Saturday, 15 March 2014

Once Promised (曾许诺)by Tong Hua(桐华): Translation for Chapter 5 (Part 2)

   Xia0yuer (her tumblr) and I will be collaborating to translate Once Promised together! We are still working out the arrangements, but I will be translating/summarising the odd chapters and she will be in charge of the even chapters. Tentatively, we will post the translations on our blogs, and after a week, we will then post each other's translation on our blog and then update with the next chapter (eg, I post chapter 5 now, a week later, xia0yuer will post my chapter 5 on her blog and then update with her chapter 6, after a week, I will post her chapter 6 on my blog then update with my chapter 7, and so on and so forth). I will make an announcement each time a chapter is updated here! I hope you will support both of us! :)

  I have not made Once Promised an official project previously because I was very apprehensive about the length. It consist of 2 books and 34 chapters! But, since xia0yuer has come on board, I do think that between the two of us, we should be able to finish the entire 2 books. I will still be following my previous style of a mix of summarising and translating :).

  Since my Once Promised workload is now halved (haha), I shall also give more focus on Heavy Sweetness so do expect more updates! <3

 Part 2 of Chapter 5 has lots of quiet beauty and plants a lot of threads that will blossom later. I've decided to translate the whole of part 2.

Chapter 5: Short Letter Long Love, Feelings Cannot Be Mailed (Part 2)

    To prepare for the Peach Banquet, the Emperor Mother created a lot of puppet maidservants to do chores and the palace became lively again.

   Xi Ling Heng thought it was interesting and wanted to learn how to make puppets. The Emperor Mother taught her, first you must give a bit of your internal energy so that the puppet will come alive then use your divine power to control it to do things. It was not difficult to make a puppet but to control it was extremely difficult. Even with the Emperor Mother's power, without the fertile divine essence on Jade Mountain, and the fact that these puppets served a person closely, it would be very difficult for her to control so many puppets.

  The Emperor Mother teased Xi Ling Heng, "Soon you won't have to write letters anymore, you can speak in person, aren't you happy?"

  Xi Ling Heng was surprised into a daze, as if happy, as if sad, she lowered her head.

  The Emperor Mother shook her head and laughed.

  Xi Ling Heng suddenly raised her head and asked, "The previous Emperor Mother did not hold peach banquets, this started with you. Every thirty years you put so much effort in holding one peach banquet, the god or demon you wanted to see... did he come?"

  The Emperor Mother's face changed, the wooden puppets in her hand fell to the floor, the maidservants holding tea in the hall crumbled to dust.

  "Don't think just because I speak nicely to you, you forget what this place is, be careful I ground you for another one hundred and twenty years!"

  Angrily, the Emperor Mother swept up her sleeves and left. Xi Ling Heng secretly smiled at Ah Bi, "Why do I suddenly feel I like this old demoness?"

  When the peach banquet begun, the heroes from all over came as expected.

  Xi Ling Heng was extremely happy, because the representative of the Xuan Yuan Tribe was her fourth brother Chang Yi*. Actually since Chang Yi came the last time, he should not have been able to come again this time, but he must have fought for the opportunity from her father to come to Jade Mountain because of her.

  But, only Gong Gong** arrived from the Sheng Nong tribe.

  Gong Gong apologised to Emperor Mother, "The second princess is sick and the Yan Emperor is extremely depressed and fell ill. All the officials do not dare to leave, so only I have come."

  The Emperor Mother gave a basket of peaches to Gong Gong for him to give to the Yan Emperor, "Pass to the Yan Emperor my condolences, advise him to let the sadness go and be."

  Gong Gong politely bowed and left. The Emperor Mother stood at the edge of the cliff, gazing at the roaring sea, her figure revealed an inexpressible loneliness and sadness. Once she stood, she stood for one whole day, no maidservant dared to interrupt.

  Xi Ling Heng walked across to stand by her side.

  The Emperor Mother passed a wooden box to her, "The green bird carried this from below the mountain. Looks like Chi You couldn't come, but his present did."

  Xi Ling Heng opened the box, inside were two phoenixes sculpted from wood.

  At first Xi Ling Heng could not understand, then she did and placed them on the ground.

  Once the two Phoenixes absorbed the earth energy, they immediately grew with the wind, and transformed into two real-looking Phoenixes, with a shining five-coloured coat. They sang, danced up and down, right and left.

  As the Phoenix is the king of the birds, they are naturally proud, but these two Phoenixes were extremely close to Xi Ling Heng, sometimes flying high to dance for her, sometimes flying near to whirl around her. Their song was like from a musical instrument, extremely lovely to hear, as they danced and sang, even the Emperor Mother smiled.

  After half a burnt candle, the Phoenixes stop their dance and kept their wings, returning back to wooden figurines as the divine energy finished.

