xia0yuer suggested Ariel Lin for A'Heng and I thought that was quite suitable! This chapter is one for the Shao Hao fans.
Shao Hao's voice was gentle as the wind and suddenly all the people rolling on the floor felt that their headache had disappeared.
Shao Hao already had a legendary reputation since he singlehandedly forced back the Shen Nong army one thousand and nine hundred years ago, so the whole mountain fell silent for him.
The Emperor Mother softened her voice and asked why Shao Hao had arrived. Shao Hao said he was here for his fiancee, Xuan Yuan Ba who has been imprisoned on Jade Mountain. So the Emperor Mother invited Shao Hao in. A dashing man in white robes arrived, his composure dignified, his smiling gaze sweeping pass the throngs of watching gods.
The Emperor Mother was silently surprised at Shao Hao's extraordinary demeanour. The Emperor Mother tells Shao Hao to come back sixty years later since he should know why she has grounded his fiancee. Shao Hao says that Xuan Yuan Ba was in the wrong for offending Jade Mountain's honour, but she was only playful and since the Emperor Mother did not find the stolen item on her, who is to prove that she was the thief? Shao Hao says that his fiancee's wrong is his wrong, so he suggests that if Shao Hao is proven wrong, he is willing to shoulder half of Xuan Yuan Ba's imprisonment. He asks the Emperor Mother to immediately release Xuan Yuan Ba, and if it is proven that Xuan Yuan Ba took the item, he will return the item and do one thing for the Jade Mountain with no conditions.
Everyone was stunned by Shao Hao's words, because no matter how precious the item, Shao Hao's promise should be sufficient. The Emperor Mother asked what will happen if she does not accept his suggestion and Shao Hao said he will then stay on Jade Mountain until Xuan Yuan Ba can come down. The Emperor Mother's hand trembled, if it was any other man, she would have used force and sent him down the mountain, but as this was Gao Xing's Shao Hao she was not confident that she was capable of doing so.
After a while, the Emperor Mother agreed and said he could bring Xuan Yuan Ba down. She ordered her servants to tell Xuan Yuan Ba to pack her luggage to leave.
Xi Ling Heng was stunned in a moment and then decided she must rush back before the Emperor Mother realised she was missing. Chi You was staring at her with a fierce cold gaze, his gaze full of shock, suspicion, anger, and also a little hope, as if hoping she will tell him, she was not Xuan Yuan Ba, she was only Xi Ling Heng.
Xi Ling Heng did not know why but she felt a soft piercing pain in her heart. She wanted to explain, but finally she strengthlessly closed her mouth and deeply bowed her head in apology.
Xi Ling Heng reached out her hand to open the curtains, but the curtains was closed by a green vine, the vine bound her hands, she wanted to push it away but it held her tightly and refused to let her go.
But she needed to return before the maidservants, so she forcefully tried to rescue her hands, and also raised her head to watch Chi You. Chi You's face whitened, his body stiffened, there was no expression on his face, only his two eyes deathly staring at her.
Xi Ling Heng tightly bit her lips and forcefully pulled back her hands, the twine bound tighter and tighter, seeing the time before her disappearing, Xi Ling Heng bit her teeth, waved her palm like a knife, and broke the twine, jumped down the jade carriage, and walked towards Shao Hao.
Although she was happy to see such an extraordinary Shao Hao, but that vine seemed to have entwined itself around her heart, every breath she inhaled, she could feel its grip causing her heart to wince*. She hurriedly said to Shao Hao, "Let's go down the mountain!"
"Yes," Shao Hao easily agreed, reaching for A'Heng's hand. She paused for a moment then grabbed his hand. He pulled her up his Xuan bird, the Xuan bird immediately flew up, in mid-air, Shao Hao made a gesture towards the Emperor Mother, "Emperor Mother, thank you for accepting, junior will be leaving."
The Xuan bird stretched its wings and flew, A'Heng turned her head back, under the peach blossom tree, Chi You stood unmovingly, his raised head staring at her, his lips tightly closed, his eyes cold and sharp.
As the bird flew further, that red robes still stood there, like fresh blood that pained her eyes.
