Mulan Has No Elder Brother - Chapter 5
“Mulan, those people came again last night?” Yuan-shi worriedly looked at the He Mulan eating millet porridge1. “You should still just move over to live with us.”
“No need, it was only just some idiots,” He Mulan shook her head, but when she thought about the “knight-errants” of last night, she nearly couldn’t resist her urge to laugh.
Hahahaha! See if they still come back next time!
If they do, then she’d release the real, Herculean, box-carrying female ghost!
“You by yourself, it’s really not safe,” Yuan-shi sighed.
“Then you guys should move to Huaishuo Town with me.” Hua Mulan had always wanted her entire family to go back to the Six Garrison Towns with her to live. The Six Towns were mainly of Xianbei folks, and with many of her intimate friends also there, it was probably more suitable than Liang County for a woman with her unique sort of experiences to live in.
Although her father was of a military household, and now had orders to be at the Liang County Military Farm, it wasn’t like there weren’t cases of paying someone else to work the land instead.
Father Hua slammed his walking stick against the floor, his voice was stern, “The Emperor sent me here to stockpile food, and so I will take care of the foodstuff for the army! With Pingcheng lacking food supplies like that, although we old veterans be old, weak, sick, disabled, unable to guard the borders for the Emperor – but being able to send foodstuff to the frontlines is still good! Letting someone else take over the plowing? I won’t be at ease!”
‘But it’s not you who plows the fields ah, isn’t it Little Brother Hua!?’
He Mulan helplessly disagreed in silence.
After the meal, He Mulan pulled out a strip of a handkerchief to dab at the corners of her lips, making Yuan-shi, who saw her again use a piece of good cloth to wipe her mouth, feel a burst of a pity.
Cotton was an extremely rare thing in Great Wei and cotton cloth was something only the Han-Chinese in the South had. Silk and cloth were both extremely valuable; even a small piece of cotton could be used to barter for quite a few eggs. He Mulan was used to using paper towels, but neither that – nor cotton cloth – was to be had here; everything was all of rough burlap. The winter garments were of fur instead of being padded with cotton – the days passed with her on the brink of losing her mind.
And so, He Mulan then went picking through Hua Mulan’s rewards. She trimmed off a piece of cotton cloth, split it into three pieces, and ever since then, had been using them as handkerchiefs. She didn’t even have to embroider or decorate them; it was enough that they could absorb water.
After a use, it only needed a wash – it was thus quite economical.
In modern times, ten yuan was enough to buy a long length of cotton cloth, but here, even wiping her mouth had pegged her as being extremely wasteful.
Fortunately, none of Mulan’s family coveted her assets. They never showed interest whenever she took out one of her belongings to use – it was just that some moments of pity were hard to avoid on their faces. They were all honest people and, as their inner thoughts reflected on their faces, only a glance was enough to tell.
He Mulan pushed the bowl aside; everyday millet-rice, all three meals millet-rice – the mouthfeel was really motherfxcking bad. If it wasn’t for the jerky, the rather tasty side dishes, and for she herself not being picky – she would’ve been unable to make it through if there was just that one dish to eat.
So, there was indeed some merits to not being too finicky ‘bout food.
He Mulan was, as usual, also dressed like a man today. While the clothing of female Xianbei commoners was also narrow-sleeved, narrow-waisted, and not an inconvenience to wear, it was rather breezy down below as there weren’t any underwear2 and it was also a hassle when the skirts began to move with the breeze. And thus, as she couldn’t get used to wearing Hua Mulan’s skirts3, she chose to always wear the pleated trousers of men.
She was also unwilling to wipe on the rouge and stick on the flower-yellow4. As most Xianbei women were white of skin, their common practice was to smear rouge on their cheeks and to brush their hair up into a high bun – if one was indeed a white-skinned Xianbei girl, this type of makeup would indeed be rather fetching.
