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After speaking, Xu Fan held the phone and quickly listened before saying “okay.” He stood on his tip-toes again and returned the phone to the table, then turned and ran to the kitchen as he called, “Daddy, phone. Phone for you.”
Xu Zhao turned his head and asked. “Who’s looking for me?”
Who was looking for Daddy? Xu Fan was stunned by the question.
Seeing Xu Fan’s cute expression, Xu Zhao laughed and asked, “You didn’t ask who it was?”
Xu Fan was dazed as he said, “I-I forgot.”
Xu Zhao rubbed Xu Fan’s small meaty face and said, “It’s fine. Remember to ask next time.”
Xu Fan happily nodded. “Mn. Daddy, n-next time I will ask ‘who are you?’ If they don’t tell me, I won’t talk.”
“That’s right. You’re so amazing and smart!” Xu Zhao got up from the stove and headed to the west wing to answer the phone. When he placed the phone next to his ear, he heard a familiar voice come from the other side.
“Xu Zhao, it’s me, Zhou Xiangqian.”
It was Zhou Xiangqian. Xu Zhao couldn’t help but frown. However, his good manners still forced him to give out a gentle greeting. “Hello.”
“Mn. I heard you went to the imperial capital?” Zhou Xiangqian asked on the other side.
Xu Zhao hummed in response.
Zhou Xiangqian asked again. “When did you get back?”
“We arrived back today. We just got home,” Xu Zhao answered truthfully.
“T-then, do you have time tomorrow? I happen to be in Jiang Ping County.”
“I—” Xu Zhao paused before saying, “I don’t have time.”
Zhou Xiangqian paused on the other side of the phone.
Xu Zhao didn’t like to drag things out, and he didn’t want to drag Zhou Xiangqian along either. Hurting others was also hurting yourself. Therefore, he straightforwardly said, “Zhou Xiangqian, I’m really sorry. I really don’t think we suit each other. Let’s just end this, okay?”
Zhou Xiangqian asked, “Is this just because I didn’t accept Xu Fan?”
Xu Zhao replied seriously, “It was at first, but not later.”
“Then what was the later reason?”
“It’s because I-I’m not interested in you.”
Xu Zhao added, “Zhou Xiangqian, I’m sorry.”
“You won’t even give me a chance?” Zhou Xiangqian asked in a low voice.
Xu Zhao didn’t speak. His intention was obvious.
A moment later, Zhou Xiangqian asked again, “Xu Zhao, can I ask you a question?”
Xu Zhao replied, “Go ahead.”
Zhou Xiangqian finally asked, “Is Xu Fan really Qi Shuai’s son? Did you two—”
“It’s not,” Xu Zhao replied.
“Then why do you care about him so much?” In this world and era, it was common for families to have at least three or four children. It wasn’t expensive to raise children. With more children, they could be married out. The child could be thrown to the other family or kept at home to care for the elders. However, Xu Zhao was different. Just because he had said he would throw Xu Fan for the grandparents to raise, Xu Zhao had already sentenced him to “death” and couldn’t be persuaded.
Xu Zhao calmly asked. “Because I was the one who brought him into this world, not someone else.”
Zhou Xiangqian was instnatly silent.
After a while, Xu Zhao spoke again, “Let’s leave it like this. Goodbye.”
Zhou Xiangqian didn’t speak.
Xu Zhao hung up the phone and sighed softly. He looked down to see Xu Fan hugging his leg with one hand and his other hand holding a piece of potato chip. “Daddy, here is a potato for you. Grandma stir-fried it,” he said.
Xu Zhao refused, “I won’t eat.”
“Why won’t you eat?”
“Your hand is dirty. I think you’re dirty.” Xu Zhao smiled and said, “I think you’re dirty.”
Xu Fan looked at his little hands and said, “Daddy, I washed my hands already.”
Xu Zhao asked, “Did you?”
Xu Fan replied, “I washed them two times.”
“Then I guess I’ll force myself to take a bite.”
Xu Zhao picked up Xu Fan and took a bite of the potato chip, then headed to the kitchen. The entire family ate lunch together and recovered their strength. Xu Zhao took out the fruits, clothes, and pastries he brought back from the imperial capital. Not only did he give them to Mother and Father Xu, he also gave some to Da Zhuang’s family.
Knowing that Da Zhuang’s mother was about to give birth, he specially bought a set of small clothes, making Da Zhuang’s parents very happy.
