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    Chapter 230 - The Governor's Wife

    Sanshuo instinctively halted her steps, and without intentionally eavesdropping, she heard someone nearby asking a question.

    Someone who had been at the city gate earlier replied, "The one who just rode out on horseback must be the governor, right? I heard someone announce the arrival of the governor's wife as they entered the city."

    "But, how many carriages and horses is she bringing along? What kind of background does this governor's wife have? Such grandeur?"

    "How would we know? But to become a governor's wife, she can't possibly come from an ordinary family."

    Sanshuo exchanged a glance with Shen Lie, who said, "Let's go. We should head back before the convoy arrives. We can still see everything from the entrance of our estate."

    Older Madam Chen was only there for some entertainment. Although she was curious about the governor's wife, the safety of her granddaughter-in-law and Sanshuo mattered far more.

    With the wisdom of an elderly person, she knew it was best to avoid crowded places, especially since there were two pregnant women with them. They hurried along.

    ...

    The entrance of Daxing Estate was right next to the main road. At the corner where the main road connected to the entrance of the city, there was a side path leading directly to the estate's entrance, providing the perfect spot to observe both the main road and city gate activities.

    The vantage point was excellent, and it was absolutely safe.

    When Sang Luo and the others returned to the dirt road outside Daxing Village, the head of the convoy they had seen from afar was already very close to the village. The banner with the Fan family's emblem fluttered in the wind.

    It was truly the wife of the governor, from the Chenliu Fan family.

    Though noble ladies could no longer openly maintain their personal soldiers, they could still dress their servants in similar attire. Although she couldn't see the full extent of the procession, it was clear that the convoy was substantial. Recalling the endless line of carriages at the city gate, Sang Luo found it hard to imagine the scale of the Chenliu Fan family.

    From her fleeting glimpse earlier, she sensed a sense of extravagance and flamboyance, yet it didn't quite align with her impression of the original inhabitant of this body. While the original Sang Luo didn't know much about the Chenliu Fan family, she did know that they had a good reputation.

    As the hundred-man vanguard passed by, Sang Luo caught sight of a carriage bearing the Fan family crest. It was grand but not overly ostentatious. Most importantly, the former governor rode alongside, his conversation with a young, spirited woman visible through the lifted curtain of the carriage window. Her features exuded a touch of heroism.

    This must be the governor's wife, Sang Luo surmised.

    Judging by the carriage alone, this governor's wife didn't seem to be the flashy or arrogant type.

    Sang Luo felt a slight relief. The conduct and character of a region's governing officials were crucial to its citizens, and the same applied to their families.

    As Fan's convoy passed, Sang Luo and Shen Lie witnessed the endless carts filled with supplies, finally understanding the grandeur of the procession. How much cargo had they brought? No wonder there were over a hundred guards in the vanguard.

    After the dozens of supply carts, the succeeding vehicles carried something else, causing Chen Po and Qin Fangniang's eyes to sparkle with excitement.

    Can you guess what it was?

    Chickens, ducks, geese, pigs, sheep...and cows!

    Cows!

    Cows!

    Though young geese and piglets were rare too, they were nothing compared to cows! When had cows ever been considered rare?

    Spring plowing was imminent, and a single ox could replace several laborers.

    Sang Luo couldn't help but feel thrilled, while beside her, Shen Ning's eyes gleamed even brighter. The young girl was skilled at raising poultry, thus she cherished these creatures. While her family had chickens and ducks, they couldn't find any place to buy geese.

    What moved Sang Luo even more was that following the long line of cooped-up poultry, piglets in dozens of carts, and the marching herd of cattle, there were also hundreds of displaced civilians.

    Indeed, they were refugees, and on such a chilly day, Sang Luo even spotted several men with empty sleeves.

    Shen Lie observed in silence. When he reached the end of the procession, he softly said, "There are roughly two hundred attendants and six hundred soldiers. As for the refugees, including those helping to push the carts, there are probably about three hundred."

    Sang Luo was surprised. With eight hundred guards and the courage to bring three hundred refugees while transporting such a large amount of supplies, this governor's wife had quite the audacity.

    Turning to Shen Ning, she said, "Go tell Shi Erzha and Aunt Zhou, as well as the other aunts and sisters-in-law, that many refugees have arrived outside the city. Ask them to come out and assess the situation."

    Shen Ning glanced at the ragged refugees who had just passed by and nodded before dashing back to the manor. Qin Fangniang, a step slower in comprehension, asked, "A'Nuo, are you saying... they're from our Shexian County?"

