Reflection is a novel based upon the animated film Mulan and is the fourth entry of the "A Twisted Tale" series.
What if Mulan had to travel to the Underworld?
When Captain Shang is mortally wounded by Shan Yu in battle, Mulan must travel to the Underworld, Diyu, in order to save him from certain death. But King Yama, the ruler of Diyu, is not willing to give Shang up easily. With the help of Shang's great lion guardian ShiShi, Mulan must traverse Diyu to find Shang's spirit, face harrowing obstacles, and leave by sunrise--or become King Yama's prisoner forever. Moreover, Mulan is still disguised as the soldier called Ping, wrestling with the decision to reveal her true identity to her closest friend. Will Mulan be able to save Shang before it's too late? Will he ever be able to trust her again? Or will she lose him and be lost in the Underworld forever?
After Fa Mulan shoots the cannon at the mountain, she is nearly killed by Shan Yu – only for Li Shang to put himself between them and take the brunt of the attack for Mulan. While the Huns are all buried under the avalanche, Mulan rescues Shang – with aid from Yao, Ling, and Chien Po - only to discover the severity of his wound. Determined to save her captain, Mulan brings Shang along with them to the Imperial City, against Chi Fu’s wishes, but falls behind in the process, during which time Shang’s condition continues to worsen. That night, Mulan wakes to find the Ghost of General Li standing over his son, telling Mulan that he wouldn’t survive the night, as his soul had already descended into the Underworld, called Diyu. Mulan begs General Li to tell her how she could save Shang, and General Li, touched by Mulan’s resolve to do the impossible by changing King Yama’s mind, calls upon the Li family Guardian, ShiShi, to bring her to Diyu; though she leaves behind her sword and Mushu in the process.
There, Mulan and ShiShi are confronted by Demons, but ShiShi convinces them to take allow them passage or else face King Yama’s wrath. Relenting, a blue-faced Demon, named Languai, guides them through the Gates of Diyu and to the Bridge of Helplessness, with Mulan taking note of what appears to be lights refracted off of a mirror along the way. Four Ghosts guard the Bridge of Helplessness and scold Languai, but ultimately allow Mulan and ShiShi to pass, as they differ on opinions relating to Mulan; with the one named Jiao sensing that there is something different about Mulan.
Arriving in the queue of visitors in King Yama’s court, Mulan and ShiShi attempt to jump the line after a brief encounter with some of Mulan’s fallen soldier comrades. Being brought before King Yama due to the commotion their actions are causing, the ruler of Diyu orders them to the back of the queue, ShiShi attempts to speak with King Yama regarding Mulan’s mission, but he’s turned to stone for his disobedience. Mulan, herself, is forced to jump onto King Yama’s dais and present her mission, only for King Yama to reveal that Shang was brought into Diyu prematurely to prep him for his near immediate reincarnation. Furthermore, King Yama expresses that he knows that who Mulan claims to be, Fa Ping, does not exist, but – intrigued by how Mulan is willing to do whatever it takes to save Shang – King Yama wagers with Mulan. If Mulan could find Shang’s Spirit in Diyu and escape before sunrise, Shang would be allowed to remain in the realm of the living. However, if she failed, Mulan would have to remain in Diyu forever, as a Demon.
Accepting, Mulan proceeds into Diyu with ShiShi, finding themselves in a dead bamboo forest on the 79th Level of Diyu. As the two wander, ShiShi questions Mulan on the basis of her own Guardian, Mushu, suggesting that her ancestors must not have cared much for her if they’d sent someone other than the Great Stone Dragon, admitting that he admires Mulan’s braveness, but calling her choice to bargain with King Yama foolish. Realizing that they are walking in circles, the two attempt to mark their path, only to realize that the landscape corrects itself when they leave the area. At this time, Mulan realizes that the bamboo around them is anything but, learning from ShiShi that they were Ghosts being punished in twisted form. Recognizing one of these Ghosts, a hunched over figure she provides a cane, releasing the Ghost of General Li, who had been evading his ascension to heaven. General Li points to the Tower of the Last Glance to Home as Shang’s location, as he’s awaiting reincarnation and would be visited by Meng Po – the Lady of Forgetfulness – suggesting that they keep an eye out for the Doors bearing bronze pendants bearing King Yama’s face after they’ve retrieved Shang. On top of this, General Li suggests that Shang may have accepted his death by the time they arrive, and asks that Mulan remind Shang of the time he’d hidden in General Li’s trunk when he was 6 in order to go with him to war, being discovered after a day of travel and being made to walk home alone in the rain, before his father turned around to bring Shang back himself – promising that the day would come when they’d be able to fight together.
