Tang Tang assumed Ji Yan got delayed by something at work, so she placed all the food in a pot to maintain its temperature as she carried on waiting for him. But by 9 pm, when Ji Xiao Zhuo was starving, Ji Yan still hadn’t returned.
Covering his rumbling stomach, Ji Xiao Zhuo slowly squirmed around on the floor. He reached his arm out, powerless, and said, “Mummy, why hasn’t daddy returned yet? I’m starving.”
Wen Nuo, who had been eating dinner at their home every night, was also hungry but she didn’t whine like Ji Xiao Zhuo. Instead, she was sitting still silently while covering her own tummy. Her appearance looked even more pitiful than Ji Xiao Zhuo.
Tang Tang was getting anxious but her heart hurt from seeing the children starving like this. So she came to a decision, “Daddy must have gotten delayed by something. Let’s eat first. We’ll save some food for daddy to eat later.”
Ji Xiao Zhuo hesitated as he covered his tummy and shook his head determinedly, “Let’s wait for daddy. Maybe daddy is coming home right now.”
Tang Tang carried both children to the table before bringing the food out from the kitchen, “It’s alright. Our neighbor, Uncle Zhang Cheng, also hasn’t come back yet. He and daddy must have something important to do and they’ll probably have something to eat from the canteen tonight, so let’s eat first.”
Hearing Tang Tang’s words, the two children finally picked up their chopsticks and started to wolf down their food. They ate with more relish than usual. It was obvious they were both starving. Tang Tang was also hungry but she couldn’t eat much as she was feeling worried. After all, there wasn’t any news about Ji Yan.
At this moment, a knocking sound was heard from the main door. Tang Tang got startled. She immediately put down her chopsticks and rushed to the door. Originally, she thought Ji Yan was back but it turned out that it wasn’t him. The person outside was a young soldier who she did not recognize.
The young soldier gave Tang Tang a salute and told her the reason for his arrival, “Sao Zi, I’m a subordinate under Commander Ji. He got me to inform you that he’s going on a mission. He also said he won’t be back for some time and you should look after yourself and the children.”
“Out on a mission?” Tang Tang was at loss. Since they started living here, this was her first time hearing about Ji Yan going on a mission. Usually, he would leave early and return late but she thought soldiers would just do training every day. So she was rather surprised when she heard about a mission.
The young soldier explained, “Sao Zi, Commander Ji also wanted to come back and tell you personally but the mission was urgent. He was busy with strategizing and deploying that he didn’t have the time to eat dinner. He, and his men, had just been picked up by the helicopter. There was really no time to come back so he could only let me inform you.”
Tang Tang was very worried. She quickly inquired, “Where did they go? Is it dangerous? Did they say when they’ll be back?”
The young soldier felt awkward, “Sorry, Sao Zi. That’s confidential military information. We cannot let outsiders know. I also don’t know about the details in full. Only the people on the mission are aware.”
Tang Tang could only swallow down the rest of her questions. She smiled and thanked the young soldier.
When the young soldier finished speaking with Tang Tang, he went to the opposite apartment and knocked on Zhang Cheng’s door. He only knocked once and the door immediately opened. Anxiously, Fang Yu Wei asked the young soldier, “Where’s Zhang Cheng?”
In response, the young soldier repeated what he just said to Tang Tang to Fang Yu Wei. After listening to his words, Fang Yu Wei’s was also filled with worry. Her frown was tenser than Tang Tang.
After he finished speaking, the young soldier quickly left. Only Tang Tang and Fang Yu Wei remained standing by their doors facing each other.
After the last issue of her cooking the meal, Tang Tang had never spoken to Fang Yu Wei again. It seemed Fang Yu Wei and Zhang Cheng got into an argument over that issue. Tang Tang was not aware of the specifics but after that matter, Fang Yu Wei wouldn’t even greet her when they saw each other. Since the other party was acting like that, Tang Tang naturally did the same. They simply pretended to be strangers.
Fang Yu Wei took a glance at Tang Tang. But she didn’t say anything and went back inside her home. Tang Tang wasn’t in the mood to bicker over that so she also went back inside.
When Ji Xiao Zhuo saw Tang Tang come back, he immediately asked, “Mummy, where did daddy go?”
Tang Tang forced down her worry and displayed a smile. She replied with a relaxed tone, “Daddy has gone on a mission. He will return soon.”
Seeing Tang Tang’s smile, the children stopped worrying and carried on eating their meal. Ji Xiao Zhuo even comforted her, “Don’t worry, mummy. Daddy went on a lot of missions in the past. He will be back very soon.”
