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    Chapter 239: Great Victory

    The 15th day of the first month in the fourth year of Wu Ding was an auspicious day. The provincial school had scheduled its moon-gazing ceremony for admission, and it also happened to be the day that Shen Lie and the blacksmith had agreed upon to collect the finished blade.

    As the sun began to set at around 5 pm, the group returned from the provincial school. Halfway through their journey, Shen Lie detoured to the blacksmith's shop to retrieve his swordhead. Just as he took the freshly forged item from the blacksmith's hands and confirmed its quality by paying the remaining balance, the sound of gongs echoed outside.

    "Great victory! Great victory! The Great Qi has unified!"

    The bare-chested blacksmith, who was in the midst of his work, dropped his tongs and hammer with a clang. He rushed out to observe the commotion on the street.

    "Our Emperor has led our troops to conquer the Chen Kingdom! The Great Qi is now united!"

    "Did Prince Qi win?" Waiting eagerly outside the blacksmith's shop, Wei Qing and his companions' eyes gleamed with delight. They were all citizens of the Great Qi, hoping for the unification of their nation.

    "Prince Qi won!"

    "Our Emperor triumphed!"

    Everyone on the streets stopped in their tracks, filled with joy and excitement, then rushed to spread the news.

    Bearing bronze gongs, the official messengers emerged from the government office and scattered to announce the victory, heading for the East Market, West Market, and beyond the city walls.

    Shen Lie didn't waste any time. "Come on, let's hurry back too."

    Sure enough, as Shen Lie had predicted, the news quickly spread beyond the city. By the time they returned to Daxing Village, the victory announcements had already circled through the village.

    Years of turmoil had made the common folk yearn more than anyone for a united Da Qi. Overjoyed, Zhou Cunzheng called a few villagers to go up the mountain to cut bamboo for firecrackers.

    Sang Luo instinctively placed her hand on her belly, her eyes shining with delight. As Shen Lie and Shen An returned with their newly forged blades, she thought of something and hurried back to her room. She retrieved the finalized blueprint of the curved plow that she had redrawn during the day and handed it to Shen Lie.

    "Take this plow and the blueprint to the governor's office. It's spring plowing season, so I'm sure everyone will find it useful. Governor Zeng is an upright man who focuses on practical matters and puts the people first. There won't be any unnecessary complications with him. This is the perfect opportunity, coinciding with the Emperor's victory. If Governor Zeng has the intention, presenting this curved plow as a congratulatory gift would be fitting. It would also repay the favor we owe for the book."

    Shen Lie's heart skipped a beat, but he didn't take the blueprint.

    Having pulled a plow in the fields since his teenage years, Shen Lie was well aware of the benefits of Sang Luo's new plow. He knew that this seemingly insignificant agricultural tool was, in fact, a valuable asset for the nation and its people. Unlike papermaking, it wouldn't threaten anyone's interests. Such an achievement should rightfully belong to Sang Luo.

    "Alo, you're the one who crafted this. It's only fitting that you deliver it yourself. The office has already closed for the day, so there's no need to go now. Tomorrow morning, when the prefecture office opens, I'll accompany you. You can personally take the blueprint and plow to the governor's residence."

    Though uncommon for women to pursue scholarly pursuits or hold official positions, such accomplishments were the fruits of Sangluo's labor, her glory and prestige. They ought not to be overshadowed by him or any other person.

    Wasn't his original motivation for competing in the provincial exams precisely this? To understand her extraordinariness and strive to create a vast world for her to flourish in. If the one who outshines Sangluo in the end turns out to be himself, then for whom did all these efforts truly lie?

    Shen An and Shen Ning also caught the nuance in the conversation; the siblings nodded repeatedly in understanding.

    "Yes, Sister-in-law, this is your creation. It should be named after the Governor, so that the people who use it in the future will know that it was made by you."

    Having studied for several years, Shen An possessed a certain level of perceptiveness. She vaguely sensed that if this plow were to be widely adopted, it might become her sister-in-law's chance to gain fame in the world as a woman.

