The Battle of ChangSha Watch Along ep21

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This episode does not start out terribly exciting for me, but after plodding through the necessary storytelling and prepping of future tangents for a half an episode, I giggled and giggled and giggled nonstop while my heartstrings got tugged by BiL (THE WHOLE WORLD MISSES YOU!)  And, I have hundreds of smiling YangZi and WH caps! GCM is smiling or can not contain a smile, or they can not take eyes off each other more than half the time in this ep.  YAY!  Poignancy back in full force in the last scene, a very winning episode, no?!

You can tell, buying rice, washing wound, XM being…frustratingly a boy and listening to awful ideas at being a terrible matchmaker and gambling (we know where this is heading even if watching fresh eyes, argh…) are not my thing.

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XiuXiu’s new routine in grocery shopping:  30 taels of gold (or its equivalent), elbow grease ready for a lot of pushing and shoving through a crowd of hundreds, a XiaoMan close at arm’s reach…and a XiaoHe for pestering, then inviting XH home, tending to his wound, and endure being hit on, to pay back the gratitude he bestowed upon XM, let him stay for dinner, washing his clothes and providing shelter…all for a bag of rice they almost did not get.  The shopkeeper is trying to explain the obscene price hike:  YueYang and ChangDe (cities NE and NW of CS) are surrounded by IJA.  HengYang, ShaoYang (S and SW of CS) as well, there is no trade route left.

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JF is here to walk XX to the hospital together.  Clearly it is no longer safe to wander around CS as you wish, especially not for a girl.  For JF, the additional headache is when you are hit on nonsensically by a XM, almost dragging you inside for tea when she has much more urgent business at hospital, then forcing himself as a chaperone accompanying.  Hand grabbing is not cool XM, XX thinks so too.

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XM gets an earful from Grandmama.  It’s two sides of a coin, for Grandmama’s generation, marriages are all arranged, no ifs or buts.  We know XM is as well versed as XX in all the romance novella, opera in vogue to throw quotes constantly, part is also Dad’s influence in indulging in the arts, it is very understandable he regards freedom of romance, of marriage as his right.   Arranging a marriage by anyone else other than his wish is absurd to XM, especially when they grow up as almost siblings.  Yes XM, fauxcest is tacky for me too, patpatpat, but that is not grounds for you to be mean to XiuXiu though!  Marrying for love as XM insists, or the person you are suitable with as Grandmama is preaching is always the conundrum if you can not have both.  He even throws around the case of XX and GCM, insisting they will not happen if not for the war.  That is not true, XM, you should know they are true love, the circumstances catalyzed the reaction, but chemistry is off the hook at first sight, use your twinnie ESP more often, especially if it borrows XX’s use of her braincells as well.  Grandmama calls him a CS slang 化生子, it’s local custom if a child died too young, a horrible omen on the family, the child will hastily buried and never mentioned…like a seedling of a tree not yet taken root, withering off without a trace, a life that could not prosper, without the sheltering of its family tree.

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XM finds XH at a gambling hall, fetching him home for dinner. XH lures XM to try a hand with his beginner’s luck.  XM is lucky, he buys a nice bottle of liqueur home.  XH is not done with his influencing: XiuXiu surname is not Hu, if XiuXiu meets someone she loves, Grandmama has no authority to force XiuXiu into an arranged marriage with XM.   XM is hit on his head with XH’s suggestion: now he only needs to encourage XX meeting eligible bachelors!  He is eager to have a chat with Cousin about his matchmaking schemes, bringing a fancy lunch and XiuXiu.  It is not random, XM must have weighed doctor is a safe, good catch, well educated, won’t be enlisted with the shortage of expertise.  Cousin is not around, XM is quick on his feet treating the two young eligible looking doctors to lunch.  The young docs ask XiuXiu, if she knows from her BiL in the army whether the japs will hit CS

Whether they will come or not, ChangSha belongs to us!

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XiuXiu speaks only when she is addressed to but she is not any less smart sensing what XM is trying to do, inviting the young doctors to visit their home for dinner often, and being obvious, asking her to serve the doctors food.   He even shoves Cousin off to the other room when he is back, making room for XiuXiu to be alone with them.

