After the fifteenth day of the first month, the Chinese New Year is nearing its end and the farming season will begin.
Before planting in the spring, the land should be loosened, the commune has a limited number of cattle, the Xishan brigade did not get this year, they can only rely on the members of the community to turn one hoe at a time, this must be a strong labor to do the job.
Zhao Nan also went to the field, earning the centimeters credited to the head of the family. But he could not do it for a few days, in the blink of an eye the nineteenth of the first month, immediately he would have to go back to the army.
That night, Jiang Rui was under a lamp, catching up on her knitting, one cuff short of being ready for him to wear tomorrow.
Zhao Nan washed up and sat watching her.
Jiang Rui talked to him in a casual manner, “Did you go and talk to Dad? You have to catch a bus tomorrow and he’s up early in the morning to go down to the field, so he might not be able to meet up.”
“Said, I just came from Mom and Dad’s room.”
“Little brother and sister are not at home, when you pass through the county, if you have time to spare, go and have a look, it will be another year next time you meet.”
“Good,” Zhao Nan nodded, “Shall we go and say goodbye to our in-laws?”
Jiang Rui thought about it and shook her head, “Forget it, I’ll go back and talk about it after you leave.”
Wang Tong Hua loves saving face, and the last time she let Zhao Nan see the family fight, her face was a little embarrassed, and if she came to the door again in the near future, it would only make her uncomfortable.
“Alright.” She finished the last step and shook the coat, picking it up and looking at it left and right, thinking it was okay, symmetrical and with fine stitching, before saying to Zhao Nan, “Put it on and see, if there’s anything that doesn’t fit, I’ll change it again.”
Zhao Nan took off his outer garment and inside was a thin threaded shirt that he wore close to his body, outlining the strong muscles of his chest and arms, which rippled and bulged as he moved, full of the beauty of strength.
Jiang Rui watched and suddenly reached out with two fingers and gave his chest a squeeze.
Zhao Nan, his head still covered in the jumper, jerked his body back, one hand grabbing the hand she was making a fool of, the other pulling the collar of the jumper down, finally revealing his face and looking at her helplessly.
“Okay, okay, no teasing you just, put it on and let me see.” Jiang Rui said with a smile as she pulled her hand back as if nothing had happened.
Zhao Nan shook his head and straightened the collar sleeves and hem of his shirt.
It was the first time Jiang Rui had knitted a woolen jersey, but it surprisingly fit well. Her eyes and comprehension are naturally incomparable to those of ordinary people, and the previous time she made a cotton jersey for herself, it was also made in one go, so she thought she might become an excellent tailor in the future.
The clothes were warm and covered his body in warmth. Zhao Nan looked at Jiang Rui as she sized up around him and suddenly reached out and hugged her.
“I’ll make the report when I get to the army.” He had said this a few days ago, and he said it again today.
“I know, I’ll wait for your news at home.” Jiang Rui wrapped her arms around his waist and rubbed her face on his shoulder.
Zhao Nan then stopped talking and didn’t release her.
Jiang Rui was with him for a moment in the building and said, “The bed is a mess and everything is still unpacked, so let me tidy it up first.”
“I’ll do it.” Zhao Nan finished, and waited again before letting go and pressing her against the table, quickly tidying up the woolen scissors and other miscellaneous things on the bed himself.
It was late at night and the rest of the Zhao family had already gone to sleep, while Zhao Nan was lying in bed, but he did not feel sleepy yet. In the past, when he went home to visit his family, he had a few moments of sadness before he left, but he never had this feeling of being tied up in his heart.
He was worried that she would be uncomfortable at home, that she would be uncomfortable in a rusty environment without him, and even worried that his own family might bully her, and if he could, he would like to take her with him when he left tomorrow.
“Why aren’t you in bed? You have to get up early tomorrow.” Jiang Rui spoke from his arms.
The body in his arms was soft and silky, he almost wanted to rub her into him, but he was afraid of hurting her with the slightest effort.
The two of them were so close that Jiang Rui simply rolled over and lay on his chest, asking softly, “What are you thinking about?”
Zhao Nan lowered his eyes at her and kissed her on the forehead before saying, “Don’t be so formal at home, just make yourself at home.”