    In Shen Ning's eyes, two bright spots of light shone. "Big Sister, you should go. The government only accepts men for official positions or scholarly studies. What makes us women any less capable? It's time to show them that there can be true Zhuge Liangs among women!"

    The last sentence's boldness made Sang Luo chuckle. "How can I compare to a female Zhuge Liang?"

    The curved plow was the wisdom of her ancestors from her previous life; at best, she was just a conveyor of their ideas. Thus, Sang Luo hadn't thought much about it when she created the tool – she had simply done so because the people here needed it. It was that simple.

    Although she hadn't given much thought to sending Shen Lie on this journey, and was well aware that he would likely immediately confess it was her creation, seeing the solemn expressions on the trio's faces, especially the dazzling light in Shen Ning's eyes, Sang Luo realized that women were truly no less than men.

    Let alone other matters, when it came to reading, if the village girls were given equal opportunities as the boys, which one would be inferior?

    Though her attendance made little difference, it was still commendable to contribute to enhancing women's reputation and influence, even through minor actions, starting with herself.

    "All right, let's follow An Ning's suggestion and show the world the prowess of our women."


    With the matter settled, Shen Lie carefully stored the blueprint and informed Sang Luo before heading straight for the Zhou family's residence. Not only did he visit them, but he also made his way around the entire village, including Lu Dashuang's family, who had recently settled in and received the most remote plots of land. He even dropped by at Shuanzhu's grandparents' house where he found the brothers engaged in conversation.

    His tour attracted quite a crowd, drawing the attention of Wei Qinghe and Wang Yunzheng as well. Before dusk, the newly assembled plow was carried to the field, igniting excitement throughout the entire village, albeit contained within Daxing Village.

    A group of farmers took turns pulling and guiding the plow, working for at least half an hour before it was finally cleaned and carried back.

    Yes, carried.

    Despite being an object that could have been easily carried by one person, everyone was so thrilled that Zhou Dashang and Shi Erlang lifted it together to return it.

    Fondling the new plow, they were reluctant to leave. Not only had they wiped away all mud, but they had nearly dried it of all moisture too.

    Chen Youtian, being a skilled carpenter, asked Sangluo, "Ah Luo, can I work on the wooden parts at home tonight before delivering it to the government office tomorrow? That way, I can dismantle the old plow's blade and bring it to the blacksmith's shop to be refashioned into a new one."

    It was evident that the blacksmith's shop would be bustling with work the following day.

    Sangluo smiled and replied, "Since the invention is for everyone's use, Uncle Youtian, feel free to proceed as you wish."

    The Shen family was abuzz with discussions about how to present the plow the next day. Everyone chimed in with their suggestions.

    Zhou Cunzheng proposed, "Tomorrow, we'll carry it on a pole and accompany it with some drumming. Fortunately, the government office has provided each village with a drum, so I'll take charge of that."

    "Two poles will be better," Shi Erlang suggested. "We should bring both the new and old plows to make a comparison. Do you think Governor Cishi would recognize what an old plow looks like?"

    "That makes sense." The group nodded in agreement. Zhou Cunzheng continued, "Everyone wake up early tomorrow morning. We'll need two sturdy poles to carry the load, and four strong men to lift them. That should be grand enough."

    Envisioning the scene, they all chuckled. Lady Lu suggested, "We should tie a red cloth on the new plow, for good luck, right?"

    Granny Xu, smiling, offered, "Let's use red silk. I have some, and I'll bring it along tomorrow."

    With the pole, the red silk, and the drumming, Old Man Chen started to worry, "Isn't this too extravagant?"

    Shopkeeper Xu hurriedly stopped him: "No need to be modest, Uncle. How is this being showy? At such a timely moment, this is adding joy to the court, pleasing the Emperor, contributing to the Governor's achievements, and spreading blessings to the people. It should be celebrated with enthusiasm."

    Wei Qinghe also agreed with a smile, saying, "This is something that both the government and the Emperor would be delighted to see."