Da Zhuang’s father thanked Xu Zhao over and over again. Xu Zhao didn’t stay at Da Zhuang’s house for much longer. He returned home and sorted his luggage, then went to take a look at the green vegetables in the greenhouse. Even came very quickly.
After dinner, Xu Zhao first washed Xu Fan’s hands, face, feet, and butt, then plopped Xu Fan onto the bed before washing himself. As he was wiping his hair with a towel, he walked back to the west wing. Xu Fan, who was wearing his thermal underwear and walking barefooted, stood by the table and picked up the phone. He picked it up very skillfully, his voice very milky as he said sentence by sentence.
“My daddy went to bathe.”
“I had rice for dinner. I ate a lot.”
“Daddy, my daddy also ate a lot. My daddy had noodles, steamed buns, and sweet potatoes.”
This little chubby kid actually got off the bed without any shoes to answer the phone so enthusiastically.
“Xu Fan!” Xu Fan raised his voice slightly.
Xu Fan held the phone and turned his head, giggling as called, “Daddy.”
Xu Zhao asked, “What are you doing?”
Xu Fan immediately replied, “I’m talking on the phone.”
Xu Zhao asked, “Let me ask you, where are your shoes?”
“My shoes? Where’s my shoes?” Hearing the words, Xu Fan lowered his head and realized he wasn’t wearing any shoes. After washing his feet, he didn’t wear his shoes. He was going to be spanked. He quickly stood on his tip toes and placed the phone down before padding to the bed.
“Where are you running to?” Xu Zhao raised his voice slightly and asked, “Your feet are covered in dirt!”
Xu Fan stopped moving and looked back, his eyes watery as he looked at Xu Zhao timidly and said, “I-I’ll wash again.”
Xu Zhao hardened his expression, “Go ask your grandpa to wash them for you.”
Hearing this, Xu Fan didn’t hesitate and ran out of the west wing, shouting, “Grandpa, my feet are dirty. I’ll wash them again. Daddy said that I need to wash again.”
Xu Zhao watched Xu waddle out of the west wing before retracting his gaze. He walked to the table and picked up the phone, placing it by his ear. “Hello?”
“It’s me, Cui Dingchen.” A pleasant voice came from the other side of the phone.
Xu Zhao’s heart jumped. “Youngest uncle.”
“Mn. You were very fierce just now.” Cui Dingchen’s voice was full of smiles.
Xu Zhao was a bit embarrassed. “Sometimes Xu Fan is very disobedient.”
“Mn. It’s correct to teach him.”
Xu Zhao’s tone was a bit unnatural. “Um, Youngest uncle, did you need something?”
Cui Dingchen casually said, “No, I just wanted to hear your voice.”
“…” Xu Zhao’s heart became chaotic again, but he forced himself to calm down and ask, “Youngest uncle, where are you now? On the business trip?”
“I’m still in the county town. I’m leaving for the business trip tomorrow.” After Cui Dingchen finished speaking, he asked, “What do you plan on doing tomorrow? Will you start planting the greenhouse fruits?”
“Why not?” Cui Dingchen asked.
Xu Fan spoke of work matters much more smoothly. “The leafy vegetables haven’t been harvested yet. I should plan for two more days. I’ll visit the county town tomorrow and go to the steel factory, Jiang Ping Restaurant, and Fan’s Little Shop to balance the accounts. Then I need to buy some medicine for my dad. I’ll also go to the vegetable market and take a look and buy some more meat, fish, and other things. Ever since Xu Fan and I went to the imperial capital, my parents have been eating salted vegetables and multi-grain steamed buns everyday. I want to give them something more nutritious to eat.”
“Mn, not bad. Continue.”
“Continue talking. I like listening to you.”
Xu Zhao didn’t know what to say all of a sudden. He felt that Cui Dingchen had become a completely different person, and every single one of his words turned his heart into chaos. At this time, Mother Xu carried Xu Fan into the west wing. He found an excuse and hung up the phone.
Mother Xu turned her head and put Xu Fan onto the bed before turning again to ask, “Who was that on the phone?”
“Second Grandpa Cui!” Xu Fan stood on the bed and answered loudly. He had asked who it was. Second Grandpa Cui replied that it was Second Grandpa Cui, so he had remembered.
Xu Zhao turned to glare at Xu.