She hoped Chi You understood her pains, and didn't hate her, but so what if he understood? Maybe it's better if they did not have any entanglements, afterall her real name was Xuan Yuan Ba.
Not knowing how much time had passed, A'Heng finally remembered that the person standing before her was her fiance, Shao Hao. She did not dare to raise her head, seeing the ends of his white robe flowing with the wind, she felt her heart being thrown into chaos. Ever since she was young, she had thought countlessly about what kind of person Shao Hao was. Her fourth brother had laughed at her and said that all the men in the world will feel lesser in front of Shao Hao. Today, she understood, that her fourth brother was not exaggerating.
A'Heng did not say anything, Shao Hao also did not speak.
When A'Heng finally had the courage to raise her head, she saw a deathly pale face, before she could speak, Shao Hao's body started to descend downwards and the Xuan bird quickly flew down to rescue its master. A'Heng used her divine strength and tons of silkworms thread flew out and caught Shao Hao in mid-air.
The Xuan bird landed at a mountain cave. A'Heng split a big rock into half and put Shao Hao on top of it like a bed. Shao Hao appeared injured, so A'Heng transmitted her divine energy into his body and helped him calm his nerves. After a while, Shao Hao stabilised. A'Heng realised he must have been injured which is why he had quickly agreed to bring her away from Jade Mountain.
Shao Hao asked if he had frightened A'Heng. A'Heng said no and Shao Hao said her elder brother, Qing Yang, had injured him. They had a bet, whoever lost will have to bring A'Heng down the Jade Mountain. A'Heng felt a strange feeling in her heart, so the hero did not save the beauty from the mountain because of her, he did not even give her a chance to misunderstand, and quickly explained the matter.**
Shao Hao explained that when the Emperor Mother first imprisoned A'Heng, her mother was very angry and wrote a letter to her father that if he did not dispatch people to get her back, she will personally go to Jade Mountain for A'Heng. But, Qing Yang promised to take A'Heng back in sixty years and that subdued her mother's anger. Qing Yang had left her on Jade Mountain for sixty years not because he was afraid of the Emperor Mother but because her previous injury was very serious and the divine energy on Jade Mountain was ideal for healing her.
So this is why Chi You only rescued her after sixty years, thinking of this, her heart became complicated, and she could not speak.
Shao Hao also explained that if not for this reason, her fourth brother would have also thought of a way to rescue her. Shao Hao said that Qing Yang was even more injured than him, he could not even ride, so he had hid on Xuan Yuan Mountain to recover. A'Heng asked how Shao Hao dared to come to Jade Mountain even with his injuries. Shao Hao's eyes had a trace of slyness, "If the Emperor Mother dared to make a move, I will immediately run, after all, she cannot come down Jade Mountain!"
A'Heng was dazed then laughed. To think the great Shao Hao was like this!
With one laughter, the awkwardness between them vanished quite a bit.
The sky was full of stars, the mountain blossomed with a few wild flowers, the night wind carried the scent of grass and trees, and it blew comfortably. Shao Hao stood up and was about to say they should leave, when A'Heng begged to stay for a while and enjoy the scenery.
Shao Hao didn't say anything and sat down with a gourd of wine. A'Heng recognised the scent as the Dian Yi's Dian wine. Shao Hao has three great loves - forging weaponry, brewing wine and playing the guzheng. Seeing that A'Heng could recognise the wine by smell, he knew he had met a compatriot. He said two hundred years ago, he had learned how to make the Dian wine. A'Heng said that ninety years ago, she had drank their beautiful wine, the male wine was thick and strong, the female wine was clear and mellow.
Shao Hao was shocked as he did not know that wine could be split into genders. A'Heng explained that she only learned this from a female who brew very good wine. It seemed that her ancestors discovered the method to brew beautiful wine and had given the wine to the king, it gained lots of honour then. Many people wanted to know the method but they guarded it carefully. The man met a woman who also could brew wine and they became husband and wife. The man shared the secret method with his wife, and based on this recipe, the wife created a female version of the wine. However, when they were happiest, someone else gave the same wine to the king, and the man lost favour and thought the wife had betrayed him. The wife said she did not divulge the secret and committed suicide to show her honour. The vat of wine that was stained with her blood was given to the king when it was time to give wine, because the man had no time to create new wine. The king loved this wine and spared the family's lives. The man's heart grew cold, although he never remarried, he did not allow the woman's bones to be buried in the family burial grounds. This woman was the girl's grandmother.
