posted by Moonblossom
Hello everyone! I'm back to help out at 'Once Promise' Chapt 10, while Decembi kept us entertained with Little Moon's Matchmaking Mission. I am a big fan of Chi You and am glad to help spread the love of the most powerful demon I knew. Surprising, I almost couldn't recognize, big, bad Chi You in this chapter, but I guess all villains started as normal boys in the beginning, so here is the proof in Once Promise : )
Chapter 10: Pledging The Rest of Our Lives Together under the Peach Blossom Tree (Part 1 of 3)
Ah Heng did not sleep well that night. She tossed and turned, and when dawn broke, she was tensed and tired, although she did not feel the least bit sleepy.
When she spotted the Yan Emperor carving on a piece of wood at the end of the corridor, she went to sit opposite him. Looking at him, she still found it hard to believe that this man who was so crucial to the peace of the land, was about to die.
The Yan Emperor said, “How embarrassing to have lost my composure in front of young lady last night.”
Ah Heng took off her Beauty Preserving Flower “Uncle, I am the daughter of Xi Ling Lei. My nickname is ‘Heng’ and my mother calls me Heng’er.”
The Yan Emperor glanced at her then at the flower in her hand. Ah Heng gave him a sweet smile and put her Beauty Preserving Flower back to her hair. “This was won from Auntie Mei.”
The Yan Emperor laughed. “I heard that she locked you up for sixty years. She is just like the old times, with a quick temper.” His thoughts wandered off and his smile faded. “The last time I met her was on my wedding. Time really flies and it has been over two thousand years since. How is she?”
Ah Heng gave the question a moment’s thought. “She is doing fairly well. Often, she would stand at the cliff and admire the sunset. Oh yes! She likes to make magic puppets. Many of her maidens were actually puppets.”
The Yan Emperor concentrated on the wooden bird he was carving. “Your mom and I are the ones who taught her how to make puppets. At that time, she wanted to make a bird that could sing, but she could not do so with her limited powers, and would beg Ah Lei and I to help her.”
Ah Heng was afraid to bring up the past again and tried to change the topic. “How is Chi You?”
“He is busy running around the hills setting stratagems. I think he is trying to make use of the qi around the mountains to extend my life. Although he has never studied stratagems, he is naturally attuned to energy flows and is quite gifted in creating and destroying stratagems.”
As he spoke, Chi You returned. He looked at the wood in the Yan Emperor’s hand and frowned. “Are you making a puppet? You still have the divine essence to waste it on such things? Let me help.”
The Yan Emperor replied: “I wish to make it myself.”
Chi You started to guffaw. “Old Man, you finally start to become interesting when you are about to die. No matter what I suggested, you would only mutter about ‘living beings’ or ‘people’ in the past. See? It is no big deal to say outright what you wish to do. Do you not feel happier now instead of harping on world peace all the time?”
The Yan Emperor knocked his hand on Chi You’s head with a laugh. “Playful monkey! Ah Heng’s medicine is inside the house. Go brew it for her.”
“How many times have I said this – don’t hit my head!” Muttering, Chi You went into the house to prepare medicine. In contrast to his usual blunt ways, Chi You was very careful in measuring the exact quantity of herbs and the cooking sequence. Looking at him, Ah Heng was moved and afraid at the same time.
Smiling at her, the Yan Emperor asked, “What are you thinking about?”
She lowered her head. “Nothing.”
The Yan Emperor continued, “Chi You likes you. Have you figured out what you are going to do?”
Ah Heng looked up abruptly, her denial swift. “Chi You is not serious. He probably finds that this is something new and is merely being playful.”
As the Yan Emperor observed Chi You, a flash of fatherly compassion and worry crossed his eyes. “You are wrong. He is the most serious person on earth. When he likes something, it can only be that he really like the something. It stems from his heart, pure, and without other agenda.” Pointing at a pair of swallows flying above them, the Yan Emperor continued. “They may look flighty, mating year after year. Although they did not make any promises to spend the rest of their lives together, they will never leave each other. Your father has given your mother the grandest wedding and has pledged to spend the rest of his life with her. Yet, how has he treated her all these years?”
