Please update your browser: Your browser is obsolete, you need to update or switch! Missing var() support! Missing grid support! Missing (flex-) gap support! Missing aspect-ratio support! Missing container query support! Missing clamp() support! Missing -webkit-line-clamp support!
    Header Background Image


    The world's first crowdsourcing-driven asian bl novel translation community

    Chapter 209 - Bestowing Land

    Specific details needed to be discussed and deliberated upon. In the grassy hall where villagers usually gathered for reading sessions and where Shopkeeper Xu would impart business wisdom to the children, not only were the elders and young men from Outskirts Village present, but also the heads of the Feng, Zheng, Zhou, and Gan households, who had hastily rushed over upon hearing the news.

    Outskirts Village no longer needed to be overly cautious. Ever since the villagers, young and old, had moved out of the valley, Lu Widow, Madam Xu, and others, who rarely ventured out, had gradually begun to interact with their neighbors from nearby villages. When Feng Liu's wife discovered she was pregnant in the summer, Lu Widow had invited her mother-in-law to visit. After Feng's mother came once and found that her previous assumptions were wrong, it seemed there was no reason for them not to frequently visit each other. Later on, Gan's mother and Zhou Lazi's wife occasionally dropped by as well, and the interactions between the two sides became more frequent.

    As such, when the families from the neighboring villages arrived, Shen Jin and Shi Erniu, who were practicing staff and saber techniques outside, led them into the grassy hall. They remained there until dusk.

    The following morning, Shen Lie and Manager Xu set off with some dry rations and water, bearing the hopes and anxieties of both villages as they left the inner perimeter.


    Not far from Xizhou City, nearly a year and a half later, Manager Xu once again encountered an old acquaintance, a manager from the Wang family who had a good relationship with both him and the Wei family.

    The manager was in his forties, accompanied by a young man in his twenties. Upon recognizing Manager Xu, he smiled and hurried over. "I recognized your handwriting and guessed it was you."

    Manager Xu hurried to greet him, addressing him as Manager Wang, and also called out the name of the young man standing behind the manager, who turned out to be his son.

    Manager Wang sized up Manager Xu from head to toe, noting his healthy appearance, seemingly better than the last time they met. He felt relieved and inquired, "How are Seventh Young Master, Qinghe, and your young ones?"

    Wang Yunzheng was the seventh child in the Wang family, thus 'Seventh Young Master' referred to him.

    Manager Xu smiled and nodded. "Thanks to your blessings, all is well."

    After exchanging a few pleasantries and introducing Shen Lie, they delved into business. Manager Xu retrieved the flyers he had copied and handed them to Manager Wang. "Manager Wang, I ventured out specifically because of this. I wish to inquire about the current situation outside. Is it safe for me to be here now?"

    Manager Wang flipped through the papers, his face lighting up with a smile. "You're well-informed."

    Folding the papers neatly, he returned them to Manager Xu. "Our current ruler is competent and has a broad-mindedness. Do you know how the previous Chu King was captured?"

    "Really? How?"

    "King Qi's reputation was too formidable, and he had the people's support. Several key generals of the former Chu King surrendered to King Qi on the battlefield. When leaders surrender, the troops lose morale. The capture of the Chu King required minimal effort. So, how long do you think Chen Kingdom can hold out? The war in the north has been raging for almost five years. Aren't the soldiers exhausted?"

    J Shen Lie raised an eyebrow. "If King Qi treats the surrendering generals kindly, the soldiers of the Chen Kingdom might lose heart even before engaging in battle, given King Qi's current momentum."

    Manager Wang laughed. "Exactly my point. Our King Qi doesn't discriminate when it comes to using talents. Moreover, after two years, the situation is nearly settled. What's the point of stubborn resistance? It's a meaningless death if they're wiped out. Surrendering could secure their future. It wouldn't be in vain to have risked their lives these past few years. Therefore, I believe peaceful days are approaching. Given the current state, even if another figure like King Qi emerged, I doubt they could stir up significant turmoil."

    Times create heroes, but that opportunity has passed. Besides, Prince Qi was no ordinary citizen; he was an influential nobleman with power, military authority, courage, wisdom, and ambition. How could it be easy to produce another such figure?

    Shen Lie and Manager Xu exchanged glances, both understanding the situation.

    If Chen Kingdom were also annexed, the warfare would cease. At this point, conscription was out of the question. The existing soldiers were already vying for credit; there was no need to involve more people.