Fang-shi had always dressed like so – and she herself didn’t feel there anything wrong with it.
But once, Yuan-shi had excitedly given He Mulan such a makeover. He Mulan had looked at herself in the copper mirror, but the copper mirror wasn’t clear to the point of being able to see the face – so thus unable to see anything good nor bad, she had only felt indescribably awkward.
But when she passed by the vat of water, she finally saw the genuine front of this getup. And in the face of the expectation in Yuan-shi’s eyes, she could only endure the extreme pain and swallow that “how ugly” back down into her stomach. And from then on, she’d never rouged or powdered up again.
Hua Mulan looked very much like a mixed-blood, albeit more of the masculine type. But with her skin also yet to return to its former fairness, when her cheeks were rubbed red with rouge and the flower-yellow was pasted on her forehead….
She believed the original Hua Mulan would’ve looked very lovely with this sort of makeup, but that was also limited to the ten-or-so years old, fair-skinned, tall and slender Hua Mulan. But as for the one today, this was really a bit……
Could somewhat understand why “Her comrades were all shocked when She came out to see them.”5
In fact, Hua Mulan looked better bare faced. She’d occasionally put on a skirt and saunter about the house bare faced to appease Yuan-shi’s forehead, which was about to wrinkle to the point of being able to squeeze mosquitos to death.
However, as a whole, Hua Mulan’s family were all good, honest and considerate people and He Mulan didn’t wish to make them feel bad.
Just as Hua Mulan finished her meal and was ready to go out for a stroll, the “magistrate” of the Liang County and the mayor of the neighboring village of Liujiaji suddenly dropped in for a visit, sending the Hua Family into a frenzy of confusion.
This so-called “magistrate” was the person in charge of all local disputes featuring the Xianbei folks in the area. It was like the Han-Chinese equivalent of “mayor” or “village chief”6. This position was mostly given to one of the many local Xianbei folks with either good virtue and prestige, or outstanding military service. As the Xianbei and the Han-Chinese lived intermingled in Great Wei, the mayor and the magistrate were jointly responsible for the public order and other related matters of the township.
This mayor of Liujiaji came to visit before dawn, saying that ‘cause the man from the Liu Family who’d died this morning had a dispute with Liu Meng yesterday – and as Hua Mulan’s cousin, Hua Kehu, had been present at the scene – he’d like the magistrate to go over and ask about what happened back then.
The “magistrate” of this place had once been Hua Mulan’s subordinate and so on hearing that this matter involved Hua Mulan’s family, he immediately got on a horse and brought the mayor over to the Hua Family.
“This must be Lord Hua?” As Hua Kehu held rank in the army – and as He Mulan was dressed head-to-toe in men’s garbs and had a mannerism quite different from the others – with one glance, the mayor of Liujiaji had right away found the “right master” and warmly went up to greet him.
“This Old One is the Mayor of Liujiaji, everyone calls me Old Liu. This Old One came here to….”
“General Hua, the Liu Yu’an who came to your family to request for marriage has been found dead in Liu Meng’s courtyard this morning.” The Xianbei magistrate here had personally went to welcome Hua Mulan on her return home, and so on seeing her now, he naturally knew who this “Hua Kehu” was and had also more or less deduced what the situation had been yesterday. And so, he respectfully, deferentially bowed his head to explain what had happened.
In the army, Hua Mulan was of Fifth Rank7 title of “General of Tiger’s Might”. The commoners of this area knew only the name of Hua Mulan but knew not the person; the baseless rumors that had been spread were also unpleasant on the ears. However, the local officials dared not to slight her.
“For what reason have you come to my house to look for her?” Father Hua got to his feet with the support of his walking sticks and scowling, began to raise his voice8, “Yesterday, he9 only went for a look at the moral quality of the one who’d requested the marriage. Could it be you think he’s the murderer?”