Now that the Tenth Corp is stationed close to CS (or devastatingly the war front has inched to CS’s backyard), XM can bring GCM lunch in XX’s place.  It is in the meticulous details that I am awestruck, Mookie was walking out with GCM, chatting until they catch XM lunch in hand and GCM turns and gives Mookie one brief word.  Mookie then hurries off, they must both sense XM is up to something, how they just get each other like the buddies they are…it is usually XX bringing GCM a snack.  It is all in the blur, not even a second.  GCM does not waste a second asking XM why he is here instead (of his XX) and XM pokes fun at him right away if he is disappointed.  GCM expects the boy to tease him, but yes, he misses XX with making fun of her eating his food before it reaches him.  XM jokes he ate half of it as well, from the same pod they are.

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Come in, lets eat together

Gold, just drama gold.   As the main arc of the episode is carried on:  XM matchmaking for XiuXiu wantonly,  we can let our imagination run wild with how the dating life is like with our OTP, we have not been shown the ‘fanservice’ yet (we really can’t call what beautiful nuanced things this drama is doing to perfection that but I can’t think of another word), how sweet a usual lunch break for GCM is, making him smile so very sweet just fondly reminded of XX with XM’s teasing.   He would walk by the guard point every day around the same time, looking for her.   She would eat his food before even reaching his camp, he would not mind at all, he only needs to see her.  He would then invite her in so they can spend some lovely time over a short break.  All the while smiling like a loon.

XM immediately asks for the favor: find a dashing young commander for XiuXiu.  GCM tells XM he is nuts to go against the family’s wishes, XiuXiu is his betrothed since they were children.  XM cries out GCM’s double standard, he was the one who refused to go along with the arranged marriage with XX:

I…I was focusing on my war effort!

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And I am fighting against the establishment!

haha just with one line GCM is no match with the well-oiled slick chatterboxes diligently honed by XJS!  I can not blame XM too much, he loves XiuXiu like a sister, and he loves her very dearly from the bottom of his heart, listing out his criteria for a worthy suitor for her: around 25 years old, a sweet temper, family is well-off, owning their house and land…he can not stand XiuXiu marrying off suffering.  Better yet he should be a ChangSha-nite.  Awww, as mean as he can be to XiuXiu just to rebel,  XM wants her close.  This is almost looking for a twin of GCM himself when he can not even meet all on the list:  sweet temperament (I kid, GCM is a sweetheart deep deep down) and a local boy.   He can only shake his head at the absurd.  lol he must have thought he deserves much more respect from XM than just a matchmaker, marriage is something he obviously considers ridiculously petty he would not even entertain the thought for himself consciously not too long ago, and somehow XM thinks he is this lovelorn puppy that would jump to be the cupid in his troop.  He is known as the Hades, perhaps now a commander Hades with a perpetual silly grin.  lolz so grumpy he just walks off with his lunch basket, not giving XM another look.  I bet GCM thought the boy would be interested in asking about his army life, or train some more on how to use a gun, things GCM can boast about, earning brownie points with his little BiL.  Alas.
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Next up, XM is being thorough with what he sets his mind to do, he is urging XiuXiu to make new friends with the young factory workers in the new factory supporting the war effort.

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Ok, if you are asking me to come along, I will go with you.

But the red thread is just tied to a limp branch on one end.  None of the young guys are good enough to marry XiuXiu according to XM, putting a smile on her face.
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Back home, XiuXiu already has freshly cooked fried rice ready.  XM asks XiuXiu to sit down with him and chat, not his usual stance of ignoring her, XiuXiu quips back, ‘we have nothing much to chat about.’…when he suggests they go grab noodles… aha the son of the owner is an eligible bachelor.  XiuXiu points out they are of the same surname, Liu, implying they may be related, it is not a suitable match.  XM keeps suggesting, the next bachelor is 30sth, even XM agrees he is too old.  XM flats out asks XiuXiu what kind of guy she is attracted to, it is obvious, but XiuXiu is smart and not spelling it out.  Knowing he would keep pestering, she toys with him his friend from school seems decent, except…
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I’ve heard he likes to beat people up.

muahaha XM, your face.