    Unless, like the emperor of Great Kan, one ignored the welfare of the people and ignited wars. But after all these years of turmoil in Great Kan, followed by over four years of conflict, how could the kingdom still afford to launch campaigns east and west? Assuming the emperor had a sound mind, they could enjoy a decade or more of peace. Could there be a time decades later when the entire nation would be mobilized for war? Who could tell? Why worry about uncertainties beforehand?

    Manager Xu asked, "Manager Wang, I wonder how the returned refugees are being settled. The proclamation doesn't provide details."

    Manager Wang chuckled. "The edict was issued recently, and it hasn't been long since it was posted in our area. You must have copied it back a few days ago, right? The specific regulations were only released a few days prior. Come with me to see them."

    As he led the two men towards the notice board outside the city, he continued, "Actually, if you had waited two more days, there would have been designated officials for settling the people at the city gates. There's currently a shortage of manpower, especially farmers. I've read the notice – all returning refugees will be settled in villages near their respective counties, provided with grain relief, and allocated land. They'll also be exempt from labor services and taxes for three years."

    By the time they arrived at the notice board, the outskirts of the city were deserted. There was nobody around the board, so the four of them didn't need to push through the crowd. Shen Lie glanced over and immediately focused on the newest notice, reading several lines at once. As Manager Wang had said, when he reached the part about the land allocation, his pace slowed down significantly.

    "Forty mu of land for able-bodied men?" Shen Lie wondered if he was seeing things. He turned to Manager Wang and asked, "May I ask how many households are currently in Xizhou City?"

    The smile on Manager Wang's face faded as he lowered his gaze before answering, "Less than one thousand five hundred."

    Shopkeeper Xu looked at him in astonishment. Manager Wang sighed. "This is already excellent. The Qiyang County you used to be in is now in ruins. The nearby smaller counties probably don't have more than eight or nine hundred households left. In these few years, there have been several batches of rebel armies passing through, killing and capturing people. Even though Prince Chu has done something about it, the fields within the city are barren, and those outside have been abandoned without anyone cultivating them. After a few years, how could there still be any stored grain? Countless people have starved to death. Our family only managed to survive safely thanks to the grace of our lord."

    A moment of silence ensued.

    Shen Lie turned his gaze back to the notice and asked, "It says here that there are ten mu of permanent fields and thirty mu of allocation fields. Can Manager Wang enlighten me as to what constitutes a permanent field and what an allocation field?"

    Official Wang stated, "Previously, I heard it from the bailiff who posted the notices that once the hereditary land is allocated to you, it becomes yours, to be passed down to your descendants or sold at your discretion. You may cultivate whatever you see fit on it. As for the allotted land, however, it remains under imperial ownership, stipulating that only grain crops may be grown and it cannot be traded. Upon your demise, this land must be returned to the court."

    Shen Lie took note, finishing reading the notice, only to hear Manager Wang say, "Your return now is most opportune. As it happens, not all residents within Shezhou City are indigenous inhabitants. Among them are those from neighboring villages who were brought in by government orders, as well as vagrants. But you're aware that some of these houses have become ownerless. These people have occupied them for years and now stubbornly refuse to vacate. The authorities have offered them land outside the city, but they would rather starve than give up the dwellings they've claimed within Shezhou."

    "Foolishness, indeed. The new administration is still occupied. Once they have the leisure to sort through the previous dynasty's records and reclaim unaccounted-for lands, these territories won't be up for grabs by just anyone. Hence, it's wise to venture out of the mountains now, while the good land outside the city remains unclaimed. This way, one can seize the opportunity first."

    Glancing at Shen Lie, he continued. He had learned from Merchant Xu last year that their family had relied on the protection of two young men who had returned from the northern battlefield to seek refuge in the mountains. Thus, he advised, "The grand estates outside Shezhou City are now in the hands of the court."

    Shopkeeper Xu immediately lifted his gaze to look at Manager Wang. "You're saying that…" He was aware that the Wang family alone had no less than thirty large estates outside the city.

    Wang the Shopkeeper nodded and said, "Or do you suppose that the affluent families in the city have managed to safeguard their kin all these years by some other means?"

    At first, it was a matter of providing grain and money. But when it came to Prince Qi, how could those grandees who had previously pledged allegiance to King Chu expect to escape unscathed without showing genuine remorse? To safeguard their families, as well as their urban properties, they must have surrendered countless manors outside the city walls.