Xu Fan knew what Xu Zhao meant. He was afraid he’d fall off the bed, so he quickly sat back on the bed. He was obedient and didn’t roll around, then smiled mischievously at Xu Zhao.
Only then did he look at Mother Xu and said, “Youngest uncle called.”
Mother Xu continued to ask, “Why is he calling so late at night?”
Xu Zhao scratched his head and said, “He said he’s going on a business trip tomorrow.”
Mother Xu didn’t ask more, urgin Xu Zhao to quickly go to sleep before heading back to the east wing. Xu Zhao breathed a sigh of relief and looked at Xu Fan.
Xu Fan raised his little arms and said, “Daddy, hug me.”
Xu Zhao replied, “No hugs.”
“No hugs means no hugs.”
Xu Zhao sat on the bed, and Xu Fan automatically drilled into Xu Zhao’s arms. He was like a little suckling pig. The only difference was that Xu Fan was softer and smelled good. Xu Zhao was coaxed into laughter by Xu Fan. He reached out his hand to tickle Xu Fan until he was laughing nonstop. His small arms and legs fluttered back and forth on the bed. Finally, his small meaty hand pressed on Xu Zhao’s hand, and he called out in a milky voice, “Daddy, d-don’t tickle. Don’t tickle me.”
Xu Zhao didn’t continue to tickle and hugged Xu as he lay down. He told Xu Fan a story, and Xu Fan fell asleep. He was finally quiet. He finally had time to think about matters related to Cui Dingchen. When he thought of Cui Dingchen, the hand that was held by Cui Dingchen burned slightly.
He was really useless!
Xu Zhao scolded himself like this, but he couldn’t suppress the trace of joy in his heart. The joy made him turn over uncontrollably. He looked at Xu Fan’s little meaty face and inexplicably felt that when Xu Fan slept, he looked a bit similar to Cui Dingchen. It really was crazy. He wanted to sort his thoughts, but the more he thought, the more messed up they became. He felt a bit feverish.
Thinking about it, Cui Dingchen was going on a business trip tomorrow. He could slowly sort out his thoughts. He didn’t need to do it in a day. It was better to act rational. Thinking like this, he quickly turned his thoughts to work and considered what he should do next. Not long later, sleep came knocking and Xu Zhao also fell asleep.
The next morning, Xu Zhao sorted everything out and rode the bicycle with Xu Fan to the county town. When he got onto the big dirt road, he saw Xu Zuocheng’s large vegetable greenhouse. It was really simple. Xu Zhao didn’t look for long before driving Xu Fan to the county town.
After arriving at Fan’s Little Shop and saying hello to Father Cui, Xu Zhao first went to the steel factory to settle accounts before going to Jiang Ping Restaurant to settle accounts. He then took Xu Fan to the County Town Hospital Center to pick up medicine for Father Xu. Afterwards, he rode the bicycle to East Street’s vegetable market. Neither the father nor son heard the shouts coming from behind them.
The person shouting for them was Zhou Xiangqian.
Zhou Xiangqian had come from West Prefecture early in the morning. He rode the bicycle to the county town to buy items. He didn’t expect that he would bump into Xu Zhao here. Although Xu Zhao rejected him, he still wanted to say hello to Xu Zhao. And so he rode his bicycle and chased after Xu Zhao.
Xu Zhao stopped the bicycle at the East Street’s vegetable market. He didn’t plan on letting Xu Fan down and pushed the bicycle toward the vegetable market. He suddenly heard someone call him from behind.
Xu Zhao turned around to see Cui Dingchen. He immediately asked in surprise “Youngest uncle, what are you doing here?”
Cui Dingchen got out of the compact car and said with a small smile, “I saw you on my way.”
Xu Zhao asked, “Are you heading off to your business trip now?”
Cui Dingchen nodded to Xu Zhao, “Mn.”
“Where are you going this time?”
“To South Prefecture.”
After Cui Dingchen finished speaking, he saw that Xu Zhao’s collar was a bit crooked. He smiled and reached out to fix Xu Zhao’s collar. Xu Zhao froze.
Zhou Xiangqian, who had just gotten off his bike not far in the distance, happened to see this scene. His thoughts turned into muss. His gaze moved from Xu Zhao’s body and landed on Cui Dingchen’s face. He became even more shocked. T-this person… was very familiar. He seemed to have seen him before. He must have seen him somewhere before.
Where had he seen him before?