    San Luo did not nod but said, "It's merely a speculation. They might have been people who fled Xizhou during the turmoil or were taken away by the rebel forces. Of course, it could also be that I'm overthinking."

    She was reminded of Qiyang County, nearly emptied of its inhabitants.

    Back then, she had heard that the elders were slaughtered, while women, children, and able-bodied men were taken captive.

    Now that the rebel forces had been quelled, where were these people? How many others in Xizhou had been swept away by the chaos like the civilians of Qiyang County?

    Everyone yearned to return home. With the world on the verge of peace, if these refugees were originally from Xizhou, it would make sense that Lady Fan, being the wife of the governor of Xizhou, would dare and be capable of bringing so many back.

    ...

    The guards were settled by the governor's residence, while the six hundred soldiers were led to temporary quarters by the garrison. The refugees were not allowed in the city and gathered outside the gates. Chu Qiqiang, along with all the clerks from the financial department, set up makeshift offices with long tables outside the city. From Daxing Village to Xizhou City, the area was now bustling with activity.

    The Shi and Zhou families arrived promptly, their hands still muddy, indicating they had rushed down from the mountain. Upon hearing the news, Manager Xu also joined them, concerned not for his family but for his former colleagues at Dongfulou restaurant.

    Seeing the multitude of refugees, everyone held on to a faint hope, rushing to the city gates to search for their loved ones.

    Sang Luo and Zhou Ge didn't stay long. They returned to the village first. As they approached Chen's house, Old Lady Chen pulled Sang Luo aside and whispered, "The snow has melted for two days, but the mountains are still slippery. Stay at home, don't venture out into the fields or the mountains."

    "For the first three months, the pregnancy isn't stable. You shouldn't announce it yet, just keep it between yourselves, understand?"

    Sang Luo smiled and agreed. She then instructed Shen Lie and Shen Ning, "Due to morning sickness, she can't tolerate strong smells – meat, fish, or cooking fumes. Don't let A Luo do any kitchen work for a while. You two need to take care of that."

    Shen Lie and Shen Ning eagerly agreed.

    Old Lady Chen, thinking of nothing else to say, sent them off with a smile. She was eager to return home and share the joyous news of an impending grandchild with her husband and son, hoping to bring them happiness too.

    Sang Luo bid farewell to the Chens with a smile and returned home, where an anxious Shen An hurried to greet her at the door.

    "Big brother, what did the physician say? What's wrong with Big Sister-in-law?"

    Shen Lie didn't dare let Sang Luo enter the kitchen again. Instead, he led everyone straight to their own quarters, with Shen An following along.

    Shen Ning wore a joyful smile. Seeing that no one was around, she leaned towards her second brother and whispered, "Big Sister-in-law is pregnant, so the smell of meat makes her nauseous. That's why she's been vomiting. Did you touch the fish? If you did, don't get too close to her."

    Shen An's eyes widened in surprise. "No, I haven't had the chance to cut it yet."

    He then became excited. "Am I going to have a little nephew?"

    Sang Luo looked at him. "Why a nephew? Don't you like nieces?"

    Shen An chuckled. "A niece is fine too. Both nephews and nieces are great."

    Overwhelmed with joy, he circled around his big sister-in-law.

    Smelling his own hands while still keeping a distance of three steps from his wife, Shen Lie muttered, "..."

    He felt envious.

    He turned to fetch water to wash his hands, repeating the process several times and sniffing after each rinse. He changed the water and washed again, almost wishing he could scrub off a few layers of skin.

    Sang Luo chuckled softly.

    Shen Ning also smiled but then thought of something, pulling Shen An aside to instruct him, "You mustn't mention this to anyone outside. Old Aunt Chen said that we're not supposed to talk about it for the first three months."

    Shen An didn't inquire about the consequences of divulging the information. Instead, he simply nodded, indicating that he had taken note of the warning.

    Shen Lie washed for quite some time, changing the water multiple times and sniffing his hands repeatedly. Only when he was certain that there was no trace of odor did he cautiously approach Sang Luo a little closer.

    Sang Luo smiled and gently pulled the person closer. "Alright, I've seen you change three pots of water."

    Shen Lie's heart raced as she was so close. He tentatively raised his right hand to touch her abdomen.

    In reality, it was no different from usual, but he was delighted. He even forgot that Shen An and Shen Ning were still there. Smiling, he embraced Sang Luo in his arms.

    Shen An and Shen Ning exchanged glances, then the siblings laughed and withdrew.

