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    Chapter 238: The Flexi-Beam Plow (lightly revised)

    Shen Ning went out to feed the pigs. Not long after she carried the food bucket out, she rushed back, "Big Sister, Hu Zi's family is back."

    Hu Zi.

    The eldest branch of the Lu family?

    Yes, hadn't Second Brother and Third Brother Lu gone to receive them two months ago?

    Sang Luo lifted her gaze. "Is everyone back?"

    Shen Ning nodded. "Everyone's here, everyone's here."

    Wang Chunniang was no longer around—this was something Shen Ning had known for the past two years. When she said 'everyone's here,' she referred to the remaining members of the Lu family's main branch.

    Upon hearing that they were all present, Sang Luo nodded in relief. "That's good to know."

    No more words were needed.

    San Luo held the charcoal pencil tightly, still diligently sketching the drawing in front of her.

    It was a draft of a "flexible plow."

    Having lived in the mountains for several years, during the first year, she had been too preoccupied to tend to the fields. The elderly Chen and his family managed the land with the limited tools they had. The plot wasn't large, but there were many people. There was no need for a plow, nor did they possess one.

    After moving outside the village, San Luo was no longer required to oversee farming in the valley. Shen Lie, Shen An, and Shen Jin took charge of it all.

    It wasn't until they left the mountains that the spring plowing began, and the families discovered an old plow left behind by the Wangs in the village's toolshed. As San Luo ventured outdoors, she witnessed Shen Lie and the others at work.

    Human-powered plowing.

    Indeed, they were using people as oxen.

    There was only one ox in the village, so each family took turns using it. Relying on his strength, Shen Lie wanted to spare Zhao Da and Zhao Si some effort, so their family's turn was scheduled after he started attending the state academy.

    With nine households in the village, the weakest were the three Shen Jin brothers. Everyone looked out for them, so the ox was allocated to their family on the first day. Zhao Si taught Shen Jin how to guide the plow that very morning, while Shen Jin and Shen An learned together.

    San Luo observed, apart from Shen Jin's field, the uniform sight of human-powered plows across the other plots. For someone accustomed to modern machinery, the impact of that scene was something no one else could comprehend.

    A closer look would inevitably reveal the uniqueness of the plow.

    "Direct-plow," a traditional farming tool with an upright beam.

    The knowledge acquired from reading springs vividly to mind, cumbersome, laborious, and difficult to maneuver.

    As for the exact appearance of the Quyuan Plow, to be honest, her memory of it from textbooks had now faded into a vague outline. It was during those years living in the mountains when technology was less prevalent, and she had come across elderly villagers still using oxen and plows. She had seen them a few times, so upon reflection, she could recall some details.

    Currently, I am endeavoring to resurrect the treasures hidden deep within my memory.

    It was quite challenging, but having studied in her schooldays and having seen such tools in the past, she managed to roughly sketch it out, albeit with some difficulty. However, more intricate details needed further clarification.

    San Luo put down her pen and spoke to Shen Ning, "Ning, tell your brother when he comes back for lunch to bring one of our plows so I can take a look."

    Shen Ning knew that his sister-in-law had spent the entire morning pondering over plows. Although he was unsure why she was concerned about a plow since they already had one, he agreed without hesitation. Curious, he approached San Luo to examine her drawing, which was only half-finished. He noticed that it was visibly different from the usual plows he had seen. It seemed... more appealing?

    Aside from this observation, Shen Ning couldn't discern anything else. He asked San Luo what she wanted for lunch and, after receiving an answer, left her alone to convey the message to his brother in the fields.

    ...

    When Shen Lie returned in the afternoon, he carried back the plow he had used that morning, knowing that Sang Luo wanted to examine it. He had even washed off the yellow mud on the plow with water from the ditch, just for her.

    Sang Luo had initially put the matter aside and was sketching the floor plan of her house. Hearing the noise, she came out of the house and perked up when she saw the direct-plow. She retrieved the draft of the curved-plow and compared them, making a few adjustments to the details before handing it to Shen Lie. "Try building one using wood based on this blueprint? It's fine to start with a smaller version to test the carving."

    Shen Lie looked at the blueprint in his hand, finally understanding why Sang Luo had asked him to bring back the family's plow. After examining it closely for some time, he couldn't see any immediate advantages besides its aesthetics.

    "What's the difference between this and the one we're currently using?"

    Sang Luo wouldn't do anything meaningless, so Shen Lie straightaway asked.

