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Cui Qingfeng urged him to hurry.
Xu Zhao could only put down the towel in his hand and quickly opened the thatched hut’s wooden door. Upon opening the door, he saw Cui Qingfeng holding the foam box. His face was full of excitement as he said, “Xu Zhao! It succeeded!”
“What succeeded?” Xu Zhao asked with doubt.
“The popsicles succeeded?”
“Mn! And it’s delicious!”
“Is it really delicious?”
“It’s extremely delicious!”
Cui Qingfeng was so excited that he couldn’t tell him why it was good. He truly thought that Xu Zhao’s popsicles had no hope. He thought they might be better than the ones he made, but they couldn’t be better than the ones made by the popsicle factory. And of course, they couldn’t be better than the frozen treats sold in the market.
However, he was wrong. And he was terribly wrong! Xu Zhao’s popsicles weren’t just for show, they were sweet and cool, and left a refreshing taste on his tongue. As the ice melted in his mouth, a rustling chill overcame him. This was a hundred times better than the ones made from the popsicle factory! Not only did he eat two, he also gave one to his father to eat. He couldn’t hold back his excitement, so he rode his bike here in the dark to come tell Xu Zhao.
“Extremely?” Xu Zhao asked suspiciously.
“Extremely!” Cui Qingfeng firmly said.
Cui Qingfeng didn’t wait for Xu Zhao’s invitation and carried the foam box inside. He placed the foam box on the table, lifted the cotton quilt, and took out the popsicles that were inside. He handed Xu Zhao one and Xu Fan one as well.
Xu Zhao accepted it and gave it a taste.
“How is it?” Cui Qingfeng expectantly asked as if he was the one who had made the popsicles and not Xu Zhao.
“Not bad,” Xu Zhao said.
“Not bad? It’s clearly very delicious!”
“Is it really that good?”
“Of course! It tastes better than the popsicles in the city!” Cui Qingfeng happily said. “With this kind of popsicle, I would even sell it in the county town!”
“By the way, I forgot to ask you. Since you live in the county town, why don’t you sell the popsicles in the county town?”
“Someone already sells popsicles in the county town.”
“You can still sell it even if others are already selling.”
“They get their popsicles from the city, so it tastes better than mine. I wasn’t able to compete with them.”
“Is that why you sell them in the countryside?”
Xu Zhao blushed with shame. Cui Qingfeng really had a great understanding of himself.
“However, we succeeded!” Cui Qingfeng said. “The ones you made are so delicious that I’m sure I’ll be able to sell them in the county town.”
“Can you really?”
“I can! Xu Zhao, how about we start making popsicles to sell tomorrow?”
Xu Zhao wasn’t one to hesitate, and immediately replied. However, he changed the topic and said, “But—”
“I can’t make ice cream.”
“We need an ice cream machine to make ice cream, and we don’t have one. However, I can make other similar things.”
“Alright! It’s fine as long as you’re willing to make it.”
“Then the issue of money—” This was Xu Zhao’s biggest concern. Everything he did was for the sake of money.
Cui Qingfeng said with confidence, “We split everything. The expenses and profits will be split equally. You can stay at home to make them, and I’ll go out to sell them. Is that okay?”
Xu Zhao smiled and said, “Alright.”
“Then should we start tomorrow?”
“Alright. I’ll head to the county town tomorrow morning to make the popsicles. That way, you can sell them in the afternoon.”
“Okay! Then it’s set!”
“Then I’ll head back now.”
“Okay, be careful on the road!”
Cui Qingfeng hugged the foam box as he happily left.
Xu Zhao stood at the entrance of the yard, watching Cui Qingfeng’s disappearing figure as he biked away. Once he couldn’t see him anymore, he closed the gate and returned to the thatched hut. Upon returning, he saw Xu Fan sitting on the bed earnestly eating the popsicles, his lips stained red.
Xu Fan tilted up his small face and said, “Daddy, it’s so good.”
