[The series opens with a massive battle between the Tujue and Sui armies. Hua Hu is an officer in the army and his superior is the Marshal, Li Liang's uncle. He reports to the Marshal that the Tujue have been slaughtering innocents in the villages behind the Sui army, not even letting women and children elude death. The Marshal orders him to take some soldiers and teach the Tujue a lesson. He leads a platoon of men inside an abandoned village, but discovers too late that it is a trap. He loses almost all of his men and gets his leg severely wounded. The narrator reports that Hua Hu has served in the army for fifteen years, ever since the start of the Sui dynasty in China, and he receives an honorable discharge due to his injury. He also says that Hua Hu's patriotism now finds a vent in the hopes that his unborn child will be able to carry on the Hua tradition of honorable service to the empire]
[Cut to a litter carrying Hua Hu back to his home village. Mulan's mother is pregnant and awaits her husband's arrival home. There are three small daughters waiting with her. They all watch as Hua Hu steps out of the litter with a cane]
Hua Hu: Xianglan, Jinlan, Yulan! Father missed you so! How you've all grown in the few short months that I haven't seen you. [Bends down to hug them]
Mulan's mother: My Lord, what happened to your leg?
Hua Hu: Oh, it was on the receiving end of a Tujue sword. Luckily, it hit my leg and not my neck, otherwise…[Mulan's mother puts her hand to his mouth tenderly]
Mulan's mother: I forbid you to say such unlucky things!
Hua Hu: I almost forgot, I'm about to become a father again. [Pats her stomach affectionately] Luckily, I made it back in time to see it get born.
[Cut to fortuneteller's shop. Hua Hu and Mulan's mother are sitting at a table getting a consultation. The fortuneteller rolls some dice and then interprets the results. He smiles towards the couple]
Fortuneteller: Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Hua. This child is definitely a boy.
[Hua Hu and his wife look at each other in happiness at the good news]
Hua Hu: Sir, how do you know it will be a boy?
Fortuneteller: I have already rolled the dice three times. (He goes into a lengthy explanation that I can't even begin to fathom, as it touches on Chinese astrology) Trust me, it's a boy this time!
[Cut to birthing room where Mulan's mother is in labor. Hua Hu is at her side holding her hand. After much encouragement, she gives birth and the midwife presents the baby to Hua Hu]
Hua Hu [taking bundle]: Oh, let me have a look at you, my son. [Takes a look, then starts to wail] Ahh!!! It's a girl!
Mulan's mother [shocked]: What? It's the end for me…
[Cut to scene with baby in bed with Mulan's mother. She is holding her new daughter, but she is quite unhappy that it was a girl and not a boy. She begins to strike the baby in anger, but it doesn't whimper or cry. Mulan's mother is disgusted and heartbroken. She sees the large basin of hot water left over from the midwife. She gets a resolute and wild look in her eyes, rises from her bed, and takes the baby over to the basin. She proceeds to try and drown the baby, which begins to scream in terror. Hua Hu is walking by the door when he sees what his wife is doing and hurries in, limp and all, in horror]
Hua Hu: What are you doing? Are you insane? [Snatches baby away]
Mulan's mother: This isn't my baby. I carried a son. This creature is a demon that switched places with my son. I want my son back!
Hua Hu: You have definitely gone insane. Regardless of if it is a boy or girl, this baby is still our own flesh-and-blood.
Mulan's mother: This baby is not of my flesh! The fortuneteller said I carried a boy. I felt I carried a boy. This baby is a devil's spawn. [Snatches at baby but Hua Hu holds it away from her] Give me back my son!
Hua Hu: How can you trust everything that a fortuneteller tells you? Maybe the fortuneteller was wrong, wife. Beside, to harm your own flesh-and-blood is a sin against the gods. They will exact retribution for such a deed. [Mulan's mother looks defeated and starts to cry] Wife, I know you wanted to produce an heir for the Hua family so we can continue the family line. But you can't force such things. You must not do anything rash, okay? [Baby continues to cry loudly while Hua Hu tries to soothe it] We have a new daughter today; this is cause for a celebration, too. We should pick a proper name for our new little one. Let's see… Jinlan, Xianglan, Yulan… gee whiz, we've already used all the good ones. What type of "lan" should we call our new daughter?
Mulan's mother [impatient]: What does it matter, she's an item in the debit column for the family and is thus worthless. Call her Mulan.
Hua Hu [looks thoughtful]: Mulan. Mulan. That's pretty good. Let us call her Mulan.
[Cut to the edge of the river where several teenage girls are washing their families' laundry. The now teenaged Mulan is among them. She strips and goes for a swim in the river, much to the shock of her peers]
Friend: Mulan, what are you doing? Are you crazy?
Mulan: I'm hot and dirty from washing clothes. I decided to take a dip and cool off. [Goes and swims a bit. She doesn't immediately notice that a small group of teenage boys have hidden behind some clumps of tall grass to ogle her. When she does spot them, she hurries back into her clothes and chases after them. She catches them and soundly thrashes all of them]
[Cut to Hua home. Hua Hu is drinking some tea with Stepmother]
Hua Hu: Where is Tianci?
Stepmother: Elder Sister (honorable title for Mulan's mother) said he was raising a ruckus late into the night. She wanted to let him sleep a bit later today.