Ah Heng stared at the distant swallows and said after a beat. “I have stayed at Jiu Li for a while and learnt that the people there only lived for the present. To them, so long as they are happy in the present, it matters not if they are to die tomorrow. But since young, father has taught me to think thrice before acting. Each act must be balanced against its consequence, and that we should not be greedy for short-term gratification. Who is correct?”
The Yan Emperor pondered on her words for a while. “Given your father’s position, what he said is correct as well. However, I can tell you that I have regretted, and that feeling is reccurring more and more frequently. I regretted that I have not spent more time with Ting Yao, always thinking that there is plenty of time to make up to her when in reality, what we have is only the present. Even Gods like us have no way of knowing what the morrow will bring.”
Ah Heng was silent as she digested his words.
“Come and take your medicine,” said Chi You as he walked over with a bowl of medicine.
When she finished the medicine, she flashed him a sweet smile. “Thank you”
At her rare friendliness, Chi You was taken aback.
A flaming bird few by and landed on Yan Emperor’s shoulder. “Yu Wang and Mu Jin are here. Chi You, bring Ah Heng for a walk in the woods. Yu Wang and Mu Jin has yet to know of my illness and I would like a moment with them.”
Ah Heag asked softly “Who is Mu Jin?”
Chi You was not very concerned and said simply. “His god-daughter.”
“Oh, that means she is a Shen Nong Princess. No wonder I heard people talking that there are four princesses which I thought were merely rumours.”
Chi You brought Ah Heng to White Pines Crest. It was a beautiful spot, with many interesting white pines. But more interesting than the forest was Chi You. He seemed to have a natural familiarity with the woods and instinctively knew where to find drinking water, where to find fruits, where to spot baby bears…. he seemed to know everything. It was as if he was the personification of the mountain itself.
When both felt thirsty, Chi You led Ah Heng to a spring. After drinking and washing up, she turned to look at Chi You. In the background, the rays of the mid afternoon sun filtered through the pines, and the spring waters glittered like emerald crystals on its surface. Chi You was squatting beside a big rock, looking uncouth and yet in sync with the environment, with a kind of feral dignity befitting of a beast. He grinned at her, his eyes bright, and Ah Heng’s felt her heart started to race.
She dared not look at him and headed towards the spring to take off her shoes. Soaking her feet in the waters, she kicked the water with her feet. Chi You came to join her and he was like a playful child – kicking at sparkles on the water surface caused by the sun’s reflection. Each time he scored and caused a sparkle to break up, he would burst out laughing. It was as if he had not a care in the world and was not affected by the Yan Emperor’s condition.
Ah Heng could feel the weariness and fear seeping from her heart as she rested her head on Chi You’s shoulder unconsciously. He asked lightly, “What’s wrong?”
“How much time does the Yan Emperor have?”
“He will be in a lot of pain at the final stage. The poison will eat at his heart and permeate his bones. Although he appears very calm on the surface, the reality is that Master cannot bear to put down his responsibilities and will definitely try to hold on for his people. He will only let go only when he can finally hold on no longer.”
“How long will that be?”
“I don’t know. Three, maybe five years? Even if we all use our divine essence to extend his life, he will not last beyond ten years.”
“Chi You, I am tired and afraid.” Perhaps the spring water was too comfortably warm, or perhaps Chi You’s shoulder was very reassuring, Ah Heng opened her heart for the first time. Once war started, royals like her would be the first to be affected.
Chi You buried his face in her hair. “If you are tired, come rest on my shoulder. If you feel afraid, rest in my arms and let me protect you.”
Ah Heng could feel his warm breath, and between each inhale and exhale, she slowly felt a sense of peace. “If I rested for too long, will you become tired or become annoyed with me?”
