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After not seeing him for a few months, Xu Fan still hadn’t grown any taller, but his intelligence had grown. Cui Dingchen gave a shallow smile and asked, “So?”
Xu Fan replied, “S-so give it to me to eat.”
Xu Zhao, who was currently eating a watermelon, choked at Xu Fan’s words.
Cui Dingchen reached out and patted Xu Zhao’s back twice, helping him catch his breath before turning to Xu Fan and asking, “Give it to you to eat?”
Xu Fan nodded. “Mn.”
“Your tummy won’t hurt?” Cui Dingchen raised a brow and asked.
Xu Fan’s little meaty hand patted his bulging little belly and said, “M-my tummy won’t hurt.”
Cui Dingchen glanced at the chubby Xu Fan and asked with curiosity, “Why not? Why will my stomach hurt if I eat it, but yours won’t?”
Xu Fan thought as he replied, “Because m-my daddy planting them, and t-the watermelons listen to me. I-it won’t hurt my t-tummy.”
“…” He really knew how to talk back. Cui Dingchen wasn’t good at dealing with children, so he turned to Xu Zhao and asked, “Can I give it to him?”
“Yes.” Xu Zhao nodded.
“Can he eat this much?” Cui Dingchen asked again.
“He can.” He would usually eat two small pieces.
Cui Dingchen handed the watermelon to Xu Fan.
Xu Fan happily accepted it. His two small meaty hands held the watermelon as he opened his mouth to gnaw at it and also spit out the seeds. But his small meaty hand, his fleshy arms, and his short-sleeve shirt was covered with watermelon juice. Xu Zhao disliked it when Xu Fan was dirty. He reached out and pinched the only clean part of Xu Fan’s clothes and said, “Let’s go home and wash up.”
Xu Fan reached out to take Xu Zhao’s hand.
Xu Zhao said, “Let’s go like this.”
“Daddy, hold my hand.”
“No, we’ll go like this.”
“But I want to hold Daddy’s hand.”
“…” Xu Zhao still extended his hand and gave it to Xu Fan.
Xu Fan’s dirty little meaty hand held Xu Zhao’s fingers. He was full and happily walked forward. As they walked, he turned to glance at Cui Dingchen and said, “This is the house m-my daddy built.”
“Mn, I know.”
“T-then do you know that my house has big light bulbs?”
“My house has f-five big light bulbs. My daddy bought them.”
Cui Dingchen no longer knew how to chat with Xu Fan, but he tried hard to think about how to chat with Xu Fan. Before he could think about it, Xu Fan had already changed the topic and started chatting with Xu Zhao.
“Daddy, I need to bathe.”
“Wash myself clean.”
“Wash till I smell good.”
“Yes. Those who wash clean are very lovable.”
“I want to be loveable.”
Cui Dingchen watched as Xu Zhao chatted with Xu Fan very naturally. A burst of envy suddenly flowed in his heart. He couldn’t help but think how good it would be if he was his son. As soon as the thought came out, he suppressed it. It wasn’t good to think like this. It was unfair to Xu Fan. From now on, he would treat Xu Fan as if he was his own child… Thinking like this, Cui Dingchen felt much calmer. He gave Xu Zhao a soft smile.
Xu Zhao turned his head, looking over and said, “Youngest uncle, sit here for a bit. I’ll give Xu Fan a bath. We’ll be done soon.”
Cui Dingchen said, “I’ll go with you.”
Xu Zhao was stunned.
Cui Dingchen looked at Xu Zhao and said sincerely, “I’ll go with you.”
Xu Zhao gave him a knowing smile and nodded.
Xu Zhao went to the main hall and brought over two warm bottles of water. He mixed them with cold water, and poured the warm water into a wooden basin. He undressed Xu Fan and placed the naked Xu Fan inside the wooden basin. Xu Fan immediately covered himself and muttered, “Daddy, don’t let him see. Don’t let him see.”
Xu Zhao: “…”
Cui Dingchen: “…”
And so, Cui Dingchen stood from the wooden basin and walked to the main hall.
