Chapter Seven (Part 1)
In the afternoon Chen Quan Ran visited his grandma in her chamber.
Chen Quan Ran's grandma requested him to sit next to her at a table and she put a hot bowl of herbal soup in front of him.
'This bowl of herbal soup is very nourishing,' Madam said. 'Drink it all quickly, you can't leave behind even one drop.'
For the first time Chen Quan Ran saw his grandma smile at him strangely. His intuition warned him there was something wrong with the bowl of herbal soup. The bowl of herbal soup looked delicious and fragrant, but he was too full from his afternoon meal to eat or drink anything else.
Madam's complexion darkened because her grandson refused to drink the soup and glared at her grandson. 'If I asked you to drink then drink. What are you doing staring at the soup? It's made with rare herbs that will nourish your body.'
'Grandma, if it's that nourishing then why aren't you drinking it?' Chen Quan Ran asked.
Madam regretted she couldn't hit her grandson's head a few times for not being agreeable. 'Grandson, are you going to drink it or not?'
Chen Quan Ran laughed. 'Grandma, confess what is wrong with this bowl of soup? Why aren't you drinking it and forcing me to drink it?'
'Whose fault can it be but my exceptional granddaughter-in-law?' Madam asked. 'Every day if it's not in the morning then in the evening she would give me a bowl of herbal soup to drink. Honestly, I've drank enough to turn insane. One glance and I'll be full.'
Madam voiced her grievance and looked pitifully at her grandson. 'I don't know anything except that you must drink this bowl of herbal soup for me. Otherwise later if Xiao Lan sees I haven't drank it, she'll not let me escape.'
Madam heard her grandson laughed continuously, but she wasn't in a laughing mood. She forced him to hold the bowl. 'If you don't help me then I'll immediately order servants to evict you from the Chen Manor.'
'Must I drink it?' Chen Quan Ran asked. 'Although it's one bowl of herbal soup, honestly I'm too full to drink...'
The beaded curtains parted the moment Madam forced Chen Quan Ran to drink a sip. It was the person who Madam feared, Mo Lan.
Mo Lan glared at her husband then she comfortably looked at Madam. 'He's healthy as an ox. If Madam force him to drink nourishing soup, do you think his body can cope?'
Mo Lan turned to look at Chen Quan Ran. 'Quan Ran, if Madam is being foolish why are you following her lead? Recently a physician said that Madam only eating vegetables has weakened her body a little, which is why I asked the cooks to make herbal soups to nourish Madam's body.'
Mo Lan continued to explain the seriousness of the situation. 'Although Madam has a strong body, but it's inevitable for an elder's health to slowly decline. If Madam doesn't nourish her body then during colder days, she could become severely ill. As Madam's grandson, you need to be more concern about her health.'
Chen Quan Ran couldn't say anything. His lips smiled behind the bowl of herbal soup, he couldn't drink it or put it down on the table. He felt very pitiful. He didn't want to drink it, his grandma was the one who forced him to drink it.
Madam felt she was pitiful too. Honestly, she didn't want to drink a sip of it. But looking at her granddaughter-in-law's stern expression, she didn't dare to protest. In the past she was a heroine and didn't expect one day she would fear a little girl.
Mo Lan snatched the bowl of herbal soup from her husband and passed it to Madam. 'Madam, why are you sitting still? Madam if you don't drink this then tomorrow I'll ask the cooks to double the herbal soup portion.'
Immediately Madam obediently drank the bowl of herbal soup.
After Madam drank all the soup, Mo Lan smiled gently at Madam. 'Madam, it's good that you drank it. In the future Madam isn't allowed to throw away or give the soup to someone else to drink when I'm not with you.'
Mo Lan looked at Chen Quan Ran. 'Also, Quan Ran next time Madam says a few pitiful words to you, you're not allowed to grant her request. Because you won't be helping her but you'll be causing her harm.'
Mo Lan picked up the empty bowl and walked outside Madam's chamber.
Chen Quan Ran felt no matter what he did, he couldn't win a person's affections. He didn't provoke anyone, but his grandma was upset with him and his wife was cold toward him. He admitted he was a gentleman who feared his wife. He accepted inside his home, his wife was the little chili. Although his wife scolded him, his heart was full of warmth.