    Just as the Great Qi had conquered Chen Kingdom, for the common folk to present new plows as a congratulatory gesture, what did this signify? It meant that the Emperor had won the hearts of the people and the aid of heaven! A skilled writer could even pen that the way of heaven was behind His Majesty.

    After discussing these matters, Gan said, "Everyone in our village who can go should join us tomorrow. But shouldn't we form a procession?"

    They then started planning the lineup for the following day. Needless to say, Sangluo was to walk at the front, with her husband by her side, as they were one. Village Chief Zhou would be there too, ringing his gong on the other side.

    At the front, in the middle, and at the end of the line, there was a lively discussion, almost to the point of a live demonstration. It was quite a commotion.

    Sangluo also knew that they were all right in what they said. Whether it was the Emperor or Governor Zeng, both would be delighted to see the common folk engage in acts aligned with the natural order at this time, eagerly observing the spectacle unfold. It wasn't until Madam Chen interjected, suggesting that there ought to be some form of announcement, that simply clanging a gong and marching dryly into the city tomorrow would appear foolish.

    After much deliberation, they decided that the phrase should be accessible to both common folk and the educated elite, understandable to the masses while also maintaining a sense of dignity for the officials.

    After numerous refinements, it was finally settled. The opening line, "The Xiaxing Village Sang family was utterly stunned by Sang Luo, prompting an immediate halt!" was decided upon.

    "No, the latter part is fine. Just revise the opening sentence. Our focus is on the plow and celebrating the court's prosperity. It's enough to mention Xiuzhou City, there's no need to include me in it, at least not in such a blatant manner all the way through."

    By the time they reached the city gates with their gongs and red banners, Sang Luo's toes were digging into the ground. "Actually, since I'm at the front of the procession and the one presenting the tribute, everyone already knows it's me. There's no need to shout my name."

    Sangluo wasn't exaggerating; those who had recently settled in the nearest areas around the State City were mostly from their mountainous region. She might not recognize all of them, but most of them indeed knew her.

    Madam Wei, Qin Fangniang, Lady Gan, and Second Master Shi's wife, all of them, couldn't help but burst into laughter upon hearing Sang Luo's hurried call to stop.

    Chen grannie also laughed. "Yes, there's no need to call out Ah Luo's name on the way. Few in our neighborhood don't recognize her. We can talk about it when we get to the yamen."

    The first night of reunion in the fourth year of Wuding was spent in such a lively atmosphere at Daxing Village.

    The following morning, Shen Lie instructed Shen An to go to the academy with Wang Yunzheng and the others, helping him to inform their teachers of his absence. He made it clear that he would arrive at the provincial school a bit later, promising to personally explain the reason to the headmaster.

    By the dawn's first light, households were already bustling with preparations. When the hour of Chou was about to end, Shen family's two plows, an old straight-plow and a newly crafted curved one, were meticulously bound onto two bamboo poles by Zhou DaLang and his crew. The new plow was adorned with red silk and crimson flowers, a joyous sight indeed.

    A group of them, with plows hoisted and ranks aligned, marched out of the village, their excitement evident as the children scampered about. This spectacle left Zhao Da and Zhao Si, who had come early to work, utterly dumbfounded.

    Sangluo stood at the head of the line, feeling the urge to cover her face at the sight.

    Yet, she was well aware that this was not only the quickest and most reliable way to ensure the people of Xizhou would witness the Quyuan Plow at the earliest opportunity; it was also the most effective method to embellish3 Governor Zeng's record of accomplishments.

    Well, all's well that ends well, she supposed. It was as if she were leading the flag bearer around the school field during a sports event back in her academic days.


    Following the news of the grand victory announced by the officials on the night of the 15th day of the first lunar month, on the 16th day of the fourth year of Emperor Wuding's reign, the familiar sound of copper gongs echoed. The first strike resonated at the entrance of Daxing Village.

    "Villagers from Xizhou, grateful for the Emperor's benevolence, have transformed the straight plow into a curved one, creating a more efficient and agile farming tool!"

