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    Chapter 240: An Unusual Woman

    In her fifth year of transmigration, Sang Luo put on the grandest show of her two lifetimes.

    Surprisingly, despite the anxiety that was churning inside her like the construction of a castle with her toes, she managed to maintain her composure in front of the crowd lining the road. Her interaction with the officials waiting at the county office gate could be described as composed. While slogans could be rousing, it was now time to display humility after such a flamboyant and lively arrival.

    However, Sang Luo was unaware that with so many young and strong men from the village following behind, the village head by her side, and a youth dressed in a scholarly robe from the state academy on the other side, all looking up to her - a young woman leading them - she was already stealing the show. Moreover, her gentle beauty, despite being dressed in simple clothes and with unadorned hair, combined with her polite demeanor, appropriate conduct, and calm responses, made her presence even more captivating.

    This contrast had an even more profound impact on people's hearts than if she were standing there adorned in luxurious attire. It was a sight that no one could tear their eyes away from.

    After this day, with the first thrust of the curved-shaft plow, it is likely that half the populace of She County would come to know of Sang Luo.

    Looking at Sang Luo explaining the differences between old and new plows to the governor, the chief administrator, and their group of officials, Chu Qichang truly felt nothing but admiration.

    Intelligent, dignified, and graceful, but above all, she was human. Yet you claim to know how to grow yams, and you even manage to create something extraordinary out of a plow? How is that possible?

    Effortless or not, Chu Qichang was unaware of this, as it was something Sangluo and the folks of Daxing Village had mentioned. But he had indeed witnessed firsthand the mechanism that allowed for adjusting the depth of plowing.

    In this era, the court was desperately seeking talent. If this person were a man, wouldn't the governor immediately recruit them to assist in managing agriculture and sericulture at the provincial office?

    Tsk, impressive!

    After admiration came a sigh. Isn't this manly enough?

    Chu Qichang looked at Shen Lie, who was assisting Sang Luo in demonstrating the operation, and couldn't understand. The court eagerly sought talent, not just through the imperial examinations, but also by recognizing capable individuals through their practical work. He really didn't get it. With the great unification of the Great Qi, such a prime opportunity, why would it be a woman like Sang Luo taking the lead in inventing the ox-plow?

    What could a woman gain from stepping into the spotlight besides fame?

    It was different for Shen Lie. Being able to enter the provincial academy meant he was already literate. Even if he didn't pursue the scholarly path, with the yam and now the ox-plow, especially at such a fortunate time for the ox-plow, which of these wasn't a ladder to success? He couldn't say for sure about Xizhou City, but there were plenty of vacancies in the counties below.


    His younger brother Shen was truly... leaving him at a loss for words.

    But Chu Qichang only thought this much. After all, it was the Shen family's internal affairs. Perhaps Shen Lie was simply ambitious and unwilling to take credit for his wife's achievements, confident that he could make a name for himself on his own?

    In any case, the Shen couple were truly remarkable. It had only been a month since the last time Governor Zeng visited Great Prosperity Village, right? Last time, Governor Zeng had gifted books, and now they had caused an even bigger stir.

    The highest-ranking official in Xizhou – how many people wished for the chance to meet him? Just look at the Shen couple. Their success was only a matter of time, wasn't it?

    Chu Qichang pondered that simply addressing each other as old brother wouldn't suffice; he would have to inform his family and gradually find opportunities to socialize more actively.

    The thought had barely formed when Lady Prefect, attended by two personal maids, appeared seemingly out of nowhere. At the sight of Fan Fei Niang, Sang Luo raised her gaze, offering a gentle smile and a slight nod in greeting.

    Chu Qichang: ???

    How is it that we already know each other?

    As these thoughts crossed my mind, I saw Fan Feiniang's face light up with surprise. "It's actually you?"

    San Luo bowed respectfully. "San Luo pays her respects to Lady Fan."

    Before she could complete her bow, Lady Fan had already helped her up, her bright eyes sparkling with amusement. "I've heard my husband speak of our fellow townsman from Xiuzhou for quite some time. I've long admired your reputation, and just the other day, I was hoping for an opportunity to meet you. It turns out we'd actually crossed paths on the street that day."

    Wow, she really does recognize her! They could all see how friendly she was being.

    Not only were Chu Qichang and the officials present whispering in surprise, but even Governor Zeng was taken aback that the two had already met. However, with many onlookers around, he didn't inquire further. Instead, he turned to San Luo and Shen Lie and said, "This plow looks well-made, but we won't know if it's truly labor-saving until we test it out in the fields."

    Shen Lie chuckled. "Of course, Your Excellency. Please feel free to have someone give it a try."

    He had already tested it twice himself and was highly confident in its effectiveness.

    Noticing the expressions on the couple's faces, Prefect Zeng knew that their claim must be true. However, there was no need to find others to test it. "I, the prefect, will try it myself."