Sensing XM does care about her, even though not romantically for now, she plays up how she could only accept her fate knowing she can not live under their sheltering forever, provoking the fiercely caring boy XM is:  that guy needs to address him first before even a step closer to XiuXiu.  He promises XiuXiu he would find her the perfect husband.  XiuXiu thanks him for his concern halfheartedly.  She appreciates his genuine caring, but he is going by for all the wrong reasons.

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At least she squeezes this out of him wholeheartedly, ‘you are even closer to me than my blood sister, you are my responsibility!’  In feudal society, and lots of novella back then where a favorite trope is cousins as OTP, that is as sound as a love declaration or proposal for her hand.  Grandmama is eavesdropping every word, every word of which pleasing to her ears, very telling how wise XiuXiu is, brilliant in stoking the heart of XM, manipulating him to professing his feelings for her without his awareness at all.  Speaking of very bright children, MaoMao, with the prompt of Grandmama praising XiuXiu as a very clever young lady, recites a line from 聲律啟蒙, a must read children’s book on rhyming, written by a Qing scholar from ShaoYang, Hunan, just miles southwest of ChangSha, teaching a young child linguistic building blocks of couplets, analogy covering knowledge on all things from geography to astronomy…and gender roles:

女子眉纖額下現一彎新月;男兒氣壯胸中吐萬丈長虹。 The brow of a lady is so delicate, it is the beauty of the new moon on her face ; the courage of a man is so lofty, his generosity is like an endless rainbow in his chest.

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It has become a new habit for XM to gamble with XH, his beginner’s luck is not all taxed…yet.  They celebrate with a fancy meal, the tables are sparse, few can afford the lavishness.  XH asks how is the progress on matchmaking for XiuXiu, it is not going anywhere, and he recommends himself as a suitor to XM’s guffaws on the ridiculous.  XH says although he is no match for Liu Hai ge, the perfect guy for Hu ShiuYing (a very popular folklore in Changsha 刘海砍樵 of a very filial woodcutter and his heart of gold fox demoness wife), instead XiaoHe is like a Li Kui (from Water Margin), opposite of good looking and known for his vices with wine and gambling.
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XH compares himself as similar to BiL (and look how he snatches himself a beautiful XJ as a wife, he is implying), XM puts down his chopsticks, all serious, he cuts off XH, ‘Do not mention my BiL, he is a real man!‘  XH defends himself he has fought in the battlefield and killed some jap.  XM snuffs him out, his wound is not from action, he shot the bullet himself, too coward to even be a runaway.

I can not imagine how plausible you would abandon your wife and children if any adversity in life arises in the future.   Hmmm, impressive deduction work XM!  I bet the trigger of BiL brights up your mind instantaneously!
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XiaoHe fights back reminding XM he is just a wimpy child who would pee his pants literally hearing a gun shot and would never dare enlist.  At least he has really seen a jap eye to eye.

That did XM some good, he is enthusiastically volunteering his labor, digging trenches.  Mom and BigSis visit him with lunch and water.  He cutely fibs the whole length is his handiwork.   PingOn sneaks onto an army vehicle right away, XJ finds him after a scare. XM promises PingOn uncle will give him rides in his car in the future, XJ has a better idea for the bright boy, he can drive his own car when he grows up.
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XiaoDi spots Mom from afar and it is soo soo precious seeing XJS running to his MiL like a little boy!  Immediately like a very worried son, he takes her hand helping her up from the crude trenches.   And of course the scene is made even lovelier with a grinning madly XM so beyond happy seeing his BiL.

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Like a proud schoolboy telling Mom what he has accomplished the day, XJS tells her he is transferred to the Tenth Corp (the same one as GCM), and the whole expanse is under his supervision, unlike XM, he is not buffing.   He is grinning even madder with this sight:
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I am stationed close to ChangSha from now on. 

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Look!  PingOn is back!

Hug him.

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…say Daddy!

