Chapter Six (Part 1)
Chen Quan Ran and Xiao Ha merrily rode their horses back to the Chen Manor.
At the Chen Manor they received surprising news, an unexpected visitor had arrived at the Chen Manor. The visitor was a woman about between twenty-one and twenty-two years, she wore a blue uniform and had a haughty aura. Her black hair flowed freely behind her neck without ornaments, not even a hairpin.
Although she looked beautiful, between her eyelashes was the look of arrogance that most ordinary unwed women didn't possess. When she turned her head around, she smiled joyfully.
'Luo Yu?' Chen Quan Ran asked.
'General Chen!' Chen Luo Yu greeted.
Chen Quan Ran and Chen Luo Yu smiled at each other. Although he was a married man and she was an unwed woman, they embraced each other and patted each other's backs like sworn brothers.
'General Chen, I missed you to death,' Chen Luo Yu said.
The woman was indeed Chen Luo Yu, a skilful soldier under General Chen's army. After they greeted each other, Chen Quan Ran asked Chen Luo Yu about the recent events at the army camp.
'White Tiger and Little Pig really missed big brother. Every day the chefs and peach wine makers prepare delicious braised wine meat waiting for General Chen to return,' Chen Luo Yu said. 'Also, last year while passing through Western Shanxi the two young boys who joined the army are very tall now. They are waiting for big brother to return to teach them sword fighting skills. Big brother, do you remember the group of children you rescued? They are reunited with their parents, and returned home...'
Chen Quan Ran felt a little restless listening to Chen Luo Yu talk fondly of army life, he realised he had stayed in the imperial city for a long time. On the battlefield he could display his true abilities and reminiscing good memories made him want to return to the army camp.
Even Xiao Ha felt nostalgic and remembered how happy their lives were with the people at army camp.
Mo Lan walked into the courtyard with a tray of tea while the three sworn brothers were reminiscing about army life. When a servant informed Mo Lan that a woman named Chen Luo Yu arrived at the Chen Manor, Mo Lan's heart felt a little troubled.
But Mo Lan was the young mistress of the Chen Manor, she had to be hospitable toward all guests. A hundred rumors didn't compare to facing Chen Luo Lu in person. Chen Luo Lu, had a carefree aura and was friendly. Mo Lan heard long ago that Chen Luo Lu was the type of woman Chen Quan Ran liked. Mo Lan didn't doubt there would be feelings between Chen Quan Ran and Chen Luo Yu, after all the two of them have spent years together.
'Lady Chen, I have heard a lot about you from Quan Ran,' Mo Lan said. 'I have heard you are a beautiful and skilful soldier. Indeed your sacrifices and contribution to the Northern Empire is immense.'
Mo Lan's gentle praise and cups of tea were presented to the three sworn brothers. But Chen Luo Yu's smile disappeared the moment Mo Lan entered the courtyard.
Xiao Ha noticed the tension between the general's wife and Chen Luo Yu, he couldn't help but cough softly. Xiao Ha remembered clearly the incident when the general's wife overheard the general's men compare her to Chen Luo Yu. It caused the general to endure a silent cold war with the general's wife.
Xiao Ha didn't know how to process the situation in front of him. A moment ago the atmosphere was joyous then the two love rivals met. But... he didn't know who should be happy and who the real love rival was.
Chen Quan Ran heard Xiao Ha's cough and immediately understood.
If Xiao Ha didn't remind Chen Quan Ran, he would have forgotten not long ago his wife was jealous of Chen Luo Yu. Chen Quan Ran laughed softly at the thought of his wife being jealous. He pulled his wife next to him and introduced her to Chen Luo Yu.
'This is my wife, Mo Lan,' Chen Quan Ran said. 'But my grandma and I love to call her Xiao Lan. Don't underestimate her because of her young age, her intelligence is sharp.'
Chen Luo Yu frowned. Her eyes assessed Mo Lan, drank a sip of tea and smiled. 'I have heard General Chen really like strong women, but big brother's wife looks a little weak.'
