Eighty Soldiers 07
A military uniform, lean and upright.
Both had seen pictures of each other, but it was not the same as seeing each other face to face, after all.
Jiang Rui was wearing a short red printed cotton jacket today, gently tucked in at the waist, with navy blue trousers underneath, which made her look pretty and light. On her rounded face, her two curved and thin eyebrows looked like a cloudy distant mountain, her eyes were like a foggy winter lake, and her small lips were tinted vermilion so that at a glance, one might think they were red berries in the mountains.
Zhao Nan, on the other hand, was in regular military uniform, lean and upright.
The two looked at each other from a distance, and Jiang Rui was the first to break eye contact, turning her head and staring at her feet.
Zhang Xiaohua was less scrupulous, walking on one side and grinning broadly as she whispered in her ear.
“So tall, much taller than your brother! A soldier is different; look at him with his chest out and his back straight. He’s in great shape from head to toe.”
When she got closer and could see more clearly, she added, “He’s not bad looking either. Some years ago, the girls on our brigade all said that Han Wenke was good-looking and had an air of sophistication, but I thought he looked too weak and fragile. It’s the masculine and tough ones like this that have a manly taste. You girls don’t understand, but when you get married, you’ll know what’s good and bad.”
Hearing that she had intended to say something, Jiang Rui was slightly embarrassed, “Sister-in-law, stop it.”
“What’s wrong? You’re still so shy.” Zhang Xiaohua giggled.
The closer they got, the only one waiting for a bus left was Zhao Nan, so Zhang Xiaohua took Jiang Rui’s hand and walked over, “It’s Zhao Nan, right? This is Baoqin, and I’m Baoqin’s sister-in-law.”
“Hello.” Zhao Nan nodded to Zhang Xiaohua, looked at Jiang Rui, and said with renewed precision, “Hello, I’m Zhao Nan.”
Jiang Rui quickly glanced at him and said in a small voice, “I’m Du Baoqin.”
When the words left her mouth, Zhang Xiaohua snorted and covered her mouth as she burst into laughter.
Jiang Rui looked at her strangely.
Zhang Xiaohua waved her hand with a smile, “Don’t mind me, I just think you two are too well-behaved, just like children. Hello, I’m whoever. It seems like the first meeting between two young children about to become new friends.”
“Sister-in-law…” Jiang Rui pulled Zhang Xiaohua’s sleeve and sneaked a glance at Zhao Nan, but found that he was also looking at her, and immediately looked away, her face slightly warm.
Her heart was relieved.
To repair Zhao Nan’s soul, she had to get close to him and use the aura around her body to contain it for him, or export it out of her body and host it on an object, as she did in the previous photo. It was only that this method would not last.
The best way to do this was to become someone close to him, stay in contact with him at times, and be subtle and silent. Initially, she wanted to become his comrade but could not find the right body, and only later approached Du Baoqin.
It seemed to be working now, and Zhao Nan should be somewhat kind to her, after all.
Zhang Xiaohua saw the two people’s small movements and just laughed, laughing until Jiang Rui was embarrassed, before saying, “No need to be so formal, Ah Nan… I can call you that, right?” Seeing Zhao Nan nod, she then continued, “I heard you only arrived home yesterday. How did you get back? How long did it take on the road?”
“By train, forty hours on the road.”
Zhang Xiaohua said in amazement, ” Wow, that’s not close. It was a difficult journey, wasn’t it?”
“Not at all.” Zhao Nan said.
“She does all the household chores, and she takes care of the rabbits. Although I am her sister-in-law, I am not half as good as she is. She just doesn’t talk much and can’t say flattering words to make people happy, but she is the most honest and well-behaved person.”
Seeing that she had said so many things, Jiang Rui could not stop her, but she blushed at her compliments and could only whisper, “It’s not as sister-in-law said… “
“You silly girl,” Zhang Xiaohua gently patted her hand, but her eyes looked at Zhao Nan. Obviously, the words were for him to hear, “what sister-in-law said is the truth, so what’s wrong with letting An Nan hear it? Ah Nan, don’t you think so?”
Zhao Nan nodded seriously, without any half-hearted effort, “Yes.”
Both of them were not very talkative people, and today, when they met for the first time, they were somewhat restrained and talked even less. Luckily, Zhang Xiaohua could speak well, and she smiled as soon as he opened his mouth, not letting the conversation die down.
Gradually, a few more people came, so the three stopped talking and waited at the side of the road a few steps apart.
It didn’t take long for the bus to arrive, and Zhao Nan bought three tickets and gave two to Zhang Xiaohua.
“I’m asking you to break the budget.” Zhang Xiaohua smiled and gave a polite smile, not excusing herself much.
When the two of them got on the double-decker bus, Zhao Nan went up the second floor. At home, Zhang Liyun explained to him many times to go out and meet with girls: ‘If you want to make a good impression, take the initiative to be considerate and flattering. Then, be diligent and generous; always let the other side see your good side in order to make things work.’
Now that he had seen the real person, he realized that the feeling of closeness he had when examining the picture was not an illusion and that in person, she was even more desirable than in the picture. So, he began to think back to what his mother had said.
The bus arrived in the county, and it was not too early; at this time, it was too early to eat lunch, too cold to walk with people in the park, and few people went to watch movies in the morning.