Tang Tang nodded. She hoped that was true.
When the three of them finished eating, it was getting late. Usually, Ji Yan would carry Wen Nuo and take her home but since he was not present today, Tang Tang brought Ji Xiao Zhuo along as they took the little girl home. Wen Nuo’s home was less than twenty minutes away by foot. Tang Tang held the children’s hand, one in each hand, as they walked. She looked like a mother bringing up two children.
Tang Tang suddenly remembered her conversation with Ji Yan last night. She suddenly thought there was no need to wait for Ji Xiao Zhuo to marry a wife, it looked like they currently had a daughter now.
Would Ji Yan also think like that?
They walked for almost fifteen minutes and Wen Nuo stopped in front of a door. She pointed to it while looking at Tang Tang.
“Is this Nuo Nuo’s home?”
The little girl nodded but she didn’t go and knock on the door. Instead, she stood still without moving.
So Tang Tang could only go and knock on the door personally. But there were no movements after a couple of knocks. Tang Tang was puzzled. She put her ear on the door and listened. She could vaguely hear a child’s voice so there was someone home. Tang Tang knocked again. Someone finally opened the door after a long time.
The woman, who opened the door, was rather beautiful. She had long curly hair and wearing a silk nightdress. Her skin was very good. It was obvious, at a glance, that she was a fashionable woman who knew how to dress. She should be Wen Nuo’s stepmother, Liu Zi Xuan.
Liu Zi Xuan saw three people standing outside. She smiled towards Tang Tang and said, “You should be battalion commander Ji’s wife, right? I’m sorry. I was just watching television and the volume was quite high so I didn’t hear you knock.
Tang Tang smiled and shook her head to indicate that it didn’t matter, “We brought Nuo Nuo back.”
Liu Zi Xuan reached her hand out to invite Tang Tang in, “Come in. Take a seat and have some tea.”
Waving her hand, Tang Tang rejected, “There’s no need. It’s getting late now. We need to go home and sleep.”
Upon seeing that, Liu Zi Xuan didn’t force them to stay and courteously thanked Tang Tang, “We’ve troubled you. Wen Nuo, that girl, has been disturbing you every day. She must have given you a lot of trouble. Next time, her father and I will treat your family to a meal.”
Tang Tang knew those were just courteous words. So she also replied courteously, “It’s no trouble. Nuo Nuo and my Xiao Zhuo have a good relationship. I’m eager for her to come over more. She is a good child. It isn’t any issue so there is no need to treat us to a meal.”
At this moment, a child’s loud scream was heard, “Mummy, where did you go!? Quickly come back and play with me!”
Liu Zi Xuan smiled embarrassedly, “The youngster’s screams make people have headaches. Then I won’t keep you. Come for a visit if you have the time in the future.”
Tang Tang nodded and stroked Nuo Nuo’s head before taking Ji Xiao Zhuo home.
The little girl stood at the door. She didn’t even move when Liu Zi Xuan greeted her. Her eyes were fixed on them as she watched Tang Tang and Ji Xiao Zhuo walked down the apartment building. She looked very pitiful. It made Tang Tang feel like she had abandoned her. If she wasn’t a child that belonged to another family, Tang Tang wanted to take the little girl home with her.
Tang Tang couldn’t help but look back at Liu Zi Xuan and saw there was impatience in her eyes. It made Tang Tang feel somewhat uncomfortable inside.
On their journey home, Ji Xiao Zhuo was depressed as he said, “Mummy, I’m going to secretly tell you a secret. Actually, that auntie just now is not Nuo Nuo’s biological mother, she is her stepmother!”
Raising her brows, Tang Tang asked, “How do you know?” She never mentioned this to the little one. So how did he know?
Ji Xiao Zhuo humphed, “Of course it was Nuo Nuo who told me.”
“Nuo Nuo told you?” Tang Tang was rather shocked. She never heard Nuo Nuo talk about things. All Nuo Nuo does is either nod or shake her head to her questions. Nuo Nuo would actually talk about this matter with Ji Xiao Zhuo?
“Yes. Auntie never brings Nuo Nuo to the nursery or takes her home. She won’t even make breakfast for Nuo Nuo so I was suspicious and asked Nuo Nuo if she was her stepmother. Nuo Nuo nodded and said she was her auntie and not mother.”
It seemed Nuo Nuo could speak, but she only spoke to Ji Xiao Zhuo.