Hua Hu: You gave birth to him, so you must discipline him as needed. Don't let her spoil him rotten.
Stepmother: It's great that Elder Sister dotes on him as she does, though.
[A large commotion comes from outside the house. Mulan's mother is hollering at her and chases her into the house. She is carrying a switch and is landing some smart blows on Mulan. All the while, Tianci is cheering on Mulan's mother to hit her again. While Mulan hides behind her father, he demands what is going on while he snatches the switch away from Mulan's mother]
Mulan's mother [angry]: Why don't you ask that precious daughter of yours!
Hua Hu [to Mulan]: Well? [Mulan remains silent]
Mulan's mother: She was sore at me for yelling at her earlier, so she deliberately scattered all the laundry into the river and didn't leave a single stitch behind!
Mulan: Father, I didn't do it on purpose!
Mulan's mother [still angry]: You're still trying to weasel your way out of this!
Mulan: Mother, I'm not maliciously trying to butt heads with you. It's just that there were some people who were ogling me while I was taking a bath, so while I was fighting them the laundry got scattered…
Mulan's mother [shocked]: A bath?! You jumped in the river to take a bath?!
Mulan: I was covered in grime; I just wanted to cool off a bit.
Mulan's mother: Were you even wearing a stitch on you?
Mulan: Of course I had on at least something…
[Her parents look as if they can't believe their ears. In particular, Hua Hu looks like he is about to faint]
Mulan's mother [yelling]: You stripped naked to go take a bath in the river? Have you no shame?
Mulan: Those perverts who were watching me are the ones with no shame. I was minding my own business, taking a bath; I never told them to come and watch me.
Mulan's mother [scolding]: You don't even have the decency to feel ashamed, do you? You stupid girl, you've lost the face of eighteen generations of honorable ancestors!
Mulan [saucily]: Mother, don't go putting words into the mouths of our ancestors like that. The Hua family ancestors are not as petty as you are about stuff like this.
Mulan's mother [slaps her face soundly]: Who is petty? You have no respect for authority!
Tianci [clapping his hands]: Well hit, very well hit! Eldest Mother, hit her again!
Hua Hu [strikes the ground with the switch he grabbed from Mulan's mother]: What is this?! [Scolds Tianci] She is your elder sister.
Tianci [nonchalant]: What elder sister? Eldest Mother says she scared away my older brother and took his place. She's a devil's spawn. [Stepmother hurries over to hush Tianci, but Mulan's mother protects him]
Mulan's mother: Leave him alone. He is speaking the truth. Come here and stay by me.
Hua Hu [greatly irritated]: That's enough! Has everyone made enough noise yet? [Mulan starts to shrink away and tries to sneak out of the room, but her mother stops her]
Mulan's mother: Stay right there! I'm not done with you yet, missy.
Mulan [still acting smart]: Oh, look at the time. I'd best go and fix supper now. Mother, if you'd rather, though, I'll stay and let you finish your scolding if it will make you feel better.
[Cut to matchmaker's place. Hua Hu and Stepmother are sitting at a table with Madam Sun, the matchmaker]
Hua Hu: Madam Sun, regardless of everything else, you must help us with this great favor. Please. [Seeing she hesitates] Help us out here, will you? I promise when this is all finished, I will give you another large lucky money packet (contains cash, usually exchanged at Chinese New Year, birthdays, etc., in lieu of presents), okay?
Madam Sun: Mr. Hua, it isn't that I'm unwilling to help you, but that I really do not have the ability to help you.
Stepmother: Madam Sun, you needn't be so humble. Everyone knows that you have a knack with such things beyond what others can accomplish. Take the daughter of the Yao family, for example. You were able to marry her off in spite of her pockmarked face and bad teeth.
Madam Sun: But this is beyond even that. I've already talked to Mr. Fang about your Mulan. However, he said he'd much rather take the Yao family's sow over the Hua family's cow (reference to a sow not having great beauty but at least being peaceful and fertile, while a cow is known for it's stubbornness). [Flutters her handkerchief condescendingly at Hua Hu and Stepmother as if enjoying her own little joke]
Hua Hu [through narrow eyes, but then sighs]: Madam Sun, take a look at this. [He pulls from his sleeve a beautiful jade bracelet] Do you like it?
Madam Sun [eyes light up]: Why, that's a priceless treasure! [Reaches over to grab it, but Hua Hu moves it just out of her reach]
Hua Hu: If you can get Mulan married off, then the bracelet is yours.
Madam Sun: No problem! No problem at all!
[Hua Hu and Stepmother hastily thank Madam Sun and take their leave]
[Cut to city street. Hua Hu is leading Mulan to the matchmaker's to meet a prospective groom. She is trailing behind and walking even more slowly than her father]
Hua Hu [reciting for Mulan's benefit]: Well-spoken but never uncouth, capable but never ungraceful, polite but never flirtatious, glowing but never grinning, angry but never loud. [Turns to look at Mulan and sees her trailing behind several paces] Mulan, did you hear those things I just recited? You have to remember them if you want to be considered a virtuous maiden [She is bundled in several layers of clothing and looking very warm and uncomfortable. Her cheeks are flushed from walking and the excessive layers] You don't want to make a fool of yourself when we go inside later.