“Not so. Master Hua misunderstands, but this Liu Yu’an died in Liu Meng’s house. With ten or so wounds on his entire body, the manner of death had been extremely cruel; the dagger used in the violent crime had also been found in the water vat in Liu Meng’s house. But this Liu Meng continues to say that he doesn’t at all know what happened. That he’d even held back yesterday afternoon and didn’t continue to disturb Liu Yu’an…” Old Liu sighed a long and deep sigh.
“This had originally been the nail in the coffin for Liu Meng being the murderer. But where the case went strange was that the neighbors to the left and right of Liu Meng all said they hadn’t seen Liu Meng go out to cause trouble. They also hadn’t caught Liu Yu’an going over and furthermore, they didn’t see even the shadow of Liu Yu’an.”
He Mulan began to mull over it in her heart.
But the usual murderer would always have a reason. Liu Meng had swindled Liu Yu’an’s family property for the sake of wealth, and now that he already had it in his hands, he most certainly didn’t have a reason to kill someone. If it’d been a slip of a hand during a dispute, then the ten or so wounds were most certainly too excessive. Not to mention, but would a dispute be so silent and so quiet that even the family members and the neighbors wouldn’t find out? Unlike Xianbei folks, the Han-Chinese mostly lived right next door to each other.
So therefore, this argument also didn’t make sense.
“As Liu Meng failed to pick a fight yesterday afternoon, Liu Yu’an had been worried he would come back to cause trouble and so he’d sent his pair of son and daughter over to the house of a cousin nearby. And so even the children of the Liu Family have no idea what happened. Which is why this matter is extremely strange, and so this Old One wanted to ask Lord Hua if he had encountered anything special….”
“I understand,” He Mulan gave a nod, “Then where is Liu Yu’an’s body right now?”
“Still in Liu Meng’s courtyard. Until the people from the yamen in Yucheng County arrive, it cannot be moved.”
“If that’s so, I’ll just go along with you guys to have a look at where the crime had been committed.”
“Mu…..what are you doing!” Yuan-shi nervously grabbed the corner of her daughter’s sleeve. “Since Old Man Liu came to find out what happened, you just tell him the situation back then. That man’s request for marriage falling through just means it wasn’t meant to be, why bother going to this place of painful suffering! You’re also not an official of the yamen10, what can you see at the scene of the crime? The person is already dead, can it be that it could still speak?”
He Mulan laughed bitterly; she’d no way of explaining that due to her own personal integrity towards her occupation, she simply couldn’t bear seeing this sort of simple case turn into something complicated.
“Ah-Mu, the dead really can speak.”
Yuan-shi froze, unsure as to what her daughter was talking about. He Mulan took the chance to tug her sleeve free; she stepped back a few steps and got down on her knees in front of Yuan-shi and Father Hua to express her regret. And only then did she stand up and prepare to set out.
Once Mayor Liu saw this scene, and heard He Mulan call Yuan-shi “Ah-Mu”, how could he not understand? His eyes at once widened in shock and his gaze continuously swept He Mulan up and down.
This….this person was really a woman…
Was this type of upright, headstrong person of suitable manners and appropriate action….really a woman?
No wonder everyone all called her a “female hero”, no wonder even the Magistrate had been respectful and deferential towards her.
If there was really a woman capable of achieving great feats in battle, ‘fraid it was only this type that could do so!
Just yesterday, He Mulan had resolutely, decisively told that man from the Liu Family that her younger cousin “Hua Mulan” was unlikely to marry him. And in the end, he met with an accident today.
It’d be a lie to say that He Mulan wasn’t the least bit moved. Mother Hua had made it so that she could pretend she didn’t know a thing – but she just couldn’t do that.
What was more, “Hua Kehu” had already become involved in the case. After the runners11 and the coroner arrived from the yamen in Yucheng, she’d definitely be taken as a witness to the trial. When the time comes, that “Hua Kehu” was “Hua Mulan” was something that could no longer be kept in the dark; after all, the magistrate knew her identity and Hua Kehu was still in the Six Garrison Towns drilling the soldiers.
