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Once he had eaten half of the sweet potato, Xu Fan suddenly wanted to taste the tanghulu and rice crispy treats. He smacked his little mouth and raised his meaty little face as his milky voice sounded. “Daddy!”
Hearing this, Xu Zhao’s heart squeezed and his body tensed.
Cui Dingchen continued kissing Xu Zhao without the intention of letting go. He even pulled Xu Zhao into his embrace and deepened the kiss.
“Daddy!” Xu Fan sat behind Xu Zhao and could only see Xu Zhao’s back. He didn’t know what Xu Zhao was doing. His small meaty hand patted Xu Zhao’s back as he called, “Daddy, I want to eat tanghulu. Daddy.”
Xu Zhao became even more anxious from all the shouting. He reached out to push Cui Dingchen away.
Cui Dingchen didn’t let go but kissed him even deeper.
It would be bad if Xu Fan saw this scene! Xu Zhao was so anxious and didn’t know what to do. He hardened his heart and lightly bit down on Cui Dingchen’s lips.
Cui Dingchen let go in pain.
Xu Zhao quickly turned around. He suddenly felt like something soft had hit his back. He turned his head and saw Xu Fan crookedly lying on the seat while making an “aiya” sound. Xu Zhao quickly helped Xu Fan up and asked, “What did you hit?”
Xu Fan replied in a milky voice, “Hweld.”
“Where did you hit? Does it hurt?”
“Hit my head. Doesn’t hurt.” Xu Fan’s small meaty hands held his head as he said.
Xu Zhao couldn’t stop worrying and checked again to make sure that the seat was soft. After confirming there weren’t any problems, he breathed out a sigh of relief. He took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped Xu Fan’s mouth and hand. After hearing Xu Fan say that he wanted to eat Tanghulu, he finally turned to Cui Dingchen. When he saw Cui Dingchen, he thought of the passionate kiss from just now and became flustered and happy. He even dared to look at Cui Dingchen and whispered, “Youngest uncle, please take out the tanghulu.”
“What?” Cui Dingchen asked.
“Tanghulu,” Xu Zhao said again.
Cui Dingchen asked again, “What did you say?”
Didn’t he say it very clearly? Xu Zhao raised his eyes to look at Cui Dingchen.
Cui Dingchen held the tanghulu as he smiled at Xu Zhao and said, “I heard you.”
The redness on Xu Zhao’s ears remained, “Then why did you ask?”
Cui Dingchen’s face was not red nor did his heart skip a beat. “I just wanted you to look at me.”
“Here,” Cui Dingchen handed the tanghulu to Xu Zhao.
Xu Zhao stretched out his hand to take it. Cui Dingchen stroked his hand, and Xiao Xu Zhao glanced at him, but showed not the least bit of anger to Cui Dingchen, who had eyes full of affection. However, they couldn’t do things that were inappropriate for children in front of the chubby little Xu Fan. And so, he purposely stayed away from Cui Dingchen and sat closer to the car door. He handed the tanghulu to Xu Fan then steadied his voice and asked, “Youngest uncle, did you just arrive at West Prefecture?”
“Mn.” Cui Dingchen nodded.
He’d just arrived at West Prefecture and figured that Xu Zhao and Xu Fan would be at Nongjin Vegetable Market, so he rushed here. He really wanted to see Xu Zhao and Xu Fan.
Xu Zhao asked again, “Are you going back to Jiang Ping County now?”
Cui Dingchen turned to Xu Zhao and asked, “Are you going back now?”
Xu Zhao nodded. “Yes.”
Cui Dingchen asked, “You don’t want to walk around the city?”
Xu Zhao replied, “Nah. There really isn’t anything to see.”
“How about we head back after having lunch?” Cui Dingchen asked again.
“Are you hungry?” Xu Zhao asked in return.
Xu Zhao remembered how many meals he owed Cui Dingchen, so he said, “Then I’ll treat you to a meal.”
Cui Dingchen readily agreed.
But in the end, Cui Dingchen paid. After eating at the restaurant, Cui Dingchen drove the car toward Jiang Ping County. In the beginning, Xu Fan’s little mouth moved without stopping as he talked until no sound came out anymore. Cui Dingchen glanced in the rearview mirror and asked, “What happened?”
Xu Zhao held Xu Fan and said, “He fell asleep.”