  The Emperor Mother watched the wooden figurines in a daze. Xi Ling Heng asked, "What's the matter?"

   The Emperor Mother coldly said, "Your friend is really not simple, he can control a puppet from thousand of miles away, what is especially difficult is the sound." Actually, the Emperor Mother was not impressed by that... but that the puppet could have been sent to kill thousand of miles away, just for power or gain, but Chi You spent so much effort, all just to make Xi Ling Heng smile.

  Xi Ling Heng smiled and kept the wooden figurines, even though they no longer had any use.

  Very quickly, the three day Peach Banquet ended.

  To Xi Ling Heng, she had ate peaches for thirty years and so the peach banquet was boring for her. But once it ended, she felt insufferable, she could not express why but perhaps it was because brother Chang Yi was leaving.

  After she sent her brother off, she hid alone deep in the peach blossom forest, she did not even bring Ah Bi. But the Emperor Mother managed to find her and asked, "Do you miss home?"

   Long ago, Xi Ling Heng had wondered what the Emperor Mother once said. On that day when the Emperor Mother punished her, the Emperor Mother said, "Because of your mother, I will protect your name from being blemished as a thief, I will only punish you by grounding you here for one hundred and twenty years." Since Xi Ling Heng was young, she had only heard that she was given face because of her father, this was the first time someone had given her face because of her mother. As this was from the Emperor Mother, she was extremely curious.

  She boldly asked, "Do you know my mother?"

  "Many many many years ago, we were extremely close friends."

  "Really?" It's not that Xi Ling Heng did not believe, she was just surprised.

  "If we speak of your father, now no one does not know his name, but at that time, no one has heard of his name, but your mother was famous across the lands. Everyone knew that Xi Ling had a special girl, Yan Emperor, Jun Emperor all sent envoys to invite her to marry their sons. If your mother had agreed, you would have been Sheng Nong or Gao Xing's princess today."

  Xi Ling Heng was shocked and almost could not believe it. "At that time, how was my mother like? How was my father like?"

  The Emperor Mother squinted her eyes as if she was trying to recollect, "Your mother was the smartest and bravest girl I had ever seen, your father was the most handsome and charming youth I ever seen, that time..." The Emperor Mother stopped her words and no sound came out for a while. The sun shone through the red peach blossom flowers. Under the flowers and the wind, the appearance of Emperor Mother had the appearance of time passing through, A'Heng saw a sadness she could not understand.

  "Why have my mother never mentioned you?"

   A smile broke through the Emperor Mother's lips, breaking through the sunlight, "Because we are no longer good friends."

 "How long have you not seen them?*" [I don't know why it became plural suddenly, but that's how it is.]

  "More than two thousand years. Since I took over the Jade Mountain, I have not gone down the mountain, they also have not come."

  Xi Ling Heng looked at the surroundings and could not say anything. In the thousands of years, she alone has guarded these peach blossoms day after day, year after year?

 The Emperor Mother took in a deep breath and asked, "Is your mother well?"

  Xi Ling Heng leaned her head aside and thought, "Not bad. She likes the quiet, she never goes down the mountain, and sees guests rarely."

  The Emperor Mother had the appearance of a young twenty-eight year old girl, even in the god tribe, the peaches cannot let them live forever, but it can help preserve your looks. She looked at the Emperor Mother and suddenly said, "My mother's hair have long been all white."

  "Your father, your father..." The Emperor Mother didn't finish her sentence and said no more.

  Xi Ling Heng already understood what she wanted to ask, "Mother likes the quiet, father rarely bothers her."

  The Emperor Mother and Xi Ling Heng looked at each other without words, the Emperor Mother could not go down the mountain because of the rules, but her mother? What imprisons her?

  Suddenly, the Emperor Mother wanted to drink until she was drunk, she called for the servants to bring wine.

  The Emperor Mother was drunk, the first time in thousands of years.

  Xi Ling Heng watched her in the peach blossom forest, her long sleeves flying, as she danced.

  The Emperor Mother laughed and called her, "Ah Lei, quick come, Ah Lei, quick come..."

  This is the first time Xi Ling Heng knew that once her own mother was called by her female friend sweetly, "Ah Lei". She stood up and danced with the Emperor Mother, but she was unable to answer her calls. Many many many years ago, the Emperor Mother once had a gentle name, but because no one had called it for too long, no one no longer knew it. Xi Ling Heng did not want to call her Emperor Mother, at least not for now, so she did not say anything, and only danced with her.

  After the peach banquet, the Jade Mountain regained its original appearance, cold like murder, silent like death.

  Every day was like the previous day, the same, the same food, the same scenery. All four seasons were spring, even cold and hot, it was the same, there were no changes.

  The first thirty years, because Xi Ling Heng was young, the things she experienced were little, so she did not really understand the pain of losing her freedom. She had no fears, her pain was naturally light, but as these thirty years just begun, she started to think of the next thirty years and that made her feared the length of the days before her, and because of fear, her pain grew heavy.