At the Tower of the Last Glance to Home, Mulan enters alone and finds Shang in a hypnotic state, attempting to convince Shang that he has more to do for China and of her own mission, though this proves ineffective. To rouse Shang, Mulan reminds him of the first time they’d met, as well as General Li’s story, whilst also reflecting upon her own fears of being a disappointment to her family. Succeeding, Mulan and Shang motion to leave the Tower, only for it to start to crumble around them. Rejoined by ShiShi, the group attempts to escape, but fail and fall deeper into Diyu.
Mulan and ShiShi landing in an empty well in the middle of a field of flowers. After scaling the walls of the well with a rope, Mulan, ShiShi, and Shang travel to a shaded pavilion, where ShiShi pounces on something in the bushes, only to be reprimanded when it is revealed to be an elderly woman, claiming to be Lao Lao. The woman invites the group into her pavilion, and suggests that they visit the city of Youdu on the 99th Level rather than attempting to escape Diyu, as it was an impossible task; the group now being on the 24th Level. Noticing the pendants bearing King Yama’s face are being concealed within the pavilion, Mulan realizes that the tea is making them all forget their task, revealing Lao Lao to really be Meng Po in disguise. Meng Po persists with her tea, trapping the group within the pavilion and attempting to force it upon Mulan, who counters by throwing it in Meng Po’s face. Mulan, Shang, and ShiShi attempt to use the opportunity to escape, but find themselves battling the plants and trees as they do. Meng Po summons her own army of Demons and sends them after Mulan, Shang, and ShiShi, and although they attempt to fight them off, they cannot harm the Demons within their own domain. When the Demons regroup to plot against them, the group takes to opportunity to flee, but arrive at the River of Hopelessness once they leave Meng Po’s domain; still pursued by the Demons.
Mulan spies a cave that leads toward a mountain covered in knives, and the group ultimately decides to race toward the mountain, unable to enter the River of Hopelessness, but Mulan is grabbed by one of the Demons before she can make it all the way inside, being stabbed in the ankle while struggling to escape. Hastily, ShiShi pulls Mulan into the cave, and the Demons fail to follow before the tunnel collapses. On the other side, ShiShi reveals that the mountain is composed of the weapons of the Ghosts of thieves and murderers, and advises them to be wary. Mulan straps knives to her and ShiShi’s hands and feet using pieces of his mane, and the group begins to ascend, just in time for the Demons to catch up to them and begin hurling their weapons up the mountain. Wanting to protect Shang, whatever the cost, ShiShi jumps off the mountain to allow Mulan and Shang the opportunity to escape.
At the summit, Mulan discovers a sword with a golden hilt and pulls it from the mountain to use in place of her own sword, while wrestling with the idea of telling Shang the truth about who she really is. Instead, Mulan reveals what is at stake if she should fail her bargain with King Yama. ShiShi then appears, having used a portal hidden in the side of the mountain to reach them, now on the 51st Level of Diyu. Unfortunately, ShiShi’s roaring wakes the Ghosts of the mountain, who block the path and intend on dragging Mulan to the River of Hopelessness. Mulan’s sword then begins to glow and proves capable of harming the Ghosts, giving Mulan the opportunity to call upon her ancestors for aid, becoming introduced to Fa Mei, Fa Liwei, and Fa Ren, with the other Ghosts adhering to the rules that bar anyone from interfering in family business. Mulan’s ancestors agree to show the group a shortcut leading to the 97th Level, and their venture, Mei is revealed to have been particularly amorous in life and had been murdered by her husband, while Liwei had killed one of his acupuncture patients and choked on a fishbone.