“It’s time for bed.”
“I can eat popsicles before bed.”
“Be careful or else your tummy will hurt.”
“It won’t. My tummy is strong.”
Xu Zhao used boiled water that was cooled off to make the popsicles. And besides the green, red, and yellow pigments, the white popsicles had milk powder, glutinous rice, and white sugar added to it. Therefore, it was all natural and wouldn’t cause any harm after being eaten, that’s why he didn’t stop Xu Fan from eating it. Instead, he turned around to take a bath, then returned to the bedroom to wash Xu Fan again.
Afterwards, he returned to the bed and tied up the mosquito net. He used the dim light from the kerosene lamp to catch the mosquitos that climbed on the mosquito net. Xu Fan sat in the middle of the bed, his two pretty eyes open wide while he sat inside the mosquito net and twisting around.
“Daddy, there’s a big mosquito here.”
“I see it.”
“Daddy! One here too! Hurry and hit it!”
“Daddy! Here too! Here too!”
“Xu Fan, can you lower your voice? The mosquitoes are about to go deaf from hearing you.”
“Daddy, then I’ll scream louder so I can kill them with my voice.”
Xu Zhao realized that Xu Fan was a smart child. Although he was only two-years-old, he was quick-witted and smarter than the other kids his age that he had seen. He didn’t know if it was because he had developed an emotional attachment to Xu Fan, or if it was because Xu Fan took after his other father. In any case, as long as Xu Fan was with him, he had a sense of security. Even if he did talk a lot, Xu Zhao didn’t find it annoying.
Xu Zhao suddenly realized that the feeling of having relatives was great.
Xu Zhao had a good night’s sleep that night.
The next day before dawn, while the people of the Xu family were still in deep sleep, Xu Zhao lit an kerosene lamp and started breakfast in the kitchen. He made soup with egg, with noodles that were mixed with eggs, and chopped green onions sprinkled on top. He then steamed a large bowl and paired it with the deep-fried breadstick that they didn’t finish yesterday. It could be said that this was the most nutritious and luxurious breakfast that the father and son had so far to date.
Xu Fan was immediately ecstatic when he was called awake and saw this.
“Daddy, it’s eggs!”
“Yes, come and wash your face and rinse your mouth so that we can eat breakfast.”
When Xu Zhao and Xu Fan finished breakfast, the sky was still dark. However, Xu Zhao still carried Xu Fan and started walking to the county town. During the walk, Xu Fan fell asleep in Xu Zhao’s embrace.
In the end, he was still a two-year-old child, and Xu Zhao heart felt distressed when he saw this. They would wait a bit longer until Mother Xu came back, then Xu Fan could stay at home with her. That way, the child wouldn’t have to run about outside with him. The small body definitely wouldn’t be able to handle it. Besides, he was also tired from having to carry the child all the way to Cui Qingfeng’s house. When they arrived at the house, dawn had finally broken and the morning light peeked from the horizon.
The sun came out early during the summer, and it was actually only still six in the morning.
“Why are you here so early?” Cui Qingfeng was shocked when he saw Xu Zhao.
“Popsicles take time to make. We won’t make it if we don’t start early.”
“Is Xu Fan asleep”
“You can place him on my bed.”
“Don’t be polite. I’ll also help you make the popsicles.”
After putting Xu Fan down, Xu Zhao and Cui Qingfeng began working. They started boiling the water, weighed the sugar, mixed the pigments, ground up the glutinous rice flour, and mixed the milk powder. Afterwards, they continued making the popsicles according to the proportions Xu Zhao arranged, then poured it into countless popsicle molds. Cui Qingfeng placed them in the refrigerator one by one, and after placing the stick in, he left it to freeze.
Fortunately, Cui Qingfeng’s freezer was like a cabinet and there was no problem placing one to two hundred popsicles inside.
Thereafter, Xu Zhao took out the pen and paper he brought from home and began recording the data. He even noted down the wattage used for the refrigerator.
