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Xu Zhao didn’t hear clearly what Cui Dingchen said at that moment. Once he came back to his senses and realized that Cui Dingchen had said his new clothes looked good, he wanted to say thanks to Cui Dingchen, but Cui Dingchen had already driven his black compact car away. Meanwhile, Xu Fan held his red bean popsicle as he ran his short legs to follow the black car.
“Xu Fan!” Xu Zhao called.
Xu Fan immediately stopped and turned to Xu Zhao. He used his popsicle to point at the black car, his small completely red from sucking on the cold popsicle. He looked very cute as his milky voice said, “Daddy, the big car, big car ran away again!”
Xu Fan correctly used the word “again.” That was correct, it ran away “again.”
Xu Zhao couldn’t remember how many times it was that Xu Fan had wanted to sit in the car. He strangely felt a bit sorry for the child. He hadn’t helped the child fulfill his small wish. Thinking of this, he thought he would ask the expressionless Cui Dingchen next time and see which day he was free so that he could let Xu Fan ride around for a bit? He can give him some money like a taxi.
If Cui Dingchen didn’t agree, he’d take Xu Fan to ride the bus to the city. Once they arrived at the city, they could rent a taxi and let Xu Fan satisfy himself. The two bus rides they would have to take to go back and forth as well as the taxi ride should definitely be better than riding in Cui Dingchen’s black compact car, right?
“Fatty Xu Fan! what are you doing?” At that moment, Cui Qingfeng came over from his home and walked in front of Xu Fan, picking him up. He held him as he measured his weight, and confirmed that he was indeed very heavy. He then kissed Xu Fan’s face with a slight smile. He turned around towards Xu Zhao and was instantly frozen.
Cui Qingfeng already knew that Xu Zhao was handsome. Even if Xu Zhao had continued to wear those old and worn clothes, and even if they were full of patches, it wouldn’t degrade from Xu Zhao’s beauty and good figure. Cui Qingfeng once thought of what Xu Zhao would look like wearing new clothes, but he never expected that just by Xu Zhao changing into new clothes that didn’t have patches or wear and tear, he would look so clean and as beautiful as this. He looked like a cool breeze in the summer, passing by but still leaving people feeling good, making them obsessed.
“I’m looking at the big car!”
Xu Fan’s words brought Cui Qingfeng back to reality.
Cui Qingfeng quickly withdrew his gaze from Xu Zhao’s body and looked at Xu Fan. The tip of his ears were tinted slightly red and his voice a bit unnatural as he asked Xu Fan, “Why are you looking at the car?”
“I want to sit in it,” Xu Fan said. “I want to sit in the big car.”
“Then when we go back, I’ll ask my uncle to let you sit in it, okay?” Cui Qingfeng asked.
“Okay, and Daddy needs to sit in the big car too.”
“Okay, we’ll all sit in it.”
“He’s been wanting to sit in it for a long time already,” Xu Zhao added from the other side of Fan’s Little Shop’s big window.
Cui Qingfeng turned his head to look at Xu Zhao again. He had already calmed down from the impact and disruption Xu Zhao’s new clothes had caused him. He was able to normally speak with Xu Zhao and said, “Then we’ll let him sit in it next time.”
“Sure. Um, Qingfeng, you came at the perfect time. I have something to say to you,” Xu Zhao said.
“Sure, tell me.”
Cui Qingfeng carried Xu Fan to Fan’s Little Shop’s door, placing him on the banister. He then entered the shop to listen to Xu Zhao.
Xu Zhao needed to talk about Fan’s Little Shop. The business at Fan’s Little Shop was currently good. Everyday, they sold popsicles, cigarettes, and other things for income, allowing him and Cui Qingfeng to live comfortably. However, the market in the county town was only this big. And they weren’t the only ones who had a shop similar to Fan’s Little Shop. Moreover, other people would follow the wind and open similar shops in the future as well.
