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Ever since Xu Youcheng returned from the prison reform program and came to visit Father Xu once, he hadn’t appeared again. Usually, he lived respectfully inside the village and hadn’t caused any trouble again.
However, coming here so late at night, was he going to stir up trouble?
Xu Zhao was a bit puzzled.
Mother Xu looked at Father Xu.
Father Xu asked unhappily, “What are you doing here?”
Xu Youcheng whispered from outside the door, “Dad, I have some business with you.”
He wasn’t looking for Xu Zhao.
Father Xu glanced at Xu Zhao and Mother Xu.
Xu Zhao and Mother Xu treated Xu Zuocheng and Xu Youcheng as passersby. If they came across them in the village, they wouldn’t greet them. They didn’t think of having any connection with those two people. It was fine as long as those two didn’t cause any trouble. Therefore, at this moment, they also avoided Father Xu’s gaze.
But Xu Youcheng had already come to their door. Father Xu still stood up and walked to the door. He opened the door, but didn’t let Xu Youcheng enter the courtyard. He finished speaking with Xu Youcheng at the entrance before returning to the small dining table.
“What happened?” Mother Xu asked.
Father Xu glanced at Xu and whispered, “He’s here to borrow money.”
“Borrow money for what?”
“He said it was to supplement Erwa’s mother’s body.”
“What’s wrong with Erwa’s mother?”
“Erwa’s mom gave birth to a girl, but didn’t produce enough milk. She wants to eat some meat and fish, and—”
“And what?” Mother Xu asked again.
Father Xu continued, “Erwa had been crying that his belly was hurting recently. He might have worms. They want to buy some deworming medicine for him. He wanted to borrow money from the other villagers, but they didn’t dare lend him any. The new wheat was just cut, so he can’t sell them. There was really no other choice, so he came to find me.”
Mother Xu was silent after hearing this.
Father Xu bowed his head and didn’t make a sound.
Xu Fan added, “Daddy, Erwa’s belly hurts.”
Xu Zhao looked at Xu and asked, “Does Erwa’s belly really hurt?”
Xu Fan nodded. “Mn, Erwa cries from the pain.”
“When did this happen?”
“Um, um. Two days ago.” Then he was hurt for a while.
The people in this era weren’t as careful in raising children as the 21st century, so there were many cases of children catching a parasite or other similar situation. Many children in the village had eaten deworming medicine. If they didn’t eat it, they would have long-term stomach pains, wane complexion, and weak muscles. It would affect their health.
Although Xu Zhao hated Xu Youcheng, Erwa was still young and hadn’t done anything wrong. He couldn’t help but raise his gaze to Father Xu and asked, “Did you lend him money?”
Father Xu replied, “No.” He needed his youngest son to pay for the medicine he needed. He knew how filial his youngest son was, so he wouldn’t take his youngest son’s money and give it to his eldest or middle son.
“Then lend him 20 Yuan,” Xu Zhao said.
Father Xu was stunned.
Mother Xu looked at Xu Zhao.
“Erwa is sick, and they gave birth to a girl… This is a difficult situation for anyone. Have him write an IOU.” Xu Zhao really felt that children were innocent.
Father Xu nodded when he heard this. His heart felt complicated. His youngest son really was the best.
Mother Xu didn’t speak.
Xu Zhao looked at Father Xu and asked, “He hasn’t left yet, right?”
Father Xu said, “Not yet. He’s still outside the courtyard.”
“Dad, let him in and have him sign the IOU.”
“There’s no need to let him inside. He can sign it out there,” Father Xu said.
“That’ll work too.”
Xu Zhao stood and entered the west wing to grab a pen and paper. He handed it to Father Xu and had Father Xu write an IOU for Xu Youcheng. He then returned to the dining table and continued eating dumplings with Mother Xu and Xu Fan. He couldn’t help but ask, “Xu Fan, does your tummy hurt?”
Xu Fan replied, “No.”
“Has it ever hurt?”
“If it does hurt, you have to tell Daddy immediately. Got it?”
“Got it.” Xu Fan nodded, then called, “Daddy.”
“I want to eat another dumpling.”
“I-I’ll eat one last one.”
Xu Zhao gave Xu Fan another dumpling. He then heard the sound of the courtyard door closing and saw Father Xu walk over. He had a piece of paper in his hand, and his eyes were red.
“Dad,” Xu Zhao called.
