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“Do you guys know? Those who left to work outside have returned!”
“I know. I heard they made a lot of money!”
“I heard each person made over a hundred Yuan!”
“Oh! That much?”
“It’s true! Xu Zuocheng said so himself!”
“That must be more than what Xu Zhao makes working his butt off at the big greenhouse.”
Suddenly, South Bay Village was full of chatter. Even the Xu and Li families heard it. However, the two families pretended that they never heard it and also ignored it. They focused on preparing the greenhouse vegetable to sell in the market.
Xu Zhao in particular. He needed to quickly set up everything for the Minor Spring Festival and to prepare all the manpower he needed so that there weren’t any setbacks that would affect business. He didn’t pay attention to Xu Zuocheng in the least. Not to mention 100, even if it was 1,000 or 10,000 Yuan, he still wouldn’t be jealous of Xu Zuocheng.
Therefore, Xu Zhao did what he needed to, then wrote down the summary in his little notebook and made dinner. However, Xu Fan had run to Zhuangzhuang’s house and still hadn’t returned. And so, Xu Zhao entered the village to get Xu Fan and bumped into Xu Zuocheng, who was currently bragging with others, saying how amazing he was. How much money he earned and so on.
Xu Zhao pretended he didn’t see him and wanted to pass by, but he was called over.
“Xu Zhao! Xu Zhao!” Xu Zuocheng called.
Xu Zhao braced himself and walked over.
Xu Zuocheng wore a blue cotton-padded, black pants, and large leather shoes. He had a cigarette in his mouth, of the Chienmen brand, and he smiled as he asked, “I heard you’re working on a big greenhouse now?”
“Mn,” Xu Zhao replied.
“How’s it going?” Xu Zuocheng acted as if he looked down on Xu Zhao.
Xu Zhao modestly said, “It’s okay.”
“Have you made any profit?” Xu Zuocheng directly asked.
“Not really.” In Xu Zhao’s heart, profit was only the money after calculating all the costs. Otherwise, it would be called “breaking even.”
“Not really? This implied that he definitely wasn’t making money and might even be making a loss. Thinking of this, Xu Zuocheng laughed and asked, “Are you unable to sell your vegetables?”
“I’ve sold a few.”
“Oh my. You were even able to sell a bit.” Xu Zuocheng put on a sarcastic smile then asked again, “What are you growing?”
“Chinese cabbage, cucumbers, string beans, and the like.
“How much can those sell for? Can you sell a catty for one hundred?” Xu Zuocheng deliberately quipped.
“No,” Xu Zhao replied in a calm tone.
“Then what are you even doing?” Xu Zuocheng looked as if he was very concerned for Xu Zhao as he said, “If you can’t make money, you should stop. You’re wasting the mu of land. If it were me, you should have our parents watch Sanwa since they dote on Sanwa anyway. That way, you can work outside with your big brother. Although your salary won’t be as high as mine, you should still be able to make 20 Yuan a month. That’s enough for you and Sanwa, no?”
How could Xu Zhao not understand Xu Zuocheng’s morals? However, he wouldn’t lower himself to his level and said instead, “Mn, but I don’t want to leave home. I want to raise Sanwa. We already cooked the meal and Sanwa hasn’t returned home yet, so I need to go call him home for a meal.”
Xu Zuocheng pretended to be helpless and nodded, “Go on, go on.”
Xu Zhao smiled and politely nodded to the others before walking into the village. Even after hearing Xu Zuocheng speaking of all his dislikes, and telling others how Xu Zhao had to borrow money to build the house and that his planting vegetables business wasn’t doing that well, Xu Zhao ignored it all.
When he ran back with Xu Fan, Xu Zuocheng was still gossiping about this. This made the group of men there think of Xu Zhao as a joke and think that Xu Zhao’s vegetable planting business was bound to fail.
“Vegetables are so cheap. How much can you even sell after planting a mu of land?”
“That’s right. Xu Zhao is thinking too much. Planting vegetables definitely can’t be as profitable as planting wheat.”
“I wonder how his vegetables are growing? Has no one gone to take a look?”
“I heard they weren’t growing very well.”
“I haven’t seen him harvest anything these past few days either.”