Even if similar shops didn’t open up to follow the trend, according to Fan’s Little Shop’s current revenue, once the weather cooled, the popsicles profits would be cut. With their bit of revenue, they wouldn’t have to worry about food or drinks. However, Father Xu needed to take medicine every day, and in the fall, they would have to purchase clothes, shoes, comforters and other things. It might be enough for Cui Qingfeng, but it wasn’t enough for Xu Zhao.
Xu Zhao’s family burden was too high. The money was enough to feed them, but not enough to treat Father Xu’s illness.
Therefore, Xu Zhao said, “I want to hand over Fan’s Little Shop to let my mom watch over it.”
Cui Qingfeng pondered for a moment then asked, “Then what do you plan on doing?”
“I haven’t thought of what I’d do yet,” Xu Zhao said.
“…I didn’t think you would say that.”
“I just wanted to let you know in advance since this shop belonged to the both of us, after all. I can’t make the decision all by myself.”
Shop belonged to the both of us—
Cui Qingfeng embarrassingly rubbed his head and said, “Xu Zhao, if you said the popsicles belonged to both of us, I could still accept it. But the shop belongs to the both of us… I feel like I haven’t invested enough into it. I only paid some money. And especially these past 20 days.”
“How could you say that? If you hadn’t agreed to cooperate with me to sell popsicles back then, Xu Fan and I would still be starving,” Xu Zhao said with a smile.
Cui Qingfeng said bluntly, “I wouldn’t have been able to make this much money without you.”
“I still ride your bicycle everyday.”
“And you use the bike pump to put air on the wheels everyday.”
Xu Zhao smiled.
Cui Qingfeng also smiled and said, “Well then. In any case, I don’t have much of a brain. If you want to do something, you can just tell me. If you need me, I’ll help you with it! We can make a bit more money together!”
“Alright. I’ll have my parents come watch the shop in a few days. After that, I’ll do more research on what we should do next,” Xu Zhao said with a smile.
Xu Zhao looked at the time of day and the people who were passing by. After confirming the time and seeing that it was about noon, he said, “Then, I’ll head home with Xu Fan. I’ll come back in the afternoon.”
“Why don’t you have lunch at my house?” Cui Qingfeng urged.
Xu Zhao smiled and said, “No thanks. My mom cooked noodles today. It’s Xu Fan and my favorite so we need to go home to eat it.”
Cui Qingfeng also didn’t try to force him anymore. “Alright. You should head home. If you don’t want to come this afternoon, you can just stay at home and rest.”
“I got it.”
Xu Zhao left Fan’s Little Shop to Cui Qingfeng to watch. He rode the bicycle and brought Xu Fan away. Just as they arrived at South Bay Village, they bumped into Xu Zuocheng and Xu Youcheng who were both sitting under the shade of the tree and bragging with the other young masters of the village. They were bragging about using pesticides to get rid of insects. The reason why they were bragging was because Xu Zuocheng and Xu Youcheng teamed up to buy a second-hand plastic spray bucket. This was how the people of South Bay Village called it, but the correct way of calling it was—plastic manual hand sprayer.
They said that now that pesticides and fertilizers were spreading widely in South Bay Village, they could just sit at home, not having to do anything and were still able to harvest grains. The people listening to the bragging were dumbfounded. They thought that Xu Zuocheng and Xu Youcheng were awesome with a lot of knowledge and a wide world view.
Xu Zuocheng and Xu Youcheng were very pleased with themselves. They saw Xu Zhao and Xu Fan walking over, and at first, they were too lazy to pay attention to them, but they saw the new clothes Xu Zhao was wearing and Xu Fan who was also wearing new clothes. Those must have cost a lot. Where did Xu Zhao get the money from?
Xu Zuocheng and Xu Youcheng suddenly stopped bragging. A strange light passed through the gazes they used to look at Xu Zhao and Xu Fan, their hearts filled with doubt.
However, Xu Zhao didn’t look at Xu Zuocheng or Xu Youcheng. He rode the bicycle directly into the small courtyard. Once inside, he saw Da Zhuang sitting in the courtyard. Da Zhuang was wearing a short-sleeved gown and shorts. He was sitting on the small stool Xu Fan normally sat on and was crying and whining.