Xu Zhao washed Xu Fan’s hair, face, and his entire body. He specially bought out the fragrant children’s soap to kill all the germs. After Xu wore his short sleeve shirt and shorts, he happily extended his hand to Xu Zhao and asked, “Daddy, do I smell good?”
“You stink!” Xu Zhao deliberately said.
“I smell lot of good.” He meant he smelled very good.
Xu Fan giggled. His little tender face was clean, and the two shallow dimples on the side of the cheeks looked very handsome. Xu Zhao kissed Xu Fan on the face and said, “Go play in the main hall. Daddy is going to wash your clothes.”
“I’ll also wash the clothes.”
“You can’t wash. Go play.”
“I-I’ll play just for a bit.”
Xu Fan obediently ran to the hall. He saw Cui sitting inside the main hall and walked up to him and asked, “Second Grandpa Cui, what are you doing?:
“…I’m sitting down.”
“Sitting down and doing what?”
“I have cookies. Do you want to eat?”
Not waiting for Cui Dingchen to reply, Xu Fan ran into the west wing, and fluttered around for a while before running out of the west wing holding a package in his hand. He pulled out a cookie from inside and took a bite and said, “It’s so tasty.”
Cui Dingchen calmly looked at Xu Fan.
Xu Fan glanced down at the package in his hand and pulled out the smallest cookie. He handed it to Cui Dingchen and said, “This is for you.”
Cui Dingchen didn’t extend his hand.
Xu Fan stuffed the small cookie into Cui Dingchen’s hand and said, “It’s very tasty!”
Cui Dingchen looked at Xu Fan and still didn’t eat it.
“I-if you don’t eat it, then I will.” After Xu Fan finished speaking, he took back the cookie from Cui Dingchen’s hand and put it back into the package. He then turned and left.
Cui Dingchen: “…”
Was this really Xu Zhao’s son?
Was it really his biological son?
His personality was completely different from Xu Zhao’s! Cui Dingchen simply… saw himself when he was young. When he was young, he also acted like this. Besides being generous to his loved ones, he was stingy with everyone else. This left him speechless. He couldn’t help but stand up to tell Xu Zhao about this.
Xu Zhao said, “Actually, my Xu Fan is very generous.”
Cui Dingchen: “…”
Xu Zhao hung Xu Fan’s clothes on the rope and turned to ask, “Xu Fan, what do you want to eat for lunch?”
“Anything is fine. Where are your parents?” Cui Dingchen didn’t see Father or Mother Xu this entire time.
“They’re at Da Zhuang’s house,” Xu Zhao replied.
“What are they doing at Da Zhuang’s house?”
Xu Zhao smiled and said, “Da Zhuang’s mother gave birth to a daughter a few days ago. She’s doing her one month postpartum confinement now. Da Zhuang’s family has a lot of fields so Da Zhuang’s father, and Da Zhuang’s grandparents went to cut the wheat. My parents went over to help take care of Da Zhuang’s mother and Da Ni’Er. Da Ni’Er was the name of Da Zhuang’s younger sister.
“Are they not coming back for lunch?”
“They’re not. Youngest uncle, what do you want to eat? I’ll cook it for you.”
Cui Dingchen looked at Xu Fan.
Xu Zhao said, “No need to look at him. He’s not picky. He’ll eat anything.”
Cui Dingchen said, “Then make what you like to eat.”
But before Xu Zhao even started cooking, Mother Xu had already made lunch at Da Zhuang’s house and brought it over. Seeing that Cui Dingchen was there, Mother Xu made another dish of scrambled eggs and brought it over. Xu Zhao didn’t even have to cook and directly sat at the dining table with Cui Dingchen and Xu Fan to eat.
Cui Dingchen didn’t like to talk while he was eating, so Xu Zhao didn’t talk either. After giving Xu Fan a bib, he ate his own food. It was the hottest time of the day when they finished eating. Under normal circumstances, Xu Zhao would pull out the cooling mat and spread it on the ground to take a nap with Xu Fan.