Mulan [nodding but looking very unhappy]: Father, I'm really hot! Couldn't I take a layer off? [Starts to remove the outermost layer but her father stops her]
Hua Hu: No, no, you must not remove any clothing. Keep it all on. Madam Sun said you looked a bit too thin, so the layers of clothing are to make you look like you are full of luck (plumpness is traditionally a sign of good luck and future prosperity).
Mulan [groaning]: I'm going to melt!
Hua Hu: Just bear it a little longer. As soon as we're finished here we can go home. You have no idea how hard it was for Madam Sun to find a suitable match. You must not let this opportunity slip away, okay? [Mulan nods mutely and trudges on]
[Cut to Madam Sun's rooms. She brings Hua Hu and Mulan inside and introduces them to the prospective groom. He is an older man, perhaps around fifty or so]
Madam Sun: Come, let me introduce you to Zhao Sanduo. [Mulan and Hua Hu are shocked at the age of Mr. Zhao, but only Mulan is openly gaping at the sight of her prospective husband. Seeing Hua Hu's surprise, Madam Sun ushers him to the side room]
Hua Hu [stammering]: Madam Sun, maybe I misheard you earlier. This gentleman is… is… how old is he? How come he looks like he's MY age?
Madam Sun [puts on a shmoozing voice]: So what if he's a bit older? Young whippersnappers are as unsteady and unreliable as the wind. See how mature and steady he looks in comparison. [A loud ruckus erupts from the main room. Mr. Zhao sounds like he's getting beat up. Madam Sun and Hua Hu hurry back into the room and see Mulan is forcibly shoving Mr. Zhao's face into the food on the table]
Hua Hu: Mulan, what are you doing?
Mulan: Father, this dirty old man groped my butt!
Hua Hu [speaks weakly]: Groped your butt… oh my. Mulan! Let him go and allow him to stand up. Daughter, come, release him. [She lets him up reluctantly. Hua Hu starts to lecture Mr. Zhao] I'm telling you, Mr. Zhao… you… no matter what, my daughter is a maiden. How can you take such liberties as groping her butt?
Mr. Zhao [face smeared with food]: What liberties? I didn't take any liberties with her! I only wanted to confirm if her butt was as big as Madam Sun said it was.
Mulan [alarmed]: Hey! What's it to you how big my butt is?
Mr. Zhao: Of course it's my business. I want to have children. Lots of children. If your butt isn't big, how can you have sons for me? (Reference to Chinese belief that a large butt and/or hips indicates fertility) If you can't have kids, why should I make a match with you?
Madam Sun [tries to placate everyone]: This is all just a misunderstanding. That's all it is. Mulan, you should let Mr. Zhao feel your butt, okay?
Mulan: What! What did you say?
Madam Sun: You are almost husband and wife. A free feel is not that big a deal, now is it? Isn't that right, Mr. Hua? [Hua Hu starts shaking with agitation and strain but remains silent]
Mr. Zhao: Humph! Stop putting on airs that you (Mulan) are a virtuous maiden.
Hua Hu: Mulan, take off your clothes.
Mulan [shocked]: What?!
Hua Hu: Take off your clothes!
Mulan [protesting]: Father!
Hua Hu: Didn't you say that you were too hot on the road here? [Mulan finally sees what direction her father is going] Well, start taking off all those layers of clothes. Each one. [Mulan begins to strip layer after layer of clothing while Madam Sun shakes her head to hint to her to stop. Mulan doesn't notice Madam Sun's warnings and probably wouldn't stop even if she did] You'll feel a lot cooler, Daughter.
Mr. Zhao [puzzled]: What are doing?
Hua Hu: When people are hot, they take off their excess clothing. [Mr. Zhao falls to the floor as if lightheaded when he realizes that Mulan is much thinner than he thought] Mr. Zhao, take a good look. My daughter does not have as much flesh as you thought. Her butt is also not as big as you heard, either. Remember, if a matchmaker is completely trustworthy, then a sow can climb trees.
[Cut to Hua home's kitchen. Mulan is inside preparing food when her mother hurries in]
Mulan's mother: Is everything ready for the Kitchen God? (Refers to festival held two weeks before Chinese New Year, in honor of the Kitchen God. The idea is to bribe him with lots of good food so he brings back a good report on the family to the gods above)
Mulan: It's almost there.
Mulan's mother: What, still not done? I've been gone so long and you're still not done? [Grabs Mulan's ear] You must have sneaked off to play truant, didn't you?
Mulan: Ow. Mother, I didn’t. Stepmother isn't feeling well, so I had to prepare everything from the chicken to the fish. It was hard enough to get this far. I don't have half a dozen extra hands, nor can I clone myself…
Mulan's mother: Forget it. Bring the prepared food out. [Mulan starts to carry the dishes out to the dining room table while her mother goes to the Kitchen God's shrine] Kitchen God, I've brought some new clothing for you. [She pastes a new picture on his shrine, representing a new set of clothing for him. As she does so, the Kitchen God materializes on the stove but no one can see him. He yawns and stretches]
Kitchen God [sniffing his new clothes]: After putting up with food smells in my clothes for the whole year, it's nice to have a new suit of clothes. Really, it's really nice.
Mulan: Why do we have to prepare so much food for the Kitchen God? He must be a glutton to want this much food.
Mulan's mother: You'd best hush up. If the Kitchen God heard you and reported us to the higher gods, the Hua family would be in deep trouble.