Rug is pulled from under XJS and his smiles are completely wiped from his face, from heaven…to a hell.  His wife he loves so madly, he must be thinking of her every waking moment is still at lost, not herself, the family he is also missing terribly is turning a blind eye…oblivious to the passing of his son PingOn, allowing a substitute of a random child when he must be still reeling inside mourning.

We can assume it is another change of season, from the last snow of spring at the end of last episode, we are closing in on winter.   In a tender moment our hardworking nurses are taking care of each other, shoulders to lean on, huddling up in the crude shelter, warming up with hot ginger soup.  XX also reaches out to a new friend, an American doctor Louis, who is falling ill under the weather and very homesick.   Food in ChangSha is very spicy, it’s good to warm up to a whole body of sweat, but even for JF, it is hard for her palette to adapt, let alone a foreign doctor missing her staples like bread and butter.
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When XX fetches some more hot ginger soup, she burns her fingers…she has a flashback of herself blowing on the hot soup for GCM right away.  When in love, life is full of little sweet reminders that put a smile on your face even when you burnt yourself shivering in the cold.

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A ritual of family love, gathering around the table for a meal, especially unshakable in the absurd for a XJS visiting home and not even able to make himself taking a step further, turning away at the doorstep.   He was the guy who can put up an act of nonchalant, seething in overwhelming jealousy being asked by his wife, by the family he has doted diligently upon, to risk his own life to rescue cousin MH but this is asking him to forget his own son and replace it with a child foreign to him and pretend everything is fine, on top of a breathing reminder his wife is beyond unwell mentally, two people more precious to him than the air he is breathing, gone forever.
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XX chases after BiL, making conversation, and pulling off what she does best, asking BiL for favors which again.  As tough as he can be, he has a very soft spot for his very smart lass SiL always, grooming her to be a better model of himself.    haha XX dares to ask him whether he can get his hands on sugar, flour and butter, which in a way BiL should take it as a compliment of how high she regards him being so very capable if he is not in a moment of utter frustration.   BiL also sees through her she is trying to segue into the white elephant between them:  substituting MaoMao as PingOn.  XX tries her best in easing the tension, telling BiL it is not urgent whether he can accept MM as PingOn off the bat…letting him know she understands it must be impossible and asking too much of him.

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Do any of you ever think of PingOn?!?! He was my son!

-He was also my nephew!

So you do know he was your nephew, huh?!

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But XX is sincerely pleading, they have already lost PingOn, she can not lose her sister as well.  She knows she can be frank and talks some sense into BiL, Sis is far from well, he can not realize the breadth of it unless he spends more time at home…Sis would snatch kids off the street without MM as PingOn.
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I am begging you, can you put on an act and lie to my Sis, please?

Whenever XX is pleading with her eyes, I thought of Puss in Boots:

BiL hears her, and it rings true.  His face softens and it takes a caring big brotherly/fatherly heart to remember the favor she is asking him about getting some butter.  Awwww.
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XX regresses back to a scared little girl with a look at his instantaneously hardening face hearing she is asking him to go through the trouble for comforting an American doctor with bread and roasted chicken.   There are so many Chinese to be comforted like ME! and all you care about is the well being of an American and you dare to trouble me?!?!?! In my sad state?!?!  BiL is more bumped expecting XX can comfort him, or at least what she was doing, calming him down with talking sense, but here he is hurt because she is not being sensitive to his feelings.  Poor guy, I think he really was assuming XX is asking for the rare goods to make a treat for Sis or even him, or just to lead on what her real intention to comfort him but she set out mainly doing a kind deed for someone of no concern to him and their family,  So frustrated, he lashes out on her swearing, what the freak is the use of asking him?!  Why not ask her man, who had lived in fancy Germany, and while she is at it, why not ask him if he is fine with picking up a random urchin off the street and be his only heir.  It was a bit inconsiderate of XX, taking BiL for granted, but it is also trust in his true character in play, knowing he is a bigger, more tender man than he always taunts her.   It is embarrassing asking the man you are madly in love with, just started dating for a ridiculous favor, we always abuse our folks and closest teddy bears betting on their unconditional love.