A'Heng used her magic and discovered that the secret was not revealed by the woman but by their early maturing son. He had imitated them brewing their wine while playing with other kids and other wine brewers had recognised the method and learned it through his play-acting after some experimentation of their own. The wine master who had learned it this way had told his son out of guilt.
Shao Hao asked, "So what happened next?"
So, after discovering the truth for the girl, the girl gave A'Heng the recipe for the female version of the Dian wine. A'Heng said she can give him the recipe.
Shao Hao replied that he was not asking about that, but what happened to the woman's bones? Wasn't she thrown into the wild?
A'Heng's heart warmed at this, although he loved wine, the recipe was not his foremost concern. She said that the bones were buried in the ancestral burial grounds in the end, although not with the man, she was buried with her son and daughter.
So, A'Heng and Shao Hao laughed as they shared wine and talked about wine. Sharing stories of their young travels. The night quickly passed.
When day came, Shao Hao's expression darkened. As if he awoke from a dream, the smile disappeared from his eyes and appeared on his lips.
Smilingly, he stood up, "Let's be on our way."
A'Heng stared at him, feeling that the man she had drank wine and laughed with the night before had disappeared.
Suddenly, they sensed someone. Chi You? But it was Yun Sang. Yun Sang asked after Nuo Nai who was imprisoned. Shao Hao explained that Nuo Nai was always an upright man who cared about proprieties, but suddenly his personality changed and he became flirtatious... and in a drunken stupor, he agreed to a marriage. The marriage was near, Shao Hao seeing that Nuo Nai was unwilling, locked him up in prison to prevent the marriage. Shao Hao explained that he was trying to stop the marriage too because of political reasons.
Yun Sang and A'Heng stepped aside to talk about private matters, Yun Sang warned A'Heng not to tell Shao Hao about her and Nuo Nai. A'Heng asked about Chi You, and Yun Sang said she did not notice him. A'Heng does not explain but tells Yun Sang not to punish him. Yun Sang bitterly laughs, with his irrepressible wild personality, who dares to disturb him? Much less punish him, one only prays that he does not torture them instead. Yun Sang warns A'Heng to stay away from Chi You.
A'Heng joins Shao Hao's on his bird. At the bottom of Xuan Yuan mountain, Shao Hao leaves A'Heng there since he does not have permission to go up Xuan Yuan Mountain. A'Heng thanks Shao Hao. The maidservants arrive to bring A'Heng up the mountain.
But she does not listen, only gazing at the sky, seeing the white robes disappear in the rising sun, slowly only leaving a white dot, and in the end, the white dot was covered by the sun rays, but his grand composure still remained in her eyes.
Comments: Wow, the chapters of Once Promised are getting longer, I may need to split them into three parts instead. But, I managed to finish Chapter 6 in two parts - mainly because there was so little Chi You in it (haha). I tried to be less biased and capture Shao Hao's dignity here as well.
Shao Hao is an interesting personality, some people may like him precisely because he is so complicated and everything he does have a double edge. Unlike Chi You, who is fearless and says whatever he does, Shao Hao's smile does not live in his eyes and only his lips.
* I love the imagery of Chi You's vines entwining A'Heng's heart. I actually felt a stab of pain when A'Heng chopped Chi You's vines - it was such a physical representation of cutting his hold on her heart and stopping all entanglements.
**Why Shao Hao was so quick to explain and dispel any romantic notions on A'Heng's part will be explained in Chapter 7.
Now back to the start of Chapter 6 when I pondered on the meaning of the title. Although A'Heng was promised in marriage to Shao Hao, that was not a promise made by herself. So, this promise in the title she cannot fulfill, who did it belong? For who, will the night rain become desolate?
I say, Chi You.