The three of them walked down the street with Zhang Xiaohua and Jiang Rui arm in arm while Zhao Nan followed them from behind. The three of them were young. Zhao Nan was in military uniform, Jiang Rui wore bright and pretty clothes, and Zhang Xiaohua was not bad-looking either, so they attracted a lot of attention when they walked together. The scenery was beautiful, but the cold winter wind was not so pleasant; they had to find a place to stay.
As the end of the year approached, the shops on both sides were much busier than before. Zhang Xiaohua wanted to go shopping, but it was not a good idea for her to express that, for fear of being misunderstood as trying to take advantage of the man’s money. Although she knew that the Zhao family was as wealthy as they were and that they should not be so petty and sensitive, both parties should always be cautious at the first meeting.
Luckily, when Zhao Nan saw the Yangan department store ahead, he finally remembered Zhang Liyun’s words and said to them, “Let’s go to the supply and marketing agency?”
Naturally, the two agreed.
At the end of the year, it was time to treat oneself, whether one had economic stability or not. The counters were crowded with people pinching money and tickets of all kinds, and piles and piles of New Year’s goods were being carried home as if they didn’t cost money.
Zhang Xiaohua was stunned to see that the Du family had also bought some things, but they were not comparable to the people in front of them, and although the commune had issued a few tickets, there were still some shortages, such as sugar. Most of these people who had tickets were factory workers.
Jiang Rui and Zhang Xiaohua came in to watch and pass the time. They couldn’t afford to buy for themselves, but they felt a sense of satisfaction when they looked at the various kinds of goods on the counter, which were overflowing.
On the ground floor were cigarettes, sweets, pastries, and other sideline foodstuffs; on the first floor were all kinds of cloth, wool, and ready-to-wear clothes; and on the third floor were some large pieces of furniture.
Zhang Xiaohua circled a 12-inch black-and-white television and took a careful look at the price marked on the bottom. She looked back at Jiang Rui, both covered their mouths simultaneously, and ran away laughing.
At that price, they wouldn’t be able to afford rabbit fur for a lifetime of shearing; it was frightening!
Zhao Nan was right behind the two, watching them run down to the first floor without stopping, directly preparing to go to the ground floor, so he asked, “Do you want to buy anything?”
Jiang Rui stopped and shook her head gently, “Just looking.”
Zhang Xiaohua smiled and asked, “Are you buying something for your family? We can recommend some for you.”
Zhao Nan nodded in agreement, and the three of them wandered around the first floor. After looking around, he spotted some ladies’ woolen scarves, which according to the salesman, were a fashionable style from the south, and girls in the big cities all had one in hand. The thin scarves were soft, much warmer to the touch than those made of yarn, and cost several yuan each.
Zhao Nan bought seven pairs at once, spending tens of yuan. Not only Zhang Xiaohua and Jiang Rui were shocked, but even the salesman was stunned.
Zhang Xiaohua jokingly said, ” Ah Nan bought so many; do you plan to change your career to selling scarves?”
When they reached the ground floor, Zhao Nan bought another packet of fruit candies and a packet of milk candies, after which he proposed to go to lunch together.
There was only one state-run restaurant in the entire Yangan County, and now at mealtime, there were quite a few people in the restaurant. The three found a table and sat down. Then, Zhao Nan asked them what they would like to eat.
When he walked away, Zhang Xiaohua breathed a sigh of relief and said to Jiang Rui, “I was really shocked by the way he spent the money just now. How long do people take to think about buying a scarf? He bought seven at once. Other people buy candies by the pound, but he buys them by the packet. It’s a good thing I didn’t act too surprised, or otherwise, he would have made me look like a country bumpkin.”
Jiang Rui laughed, “Sister-in-law is not a country bumpkin at all. You’re the one who can hold down the fort in our family.”
“I love to hear that. Why wear such a huge hat that covers your face when you have a nice smile? You should smile at people more often. Sister-in-law told you, don’t look at his spending spree just now. It’s mostly because he wants to show off in front of you. How many people are there in their family? Do they need to buy seven ladies’ scarves? There must be a share for you in there. My little sister-in-law is really something; just one look, and she’s already charmed people into trying to please her.”
Jiang Rui pursed the corners of her lips and said softly, “Sister-in-law, you could keep your voice down. If people hear you, you’ll lose face with me.”
“And you’re flirting with me?” Zhang Xiaohua raised his eyebrows, “I just said in front of others that you are not a person with a sharp tongue, and now you are slapping yourself in the face. You are not sharp at all—you are not hiding anything!”
Jiang Rui smiled and did not say anything.
Zhang Xiaohua looked at her eyes, and for some reason, suddenly felt that this little sister-in-law was not simple.
In the past, she had only seen her work with her head in the sand, not fighting, and she looked like she would be at a disadvantage. If she were a young girl, she would have been shy and panicked. But her little sister-in-law seemed timid but not panicked at all. The smile on her lips now was clearly calm and at ease.
When she thought about Zhao Nan, she could not help but look at her as soon as she saw her sister-in-law. She was so positive just now. But she couldn’t tell what Baoqin was thinking.
Zhang Xiaohua couldn’t help but think: perhaps everyone has overlooked it. In this Du family, Bao Qin is the one who can hide the most.