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    Chapter 206: Proposal

    When Shen Lie and Shen Jin returned to the village in the late afternoon, the Xu and Lu families, who lived near the entrance, spotted them. They hurried out of their caves and, seeing that both were unscathed, with Shen Jin's slightly reddened eyes the only indication of his earlier turmoil, Xu Shopkeeper and Uncle Xu breathed a sigh of relief.

    No one asked about what had happened to the others. Looking at the snow covering Shen Lie and Shen Jin, Lu Erliang said, "Let’s talk tomorrow. The mountain has been battered by wind and snow all day. Hurry back to warm up."

    Shen Lie indeed worried about his family. He nodded at the others and, leading Shen Jin, strode towards their cave.

    Everyone was waiting for them. From afar, Sang Luo, Shen An, and Shen Ning saw them and got up to greet them. By the time they reached the entrance, Shen Lie had already brushed off the snow on his head and body. Then he went inside.

    The food was already prepared. Shen Ning started cooking while Shen Lie and Shen Jin put away their weapons. After washing their hands at the mountain spring, they returned to the cave.

    Seeing Shen An tending to the fire, Shen Ning and Sang Luo swiftly prepared dinner. Shen Lie approached and asked the three, "Were you scared this morning?"

    They had practiced martial arts for several months and hadn't missed any hunting opportunities, but it was their first time attacking humans, especially in such a chaotic situation.

    To be honest, they had spent a long time practicing archery and staff skills. In a real fight, there was no time for fear; instead, they felt a thrill from putting their training into action. However, Zheng Daniu's blow still made them shudder. If not for a deep-seated hatred, how could she have become so agitated? Thinking this, Shen An shook his head.

    Shen Ning and her second elder brother were alike in this regard: at first, they felt a twinge of trepidation, considering these to be truly wicked individuals. However, upon recalling the sweetness of their little sister, any unease dissipated. In fact, they found themselves rather excited at the prospect of confronting such villains for the first time. "Big Brother," she recounted, "there was one with a blade who charged straight at me and Sister Wen Yin. The three of us, together with Elder Brother Wen Hong, managed to knock him down flat."

    Noticing that she didn't seem frightened at all, Shen Lie wore a slight smile on his face. "Then put in more effort and practice well."

    Out in the world, those with ill intentions often target women and children, precisely because they are the least capable of defending themselves.

    As a professional novel translator, I will provide an elegant and contextually apt translation for each line. Please provide the lines you would like me to translate.

    San Luo was a woman of few words. After dinner and their evening ablutions, the children returned to their adjacent wooden huts and closed their doors. Only then did she ask Chen Lie, "Did you go to that village when you returned later?"

    On the return journey, they would pass by the villages where the Zhou and Feng families resided.

    Shen Lie nodded, then looked at Sang Luo. "Do you want to ask about the Zheng family?"

    Sang Luo recalled Zheng Datou's reaction when she saw the three men and one woman. At that moment, she didn't want to hear any more; she didn't dare to listen.

    She shook her head and wrapped her arms around Shen Lie's waist, burying her face in his shoulder.

    Shen Lie embraced her, remembering the partially concealed matters that Butcher Zheng had mentioned but not fully disclosed that afternoon. He held Sang Luo closer and fell silent for a while. Then, he lowered his head and asked, "I only have a hundred or so characters left in that scroll to read through. Would you like to teach me, Ah Luo?"

    In response, two arms reached up to wrap around his neck.

    All night, Sang Luo nestled in Shen Lie's embrace. Initially, he had genuinely been protective and caring. But as Sang Luo clung to him more than usual and even initiated a kiss, everything changed, becoming chaotic.

    Outside the cave was bitterly cold, but inside, it was scorching hot. So much so that tears welled up in Sang Luo's eyes. Apart from not crossing the final line, they were as close as could be.

    In the end, Shen Lie held the utterly limp Sang Luo, his voice hoarse as he pleaded softly into her ear, "A'Ro, will you marry me? We won't do anything, but I want to pay respects to heaven and earth with you, to let them know we're husband and wife. Will you?"

    Shen Lie couldn't shake off the thought that they hadn't gone through a formal ceremony. Even without their elders, he wanted the heavens and earth to bear witness.