Madam looked pitifully at her grandson. 'Indeed my granddaughter-in-law is exceptional.'
Chen Quan Ran smiled and nodded in agreement. 'Indeed exceptional, I love Xiao Lan's toughness.'
'I heard a few days ago because of Lady Chen, you did a few things that angered Xiao Lan,' Madam said.
Although Madam usually mediatated by herself, she wasn't blind to what happens inside the Chen Manor. She was happy Xiao Lan didn't lose to a love rival and took pride in Xiao Lan's conduct. Xiao Lan reminded her of herself. She remembered about that year she protected her love.
'Isn't that right?' Madam asked. 'Because of Luo Yu, the last two days Xiao Lan caused your face to be unpleasant to look at. I heard you were banished to the calligraphy room.'
Chen Quan Ran would rather die than leave his and his wife's chamber. The past few days he crawled with his thick face onto their bed and begged his loving wife not be angry anymore. It resulted in countless bruises forming on his body. Luckily he could still sleep with his wife. If he didn't get to sleep with his wife then he would have been on the losing end... he would have been bruised in vain if he didn't get to sleep with his wife.
Madam saw her grandson's dreamy expression under a love trance and couldn't stop herself from teasing her grandson. 'When will I get to hold my first great-grandchild?'
Chen Quan Ran recognised his grandma wanted to trap him into a confession and purposely sighed. 'Hold a great-grandchild? It's something that depletes a lot of energy. Very tiring, needs a lot of energy to achieve...'
Madam chased her grandson to hit him. 'Little boy, what nonsense are you saying? You're a handsome wolf general. But you don't know small from big and dare to provoke your elder. See if I don't hit a grandson like you...'
Madam and Chen Quan Ran fought a while before Madam sweated excessively. Then Chen Quan Ran smiled and let her hit him once to appease her anger.
After they both sat at the table, Madam drank a sip of tea, smiled and spoke sternly. 'I heard the Southern Yue's Prince Jing Qi and the Southern Yue's General Fang Mu Chu wants to visit the Northern Empire.'
'Grandma, your news gathering is extraordinary fast,' Chen Quan Ran praised. 'It's only been a few days but the news has spread to you.'
Madam glared at her grandson. 'You are in the mood to jest? General Fang Mu Chu is an exceptional person. Remember when your father lost one battle? The person your father lost to was General Fang Mu Chu.'
The only territory that could oppose the Northern Empire was Southern Yue. The Southern Yue Emperor had seven sons and three daughters. The oldest son was Jing Li who was the crown prince, all the other princes except Jing Qi were living in remote areas. Jing Qi shared the same mother as Jing Li and Jing Qi was also the Southern Yue Emperor's favorite son. It was rumored the Southern Yue court officials didn't approve of Jing Qi's reckless arrogance, but Jing Qi was never punished for any serious offences committed. Because Jing Qi was the favorite prince and had another strong mountain to support him - General Fang Mu Chu. General Fang Mu Chu had conquered many territories for Southern Yue and earned the title of the undefeated general.
The Northern Empire and Southern Yue citizens all knew of General Chen in the North and General Fang in the South. Although there was a generation between the ages of the two generals, they were both known for winning many battles.
For many years Southern Yue wanted to conquer the Northern Empire, but hesitated because General Chen had his grandma's war knowledge, experience and support. In contrast the Northern Empire wanted to conquer Southern Yue, but General Fang was an enormous obstacle. As a result, Southern Yue and the Northern Empire were at a standstill.
Suddenly the Southern Yue Emperor sent his favorite son and General Fang to visit the Northern Empire under the guise as diplomats wanting to improve relations between Southern Yue and the Northern Empire. But no one in the Northern Empire was fooled by Southern Yue's truce offer, because it was clear Southern Yue had a hidden agenda.
'Although you haven't faced General Fang Mu Chu on the battlefield but since he has appeared, you need to know both your enemy and yourself,' Madam warned.
In relation to General Fang Mu Chu, Chen Quan Ran had never once underestimated General Fang Mu Chu's war skills.