Mulan [sneering]: Humph! So, this Kitchen God is not only a glutton, he's also a petty person. [The Kitchen God frowns at Mulan when he hears her words, while Mulan's mother gets scared]
Mulan's mother: You are really asking for it, aren't you? I declare, nothing good can come out of your mouth. [Turns to Kitchen God's shrine and bows] Kitchen God, don't mind what she said. My daughter doesn't understand the respect due you, so please excuse her naiveté. Don’t mind her ramblings, okay?
Kitchen God: It's all your fault. You didn't raise your daughter properly, that's why she's such a loudmouthed and disrespectful person.
Mulan [picking up a dish of food]: Mother, what's this wintermelon candy for? [The Kitchen God, spotting the candy, starts to walk towards Mulan for a taste]
Mulan's mother: Oh that? That's for filling the Kitchen God's mouth with sweetness so when he reports on our family to the higher gods, only sweet things will come out and he won't say anything bad about us. [In the background, the Kitchen God is nibbling away at the food (I think he only eats the essence and not the physical food) and enjoying himself hugely]
Mulan: Wow! So you're saying that the Kitchen God can be bribed. Doesn't that make him a crooked magistrate? He is a glutton AND he's a takes bribes. Mother, what kind of god is he?
Mulan's mother: You shut up! If you want to get yourself in trouble, that's one thing, but don't go dragging the rest of the family down with you! Go and finish setting the table!
[Cut to Mulan doing the dishes later. She is talking to herself while the Kitchen God is munching away at the wintermelon candy. He can see and hear her, but she cannot see or hear him]
Mulan: There, you're nice and clean now. Don't you feel much better? [She continues to wipe each bowl dry as she cleans them one by one]
Kitchen God: It's your own fault that you're in this predicament (under a domineering mother?). Your temper is foul and you are entirely too stubborn. This is a trait that will offend many and gain the praise of few. You deserve all the mean things your mother does to you because you are like a nail in her eye, constantly irritating and paining her. [Mulan continues to talk to the dishes as she cleans them while the Kitchen God continues to ramble] You deserve everything you're getting. You're doomed to never marry; no one will ever want you (on the contrary! But you'll need to wait for the later episodes). You'll spend all your days in the kitchen working like a dumb animal. [Continues to chuckle to himself as he munches away at the candy] How can anyone get so much joy from washing dishes? You must have something wrong upstairs.
[Mulan turns to the Kitchen God's shrine and look intently at the image. The Kitchen God, seeing the direction of her gaze, jumps back into his shrine and peers back at her through it]
Kitchen God [posing]: So, do you think I look unusually heroic and grand today? [Mulan instead spits on his shrine. He wipes his face off and mutters] So unclassy…
Mulan [starts to scold]: What's so good about the Kitchen God? You sneak food from people when they aren't looking, you eavesdrop on other people's lives, and you accept bribes. Others may consider you a god, but I feel you're just a jackass! [Reaches over to the small urn used to hold incense offerings to the Kitchen God and smears some ash on her fingers. She then deliberately wipes it on the Kitchen God's shrine, thus transferring the grime to his face. Looking back at the chopping board, she eyes the large cleaver and gets an idea. She picks it up with a wicked grin on her face. The Kitchen God hurriedly jumps out of his shrine to duck her oncoming blow. She waves the cleaver around but doesn't actually hit anything] That's to chop off your head [Slice] That's to cut your chest [Slice] And this is to cut off the family jewels. [Final big wave. She puts the cleaver down and looks smugly at the shrine]
Kitchen God [waving his hands at Mulan but unable to hit her]: I hate you. [Takes a few more swings but they don't do any good. Mulan stretches and heads off to sleep, leaving the Kitchen God alone] I don't care who you think you are, but I'm going to report you to the higher gods. I'll make sure to exaggerate everything bad you've done. I'll see to it that the Hua family gets in lots of hot water over you!
[He pulls out a notebook and calligraphy pen to jot down notes on how the Hua family has been the past year. He jabs the pen in his ear (to get ink? Or to sharpen the point?), then proceeds to write (left to right, like English, which doesn't make any sense)]
Let's see…disrespectful towards your father. Yell at your mother. Abuse your younger brother. Killed your stepmother. [He continues writing more things down with great gusto]
[Cut to Celestial Palace. The Kitchen God ambles in, with a pronounced limp and looking disheveled. He goes before the Jade Emperor and Empress Wangmu then bows]
Jade Emperor: Kitchen God, what is the matter?
Kitchen God: I'm late because on the way here I fell off my horse.
Jade Emperor: Do you have anything in particular you wish to report this year?
Kitchen God [jumping up]: Yes, I do! [Pulls out his notebook] There is a young woman by the name of Hua Mulan who is cruel towards young and old alike, disrespectful towards elders, and blasphemous towards the gods. [Hands over the notebook for the Jade Emperor to read]
[Cut to Hua home. Firecrackers are exploding left and right as the family gears up for the Chinese New Year celebration. There is a table set up in the courtyard that holds a large quantity of food for offerings. Tianci is pawing over the plate of oranges and trying to snatch one to eat when Mulan comes and takes it away from him]
Mulan: Hey, put that down! That's not for you.
