Both the male and female side had visited their respective homes. Before the year ended, the two families set the date to be on the twelfth day of the first month.
Before and after the New Year was the most relaxing days for everyone. After being busy from the beginning to the end of the year, it was time for them to take a break for a few days.
However, the Zhao family could not relax. In ten days or so, Zhao Nan was to get married. For the sake of preparing the bride price and wedding banquet, the whole family was too busy to rest.
Jiang Rui could not rest either. The rabbits at home had to be fed fresh grass every day. There were fewer weeds in winter hence during this time, she had to run around more to have enough to feed the rabbits. Moreover, after she was married, these rabbits would have to be taken care of by the rest of the Du family. Du Baozhen had to go to school, and for Du Youfu, Du Baoqiang, there was no need for words. As for Wang Tonghua, she had to work on the farm when the farming got busy. Needless to say, the rabbits could only be handed over to Zhang Xiaohua.
A few days ago, Jiang Rui had already started teaching her some general knowledge and taboos on feeding rabbits, as well as how to shear the rabbits, how to take care of the newborn kits, and so on.
Initially, Wang Tonghua only had happiness towards her marrying into the Zhao family, but now watching her handing over the family affairs every day, she suddenly realized that her daughter was going to leave her side, and the joy contained a bit of sourness.
This mood gradually affected the rest of the Du family. After the Zhao family came, Jiang Rui was lying on the bed that night, and Du Baozhen suddenly asked her, “Sister, after you get married, will I not be able to visit you often?”
Jiang Rui said, “If I’m at home, of course, you can visit me, but I might have to follow Zhao Nan to the army in the future.”
“You’ll be with the army?” Du Baozhen was surprised, “Does that mean you can only come back once a year?”
“So I heard.”
Du Baozhen was quiet for a while, then said glumly, “I don’t want you to get married.”
Jiang Rui smiled, “Even if I don’t get married, when you go to university, we can only see each other once or twice a year. Isn’t that right?”
Hearing that, Du Baozhen suddenly felt a little lost. Going to university in a distant place alone and being apart from her family. Was this the right choice? But when she thought of the letters in the drawer, her shaken heart gradually became firmer, she was not alone, someone was waiting for her.
The next day was New Year’s Eve. No matter how poor the people were, on this day, they would try their best to cook the best meal to treat the whole family.
After dinner, Wang Tonghua and Du Youfu gave Xiao Shanzha a red envelope to welcome the new year. There might not be much money in it, but it contained the love and affection the elders had for the younger generation.
On New Year’s Eve, the family was chatting around the table. Not long after, Xiao Shanzha fell asleep first, and Zhang Xiaohua carried her back into the house. The rest of the people sat for a while, then Wang Tonghua was sleepy and she couldn’t take it anymore. As she got up, everyone else also went back to the room.
Jiang Rui stayed behind to clean up the table. She gathered the unfinished melon seeds into a plate, brought them to the kitchen, and put them in the cupboard to prevent them from being eaten by mice at night.
When she came out of the kitchen, she glanced outside and saw a dark figure standing against the short stone fence. She was slightly startled, and when she saw clearly who it was, she was speechless. She went up to him and asked, “Why are you standing here alone? You gave me a scare.”
“Are you going to sleep?” Zhao Nan asked her.
“I was. The family had already returned to their rooms. I’m going to sleep after I’ve finished cleaning up. If I didn’t take a look just now, how long were you going to stand here alone?”
“I just got here.” Zhao Nan said albeit it did not sound believable.
Jiang Rui didn’t refute, but just reached out and stroked his coat. It was cool and wet, and it didn’t look like he had just arrived. She looked up at Zhao Nan silently.
Zhao Nan looked at her for a few seconds, then evaded his eyes, “……It’s been half an hour.”
“If you catch a cold, you will have a headache tomorrow on the first day of the new year, and Aunt Zhang will definitely nag you.” Jiang Rui said helplessly, but as soon as she finished speaking, she stretched out her hand, “Hold me.”
“What?” Zhao Nan was stunned for a moment, and the blood from his whole body rushed to his head.
