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Ahh sorry for being late. I accidentally scheduled for PM instead of AM o(TヘTo)
Xu Zhao quickly inspected the man in front of them. He was handsome and tall, bringing along a strong aura. However, he only looked like he was 27 or 28 years old. His eyebrows greatly resembled Father Cui, but even more elegant than Father Cui. Combining these characteristics, he could deduct that the man before them was Cui Qingfeng’s youngest uncle—Cui Dingchen.
“Daddy,” Xu Fan called out again.
Xu Zhao tilted his head down to look at Xu Fan.
“Where are the noodles?” Xu Fan asked.
“It’s on the table in the main hall,” Xu Zhao replied.
Xu Fan got the answer and immediately turned his head to look at Cui Dingchen, and said in a milky voice, “My father said that the noodles are on the table in the main hall.”
Cui Dingchen turned to glance at the main hall then said, “Come in.”
“Okay, thanks,” Xu Zhao said.
Hearing this, Cui Dingchen lifted his gaze to look at Xu Zhao.
Xu Zhao didn’t see this and instead, he pulled Xu Fan’s small hand and guided him past Cui Dingchen, walking towards the table inside the main hall. After grabbing 10 bundles of noodles, he passed Cui Dingchen again and said, “Thank you, youngest uncle.”
Cui Dingchen faintly snorted.
It really was Cui Dingchen.
He really was 28 years old. So young!
Xu Zhao couldn’t help but sigh. It would be so nice if he was that rich at 28. He couldn’t feel regret just yet. He was only 22 year old. He still had six years to struggle. He would definitely be amazing once he was 28.
Repeating this, the pride that was crushed by Cui Dingchen had finally returned. Buildings were built from the ground up. There was no rush. He just had to do his best every day.
As soon as they arrived back at the small shop on the intersection, he threw himself into working at the small shop. He wrote down the newly obtained goods inside a notebook. As he was writing, Cui Qingfeng had already biked back.
“Xu Zhao!” Cui Qingfeng happily called.
“You’re back.” Xu Zhao then immediately asked, “Did you pay the electricity bill? How much was your family’s bill this month?”
Cui Qingfeng sat on the bicycle and said, “7.50. Isn’t it cheap?”
“As expected, it wasn’t much.” Xu Zhao had examined the wattage usage for Cui Qingfeng’s fridge, TV, and incandescent lights. The electricity bill he calculated was pretty accurate.
“Yep. Xu Zhao, you’re amazing. Um, now that I’m back, you can get some work done. I’ll watch the store,” Cui Qingfeng said with a smile.
“I’ll watch the store. Your youngest uncle is back. Won’t your family get together?” Xu Zhao said.
“What gathering? My youngest uncle came back just to sleep. Did you just see my youngest uncle?”
“Mn, I did,” Xu Zhao said.
“Did he look sluggish and lazy?”
“Not really.” He did look a bit languid, but not lazy.
“That means he hasn’t slept yet. He should be going to sleep soon. There’s no need for a gathering. You should get some work done and I’ll watch the store,” Cui Qingfeng said.
Xu Zhao didn’t continue arguing with Cui Qingfeng. In any case, the shop belonged to both of them. “All right. It just happens that my family ran out of salt, matches, and other things. I’ll head out and buy some to take home,” he said instead.
“Go ahead,” Cui Qingfeng said with a wave of his hand.
Xu Zhao took Xu Fan to the market and started shopping. At the grocery store, he bought two catties of oil for 80 cents, and spent 15 cents to purchase one catty of coarse salt. He wanted to buy refined salt but it was two cents more expensive. Besides, Mother Xu specifically said that she didn’t want refined salt. She said all salt tasted the same, so why spend two cents more?
Afterwards, he bought a box of matches, a face basin, a bag of laundry detergent, and a catty of pork meat for his family to eat. In total, he spent 5.31.
He still had a couple dollars on hand and looked at the gluttonous Xu Fan next to him. He gritted his teeth and spent 56 cents to purchase a bottle of milk for him, and 70 to buy a large watermelon. He also went to the fabric store to purchase cotton cloth and elastic band to make two pairs of pants for Mother and Father Xu. And so, he carried the burlap sack half full of items as he biked back to South Bay Village with Xu Fan.
As soon as they arrived home, Mother Xu criticized Xu Zhao for spending money. Buying salt, matches, and the face basin was fine, but purchasing pork meat was too wasteful. There was also even milk. Milk! Milk…
Xu Fan tightly grasped the milk in his embrace, his expression saying “this is mine.”