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GCM and Mookie are measuring with his thumb up how to build up the defense on the roads next to the hospital, planning ahead if the city is under siege.   He is here for business…mixing pleasure, waiting for XX to get off work.

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XX is showing her dimply smiles immediately seeing her pleasant surprise.  It is always nice to see GCM, the guy she will think about when she burns her finger over hot soup, but after stewing her whole day at work with the grumbling from BiL, it is never a sweeter time.  It is made sweeter adoring him no-nonsense, busy at work, priority straight even seeing her.  This is the guy worthy for her eyes to set on.

After dictating his plans to a grinning madly Mookie, he gives XX a sweetest smile before teasing her he is here just because the hospital is under his watchful eye especially a certain cute nurse in the vicinity too!
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Are you free today?

-What’s the matter?
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I can not see you just because?!

She thinks he is being a tease, but he is seriously concerned about her safety,  roaming the streets with stray bullets flying.  The war can advance into the city any day now.
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And smart smart Mookie was actually letting them have a moment while he grabs a bag for commander Gu without even instructions.  haha look at how GCM is so very proud of himself.
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I have heard from BiL you are looking for ingredients to make bread for a foreigner.  Is there such a matter?!

XX can not contain the happy shock on her face, a big grin escapes before she fake decorum:

Who is your BiL?!  Do not pretend you are family.
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 Maybe I have heard it wrong then.  Fine, (mookie) take it back.

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Take it back.  Take it back then!

haha that cool cucumber aloof commander Gu can only hold a teasing front for not even a few seconds.  When XX  hollers back a few words, he is flustered and begging for forgiveness.

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I am just flirting with you.

And XX smiles longer than the entirety of him teasing her.
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After taking a good few seconds smiling her hearts out, she tells GCM Grandmama asks if he is free for dinner back home.  Back home.  And she walks right on even when he answers immediately a yes, definitely YES! so enthusiastically if he has a tail he would be a wagging puppy.  XX’s cool act is also cut short as she forgets the bag of goodies he must have painstaking fetched for her.
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Mookie has not stopped grinning the entire scene no matter what angle the camera is catching him, even his backside is giggly, I swear.

Wait for me!  I will definitely be there tonight!

haha so worried she did not hear his first several yes, yes and YES.
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It pays off handsomely when she turns back so adorably telling him she hears him.  It is making your day huh?!
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This following scene, we get a great study of the different depths of YZ/XX’s dimples and how when a girl is in love, her eyes are made of pure sparkling stars that can not be pulled off the sight of him.

JF asks XX what is the tune playing, it is a very well known local opera on yes the same one XM quotes 刘海砍樵 of a Miss foxy demoness Hu (homophone to fox) and her Liu Hai ge.
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 lol if you are interested in the famous ChangSha tune, in cartoon: 

As XX is crooning very cutely off key and she knows it, JF teases her Liu Hai ge has arrived.
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Oh you did not sing it?!  What a pity, I thought it was music to my ears.

-Oh it’s me! Singing!
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What are you smiling at?!  Do you even know the words!?!

He maybe smiling all silly, but GCM is not dumb, pretty sure if you really ask him, his guess on the words are I love you I only love you I will always love youuuuu~~~!

*I dies of cute.*

And dies some more when MaoMao dashes into the arms of Uncle Gu.  D’AWWWWWWW

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GCM always smiles like a cute boy whenever he sees Grandmama.
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Like all grandmas, the first thing they grumble seeing you is always how skinny you are breaking her heart.  It stands the passage of time and space.   GCM is smiling and gloating he is treated like the 5 year old ‘grandson’ of grandmama he is holding, her own grandson.  XX is so proud, can’t take her eyes off her man even when Grandmama is speaking but she pretends to be jealous of GCM stealing all the attention from her, claiming she has also lost weight.
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Are you shameless?!  You ate up every peck of all the delicious food I am feeding you.
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GCM haha it is not proper etiquette to be droolzing at your fiancee when the elders are speaking.

Again, HXX, your Mama is blaming you not giving her advance notice you are inviting GCM, her lovely SiL as well and she is not prepared.  LOOK at your Mama when she is ‘scolding’ you.
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Auntie, I never see myself as a guest…

You can only be more cheeky if you dare call Auntie ‘Mom’.