On the 97th Level, the Hall of Echoing Forests, Ren instructs Mulan to follow the moonlight toward the 100th Level, but not before Mei beings up the Chamber of Boiling Despair, which worries Mulan. Ren, however, assures Mulan that they would be fine, so long as they follow the moonlight. ShiShi then separates from Mulan and Shang to investigate something in the forest, leaving Mulan to be the subject of suspicion from Mei and Liwei, who know that Fa Ping doesn’t exist – as Fa Li was unable to bear Fa Zhou anymore children after Mulan, making Shang wary. Ren puts a stop to the interrogation of Mulan revealing that there’s a tunnel beyond the forest, advising her to take the left-most path, then after a few more chambers they would reach Youdu. When ShiShi rejoins Shang and Mulan, now alone, Shang confronts Mulan about her identity, with ShiShi vouching for Mulan not being a Demon or Meng Po as he feared. Mulan is brought to admit the truth about being a woman to Shang, whose feelings of betrayal lead him to part ways with Mulan, never wanting to see her again.
Tormented by the echoing voices around her, Mulan flees and discovers three tunnels, and, remembering what Ren had said, Mulan goes to take the left-most of the three. A fox, caught under a nearby boulder, tells Mulan that she’s making the wrong choice. Mulan helps to free the fox, and it reveals that there had been Demons there prior that were looking for her. Although Mulan distrusts the fox, it leads her to the proper tunnel, and opts to travel with her. Soon, the fox remarks on Mulan’s wager with King Yama and questions where Shang and ShiShi are, with Mulan remaining distant. Wanting to cheer Mulan up, the fox guides her to what appears to be her home, revealing herself to be Meng Po. Meng Po attempts to coerce Mulan into remaining in Diyu, as she could be herself there, preying on Mulan’s shame after being wrong to think Shang would understand her motivations. While Mulan is trapped within Meng Po’s illusions of home, Shang and ShiShi find her, with Shang accepting her as his friend and trying to pull Mulan out of her delirium. When the two make contact with each other, Mulan’s memories come flooding back to her, and she demands that Meng Po release them. Showing an interest in Mulan’s sword, Meng Po relents, the illusion dissolving into a vast desert, though she warns that this was Mulan’s last chance to be free of King Yama’s curse. Shang and ShiShi then guide Mulan to a portal they’d discovered, which mentions Youdu on its planchette.
On the other side, the group finds themselves on a volcano, and surmise that they must reach the peak, where a black pillar of stairs leads into the sky, only the River of Hopelessness strikes there as well. As the volcano erupts, ShiShi figures out where they are and implores Mulan and Shang to run, however, they are seen by the fire Demon Huoguai, who attacks, picking up Mulan and flying to the top of the volcano – revealed to be a large cauldron – causing Mulan to realize that they are within the Chamber of Boiling Despair, and they would have to cross the River of Hopelessness to reach the only way out. Shang and ShiShi battle Huoguai, with Shang managing to pierce the Demon’s eye with his spear – while Mulan attempts to draw the Demon to her so that her friends can get to safety. Finding herself pinned between Huoguai and the River of Hopelessness, Mulan is put at the mercy of Huoguai’s summoned Demon army, and ShiShi suggests that she use her sword against them - as it was in fact the Sword of the Blazing Sun: belonging once to a demigod, who’d cleansed China of its Demons, condemning them to Diyu. Mulan reveals her true identity to the Demons and offers them the opportunity to retreat, and though they relent, Mulan skillfully bests all of the Demons, forcing them off of the Cauldron.
Looking over, Mulan sees that Shang and ShiShi are still battling Huoguai, despite being on the right side of the River of Hopelessness - unwilling to leave without her. Needing to get to the other side, Mulan topples a thin column and uses it to vault over the River of Hopelessness. Together, Mulan, Shang, and ShiShi manage to lure Huoguai toward the River of Hopelessness – but the Demon wraps his tail around Mulan and attempts to drag her down with him. When Shang attempts to extend a pole to Mulan to bring her over to safety, Huoguai attempts to reach Shang first, forcing Mulan to stab his tail with the Sword of the Blazing Sun to release herself and then slice through his wing, sending Huoguai over the edge of the Cauldron in the River of Hopelessness. Shang, meanwhile, jumps to reach out the pole to Mulan as she falls – suddenly floating in the air, an ability of Ghosts in Diyu, pulling her to safety.