Tianci [saucily]: Why should I listen to you? [Starts to hit her but she dodges his blows. The two make a large ruckus as Hua Hu, Mulan's mother, and Stepmother enter the courtyard]
Hua Hu: What's going on? [To Tianci] Stop going around hitting people for no reason. Go stand over there.
Mulan's mother [to Hua Hu]: Keep your voice down. It's the first of the year. Who doesn't want to have a good year from beginning to end? [Chides her husband] Why make a fuss with the kids? [To Mulan] Well, what are you standing there for? Go light the incense!
[Cut to Celestial Palace. Empress Wangmu is reading the notes the Kitchen God has submitted on the Hua family]
Empress Wangmu [skeptical]: So you're trying to say that a mere girl had the ability to commit this many sins?
Kitchen God: But this girl is really outrageous. Everything I wrote in that notebook is the truth.
Jade Emperor: Humph! This bastard is not fit to continue living on earth. Send the Thunder God and Lightning Goddess to fetch this person. I want to question her in person!
Kitchen God [realizing his mistake]: Wait a minute, your Majesties. Do you really need to use a jackhammer to crush a walnut? How about you send someone to the God of Fate and have him shorten her lifespan by thirty years. Then, ask the God of Health to send illness to dog her daily. Isn't that a much better solution? You needn't resort to such drastic measures.
Jade Emperor: Humph! I for one want to see how much ability this bastard really has for causing such uproar. I want to know how a mere mortal can cause such havoc in Hua Hu's household!
[The Thunder God leaves, glaring at the Kitchen God as he goes. The Kitchen God looks like a little kid who is caught in a lie but is too scared to confess, even though he realizes he has caused someone else great trouble]
[Cut to the Hua home's courtyard. The family is standing before the New Year's offerings when the sky suddenly darkens and the wind begins to blow. It is obvious a huge storm is coming up]
Hua Hu [puzzled]: It was clear a minute ago. Why is it suddenly about to storm? The wind is tossing everything around.
Stepmother [shouting]: It looks like it's going to rain!
Hua Hu [also shouting]: Yes, it's about to rain! Everyone, collect all the things and bring them back in the house.
[Everyone grabs a dish and starts to head in, but Mulan is the last to start to head back in the house. She gets struck by lightning and starts to convulse, much to the horror of her family looking on. Her spirit leaves her body and heads outside the family's front gate with her face covered in soot and her hair splayed in all directions and looking burnt. She sees the Thunder God and Lightning Goddess before her]
Thunder God: Hua Mulan!
Mulan: Who are you?
[They do not say anything but each grab one of her arms and start to drag her back to heaven. She protests and yells for help before shaking herself loose from their grips and running back inside her home. Once inside, she shuts the door behind her. She now has a golden aura about her, no doubt signifying that this is her spirit and not her body that we see. She scampers to where her family is huddled around a limp body and tries to get her father's attention, but he can't hear her. The entire family is focused on trying to wake the body up, but to no avail. When she finally notices that the body is hers, she is so startled she takes several steps back, straight into the arms of the waiting Thunder God and Lightning Goddess]
Mulan [scared]: What's happening to me? How is this happening to me?
Lightning Goddess: Your spirit is no longer connected to your body.
[Before she can ask any more questions, they swiftly start to bring her back to heaven, but she is protesting the entire time]
Mulan: Why are you taking me away? What sins have I committed?
Lightning Goddess: You? You've committed numerous sins, my dear.
Thunder God: You're guilty of trying to seduce your father, of scolding your mother, abusing your younger brother, and murdering your stepmother.
Mulan [waving her hands in protest]: Wait! Wait! You must be mistaken! The person you want to catch can't be me.
Thunder God: You're Hua Mulan, aren't you?
Mulan: Yes, that's me, but I didn't do a single thing you listed.
Lightning Goddess [smirking]: Whom are you trying to kid? We are gods. You can't hoodwink us.
Mulan: You're gods and yet you still can't figure out if I did or didn't commit these sins? What kind of gods are you?
[Cut to Celestial Palace. The Kitchen God is prostrate on his knees before the Jade Emperor and Empress Wangmu]
Empress Wangmu [scolding]: How dare you make up things to report! It's a good thing that girl is brave and quick-witted, otherwise we'd be the laughingstock of the immortal realms!
Kitchen God: Please, your Majesties, I know I did wrong. Please have mercy on me!
Jade Emperor: You are guilty of behavior unbecoming an immortal of the Celestial realm. I order you punished with twenty strokes! [The Kitchen God is hauled off despite his loud protests] Take him away!
[Cut to Hua home. The entire family, along including Mulan's married sisters and the Hua family servants, are in Mulan's bedroom. Hua Hu is sitting on her bed while she lies motionless and apparently unconscious]
Hua Hu: Mulan, wake up. Wake up, daughter… [Gently shakes her but she doesn't respond]
Mulan's mother [rather unfeelingly]: Don't bother with that anymore. We've already asked doctors left and right to come look at her, and they all say there is nothing they can do to help. Her life is fated to end this way. If you want my opinion, I think we'd best not waste any more time and energy looking for yet another doctor. We're better off looking for an undertaker to arrange her funeral. [Sees Stepmother and everyone else is crying softly and scolds them irritably] Hey, why are you all bawling like there's no tomorrow? What is that going to accomplish? Leave now, all of you. [One of Mulan's sisters protests that she'd rather stay, but her mother silences her] No! Everyone get out! Hurry up, all of you.