Father Xu smiled and said, “Here is the IOY.”
“Is he all right?”
“He’s fine. He’s just living too miserably recently. After giving him the 20 Yuan, he cried just like he did when he was young.” Father Xu wiped his eyes and picked up his bowl and said, “Let’s eat.”
It was still his own biological son. No matter how bad or evil he was, he would also hold a soft spot for this blood connection. Mother Xu and Xu Zhao knew this, and neither of them brought it up. They let Father Xu calm down by himself for a bit. Xu Zhao and Mother Xu quietly ate dumplings.
After eating, Mother Xu went to clean up the kitchen. Xu Zhao took Xu to Da Zhuang’s house for a walk and to also see Da Ni’Er, who was recently born. He then brought Xu Fan home, bathed, lay on the bed, and fanned the fan. He told a story to put Xu Fan to sleep. As Xu Fan was about to sleep, the phone rang.
The first thought Xu Zhao had was that it was Cui Dingchen calling. When he answered, it really was Cui Dingchen.
“Is Xu Fan sleeping?” Cui Dingchen asked.
“He’s sleeping,” Xu Zhao said.
“That’s good?” Xu Zhao didn’t understand.
“Mn. This way, we can have a good chat.”
“Doesn’t it cost money to talk on the phone?”
“Even if it costs money, I still want to talk with you.”
Xu Zhao held the phone as the corners of his mouth raised. He slowly sat at the table, and looked at the moonlight outside the window. He chatted with Cui Dingchen for about an hour. When Mother Xu got up to use the bathroom, she asked who Xu Zhao was talking to. Only then did Xu Zhao hang up the phone and lay down on the bed under the moonlight. He held the plump Xu Fan into his chest, gave him a kiss, and hugged him for ten seconds before realizing that Xu Fan’s little body was as hot as a small stove, very hot.
Xu Zhao pushed Xu Fan away again. Laying on the bed, his gaze landed on the dark beams. Cui Dingchen’s pleasant voice still floated in his ears. Excitement flowed in his heart, making him unable to fall asleep normally until late in the night.
The next morning, he was personally woken up by Xu Fan. After waking up, he dressed Xu Fan in clothes and shoes. As soon as he exited, he saw Cui Dingchen.
Xu Zhao was instantly stunned.
Mother Xu smiled and said, “The Cui family’s youngest uncle came a while ago. He’s been helping me fetch water.
Xu Zhao looked at Cui Dingchen. He was a bit surprised as well as a bit embarrassed. Cui Dingchen actually arrived a long time ago.
Cui Dingchen looked at Xu Zhao with affection and said, “I came to return your bicycle. I’ll help you harvest watermelons later.”
Xu Zhao asked, “A-are you really free lately?”
Cui Dingchen nodded. “I’m really free.”
“T-then did you eat breakfast yet?”
“Eat breakfast here later.”
“Okay,” Cui Dingchen immediately agreed.
Xu Zhao glanced at Cui Dingchen with some embarrassment and joy. He then took Xu Fan to the porcelain basin to wash his hands. As they were washing, Cui Dingchen walked over. His large hand reached into the porcelain basin and held Xu Zhao’s hand that was currently being washed.
Xu Zhao’s ears turned red.
Cui Dingchen laughed.
Xu Zhao’s ears flushed even redder.
Xu Fan didn’t know what was going on and said, “Daddy, Second Grandpa Cui is touching my hand.”
Xu Zhao: “…”
“Daddy, Second Grandpa Cui is u-using my porcelain basin.”
Xu Zhao started sweating and explained, “It’s fine. Let him use it really quickly. He’s not in the way.”
“Not in the way,” Xu Fan repeated.
“That’s right. Not in the way.”
Hearing that it was fine, Xu Fan continued washing his hands.
Xu Zhao raised his gaze to Cui Dingchen and said, “My parents are here.”
Cui Dingchen nodded. He didn’t seize this opportunity to take advantage of Xu Zhao. He ate breakfast with Xu Zhao, then helped Xu Zhao harvest watermelons and wheat. He went to the county town with Xu Zhao to sell watermelons as well. It went on like this for several days until after the Dragon Boat Festival when the loudspeakers inside the village notified all the families to head to the grain stations to pay the grain tax.