'I'll silently follow their movements,' Chen Quan Ran said. 'If they use this visit as a ploy for an ambush, I'll make certain even if they have wings, they won't be able to use it to fly.'
In that moment Chen Quan Ran's eyes shone dangerously. 'Although my father lost on the battlefield to General Fang Mu Chu, it doesn't mean that I'll also lose to General Fang Mu Cu. If there is a day I need to face General Fang Mu Cu on the battlefield then I'll use all my strengths to battle. When that day arrives, winning or losing will be clear.'
Chapter Seven (Part 2)
Mo Lan delegated duties to the maids and servants.
Most of the maids and servants were nearly thirty years old and they have been working in the Chen Household since they were young. They regarded General Chen's wife highly.
'This ladder needs to be repaired within three days,' Mo Lan said. 'Bring the ladder back after it's repaired. Later this afternoon I'll allocate five hundred silver taels between everyone to buy necessities for this month. Be certain that the silver taels are spent on the allocated necessities otherwise everyone will face the consequences together.'
The maids and servants nodded that they understood and quickly resumed their assigned work duties.
Suddenly some servants hurriedly carried mysterious chests into their young master and mistress' chamber.
'What's inside these chests and why are they being brought here?' Mo Lan asked.
'Master asked us to carry these chests here,' a servant said.
Mo Lan was surprised. She remembered the last few days her husband suddenly became busy and some days she didn't see him. Even Xiao Ha didn't know what her husband was busy doing. But every night her thick face husband would attach himself to her. No matter how many times she kicked him, he wouldn't let go of her. Even if she cursed him, he would endure until he got to sleep with me. After being eaten by him, she didn't have energy left to ask him what he did during the day.
When Mo Lan wakes up in the morning, she wouldn't see the rogue anywhere either. She only saw him in the middle of the night when she was tired to death. She thought perhaps he went sightseeing with Chen Luo Yu, but Cheng informed her that Chen Luo Yu stayed inside the Chen Manor the last few days.
Mo Lan didn't know what was making her husband busy. While she was in deep thought, the servants brought more chests into the chamber and quietly left.
Cheng heard the commotion and ran to her mistress' chamber. She was curious what was inside the chests and opened a few chests. 'Heavens! There are many beautiful jewellery.'
Mo Lan saw the surprise look on Cheng's face and couldn't help but be curious, she stepped closer to the opened chests. Mo Lan was shocked to see the opened chests were full of valuable jewellery from pearl necklaces to jade bracelets. Mo Lan opened another chest and saw many different kinds of silk fabrics.
While Mo Lan and Cheng looked at each other in disbelief, they heard Chen Quan Ran's voice nearby.
'Is everything brought into the chamber?' Chen Quan Ran asked.
Then Chen Quan Ran entered the chamber. He was satisfied to see all the chests he requested and smiled. 'Indeed the servants perform their duties efficiently.'
'Quan Ran why did you ask the servants to bring all these chests here?' Mo Lan asked.
'Of course it's to give to you,' Chen Quan Ran said.
'For me?' Mo Lan asked confusedly.
'If it's not for my wife, do you think the jewellery and silk fabrics are for me?' Chen Quan Ran asked.
Chen Quan Ran laughed and strode toward Xiao Lan. A helpless Xiao Ha followed Chen Quan Ran into the chamber.
'I heard the maids say that my wife likes wearing pearls, jade and silk fabrics,' Chen Quan Ran said. 'I also heard my wife loves eating seafood. So for the last few days I've been busy collecting all my wife's favorite jewellery, fabrics and seafood.'
Chen Quan Ran pointed at the chests. 'I've asked merchants from Eastern, Southern, Northern and Western territories to deliver everything here.'
'Quan Ran... Quan Ran why did you collect all these things for?' Mo Lan asked foolishly.
Chen Quan Ran panicked, turned around and looked at Xiao Ha. 'Last time you and my other men told me something about tonight. What festival is taking place tonight?'
'The Qixi Festival (Chinese Valentine's Day, the day the weaver and cowherd meets on a bridge of magpies),' Xiao Ha said.