  The Jade Mountain reclused itself from the world, and thus also reclused Xi Ling Heng from the world. She often thought, when she could finally go down, will she realise she has nothing to say to her friends anymore? All they knew, she knew nothing.

   Even for the god tribe, how many brilliant one hundred and twenty years does a life have?

  Xi Ling Heng's letters to Chi You grew shorter and shorter, until she did not write anymore.

  But Chi You's letters kept coming, every two or three days. He never asked why she stopped replying, just quietly describing his life, and occasionally sending a small gift.

  Although Xi Ling Heng never replied, every time she received Chi You's letter, she felt a bit better.

  Three years, more than one thousand days, Xi Ling Heng did not send a word to Chi You, but Chi You still kept writing.

  Four years later, the Jade Mountain still had its unchanging appearance, but below the Jade Mountain, the harsh winter had just ended, and the warm spring had arrived.

  Xi Ling Heng narrowed her eyes under the big sun as the green bird brought Chi You's letter.

  The letter was long, ordinarily describing the local people and culture, gently telling some stories, one line appeared normal but pierced at her eyes.

   "Passing the small hills, the peach blossom flowers ablaze, burning over both shores, a girl starching clothes by the river, I thought of you again."

  The unintentional "again" caused Xi Ling Heng to turn in her sleep for one whole night.

  The next morning, Lie Yang carried her letter and flew out of the Jade Mountain.

  After tens of years together, Ah Bi and Lie Yang had become close, Lie Yang's personality was strange and hard to be with, but Ah Bi liked Lie Yang, no matter how Lie Yang treated him, he will constantly stick to Lie Yang. Ah Bi stuck to Lie Yang until he accepted Ah Bi.

  As Ah Bi and Lie Yang played, Xi Ling Heng guarded the peach blossom forest and bred silkworms.

  In these tens of years, she had received many presents from Chi You, but never gave anything back. The Jade Mountain had beautiful jade, special herbs, rare treasures, but all these belonged to the Emperor Mother and not her.

   Her mother was well versed in breeding silkworms to spin silk, before she learned to speak she already learned to differentiate silkworms.

  She thought of how she could borrow the divine essence of the Jade Mountain to breed a silkworm so special that there was only one in the whole world, to create a robe for Chi You that will never have an equal.

   On the Jade Mountain, one cannot feel the passing of the sun and the moon, once the peach blossom flowers it flowered for a thousand years, Xi Ling Heng calculated time through the letters with Chi You.

  He wrote me a letter, I wrote him a letter, he wrote me a letter again, I wrote him a letter again... the long unending time passed through these letters.

   Sixteen years to breed peach blossom silkworms, five years to spin the silk, three years to thread cloth, one year to sew the robe, Xi Ling Heng spent twenty five years to prepare a robe for Chi You.

  Once the robe was completed, the red glow alarmed the whole Jade Mountain. The maidservants thought there was fire, and ran around crying. The Emperor Mother came hurriedly and saw the simple red robe, but the red colour appeared as if it was alive, running angry in the wild, roaring free, after gazing at it for a long time, she felt her memories being swallowed by the red shade.

  Even for the Emperor Mother, this was the first time she saw such a red. After staring for a long while, she told Xi Ling Heng, "You are truly Ah Lei's daughter."

  Xi Ling Heng ordered Lie Yang to carry the robe to Chi You, but she did not say where the robe came from - just said it was a gift, hope he would like it.

*Chang Yi is Zhuan Xu's father. 
** Gong Gong is Xiang Liu's god-father if I remember correctly.


I really loved the Emperor Mother's interactions with A'Heng - it's so precious and careful, and female friendships/relationships are not often depicted as beautifully in many novels. 

I think this is my favourite chapter. I know I say this for every chapter (gosh), but as they calculated time through their letters, as Chi You filled the spaces of A'Heng's life with his, I knew in that moment that A'Heng and Chi You were my couple and I would guard and follow their love wherever it led.

I thought of you again.

It was a gift, I hope you like it.


  1. thank you!! You're incredible!! And I'm so happy you and xia0yuer have worked out a translation schedule. So excited and looking forward to this. :D

    wow! what a chapter! No wonder why Xiao Yao fears loneliness more than death. We knew of her years at Jade Mountain and the terrible years thereafter in passing, but reading about Ah Heng's confinement in detail shows just how monochromatic it was living in Jade Mountain.

    It's just like the Heavens to make it so that Emperor Mother's life was to be entwined with Ah Lei's and her daughter's and later granddaughter's. The story between Emperor Mother, Ah Lei, and Huang Di was also very interesting... Tong Hua is amazing in how she managed to interweave everyone's relationships/stories together from one generation to the next, and so forth.