Chen Luo Yu was a direct woman and often spoke without thinking deeply. Unlike most women, her bluntness was influenced from years of army life. In her eyes General Chen was a strong and handsome man who treated everyone under him equally. He was the ideal husband to many women. Although he had an official wife, his wife was weak. In the past he had spoken about wanting a strong wife who could be alongside him during battles. The contradiction to his desires made her confused why he would introduce his official wife that he neglected for ten years to her. She felt like something precious was taken from her and inwardly she laughed gloomily.
Mo Lan wasn't oblivious to the provocation visible in Chen Luo Yu's eyes. But Mo Lan wasn't angry and maintained a smile.
'Anyone would be envious of a strong woman like Lady Chen, including myself,' Mo Lan said. 'If Lady Chen won't refuse, you have travelled a thousand Li to be a guest at the Chen Manor and as the young mistress of the Chen Household of course I will welcome your stay.'
Mo Lan's emphasis on 'young mistress,' caused the provocation in Chen Luo Yu's eyes disappear.
Chen Quan Ran and Xiao Ha stood on the side and looked at each other while Chen Quan Ran's wife and Chen Luo Yu exchanged sparring words.
Xiao Ha winked a few times to let General Chen know the tension between General Chen's wife and Chen Luo Yu wouldn't be resolved easily.
Chen Quan Ran looked at Xiao Ha to say that Xiao Ha appeared to be enjoying a good performance, and berating Xiao Ha for not informing Luo Yu's visit earlier and caused his wife and Luo Yu to meet under tensed circumstances.
Xiao Ha protested with innocent eyes to say their unplanned meeting had nothing to do with Xiao Ha.
Xiao Ha looked away from General Chen and slowly enjoyed drinking tea.
Chen Quan Ran sighed, his mood wasn't bad. Tu Lang's situation was resolved and released the heavy boulder from his heart. It reminded him how blessed and undeserving he was to have an extraordinarily wise wife. He felt foolish for not appreciating his wife and wasted ten years. His heart shook, he pulled his wife closer to him and whispered in her ear. 'Sun Can's family was avenged because of my impressive wife.'
Mo Lan was sparring with Chen Luo Yu when Chen Quan Ran suddenly pulled her to him and made her ear turn bright red. Mo Lan thought Chen Quan Ran couldn't see the situation in front of his eyes and daringly behave intimate with her... she took out her anger by pinching his waist and glaring at him. 'There are others here, can't you behave?'
Chen Quan Ran smiled and appeared to look obedient. 'Yes of course, what my wife says is always reasonable and suits the situation. Let's slowly discuss it in bed together.'
Chen Quan Ran was busy for many days before finally having free time. He began to miss his wife's alluring soft body.
Although Chen Quan Ran whispered softly to his wife, Chen Luo Yu and Xiao Ha were highly trained in martial arts so it was hard for them not to hear Chen Quan Ran's whispers.
After Xiao Ha heard the general's whispers, he immediately wanted to flee. Xiao Ha couldn't believe the general could whisper about a husband desiring his wife in bed without blushing or gasping for air. Instead the general appeared nonchalant while whispering unsuitable desires in front of others.
Chen Quan Ran's whispers affected Chen Luo Yu differently, it made her face turn cold and discomfort in her heart. According to General Chen's taste in women, he hated women like Mo Lan. But she couldn't understand why he was being intimate with Mo Lan in front of others.
Chapter Six (Part 2)
Chen Quan Ran, Xiao Ha and other soldiers took Chen Luo Yu sightseeing to many places in the imperial city.
They lived together for many years, which was why they were comfortable around one another. After a few days of sightseeing, the emperor summoned Chen Quan Ran to the palace to discuss important matters and Chen Luo Yu was forced to part with Chen Quan Ran.
The past few days Chen Luo Lu occasionally visited General Chen's grandma. But General Chen's grandma loved to meditate and Xiao Ha was assigned to protect Chen Quan Ran.