'That's right,' Chen Quan Ran said. 'Tonight is the Qixi Festival.'
Chen Quan Ran couldn't be blamed for not being familiar with romantic festivals, he grew up in a military family and wasn't interested in romantic festivals. If he didn't hear his men talk about the Qixi Festival then in his life he wouldn't know the Qixi Festival existed.
'I heard a troublesome goddess descended from the heavens to earth,' Chen Quan Ran said. 'Coincidently a mortal young man saw her descend from the heavens, they fell in love and she became his wife.'
Chen Quan Ran remembered what his men told him. 'But the goddess' father didn't approve of the marriage and ordered deities to bring her home. When the goddess was taken home she would cry day and night. Her father couldn't do anything except choose one day of the year she and her husband can meet. The Qixi Festival represents the day the goddess and her husband are allowed to meet. Many unwed ladies anticipate this day to receive a love confession from the man they loved.'
Chen Quan Ran smiled at Xiao Lan. 'While I was in the army I have never given my wife a gift. Let's not dwell on our past that I can't change. But now that I've returned, how can I let this night pass without celebrating the Qixi Festival with you.'
Chen Quan Ran lowered his voice. 'In these past few years I haven't given you anything during festivals like the Qixi Festival. That's why everything brought to our chamber today are gifts to you from me to compensate for the last ten years.'
Cheng and Xiao Ha felt helpless. They couldn't leave suddenly and didn't feel comfortable to stay and listen to General Chen love's confession to his wife.
Mo Lan's head felt a little dizzy. She didn't understand why her husband was busy preparing gifts for her the last few days. But in that moment there was warmth, happiness and gratefulness in her heart that couldn't be expressed.
'Xiao Lan, honestly I don't know what you like,' Chen Quan Ran said. 'But I believe there are bound to be something in these chests that you'll find pleasing. Even if you don't like anything, it's alright.'
Chen Quan Ran patted his chest and laughed. 'Because I can always pluck a red rose from our courtyard and give it to you myself.'
Mo Lan was deeply moved. Usually her husband had a rogue mouth, she didn't think because he would do so many lovely gestures to make her happy.
Mo Lan didn't care about what was inside the chests. What was important to her was the intentions inside her husband's heart. She had never celebrated the Qixi Festival with someone she loved before, it was the first time her husband did something to make her cry happy tears. She thought about the ten years waiting to be with her husband on the night of the Qixi Festival made her throat choked and her eyes stung.
Chen Quan Ran saw Xiao Lan cried and quickly wiped her tears with his sleeve. 'Xiao Lan why are you crying? If you don't like anything here then you can tell me. It's alright, I can find things that you do like.'
Chen Quan Ran heard Xiao Lan cry louder and he panicked. 'Why can't my wife be good? Xiao Lan, usually your tongue is sharp and you'll pinch and kick me. Why is such a strong young woman crying impulsively?'
Xiao Ha could see General Chen's wife was moved and Cheng was speechless. Cheng didn't know if her master was actually foolish or pretending to be foolish.
Mo Lan half cried and half laughed. Tears flowed out of her eyes while she wanted to curse her husband. But she couldn't open her mouth to curse him, because Cheng and Xiao Ha were also inside the chamber.
When Mo Lan's eyes were too red she hugged her husband and wiped her tears and snot on his chest.
Chen Quan Ran smiled, he was happy his wife initiated a hug. He happily closed his eyes and accepted his wife's warm body. He didn't care Xiao Ha and Cheng were inside the chamber, he continued to hug his wife as a subtle signal for them to leave.
Cheng blushed and quickly left the chamber. Xiao Ha laughed and followed Cheng outside. Xiao Ha praised General Chen inside his heart, he didn't expect General Chen to be both impressive on the battlefield and the way General Chen pursued his wife.
Chapter Seven (Part 3 of 3)
Madam was happy to see her grandson and granddaughter-in-law exchanging loving looks to each other throughout the night of the Qixi Festival.
Madam grinned happily, she was certain she would hold her first great-grandchild soon.
The only person who was unhappy about the display of love between Chen Quan Ran and Mo Lan was Chen Luo Yu. Chen Luo Yu would rather die than return to the army camp.