The group of people were echoing Xu Zuocheng. They were selfishly trying to fawn over Xu Zuocheng, hoping that when Xu Zuocheng left the village to work after the new year, he could bring them with him to make some money. Xu Zuocheng really enjoyed it, thinking that he was very capable. His expression was filled with pride, and he just had to wait for Xu Zhao to lose money now.
Just wait for Xu Zhao to lose money and not have enough to eat!
Xu Zhao ignored Xu Zuocheng and carried Xu Fan home. He washed Xu Fan’s hands with soap then wiped it dry with a towel.
Xu Fan immediately placed his meaty little hands under his nose and smelled. He said with a smile, “Daddy, I smell good! Very good!”
Xu Zhao smiled and said, “Mn, you smell good. Very good. My good smell baobao, can we eat dinner now?”
Xu Fan asked in a milky voice, “What are we eating for dinner?”
Xu Zhao replied, “Noodles.”
“I love noodles!”
“Is there anything you don’t like eating?”
“N-no. I like eating everything.”
“…” He was really self-aware.
Xu Zhao led Xu Fan to the main hall to eat. Right as he picked up his chopsticks, the phone rang. Xu Zhao put down the chopsticks and quickly went to pick them up. Thinking it was Cui Qingfeng calling to ask about the big greenhouse, he never thought it would be Cui Dingchen, who he hadn’t seen in over a month.
Xu Zhao asked in surprise, “Youngest uncle, why is it you?”
Cui Dingchen asked in a low tone, “Why can’t it be me?”
Xu Zhao smiled and said, “It just feels very unexpected. I heard Qingfeng say that you left with the car and it was very hard to get in touch with you by phone.”
“Mn, I finally found a phone today so I gave you a call.”
“Youngest uncle, where are you today?”
“In the imperial capital.”
The imperial capital was obviously the capital. It was the most prosperous city. Xu Zhao was envious as he asked, “Is the imperial capital very developed?”
Cui Dingchen pertinently replied, “It can’t be called developed, but it’s a lot better than West Prefecture in many aspects.”
“That’s for sure.”
Cui Dingchen then said, “And all the greenhouse vegetables have already hit the market here. What about yours?”
Xu Zhao hurriedly said, “We’ll put it in the market tomorrow!”
“Is everything prepared?”
“Just about. Tomorrow before dawn, we’ll harvest the vegetables. After the sun rises, Brother Li and I will push the ox cart to the county town and sell the vegetables. Qingfeng will also be there for backup.”
“Not bad. You guys will be very busy now.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Xu Zhao smiled and said, “I’m not afraid of being busy. Anyway, Youngest uncle, when are you coming back? It’s almost the new year.”
“Soon.” Once Cui Dingchen finished speaking, he paused before asking, “Do you want…”
Cui Dingchen didn’t say the next words and Xu Zhao curiously asked, “Do I want what?”
“Do you want me to come back sooner?” Cui Dingchen asked him.
Xu Zhao laughed and said, “Of course. Come back to celebrate the new year.”
“Okay, then. I’ll come back soon. I miss you all a lot.”
“Mn, come back soon.”
“Okay, you should finish eating. Go to sleep early so you can wake up early.”
“Mn. You too, Youngest uncle. Goodbye.”
After hanging up the phone, Xu Zhao returned to the dining table and started eating noodles.
“Who called so late?” Mother Xu curiously asked.
“It was the Cui family’s youngest uncle,” Xu Zhao picked up the small piece of egg from his bowl and gave it to Xu Fan before saying, “Youngest uncle said that the greenhouse vegetables in the imperial capital have already hit the market and asked me how things were over here.”
Mother Xu asked in surprise, “The imperial capital also has greenhouse vegetables?”
“Of course, and their technology is more advanced than ours. Once this season’s vegetables are finished, I want to visit the imperial capital to take a look and learn a bit.”
“The imperial capital is very far. I heard you have to take the train.”
“Mn, we’ll discuss it again when the time comes. Let’s see what happens at the vegetable market tomorrow first.”
Mother Xu nodded, ate a mouthful of noodles and looked at Xu Zhao and said, “Speaking of which, I’m still a bit worried.
Xu Zhao asked, “What are you worried about?”
“I’m worried that the vegetables won’t sell.”
“Don’t worry. They will definitely sell.”