He fell asleep so quickly. Cui Dingchen reached out his hand and pointed to the back of the car and said, “There’s a blanket back there. Cover him up so he doesn’t catch a cold.”
“Where is it?” Xu Zhao couldn’t find it.
“It’s not there?” Cui Dingchen glanced back.
“It’s probably in the trunk then.” Cui Dingchen parked the car at the side of the road, got out of the car, and grabbed the blanket from the trunk. He handed it to Xu Zhao and said, “Cover his stomach. Are you sleepy?”
Xu Zhao replied, “No.”
“If you’re sleepy, you can sleep for a bit.”
“I’m fine. We’ll be there soon.”
Cui Dingchen didn’t force him and returned to the driver’s seat. He started the car and steadily drove forward. After arriving in Jiang Ping County, they stopped at Fan’s Little Shop. After saying hi to Father Cui, who was currently watching the store, Cui Dingchen turned the corner and drove toward South Bay Village. During the drive, he whispered with Xu Zhao as they discussed each other’s work.
When they reached their house’s gate, Xu Fan still hadn’t woken up.
Cui Dingchen got out of the car and opened the car door. Xu Zhao carried Xu Fan into the courtyard. Cui Dingchen grabbed the fruits, wine, and other gifts as he followed Xu Zhao into the courtyard. They didn’t see Mother and Father Xu, so they placed the gifts on the large table in the main hall.
He then followed Xu Zhao to the west wing room and watched Xu Zhao as he undressed Xu Fan, took off his shoes, and went to the courtyard to grab a basin and towel. Hot water was poured into it from a thermos, and Xu Zhao walked to the bed and wiped Xu Fan’s little face and little hands before stuffing the sleeping Xu Fan under the blankets.
This series of movements was quite skillful.
He finally turned his head to look at Cui Dingchen, who was sitting at the table.
Cui Dingchen was also looking at Xu Zhao as he said, “Look at me more.”
Xu Zhao asked with a laugh, “Why?”
Cui Dingchen said, “Because you haven’t seen me for a hundred days.”
“Was it that long?”
Cui Dingchen glanced at Xu Zhao and stretched his hand out to him.
Xu Zhao asked, “What are you doing?”
Cui Dingchen leaned over and grabbed Xu Zhao’s hand. Holding it against his chest, he gently asked, “What do you think?”
Xu Zhao wanted to take his hand back.
Cui Dingchen held it like this as he affectionately looked at Xu Zhao.
Xu Zhao was a bit embarrassed as he whispered, “My parents will see.”
Cui Dingchen stretched out his hand and pulled Xu Zhao to his side and said, “It’s fine. Aren’t we going to make it public anyway?”
“But have you prepared everything already?” Xu Zhao hadn’t told Mother Xu about this in advance.
Cui Dingchen pondered for a second and said, “No. I should at least change into some new clothes and pay you guys another visit.”
Cui Dingchen smiled and stood up. He held Xu Zhao in his arms when the door to the west wing suddenly creaked open and Mother Xu’s voice was heard.
The two quickly shot apart in fright then looked at the door at the same time. Mother Xu stood at the door and looked at Cui Dingchen with surprise.
Cui Dingchen was stunned and inexplicably nervous.
Xu Zhao also held his breath.
It felt like the two of them were caught having an affair.
However, after clearly seeing that it was Cui Dingchen, Mother Xu laughed. “Oh my. The Cui family’s youngest uncle is here. When did you return?”
Xu Zhao let out a sigh of relief.
Cui Dingchen smiled and said hello.
Mother Xu turned to Xu Zhao and asked, “Xu Zhao, did you buy the things on the large table?”
Cui Dingchen said, “I brought those for you and your husband.”
“Oh my. How could you give us such expensive items.” Mother Xu immediately felt distressed.
Cui Dingchen smiled and explained that it was given by someone else. His family couldn’t finish it, so he sent some over so that Mother Xu could try some as well. After hearing this, Mother Xu felt that Cui Dingchen was a particularly good person. Afterward, she asked Cui Dingchen questions regarding his work these past few days. The questions continued until Xu Fan woke up.
As soon as Xu Fan woke up, he lay in Xu Zhao’s arms and made a fuss. After he calmed down, he stayed in Xu Zhao’s arms as he spoke nonstop. And so, Cui Dingchen stayed at Xu Zhao’s house for an entire afternoon. They couldn’t even have a single hour alone together when the sky had finally darkened.