Jiang Rui probably guessed what he was thinking and laughed softly, “Don’t worry about me, our family is fine, my parents love me and my elder brother and sister-in-law are kind. Take care of yourself. And be good and wait for me to come to you.”
“Hmm.” Zhao Nan nodded.
“Can we sleep now?” Jiang Rui yawned and was about to get off of him when her thin waist was firmly clasped by two large palms.
“Hmm? You have more to say?” She lifted her head and looked into Zhao Nan’s dark eyes.
“Sleep later tonight ……” The two palms slowly stroked up and down.
The next day, Zhao Nan woke up before dawn. He turned his head to look at Jiang Rui’s sleeping face and wanted to kiss her, but he was worried about waking her up, so he just stared at her for a long time before getting up gently.
Zhang Li Yun was already awake and was burning the fire in the stove. The orange flames jumped and danced, and she watched, lost in thought, until the sound of her mother woke her up.
She looked up and saw that Zhao Nan was walking in, and through the door of the kitchen she could see that the sky outside was still dark blue.
“Why don’t you get more sleep? There has been no restful sleep on the road for the last two days.”
“I’ve had enough sleep.” Zhao Nan moved a bench and sat beside her.
Zhang Li Yun looked sideways at this son, the first time he left home more than ten years ago, she also got up before dawn, cooked eggs and pancakes for him to take with him on the road, and he sat by her side without saying a word, just like today, and in a flash, the slightly young teenager had become a man at the top of his game.
“When you go out, take care of yourself, don’t worry about your family.Bao Qin is a good child, hardworking and understanding, I’m watching over her, no one will bully her.”
“She’s young, so please take care of her.”
Zhang Liyun glared at him, “You still need to say this? She’s my daughter-in-law, who’s going to bother her if not me? You brat, are you worried about me bullying your wife, huh? After living for almost thirty years, this is the first time that I have ever spoken to someone like you for the sake of my new daughter-in-law, and in your mind I am an evil mother-in-law?”
Zhao Nan couldn’t understand why his mother had been angered by a single word, and in line with the principle of more words, more mistakes, he had to shake his head in silence.
Zhang Li Yun recited a few more lines, remembering that her son would be leaving in a few minutes, her heart was not feeling well, and her voice gradually died down.
“Mom, you and Dad take care.” Zhao Nan suddenly said.
Zhang Li Yun turned her head away and wiped the corners of her eyes before she said gruffly, “You don’t need to tell me, your father and I can count on you to serve us until we’re a hundred years old!”
Zhao Nan nodded solemnly, “Will do.”
After breakfast, Zhao Nan left, without asking his family to see him off.
Jiang Rui stood on the reservoir dam and watched him carry a duffel bag, walking further and further away until he was out of sight, before turning back to the house.
The only people in the house were Li Xiao’e and Zhao Xiaobo, children who were much more aware. Zhao Xiaobo had just woken up and was sullenly eating when he learned that his second uncle had left.
“Sister-in-law, where’s Mum?” Jiang Rui looked around the house and didn’t see Zhang Li Yun.
Li Xiao’e pointed to the room and whispered, “Every time Second Brother leaves home, Mum is in a bad mood and leaves her alone to take a breather.”
It was almost noon before Zhang Liyun came out of her room, looking more or less the same as usual.
She called Jiang Rui over and said, ” Ah Nan didn’t say anything to his in-laws before he left, Bao Qin, why don’t you go back home this afternoon.”
“Okay.” Jiang Rui agreed, ate her lunch and headed for the Du family. When she met people she knew on the way, they asked her why she was alone, so she smiled and said that Zhao Nan had gone back to the army, and someone else asked her why she hadn’t gone with them, so she told them.
Du You Fu and Du Bao Qiang have gone to work on the farm, Du Bao Zhen has gone back to school, and only Wang Tong Hua, Zhang Xiao Hua and Xiao Shan Zha are in the Du family.
When Jiang Rui entered, Wang Tong Hua was feeding rabbits in the yard, “Mum, I’m home.”
“Back? Have you eaten yet?” Wang Tong Hua looked behind her and saw that she was the only one, then asked, “Why didn’t An Nan come along?”
