy. He was certain that the Young Tuyuhun had proved himself, but alas, Hege turned spiteful.
”Tuyuhun Chuo, you departed this camp without permission of your superiors. ” Hege uttered, daggers in her eyes. ”And you shall depart once more. You are to return to your family and never return! If you do, I will kill you! ”
Needless to say, this was met by objection by every soldier in the camp, except Huang. The first one to speak out against this was Mulan Badaling, exclaiming: ”Now hold on, thats not fair! ”
”The boy has proven himself, Lieutenant Hege. ” Said Lieutenant Chili to his equal. ”I say we let him stay! ”
”Thats what I say! ” agreed Mulan. ”Let Tuyuhun Chuo stay and serve in Buri Khans host with the rest of us! ”
Outraged, Lieutenant Hege roared: ”I will see you all put to death for this! ”
”It will do you well to remember, Lieutenant Hege… ” began Ping. ”To remember your position. Chuo has proven himself by rescuing Captain Nas daughter. He shall stay and serve in the Khans host. ”
Speaking up, Chuo uttered: ”I saw Heba when I went to rescue Alun. ”
Hissing through her teeth, Lieutenant Hege said: ”You cannot confirm this. ”
Hurling the medal, he had taken from Hebas tent at her feet, Chuo replied: ”I can. ”
All eyes upon Lieutenant Hege, the camp waited for her to respond. Like a horse grazing, she merely stood there. When she finally did respond, drawing her sword and taking a step towards Chuo upon his horse. Almost everyone else drew their own swords with Huang being the only one to just stand there, hoping to see the Young Tuyuhun killed.
Seeing that there was no point in killing Chuo if she herself was killed, Lieutenant Hege sheathed her sword. Thus, did she make her way to her horse, mounted it and departed. Where to? Who could say? Either she was returning home in shame or defecting to fight for the Rouran Khaganate, if they would even have her.
When all was done, Ping waved Chuo over. Dismounting from his steed, the Young Tuyuhun approached and looked into the eyes of his supreme commander.
”As you have proven yourself, you shall be placed in the light cavalry along with your cousin and neighbours, Chuo. ” Said Ping, his tone calm. ”The medal you brought back shall be brought to Pingcheng, you may even bring it there yourself so you might personally inform Buri Khan of General Hebas defection. ”
While the thought of coming face to face with his khan was a tempting, ultimately it was not so tempting that Chuo would leave the host, even for a little while. Thus, did the Young Tuyuhun decline, but even then, he did thank Ping for allowing him to stay and serve in the host. Dismissed by his commanding officer, Chuo then sought out Mulan Badaling.
He found her tending to her steed. Watching as she brushed her horses fur, he looked the beast over, admiring beauty of the animal, the wild, fiery, supreme speedster: horse. Even the appellation created in the mind a whirling image of excitement, adventure and danger, an image the created ordinary people into heroes.
Chuo had once heard that those who lived to survive a war became heroes, those who did not simply became cadavers. It was certainly a grim, cynical way to look at it, but the question was placed in his mind, would he live to become a hero or would he simply become a cadaver?
Shaking his head, Chuo cleared his throat and said: ”Mulan Badaling, I would like to thank you for speaking up on my behalf. ”
Turning to face him, Mulan replied: ”Think nothing of it, Tuyuhun Chuo. You have a right to be here and had proved yourself. I have been placed in the light cavalry alongside your cousin and neighbours. What of you? ”
”I have been placed in the light cavalry as well. ” Answered Chuo.
”I look forward to fighting alongside you. ” Giving a smile, Mulan then added: ”And who knows, perhaps I shall have you as a commanding officer just as my father had yours as one. ”
”Perhaps… ” uttered Chuo, scratching his right cheek. ”Or maybe you will be mine… Then again… ” Taking a look around at the others in the camp, he added: ”Anyone here could end up becoming a commanding officer. ”
”In all honesty, Tuyuhun Chuo… ” Mulan glanced over to Fu. ”I would prefer you to your elder kinsman. He does not seem fit to be a commanding officer. ”
Looking over to his cousin, Chuo could not see any reason why Mulan would think such a thing. ”I don know. He is equal to my brother, equal to my sisters… He wasn born before his time, he wasn sickly, I may have proven myself worthy of my place here in the Khans host, but Fu is still much better suited to be a commanding officer than I. ” Sighing, he then inquired: ”Wherefore did your father not come? My paterfamilias was wounded in an attack, my brother killed and my sisters are off avenging my brother. Is it the same as with you? ”
Sighing as well, Mulan answered: ”Not exactly, Tuyuhun Chuo. My father is old and ill. ”
”How old? ”
”Nine and thirty. ”
”That isn exactly old. ” Commented Chuo. ”My father is only seven and forty. ”
”He is old before his time. ” Stated Mulan. ”Your father was simply wounded, but mine… ” Shaking her heard, she sighed once more and said: ”He could not go and I had longed to become a warrior and prove myself. My elder sister Munan refused to go and our younger brother Fang was is only five twelvemonths old. That left me, the middle child, ready to serve the Tuoba Clan just as our father and his father before him had. I fourteen, you… How old are you, Chuo? ”
”Thirteen… We are both so young and by the time this is all over, we will have been changed. ” Looking to the sky, Mulan then commented: ”But first we must survive this campaign. Good luck, little brother. ”
As Mulan walked off, Chuo watched as she walked away. He could not argue with what she had said. They had to survive the campaign first and the Young Tuyuhun could only wonder, if any of them, anyone whose name he knew, would ever return home to their families.
Looking over to Alun, speaking with her father, Chuo wondered if he would ever see her again. Perhaps he would, perhaps he would not, but as far as he knew, she would return home and he would never see her again. He had only met her recently, wherefore was he thinking such things?
He could have gone over to speak with her, but what was he to say? When this campaign was all over and he still lived, he would like to see her again?
Taking a deep breath, Chuo walked ten paces from the camp armed with his bow. Looking up at the sun, he took aim and loosed his arrow. Though he was no Odysseus of the West, the arrow still traveled far and eventually came down into the Yellow River. Could it have meant anything? If only he knew.
If only he knew anything.
He knew not if he would survive the campaign, he knew not if his father or mother would still be alive if he did, he knew not if his sisters would return from avenging their brother, he simply did not know anything.
He had proven himself, but what did the future hold for him? If only he knew. He was in the Khans host and now what? How long would this campaign even last? Had he made the correct decision? If only he had an answer.
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