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On Cui Dingchen’s side, he was still immersed in sweetness, while Xu Zhao had already dripped into his quilts. He turned off the radio, then began telling Xu Fan a bedtime story. However, Xu Fan was full of energy tonight, and a single story wasn’t able to put him to sleep. Xu Zhao had to tell three stories before Xu Fan had finally fallen asleep.
Xu Fan had fallen asleep, but Xu Zhao’s mouth felt dry. He got out of bed and walked to the long narrow table inside the main hall and poured himself half an enamel jar of water.
After drinking, he lay back on the bed but didn’t immediately fall asleep. Instead, he thought about the matter of the imperial capital. Before he left for the imperial capital, he needed to arrange everything related to the big greenhouse, firstly was the planting of the leafy vegetables.
And so the next morning before the sun even peaked out, Xu Zhao and Da Zhuang’s father had already arrived inside the big greenhouse to pull out the weeds, tomato racks, cucumber racks, and others. They worked until it was time for breakfast. After breakfast, the Xu and Li families all became busy. They borrowed the oar used for plowing and took turns to turn over the soil. They worked until the sun went down, and the leafy vegetables seeds were finally sprinkled into the soil.
The Xu and Li families were able to rest easy as they went home. Once they arrived home, Xu Zhao insisted for Mother and Father Xu to rest for a while. He entered the kitchen to cook noodles. As he was picking vegetables, Xu Fan ran over in high spirits.
“Daddy!” Xu Fan tilted his head to look at Xu Zhao’s face. His little appearance was very attractive.
Xu Zhao looked down as he plucked the vegetables. He couldn’t help but laugh as he asked, “What are you doing?”
“Daddy, I’ll help you!”
Xu Zhao asked, “Help me with what?”
Xu Fan replied, “Help you c-cook.”
“Do you know how to cook?”
“Then how will you help me?”
Xu Fan said solemnly, “I can help you eat the food.”
Xu Zhao’s hands stopped as he glanced at Xu Fan.
Xu Fan giggled and called, “Daddy.” He was completely unaware that there was a problem with his words.
The corners of Xu Zhao’s mouth pulled down as he said, “What you said was right!”
Xu Fan fiercely nodded. “Mn, Daddy, what I said was right.”
Xu Zhao plucked the small Chinese cabbage piece by piece.
Xu Fan called again, “Daddy!”
Xu Zhao replied, “Mn.”
“Daddy, you’re washing the vegetables.”
Xu Zhao replied, “Mn.”
“Daddy, you’re cutting the vegetables.”
Xu Zhao replied, “Mn.”
“Daddy, you took out noodles.”
“That’s right. I’m cooking noodles to eat.”
“Daddy, you have to beat an egg.”
It was finally time to eat dinner. Xu Fan’s small mouth finally stopped chatting nonstop. After they finished eating, Xu Zhao deliberately sent Xu Fan to the east wing, and had Xu Fan talk with Mother and Father Xu. He pulled his small notebook from the five door cabinet and started writing down his plans.
Selling vegetables before the new year had been exhausting. Xu Zhao gave himself a week of rest. In that week, he didn’t think about anything and played and accompanied Xu Fan. Now that the week had passed, it was time to concentrate on the task at hand.
He wrote each of his plans in his small notebook. Planting leafy vegetables, selling garlic heads, going to the imperial capital. The most important thing was going to the imperial capital. Mother and Father Xu didn’t seem to know about this matter. So after Xu Zhao wrote down his plans, he went to the east wing and told Mother and Father Xu about the matter of going to the imperial capital.
“Going to the imperial capital?” The two elders were surprised.
Xu Zhao nodded. “Mn, going to the imperial capital.”
“The imperial capital is very far away.” Father Xu had never visited the imperial capital before and had only heard that it was very far away. It was the place the previous emperor had lived.
“Mn, I’ll need to take the train,” Xu Zhao said.
“How long does it take by train?”
“About 15 hours.”
Father Xu sighed. “So long!”