    Sang Luo was devoid of strength and consciousness, lacking even the energy to lift a finger. After a moment, she leaned closer, their noses touching. A muffled "yes" was lost between their lips.

    Sang Luo realized that consummating their relationship wouldn't change much. Her desire for Shen Lie was undeniable, and her emotions and longing intertwined, growing harder to suppress each day. Restraint seemed to be consuming her.


    After the incident the previous day, the villagers, Zhou family, and scattered mountain dwellers placed even greater importance on training. Although they maintained their distance, all understood that their bond had strengthened. In a real crisis, they would be there to support one another.

    Outskirts Village now had seven large blades, plus those Shen Lie and his companions had retrieved during their earlier rescue mission in the county town. There were now over a dozen military knives in total.

    The children continued to learn stick techniques, while the gifted youths like Shen Lie and Chen Dashan began to be instructed in saber skills alongside them.

    Thanks to that encounter, Xu Manager, Uncle Xu, Chen Youtian, Zhou Dalang, and the Gans, who had always been more enthusiastic about gathering than martial arts, also joined in the training. Winter was a slow season for work anyway, and their figures soon became fixtures in daily drills.

    With a new concern weighing on his mind, Shen Lie waited patiently for days until all the snow had melted, ensuring that no traces would be left behind when entering or exiting the valley at night. That very evening, he sneaked into the entrance.

    Old Man Chen and Old Man Lu were too old for such endeavors, so most of the time, it was Village Chief Zhou who guarded the valley. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that he lived in the large cave near the entrance, where he had a makeshift shelter, a bed, bedding, and all other necessities.

    Shen Lie came in at night, but not to deliver anything; instead, he sought out Village Chief Zhou to borrow a copy of the Great Qian Calendar from him.

    Village Chief Zhou was taken aback and momentarily failed to grasp the situation. He instinctively asked about the purpose, but since they couldn't hold any grand ceremonies in the mountains, and Sanluo preferred to keep things low-key, Shen Lie didn't go into details.

    Seeing that Shen Lie wasn't forthcoming, Village Chief Zhou didn't press the matter. Instead, he simply fetched the calendar after securing a rope, returning shortly with the book in hand. He stared at Shen Lie for a long moment before suddenly saying, "Your auntie reminded me. Have you and A Luo not yet performed the marriage ceremony?"

    Women tended to be more observant and meticulous when it came to such matters. The original Shen family's grass hut only had one room, which must have been quite cramped for four people. After seeking refuge in the mountains, they all shared a cave, and Sanluo never seemed to have styled her hair in the manner of a married woman.

    Suddenly borrowing a calendar — what could it be for? For ordinary folk like them, it was usually used to choose auspicious dates or check farming seasons. With the recent Chen family wedding, it wasn't difficult to guess Shen Lie's intentions now.

    Shen Lie's eyes lit up with amusement at being guessed correctly. "Yes, but we don't have any parents or elders left. It wouldn't be suitable to hold a grand ceremony in the mountains. A Luo prefers to keep things simple, just the two of us paying respects to heaven and earth."

    A smile danced in Zhou Cunzheng's eyes as he handed the almanac to Shen Lie. He also gave him a bag of dates and a fresh red string, saying, "Feel free to consult the almanac, and consider the red string a gift. It was purchased by my second daughter-in-law and has never been used. Your aunt asked me to deliver it to you. Life in the mountains may be tough, but don't neglect the hair-tying ceremony."

    Shen Lie's eyes lit up with joy at the sight of the red string. "Thank you, Uncle Zhou."

    Zhou Cunzheng patted him on the shoulder with a grin. "Go now, live happily with Ah Luo, and grow old together."

    With a radiant smile, Shen Lie carefully put away the red string before leaving for the cave. His eyes shimmered as he eagerly asked Sang Luo to help him choose a date.

    Sang Luo couldn't help laughing when she saw how eagerly he waited for the snow to melt so he could borrow the Zhou family's almanac. She wrapped her arms around Shen Lie's neck, leaned in, and kissed his cheek. Naturally, he pulled her into his embrace, opened the almanac, and earnestly asked her to pick a date.

    Their faces pressed against each other, their whispers were intimate and sweet.

    The chosen date was only three days away.

    Originally, no one had planned to notify others. They intended to bring Shen Yin and Shen Tie out the night before the ceremony, and have their own family witness their wedding to the heavens.