Mother Xu was immediately unable to speak.
“It’s fine. Drink it,” Xu Zhao said with a smile.
Xu Fan nodded his head and turned to leave the courtyard. When he returned, he slightly shook his head as he sucked on the straw to drink the milk. Da Zhuang was behind him, talking as they walked. “Sanwa, let me have a drink.”
Xu Fan held the milk as he sat on the doorstep of the thatched hut.
Da Zhuang also sat on the doorstep, close to Xu Fan.
“Sanwa, let me have a sip.” Da Zhuang stared at Xu Fan with eyes full of envy.
“No!” Xu Fan firmly said.
“Just a little sip.”
“No!” He continued happily drinking his milk.
Xu Zhao: “…”
As it turned out, Xu Fan clutched his bottle of milk and walked to Da Zhuang’s house just to show off to Da Zhuang that he had milk to drink. Their friendship was strange.
“I’ll just take a tiny sip,” Da Zhuang said again.
“Then give me five of your marbles,” Xu Fan said.
“I can’t give you them.”
“Why not?” Xu Fan asked.
“My mommy wants to give me a younger brother. I’ll save them for him. An older brother should spoil his younger brother,” Da Zhuang said.
“Then why don’t you have your mommy give you an older brother?” Xu Fan deadpanned.
Why don’t you have your mommy give you an older brother—
Xu Zhao’s mouth twitched a few times. He had lived in two worlds and had only heard of getting a younger brother or sister. This was his first time hearing of getting an older brother. He really couldn’t look at Xu Fan anymore. This child was truly hard to understand. Xu Fan washed the radish and didn’t pay attention to the two children’s conversation anymore. He entered the kitchen to help Mother Xu, then sat in front of the pot to start the fire.
The meal was very hearty. The pork was cooked soft in large chunks, and the fatty meat was covered with oil. This made the family who had been lacking oil for years start drooling nonstop. Mother Xu kept serving some to Xu Zhao and Xu Fan.
The family gathered around the chopping board to eat, and felt that there was a sudden burst of heat.
“Why is it suddenly so hot?” Xu Zhao said.
“Daddy, I’m hot too,” Xu Fan added.
“You’re hot because you ate your fill.”
Xu Fan: “…”
Mother Xu looked up at the thick clouds and said, “It’s going to rain.”
“Won’t it get colder after it rains?” Xu Zhao asked.
“It will be even hotter after it rains. The heat should last about 10 days before getting a bit cooler. However, it’ll still be hot. The heat can be endured. It should be hot until the Mid-Autumn Festival. I heard there are many factories in the city that will give some of their workers a few days off,” Mother Xu said with a smile.
It will be hot until the Mid-Autumn Festival?
Xu Zhao was greatly surprised. It was May or June when he’d first got here, and it was extremely hot and comparable to July or August in the city in the 21st century. He thought it would cool down soon, but he didn’t expect it to be hot until the Mid-Autumn Festival. That meant that he didn’t have to be so anxious right now. He could slowly use the popularity of the popsicles to promote the shop on the intersection and make it popular. Over time, the shop on the intersection will still be prosperous even without popsicles. Thinking of that, Xu Zhao relaxed a bit.
With a loud boom, lightning suddenly stuck in the sky. Immediately after, the crashing sound of the downpour ensured.
“Ah!” Xu Fan suddenly called out excitedly. “Daddy! Ah!”
“What?” Mother Xu asked in confusion.
“The chickens and ducks,” Xu Zhao said.
Mother Xu was suddenly reminded. “That’s right. I only brought in the clothes and covered the straw. I forgot that the chickens and ducks were still in the courtyard.”
Xu Zhao braved the rain and ran out, quickly bringing the chickens and ducks inside the kitchen. Each person cared for a chicken and two ducks as they waited inside the kitchen. Watching the downpour, Father Xu said a few unclear words.
“Mom, what is Dad saying?” Xu Zhao asked.
“Your dad said that the rain is good. The bean sprouts will grow up and tomorrow we’ll be able to fry and eat them. The people in the city wouldn’t be able to eat this,” Mother Xu said.
“Are you going to pick bean sprouts tomorrow?”
“If I don’t go, the whole village will talk about it.”
“Why?” Xu Zhao couldn’t understand why everyone had to pick bean sprouts.
