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Mulan, The Beginning

A retelling of the various legends of Mulan.

The night I was born, was the calm before the storm of war. 

The air was cool and pleasant, sparing the crops and gardens from the cruel death of frost. Traveling in soft whorls, the wind urged the leaves to whisper, and yet kept the fires tame. Ponds rippled and settled, ever so often revealing the flash of swimming scales. The sky was dark, permitting the world to see the majesty of the brilliant stars, all working together to form clear constellations. In the years to come when my Grandmother recounted to me the story of my birth, she told me that a higher power painted the sky with their shining art just for me, and in my innocence I believed her.

While the earth was calm, the village was in a state of celebration. Most homes were filled with people feasting on delicacies, coating their fingers with grease, and filling their bodies with savory flavors. Laughter overtook the usual dominating silence; and my neighbors allowed conversation to overtake their need for rest and sleep. My home was warm. Warm with the hues of fire and light, with every family member being rosy-cheeked with joy. This night was my father’s last, before he went off to fight in the war. On this night, my mother also went into labor. And while she was screaming with pain, my father could hardly contain his joy. The Hua family was to be blessed with a son, and he would be present to witness it.

During the nine months leading up to this highly anticipated night, multiple signs had the entire village convinced that I would grow up to be a man of strength, like my father. Every superstitious sign pointed to my mother bearing a male heir. Every midwife assured my mother that she exhibited extraordinary health, a symptom often equated to being pregnant with a boy. My grandfather spent multiple hours of every day praying at the family temple. He was completely satisfied with his efforts, and was convinced that the ancestors were as well. Every sign from every possible source led my family to believe that my mother was pregnant with a son. So it is no surprise, that when I born and revealed to be a girl, they were disappointed in every possible way.

Upon hearing and seeing the news for himself, that I was indeed female, my father silently walked out of the room. He refused to hold me, or even touch me, his first child. My grandfather cursed my mother under his breath as he strode out of the room, blaming her for bringing such an abomination into his family. My grandmother smiled and dismissed the midwife, taking me into her arms for the first time.

My mother remained like a statue in her bed, with no movement and no emotion. The scent of magnolia blossoms blew into the room, carried along by the same gentle breeze out that night. My mother finally stirred, whispering with a broken voice to my Grandmother. She named me Mulan, after the delicate flowers growing outside her window. Then she closed her eyes, and allowed herself to be carried away into a deep and exhausted slumber. But not before a single tear rolled down her cheek.

All night, my grandmother held me. And when the warmth of light and joy within our home was extinguished, she wrapped me in an old blanket and her love. The remainder of my first night on earth was spent stargazing and resting in my grandmother’s arms- with her whispering in my ears all the while that the beauty of that night existed to honor my birth.

In the early misty dawn of the following morning, my father Captain Hua left for war…along with every other able-bodied man in the village. Gone were all traces of the previous night’s festivities. The reality and shadow of war was now a force that would not dissipate for years to come. My father left behind an empty wife, a hateful father, a content mother, and a daughter that he never wanted, named Mulan.

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