    But could the Zhou family keep this a secret? On the very night Shen Lie borrowed the almanac, news spread throughout the valley. Preparations for gifts were hastily made, and Zhou Cunzheng was tasked with delivering them under the cover of darkness, without informing Shen Lie and Sang Luo. The gifts were given to those who lived outside the valley, asking them to deliver them on the right day.

    In the Chen family, Shen Lie's generous gift from the past was still remembered. Upon receiving the news, Chen Youtian's first thought was to find his son and confirm the date. He urged Chen Dashan to find something nice for the occasion.

    When Chen Dashan heard that Shen Lie was getting married, he was utterly stunned.

    He momentarily set aside the issue of propriety and hurriedly found Shen Lie, pulling him aside to a quiet spot. "You're getting married? Wait, you haven't yet? No, you aren't...?"

    He had intended to ask if Shen Lie hadn't already gotten married long ago.

    Then it dawned on him that Shen Lie had only brought back a wife, but hadn't gone through any formal wedding ceremony with Sang Luo.

    Slapping his forehead, he chuckled. "Ah, looks like I beat you to it after all."

    He was almost laughing out loud with his hands on his hips.

    Shen Lie was in a good mood, and besides, his Aro was so kind-hearted that she didn't bother to argue with the naive Chen Dashan. He simply asked, "Did Uncle Zhou tell you?"

    Given that he had borrowed the almanac last night and Chen Dashan had shown up early this morning, it was clear that Village Chief Zhou had informed everyone.

    Sang Luo's hope for a quiet, low-key ceremony seemed dashed, but Shen Lie was still delighted. The only thing that might make them a bit uncomfortable would be the instinctive reaction of others, similar to Chen Dashan's—had they not consummated their marriage?

    Shen Lie suspected that this might be one reason why Sang Luo was hesitant to announce their marriage publicly, given the circumstances in the mountains.

    However, things seemed to be working out well now, and that was all that mattered.

    With Shen Lie in high spirits, Chen Dashan was equally delighted. "Which day did you choose? I'll also get some nice things for you and your wife."

    Smiling, Shen Lie shared the date, and Chen Dashan promised to wait before heading home to inform Chen Youtian about Shen Lie's wedding plans. He then told Zhou Ge that he would be going out for a while, grabbed his knife and bow, and called Xu Wenqing along before rushing off.

    The night before the wedding, Shen Lie fetched Shen Yin and Shen Tie. It was only then that the Shen siblings learned that their eldest brother and sister-in-law were planning a wedding ceremony.

    Both Shen An and Shen Ning were ecstatic, bustling around to ask Gan Shi what they could do to help. This caught Gan Shi off guard, as they were currently hiding in the mountains with scarce resources. After some thought, she instructed Shen Ning to scatter more red dates on Sang Luo's bed and taught the siblings to say auspicious words for good luck.

    Thus, when the actual wedding day arrived, Sang Luo was surprised to find that everyone had come bearing gifts, indicating that they were aware of the ceremony. Filled with joy, she received the presents and expressed her gratitude.

    Chen Dashan and Xu Wenqing returned in the late afternoon, both grinning as they carried a deer. Xu Wenqing was oblivious, but Chen Dashan pulled Shen Lie aside, chuckling. "Don't think badly of your brother, alright? You must have heard this in the military – venison is great stuff. Eat plenty tonight."

    Shen Lie nearly choked. These days, he felt his blood rush to his nose every day, and the thought of eating deer meat didn't sit well with him.

    Although he wanted to give Chen Dashan some advice, he realized it wasn't appropriate for him, as a man, to discuss such matters regarding another couple. Instead, he planned to let Sang Luo discreetly mention it to Zhou Ge one day.

    Unbeknownst to him, Chen Dashan had the exact same plan in mind. Upon returning home, he approached his wife and asked her to secretly teach Sangluo the contraceptive method that her mother had taught her.

    Zhou Ge: "…Alright."

    Under Chen Dashan's persistent urging, he had no choice but to head to the Shen family's cave.

    When Sangluo found out that Zhou Ge was coerced by Chen Dashan to teach her the contraceptive method passed down from 'Zhou Ge's mother,' she couldn't help but burst into laughter. It was just the two of them in the cave, and they both chuckled until their shoulders trembled.


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