By Adya Agarwal Gupta

MinLi, a rooster, was staring in the mirror- rehearsing magic. Extremely devoted, he ignored the desperate knocks on the door.

In despair, the visitor barged in, clearing his throat. Startled by this sudden entrance, MinLi greeted Mr-Gongzi and absentmindedly nodded as Mr-Gongzi worriedly talked on. 

“Thanks for your well-wishes!” MinLi exclaimed, unaware of Mr-Gongzi’s actual words.

Mr-Gongzi sighed and explained everything again, this time with MinLi paying attention.

“The whole of Jiangxi Province is in danger, MinLi! The rock-strewn mountains will be gone!”

Shocked at the horrifying news, MinLi thanked Mr-Gongzi, rushing out into Jiangxi Province. Glancing swiftly at his own, gleaming hut decorated in sumptuously juicy berries- he sighed in relief that it was alright and rushed on. All the trees seemed to be blossoming, and Jiangxi Province looked as beautiful as ever until MinLi reached the exodus of birds. The destruction before him was horrific. He smelt it before he saw it- the distant smell of smoke. People were rushing everywhere, screaming in terror; trees were now engulfed in flames, the fire demolishing all that were living. It was complete pandemonium!

MinLi, rushing through this crowd, made his way to the edge of the atrocious fire. The Orphan Tree, where all the orphan bulbuls resided, was completely burnt, as were the residents. All except for one tiny bulbul, stranded on one of the highest branches, fearfully hopping from one patch to the other. MinLi knew that it wasn’t long before the enraged fire caught up with her.    

As a famous magician, MinLi was now almost looked up to as the only saviour. MinLi couldn’t simply stand there, helpless and tragic, watching the last surviving bulbul struggle and burn to crust. This particular light-vented-bulbul had always been peering into MinLi’s magical performances, as if enjoying it. Leaving her to burn was simply too cruel to be done. MinLi knew what his role was, as a world renowned magician and a rooster, as part of the Animal Kingdom himself. 

Unsure of his plan, MinLi tried to bravely: ‘I’m going to save this bulbul, if it’s the last thing I do.’

Flames surrounded the Orphan Tree, like famished tigers ready to pounce and attack.

MinLi experienced the most terror in his life; the terror was ineffable. But, taking charge of his fear, he called out loudly for ice water. The villagers rushed to retrieve a massive pail, filled to the brim with water. The flames were massive, and only decreased slightly when MinLi dispersed water everywhere. At this, MinLi launched the giant pail across the fire. This was a movement of rage, which resulted in DIRE consequences. The pale blue pail, innocent and tranquil as it was, landed on Bulbul’s foot, pushing her aside. Unexpectedly dropping down a few branches, the coarse bark grazed her smooth, light-vented-bulbul feathers while a few tiny sparks of fire scorched her. She wailed. Wailing too in shame and anguish, MinLi helplessly stared at the disastrous scene.

Bulbul was as frightened as ever by the vicious fire that scorched her. And upset too. She limped to the trunk, squinting to see who had been the cause of this latest accident and spotted the hefty rooster.

MinLi, ashamed, was turning completely red- though it wasn’t visible through his thick feathers. Cupping his head in his webbed hands, the sound of more birds arriving was heard. Birds arriving? At this point! 

MinLi whisked around, coming face to face with the villagers who had delivered the water. An elderly bird-villager was feebly walking through, clutching a lengthy string.

“What has this to do with string?” The perplexed rooster asked, trying to remain polite.

“You always work miracles with the string. Coquelicot Red is the colour of determination, passion and prosperity. Go, save the bird.” Was the response.

Impressed at all this wisdom, MinLi took the string and tied one end around his waist. Circling it a few times, he then launched it over into the fire. It landed right at the edge of Bulbul’s foot. Withdrawing the string, MinLi sought another splendiferous idea. Now, all the devoted years of practise, perfect aiming and training he hoped would come in handy. Eyeing an obscuring branch just below the one Bulbul was standing on, MinLi anchored the string there. Satisfied with his effort, he then tightened the grip and continuously shook it to grasp Bulbul’s attention. It was intriguing and strange to Bulbul. At first she was too afraid to trust any effort by the hefty rooster who had caused her recent harm. But her curiosity got the better of her. She leaned forward to peer and quite by accident, she landed on the string whilst peering over. Still afraid, she thought: Could it be a snake, trying to coil around her? Was it venomous?

At this point of uncertainty, MinLi thought it a perfect opportunity to wiggle the rope, causing the inquisitive Bulbul to slip further down the string. Everyone’s hearts in their beaks, they watched in suspense as MinLi drew her in closer and wiggled the rope. The villagers all gasped, as Bulbul was thrust into mid-air struggling and about to fall into another pit of flames.

“Get something! Save her!” MinLi was yelling, perspiring all over. The light-vented-bulbul bounced in the air. On any other occasion, she may almost have enjoyed the ride, but not today. She slowly began to descend. The entire Jiangxi Province held their breath as the bulbul fell. She almost plummeted straight into the flaming ground! Trying to aim for Bulbul, MinLi reached up- knowing how terrible his catching skills were. But, it was worth a try.

Bulbul shot down, landing directly in MinLi’s outstretched arms.

Relief flooded over the whole of Jiangxi Province, as the sun bounced out from behind the menacing clouds and the trees bloomed again.

The Province echoed, ‘MinLi! MinLi! MinLi!’

Hesitantly, MinLi smiled. A smile is an understatement. It was almost a hearty laugh, a colossal grin with his dimples caving in. The squealing chick was rejoicing by shrieking a tantalising melody. 

“SongYi,” MinLi breathed, then yelled. “Her name is SongYi!”

Everyone rushed to MinLi immediately, shaking hands with him. With glee, the villager embraced SongYi whilst MinLi brought a coquelicot cloth and a plaster.

SongYi was very gently placed on the cloth, scrubbed in water and tended to by all the nurses, who wrapped a clean plaster around the swelling burn. It was only a while until SongYi recovered, laughing and repeating a saying: Cong guanxin lai de yongqi.

Translated to English, that means, “From caring comes courage.”