Ji Xiao Zhuo still looked like he was in a very bad mood, “Mummy, why are stepmothers so bad? Nuo Nuo is so pitiful. She goes hungry every morning and she doesn’t get any snacks. As for toys, she only has a small toy car and she has never been to a theme park before.”
Tang Tang stroked the little one’s head and corrected, “Not all stepmothers are bad. Some stepmothers are very good. We shouldn’t stereotype.”
“But Nuo Nuo’s stepmother is definitely bad! Her daddy and stepmother let her little brother sleep with them while Nuo Nuo sleeps by herself. Nuo Nuo gets scared every night and hides in her blanket and doesn’t dare to come out.”
Tang Tang’s heart tightened. She felt pain for Nuo Nuo when she imagined a little girl sleeping alone. Ji Xiao Zhuo was very courageous so Tang Tang wasn’t worried about him sleeping alone but how could a little girl like Nuo Nuo not be afraid? No wonder the little girl was not willing to leave their house every night, and every time she leaves, she would look very pitiful. She must have wanted to stay.
Tang Tang didn’t like it but there was nothing she could do. She couldn’t get involved with other family’s matters.
Ji Xiao Zhuo looked at her with his big eyes and asked, “Mummy, can we really not let Nuo Nuo sleep at our place? I will accompany her to sleep then she won’t be scared.”
Tang Tang shook her head helplessly, “No. Unless Nuo Nuo’s daddy agrees.”
In a flash, Ji Xiao Zhuo wilted.
Tang Tang also felt sorry for Nuo Nuo. She thought for a moment and suddenly came up with a good idea, “What about this, Bao Bao, Mummy will make a toy tiger for Nuo Nuo tomorrow. Then the tiger will accompany Nuo Nuo to sleep. Tigers are very fierce and it will catch all the bad people, so Nuo Nuo won’t be scared anymore with a tiger to protect her. What do you think?”
Ji Xiao Zhuo’s eyes brightened. He thought it was a good idea. He beckoned Tang Tang to lower her head, “Mummy, I have something to tell you.”
Tang Tang was unclear so she bent down and the little one immediately gave her three big kisses on her cheeks, “You’re the best, mummy. I love you ~”
“You brat!” Tang Tang’s heart felt warm and also smiled.
On the next day, in the early morning, Tang Tang took out her needles and threads and started to make the toy tiger for the little girl. It was also considered as giving herself something to do since she would keep thinking about Ji Yan whenever she was free.
When the regimental commander’s wife dropped by and saw Tang Tang working on her handicraft rapidly, she let out a sigh in relief, “I was worried you would be absent-minded but it seems like I thought too much.”
Tang Tang greeted her and indicated to her to take a seat, “Sao Zi, there’s no use even if I worry. All I can do is live well and don’t let him worry about me and Xiao Zhuo.”
“Your way of thinking is correct. Don’t worry. They go on many major and minor missions every year. Nothing will happen to them. Also, they are the best of the best and their bodies are strong so the chances of there being a problem is slim.”
Tang Tang felt a bit comforted from those words.
To let Tang Tang be more at ease, the regimental commander’s wife spoke to her about how amazing they were. “Let me tell you, the abilities of Ji Yan and the rest of them are especially great. Otherwise, they won’t be a battalion commander at such a young age. The rank of battalion commander was achieved step by step by great service. Let’s just talk about your Ji Yan, their regimental commander appreciates him the most and no one is on par with his marksmanship!”
After listening to those words, Tang Tang cheered up. This was her first time hearing about Ji Yan in the military. She couldn’t help but pull on the sleeves of the regimental commander’s wife’s clothes and begged, “Sao Zi, tell me more about. I want to listen.”
The regimental commander’s wife poked on Tang Tang’s forehead and teased, “You. Your eyes shine whenever Ji Yan is mentioned and everything else would get pushed back. Do you like him that much?”
Tang Tang mumbled to herself embarrassedly, “I just like him. I can’t help it.”
The regimental commander’s wife laughed, “You’re not being shy about it. Ok, ok, I will tell you some more.”
“The few battalion commanders here are not to be trifled with but based on their overall military performance, Ji Yan is undoubtedly the most outstanding. No matter if it’s about strategizing or his own abilities, Ji Yan is the best. They have a tournament held every year and Ji Yan is practically number one every time.”
Tang Tang’s lips lifted. She felt very proud inside. Her husband is so amazing!
