Since New Year’s Eve, Jiang Rui and Zhao Nan had never met each other. The Zhao family had to prepare the bride price, and the Du family had to prepare the dowry.
These days, only people with a good family background dared to promise the three major things when they get married. The male side was respectable, hence the female side could not be too bad. The Du family went around asking for help, and finally bought two new quilts from the neighbouring county, and also made Jiang Rui a red dress.
In the blink of an eye, it was the twelfth day of the first lunar month. Early in the morning, the Du family yard was lively.
Wang Tonghua invited the Du family’s aunt to “open up” Jiang Rui’s face (T/N: it’s a Chinese wedding tradition, it means to remove the facial hair and trim the hairline) and then untied the two braids that she usually wears, and put it into a bun on the back of her head, fastened with a red rope. With the face “opened” and the changed hairstyle, it meant that the era of her being a girl was over, and after today, she would be someone else’s daughter-in-law.
After grooming and changing into her wedding dress, Jiang Rui sat at the edge of the bed, with Zhang Xiaohua and Du Baozhen accompanying her in the house. Meanwhile, the rest of the Du family and a few relatives were busy outside, preparing for the Zhao family’s arrival.
Du Baozhen leaned against Jiang Rui, held her hand, and whispered, “Sister, I don’t want you to go.”
“The two families live close to each other, when you miss me, just come and find me.” Jiang Rui said softly.
“That’s different. The two of us have slept in this room since we were young, and we have never been separated. From now on, I will be left alone.” Du Baozhen said as she acted like a spoiled child.
Jiang Rui then said: “After the fifteenth, you should be going to school. There are so many classmates, you will never be alone. This last half year is very important, so don’t be distracted. During the weekends off, if you have time, give Mom a hand, don’t let her get too tired. Sister-in-law has to take care of Xiao Shanzha and also feed the rabbits, so she might not be able to handle it sometimes, you should help to look after her too.”
“Understood——” Du Baozhen said as she lengthened the tone.
Jiang Rui smiled and said to Zhang Xiaohua, “In the future, I’ll have to trouble Sister-in-law to take care of the family.”
Zhang Xiaohua hurriedly said, “We’re all a family, there is no trouble.” As she spoke, she looked at Jiang Rui’s expression.
She remembered the year before, she married into the Du family. While saying goodbye to her parents and siblings at home, before she could even say a few words, she cried till her eyes turned red. No matter how many conflicts and complaints they had of each other, when the day came for them to separate, she still felt reluctant to part in her heart. Besides, there were also expectations and uneasiness towards her future husband and her in-law’s. It could be said that she had many mixed feelings and there was sorrow in her joy.
But looking at her little sister-in-law, her expression was still calm and peaceful, neither reluctant nor joyous, as if the person who was going to marry today was not her, so unpredictable.
Zhang Xiaohua had felt that this little sister-in-law was not simple from the time the matchmaking with the Zhao family started, and now with every day that passed, she grew more and more certain. She also had a hunch, when Du Baoqin was at home, she took care of the Du family in an orderly and diligent manner. After she leaves, the Du family, who was so used to her care, could they recover in such a short time? If they could not get used to it in a while, there would be conflicts. Thinking of the possible arguments in the future, Zhang Xiaohua felt a little irritable.
The few of them were talking when suddenly there was a commotion outside. It turned out that someone from the Zhao family had arrived.
The first few young lads, each pushing a bicycle, were conspicuous and vigorous. Zhao Nan, still in military uniform, with a woolen coat over the uniform, looked upright and imposing. He pursed his lips and walked toward Du Youfu and Wang Tonghua with a solemn face.
Intimidated by his momentum, Wang Tonghua took half a step back unconsciously.
The rest of the onlookers were heckling and booing when they saw the wedding group coming. But at this time, they all stopped and looked at each other at a loss: What’s going on here? Such an aggressive manner, was the Zhao family not here to escort the bride, but instead, to snatch the bride?!
Zhao Bei stomped his feet anxiously behind his brother. Seeing that he did not speak for a long time, and such a festive scene had become inexplicably tense, he squeezed up to the front and said with a smile, “Uncle, auntie, my brother is here to pick up Sister-in-law.” As he spoke, he secretly poked Zhao Nan.
Zhao Nan then followed up: “Dad, Mom, I’m here to fetch Baoqin.”
“Oh oh…good…” Wang Tonghua and Du Youfu nodded and answered subconsciously.
Zhao Bei made a gesture, signalling the wedding band to play the music.
The place then became lively again and the onlookers started cheering once more, but the scene just now remained in the hearts of everyone. Some people could not help but think that the second boy of the Zhao family was worthy of being a soldier, and his aura was different from others.
Zhao Nan was led to Du Baoqin’s room, and the others followed to join in the fun.
Jiang Rui put on makeup today, her delicate facial features with her brows drawn and pale jade cheeks that were painted with a light rouge, she looked as tender as the peach blossoms on a branch.
She wore a red dress and sat upright at the edge of the bed. Only when the crowd poured in, she glanced up, then lowered her eyes, her cheeks burning red little by little.
The cheering crowd went silent. They stared at her in a daze, unable to recover for a long time.
Zhao Nan approached her step by step. Although there were many people in the room, there were no other sounds, which made his footsteps particularly obvious. He walked in front of Jiang Rui, stood for a while, then squatted down to look at her, and slowly stretched out a hand, “I’m here to pick you up.”
