C42 – A Big Bet
The following morning, before Zhang Xiaoloong could seek out the village chief, Wang Tiezhu took the initiative to approach him, personally delivering the contract.
“Xiaoloong, focus on your task. Don’t fret about it. We’ve already discussed it with the village committee. Your initiative may pave a new path for our village. Regardless of its success, it’s commendable to have such an idea. The contract stipulates that… You won’t have to pay rent for the land you cultivate for the first five years. After that period, if you believe it’s profitable, proceed; if not, withdraw. The village won’t hold you responsible. If you encounter any difficulties, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Old Zhuzi’s grandpa will handle it for you.” Wang Tiezhu appeared unusually spirited today, not even carrying his customary pipe.
“Thank you very much, Grandpa Zhuzi. With your assurance, I won’t be able to show my face in Qinghe Village if I can’t succeed,” Zhang Xiaoloong pledged with a hand on his chest.
“You’re a good lad, the pride of Qinghe Village. This is what I hope for,” Wang Tiezhu patted Zhang Xiaoloong’s shoulder with satisfaction. “But don’t feel overly burdened. As you mentioned, this venture is meant to explore new possibilities for our entire village. Even if you don’t succeed, no one will hold you accountable. And when you have some free time, pay more visits to… Your sister is quite talkative.”
“My sister?” Zhang Xiaoloong was utterly puzzled.
“I’m referring to your Grandma Zhu,” Wang Tiezhu clarified, tutting. “She mentioned yesterday that she regards you as her brother, didn’t she? You have no idea how delighted she was last night. Even her temper toward me has improved. Make sure to visit her more often when you can. It’s been a boon for Old Zhuzi’s life as well.”
Beads of sweat began forming on Zhang Xiaoloong’s forehead, and he discreetly glanced at his father, Zhang Daniu.
As expected, Zhang Daniu was initially taken aback upon hearing this revelation. Once he comprehended the situation, his countenance darkened. “Xiaoloong, are you playing around? You’ve grown up, haven’t you? Why haven’t you compensated Old Zhuzi?”
“Tsk, what are you doing? Zhang Daniu, it seems you’ve matured,” Wang Tiezhu retorted indignantly. “Have you learned to intimidate children? I’ve already told you that Xiaoloong is not just your son; he represents the hope of all of Qinghe Village. Putting aside the notion of him becoming the top scholar, you, a thick-skulled individual, should never consider starting a greenhouse. You’ll only discourage Qinghe Village’s hope. Wait and see if the older and younger generations come to settle accounts with you!”
“Uncle Zhu Zi, that’s not my point. I mean, this young one here can be quite clueless at times. He even messes up the order of seniority, which can be quite amusing,” Zhang Daniu explained with a wry smile.
“You’re a bit old-fashioned, Uncle. Our two families won’t be tallying up generations anytime soon. What’s the point of fixating on this notion of seniority?” Wang Tiezhu earnestly lectured the others, having no recollection of his demeanor from the previous night. “Plus, it was Aunt Zhu who raised the issue and sought him out. We need to find Aunt Zhu if anything. We can’t blame the child for this.”
“But… well…” Zhang Daniu was momentarily at a loss for words.
“If you’re thirsty, go grab a drink. Do you expect me to fetch it for you?” Wang Tiezhu chuckled and gave Zhang Daniu’s shoulder a pat. “Alright, Da Niu, we need to broaden our horizons a bit. City folks lead different lives and have more advanced perspectives than us. If you can’t make the right decision, we’ll handle things in our own way. No need to discuss it further.”
After Wang Tiezhu left, Zhang Daniu detained his son and asked, “What’s the whole story behind this?”
Zhang Xiaoloong appeared troubled. “Honestly, I’m not entirely sure myself. Grandma Zhu did mention it yesterday, but I thought she was just joking. In any case, it’s all in the past now.”
He had assumed that brushing it off would suffice. Little did he know that she had confided in Grandpa Zhu Zi about it, and even more surprisingly, Grandpa Zhu Zi had agreed. It was quite a rarity.
When Zhang Daniu and his wife heard about it, they also felt their son had taken it too lightly. But when Lee Xiulian broached the subject, it carried a different weight.
Since Grandpa Zhu Zi, the one who had suffered a loss, remained silent, what else could they say?
“You seem to have quite an appeal with the ladies,” Yang Jingjing, who had just pieced together the events, teased. “Just last night, you stepped out briefly, and even that middle-aged woman was captivated by you.”
“Why do you journalists always tend to exaggerate?” Zhang Xiaoloong was quite familiar with the charming reporter and didn’t mind her playful jest. “Alright, dear reporter, you can stay home if you like. But if you do come with me, you’ll get firsthand details about my upcoming vegetable project from my mother. Interested?”
“Even though I’d find it more enjoyable chatting with Auntie, I’ll give in to your request,” Yang Jingjing promptly agreed, turning her attention towards getting ready.
Zhang Xiaoloong chuckled, having already anticipated her choice. Seeing how they talked until they fell asleep, he had no doubt his mother would reveal all, even if he had some secrets.
Her involvement in his plans would certainly add a touch of allure.
The reason Zhang Xiaoloong invited her along was to leverage Yang Jingjing’s role as a reporter. He hoped that with her camera and words, his vegetables could truly become a renowned brand. Perhaps through her reporting, his produce could quickly gain nationwide recognition.
It didn’t take long before the two of them reached the barren land, situated two miles to the west of the village.
“Is this the land you intend to lease?” Although Zhang Xiaoloong had described it as desolate, Yang Jingjing was still taken aback by the barrenness that lay before her.
The ground was strewn with decayed rocks, some on the surface and others buried beneath it. They came in various sizes and states of decay. Pockmarks and uneven terrain covered the area. The idea of cleaning up this place alone was a daunting prospect for Yang Jingjing.
Now, Zhang Xiaoloong was expressing his intention to cultivate vegetables and construct a greenhouse in this challenging landscape…
Before witnessing this scene, she had considered the idea quite appealing, aligning with Zhang Xiaoloong’s reputation as the top scorer in the college entrance examination. He possessed a daring spirit that set him apart from others.
However, upon witnessing the current state of this place, she felt a strong urge to caution Zhang Xiaoloong against hasty actions. The place appeared excessively desolate and barren, making it seem improbable for quality vegetables to thrive here.
“Indeed, this is the area I intend to lease, but I can’t afford all of it. For now, I’ll settle for ten acres and maintain the greenhouse size as before, covering just one acre.” Zhang Xiaoloong gestured towards the location ahead. “Despite its current state, give me a few days to clean it up, and you’ll witness a transformation. It will become the most enchanting vegetable garden in due time.”
“The most enchanting vegetable garden?” Yang Jingjing surveyed the lifeless, almost graveyard-like scene before her skeptically. She couldn’t fathom how such a place could yield the most beautiful vegetable garden.
“Yes, indeed. It will be the most beautiful vegetable garden, capable of producing the most delectable produce. Have you ever tasted my family’s corn porridge? If I told you this creation would surpass even that, would you believe me?” Zhang Xiaoloong inquired.
“I find it hard to believe,” Yang Jingjing promptly shook her head. “I can’t imagine anything surpassing your porridge.”
“Well then, let’s make a bet this time,” Zhang Xiaoloong grinned. “A significant bet. Are you up for it?”
Yang Jingjing’s heart raced. What did he mean by a significant bet? Did it entail something as serious as surrendering herself to him if she lost?
“Tell me, how do you want to bet? What if you lose?”