After Chen Quan Ran left for the palace, Chen Luo Yu felt restless. That afternoon she practiced sword fighting and overheard Mo Lan talking with a maid. Truthfully, she secretly assessed her love rival closely. Mo Lan appeared weak, but Mo Lan was strong on the inside. If Mo Lan wasn't a capable woman then everyone in the Chen Household wouldn't regard Mo Lan highly. But Chen Luo Lu didn't think Mo Lan was deserving of General Chen. What Chen Quan Ran needed was a woman who could fight, not a maternal woman to manage the Chen Manor.
Chen Luo Yu's eyes shone confidently.
'A young mistress is indeed busy day and night,' Chen Luo Yu said scornfully.
Cheng stood beside her mistress Mo Lan and clearly heard the scorn in Chen Luo Yu's voice. But Cheng was happy Mo Lan was finally reunited with General Chen and Mo Lan's years of waiting and hard work was acknowledged and rewarded. Cheng didn't expect Chen Luo Yu would suddenly appear and attempt to put discord between Mo Lan and General Chen. Chen Luo Yu shamelessly demanded General Chen's attention and asked General Chen to take Chen Luo Yu sightseeing all around the imperial city. If Chen Luo Yu was inside the Chen Manor, Chen Luo Yu purposely talked about army life with General Chen to exclude Mo Lan. Cheng felt it was unjust and disrespectful toward Mo Lan. But Mo Lan didn't complain to General Chen about Chen Luo Yu's behaviour and let Chen Luo Yu continue to treat Mo Lan badly.
'Lady Chen if you're free today why aren't you sightseeing?' Mo Lan asked.
'Today the emperor summoned General Chen to the palace, General Chen isn't free to go sightseeing with me,' Chen Luo Yu said and smiled. 'It's been tiring sightseeing with General Chen for the last few days. Today is a good opportunity for me to rest my legs a little.'
Mo Lan wasn't angry and smiled politely. 'Quan Ran treats all his men equally. It's rare for Lady Chen to visit the imperial city, of course he would take Lady Chen sightseeing.'
Chen Luo Yu heard Mo Lan's implied message that even if Quan Ran had brotherly affections toward Chen Luo Yu, Quan Ran was still Mo Lan's husband. Chen Luo Yu didn't want to admit defeat and retorted. 'But General Chen said after being away for ten years the imperial city has many changes. Like places where he played as a young boy feels different and distant to him than in the past.'
Chen Luo Yu smiled. 'The other day General Chen remembered he loved to eat tanghulu (Chinese candied fruit on bamboo skewers). Truthfully General Chen usually doesn't like to eat sweets. Big brother is selective and in the past it has always been me who cooked for General Chen. If I didn't cook food for him then he wouldn't even glance at the cooked food.'
Chen Luo Yu paused but kept smiling. 'Also, before General Chen sleeps he would read about war strategies and weapons. If he doesn't read them before he sleeps then he'll feel he lost something important and can't sleep. Although he's an adult, he's actually no different than a child.'
Mo Lan heard Chen Luo Yu's familiarity with Quan Ran like the palm of Chen Luo Yu's hand, it made Mo Lan's heart uncomfortable. But she refused to let Chen Luo Yu's words deflate her own self-worth.
'Honestly I'm feeling frustrated. What is the purpose of Lady Chen saying all this to me?' Mo Lan said.
Chen Quan Ran didn't expect Mo Lan to ask her directly and her complexion looked a little uneasy. She especially noticed Mo Lan's maid Cheng was looking at her in disdain. She was disappointed Mo Lan didn't react the way she expected and spoke bluntly. 'I'm only warning young mistress that I and General Chen have been together for many years, fighting together, eating together, laughing and riding side by side while hunting in Da Tao Huang.'
Chen Luo Yu continued provoking Mo Lan. 'General Chen and I share the same interests and dreams. Besides, General Chen highly praises my skills and said if he didn't have me in his army then he wouldn't know how many of his men would have been killed.'
'Ah, is that so?' Mo Lan asked calmly and laughed softly. 'If Quan Ran sees you as someone that special to him then when did he say he wanted Lady Chen to marry into the Chen Household as his second wife?'
