Eighty Soldier 09
Zhang Liyun, with her quick nature and ability to act with speed, went to the Du family’s house with Zhao Daqiu that evening and talked with Mr Du Youfu and his wife in the house for a while.
The youngsters were not allowed to be present, and Jiang Rui was inside her room sewing an old coat that had been hooked through a seam by a thorn when she went up the hill to collect firewood today.
Du Baozhen was slumped over her desk, hiding something, and after a while she had to turn around to see what she was doing, as if she was afraid of being seen.
Jiang Rui knew that she and Han Wenke had kept in touch, and that she was most likely writing to the other side at the moment.
After a long time, there was a loud noise from outside and Zhang Liyun and Zhao Daqiu said goodbye. Wang Tong Hua sent the people to the door, went back to the house and then called Jiang Rui to come.
“Girl, your Uncle Zhao and the others came just now and said that Zhao Nan likes you quite a lot and the Zhao family is also very happy with you. You know the conditions of his family, there are no other families in the brigade that match our family, it is too high for us, so your father and I have thought about it, there is nothing to be picky, this marriage is settled, what do you think?”
Jiang Rui bowed her head and whispered, “I have no problem with that.”
“That’s good, that’s good.” Wang Tong Hua, with a happy face, added, “There is one more thing. Originally, your father and I thought that there was no need to set a date too soon, and that it could be three to five months later maybe half a year, but Nan’s situation is different from others. So the Zhao family wants to get the wedding done as soon as possible, preferably before Nan returns to the army this time. It’s a bit tight, but your Aunt Zhang also said that the family will prepare all the things they need, including furniture and beds, and everything that other people have for their wedding. Although I think it’s a bit of a rush, if you think about the fact that Nan is not young, delaying for one more year means waiting for one more year, don’t you think?”
The timing was indeed a bit of a rush, and when they met that day, Zhao Nan had said that his family visit leave was for a month this time. In other words, if the two decided to get married now, then they had to get everything done within a month. One should know that for an average person to get married, it would take more or less half a year from seeing someone to setting a date and then actually having the wedding.
But Jiang Rui has no intention of delaying further; the longer it takes, the more variables there will be.
Nevertheless, she could not immediately agree to it without appearing a little too eager to people.
She looked up at Wang Tong Hua, her eyebrows furrowed in embarrassment, “Mum, can I think about it for one night?”
“Of course,” Wang Tong Hua hurriedly said, “This is a big deal, we have to think about it, there is no rush, if you really think it’s not possible, mum will go to the Zhao family to talk to someone and ask them to postpone it.”
That night, Jiang Rui slept peacefully, and the next day spoke to Wang Tong Hua, who agreed.
It was only then that the marriage between the Zhao family and the Du family was really brought to the surface, and the people in the brigade got the news around the time.
Now when Jiang Rui is met on the road, people will tease her, but she only hangs her head slightly, with a coy, shy smile at the corners of her mouth.
Seeing that she was a good girl who was shy, no one else could go too far, so they just laughed and joked, but in their hearts they all wondered how an old bamboo like Du Youfu could have produced such a young bamboo shoot.
It was also said that the Du family and the Zhao family were not compatible just by looking at their family status, but this daughter of the Du family was a good match for the Zhao son.
It is a local custom that after the two families have verbally agreed on the marriage, relatives from both sides go in pairs to visit each other’s homes.
The woman’s side of the family mainly looks at the man’s house, at the family’s wealth, and at whether the young man is capable. The man’s side goes to the woman’s home to see if the house is neat and tidy, if the girl is hardworking and whether she tends to be tidy.
Only after both sides have been looked at will the two young people’s eight characters be taken to have the date calculated, after which the man will have to prepare three major items and go to the woman’s house to give betrothal gifts.
A few days before the celebrations, on the Du family’s side, Jiang Rui went to the Zhao family with Wang Tong Hua, and several aunts and uncles.
Aunt Du, who was naturally loud, shouted from outside the courtyard, “Sister Li Yun, we’ve come to your house to ask for tea!”
The Zhao family welcomed them almost immediately.
Jiang Rui saw Zhao Nan, standing behind Zhang Liyun, wearing a pair of military trousers, a white shirt over a grey woolen shirt with the cuffs pulled up to reveal a sturdy, strong arm.
The Zhao family invited their guests to sit down in the hall and brought two large trays of peanuts and melon seeds and fruit.