Jiang Rui took over the job of feeding the rabbits, “I’ve eaten ,Ah Nan has already left for the army in the morning, because it’s too early and it’s not yet light, so I didn’t come to talk to you.”
“Leaving so early? It’s only been a few days since you got married.” Wang Tong Hua frowned slightly, “When do you have to honour your previous promise that you can accompany the army?”
“Only if he goes back to the army and makes a report first. Mum, how is Xiao Shanzha? Is the cold better?”
Wang Tong Hua fed the last grass leaf to the rabbit and patted the dust on her hand, “It’s fine, she hasn’t cried much in the past two days, she’s sleeping in the house now, your sister-in-law is with her.”
Jiang Rui looked into the house and asked in a lowered voice, “Sister-in-law and brother aren’t fighting anymore these days, are they?”
“No, I’m too tired to fight every day, so I don’t have the energy to fight.”
Wang Tong Hua has been watching for the past few days and has almost understood that her daughter-in-law is arguing there, but she may not actually dislike the amount of work given to her, but she is angry with Bao Zhen for not working.
She looked at her eldest daughter, who had her head down feeding the rabbits, and her heart was full of mixed feelings. When Bao Qin was at home, why did no one argue? But it was because she, alone, did most of the work. She had always known that her daughter was good and diligent, and she had become accustomed to it over the years. Now that she was out of the house, she realized how much trouble and hard work was involved in the once light-hearted phrase “diligent” on their lips.
Unfortunately, it was too late now, because her most diligent daughter had already become someone else’s daughter-in-law, and her own daughter-in-law was competitive and unwilling to suffer, leaving her daughter, like her husband and son, to focus on her own mu of land, unable to hold anything else in her eyes, or rather, not wanting to hold anything else.
Zhao Nan took a two-day train journey back to the army, Zheng Bin learned of his return and immediately came over to visit him, ” Lao Zhao, you’ve finally come back! How was it? Did you find the right girl?”
Zhao Nan casually handled him with a few words, and before he could even sit down in his chair, he winded up leaving the door again.
“Hey, where are you going?” Zheng Bin chased him out the door.
“To the political department to find the director.”
“What do you want to see the director for?” Zheng Bin asked again.
Zhao Nan flew around a corner and he was no longer visible, only his voice came from a distance, “To make a report to accompany the army.”
Zheng Bin stumbled and almost fell over, ” Lao Zhao! You’re too fast!”
When Zhao Nan returned from the political department, Zheng Bin came back, tickled by not hearing the gossip he wanted.
“Tell me quickly, is sister-in-law the girl from last time?”
“It’s her.” Zhao Nan was a little hot from running and took off his jacket and draped it over the back of his chair.
Zheng Bin patted him on the shoulder, “You’re a lucky boy, hey, I haven’t seen you wear this jumper before, it’s quite soft to the touch. Did you get it new? Or did your auntie knit it for you?”
Zhao Nan looked up at him and said, word by word, “My lover knitted it.”
Zheng Bin was stunned and lifted up the hem of his jacket and pulled out a woolen jumper inside, shouting, “What are you showing off? Your lover knits jumpers for you, but my lover doesn’t? Look at me, look at me, your sister-in-law knitted all my jumpers and I’ve been wearing them for years, have you ever seen me show off?”
Zhao Nan took a closer look at his jumper, then at his own, shook his head and said, “Yours is ugly, mine looks good.”
“……” Zheng Bin took a deep breath, still unable to hold it in, and suddenly burst out, ” Lao Zhao! You have to be a man with a face, Lao Zhao!”
Zhao Nan paid no attention to him, he had to think about how to decorate the house assigned to him by the army, once upon a time it didn’t matter so much if he lived alone, but now he couldn’t be too casual.
He was busy decorating the house, but the family was not idle either.
The fields on the farm have been flattened, watered and seeded, and in the next two days the early rice planting will begin.
Almost all the members of the brigade have gone to the fields, so the five adults in the Zhao family only need to leave one at home to do the housework. In previous years, this was mostly Li Xiao’e, because two years ago Zhao Xiaobo was still small and needed her to take care of him.
The chores, although trivial, were certainly easier than planting rice seedlings, so Jiang Rui took the initiative and said, “Sister-in-law has to look after Bo, so let me go.”