Chen Luo Yu was surprised by Mo Lan's question and didn't know how to answer.
'Then let's assume Quan Ran wants to marry Lady Chen as his second wife,' Mo Lan said. 'Lady Chen have you thought about in the Chen Household, Quan Ran has an official wife? If Lady Chen enter the Chen Household then by status, I'm Quan Ran's official wife and you'll only be his second wife.'
Mo Lan continued to reason with Chen Luo Yu. 'The Northern Empire has its own laws and households have their own laws. Quan Ran's grandma's criteria for her grandson's wife is high. Lady Chen, you haven't entered the Chen Household but you're already acting haughty toward me. Is it because you're in a rush to claim the official wife status?'
Mo Lan dismissed Chen Luo Yu's pale complexion. 'If Quan Ran doesn't want to marry Lady Chen as his second wife as you assume then isn't it true that your current status is a soldier of the first rank in his army? Although he treats his men equally and sees them as his sworn brothers, his men sees me as General Chen's official wife.'
Mo Lan deduced from her preceding reasons. 'Then according to common sense Lady Chen, you don't have any rights to stand inside the Chen Household. Lady Chen, don't you feel that you have overstepped boundaries as someone who is merely one of Quan Ran's men?'
Mo Lan's words rendered Chen Luo Yu speechless, Chen Luo Yu could only stare silently at Mo Lan. Although Mo Lan had to tilt back to look up at her, Mo Lan's words were sharp and cornered her. It made her feel like she had indeed overstepped boundaries and had nowhere to defend herself. She realised Mo Lan wasn't only a beautiful little woman, but on the inside there was nothing fragile about Mo Lan and she had underestimated Mo Lan. She silently assessed Mo Lan and her frustrations increased tenfold.
Mo Lan felt her words were too harsh, Chen Luo Yu was only a young woman who wanted to pursue a man in their heart. Mo Lan admitted that trait about Chen Luo Yu was admirable and wanted to soften her words. 'At least Lady Chen inside the Chen Household you're still an honoured guest.'
Mo Lan left with Cheng to let Chen Luo Yu reflect about Mo Lan's words. Chen Luo Yu began to understand why Quan Ran had feelings for Mo Lan. Chen Luo Yu couldn't judge Mo Lan based on Mo Lan's appearance, unless she was a fool. But she couldn't accept letting Quan Ran go easily after being with Quan Ran for many years.
Chapter Six (Part 3 of 3)
Chen Quan Ran busily resolved the emperor's matters assigned to him in the palace for a few days.
Chen Quan Ran was happy he could finally be home to eat. The food in the palace was delicious, but there were too many protocols in the palace to eat freely.
Chen Quan Ran pitied the emperor who was always busy working to improve the livelihood of the Northern Empire's citizens and had little rest. Also, the emperor had to maintain an image and mannerisms fitting of an emperor. Chen Quan Ran agreed with the saying that not anyone can be an emperor. When Chen Quan Ran returned home he didn't get a chance to see his wife before Chen Luo Yu requested to talk to him.
While he was busy assisting the emperor, he would miss Xiao Lan's smile every three to five minutes. Before he entered the palace, as the head of the Chen Household he had to take Luo Yu sightseeing and couldn't spend time with his loving wife.
Chen Quan Ran knew Xiao Lan was unhappy about Luo Yu always shadowing him. But he purposely brought many of his men to follow him sightseeing with Luo Yu. He had wanted to take Xiao Lan too, but his little demoness didn't know how to ride a horse. When he held onto Xiao Lan on a horse, Xiao Lan was frightened enough for her complexion to pale.
Chen Quan Ran didn't want to force Xiao Lan to ride a horse, he also didn't want to disappoint his men who looked forward to sightseeing and was forced to leave Xiao Lan home for a few days. Besides, Luo Yu wasn't going to be staying long in the imperial city. In a few days he planned to order Luo Yu back to the army camp to prevent upsetting Xiao Lan.