Jiang Rui, who had been standing behind her elders, was suddenly pushed to the front of the people by her elder aunt, who even laughed, “Our Baoqin was brought for you to see, where is Ah Nan?”
So Zhao Nan was also pushed out, and the two stood facing each other, Jiang Rui blushing and not daring to look up, while Zhao Nan stood straight up.
The elders around them laughed even more when they saw it.
In the end it was Zhang Li Yun who relieved the situation. Today, in the end, it was a confrontation between the two families’ relatives, nothing to do with their parties, and she asked Zhao Nan to take Jiang Rui out for a walk.
Only after leaving the hall did Jiang Rui raise her head and look at Zhao Nan, “Shall we go to the dam?”
Zhao Nan was thinking about where to take her, and when he heard the proposal, he immediately agreed.
“Wait a minute.” Seeing that he was about to leave the house, Jiang Rui added, “Do you want to put your jacket on? It’s windy outside, don’t catch a cold.”
“Okay, you wait a moment.” Zhao Nan strides back into the house, gets his coat, and on his way out remembers something and makes another trip back.
The Zhao family house is on the reservoir, a short walk down a gentle hill from the door to the dam. In summer, the dam is a great place for people to cool off, but this season there are not many people.
The two walked side by side, an arm’s length apart, halfway across the dam, neither speaking.
The cold wind blew on her face, slightly chilly, and Jiang Rui suddenly stopped in her tracks.
Although Zhao Nan was looking ahead, his peripheral vision kept an eye on her movements, and when he saw her stop, he immediately stopped after her and turned back to look at her.
There is a head difference in height between the two of them, so Jiang Rui needs to look at him with a slight lift of her head, while Zhao Nan has to look down.
He met her eyes for a moment, then they wandered away unnaturally, then came back the next instant, and when he realised she was still looking at him, he moved away again immediately.
Jiang Rui curled her lips and gave a soft laugh.
Zhao Nan pursed his lips so tightly that the corners of his mouth almost formed a straight line, those who didn’t know would have thought he was angry, but if you looked closely you could see that the entirety of his ears were red.
“How far are you going to take me? Is there not a single word you want to say to me?” Jiang Rui asked him in a soft voice.
Zhao Nan’s throat slid up and down as he spat out one word with shyness, “Yes.”
His left hand, which had been in his pocket, reached out and spread it out in front of Jiang Rui, and inside was a handful of cream candy that he had squeezed into a slightly deformed shape.
“Do you want some candy?” He asked.
Jiang Rui froze slightly, “You didn’t say anything just now, so you’re thinking about whether you want to treat me to a candy bar?”
Zhao Nan replied, “Xixi said it was delicious.” The two packets of candy his – mother had put away, somewhere, these were the ones he had just gone to take from XiXi Zhao’s place.
He thought for a moment and added, “The scarf and the sweets were taken by Mum, so we’ll buy them next time.”
So he had been silent because he was a bit upset that the gift he had intended to give her had been confiscated? Maybe he felt a little humiliated because he had broken his promise to her?
Jiang Rui smiled and picked up a candy, peeling off the outer wrapper, there was still a layer of glutinous rice paper inside, she put the glutinous rice paper and the white milk candy together in her mouth, the sweetness spread out in her mouth, accompanied by a creamy smell.
“It’s sweet and delicious.” Jiang Rui said with arched eyes, her cheeks puffed up in a patch from the sugar.
Zhao Nan didn’t say anything and stared at her pale, red face for a while, then suddenly moved his hand and peeled the wrappers off all the milk candies in his hand in a few clicks and handed them to Jiang Rui.
There were seven or eight of them, and if you ate them all in one bite, they would be so sweet and savoury.
Jiang Rui stood on her tiptoes, stretched out a thin white finger, plucked it a few times in his palm, divided the sugar into two, raised her eyes to his and said, “Let’s each have half.”
Zhao Nan didn’t love it, but only nodded at her gaze.
While the two of them were having one of each, not far away from the Zhao family, Zhao Xixi, who was hiding from the guests and going back to her room to eat the candy secretly, reached under the pillow and touched it, her whole body was stunned, “Where’s my candy?!”
Family visit 探亲 (tànqīn) : to go home to visit one’s family
eight characters 八字 (bāzì) : the character 8 or 八 / birthdate characters used in fortune-telling