Hua Hu [moaning]: Mulan, Mulan, what have I done to offend the gods above to deserve such punishment?
Mulan's mother [shortly]: The gods aren't punishing you, they're punishing her! [Hua Hu's eyes start to bulge in anger and shock] Well, what are you glaring at me for? I'm telling the truth. She must have done something to offend the gods. That's why she's gotten divine retribution.
Hua Hu [teary-eyed]: I can't believe that the world has mothers like you in it. Regardless of everything else, you still carried her in your belly all those months. Your own daughter is in such a pitiful state, and yet you still insist on saying such awful things about her.
Mulan's mother: If you're expecting me to cry and feel sorry over her fate, then you can forget about it; I don't have it in me to do that. I've always maintained she was born under a cursed star. Think about it. Ever since she was born, either natural disasters or man-made ones have beset us. To top it off, I finally managed to get pregnant again after having her, and she caused me to lose the baby. And it was definitely a male fetus, too! [At this last sentence, Mulan suddenly wakes up and gets up]
Mulan [rebukingly]: Mother!
[Cut to courtyard in Hua home. The table is back outside for presenting offerings before the gods. Hua Hu has just lit two large red candles and is burning several incense sticks and praying. Mulan comes walking in the courtyard, stretching as if arising from bed]
Mulan: Father, what's up? What special occasion is it that you have to make offerings first thing in the morning?
Hua Hu: I'm praying to the gods on your behalf.
Mulan: Is there a need, Father?
Hua Hu: You tell me. One minute I was told you had no hope of surviving, the next minute you are bouncing around full of life and energy. It must be a miracle bestowed from the gods.
Mulan [scoffs]: There aren't that many miracles in the world. I'm thinking it's much more likely that the doctor you brought to examine me made a mistake and is not as skilled as he ought to be. We shouldn’t consult him in the future, okay?
Hua Hu [continues to pray]: As long as you are okay, Mulan, I'm satisfied.
[Cut to the river's edge. Mulan is toting a basket of laundry on her back when she spots Yu Chenen sitting on the riverbank with his horse grazing nearby and a fishing rod in his hand. They both grin when they see each other (I'm assuming they already know each other at this point; either that, or they're flirting with each other)]
Mulan: Wow, it's such a nice day to be fishing. My name is Hua Mulan. I don't think I've seen you around. Which village are you from? [Chenen gets up and turns to his horse as if ignoring Mulan's question. She puts her arm in the way to stop him] Hey, that's extremely rude, you know. I'm not letting you leave without telling me who you are.
Chenen: Okay. I'm not afraid of you. If you win, I will tell you.
[They start to spar and Mulan hurls her laundry basket away (it looks empty). Chenen is using a staff but Mulan seems to hold her own until she ends up sprawled on the ground. In concern, he runs up to see if she's hurt, but she takes the opportunity to grab his arm and send him flying. He sits up good-naturedly and grins at her]
Chenen: You little brat. Who'd have thought that you're still so slippery after all these years?
Mulan: What about you? You're just as wriggly, you big lummox!
[They both laugh at this. They start to head back towards Mulan's home by walking along the river in a grassy field. Mulan is riding Chenen's horse while he leads it. They start to chat]
Chenen: Hey brat, how old were you when we first met?
Mulan: Oh, about fourteen or fifteen years old.
Chenen: You were already strong as an ox then. When it came to fighting, you were more ruthless than a pack of boys! My, but you were a scary sight. But since I've been gone, you've become a lot prettier. I almost didn't recognize you. [Mulan starts to blush at his compliment. They stop to rest underneath a tree]
Mulan [teasing]: I don't see you for a few years and you've suddenly become silver-tongued, haven't you?
Chenen: Does your mother still hit and scold you regularly?
Mulan: Yes, she does. But I've been following your advice and just smile at her no matter what she does to me. She doesn't get as much joy out of scolding me, so it's not nearly as bad as it used to be. Sometimes, she gets so exasperated she can't decide whether to cry or laugh. Brother Yu (honorable title), that trick you taught me is really useful.
Chenen: Of course it is. It's simple military strategy. Sometimes you need to retreat in order to advance. Call it reverse psychology. Your mother beats you and scolds you because she derives joy from watching you suffer. The more you suffer, the happier she is. However, if you don't show any signs of suffering, she doesn't get any joy. [Changing the subject] It's been awhile since I left the village. Not much looks like it's changed, though. [Asks Mulan about two of his childhood friends (I think) and she tells him they are both well]
Mulan: By the way, Brother Yu, your uncle is no longer in this world. Who did you come here to visit?
Chenen: I came to visit you, of course.
Mulan [blushing]: Hogwash.
Chenen: We are as close as two peas in a pod. We grew up together. Can't I even visit you if I want to?
Mulan: Stop trying to flatter me. When you left, we didn't hear from you for the longest time. You obviously didn't remember those of us who stayed behind. Why would you come all the way here after all these years to visit me? Who are you trying to kid?
[Chenen chuckles and turns to leave]
[Cut to Hua home. Mulan comes barreling in the front door and sets down her basket of laundry]
Mulan: Father, guess who I saw at the river? [Notices the family is sitting around and no one looks happy. In fact, all are somber and quiet. She finally spots the draft notice on the table and snatches it up] Are you kidding? You are already old, yet they still want to draft you to serve in the army?