HXX, PD lets us know Sis and Grandmama are staring at you grinning and poring holes at your back, you are the only one not aware because your eyes are still lovingly fixated on your man.
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…just give me an extra pair of chopsticks.

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All the eyesmexing, Grandmama can’t look on anymore.

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XX hurries off to bake her bread, she also urges Mom to get back to her cooking, this is a very short visit for GCM, he has to head back right after a quick bite.  Sis takes the chance to ask why BiL is not coming back home with him, they are in the same unit now.   XJS is caught up with work, but Gu is more than happy to see him every chance he can and bring him some home cooked love.

It is cold and dreary back at their base.  XJS is worried about keeping his soldiers warm, they do not have enough blankets, all he can order XiaoDi is to cook more ginger soup, put more hot pepper in it and killing one more pig every day and off he goes visiting the brotherhood, very concerned.   We are no longer surprised XJS is always the warm and caring big brother wherever he goes.

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XX walks GCM off to his car, she thanks him for a good time with Louis and her friends with such a gorgeous smile but I think GCM is the happier, prouder person from the look of it, making his XX smile like this.
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Ok maybe XX is happier, or happiest.

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We can guess the very smart MaoMao sneaked onto the car and hid himself very well and warm under a blankie just when Mookie was delivering the rice.

It is understandable GCM smiles the widest seeing XX, but haha he also can’t stop smiling in front of a grinchy BiL.  XJS is not in the mood of chitchatting, hurrying a silly grinning GCM off on his way, most probably can’t wait to spill his guts of his very winning job today on the romance front. photo 2103-54-56_zps1f4de44a.jpg
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GCM tells him the bad news DiL ‘wasted’ a few bottles of BiL’s fine wine treating the foreign doctor.

Pffftt. As long as DiL is happy, go ahead!  Drink it all!

I love you XJS, no matter how lousy a mood you are in, what rare sticky situation you have not figure out how to tackle, you are so loving and generous when it comes to your family, as long as they are happy, it brightens your mood and clears your funk.  He even finds the heart to tease GCM, even if DiL dries his pantry, they can now depend on the resourceful GCM.  GCM must have noticed BiL’s foul mood, the most easy going slick guy must have told him about the butter flour and sugar business with a stinky face earlier on, and when GCM asked him to tag along, must’ve offered him a ride home for dinner, BiL refused, excusing himself he is buried in work. If even a GCM can find time, no way a XJS can not spare double.  GCM is making a logical guess perhaps BiL is stressed out with their resources spread so thin yet XX has the gall to ask him a ridiculous favor and for a foreigner at that.  GCM is lingering in his room, trying to comfort XJS, borrowing DiL’s words it can not be easy for the American doctors with their humanitarian efforts in a foreign land that is harsh on even them locals.   That is not what bothering XJS, or else he won’t relay XX’s request to GCM right away with his mind too full of his own thoughts.   But one juicy piece of information is not escaping XJS.
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Yoooo!  You are saying Dad in Law already!!!

– What?  I can’t call him DiL without your permission?!

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They are interrupted with sharp cries from a child.  My bet is if they continue the conversation, BiL will start discussing the arrangement of him carrying XX on all fours to GCM’s room that night and make it a wedding night and really finish off every drop of the booze he owns.

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MaoMao!  I am Uncle, come here!

(he uses the official term of hubby of your Aunt so naturally one wonders how often he practices in his head every day.)
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How bright is MaoMao?  This is a stranger he is told to call Daddy by his ‘Mommy’, who winces at the sight of him, and Mommy is not happy.   He begs for this man to hug him with his little arms wide open, like the Dad he has lost.  It must hit XJS on a cognitive level (on top of the emotions of a crying cute child the same age of his beloved son whining for his hug, only his) that if a child can move on after losing his Daddy and Mommy to a war and takes him in as his new Dad, he can do better than an innocent child.

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:“““)
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No matter how dark a place we are in, there is always a light just a step ahead, ready to shine on you.
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