Jiang Rui looked at him and said word by word, “I asked you to hold me and help me get over the fence. My family is still not asleep. If the courtyard door is opened, they will definitely find out.”
The stone fence of the Du family was only half the height of a person. Jiang Rui could easily get over it alone, but it had to be done with both hands and feet, and it was not elegant at all. There was a ready-made helper here, why not use it?
Only then did Zhao Nan realize that he had misunderstood. Even so, he paused for a while before slowly extending his hand.
Jiang Rui put her hand in his palm. Two hands, one large and rough with a warm palm, the other small and delicate, a little cold, perhaps due to the windy night.
Zhao Nan stiffly closed his palms.
Jiang Rui stepped onto the stone fence with his help and then jumped off the wall.
After jumping off, the two were a little close to each other, with only half an arm’s distance between their bodies.
Zhao Nan stiffened, but he did not seem to have the intention of taking a step back or letting her hand go.
Jiang Rui appeared to have forgotten about this, maintaining a face-to-face handshake posture, she raised her head to look at him, and suddenly smiled slyly: “Say, in the drama of the ancient times, the young lady sneaked out of the house and had a private meeting with her lover, is it the same as we are now?”
“Don’t talk nonsense.” Zhao Nan forced himself to calm down as his auricles started burning.
Jiang Rui smiled softly and said, “You haven’t told me why you were looking for me.”
If she did not mention it, Zhao Nan would have almost forgotten his purpose for coming here. He let go of one hand that was holding her and took out a red envelope from his pocket.
“What is this?”
“New Year’s money.” Zhao Nan put the red envelope in her hand.
Jiang Rui raised her eyebrows, held the red envelope, and did not open it, but said slowly, “Only the elders will give the younger generation New Year’s money. What kind of elder are you to me? Could it be……” She stretched the ending syllable, and suddenly called out sweetly, “Uncle?”
Zhao Nan coughed violently.
Jiang Rui covered her mouth as she trembled with laughter.
He only managed to recover after a while and wanted to pull a long face, but looking at her smiling eyes, his face tensed for less than a second, and in the end, he felt a little helpless, “……you’re talking nonsense again.”
For some reason, when the elders mentioned her, they always said that she was well-behaved and shy. According to the few times that he saw her, she was indeed so in front of outsiders. But whenever the two of them were alone, he saw another side of her——charming and touching, a side of her that he could not refuse at all.
Although every time he was forced to be at a loss and could not speak, he was not sick of it at all, and he could not help but always want to look for her. The feeling of sweetness mixed with distress was addictive.
Just like this time, he just saw her yesterday, but after having the reunion dinner tonight, he made an excuse to walk out of the house. Pacing in the dark, seemingly aimless, yet unknowingly, he walked towards her yard.
But if coming here really was not his original intention, how could he explain the red envelope in his pocket that was prepared earlier?
“What are you thinking of?”
Jiang Rui’s words interrupted his thoughts. Zhao Nan shook his head and asked her, “Is it cold?”
“It was a little cold just now, but now there’s someone to warm up my hands, I don’t feel cold anymore.” She moved the hand that was held by Zhao Nan and scratched his palm with her fingertips.
The large palm which was wrapped around her hand trembled, but instead of loosening, it held tighter, and neither spoke anymore.
After some time, a gust of night wind blew, and worried that she would catch a cold, Zhao Nan let her go back.
While holding his hand again, Jiang Rui jumped back into the yard. Before leaving, she turned around and waved at him, “Uncle, Happy New Year.”
After speaking, satisfied with seeing his figure staggering in the dark, she covered her mouth and ran away.
In the room, Du Baozhen was already lying down, and hearing the movement of her returning to the room, she asked confusedly, “Sister, where have you been?”
“There is a big tiger outside. I talked to him for a while.” Jiang Rui said in a light tone.
Du Baozhen mistakenly heard a big mouse (T/N: in Chinese, tiger and mouse sound alike), muttered you are really free, turned over, and fell asleep again.
Jiang Rui opened the red envelope that Zhao Nan gave her, and glanced at it in the dim light. Inside was a big note, and it could be said that he was very generous. She had to shear rabbit furs for half a year to earn so much, calling him “Uncle” was worth it.