She thought his lips brushed her hair before he whispered in her ear, “No I will not. Ah Heng, do you not understand? I am willing to do anything for you.”
It was as if all the afternoon rays have shone on her heart, washing away her fears with its warmth. She suddenly felt her lack of sleep from the night before and gave a lazy yawn. “I’m so sleepy.”
As she laid down on the green rock, Chi You followed suit. Although there was a small distance between them, Ah Heng felt reassured for some reason – it was as if he would block off all dangers and sorrow with his presence. If the sky was to fall down, he would protect her, accompany her.
The woods were very peaceful with its gentle breeze and tinkling water sound in the background. The rays of the sun were filtered by the trees and lit up the woods with its comfortable rays. Chi You and Ah Heng both rested as they closed their eyes, simply soaking up the passage of time.
When the sun was about to set, Ah Heng slowly opened her eyes. What greeted her eyes was lush greenery bathed in the colourful rays of the setting sun, complete with swallows dancing in the air. When she swept her drowsy eyes upward, a pair of black eyes looked back at her – vast, wild, with a hint of danger. Mesmerized, she forgot about time and space.
Chi You carefully closed the distance between them and was about to brush his lips over Ah Heng’s when a bird’s piercing cry rocked the woods. Startled, Ah Heng turned away, her ears red and her heart beating wildly like a drum although she managed calmly, “We should get back.”
Chi You froze for a moment before he let out a feral roar. At the thunderous sound, there was a flurry of activities as the birds and animals started to flee the woods. In a moment’s time, not even a cricket could be heard.
As Chi You sat up and looked at Ah Heng, she averted her glance and started walking back towards Xiao Yue Ding. Chi You followed her for a good distance before saying suddenly, “Were you the one who made the robe I am wearing now?”
Ah Heng paused but did not reply, and quickened her pace.
Chi You grinned as he quickly caught up with her. “You must have spent at least twenty years raising silkworms and weaving the cloth alone. Plenty of the serving maidens on Jade Mountain knew about this and I have found out from them long ago."
Embarrassed, Ah Heng said gruffly. “What is the big deal about it? It is just a lame old robe.”
Following her pace, Chi You declared, “I will wear it forever.”
Although she dared not look at Chi You, she smiled and walked even faster. As she zipped up Xiao Yue Ding, she knocked into someone and nearly tripped. Luckily, the person extended a hand to stop her from falling or she would have likely sprained her leg. Ah Heng smiled and tried to say her thanks but her words trailed off as she saw her saviour. Unbidden, her heart started beating a wild tempo and she felt weak all over. Looking at her red ears and lowered head, Shao Hao said apologetically, “Miss, did you hurt yourself?”
Decembi: I'm super grateful to Moonblossom who offered to help translate a chapter of Once Promised so I could concentrate on writing Little Moon. Isn't she super kind and generous? :) It reminds me again of the warmth and sharing spirit of the translating community. Although Chapter 10 deals with the Yan Emperor breaking the news of his impending death to his children, I like how Tong Hua uses this huge event which not only represents a big change in the politics of the land, but a catalyst for A'Heng to open her heart, because it is so filled with worry and fear, and Chi You's shoulders is one she knows will always be open to her. In truth, A'Heng is almost careless in her manners and feelings to Chi You because she clearly knows how much Chi You likes her. Chi You's feelings for her was never in doubt, what is in doubt is if A'Heng would allow herself to reciprocate these feelings. Mu Jin's arrival is a good kick in A'Heng's ass to remind her that Chi You is desirable to not only her!
I love the contrast between gods who have all the time in the world, but end up wasting it because they have all the time in the world. Time passes their fingers un-noticed, and they will experience the bittersweet taste of "too late" just like mortals. Perhaps, mortals like the villagers in Jiu Li know how to live life better, because they live in the present. Every moment is fleeting. Cherish it!