    Sang Luo pointed to the blueprint and explained the main features roughly. At first, Shen Lie didn't quite understand the differences, but as he listened more attentively, he began to grasp the benefits. Not waiting for dinner, he called Shen An and they went to fetch wood.

    Instead of taking shortcuts by creating a smaller version, they directly followed the blueprint Sang Luo provided, roughly sizing the plow according to most people's height requirements. As soon as they carved the handle, Sang Luo noticed something amiss. She hesitated and said, "It might not work on the first try; there could be further modifications needed."

    But Shen Lie was unconcerned. "It doesn't matter about the extra time. It has to fit properly for experimentation."

    Especially since Sang Luo aimed to improve both the ease of use and the plow's functionality.

    Not wanting to delay farm work, they could only work on it during their spare time. They lit a fire behind the house at night, and the first plow was completed just before the end of the ninth hour of the night.

    It was well past midnight, but the brothers, invigorated by their creation, were oblivious to fatigue. Taking advantage of the moon's brightness, they carried the wooden plow to their own field for a trial cultivation.

    Xia Tian pulled the plow for a while, and Shen An was astonished. "Brother, it's more effortless to guide the plow."

    "I find plowing easier now, and it should be even more efficient with an iron plowshare."

    The brothers were somewhat exhilarated. Recalling Sangluo's mention of the sled's tendency to veer, they didn't stop but kept pulling it until they reached the end, attempting to turn it. In the dead of night, they couldn't help but laugh heartily in the field. Fortunately, their laughter wasn't too loud, and the nearest Chen family's house was still some distance away, thus preventing any disturbance.

    "This is excellent, it's so maneuverable!"

    With astonishment in his eyes, Shen An asked, "How did Elder Sister-in-law come up with this?"

    Shen Lie was also curious about the seemingly endless potential within Sang Luo.

    "Venture into deep plowing."

    Adapting the plow to his liking, he experimented with deep plowing before finally departing, content with his work.

    With mud caked onto my legs, I had to clean up thoroughly before I could finally settle down to sleep in the later hours of the night. I woke up early the next day, waiting for Sangluo to rise so I could show her the finished product and tell her that Jinhuan and I had already tried it out last night.

    Sang Luo: ...

    She looked at Shen Lie in surprise. "When did you two go to sleep last night?"

    It could have been around the third or even the fourth watch of the night.

    Was that something they should be talking about?

    Seeing Shen Lie clear his throat, Sang Luo more or less guessed the answer. She didn't press him further but turned her attention to the wooden plow instead.

    It was incredibly similar to what she remembered.

    After examining it several times, she said to Shen Lie, "Why don't you and Xiao An plow the field again while I watch?"

    At this, the brothers immediately abandoned their breakfast and carried the plow straight to the field. Shen Ning had been boiling porridge, but he turned down the fire and followed his eldest brother without hesitation.

    The sun had just risen, and the fields were still deserted. However, everyone in the village was already up. Since the Shen family's land was located deepest inside, the villagers simply assumed that Shen Lie was being diligent as he carried the plow towards the field, not giving it much thought.

    The brothers had already experimented with the plow, so they were familiar with its operation. They demonstrated deep plowing, shallow plowing, and turning techniques.

    Shen Lie said, "Replace the blade with iron, and it'll require even less effort."

    After studying it for a while, Sang Luo still felt that something was amiss. Her gaze fell on the freshly turned soil, and she finally realized the problem.

    Ah, yes. When she watched her neighbors plow in the mountains before, the soil would be flipped to either side. That wasn't the case with hers.

    She asked Shen Lie to bring the plow back up, and after pondering for a while, she recalled that there should be a plank-like barrier behind the plowshare, diverting the split earth to the sides.

    Sang Luo couldn't remember the exact name of this part, but after giving a general description to Shen Lie, he carried the plow back to make the alteration.

    This time, as Shen Lie was modifying the plow, Sang Luo stood by, requesting him to make the wooden blade sharper.

    When they tried it out again in the field, both Shen Lie and Shen An were pleasantly surprised to find that it now required even less effort than before.

    A smile finally graced Sang Luo's face as she looked at the turned earth. It matched her memory.

    "We'll head into town later to see if the blacksmith can replicate the wooden blade and barrier with iron," she said.

    As for the iron, it was naturally from dismantling the old plow's blade.

    Shen Lie and Shen An carried the new plow along with the old one back home. The dismantling process was swift. Initially, Shen Lie planned to go into the city alone, but Sang Luo insisted on accompanying him.

    Not for any other reason, she wished to have the senior physician examine her pulse once more.