Although Xu Zhao said those words to comfort Mother Xu, he was also worried in his heart. According to his past experiences, he predicted that the vegetables should sell very well, but those were all predictions and not reality. Therefore, he was still a bit nervous. While he laid in bed at night, he was so anxious that he even forgot to tell Xu Fan a bedtime story.
It was Xu Fan who reminded him, “Daddy, you haven’t told me a story yet.”
Xu Zhao suddenly remembered and asked, “What do you want to hear?”
“I don’t know.”
“How about the ugly duckling?” Xu Zhao asked.
Xu Fan immediately said, “You already told me the ugly duckling!”
Xu Zhao had been so busy these past few days and asked, “Did I?”
“Mn. T-the ugly duckling became a swan in the end!”
He really did tell it before!
Xu Zhao didn’t plan on telling a new story, then asked, “Really? I already forgot. Can you tell the story to Daddy?”
“I can,” Xu Fan replied.
“Then tell me.”
“Okay.” Xu Fan thought for a moment, then started, “Once upon a time, there was an egg. A little duckling came out of the egg, and it was the ugly duckling. The ugly duckling was very ugly, therefore he was called the ugly duckling. The ugly duckling…”
Xu Fan’s small milky voice stumbled over the words, but it was very nice to listen to, as if it was a charm to soothe his anxiety. Even Xu Zhao’s body relaxed and his exhaustion hit. Not long later, Xu Zhao couldn’t hold on anymore and fell asleep.
And Xu Fan was still stumbling over the words as he said, “…The ugly duckling turned beautiful just like that. Turned into a beautiful swan and flew away! Flew away! Daddy, I finished telling the story.”
Xu Zhao didn’t respond.
Xu Fan said again, “Daddy, I finished. I finished telling the u-ugly ducklings.”
Xu Zhao still didn’t respond.
“Daddy!” Xu Fan sat up from bed. Inside the dark room, Xu Fan’s eyes were still watery. His small meaty hands rubbed Xu Zhao’s face as he whispered, “Daddy, Daddy, are you asleep? Daddy, are you asleep?”
Xu Zhao was asleep.
“Since Daddy is asleep, t-then I-I’ll also sleep,” Xu Fan said. His plump little body drilled into Xu Zhao’s embrace. He closed his eyes, and not long later, fell asleep.
The next day, the clock inside the main hall rang three times. Da Zhuang’s father, Da Zhuang’s grandpa, and Da Zhuang’s grandma came to knock on Xu Zhao’s wooden door. Father and Mother Xu quickly called Xu Zhao over for work. Worried that it wouldn’t be safe for Xu Fan to sleep at home by himself, Xu Zhao and Mother Xu had Father Xu stay at home.
Afterward, the five people, armed with flashlights and kerosene lamps, went to the big greenhouse. They found a place to prop the flashlight and the kerosene lamp, then began harvesting.
Tomatoes, string beans, garlic shoots, eggplants, chilis and the others could be harvested. With the manpower of five people, they quickly harvested a full ox cart’s worth before stopping hustling about in the big greenhouse. At this time, it was still only five o’clock.
Da Zhuang’s father wiped the sweat off his forehead and asked, “Xu Zhao, should we harvest a bit of the potatoes from the small greenhouse?”
Xu Zhao replied, “Yes, let’s harvest a bit and try selling it.”
Da Zhuang’s father happily agreed, “Okay.”
And so the five people pulled the ox cart to the old courtyard and collected a lot of potatoes. Once everything was collected, it was six o’clock. Many of the villagers had woken up already. Mainly the people planning to head to the courtyard to catch the morning market to buy some food and clothes for the Minor Spring Festival. Among these were Xu Zuocheng.
Therefore, many people saw the ox cart full of vegetables and were very surprised.
“Why are there so many vegetables?”
“Oh, there really are tomatoes, string beans, eggplants, and chilis.”
“Also garlic shoots. Don’t they say “after March, garlic shoots won’t sprout? How are there garlic shoots now?”
“They really grew!”
The villagers were all amazed.
Xu Zuocheng’s expression was ugly. He obviously heard the others say that Xu Zhao’s vegetables weren’t anything good, so how did he grow such appealing vegetables? And he grew so much. Wasn’t everyone saying that a lot of the vegetables planted had died?