Jiang Rui looked at him and put her hand in his palm.
Zhao Bei suddenly whistled, breaking the strange silence in the room, “Carry her! Carry her!”
The rest of the people then came to their senses, and they all echoed: “Carry her out, carry her out!”
Jiang Rui bowed her head, and when no one was looking, she curved her lips and smiled at Zhao Nan.
Zhao Nan’s ears were red, but he was reluctant to look away from her. After a long time, amid the crowd’s roar, he picked Jiang Rui up.
The whistles and laughter seemed like it was going to knock the roof of the Du’s house off.
Jiang Rui was carried by Zhao Nan to the main room, then she patted his hand, motioning him to let her down.
Wang Tonghua and Du Youfu were standing in the room. Jiang Rui walked up to them and offered two cups of tea: “Dad, Mom, your daughter is leaving, you have to take care.”
This tea, was offered on behalf of Du Baoqin.
Wang Tonghua’s tears fell instantly, Du Youfu’s eyes were red, and the rest of the Du family were wiping their eyes.
Jiang Rui sat behind Zhao Nan on his bicycle and wrapped her arms around his waist. Setting out from the Du’s house, they passed through the entire Xishan brigade, before arriving at the Zhao’s house.
Zhao’s house was full of guests, and there were four to five tables in the courtyard. Given the current situation, it was extremely grand.
This meal lasted from noon to evening, and the Zhao family was busy entertaining guests. Jiang Rui also followed Zhao Nan around, toasting the guests with wine and tea.
After the last guest left, the whole family was almost paralyzed with exhaustion but they could not rest yet, as the stall left at the wedding banquet still needed to be cleaned up.
Jiang Rui took the initiative to help collect the cups, dishes, and chopsticks. Zhang Liyun saw that she had not removed the makeup on her face, she hurriedly stopped her: “Leave it, leave it, you are tired enough today. Ah Nan——why aren’t you taking my daughter-in-law to rest?”
Jiang Rui said with a smile: “I didn’t do much, how can it be compared to Mom’s hard work? You don’t have to persuade me to rest, the whole family is working hard and I’ll be the only one watching in the house with my legs crossed, wouldn’t this make me uneasy?”
Zhang Liyun felt at ease when she heard this, she felt like she had drunk a bowl of sugar water. Although she was so busy today, as if at war, she only felt joy in her heart when such a diligent and sensible daughter-in-law married into their family.
The Zhao family had many people, and with everyone’s help, the house and the yard were soon almost cleaned. They were only left with sweeping the ground, but Zhang Liyun would not let Jiang Rui help and chased her back to the house.
Jiang Rui no longer insisted, and followed Zhao Nan back to their room
The room was much bigger than the one she had in Du’s house, with all the furniture prepared, bed, wardrobe, tables, chairs, and double happiness stickers everywhere. (T/N: the stickers are a symbol of good luck and they look like this: 囍 )
Jiang Rui sat at the table, massaging herself on the shoulders.
“Tired?” Zhao Nan sat down and poured her a cup of tea.
Jiang Rui took a sip and said, “It’s not that I’m tired, it’s just that I’ve been smiling at people the whole of today, and my face feels like it’s frozen. Hurry, help me take a look, has the powder on my face dropped off from all the smiling and laughing?”
She moved her face in front of Zhao Nan. Under the dim yellow light, her tender cheeks were white and flushed. Because of all the wine toasting, her eyes were dense with water vapour, and it seemed as if there were fragments of stars falling in her eyes. Small, red, watery lips, slightly pouting, twinkling in the light like water rippling, the hearts of those who saw it would tremble.
Zhao Nan did not speak for a long time.
Jiang Rui stretched out her thin finger, poked at his chest, and complained softly, “Why are you ignoring me?”
Zhao Nan held and squeezed her finger, his throat rolling up and down. After a while, he said, “Are you hungry? “
“Do you think of me as a little pig? I ate so much earlier, how could I be hungry now?” Jiang Rui drew her hand back and saw him sitting there stiffly again as if he did not know what to say, so she said: “My face feels a little itchy, go get some water for me to wash up.”
Zhao Nan immediately got up and went out, then quickly returned with a bucket of hot water and a washbowl.
Jiang Rui washed her face and hands and let out a sigh of relief, but she felt that her body was a little sticky, and it happened that there was still a lot of water. She wanted to wipe her body, but just before unbuttoning her clothes, she suddenly remembered that she was not alone at the moment.
She turned her head and saw Zhao Nan staring at her with a focused look. She had an idea in her heart again. She curved her eyes, and squeezing her throat, she said in a sweet tone, “I’m going to take off my clothes, does Uncle want to sit and watch?”
Zhao Nan stood up with a groan, left the room like a gust of wind swept away, and after the door was closed, the chair behind him swayed to the ground.
Jiang Rui hummed a little tune and wiped her body slowly.
Outside the room, Zhao Nan, with his back to the door, stood like a guard, heat emitting from his face.
The door of Zhao’s house was thick. It stands to reason that he could not hear the movements in the room from outside the door, but he always felt that there seemed to be a faint sound of water in his ears. When he thought of what the person inside was doing, he not only felt that his face was hot, it even felt like steam was coming out of his head, and he stood there uneasily. But wanting him to leave this tormenting place, his feet could not even move half an inch.