    Their previous visit was too early, and the senior physician had expressed uncertainty, suggesting they return in ten days for another examination.

    This wasn't a significant issue. With no sign of her monthly cycle, there was a high likelihood that she was pregnant. Initially, Sang Luo had no intention of making another trip for a pulse diagnosis. However, the child in her womb had been unusually calm lately. Zhou Ge could only stomach food thanks to the sour jujube cakes she'd given him. Apart from a few days of severe nausea, Sang Luo seemed to savor everything she ate now without any adverse reactions.

    Of course, to cater to her, the family had refrained from preparing any meat dishes these days.

    Being a first-time mother, excessive reactions would cause concern, while barely any reaction would be even more worrying. Hence, Sang Luo still felt uneasy and sought reassurance by entering the city.

    ...

    While Shen Lie and Sang Luo were queuing up to enter the city, many citizens were also seen carrying baskets from outside the city walls into it.

    Sang Luo observed that most of the women entering the city carried baskets, some filled with freshly harvested greens. She inferred that they must have settled in the outskirts around the same time as she did. Judging by the timeline, the leafy vegetables planted then should indeed be ready to sell in the city for silver or grain.

    One carried a small basket, containing half a dozen eggs, their size indicating they were likely from wild fowl.

    San Luo gave her a glance. The woman seemed to recognize San Luo and greeted them with a smile. "Madam San, Master Shen, heading into the city this early?"

    San Luo didn't recognize her but still smiled and nodded. "Good morning to you too."

    "Morning, morning," the woman replied warmly. "I've gathered a few eggs to exchange for some cash in the city."

    As they spoke, she took two wild eggs from the basket and pressed them into San Luo's hands, chuckling. "Take these home, Madam, and enjoy them."

    Sang Luo had received many food offerings from strangers during her years in the mountains. Surprisingly, she encountered a similar situation now, right at the city gate. She quickly stepped back and politely declined with a shake of her head. "Thank you, Auntie, but please keep them for yourself to sell. My family also raises wild chickens, so we have eggs."

    Shen Lie was anxious too, afraid that Sang Luo might be jostled. He discreetly helped to shield her.

    Fortunately, the woman, despite her eagerness to give, didn't use excessive force. With Shen Lie's intervention, she couldn't push the food anymore. She laughed and said, "Madam is too courteous."

    She wanted to give but didn't know how.

    Shen Lie recognized her as one of the second batch of villagers he had helped to evacuate. He smiled and said, "Auntie, no need to be polite. We really do have our own. You can keep them and exchange them for more money when you enter the city later."

    Catching the amiable tone in the couple's conversation, the woman was delighted. "Ah, I see. So you two have come into the city early this morning?"

    The conversation veered off in another direction.

    The city gate guard gave a curious glance.

    In this day and age, people still give away eggs for free?

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

    In the city of Sangluo, by the back gate of the governor's residence, Lady Fan, accompanied by two personal maids, emerged for an idle stroll. A nanny in charge of kitchen provisions followed them from behind.

    A nun, accompanied by two maidservants, each carrying a basket, was still trying to persuade Lady Fan: "My lady, the Eastern Market is a place of great diversity and potential danger. Why would you wish to venture there?"

    Princess Fan smiles dismissively, "If not there, where else would one see the lives of the common people in She County?"

    "Well, at the very least, get a carriage."

    "Watch from the car? What could you possibly see? Come on, let's go."

    Simultaneously, Sang Luo and Shen Lie entered the city.

    As order was restored and the population returned, Xizhou's streets had become significantly livelier compared to the previous year. With more people on the streets, as they passed the eastern market and ventured further in, Sang Luo noticed that at least seven or eight shops had reopened for business since New Year's.

    "We're almost there. The blacksmith's shop is just up ahead."

    Sang Luo lifted her gaze, spotting the blacksmith's shop and also catching sight of another group of people passing by its entrance. At the forefront was a young woman with an elegant bearing and natural grace, whose face overlapped with that of the young lady who had peered out from the carriage curtains when the governor's wife had entered the city over ten days ago.

    Could this be... the governor's wife?

    The daughter of the Chen County Fan family, she didn't travel with a retinue of carriages or attendants. She only brought along a few maidservants and female servants. Indeed, this governor's wife was rather unique.

    As the two parties drew closer, Sang Luo couldn't help but halt her steps. As they brushed past each other, her gaze followed the Fan woman.

    Fan Feiniang sensed someone observing her and turned her head slightly, catching sight of a young couple. The man was tall and handsome, while the woman was lovely, particularly her eyes—sparkling like lacquer, exuding an indescribable warmth and purity.