    Relationships, sigh. :(

    And would it be cliche-ish of me if I quoted a famous line from Yuan Haowen's "摸魚兒"?

    1. Hello joanna,

      So nice to hear from you! :) Thanks for reading. I really agree with what you wrote - living can become a nightmare when nothing changes... especially when you are young or have not even started your life!

      Ah Lei's story with the Emperor Mother and the other friend (haha shall keep this a secret for now) is incredibly beautiful and one of my favourite parts of the story.I'm so glad to share with you it! And also, that famous line is indeed perfect!

  2. I'm excited to be working with you, decembi! Hopefully you can keep me on schedule because I'm a bit erratic. I have some days that i was to translate for hours and hours, while other's where I just avoid opening that huge Word document entirely.

    I love this chapter as well, especially when A'Heng asks the Wang Mu how she knows her mother. Wang Mu gives us some key information - Xi Ling Lei (A'Heng's mother) was known throughout the lands well before Xuan Yuan was established. This tidbit bring to mind the quote "behind each great man, there is an even greater woman."

    This scene is also the first time we see that A'Heng cares for Chiyou beyond just friends. Before, he would send her letters and gifts but she never replied. But now, she spends 25 years weaving a red robe for him. That's some dedication. :)

    1. I'm very excited to work with you too! :) Haha! I think it will be fun. No pressure k! Usually, I just translate a few chapters when I'm writing, so I have spare capacity and never feel like I have deadlines to work with.

      I actually have a lot more I want to write about Wang Mu and Ah Lei, but shall save that till when their saga is more completed at the later part of their novel! I heartily agree, which man has ever achieved greatness without a woman? :) hehehe.

      I actually think she shows she cares for him beyond friends from the moment he passed before her eyes before she blacked out at the sacrificial stage! <3 I heart them.

      P.S. I have not read Book 2 finished yet. How do I email you though if I need to ask you stuff?

    2. I emailed you! Also, get your tissue boxes ready for Book 2!

    3. Haha! I read the last few chapters of Book 2 and the epilogue (couldn't help spoiling myself, the wait was unbearable) but I didn't cry. I only cried when I finally read about their ultimate outcome in Lost You Forever. I love Chi You and A'Heng, they are my forever ship.

  3. thanks alot to both of u guys

  4. 25 years to biuld a robe! I so want to know how Chi You reacts to that. So the Wang Mu was always grumpy huh. I did find her a little gruff when In Lost you Forever, Xiao Yao finally gets her real form back.

    Decembi (and Xiaoyuer) may I just say what an incredible work you guys are doing. And I love that Decembi replies to every comment on the blog.

    Escapism from Reality

    1. Hello Samina,

      Haha! That's some dedication right? Although if we estimate a god's life span to be around 2000 years, that's only 0.0125% heheheh. But, I still find it unbelievably romantic.

      What I like about Once Promised is that you get to see various facets of someone's personality - someone who seems grumpy now, may not always have been so. And, I can understand Wang Mu's heart pain. Her story is also beautiful, even if we don't see her playing a major part. I guess everyone is their own lead in their story and we decide whether it's a good or sad ending?

      Aww thanks! I started this blog because I had no one in real life to talk about my c novel interests, so I will definitely reply every single comment on my blog even if it's just a thanks :)

    2. I love how you think that everyone is a lead in their own story no matter how small or insignificant the story is. I suppose with all this back story, the Jade Mountains will always be a refuge for Ah Lei's descendants will always have a place in the Jade Mountains.

      I get how you find it difficult to find people to talk with about your passion. I love my books but nobody in my vicinity has the same passion or the taste for the kind of books I like. I totally get wanting to find somebody who will share the same reaction you get when reading and want to discuss all the excitement and feelings you have about what you like.

    3. Heheh, maybe it comes a bit from my lit and theatre background, but I like to think that all these characters have their own lives, thoughts, dreams and motivations even when they are not on the stage/page.

      The protection for Ah Lei's descendants I guess stays as long as Wang Mu is alive :) :) :). But the Jade Mountain will always be a place of protection for people - a little like Switzerland in political neutrality haha.

      Me too! I get so excited discussing the things I love here! Most of my friends stare at me in astonishment that I read chinese novels.

  5. Once again QY makes me swoon!

    The description of the letter exchanges between AH and QY made me think of this line from Jane Austen's Persuasion:

    "You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in" [Qi Yo].<--I believe!

    1. TuongVi Nguyen, thank you for leaving comments in all the chapters. Really very sweet of you and I love reading them.

      And, yes! I'm such a persuasion fan. <3 Chi You, all the way.

    2. Thank YOU for all your hard work translating this novel for non-chinese readers!!!!

      I was wondering, does QY know that AH made the silk robe for him?

    3. Awww *blushes*. I believe he does! This will be touched on again in the later chapters!