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Where had he seen him before?
Zhou Xiangqian lowered his head and fell into thought. He was sure that he had seen the man before him before. That man was too handsome. He could remember him at a glance. However, for where he had seen him before, he couldn’t recall.
He really couldn’t recall at all.
Zhou Xiangqian looked at Cui Dingchen again, wanting to find some information that was familiar, but Cui Dingchen had already gotten back into his compact car and driven away. Only Xu Zhao and Xu Fan were left on the road. Zhou Xiangqian had wanted to call out to Xu Zhao, but a tractor tooted and drove over. He quickly avoided it and glanced at the entrance of the vegetable market again to find Xu Zhao already gone.
Where had he gone?
Zhou Xiangqian puched the bicycle into the vegetable market and looked around. He was stunned when he couldn’t find Xu Zhao and deflated for a bit. In the end, he stopped in front of a pork stall and bought a catty of pork. He looked around again and was still unable to find Xu Zhao, so he could only ride his bicycle back to South Sun village.
On the road, he thought about Xu Zhao while also thinking of where he had seen that man before. He also wondered if Xu Zhao was together with that man. Probably not or else he wouldn’t have gone on the blind date… Thinking this and that, his brain was full of Xu Zhao. He had clearly seen Xu Zhao enter the vegetable market, so why was he unable to find Xu Zhao?
Could it be that Xu Zhao was avoiding him?
In reality, Xu Zhao wasn’t hiding from Zhou Xiangqian. He didn’t even notice Zhou Xiangqian’s existence. After seperating with Cui Dingchen, he went to the small shop next to the vegetable market to buy cookies for Xu Fan.
“Is it good?” Xu Zhao asked.
Xu Fan sat on the front handlebars. His small meaty hands held two cookies. He ate as he nodded. “Mn.”
“Then can we go buy meat now?”
Xu Fan nodded again. He only cared about eating and couldn’t focus on talking. His red little lips kept munching. It was very cute.
Xu Fan stretched out his hand to pet Xu Fan’s small head. Thinking back to when Cui Dingchen also touched Xu Fan’s small head early, a strange feeling passed through his heart… Youngest uncle. He really treated Xu Fan differently. And this difference made Xu Zhao have a certain longing in his heart. It also made him more motivated to do his work.
He pushed his bicycle to the vegetable market and circled around the vegetable market once, inspecting the vegetable stalls. Most of which were vegetables that were hidden in the cellar or brought in from other places like Chinese cabbage, radish, and other similar vegetables. They didn’t look pleasant and were also very expensive. There were also some salted vegetables, salted eggs, and others. In any case, there wasn’t much of a variety.
Xu Zhao roughly understood this. They went to the pork stall and bought two catties of pork. In the end, one and a half catties of it was lean meat. In this era, there wasn’t much oil, so they loved buying fatty meat. The more fat it had, the better since it could quench their hunger as well as be refined into oil to stir-fry vegetables. It was more cost-effective than lean meat. This was something everyone knew.
The stall owner knew Xu Zhao and had purchased Xu Zhao’s vegetables before. He knew Xu Zhao was a good person. He felt very sorry at this moment, so he gifted Xu Zhao two meat bones.
Xu Zhao didn’t refuse. He packed everything up then took Xu Fan to Fan’s Little Shop. Once they went inside the shop, he settled accounts with Father Cui. He took his own portion, and as he was chatting with Father Cui, Cui Qingfeng appeared.
“Qingfeng,” Xu Zhao smiled and greeted.
Cui Qingfeng also smiled. “You’re here.”
“Mn, how’s grandma’s health?” Grandma referred to Cui Qingfeng’s grandmother.
“She’s just about recovered. She’s living at my house right now.” After Cui Qingfeng finished speaking, he picked up Xu Fan, who he hadn’t seen in a long time and asked, “Yo, isn’t this our Xu Sanwa? Sanwa, long time no see. Do you still remember me?”