“But Ji Yan doesn’t have as good relations as a few others do, he and Dong Li don’t have family connections within the military. They relied on their abilities to get to where they are today. In comparison, Zhang Cheng and Nuo Nuo’s father have backing from their fathers-in-law. Even though this place is said to be more based on individual abilities, but when it comes to important things like rank promotions or post transfers, then that may not be true.” What the regimental commander’s wife didn’t actually say was based on Ji Yan’s achievements, he wouldn’t still just be a battalion commander if things were fair.
Tang Tang pursed her lips as she remembered seeing grandpa Ji at grandma Zhuo’s birthday party. At a glance, she could tell grandpa Ji is someone who has a high position. He also had an imposing manner of a military personnel. Furthermore, Gu Yan Ran mentioned the Ji family was a military family and it seemed their status in the military was not low but no one here seemed to know this. This meant Ji Yan had never mentioned the Ji family and neither had he relied on the Ji family. He earned everything himself.
Tang Tang didn’t tell the regimental commander’s wife about the Ji family. Since Ji Yan didn’t mention it, she would always support his wishes.
It wasn’t good for the regimental commander’s wife to speak too much about the military affairs so she soon changed the topic and helped Tang Tang make the toy tiger.
With her help, Tang Tang was able to complete it very quickly. It was finished within half a day. The toy tiger was about the same size as Wen Nuo so the child’s arm would be full when she hugs the toy. If she held it to sleep, it would be like hugging a friend who would accompany her to sleep then she wouldn’t be scared anymore.
“Tang Tang, you’re so nice. You treat the little girl like she’s your own daughter, even better than how some mothers treat their children.” The regimental commander’s wife became more fond of Tang Tang. She appreciated Tang Tang’s kindness and sincerity.
Tang Tang smiled, “I really like that little girl and she is also good friends with Xiao Zhuo. It seems she and our family have a good affinity. She doesn’t have a mother to dote on her. Then I’ll just act as her mother and dote on her.”
“That little girl can be considered lucky to be able to meet your family.” There were many pitiful people in the world, but not everyone was fortunate enough to meet someone who would help them. Nothing could be said about the past but from now on, Nuo Nuo’s fate wouldn’t be too bad.
The regimental commander’s wife spoke when she suddenly smiled and pointed at herself, “Not mentioning Nuo Nuo, even I think I’m lucky to meet you. Without talking about how I’m able to frequently eat your delicious food, I’m lucky that I can chat with you every day and do other things together. Otherwise, I will just be at home alone and worry until my hair turns white.” Her relationship with the other military’s wife is not bad but they weren’t close enough to talk heart to heart. Now that Tang Tang had come, she had someone to speak her thoughts to.
Tang Tang looked at the regimental commander’s wife and asked curiously, “Sao Zi, did you use to constantly stay at home as I do?”
“Not exactly.” The regimental commander’s wife shook her head, “I used to have a clothing business that I did at my previous town, but when we moved here, it became inconvenient. Currently, I need to take care of Wen Wen as she is taking her high school exams so I can’t go and find a job. Even though it’s boring, I need to endure it. You don’t know but in my first two years, I got a lot more white hairs from worrying. It would be good if I could be patient like you.”
Tang Tang quickly replied, “I get very bored too. When Bao Bao and his daddy are not at home during the day, I would get very bored. I can only do some housework or embroidery to kill time. I’m constantly wishing in my mind that they’ll come home faster.” It was just that she had always been passing her days like that since she was young, so she was now used to it.
“Ai. That’s why I think we, women, should do something ourselves. It’s not for earning money but it’s mainly for us not to be bored and just fritter our time away.”
Tang Tang very much agreed with words that were spoken by the regimental commander’s wife. Tang Tang thought about Ji Yue, she had her own career and was busy every day. Although Tang Tang was used to staying at home, she admired and envied women like Ji Yue in her heart. But she could never become someone like Ji Yue.
Tang Tang sighed dejectedly, “Apart from cooking and embroidery, I don’t know anything else. I won’t be able to find a job. Also, Xiao Zhuo is still very young. I can’t look after him and his father if I work.” Compared to making her life wonderful and fulfilling, the father and son pair was the most important to her.
“That’s true.” The regimental commander’s wife understood as she was also restricted by the same thing.
Tang Tang couldn’t help but think it would be great if there was a job that she could work from home. It would give her something to do and she would still be able to take care of her husband and child.
After hearing Tang Tang’s thoughts, the regimental commander’s wife was stunned. She looked at the needle and thread in Tang Tang’s hands and she suddenly slapped her own thigh, “Tang Tang, you can totally do it. Don’t you already have the skill?!”