    It seemed this woman was the one who had been looking at her just now.

    Feeling a hint of kindness from the other party, Fan Feiniang smiled warmly at Sang Luo and nodded slightly before turning away.

    "Is this the Governor's wife?"

    "It seems so," Sang Luo smiled. "Come on, let's head to the blacksmith's."

    ...

    In the Eastern Market.

    Fan Shi strolled around with her servants and maids. There weren't many shops open, only six or seven, mostly dealing in grains and sundries. However, there were plenty of small stalls, most run by women carrying baskets of varying sizes. Though their wares were limited, the area was bustling with people.

    Strolling through the market was a novel experience for Lady Fan. She meandered from stall to stall, indicating to the nanny behind her to purchase any vegetables that caught her fancy.

    Amongst the elite ladies, even when strolling through a bustling vegetable market, their demeanor sets them apart from others. Let alone these six elegantly dressed individuals, particularly the young matron leading the way; without any need for grandeur, her imposing presence commands respect and deflects casual gazes.

    Other residents of Xizhou City, who had come to the Eastern Market for their groceries, instinctively made way for Fan.

    The women tending their stalls discerned at once that the Fan party were major patrons after observing them peruse just a few booths. A sudden surge of warmth welled within them, yet as the group drew closer, they became awkward and fidgety, uncertain where to rest their hands or feet. Each vendor reflexively cried out their well-rehearsed pitches, yet dared not raise their voices too high.

    "Wild eggs, my lady, would you like to purchase some wild eggs?"

    "Would you like some homemade dried winter bamboo shoots?"

    "How about some freshly picked greens from the field?"

    "Konjac tofu, homemade konjac tofu, take a look."

    Konjac tofu was something unfamiliar to Fan. She decided to stop at the stall to inquire more.

    The vendor was a near-fifty-year-old woman, who, upon seeing such a prominent customer pause at her stall, became so excited that her words stumbled out, "Would you like to buy some konjac tofu?"

    "Konjac tofu?"

    The old lady nodded eagerly, "Yes, yes, it is."

    Fan Feiniang examined the grayish tofu, which indeed resembled Li Qi's complexion, albeit dull and seemingly dirty. She asked the woman, "Is it made from beans?"

    The old lady quickly waved her hands, "No, no. This is made from wild yam."

    "Wild yam? Then why do you call it tofu?"

    "This, this I'm not quite sure about," the old woman said nervously, fearing reprimand from the esteemed guests. She offered further explanation: "A few years ago, while we were refugees in the mountains with nothing to eat, someone taught us how to make this dish. They said it was kindly imparted by a woman named Mulberry Maiden. That Mulberry Maiden called it 'Tofu of the Enchanted Yam,' and so we've all come to know it as such."

    "Madam Sang?" Fan thought of the fellow villager she had heard about recently, who had taught the method of growing yams. She raised an eyebrow. "Which Madam Sang?"

    The woman shook her head. "I don't recognize it either. I've never seen it before. The recipe was passed down orally in the mountains. We were just told to learn it and not keep it hidden, to teach it to mountain folk who might not know."

    A flicker of emotion passed through Fan's eyes. After some thought, she asked, "Is it Lady Sang who taught you how to grow yams?"

    The old woman's milky eyes brightened. "Yes, yes, she even taught us how to identify and grow yams, saying she learned it from San Luozi."

    The old woman's creased face lit up with a smile as she continued, "You know Lady San too? She's a good person."

    Lady Fan Fei chuckled and said, "I don't know her personally, but I've heard of her. Excuse me, madam, we'd like to order six pieces of konjac tofu."

    The old woman bustled about, using dry leaves to help package the treats. The maid behind Lady Fan paid the vendor and asked for tips on how best to prepare them. Only then did the group of six depart from the stall.

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

    At the governor's residence, a new dish was served at noon. It was called "new" because Zeng Sanlang had never seen it nor tasted it before.

    "What is this? Li Qi? Why is it gray?"

    "Konjac tofu, I picked it up at the East Market today. I heard it's a recipe taught by my fellow townsman to the mountain folk as a sustenance." After recounting her visit to the East Market, Lady Fan chuckled and said, "I have no idea about this Shen Lie you mentioned, but I am very keen on meeting this Lady Sang. If there's an opportunity, we should pay a visit to Great Joy Village someday."

    Madame Fan could not have imagined that she would encounter Sang Luo so soon, nor that it would happen not through her own efforts to visit Great Prosperity Village, but because Sang Luo had come to the prefectural government offices.

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