Hua Hu [soberly]: It is the duty of every citizen to serve his country in her time of need. Being asked to serve is a sign that others respect your abilities.
Mulan: Impossible! There must be some mistake! [She rushes out the door, deaf to her father's entreaties]
[Cut to scene where Mulan is galloping on horseback across fields and towards the county seat. She passes Chenen but doesn't stop, nor does she greet him. Puzzled, he hurriedly follows her. They both gallop to the main village, where Mulan hurriedly dismounts in front of the mayor's home. A guard stops her when she attempts to enter]
Mulan: Let me in. I must see the mayor.
Guard: What is this regarding?
Mulan: My father is already fifty years old. He has a lame leg. How can you ask him to go serve in the army? [Chenen rides up and dismounts also]
Chenen: You needn't see the mayor, Mulan. I'm in charge of drafting soldiers for this area. I can handle your questions.
Mulan: Great! You know my father is old and infirm. How can you ask him to go serve? Are you trying to get him killed? [Hands the draft papers over to Chenen] Here, take these. If you don't take these back, then you are no friend of mine!
Chenen: I'm sorry. Even if you were never to speak to me again, I can't fulfill your wishes. The Tujue are attacking our borders. We are short on men to serve as soldiers. To strengthen our armies, we are drafting one male conscript per household. Even nobles are not exempt from this. Our country's safety is the responsibility of every citizen. Your father is a military man. He will understand. If you really love him, then you won't stop him from doing what he feels is his duty. [Hands back the draft papers, which Mulan reluctantly takes back. He gently pats her shoulder but she doesn't seem aware of anything that is happening around her]
[Cut to inside of Hua home. Hua Hu is sitting alone while it rains outside. He looks bleak and meditative as he holds the draft notice in his hands. He starts to talk to himself, deep in thought]
Hua Hu: Ningpo (famous war hero in history?) may have been old, but he was still able to go to war and fight for his country. Can I not do just as well? [He places the papers down and goes to the storage bin where his armor and helmet are stored]
[Cut to Mulan's bedroom. She is asleep in bed when she is awakened by the sound of someone practicing with a sword. She arises and goes to investigate. When she enters one of the large rooms in the house, she sees her father practicing his martial arts. He is unable to use his leg to full effect, though, and keeps falling down when he puts any weight on his lame leg. Initially, Mulan restrains herself, knowing her father would not want her to see him in such weakness, but after seeing him fall for the fifth time, she rushes forward and begs her father not to go to war]
Hua Hu: I'm sorry, Mulan. Your father is worthless.
Mulan: Father, don't go! I won't let you go!
Hua Hu [gently]: Silly child. It's an imperial command. Who dares to disobey it? I don't even dare think of ignoring it. [Gingerly starts to get up off the ground]
Mulan: Father, so you'll willingly go even though you know you'll be killed?
Hua Hu: For a warrior, to die on the battlefield is his glory. If it is your turn to go to fight yet you don't go, that is the path of the coward. I don't want the world to laugh at me for cowardice. There is no escape for me, so I may as well choose the honorable path.
Mulan [begging]: Father, let me go in your place. I'll go fight the enemy for you.
[Hua Hu chuckles through his tears, touched by Mulan's love for him but unaware that she is quite serious]
[Cut to the middle of the night. The family is asleep when Stepmother starts calling for Hua Hu to get up, saying that something has happened. He gets out of bed, with Mulan's mother trailing behind him, to investigate what all the commotion is about]
Stepmother: My Lord, something grievous has happened! My Lord, come quickly! [She and Mulan's mother support Hua Hu to the room where his armor is stored. They see the empty cabinet and a letter. Hua Hu steps forward to read the letter, but he already knows what it contains]
[The poem is recited in Mulan's voice. As follows is an approximation of what it reads]
Family's burden, born a daughter
in ambition, outshining every man.
I serve in Father's place
Never to return without glory
[The next scene shows Mulan dressed as a boy and leading a horse on her way to boot camp]
[Cut to Celestial Palace. Empress Wangmu is watching the Earth below intently]
Jade Emperor: What are you watching in the mortal realms with such interest?
Empress Wangmu: Don't you think a child who will take his father's place in the army is an unusual occurrence?
Jade Emperor: That's nothing unusual.
Empress Wangmu: But this is a girl!
[The Jade Emperor takes a good look at the figure below and recognizes Mulan]
Jade Emperor: Humph! That one again?
Empress Wangmu: I think she's quite endearing, actually.
Jade Emperor [gets a superior air]: War is a man's endeavor. How dare she upend the logical order of the universe this way? This preposterous and silly girl is bound to die an ugly death.
Empress Wangmu: It's unusual that she has such a combination of filial piety and ambition. I'm sure she will make it through this trial by fire. Who knows? She might even make a great name for herself.
Jade Emperor: What? You think a person who acted that disrespectfully to the gods will have a good fate?
Empress Wangmu: How about we wait and see what happens to her, then make our judgments?
Jade Emperor: You're afraid of looking like a fool.
Empress Wangmu: I'm afraid you will guess incorrectly her fate. How about we make a bet?
Jade Emperor [bristling]: You! All right, what do you want to bet?
Empress Wangmu: Her.