Chen Quan Ran hadn't spoken to Luo Yu about her behaviour out of consideration they were friends for many years. He didn't think the moment he arrived home, Luo Yu would shadow him. He didn't want to admit it, but in that moment inside his heart was only hate toward Luo Yu that couldn't be easily expressed in words.
'General Chen, big brother you're finally back at the Chen Manor. In the last few days did everything go smoothly with the emperor?' Luo Yu said.
Chen Quan Ran could only look and answer coldly to Luo Yu's question asked in a happy tone.
'Ordinary, the emperor wanted to discuss army matters,' Chen Quan Ran said coldly. 'I explained how my men would approach those matters and talked about the difficulties of life in the army.'
Chen Luo Yu was happy be beside General Chen and talk to him in the small courtyard. She would ask a question and he would answer. She knew he was a man who took his duties seriously. It made her more certain that she was the right woman to be beside him. He was a man who needed a woman that understood he prioritised a general's duties and could discuss army matters with him. Besides, his grandma was a famous heroine. She believed in his grandma's eyesight, and was certain his grandma wanted to find a heroic woman to be his companion for life.
Chen Luo Yu was absorbed in her thoughts for a while then she saw from a distance there was a white shadow approaching them. Her mind became lively, she was shoulder to shoulder with Chen Quan Ran so she pretended to twist her ankle and purposely fell onto his chest.
Chen Quan Ran reacted fast and held onto Chen Luo Yu to prevent her falling. From a distance it would have looked like he was hugging her.
'Are you alright?' Chen Quan Ran asked.
Chen Luo Yu was satisfied and nodded.
'I'm alright,' Chen Luo Yu said. 'I wasn't careful and twisted my ankle. If I rest for a little while, my ankle will be alright. General Chen, big brother before you entered the palace you promised you would take me mountain climbing. Big brother, you're free now, how about tomorrow we go mountain climbing together?'
Chen Quan Ran didn't answer Luo Yu's question before he heard a familiar soft voice interrupt.
'Quan Ran, tomorrow I want to go to the temple and burn incense,' Mo Lan said. 'Are you coming with me?'
Mo Lan was the person wearing a white dress. Her eyes looked at the inappropriate closeness between her husband and Chen Luo Yu.
Chen Luo Yu smiled. 'Young mistress, General Chen is someone who values keeping his promise. If big brother promised to take me mountain climbing, it's not good to make him break his promise.'
Mo Lan ignored Chen Luo Yu's presence. Mo Lan focused on her husband. 'Tomorrow I want to go to the temple to burn incense, Quan Ran can you come with me?'
After Mo Lan asked Chen Quan Ran the same question, the intensity of her gaze increased. Chen Luo Yu was surprised by Mo Lan's intense gaze and realised Mo Lan wasn't an easy opponent.
Chen Quan Ran didn't know what to do in the situation in front of him. It wasn't that he didn't want to answer, but he was too shocked by his wife's intense gaze. The impression in his mind, Xiao Lan was a brilliant woman, gentle and alluring. He didn't think there would be a day he would see Xiao Lan's aura be more intimidating than his grandma's sharp aura. But because he didn't answer, it provoked Xiao Lan's anger.
'Chen Quan Ran, if you don't willingly come with me to the temple but rather go mountain climbing with Lady Chen then from this day onward you can spend your whole life with Lady Chen,' Mo Lan said.
Mo Lan laughed coldly. 'Because I'm your wife, I wanted to maintain your reputation. I easily forgave your coldness toward me many times. If I respect a person but that person can't respect me then I don't need the position of General Chen's wife.'
Mo Lan spoke in a firmer voice. 'You can say that I'm jealous or petty. After our wedding I waited for you for ten years. During that time I have performed my duties toward the Chen Household in a satisfactory manner. I, Mo Lan can say that I haven't done anything to wrong you.'
Mo Lan's voice remained decisive. 'After ten years you returned. If you still can't accept me, and feel that I, Mo Lan isn't compatible with General Chen and make it hard for you to marry your ideal woman then it's easier than you think. You can give me a divorce paper and I won't interfere with you marrying Lady Chen.'