“I remember,” Xu Fan replied.
“Then can you tell me who I am?”
“You’re Uncle Cui.”
Cui Qingfeng smiled. “So smart.”
Xu Fan nodded in agreement. “Mn. I-I’m very smart.”
Cui Qingfeng couldn’t help but laugh.
Xu Zhao smiled and said to Xu Fan,” Xu Fan, say goodby to Uncle Cui. We should head home.”
Xu Fan turned his head and said goodbye to Cui Qingfeng.
Cui Qingfeng smiled and put Xu Fan down. When Xu Zhao walked to the bicycle, he couldn’t help but ask, “Xu Zhao, how have you been these days in the imperial capital?”
Xu Zhao replied, “Very good. I learned a lot.”
“Um, my youngest uncle probably took care of you guys, right?”
“You guys were at the imperial capital for over ten days. Were you guys always together?”
“Mn.” Xu Zhao nodded.
Cui Qingfeng didn’t give up and asked, “Were you used to living with him?”
Xu Zhao replied, “Yes. What’s wrong?”
Cui Qingfeng’s tone was very unnatural. Although Xu Zhao was hiding it, he could still read from Xu Zhao’s expression something that he hadn’t seen there two weeks ago. His heart suddenly chilled, and he couldn’t say anything. He really was too hesitant. In the end, his youngest uncle got to him first. Even now, he didn’t have the courage to tell Xu Zhao that he “liked” him.
He didn’t have the courage.
He turned to look at Xu Zhao.
Xu Zhao had already placed Xu Fan on the bicycle. He smiled and said to them, “Qingfeng, Uncle Cui, I’m heading home first. See you later.”
Cui Qingfeng’s heart was filled with bitterness. “Mn. Be careful on the road.”
“I will. Bye.”
Xu Zhao’s long legs padded the bicycle toward South Bay Village. One the road, Xu Fan ate cookies and didn’t speak. Xu Zhao had time to think about the planting of the fruits and hiring people. He needed to carefully plan the fruits. As for hiring people, he needed to discuss it with Father Xu and Da Zhuang’s father. He also needed to notify the village chief and secretary.
While planning the general idea in his heart, they arrived at South Bay Village. The villagers had just returned home from pulling weeds in the fields. They talked in groups about the installation of electricity and telephones.
The county town had used electricity these past few years, and South Sun village had also installed electricity last year. It was only South Bay Village who didn’t have it since they were poor. That was why they could only install the telephone poles last year and not the telephone lines. Since there were only a few people using telephones right now, they felt it would be a waste of money.
It wasn’t until the end of last year that there were a small half of people who were willing to install telephones. So when Xu Zhao went to the imperial capital, the power station installed the telephone wires for South Bay Village. Father Xu especially asked Da Zhuang’s father to head to the county town to buy three incandescent lamps for them.
Xu Zhao and Xu Fan arrived home while the villagers were still discussing. When he entered the courtyard, Mother Xu greeted them with a face full of joy and said, “Xu Zhao, our home has electricity now.”
Xu Zhao asked, “Can it be used already?”
Xu Zhao pulled Xu Fan to the west wing to look at the light bulbs and switches. The light bulbs used in this era were all incandescent lights, and the switches were the string pull type. The switch was fixed onto the wall and a string hung from the switch. Pulling this string would turn the light on and off.
Mother Xu reached out and pulled the string, and the light turned on.
“Wow!” Xu Fan immediately exclaimed, “The light bulb is on!”
Mother Xu laughed.
Glancing at the light that wasn’t much brighter than a firefly, Xu Zhao turned to Mother Xu and asked, “Mom, how big is the light bulb?”
Mother Xu replied, “15 watts.”
15 watts was too little. It was about the same amount used for sound control in the stairwell. Xu Zhao was slightly sweating as he asked, “It can’t be that all three light bulbs are 15 watts, right?”