Li Xiao’e really didn’t want to go into the field, not only because of the wind and the sun, but also because she had to bend over all day and her back would be broken when she came back at night, but what she found tiring, other people must be tired too. “It’s better for me to go.”
Jiang Rui smiled and said, ” It’s not like it’s a good thing, sister-in-law has to grab it from me, why don’t we both go together and let mum cook for us?”
Before Zhang Li Yun could say anything, Li Xiao’e was busy agreeing, “That’s a good idea, let Mum cook, we’ll all have a good meal.”
“Good what?” Zhang Li Yun was happy, but her face was fierce: “I don’t want to serve you, you two don’t have to compete, one of you can take turns one day, I must go, don’t look at my age, you young people are fresh, you may not be able to work faster than me.”
“Mum is not old at all, people say we look like sisters when we go out.” Li Xiao’e said with a smile.
“Nonsense,” Zhang Li Yun scolded with a laugh, “I’m a sister to you, doesn’t it mean that your man has to call you aunt?”
Li Xiao’e instantly blushed, and the rest of the family laughed.
The next day, Jiang Rui went to the field first.
She had never done rice planting before, but it wasn’t too difficult, so she knew how to do it after watching other people do it a few times.
As Li Xiao’e says, the most exhausting part of rice planting was the back. Often, she had to stand up for a while to rest. Jiang Rui’s body is getting whiter and more tender by the day, and while she looks soft and tender, her physical qualities have been refined by her aura to such a degree that she can hardly be measured by normal human standards, and she does not feel tired.
Zhang Liyun was in the field next to her, and at first she was amused to see her daughter-in-law’s single-mindedness, but after watching her a few times, she suddenly realized that she didn’t seem to have rested, and she couldn’t help but shake her head in her heart, thinking that her daughter-in-law was so well-behaved that she was a bit silly.
The same work was done in the brigade, and the work points were calculated according to the number of days. There were some slippery people who learned to be lazy and work too hard. According to them, they were working for the public anyway, so those who didn’t slack off were stupid.
Although Zhang Liyun was not used to seeing such people, she did not want her daughter-in-law to suffer too much, and when she got tired, her body was her own, so she whispered to Jiang Rui, “Bao Qin, take a break too, go and have a drink of water.”
“Mum, I’m not tired.” Jiang Rui tilted her head to look at her, but her hands didn’t stop, she planted a few more seedlings.
“You silly child.” Zhang Li Yun pressed her voice down again, “Not tired now, there is something for you to cry about at night, wash your hands quickly, mum is thirsty, go and bring our family kettle.”
“Okay.” Jiang Rui then put down the seedlings on her hands, she washed her hands in the field, went to get the teapot on the ridge, and when Zhang Li Yun had finished her tea, she sent it back.
The Du family was planting rice seedlings in the field opposite theirs, and when Wang Tong Hua saw Jiang Rui walking up to the ridge, she stopped what she was doing and called out to her.
“Why you, and where is their eldest daughter-in-law?”
Jiang Rui wiped her face with the towel around her neck, “Sister-in-law is cooking at home, we’ll take turns, she’ll be down tomorrow instead.”
Wang Tong Hua looked a little better, she thought that the Zhao family saw Du Bao Qin as a good girl who was easy to bully, so they were partial to the eldest daughter-in-law. Glancing around from the corner of her eye, she saw that no one was looking over and said in a low voice, “Be smart and don’t always rush to work.”
“I know, don’t worry, mum.” Jiang Rui smiled.
Wang Tong Hua cooed, “Why hasn’t A Nan sent a letter yet? If you had gone with him earlier, you wouldn’t have had to work.”
“It should be soon.” Zhao Nan had been gone for almost a month, but Jiang Rui was in no hurry.
The two of them could not rest for too long and parted after a few words.
After a few days, the team leader suddenly accompanied some people to the Zhao family, who turned out to be comrades from the county, because Zhao Nan had applied for his family to accompany him in the army, they came to do a review and asked a number of questions.
After a while, the notice to come with the army finally came, just as the spring planting was over, and Jiang Rui started to pack her bags.