“What are you recording?” Cui Qingfeng curiously asked.
“Noting the expenses,” Xu Zhao said.
“I’m wondering if we’ll earn more profit from making the popsicles ourselves or getting them from the popsicle factory.”
“How much does your electricity cost?” Xu Zhao continued to ask.
Cui Qingfeng replied, “Seven cents per kilowatt. Which one will earn more?”
“I don’t know yet. We need to see how many you can sell first.”
“Okay, I’ll try to sell as much as I can.”
While the two were talking, the wooden door of the kitchen was pushed open. The two automatically turned towards it and didn’t see anyone. They then shifted their gaze down and saw Little Xu Fan and his bare feet. One hand held open the door while the other hand held onto two holed cloth shoes. His clear eyes were dazed, but when he saw Xu Zhao, they immediately brightened like they hid tiny stars from the sky, his eyes glittering with light. They were extremely beautiful. Shortly after, his eyes turned into crescents, and cuteness overflowed from him.
Xu Zhao let out a smile, and asked, “Oh, Xu Fan, you’re awake?”
Xu Fan immediately walked towards Xu Zhao. “Mm, I got off the bed by myself.”
“You’re amazing. What are you doing with the shoes?”
“These are my shoes,” he said as if someone would snatch away his shabby shoes.
“…Then why aren’t you wearing them?”
“I… I can’t wear it. I-I… I don’t know how to put my shoes on.”
Xu Zhao: “…”
Cui Qingfeng laughed out loud when he heard this.
When Xu Fan heard Cui Qingfeng laughing at him, he learned from Xu Dawa and rolled his eyes at Cui Qingfeng.
Cui Qingfeng covered his mouth to hide the smile.
Once Xu Zhao finished helping Xu Fan put on his shoes, Cui Qingfeng smiled as he said, “Your family’s Xu Fan is so adorable.”
“He’s also very handsome.”
“He takes after me,” Xu Zhao said. “I’ll make sure to fatten him up in the future, then he’ll be even more handsome.”
“He doesn’t completely take after you. His other father must also be handsome. Otherwise he wouldn’t be this—”
Cui Qingfeng realized he said the wrong thing and immediately shut his mouth as he looked at Xu Zhao.
Xu Zhao looked like he didn’t care, but in fact, he actually truly didn’t care.
Cui Qingfeng awkwardly changed the topic, deciding that he will never bring this up again, he then said, “You guys probably haven’t had breakfast yet, right? You should eat at my house.”
“We ate already,” Xu Zhao said.
“I can eat again.” Xu Fan shyly looked at Xu Zhao and hung off his leg as he whispered, “I ate already, but I-I…I can eat again…”
After saying that, he buried his small face behind Xu Zhao’s legs.
He actually knew how to be shy!
Xu Zhao: “…”
Cui Qingfeng: “…”
As a result, when Cui Qingfeng’s mom made breakfast, she cooked an extra portion for Xu Fan. Xu Zhao felt very apologetic, but could only helplessly accept the Cui family’s kindness. Xu Zhao secretly recorded this goodwill inside his heart. Not long after finishing breakfast, the popsicles inside the refrigerator were ready. Xu Zhao and Cui Qingfeng took the popsicles out one by one, and wrapped them inside the popsicles paper. He neatly placed them inside the foam box, covered it with the small quilt, and tied it to the back of the bike.
Cui Qingfeng left to sell popsicles.
Xu Zhao didn’t go home immediately. Instead, he waited until Cui Qingfeng came back to see how the sales went. He was afraid the customers wouldn’t like the popsicles, and he inevitably felt nervous. He wondered if his popsicles sold easily or not, and the closer to the time when Cui Qingfeng would return, the more worried he got.
He stayed like this until he heard the bicycle bell coming from outside.
Cui Qingfeng was back!
Xu Zhao hurriedly pulled Xu Fan to greet him at the door.