Xiao Lan emphasised her last suggestion. Suddenly, Chen Quan Ran used all his strength to push Luo Yu off his chest.
Chen Luo Yu didn't think Chen Quan Ran would push her and in her unstable state she fell on the ground.
Chen Quan Ran and Chen Luo Yu were both shocked by Mo Lan's words.
Chen Quan Ran didn't steady his mind until a while later. After seeing his wife lose her usual composure and fiercely voicing her grievances, he wasn't even a little offended. Instead he felt a warm sense of happiness inside his head.
Chen Quan Ran felt his Xiao Lan cared about him, it made him happier than usual. He knew, his little demoness was always too calm. If Luo Yu didn't shadow him then he wouldn't know how long his Xiao Lan would suppress her grievances.
'General Chen...' Chen Luo Yu called.
Chen Luo Yu felt General Chen's push was scarier than falling on the ground. She didn't understand why Mo Lan's words would cause him to treat her in that way.
Chen Quan Ran pulled Xiao Lan close to him with one hand and turned his head to face Luo Yu. 'I have a wife. You can see my wife loves vinegar. If you continue to shadow me in an unclear manner, my wife will certainly become very angry and I won't be able to control my wife.'
Chen Quan Ran briefly turned around to face his Xiao Lan, laughed softly and ignored the dreamy look in Xiao Lan's eyes. Then he turned to look directly at Luo Yu. 'You're a good woman, but in my heart there is someone else. The men in the Chen Household are loyal to the person they love. I only need Xiao Lan, she alone makes me busy enough. I'm afraid in the future I don't have free time to spend with you.'
Chen Luo Yu's expression was unpleasant and her lips trembled angrily. 'Big brother, in the past big brother said that you hate women like Mo Lan.'
Chen Quan Ran didn't deny Luo Yu's words and looked lovingly at his wife. 'That was before I got to really meet Xiao Lan. It wasn't until I returned to imperial city and lived together with Xiao Lan did I get to see how she brings me a different unexpected kind of happiness each day. It was impossible for me not to let go of my past foolish prejudice. Truthfully someone who looks little and weak like Xiao Lan can also cause someone else to love her.'
Chen Quan Ran turned around and laughed coldly. 'In contrast, about the situation before. Your skills to pretend you accidently fell on me are a little lacking. Next time be certain your actions are more natural to prevent someone exposing you and feel that you have no pride left to face that person.'
Chen Luo Yu's face paled, she turned around and flew off angrily.
'I thought she actually twisted her ankle,' Mo Lan said. 'I didn't expect even her twisted ankle was fake.'
Chen Quan Ran stood motionless and sighed. But Xiao Lan fiercely kicked his leg.
'Quan Ran, can't you see you angered Lady Chen and made her run off?' Mo Lan asked.
'Ah, Xiao Lan can you be a little gentle?' Chen Quan Ran asked.
Chen Quan Ran rubbed his leg and looked pitifully at Xiao Lan. 'If I didn't make her run off angry then wouldn't you be the one running off angry?'
Mo Lan's face was pink and green. She thought about how Chen Quan Ran made her angry and felt he deserved to be hit. She couldn't control herself and kicked him. 'Next time if the same situation happens then I won't need you to write me a divorce letter. I'll write a letter myself to leave you.'
'Leave me?' Chen Quan Ran asked. 'Xiao Lan, how will you cope? Xiao Lan, isn't it you one who love me enough to let go of your elegant composure? If Xiao Lan actually leaves me, it'll be strange if you don't cry to death and cry yourself to life...'
Mo Lan heard Chen Quan Ran's teasing and became angrier. 'Who would cry to death over a rotten man like you? Quan Ran, don't run... you're not allowed to run... you need to let me kick you a few more times to relieve my anger otherwise this issue will be forever unresolved...'
'Good, we'll be together in bed forever,' Chen Quan Ran said.
'Chen Quan Ran, you're a scoundrel,' Mo Lan said.