Mother Xu said, “That’s right. It’s cheap and saves energy.”
Xu Zhao continued to ask, “Where were the three lights installed?”
Mother Xu replied, “One in the kitchen, one in the main hall, and you and Xu Fan have one. Your dad and I are still using the kerosene lamps since we’re already used to it.”
Knowing that Mother Xu was frugal, Xu Zhao didn’t oppose her. In any case, he would change these lights to higher wattage ones in a couple days and also install some lights in the east wing. When that happens, Mother Xu wouldn’t oppose him.
So Xu Zhao didn’t bring it up again, and told Mother Xu about the pork and meat bones instead. Afterward, they left the west wing together and entered the courtyard to carry the items he had purchased and placed on the bicycle into the kitchen. Before entering the kitchen, they passed a window to the west wing and saw the little light in the west wing turn on, then off, on, and off once more.
What was going on?
Was the power supply unstable?
Xu Zhao carried the pork into the main hall curiously and saw the plump Xu Zhao standing at the west wing entrance. His small meaty hand pulled on the string, and his face was full of excitement as he played with the string.
He pulled the string and the light went on.
He pulled the string again and the light turned off.
He pulled again, and it lit up again.
Pulling yet again, the bulb went out again.
Ah, it really was so fun. Xu Fan got carried away with playing.
“Xu Fan, what are you doing?” Xu Zhao called.
Xu Fan happily looked back at Xu Zhao. His small meaty hands pointed upwards as he pointed at the light bulb on the beam. As if he had found something interesting, he excitedly gave Xu Zhao a demonstration. “Daddy, look! The light bulb lit up. The light lit up a-again.”
Xu Zhao nodded. “Mn. I see. Stop pulling.”
Xu Fan’s small meaty hand kept hold of the rope as he said, “I want to play with it.”
“This is a light bulb. You can’t play with it.”
“You can’t. You’ll break it.”
“I can. I want to play.” Xu Fan was addicted to playing, so how could he let go easily? His face was full of excitement as he looked at the light bulb.
Xu Zhao pretended to be angry and raised his voice. “You can’t play with it.”
Xu Fan turned to look at Xu Zhao. He accurately sensed that Xu Zhao wasn’t actually angry and immediately stomped his little feet and said, “I want to play.”
This little guy was stomping his feet and showing his temper!
Xu Zhao pointed at Xu Fan, “Try stomping your feet again.”
Xu Fan stomped his feet again. His voice was filled with a milky tone as he said, “I’m going to play!”
Xu Zhao saw the small mud puddle beside Xu Fan’s feet. It was shallow and probably left behind when they were installing the cable lines. It was fine for adults to step on it, but Xu Fan was only a three year old child. His steps weren’t very stable, and so he said, “Take a step back.”
“I’m going to play!” Xu Fan stomped again and stomped in the muddy puddle. His step wasn’t steady, so his butt fell onto the ground. An “ouch” followed after.
Xu Zhao didn’t help Xu Fan up and asked instead, “Does it hurt?”
Xu Fan rubbed his fleshy little butt. “It hurts. F-falling hurts.”
“That’s right. It hurts. This is the punishment for disobedient children!”
“I-I…” Xu Fan instantly didn’t know how to answer.
Xu Zhao ignored Xu Fan and carried the pork out of the main hall.
Xu Fan thought his daddy was heading to the county town. He turned over and used his little arms and legs to lift himself up with a grunt. He then shouted, “Daddy, wait for me.” Then quickly chased after Xu Zhao.
Xu Zhao had only entered the courtyard when he suddenly heard noise coming from outside. It sounded like people fighting but also sounded like someone was trying to mediate it. As he was curious, Da Zhuang’s father suddenly entered and said, “Xu Zhao, your eldest brother and your second brother are fighting!”
Xu Zhao asked in surprise, “Who?”
“Xu Zuocheng and Xu Youcheng are fighting!”