“As they say ‘dense wheat and scarce beans.’ If you haven’t planted wheat and beans by yourself, then you wouldn’t understand the ways. When planting wheat, you need to plant more seeds so that you can harvest more wheat next year. When planting beans, it’s best if there are only three or four seeds in each hole. If there are too many, the beans will be small and shriveled when it’s time for harvest. You wouldn’t be able to press out any oil, sell them for much, or get more bean seeds. You may not even be able to fully pay the grain tax, so it would be a huge loss,” Mother Xu said.
“So that’s how it is.” Xu Zhao nodded.
While they were talking, the rain slowly stopped and the sky darkened. In order to save kerosene, everyone ate and slept early. The next morning before it got light outside, the bustling sound of busy villagers came from the village. Everyone carried their baskets and used the time before it got hot to pick bean sprouts. Xu Zhao followed Mother Xu while Xu Fan and Father Xu stayed at home.
Father Xu could not walk on crutches, but he walked slowly and unsteadily.
Xu Fan listened to Xu Zhao and brought Father Xu as they slowly walked inside the village. However, Xu Fan was still a two-year-old child. When he saw the other children playing, he also got excited and started running with the other children.
Father Xu was afraid that Xu Fan would run and get lost, so he leaned on the clutches and shouted as he followed behind.
Xu Fan was too excited and didn’t hear.
In that morning, one could see an old man leaning on clutches following behind four or five children. When the villagers saw this, they all smiled. If this old man received exercise from the kids like this everyday, then he would be able to work in the fields before long.
Father Xu also heard this, and as he walked, he also felt that his body was getting a bit stronger. Moreover, the doctor also told him to walk more, and so he continued to follow behind Xu Fan. When he really couldn’t walk anymore, he would sit down to rest.
Seeing that all the other children had gone to their separate homes, Father Xu called out, “Baobao! Baobao! Baobao! Come here!”
Xu Fan turned his head and happily ran over. “Grandpa.”
Father Xu smiled and said in an unclear manner, “Slow down.”
Xu Fan steadily ran to Father Xu’s side. Pulling Father Xu’s hand, he said, “Grandpa, let’s go home.”
“Let’s go home.”
Back home, Father Xu ate a half more multi-grain steamed buns than before.
Mother Xu was ecstatic.
“In the future, you will stay at home to accompany Grandpa,” Xu Zhao looked at Xu Fan and said.
“I want to go with Daddy.”
Xu Zhao had already eaten and had pulled green bean sprouts with Mother Xu. They washed them clean with the well water, smoothed them out with their fingers, and used the hemp rope to bind them together to make four bunches. Xu Zhao took them to the county town, going to Cui Qingfeng’s home first. Cui Qingfeng and the others were currently in the main hall having breakfast, but he didn’t see Cui Dingchen. He could still be sleeping or had already gone out.
“Yo, Xu Zhao and Xu Fan, you’re here.” Mother Cui held a steamed bun in her hand as she went over to welcome them.
Xu Zhao handed two bundles of bean sprouts to Mother Cui.
“What is this?” Mother Cui asked.
“Bean sprouts that grew in my family’s fields. It’s some vegetables for you to eat,” Xu Zhao said.
“Oh, my! You’re too kind. Why don’t you eat it yourself?” Mother Cui said with a face full of joy.
“My family has more. There are a lot,” Xu Zhao warmly said.
“All right, I’ll accept them then.” Mother Cui smiled and asked, “You’re here so early today. Have you two had breakfast yet?”
“I already ate,” Xu Zhao said.
“Me too,” Xu Fan added on.
Mother Cui smiled and asked Xu Fan, “Can’t our Xu Fan eat another meal?”
Xu Fan didn’t hide his true thoughts and solemnly nodded. “Mn.”
Xu Zhao: “…”
For Xu Fan’s current appetite, if he ate a bit less, it wouldn’t be enough for Xu Fan to eat.
Xu Zhao didn’t have another meal, instead, he entered the popsicle room and started making popsicles early. On the corner of his eye, he caught sight of a packet of cigarettes on the table. It was the Chienmen1A Chinese cigarette brand brand and probably belonged to Cui Dingchen. He suddenly had an inspiration and quickly thought of Sister Yun. Sister Yun’s lover seemed to be working at a cigarette factory. Moreover, he was working at the management level. Once the popsicles were made, Xu Zhao biked to the steel factory with Xu Fan, giving the remaining two bundles of green bean sprouts to Sister Yun.