[Cut to city street. Mulan is leading her horse through the crowded streets, eyes and mouth agape at all the sights that overwhelm a girl brought up in a small village]
[Cut to Celestial Palace. Empress Wangmu has the Kitchen God brought before her. He is wearing chains as part of his punishment for lying to their Majesties. She orders his chains removed. He expresses his gratitude with numerous bows]
Kitchen God: I promise I won't ever slander an honest person again, Empress Wangmu. I swear I won't!
[She doesn't say anything, but produces a small dagger and advances on him. He looks on in surprise and puzzlement as she deliberately cuts the back of his hand, producing a long gash] So what game are we playing now? Hey, what is that red water that is coming out? It really hurts. How come it hurts?
Empress Wangmu: What red water? That's human blood.
Kitchen God: Human blood? Then that means my hand is made of human flesh, too. [Sniffs himself] Hey, human flesh is smelly.
Empress Wangmu: You are a human. Of course you have flesh on you now.
Kitchen God: Your Majesty, have mercy on me and take it back. I don't want to be mortal. I want to be a god again. Please, please, pretty please?
Empress Wangmu [patiently]: I never said I was sending you to live as a human in the mortal realms for good. What are you worried about?
Kitchen God: Then why did you turn me into a creature made of flesh and blood?
Empress Wangmu [points at treasures on nearby table]: These are three treasures I'm giving to you. The first one is an Anti-Demon Sword. The second is a Stupor-Inducing Flag. The last is an Invisibility Umbrella. Take them and go start your journey.
Kitchen God: Journey? What journey?
Empress Wangmu: I want you to accompany Hua Mulan and assist her in any way you can. Her filial piety and ambition have touched me and I want to help her. You must not fail me.
Kitchen God [protesting]: What? You want me to go fight a war for that stupid brat? I'm not going! [Puts down treasures and starts to pout]
Empress Wangmu [unperturbed]: This is an excellent opportunity for you to make up for your sins and get on my good side. If you successfully complete this mission for me, I'll speak to the Jade Emperor on your behalf. You can earn your former post back. Don't let me down.
[Cut to someplace in the immortal realms. The Kitchen God is trudging along and muttering to himself, loudly bemoaning his fate. He keeps complaining that he is suited for staying in the kitchen and not for going out on a bloody battlefield, when he literally runs into the Jade Emperor]
Kitchen God [barks]: Hey, you idiot! Why don't you watch where you're going? [Realizes it's the Jade Emperor] Oh, I'm sorry, your Majesty! I'll be going on my way now… [Tries to leave but the Jade Emperor grabs him and pulls him back]
Jade Emperor: You dare escape from the Celestial Jail? You've got some nerve!
Kitchen God [blubbering]: Empress Wangmu let me out. If you don't believe me, you can go ask her.
Jade Emperor: Her?
Kitchen God: She gave me a mortal body and is sending me to the mortal realms to help out Hua Mulan fight.
Jade Emperor: So to win a bet, she's willing to go to such lengths. This Hua Mulan is a tomboy. She is an evil influence and has bespelled Empress Wangmu. That's why she has sent you to assist Hua Mulan. If she makes a name for herself in the army, I'm holding you responsible! You must not let that happen!
Kitchen God [confused]: One says to help Hua Mulan; the other says to hinder her. Who do I listen to?
Jade Emperor: Humph! Need you ask? Who's the master of this immortal realm?
Kitchen God: But I can't offend Empress Wangmu!
Jade Emperor: Humph! Don't you want to spend the rest of your days here in the immortal realms as a high official? I'm giving you this opportunity to earn this reward.
Kitchen God: No problem, your Majesty! No problem! Let me handle it. I guarantee that Hua Mulan will get in so much trouble that she won't know what to do. I'll make sure she's scared so badly she'll wet her pants. I'll take care of it!
Jade Emperor: Good! [Gives him a shove, which sends him plummeting to the mortal realms. He ends up landing in the snow, dressed as a commoner. (From this point on, I'll call him Su Jili)]
Jili [pawing at the snow]: What is this stuff? It's cold and wet. Now where is that little brat? I've got the Jade Emperor himself behind me; I'm here to get my revenge on you]
[Mulan is walking through the streets with her horse, still gaping at all the sights. A man is also walking the streets and toting a package. Two street urchins spot the man's purse hanging temptingly at his side. They deliberately run into him and snatch his purse. Initially, he doesn't realize his purse is gone, but soon starts chasing the two boys]
Boys: Help! The man that's chasing us wants to turn us into meat dumplings!
Man: Halt! When I catch you I won't let you off quite so easily! [An arm blocks his way, making him halt suddenly]
Mulan: No chasing them, you shameless person!
Man: What do you mean, calling me shameless? Oh, so you're in league with them?
Mulan: What league? Who would have thought an outwardly proper and honest man would resort to such low deeds as kidnapping children to sell! You're lower than a dog or swine!
[Jili is watching this when a large load of snow falls on him]
Jili [to sky]: Hey, who's kneading dough upstairs?
Man: Me? You think I kidnap children to sell? You're talking nonsense. Get out of my way! They stole my purse and are escaping! [Seeing Mulan is not budging, they get into a fight. Jili is watching in glee, sure that Mulan will lose badly. They fight for a few minutes, but it is soon obvious that Mulan is no match for the Man. He lands a fierce blow to her face, giving her a vicious black-eye]