    Shen Ning was meticulous. Returning to the kitchen, she saw that her second brother had already started steaming the rice, and various vegetables and tofu were prepared. Recalling that her sister-in-law couldn't tolerate the smell of fish, and Old Grandma Chen also mentioned her intolerance to cooking fumes, Shen Ning, to be on the safe side, closed all the doors and windows in the kitchen, leaving only the back window open. Worried that Shen An might also get tainted by the smell of cooking fumes, she promptly pushed him out too, before starting to cook.

    Shen Ning truly had a knack for cooking. She stir-fried some greens, braised tofu with scallions, and simmered a fish head and tofu soup on another stove. As for the extra fish meat, she seasoned it with salt to be eaten the next day.

    Three simple dishes were prepared.

    Fish head and tofu soup was known for its nourishing properties, so she didn't skimp on the ginger slices. However, when Shen An brought it over, she couldn't even manage two sips before retching again.

    This panicked both Shen Lie and Shen An. They hastily removed the fish soup, but whether it was due to the soup's stimulus or her inability to eat in the first place, she couldn't stomach anything—be it tofu, greens, or plain rice. Even when Shen Lie offered her a glass of warm water to soothe her, the mere thought of drinking made her nauseous.

    She had lost all appetite.

    Worried, Shen Lie knitted his brows. "How can you not eat? That won't do."

    Sang Luo weakly waved him off. "It's fine if I miss a meal, but I really can't tolerate this smell. Just don't force me to eat, and everything will be okay."

    Realizing her words were impulsive, she added, mindful of the child within her, "I'll try again when I'm hungry."

    For dinner, she only managed to drink a sip of fish soup and take two bites of greens.

    Seeing her severe reaction, Shen Lie didn't dare push her. He returned the food to the kitchen and accompanied Sang Luo for a while. Once he saw that she was slightly better, he left, neglecting his own meal, to seek advice from the Chen family.

    Upon arriving at the Chen family's, Zhou Ge's condition wasn't much better. Fortunately, Mother Chen and Qin Fangniang were experienced in such matters. Qin Fangniang took care of Zhou Ge while Mother Chen went into the kitchen to prepare a bowl of freshly stir-fried shredded pickles for Shen Lie.

    "First, ask Ah Luo to calm down. Now that she's feeling nauseous, anything she eats might make her throw up. Later, when she gets hungry, cook some plain congee and serve it with a small plate of pickles for her to try."

    With gratitude, Shen Lie thanked Qin Fangniang profusely before carrying the bowl of pickles back home.

    Upon returning, he discovered that there were guests at home – Shopkeeper Xu, the Zhou family, and the Shi family members were all present. San Luo was attending to them. Thankfully, there were many people, so they were standing outside to chat.

    Shen Lie instinctively looked for San Luo, and seeing that her complexion had improved slightly, he felt relieved. He greeted everyone and quickly walked over to the kitchen to place the bowl on a plate and cover it. Then, he turned around and asked, "How is it?"

    The villagers all shook their heads. Village Head Zhou confirmed, "They're indeed from Shezhou, and some from Qiyang County as well. But none of them are familiar to us."

    Shen Lie remained silent for a moment before he said, "It might be a good thing. Back then, they all received news and fled into the mountains. This group probably returned from elsewhere."

    Scholar Shi's second son's wife commented, "A'luo also said the same. I think so too. I heard this batch came back from neighboring provinces."

    "That far away?"

    Shopkeeper Xu nodded. "Some might have escaped, while others were taken away by the rebel soldiers. Our Governor's Lady is impressive. Not only did she bring her guards, but she somehow borrowed troops. Once they entered Huainan Road, they asked every refugee if there were any Shezhou people. Whenever they found one, she would reveal her identity as the Governor's Lady and recruit them all."

    "Transporting such a multitude of livestock to Xizhou and making it clear that they're for the people there – with the recruited refugees originally hailing from Xizhou, who wouldn't yearn to return to their homeland?"

    Master Xu inquired of Sangluo, "From what you heard the other day from the Governor, you and the Governor's wife could be considered half-hometown companions. Had you heard of her reputation before?"

    Sangluo shook her head. "I seldom left home during my maiden days, so I'm not very acquainted with the Chenliu Fan family. However, I did have a glimpse of the goods transported by the convoy today. Whether it's a loan or a sale, with a governor's wife who cares about the livelihood of the people, the future seems brighter for the people of Xizhou."

    Recalling the resolute expression of the woman she had seen in one of the carriages, a smile graced Sangluo's face, and the discomfort from the dinner incident earlier dissipated significantly. Only four words surfaced in her mind – heroine among women.

    This term seemed to perfectly suit the governor's wife.

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