Zhang Li Yun specifically called Zhao Bei to come back for a trip and told him to carry thirty pounds of grain and go to the grain station to exchange for nationwide food coupons with the letter of introduction issued by the commune.
If they didn’t have food coupons, rural people would not dare to move an inch from their hometown.
Jiang Rui said goodbye to both families, sent another telegram to Zhao Nan stating that she would arrive sometime, and got on the train.
Before she left, both Zhang Li Yun and Wang Tong Hua told her many times to keep her money and food coupons, and repeatedly told her not to easily listen to strangers, not to go with strangers, and to wait until the train arrived at the station to be picked up by the army. In short, both of them were worried about her.
No wonder they were worried, she was alone, beautiful and a woman, and she stood out everywhere she went. She would say a few polite words when people came to talk to her, and if they asked deeper questions, she would just smile and not say anything, and they would understand and not bother her.
After forty or so hours of bumping around on the train, she finally arrived at her destination. Jiang Rui walked down the compartment with the crowd and looked around on the platform, but did not find a familiar figure, nor did she sense Zhao Nan’s aura. She was wondering if he was late when she heard a voice behind her ask hesitantly, “Excuse me, is this Comrade Du Bao Qin?”
When she turned around, there were two soldiers standing in front of her. The one in the lead looked to be in his early thirties, with a slim face and a smile on his face, looking quite amiable.
Jiang Rui showed a light smile: “Hello, I’m Du Bao Qin, may I ask who you are?”
Zheng Bin was relieved, to be honest, he was a bit scared to recognize Lao Zhao’s lover when he saw her. When he saw the photo before, he was very surprised, there are few white and beautiful girls in the countryside, but who knows the real person is even more amazing, no wonder Lao Zhao is so foolish.
“My name is Zheng Bin, just call me Lao Zheng, I’m a friend of Comrade Zhao Nan’s, he had some business he was unable to leave and asked me to come and pick up Comrade Bao Qin.”
“Then I’ll trouble you.” The smile on Jiang Rui’s face became a little more obvious.
Here is not the place to talk, and only after getting into the car did Zheng Bin tell the truth. It turned out that Zhao Nan was not unable to leave because he had something to do, but he could not walk at all now, he had been injured on a mission a while ago and was now in the hospital.
“Does it matter?” Jiang Rui frowned.
Zheng Bin was busy saying, ” There is no life threatening injury, just an injury to his leg, and he may not be able to move very well for a month or two after that. Xiao Du, Lao Zhao is the one.” He gave a thumbs up, “This mission, the army has decided to award him second class merit. He actually doesn’t know that you are here today. A few days ago your telegram was sent to the troops, a few of us saw it, and after discussing it privately, we decided to hide it from Old Zhao and come to pick you up, and go to the hospital later to give him a surprise. By the way, are you tired? Why don’t I take you to the guest house to rest first?”
Jiang Rui shook her head, ” No need, let’s go and see him directly, please.”
Zheng Bin waved his hand straight, “Don’t you ah you, you see I have Lao Zhao, Lao Zhao, Xiao Du, Xiao Du shouting, you also directly call me Lao Zheng on the line, or call me Brother Zheng, I am more happy.”
“Brother Zheng.” Jiang Rui smiled lightly.
“Hey!” Zheng Bin happily replied, but in his heart he thought, “If Lao Zhao’s wife calls him brother, isn’t that the same as Lao Zhao calling him brother? Hey, this was an advantage to be taken. He couldn’t wait to see what expression would appear on Lao Zhao’s dead face when he suddenly saw his wife appear in front of him.
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PS: Some of the kids mentioned that military marriages have to be reported, and yes, it’s actually not that simple to get married in the military, it has to go through a strict political review, and the army has to approve it, and the family members accompanying the army are the same, but for the sake of the plot, I’ve left those out, so let’s pretend there’s that process~.
Lao 老 (lǎo); prefix used before the surname of a person or a numeral indicating the order of birth of the children in a family or to indicate affection or familiarity
Wife 媳妇 (xífù): wife (of a younger man)
food coupons 粮票 (liángpiào): coupons for food or grain used in a PRC economic program c. 1955-1993
Mu 一亩三分地 (yīmǔsānfēndì): (fig.) one’s turf