Continuing to Youdu, Mulan learns that King Yama had been placed in his duty by the Eight Immortals, for his scholarly nature and bookkeeping talent – being perpetually displeased ever since. Finding that Youdu is bathed in moonlight and every door bears King Yama’s face, the group resorts to asking around for guidance. They discover that the Chamber of Mirrors is located somewhere within Youdu, though it is strongly suggested that they do not seek out its test. The group then notices Fa Ren in the crowds and confront him about the Chamber of Boiling Despair, admitting that he’d bet on whether or not Mulan would defeat Huoguai in order to settle his debt to Jiao, the Ghost from the Bridge of Helplessness. Ren agrees to bring Mulan and her friends to the Chamber of Mirrors, bringing them to a shop belonging to a being known as Zhen, who denies that any way out of Youdu exists. Zhen unintentionally reveals that the test of the Chamber of Mirrors was the way to escape Diyu, and, touched by the prospect of Mulan becoming a Demon, allows her to enter the Chamber of Mirrors alone – to face her inner demons.
Within, Mulan finds herself surrounded by mirrors, who beckon her forward, taking the form of Fa Zhou and berating her for everything she’d done. Despite Mulan’s attempts to remind herself of the illusion of the mirror, the reflections react to the positive memories that Mulan conjures of her father: telling Mulan that he’d only believed in her because he’d trusted her. Filling Mulan with doubt, the mirror suggests that Mulan was a disappointment to her family – having left for herself, something she’d told to Shang. The mirror also presents the rest of her family, as well as the people of her village, and when Mulan attempts to run from them, she is confronted by the reflection of Shang as well, utterly disgusted by her. When Shang casts out Mulan, she refuses to leave, reminding Shang that he’d said similar things when he’d found out her secret and hadn’t meant it; though he argues that he had. Mulan insists that none of this is real, to which Shang steps forward, revealing himself as a Spirit and ordering that Mulan be put to death by her friends: Yao, Ling, and Chien Po. Shards of broken glass rain down on Mulan, who begs Shang to stop, and surprisingly he listens to her, with Mulan claiming that they have to work together to escape Diyu. Arguing otherwise, Shang claims that Zhen had told him that, in order for him to escape Diyu, Mulan had to take his place.
Managing not to lose control, Mulan attempts to reach a path that seems to lead to the moon, only for the mirror to fight back yet again, hurling shards of glass at Mulan. Shang tells Mulan to give up, but she’s not led astray, knowing that the real Shang cares for her – remembering how he’d reacted when she’d been taken by Huoguai. Turning and reaching out for Shang, Mulan proclaims her unwillingness to leave without him, only for the two of them to be further separated by the wind. Languai then appears with his droves of Demons, binding Shang and ordering Mulan to kill him, but she refuses. Instead, Mulan offers to sacrifice herself so that Shang could escape to the world of the living, freeing him from his binds and passing the first test of the Chamber of Mirrors.
As the Chamber of Mirrors is mended, Mulan is forced to face herself. The reflections then accuse Mulan of being both responsible for her father’s broken heart and Shang’s death because she chose not to think, showing that her deceitful heart belonged in Diyu, but allow her to choose the true reflection of herself in order to proceed to the 100th Level. After much contemplation, Mulan decrees that as long as she is true to herself, then her reflection would show who she really is – selecting the reflection beneath her feet. The Chamber of Mirrors then opens up and brings Mulan to a bamboo forest, where she meets Meng Po - finally in her true form – explaining that Mulan had passed the final test and that it had been she who oversaw her journey; being responsible for the affairs in Diyu. Directing Mulan to the Bridge of Serenity, Meng Po heals Mulan and congratulates her, as even she hadn’t seen through Mulan’s disguise when they first met. Elaborating, Meng Po admits to being the same demigod hero who’d wielded the Sword of the Blazing Sun in legends, but as she was born a woman, she wasn’t welcome among the immortals and needed to prove herself worthy. Although she’d done so, Meng Po instead chose to reside in Diyu in order to be remembered among those she’d cast out of China, and to help King Yama. Meng Po offers Mulan the Sword of the Blazing Sun, but when Mulan turns it down, she receives a magnolia blossom instead, before being sent across the Bridge of Serenity.
