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He’s the one who solved the riddle of strength and discipline, his actions were the turning point in the training of my men. He’s the one who stepped forward to share the pain of my father’s death, of the demise of the village and my first failure for China. He’s the one who saved my life, just hours ago. He’s my best soldier. And he’s wounded. I pace the door to the tent where he lays, trying to understand my own feelings. Admiration, yes. But that’s not all. What is this longing in my heart?

He deserves to be a captain far more than I; he saved all of us by triggering that avalanche with his quick thinking. When this tent opens I’ll make him my lieutenant, I’ll listen to the ideas he’s proven to be great, I’ll let him assist in the plans, let him share in the glory this victory will surely bring. He’s proven his strength: he’ll easily pull through from this wound.

When the doors to his tent flutter, so does my heart, pounding with the anticipation of the doctor’s news. Remembering my place, I hold my tongue; keep my mask in place as I wait for him to say the words. He wears a frown.
“Captain.” He bows me to me slightly; a formality, an interruption. “Fa Ping… is a woman.”
Now his frown makes sense. “Are you sure?”
He nods once, but I can’t believe him. I can’t believe that Ping, whom I was about to trust with my life, with my honour, could be a lie.

I charge in, desperate for an explanation, but see only confirmation of the doctor’s words. The face of a man, perhaps, but the body of a woman: that is indisputable. In my gut I feel betrayed, taken for an idiot. What joke is this, when my best soldier is a woman? How dare Ping play this trick on me?

As I ride my troops away toward their glory, all I can feel in the bitter wind is anger and distrust. I can’t understand why he came here, why he wanted to bring shame upon me. I have no guilt, I have done nothing to his father or his family name, what revenge did he seek? ‘She’ my frozen brain reminds me, he’s not Ping anymore. Ping will remain a memory, a mirage; too good to be true.