Cui Dingchen was there today, so Xu Zhao opened the front and rear windows of the west wing. He sat on the west wing’s big bed and rested for a bit. Correct, it was a big bed. The previous wooden bed was too small, and Xu Fan had rolled off of it a few times. The last time he rolled off, he hurt his lip and cried out in pain. Xu Zhao then changed the small wooden bed to a big wooden bed. Of course, the wooden legs were still very short. Thinking of it now, if Xu Fan accidently fell off again, it shouldn’t hurt.
At this moment, Xu Zhao, Cui Dingchen, and Xu Fan sat on the bed together listening to the radio and chatting. They chatted about work.
Xu Zhao held a fan in his hand as he waved the fan to Xu Fan, who was rolling on the bed. He also fanned Cui Dingchen, who was sitting on the edge of the bed.
After fanning for a while, Xu Zhao said, “Youngest uncle, do you usually nap?”
Cui Dingchen said, “Not when it’s busy.”
Xu Zhao smiled and said, “I heard Qingfeng say that you love sleeping.”
Xu Zhao continued, “You happen to be free today. You should sleep for a bit. I’m heading to the county town this afternoon to sell the watermelon. We can head there together.”
“What about you?”
“I’ll read for a bit.”
“You’re not going to sleep?” Cui Dingchen asked.
“I won’t,” Xu Zhao said.
“Then we won’t sleep. Have him sleep by himself.” Cui Dingchen pointed to Xu Fan.
Xu Fan was already sleepy as he fought to keep his eyelids open.
Xu Fan grabbed the small blanket and covered his bulging little belly. He reached out and patted Xu Fan’s small meaty head. Not long later, Xu Fan fell asleep. His plump little arms and legs were very cute.
“He’s sleeping so well,” Cui Dingchen said.
Xu Zhao looked at Cui Dingchen with doubt.
Cui Dingchen said, “He’s very obedient when he sleeps. His mouth moves nonstop when he’s awake. He speaks even more than when we were in the imperial capital.”
Xu Zhao smiled and said, “He learned from listening to the radio and stories.”
“Are you the one who tells him stories?”
“Mn. I tell him a story every night.”
“What stories do you tell him?”
“The Crow and the Pitcher, The Little Horse Crossing the River, The Tortoise and the Hare, and stories like that.” Xu Zhao and all parents had a common illness, and that was talking about their children. He couldn’t help but say a few more sentences, “After he hears them, he could tell the stories himself. He retold The Tortoise and the Hare himself a couple of times and fell asleep to his own story.”
Cui Dingchen laughed after hearing this and continued to ask about Xu Fan.
Xu Zhao said two more sentences, then felt that it wasn’t good to talk too much about his child in front of others, so he stopped and asked, “Youngest uncle, do you want some water? I’ll go pour you a glass.”
Xu Zhao stood.
Cui Dingchen reached out and took Xu Zhao’s hand.
Xu Zhao was startled and turned back to Cui Dingchen.
Cui Dingchen gazed at Xu and whispered, “I haven’t seen you in a long time.”
Xu Zhao’s heartbeat immediately accelerated.
While holding Xu Zhao’s hand, Cui Dingchen stood. As he walked to Xu Zhao, Mother Xu’s shouts came from the courtyard.
Xu Zhao quickly withdrew his hand.
Cui Dingchen also withdrew his hand.
Mother Xu walked in carrying three popsicles. He handed one to Xu Zhao and another to Cui Dingchen before saying, “It’s too hot today. Eat a popsicle to cool down. What about Sanwa?”
“He’s sleeping,” Xu Zhao said.
“Then I won’t give this to him,” Mother Xu said.
“Mn. Mom, you should eat it.”
“Okay,” Mother Xu smiled and said. “You guys continue chatting. I’m going to the courtyard to sun dry the salted vegetables. Oh, right. Xu Zhao, when are you going to sell the watermelon?”
“I’ll go at three in the afternoon.”
“Okay. Buy some glutinous rice when you come back. I’ll wrap some zongzi.”
Mother Xu took the popsicles and left.
Xu Zhao turned his head and smiled at Cui Dingchen.
Seeing Mother Xu walking back and forth in the courtyard, main hall, east wing, and west wing, Cui Dingchen could only lower his head and eat his popsicle. He was a bit depressed in his heart.
Aww sooo close!