Sister Yun was a city person and usually bought everything she ate. There was currently a lack of supplies, so some things couldn’t be bought, like these green bean sprouts that were picked from the fields. Sister Yun’s husband loved eating these. Sister Yun’s husband used to be a villager, but he became capable later on and moved his residence registration to the city. After being a city dwelling for over 20 years, he still missed the flavors from the villages.
It was just that Sister Yun’s husband’s family was too troublesome. They never tried to put in an effort and would always think of ways to obtain benefits from Sister Yun and her husband. They really had no morals. Although Sister Yun and her husband had high wages, they had three kids that were attending school as well as her two parents. They still lived with money being tight and really couldn’t get involved with those relatives’ troubles. Therefore, her lover slowly distances himself from those relatives. Therefore, these green bean sprouts that the villagers didn’t sell, they hadn’t eaten in many years.
Unexpectedly, Xu Zhao gave her some and Sister Yun couldn’t contain her happiness.
“There’s a lot at home so I brought some here. Sister Yun, if you like them, I’ll bring you some more tomorrow,” Xu Zhao said with a smile.
“You still have more at home?” Sister Yun happily asked.
“Yes, we’ll be able to eat it for three to five days. After that, we won’t be able to eat it even if we wanted to.”
Sister Yun didn’t hold back and said, “That’s good. Bring me some more tomorrow and I’ll give you money.”
I don’t want money.”
“Then what do you want?”
“I want to sell cigarettes from your lover,” Xu Zhao said truthfully.
“You’re also going to sell cigarettes?”
Xu Zhao told Sister Yun about their little shop by the intersection. He wanted to make a lot of money, but now he had to take care of his parents and his parents didn’t have strong bodies. He also had a child to take care of and the child didn’t understand anything. He had to think about them, so he wanted to open a small shop to overcome this hurdle. If they had steady income, then their lives would also become steady and he’d be able to do something else.
Sister Yun knew that Xu Zhao was a person with brains and a sense of responsibility. “Sure. I’ll speak with my lover when I go home. I promise you’ll get a better price than others,” she said with a smile.
“Thank you, Sister Yun.”
“Thanks for what? You’re helping sell and my husband will get a commission. I should be the one thanking you.”
Xu Zhao shyly smiled and blushed
Sister Yun patted Xu Zhao’s shoulder and said, “Young man, work hard. Once you’ve made it, don’t forget this sister of yours.”
“Rest assured, I won’t forget Sister Yun.” Xu Zhao thought for a second then couldn’t help but directly ask, “By the way, Sister Yun, the weather will get hotter soon. Moreover, the heat will persist for a few days. Why did you tell Qingfeng that it won’t stay hot for long last time? You even ordered less popsicles. Will the workers go on break?”
“They were going to have a break according to the original plan, but the output for the factory this year is a lot, so it isn’t certain yet. They’re currently holding a meeting to discuss it. If we need more popsicles, I’ll go find you. Don’t worry, we won’t go to someone else,” Sister Yun said sternly.
“Thank you, Sister Yun,” Xu Zhao said.
“You’re welcome. It’s hot so you should head home quickly.”
“Later, Sister Yun.”
Xu Zhao took Xu Fan from the steel factory, riding his bicycle past the street and passing two people who were fighting. The fight was very fierce, blocking the road. Xu Zhao had no other choice but to get off the bike, pulling the bike as he walked on the curb. Not even two steps later, Xu Fan suddenly pointed in the front and said, “Big car! Daddy! Look! It’s a big car!”
Xu Zhao looked over and saw a black compact car, and at the same time, Cui Dingchen.
Cui Dingchen was also blocked by the crowd of people. He was currently sitting in the driver’s seat smoking a cigarette. When Xu Zhao saw him, he’d also seen Xu Zhao. He immediately put out his cigarette in the ashtray and nodded towards Xu Zhao.
Xu Zhao also nodded back, having already reached the black car at this moment.
“Where did you go?” Cui Dingchen’s voice was deep and low, as he asked without a trace of emotion.
“Steel factory,” Xu Zhao answered.
Cui Dingchen nodded, not speaking again.
Xu Fan leaned against the front handlebar, tilting his head as he looked at Cui Dingchen who was in the driver’s seat, and said, “Big brother, your car is so big!”
Xu Zhao’s mouth twitched. If you call Cui Dingchen big brother, then what about Uncle Cui Qingfeng?
He got the generations mixed up so badly.
Even Cui Dingchen couldn’t help but raise his eyebrow at Xu Fan.