    "At this auspicious time of the empire's great triumph and unification, we present this new plow to the local government office, and to the imperial court, celebrating the prosperity of His Majesty, the state, and the people of Chang'an!"

    With a resounding gong and a loud cry, Zhou Cunzheng shouted, followed promptly by the harmonized voices of the young and strong from Da Xing Village. Without pause, they marched straight towards the gates of Shezhou City.

    The initial clamor had already drawn attention. Da Xing Village wasn't too far from the city gates, and halfway through their journey, Zhou Cunzheng struck the gong again and led another boisterous chant.

    The early morning at Shezhou's city gates was always bustling, with many queuing up to enter. Moreover, the official road was flanked by fields, where farmers were already tending to their crops. Hearing the commotion, who could resist taking a look?

    Especially when the young and strong of Da Xing Village shouted about a more efficient and convenient new plow...?

    Each village had only one ox, and every day, the villagers labored as if they were those very beasts. Upon hearing this, who wouldn't be intrigued?

    The farmers plowing the fields paused in their labor, gazing afar at the path, where the two burdens carried by the procession seemed... to resemble plows?

    "Let's go take a look."

    Abandoning their work, they trudged up the field embankment, muddy boots and all, dashing toward the main road.

    Those queued up at the city gate to enter no longer attempted to do so, instead turning around to watch the commotion.

    "What is going on?"

    "Speaking of inventing a new plow that saves effort?"

    "A plow that saves effort?"

    "Let's go, let's go and have a look."

    No more queues formed; they all dashed onto the single dirt road leading into the city.

    Sang Luo was right. Quite a number of people in and out of the city gate knew her. Be it farmers or vendors who had lined up at the entrance to return to the village, their faces lit up with delight the moment they spotted Sang Luo at the front of the queue. "It's Lady Sang from Daheng Village! It's really Lady Sang!"

    One of those not from the mountains, intrigued, asked, "Who is Lady Sang?"

    "Mother Sang, such a virtuous soul, a living Bodhisattva! You have no idea, when we fled into the mountains back then..."

    As tales of Sangluo and her life in the mountains were shared among those present, some voices rose to greet her and the folks from Daxing Village. Others slipped beside the procession, seeking news from Chen Po and the others at the rear.

    The original large group from Daxing Village, now swelled by numerous countryside folk from outside the city, chattered and buzzed along, creating quite a lively scene.

    The city guards, initially taken aback by the large crowd approaching from afar, instinctively moved to block their path. But upon hearing that they were presenting plows as a celebration of the empire's unification, and recognizing the figure leading the group as Shen Lie, a student from the state academy who had assisted the government in evacuating people from the mountains, they stood down.

    Very well, no need to obstruct them.

    A soldier was dispatched back to the government office to send word. After confirming that the people of Daxing Village truly carried only plows and no weapons, he smiled and made way for them, waiving the need for inspection.

    With a few dozen villagers entering the city, accompanied by a boisterous crowd of onlookers, they marched in a grand procession, a hundred or more people beating gongs and drums toward the state office. The city residents also came out in droves to witness the spectacle.

    At the Governor's residence, the gate guard rushed back with news, just in time for Zeng Sanlang, who had recently arrived at the office, to receive the information.

    "A presentation of plows?"

    "Yes, they mentioned transforming the straight yoke into a curved one for easier and more efficient labor."

    The guard, having a decent memory, was about to repeat the two slogans of the people from Daxing Village when Zeng Sanlang heard a gong sound. Tilting his ear slightly, he caught it.

    "It's here!"

    Attentively listening, Zeng Sanlang waited for the completion of the chant before breaking into a smile. "Inform the Censor and the heads of the six departments to accompany me in greeting them."

    Striding out confidently, he didn't need the guard to announce it. The Censor and the department heads had already heard the commotion and emerged.

    All the officials of the Governor's residence stepped out of the main gate in unison, presenting quite a spectacle.

    Recalling something, Zeng Sanlang beckoned Cheng An and whispered, "Go to the backyard and inform my wife."


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