Xu Fan’s eyes widened as he asked, “Da Zhuang, why are you crying?”
Xu Zhao helped Xu Fan off the bicycle.
Xu Fan quickly ran to Da Zhuang, his small face solemn as he asked, “Da Zhuang, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”
Mother Xu came out from the kitchen and said, “Da Zhuang was beaten.”
Xu Fan acted like an adult and asked, “Why was he beaten?”
“He was playing with the matches in the kitchen and wasted half of the box of matches. He even almost burnt the straws that were placed by the stove. His dad used the fire poker to beat him. He didn’t have anywhere else to run so I brought him home.”
“Oh.” Xu Fan made a sound like he understood. He turned to the weeping Da Zhuang and asked, “Da Zhuang, do you want to eat noodles? My daddy bought noodles.”
Da Zhuang’s face was covered with tears and snot. When food was mentioned, he stopped crying and said, “I want to eat.”
“Then stop crying. I’ll give you some noodles. Daddy said we’re eating cold noodles today. It’s so good.”
Da Zhuang snuffled, then said, “Okay. I want to eat lots.”
“Mn…” Xu Fan hesitated for a bit, probably thinking that if Da Zhuang wanted to eat a lot, would Da Zhuang also be eating his portion as well? After considering it, he couldn’t think of anything, so he reluctantly said, “Alright, fine.”
Da Zhuang then reached his hand out to wipe away the tears and snot. The tears and snot immediately smeared across half his face.
“…” Xu Fan took a few steps back with a look of disgust on his face and said, “Eww, so dirty. Daddy, Daddy. Look how dirty Da Zhuang is.”
Da Zhuang stared blankly at Xu Zhao.
Xu Zhao quickly pulled Da Zhuang to the well to wash his face.
After washing, Xu Zhao, Mother and Father Xu, Xu Fan, and adding on Da Zhuang, surrounded the table that rested on two small stools and started eating the noodles. The noodles were brought home by Xu Zhao. Mother Xu showed a rare case of extravagance and boiled all the noodles at once. After they were cooked, they were placed in cooled water. Once the water was poured out, the dried noodles were covered in warm pig lard and previously stir-fried seasonal vegetables, tomatoes, bean sprouts, string beans were mixed in. It was finally seasoned with the sticky chili bean sauce Mother Xu had marinated last winter and the cool and refreshing summer flavors of these cold noodles were complete.
Each person had a bowl. Xu Zhao, Mother and Father Xu had a large bowl each, and Xu Fan and Da Zhuang also had large bowls. However, they only got half a bowl of noodles.
“Da Zhuang, do the noodles taste good?” Mother Xu asked Da Zhuang with a kind smile.
Mother Xu then asked Xu Zhao.
“It’s delicious,” Xu Zhao said.
“Sanwa, is it good?” Mother Xu asked Xu Fan in the end.
Xu Fan was currently using his small hand to grab the noodles one piece at a time. After grabbing a piece, he placed it in his mouth and slurped it all into his small mouth. He chewed as he showed a happy smile and said, “It’s so, so good!”
Mother and Father Xu both revealed an affectionate smile as well.
When Xu Fan was just about finished eating, he suddenly said to Da Zhuang, “Da Zhuang, if I get beaten in the future, I’ll go to your house. You have to give me noodles to eat as well.”
“Okay, I’ll give you a big bowl to eat,” Da Zhuang said.
“Mn. You must give me a big bowl. I can eat a lot,” Xu Fan said.
“I can eat a lot too!” Da Zhuang said.
“When I eat, I-I-I… I can’t stop,” Xu Fan said again.
“I can’t stop either,” Da Zhuang said.
“I can eat a lot of meat. I can eat a lot of steamed buns. I can eat a lot of candy,” Xu Fan continued.
“I can still eat a lot of mooncakes!” Da Zhuang continued.
Xu Zhao, who was currently eating noodles, suddenly stopped his actions, a thought quickly passed through his mind.