The following day Chen Quan Ran returned to the Chen Manor from an outing and was stopped at the courtyard by Chen Luo Yu.
'In three days I want to leave the Chen Manor,' Chen Luo Yu said.
Unexpectedly Chen Quan Ran still treated Chen Luo Yu as a sworn brother and patted her shoulder. 'I'll ask Li Dai to escort you.'
Chen Luo Yu heard Chen Quan Ran's cold tone that didn't want to keep her at the Chen Manor. 'Big brother do you actually want to live with your wife for the rest of your life?'
'Of course,' Chen Quan Ran said. 'Xiao Lan and I are compatible. If I'm not with Xiao Lan then who else is there for me to be with for the rest of my life? I've neglected Xiao Lan for ten years. From now onward I will love Xiao Lan to compensate the years I wasted.'
Chen Quan Ran spoke from his heart. Like he told Chen Luo Yu beore, he was a man from the Chen Household and would only love one person in his life, he loved Xiao Lan.
'But big brother you're a general of an army,' Chen Luo Yu said. 'In the Northern Empire, you're under one person but above thousands of people. Can you be satisfied with only one wife?'
Chen Luo Yu's thoughts were petty. 'General Chen, for many years we have lived together. I don't believe that big brother can't see my feelings for you.'
Chen Luo Yu clenched her hands and bit her lips. 'I... I don't want a lot. Can't I have a small status as your second wife?'
Chen Quan Ran would never agree to marry anyone but Xiao Lan. He shook his head and sighed. 'If you need to beg for love, isn't it pointless? You're a good person, ambitious and responsible. Why must you lower yourself to be a second wife?'
'I don't care,' Chen Luo Yu said.
'But I care,' Chen Quan Ran said firmly. 'If you become my second wife, I will have wronged three people. The first person I would have wronged is Xiao Lan who's been faithful to me for ten years.'
Chen Quan Ran spoke firmer. 'I'm someone who is ignorant when it comes to love. But I do you know and you know too that each person only has one heart. If a person truly loves someone then they shouldn't cut their heart into many parts. If they do, then it wouldn't be fair to anyone.'
Chen Quan Ran continued to explain his reasons. 'Xiao Lan has married me for many years and has never resented me. She has only managed the Chen Household and taken care of my grandma on my behalf. I love Xiao Lan and also grateful to Xiao Lan. I truly believe in this world there wouldn't a woman who I would love like the way I love Xiao Lan.'
Chen Quan Ran wanted his firm words to stop Chen Luo Yu from having false hope toward him.
'You should have your own happiness,' Chen Quan Ran said. 'From now onward you shouldn't waste your time on me. I can never give you happiness because I'm a married man who loves his wife.'
Chen Quan Ran didn't give Chen Luo Yu a chance to respond and left her standing in the courtyard.
Chen Luo Yu stood motionless and her tears flowed onto the ground.
Xiao Ha had been silently standing nearby and witnessed what had happened. He passed a handkerchief to Chen Luo Yu. 'General Chen has explained to you clearly. You shouldn't hurt yourself by being stubborn.'
Chen Luo Yu couldn't accept the situation. She took Xiao Ha's handkerchief and wiped her tears.
'You should end your feelings,' Xiao Ha advised. 'General Chen can never return your love. In the past he has always said to you that he only sees you as a sworn brother.'
'But I'm a woman,' Chen Luo Yu said. 'I don't want to be sworn brothers with him. Although Mo Lan is more beautiful than I am, what can General Chen possibly see in her to love her?'
'Are you speaking honestly from your heart or are you deluding yourself?' Xiao Ha asked and shook his head. 'We both know General Chen hates gentle bred young ladies who are haughty. If General Chen's wife wasn't someone who had exceptional traits to attract him then he wouldn't fall in love with her. I believe if General Chen's wife wasn't someone exceptional then you would easily be able to see her weaknesses. Xiao Yu, wake up, from the past to now you have never existed in General Chen's heart.'
Xiao Ha's words were heartless but Chen Luo Yu couldn't accept the truth that Chen Quan Ran from the beginning to the end had never loved her.