Mother Xu raised an eyebrow and said, “How tiring. Must you go to the imperial capital? Can you not go? I heard there are a lot of bad people out there. You’ve never been to the imperial capital before. Will it be okay?”
The farthest and most prosperous place Mother Xu had visited in her lifetime was Jiang Ping County. She had never even been to the West Prefecture City. In her mind, anywhere outside of West Prefecture City was extremely dangerous. Therefore, she was worried about Xu Zhao and thought that Xu Zhao would only be safe if he was by her side.
Xu Zhao smiled and said, “It’s fine. The train will have a bed. Besides, Youngest uncle also needed to go to the imperial capital, so we’ll go together. Don’t worry.”
Mother Xu asked in surprise, “The Cui family’s youngest uncle is also going?”
“Yes. He also has work in the imperial capital.”
With Cui Dingchen going as well, Mother Xu was very relieved since Cui Dingchen had traveled a lot before. However, Mother Xu started to worry again and asked, “Is Sanwa going?”
Without waiting for Xu Zhao to speak, Xu Fan insisted, “Grandma, I’m going!”
Xu Fan smiled and said to Mother Xu, “Mn, Xu Fan is also going.”
When Xu Fan heard this, he happily snuggled in Xu Zhao’s arms, looking very obedient.
Mother Xu didn’t agree, saying that Xu Fan was still too young and couldn’t endure any hardships. Moreover, it’s so chaotic outside, what if he got lost? The imperial capital was a large city. Mother Xu was uneasy as she said, her words making Xu Fan very unhappy. His small meaty hands pulled Xu Zhao toward the west wing and said, “Daddy, go. Let’s go. Don’t mind Grandma. Don’t mind Grandma.”
Mother Xu immediately laughed.
Xu Zhao also didn’t know if he should laugh or cry. He comforted Mother and Father Xu and vowed that nothing would go wrong. He also explained that the imperial capital was the capital of the country. Their public security and management is many times better than West Prefecture City. He also compared it to the fictional Chang’an, Bianjing, and other places for the two elders.
It was only then that the two elders became slightly relieved, if only just a little tiny bit.
In any case, he wasn’t leaving now. Xu Zhao also didn’t plan to convince Mother and Father Xu all at once. Seeing that it wasn’t early anymore, he brought Xu Fan to return to the east.
He then crouched beside Xu Fan and asked, “Do you really want to go to the imperial capital with Daddy?”
Xu Fan ferociously nodded.
“Then you promise Daddy that you will be good and not cause any trouble when we go to the imperial capital.”
Xu Fan said in a clear voice, “I’m very good, and I won’t cause trouble.”
“All right, then I’ll take you.
“Great!” Xu Fan was extremely happy.
The next day, Xu Fan boasted to Da Zhuang that he was going to the imperial capital and would sit in the “choo choo” big train. The big train was very big, even bigger than the big car. The “choo choo” was even faster than Nezha’s wind and fire wheels. It choo chooed—
Da Zhuang asked with doubt, “Sanwa, what is choo choo?”
Xu Fan replied, “You’re really stupid. Choo choo is the sound a train makes!”
Da Zhuang asked, “How do you know what sound the train makes?”
“My daddy said it,” Xu Fan proudly said.
“Has your daddy seen a train before?”
“My daddy has seen everything.”
“Has your daddy seen the Great Sage the Equal of Heaven?”
“Where did he see him?”
“I-In my daddy’s dreams. I’ve also seen him before in my dreams.”
Da Zhuang was speechless by Xu Fan’s words. He pulled out a penny from his pocket and said, “I’m going to buy Tang Seng Meat.”
Xu Fan said, “I’m going too.”
“Do you have any money?”
“No, but you have to take me to eat some.”
“When I bought pickled plum powder before, I took you to eat too.”
Da Zhuang was very easily persuaded and said, “Okay, let’s go together.”