Cui Dingchen could only drive away in his car.
When Xu Zhao returned to his senses, he felt sorry for Cui Dingchen. However, Cui Dingchen had already driven off. Forget it. They could talk again tomorrow while Xu Fan and Father Xu listened to the radio.
Xu Zhao grabbed a flashlight to take a look at the five mu of greenhouse vegetables. As soon as he stepped onto the dirt road toward South Bay Village, he saw a black car. He was shocked. There shouldn’t have been a problem with the car, right?
“Youngest uncle,” Xu Zhao called out.
“Over here.” Xu Zhao turned to find Cui Dingchen walking toward him with a flashlight in his hand.
“Youngest uncle, where are you going?”
“I was going to take a look at your big greenhouse.” During the day, he was around Xu Zhao and Xu Fan and didn’t have time to ask. While he was driving away, he suddenly remembered something, so he grabbed a flashlight to take a look at the five mus of big greenhouses. He just so happened to bump into Da Zhuang’s father and chatted a bit with him.
“How was it?”
“Very good. You did a good job.”
Xu Zhao happily smiled.
Cui Dingchen said, “Are you going to take a look too?”
Xu Zhao said, “I’ll take a look in a bit. Are you heading back now?”
“I’ll chat with you for a bit. How about it?” Xu Zhao took the initiative to say.
A smile immediately appeared on Cui Dingchen’s face.
The two sat on a small stone on the side of the road chatting about their lives in the past three months. Cui Dingchen talked about his business trip, and Xu Zhao talked about planting vegetables.
Cui Dingchen reached out and held Xu Zhao’s hand.
Xu Zhao let Cui Dingchen hold it. He looked at Cui Dingchen with a smile and said, “Youngest uncle, can I borrow your car during new years?”
“To deliver vegetables?” Cui Dingchen asked.
“Mn.” Xu Zhao nodded.
“No problem. You can use it.”
“Thank you, Youngest uncle,” Xu Zhao said with a smile.
Cui Dingchen gazed at Xu Zhao. This was the first time he was filled with happiness just by looking at someone. Even if the little chatterbox, Xu Fan, appeared now, he would still be happy.
Xu Zhao turned his head and didn’t see anyone in the darkness. He could only see the light of a flashlight waving back and forth, followed by Father Xu’s worried voice. Xu Zhao replied, “Dad, don’t come over. I can watch Xu Fan. Go back home and rest.”
Father Xu agreed and returned home.
Xu Fan excitedly took the flashlight and padded his short legs to quickly run away. He plopped against Xu Zhao’s shoulders and shouted in a milky voice, “Daddy!”
Xu Zhao smiled and asked, “You’re not listening to the radio?”
Xu Fan said, “There’s no electricity.”
Xu Zhao said, “There are batteries at home in the drawer of the long narrow table.”
“G-Grandma won’t let me listen. Grandma said I can’t always listen to the radio.”
Xu Fan logically and clearly said, “G-Grandma said electricity is expensive. Said I should save it for D-Daddy to listen to.”
Fine, Xu Zhao admitted defeat.
After Xu Fan finished speaking, he squeezed between Xu Zhao and Cui Dingchen and sat between them. He didn’t sit for long before insisting in Xu Zhao’s embrace.
“…” Cui Dingchen softly called, “Xu Fan.”
Xu Fan asked, “What?”
Cui Dingchen wanted to get closer with Xu Fan, so his voice was also very gentle. “How about I hold you?”
Xu Fan mercilessly refused, “Won’t let you hold.” His small body leaned into Xu Zhao’s embrace.
Cui Dingchen asked, “Why not?”
Xu Fan thought for a second and said, “Y-y-you don’t smile.”
“I can’t hold you just because I don’t smile?” Cui Dingchen tried to communicate with Xu Fan. “Doesn’t your dad hold you even when he doesn’t smile?”
Xu Fan blinked his eyes twice, as if thinking about something. He then looked at Cui Dingchen and said, “M-m-my d-d-daddy is pental. You’re not pental.”
Cui Dingchen asked suspiciously, “What?”
Xu Fan repeated, “You’re not pental.”
Cui Dingchen had to turn to Xu Zhao. “What does ‘not pental’ mean?”
Xu Zhao explained, “It means that you’re not gentle.”
Cui Dingchen couldn’t help but ask, “Who… Who taught him words?”