    Master Xu understood and replied, "I assume the authorities wouldn't release such a settlement easily, right?"

    These were prime resources that any administration would strive to retain.

    Manager Wang glanced at Master Xu and Shen Lie and asked, "May I ask how many people reside in your mountain village?"

    Before they could answer, he continued, "It's not out of curiosity. You might not be aware, but currently, the top priority for the government is resettling displaced people. It's related to officials' performance evaluations. If you have a large population, it might be possible for our master to negotiate on your behalf."

    This would also provide an opportunity for their master to build connections with the new administration. Manager Wang assumed he would be willing to do so, but as a servant, it was somewhat inappropriate for him to suggest it directly.

    Despite their different social statuses, Master Xu, being a shopkeeper, was no fool. He caught on with just a glance. Both his and Shen Lie's eyes lit up.

    Indeed, they had quite a number of people.

    Master Xu expressed gratitude, "Thank you for informing us. We'll need to discuss this with everyone before deciding. We'll return immediately. If we do decide to come out, I hope you can pass on my request to your master and arrange a meeting. I'll rely on my old face to ask him to speak on our behalf."

    Manager Wang chuckled, "That can be arranged."

    After bidding farewell, Shen Lie and Master Xu hurried back.

    "Forty acres of land?"

    The group of farmers shot up, and Old Man Chen's lips quivered. "How many acres?"

    He felt like his ears were playing tricks on him.

    Shen Lie repeated himself, "Forty acres, ten as permanent land, and thirty as assigned land."

    He explained the difference between permanent land and assigned land.

    Old Man Lu's hands trembled. "That can't be right, can it? Forty acres for every able-bodied man?"

    He calculated his own family: himself, his second son, his third son, and if nothing happened to the eldest, he could count as one too. Wouldn't that mean 160 acres just for their family?

    Shen Lie said, "Don't get too ahead of yourselves. There are many mountains around here, so most of this so-called land might be mountainous. Plus, there's a three-year exemption from labor service and taxes, but after that, you'll still have to pay what's due. You'll need to pay taxes on however much land you have then."

    Sangluo believed it because in her original timeline, such situations did exist. In Tang Dynasty, the allocation was even more unbelievable, a hundred acres per person.

    In reality, those who genuinely received a hundred mu were only those during the initial turmoil when the population sharply declined and vast fields were abandoned. As time progressed and the Tang dynasty's population rapidly increased, it became increasingly difficult for later generations to obtain that much land. Yet, the land taxes were still collected based on the original hundred mu. It was no surprise...

    But that was a matter for the future. At present, for families like the Chens, Lus, and Shis, who possessed only a few meager acres of land and had to lease more from wealthy landlords each year, the prospect of a male head of household receiving forty mu was nothing short of ecstatic.

    They were so overjoyed that they couldn't believe their luck.

    It wasn't until Shen Lie announced the remaining number of people outside that the crowd finally fell silent, now convinced of the truth.

    Having listened for a while, Shen Jin asked, "Big Brother, what about families like ours with three who haven't reached adulthood? Will we receive any land?"

    Shen Lie smiled and replied, "Yes, if you're the head of the household, you'll also receive land according to the male population."

    Upon hearing that their family would also receive land, Shen Jin, Shen Yin, and Shen Tie couldn't help but burst into laughter.

    Having gathered all the information from outside, the decision to leave or not became crystal clear.


    The battle outside was almost over. With forty mu of land allocated per able-bodied man, there was still a chance to acquire better quality land and more favorable locations. It would be foolish not to leave now.

    Madam Feng stroked her belly and exchanged a knowing glance with Second Master Lu. The couple couldn't help but laugh together.

    They had already been quite restrained, but after such a long time, how could they truly endure it? Especially now that the whole family was living together. Although a few village elders were capable of assisting in childbirth, living in this mountainous area with limited access to medicine, Madam Feng couldn't help but worry since she became pregnant. Now, with the chance to leave, she felt reassured.

    Almost simultaneously, Mother Chen and Mother Lu called out to their sons, "Go, send a message to the neighboring village!"

    Big Son Shi smiled and said, "I'll go with you."


    Enter your details or log in with:
    Heads up! Your comment will be invisible to other guests and subscribers (except for replies), including you after a grace period. But if you submit an email address and toggle the bell icon, you will be sent replies until you cancel.