And so the two children took the penny and went to buy Tang Seng Meat. Not long later, they ran home and sat on the stools by the door. One took a bite, then the other as they ate without fighting. Xu Zhao was finally relieved, then went to the big greenhouse to see the condition of the garlic heads. The garlic heads were buried in the soil. The stem that poked out had already dried and it was suitable to be harvested.
Therefore, that afternoon, the Xu and Li families pulled all the garlic heads and let them sun dry in the courtyard. They sun dried for two days. Xu Zhao and Da Zhuang’s father used a burlap bag to store them and placed them on top of the ox cart. They brought Xu Fan to the county town and first sent 4-50 catties to Jiang Ping Restaurant before selling the remaining 200 plus catties to the vegetable market. They sold out in one morning.
Around noon, Xu Zhao wanted to treat Da Zhuang’s father to a meal. Da Zhuang’s father was unwilling, so Xu Zhao bought five baked sesame seed-coated cakes from the vegetable market and gave it to Da Zhuang’s father. He had Da Zhuang’s father head back first while he went to find Cui Dingchen.
Before looking for Cui Dingchen, Xu Zhao first went to Father Cui. He settled accounts with Father Cui and split 40 Yuan before asking Father Cui, “Uncle Cui, is Qingfeng at home?”
“Yes,” Father Cui answered.
Xu Zhao asked, “Then why haven’t I seen him recently?”
Father Cui replied, “He was at his grandmother’s place a few days ago. He only came back recently.”
No wonder he hadn’t appeared these past few days.
Xu Zhao asked again, “Then what about Youngest uncle? Is Youngest uncle home?”
Father Cui said, “Yes.”
“Okay, I’m looking for Youngest uncle right now.”
And so, Xu Zhao carried the burlap bag of garlic heads and led Xu Fan to the Cui residence. Once they entered the Cui residence’s courtyard, he saw Mother Cui, who was sunbathing.
Xu Zhao greeted her. Mother Cui happily ran over to hug Xu Fan and said, “Oh, my. Sanwa, you finally came to the county town.”
Xu Fan earnestly replied, “I came to the county town to s-sell garlic heads.”
“Yo, Sanwa is selling garlic heads again.”
“Mn.” Xu Fan ferociously nodded.
Mother Cui laughed and patted Xu Fan’s small meaty face and hands. She then turned to Xu Zhao and said, “Xu Zhao, Xu Fan is still wearing a jacket. The sun is already out. Won’t he be hot?”
Xu Zhao said, “Cover up in spring or you’ll freeze in autumn. It’s fine.”
Mother Cui smiled and said, “That’s true but have you bought spring clothes for Sanwa yet? Now that you have money, you should buy more clothes for Sanwa.”
Xu Zhao smiled and said, “I’ll go buy some in a second.”
Mother Cui also smiled and kissed Xu Fan before saying, “Grandma Cui will give you milk. Do you want to drink?”
Mother Cui happily carried Xu Fan to the main hall.
Cui Qingfeng just so happened to walk out of the main hall then.
He hadn’t seen Cui Qingfeng in a week. Cui Qingfeng seemed to have lost some weight. Xu Zhao smiled as he walked up and patted Cui Qingfeng on the shoulder and said, “Qingfeng, Happy New Year.”
Cui Qingfeng said with a smile, “Happy New Year. What are you doing here?”
“Came to sell garlic heads and came to see Youngest uncle on the way.”
Cui Qingfeng’s smile froze as he asked, “Why are you looking for Youngest uncle?”
Xu Zhao replied frankly, “We’re going to the imperial capital together.”
“Going to the imperial capital together?
“Mn. Where’s Youngest uncle?”
“H-he’s in the west wing.”
“Okay, I’ll go find him. This is for you.” Xu Zhao handed the cloth bag in his hand to Cui Qingfeng and said, “There’s garlic heads here. For you.”
After saying that, Xu Zhao walked toward the west wing.
Cui Dingchen stood in place with the cloth bag in hand, lost in thought. It wasn’t until a while later that he turned around and slowly walked to the entrance of the west wing. He gently pushed the door open a tiny slit and saw Xu Zhao and Cui Dingchen inside the room.