“Hua Ah-Mu, please be at ease, I’ll be going along with General Hua; I certainly won’t let them be rash.” The middle-aged magistrate dressed in Xianbei clothing saw that General Hua’s parents were somewhat worried, and so promised Father Hua and Mother Hua, “This matter concerns General Hua’s reputation; I shall be careful with it.”
“Will be troubling you to do so.”
Father Hua placed a hand over his chest in a military salute and watched as his own daughter left the house with them.
As this was no trivial matter, He Mulan led her Ferghana12 horse “Yueying” out from the back of the house. This was Hua Mulan’s beloved steed, an entirely black Tayuan13 horse that was now being taken care of by Little Brother Hua.
He Mulan climbed onto the horse and the magistrate closely followed suit; Old Man Liu was helped onto a horse by one of the magistrate’s servants. The party then took off, advancing in the direction of Liujiajia and catching the attention of quite a few of the villagers that lived close to the Hua Family.
Ever since He Mulan had stepped out of the house, Little Brother Hua had been staring at his older sister’s back, struggling to decide whether to follow her or not. Seeing her husband like that, Fang-shi felt really vexed in her heart. She couldn’t help but mockingly say, “You only know how to look on with wide eyes! It’s like there isn’t an adult male of age in this house, to even make a girl go see that type of dirty stuff!”
“My Second Sister has been in the army for twelve years! How could she be afraid of this!” Little Brother Hua lowered his head, “It’s just that I don’t know what my Second Sister is going to do….which is why I’m worried.”
“If you’re worried, then just go along ah! It’s not like there ain’t other horses in the house!”
Xianbei military households were also responsible for raising horses for the army. In the Hua household, other than the good colt “Yueying”, there were also two war horses, whose foodstuff and training were allocated by the court. Although they weren’t for sale, it was most certainly acceptable to temporarily borrow them for a ride.
On being thus scolded by his own woman, anger rose up in Little Brother Hua’s heart.
His Second Sister had always been full of her own ideas, otherwise, she wouldn’t have taken Father’s place and entered the army back then. Although she was now back home, could it be that just ‘cause she came back, she was really willing to take on a woman’s role14 and marry an ordinary man as his second wife?
He watched his parents worry about his sister15 every single day, but in his heart, he really didn’t think it necessary.
A girl like this, did she need to marry? She could do everything by herself!
Those men couldn’t even best his Sis in a fight; if a thief snuck in one day, could it be that his Sis still had to protect her husband as well!?
If she was worried about not having an heir, one of the sons he’d someday have with Fang-shi could be given to his Sis to adopt.
It was just that his mouth was clumsy, and his person was stupid, and so the words in his stomach couldn’t even be poured out. Therefore, these thoughts had no way of getting to his parents and his wife.
His Second Sis was obviously unwilling to marry – once his Ah-Mu finally lost hope in it, he’d speak about it then.
But right now, his worries remained only as worries. A person like his sister, who’d been on the battlefield for a long period of time, surely had her own plans. Because only then would she have the confidence to go over to see what was up. So why should he go? To put his shame on display?
He’d never even seen a dead person before! What if his legs go soft when the time comes? Then he’d really be a disgrace to his Second Sis!
Fang-shi was still talking and talking, reproaching him for not being like a man. Yuan-shi leaned on the door and craned her neck as she looked outside, just as if she could use her expression to advise her daughter-in-law’s mouth to stop.
Father Hua, who’d been in the room, had listened to the point of becoming annoyed. Finally, he loudly roared, “Mutuo, go along for a look. If there’s anything wrong, it’d be easier to give a follow-up!”
Hua Mutuo froze, then turned around to make sure, but with a tug on his arm, Fang-shi had already dragged him off in the direction of the manger.
Wasn’t it just a dead person? What’s to hesitate for!?