It also happened to be Da Ni’Er’s one month anniversary, and they also needed to arrange a simple one month banquet. Mother and Father Xu went to the Li residence to help. Xu Zhao couldn’t really help with anything. Afraid that there would be too many people paying the grain tax tomorrow, he decided to hand in his grain taxes today. As he loaded the two families’ grains onto the ox cart, Cui Dingchen arrived in time to go to the grain station with Xu Zhao and Xu Fan.
Unexpectedly, there was still a long line at the grain station. He could only have Cui Dingchen park the ox cart at the back of the line as they waited. Very coincidentally, it was only the spot that they were standing on that was directly under the sun. They didn’t have even a tiny bit of shade. Xu Fan, who was very hot, frowned his little brows.
“Go sit under the shade by the pond,” Cui Dingchen said.
Xu Zhao glanced at the shade of trees before him. It did indeed look cool. If they sat there, they would still be able to see the line, so he pulled Xu Fan and Cui Dingchen to sit by the pond. A row of weeping willows were planted by the pond. The breeze lightly blew and the willows swayed. It was very cool.
“Feel cool?” Xu Zhao asked Xu Fan.
Xu Fan nodded.
Xu Zhao handed the toy car in his hand to Xu Fan to play with. Xu Fan obediently sat beside Xu Zhao without running around.
Only then did Xu Zhao look at Cui Dingchen and say, “Youngest uncle, you worked hard.”
Cui Dingchen nodded. “I did work hard.”
Xu Zhao smiled and said, “We won’t have to work hard to hand in grain taxes next year.”
“Are you directly going to pay money next year?”
“Mn. After the rainy period, we’ll plow the ground and turn my and Li family’s field into big greenhouses to plance greenhouse vegetables.”
“How much land is there in total?”
“Eight mus of land. We’ll make some more money before expanding again.”
“Mn. 8 mus is already very good, but I can’t help you grow vegetables.”
Xu Zhao suspiciously glanced at Cui Dingchen and asked, “Are you going to be busy?”
“Mn. I’m heading to the city tomorrow.”
“For how long?”
“Not sure yet.”
Xu Zhao didn’t speak.
Cui Dingchen raised his eyebrows at Xu Zhao and asked, “What? You can’t bear to part with me?”
Xu Zhao quickly looked down at Xu Fan and saw Xu Fan focused on playing with his toy. Only then did he raise his gaze to Cui Dingchen, but he didn’t reply to Cui Dingchen’s words. He glanced at the grain station and said with emotion, “Time flies so fast.”
Cui Dingchen asked, “Why are you suddenly saying that?”
Xu Zhao stretched out his hand and pointed at the grain station as he said, “:ast year, Brother Li and I were sitting over there to wait in line to pay the grain tax.”
Cui Dingchen said, “I know.”
“Mn, I specifically came last year to see you.”
“Why did you come see me? You didn’t know me then, did you?”
“You could say I did.” Cui Dingchen reached out to hold Xu Zhao’s hand and said, “Qingfeng always talked about you, so I wanted to take a look and see if you were tricking Qingfeng.”
“Me trick Qingfeng?” Xu Zhao really never thought that Cui Dingchen had this thought before.
“Mn. At that time, you were just an intelligent kid in my heart.” Cui Dingchen looked at Xu Zhao with burning eyes and honestly said, “I didn’t have any ill intentions toward you. It was mainly because Qingfeng is very pure and doesn’t have much experience, so I wanted to meet you. I never thought that after I met you—”
Xu Zhao asked, full of expectation, “What happened after we met?”
The corners of Cui Dingchen’s mouth slightly rose. “After we met, I was attracted to you.”
Sweetness flowed in Xu Zhao’s heart. His eyes were unusually gentle and bright, making him look even more handsome. The soft wind blew at this time and a willow leaf landed on Xu Zhao’s shoulder, attracting Cui Dingchen’s attention.
Cui Dingchen’s gaze slowly crept up along Xu Zhao’s shoulders and fell on Xu Zhao’s rosy lips.
“Xu Zhao,” Cui Dingchen called in a low voice.
Xu Zhao’s eyes fixed on Cui Dingchen.
Cui Dingchen held Xu Zhao with one hand and accurately covered Xu Fan’s eyes with the other. He then suddenly leaned into Xu Zhao and kissed Xu Zhao’s lips.
Xu Zhao was stunned.
Xu Fan immediately used his small meaty hand to grasp Cui Dingchen’s palm and asked in a milky voice, “Daddy, who is it? W-who’s covering my eyes?”