On the other side, Mulan reunites with Shang, ShiShi, and King Yama, where Mulan admits to liking Shang, as Mushu had once suggested. King Yama stays true to his word, allowing the three to return to the land of the living, crossing Shang’s name from his tome. Languai, Mei, Liwei, and Ren then join the group, bidding farewell to their descendant, with Mulan thanking them for what they’d done for her. Ren reveals that he’d taken to gambling more so than being a monk while alive, and had not stopped even after being sent to the monastery by his mother, getting him kicked out shortly before his death, something which he wished to reflect on while awaiting reincarnation. Once they’d returned to Diyu, General Li takes their place, ready to ascend to heaven, but not before bidding ShiShi farewell, and sharing a moment with Shang.
Afterwards, Mulan and Shang cross the Gates of Diyu into the morning light. ShiShi then bids Mulan farewell, having fulfilled General Li’s request, he would become Shang’s Guardian after reporting to the ancestors – unless Mulan somehow joined the Li family, they would not see one another again. Mulan thanks ShiShi for all he’d done, and the two part ways, leaving Shang and Mulan alone together. Shang thanks Mulan, having only thanked her as Ping before, hinting that he too bore feelings for Mulan. As the two leave Diyu, they’re lifted by gale force winds, becoming separated as they’re lifted into the land of the living.
Waking in camp, Mulan fears that it had all been a dream, with only the magnolia blossom remaining of the experience, but fortunately Shang’s condition was completely remedied. As he wakes, he fails to mention anything about Diyu, making Mulan once again wonder whether or not the entire ordeal had only been a dream. Shang’s recovery is hailed as a miracle among the soldiers, though he remains rather stoic during their journey to the Imperial City. Eventually, Shang approaches Mulan so that the two could talk, confused as to how he’d managed his recovery, explaining the circumstances of a strange dream, when Mulan confirms everything, Shang identifies her by her true name rather than as Ping, confirming that he did indeed remember their time in Diyu. Shang requests that he inform the Emperor of China that their greatest soldier was a woman, believing that he would honor Mulan. Shang also admits to being glad he’d placed himself between Shan-Yu and Mulan, because if he hadn’t he might not have discovered how he’d felt about her, asking if she’d been set up with anyone by the Matchmaker, and if he could visit her at home.
- ShiShi - the Lion Guardian of the Li Family. ShiShi is sent by General Li to aid Fa Mulan in retrieving Li Shang from Diyu.
- King Yama - ruler of Diyu, placed in his role by the Eight Immortals, he oversees the judgement of all who die in China.
- Meng Po - the Lady of Forgetfulness, Meng Po oversees the matters of Diyu and bears a tea that causes those who are meant for reincarnation to forget the burdens of their previous life.
- Languai - a blue-skinned Demon that commands his own army of Demons and protects the entrance of Diyu.
- Jiao - one of the four Ghosts that protect the Bridge of Helplessness.
- Zhen - Demon protector of the Chamber of Mirrors in Youdu, the only way to reach the 100th Level of Diyu.
- Fa Mei - ancestor of the Fa Family, Fa Mei was more amorous than most of her family, was suggested to have been responsible for the death of her first husband, and was killed by another one.
- Fa Liwei - ancestor of the Fa Family, Fa Liwei murdered one of his acupuncture patients and choked on a fishbone.
- Fa Ren - ancestor of the Fa Family, Fa Ren a monk who gambled and was kicked out of his monastery very shortly prior to his death; his habits continued into his afterlife.
- Huoguai - a powerful fire Demon of the 98th Level, the Chamber of Boiling Despair.