    His words left everyone stunned, even the onlookers who were momentarily at a loss. A hushed buzz of discussion erupted among the crowd.

    This was the prefect they were talking about.

    In previous years, when the county magistrate would pay lip service to encouraging agriculture, he would casually swing a whip a few times in the fields at the start of spring. But now, the prefect was going to personally try plowing?

    Cuo Qichang reacted swiftly. "Your Excellency, please don't trouble yourself. I'll attend to it immediately."

    Prefect Zeng, however, did not elaborate. He simply said, "Let's go, out of the city."

    Addressing the young and strong men from Daxing Village who were lifting plows, he said, "I'd be grateful if you could lend your strength for just a little while longer."

    Saying this, they had already started walking towards the outskirts of the city.

    Sang Luo glanced at Lady Fan, noticing that she didn't object. A hint of amusement flickered in her eyes. "Would Madam like to come along?"

    "Go, with such grandeur, how can we not attend? Lady Sang, shall we go together?"

    "Please do."

    "Please do."

    As they spoke, the two of them actually followed behind Governor Zeng, with Sang Luo maintaining a subtle half-step behind Fan Fei.

    The difference of half a step might seem insignificant, but Fan Fei intentionally or unintentionally waited for Sang Luo. Along the way, she inquired about how Sang Luo had come to Shezhou, how she had sought refuge in the mountains, and how she taught the mountain folk to farm. They even discussed the konjac tofu they had purchased at the Eastern Market that day.

    Sang Luo remained composed, and as the two walked towards the city gates, they seemed to be enjoying each other's company. Shen Lie and Zhou Cunzheng tactfully stepped back, leaving the front position to Fan's personal maidservants, the government officials, and the two plows.

    The elderly women, women, and children from Daxing Village were all dumbfounded.

    Mother Chen was so excited that her heart was pounding wildly. She tightly held Qin Fangliang's hand, her legs weak, and whispered in a voice only audible to the two of them, "My dear lady."

    She knew that Sang Luo was capable, but she never imagined just how capable she was.

    Wasn't that the Governor's wife? Mother Chen recalled seeing her among the carriages that day.

    Um, excuse me? Could you please clarify your question or provide more context?

    If not for her grip on her daughter-in-law's arm, Old Madam Chen's hand would have trembled uncontrollably.

    Xu Wenyun, Shen Ning, Chen Xiaoya, and Shi Qiaoer were often seen in each other's company, and today was no exception. The young ladies first observed Sang Luo conversing with the governor, and now they witnessed her laughing and chatting warmly with the governor's wife. This filled them with admiration and longing.

    To Jinnings' left was Chen Xiaoya, who exclaimed, "Ah Ning, Sister A Luo is incredible."

    Beside Chen Xiaoya stood Shi Qiaor, who also fervently nodded in agreement.

    To her right was Xue Wenyin, who was consistently edging towards the side, stretching her neck to look ahead. After a while, she whispered softly, "Annie, when I grow up, I really want to be like your sister-in-law."

    Become someone like her sister-in-law?

    Shen Ning gazed at the back of her sister-in-law in front of her. Occasionally, she could see her sister-in-law turning her head to converse with the governor's wife. Whether it was the spring sunlight casting upon her profile or something else, Shen Ning felt that her sister-in-law seemed to radiate an aura.

    Indeed, to become someone like her sister-in-law—amidst this entire entourage mostly consisting of men—no one could overshadow her sister-in-law's brilliance.

    A glow also appeared in Shen Ning's eyes.

    Outside Xizhou City.

    Hundreds of onlookers followed the procession, while members of the Zheng, Lin, and Wang clans rushed back to inform their kin. Presently, representatives from each prominent family were hurrying towards the outskirts of the city.

    Chu Qichang was already ahead, instructing his subordinates to swiftly find a cow outside the city and even selecting the nearest unplowed field close to the gate.

    As soon as Governor Zeng's entourage exited the city gates, Chu Qichang had arranged everything. He stood by the roadside, and the cow was being led into position.

    Before Chu Qichang could react, Governor Zeng lifted his official robe, tied it around his waist, and, with a slight push, leaped from the higher road onto the lower dike. The road was elevated, and next to the dike was a water channel. This jump elicited a low murmur from the watching crowd.

    "Your Excellency!" Chu Qichang quickly followed suit, lifting his own robe and jumping down. A few young and strong men from Daxing Village were also swift to act. Shen Lie went first, followed closely by Shi Erlang. Together with the men who had originally carried the plows, they took over the plows in pairs.

    Chu Qichang was about to assist in harnessing the plow to the cow when Governor Zeng waved him off. "How can you know if using a cow saves effort? Can the cow tell me? I'll do it."

    These words changed Chu Qichang's expression.

    He had expected a test of the plow with the cow pulling and someone guiding from behind. But now... Now Governor Zeng intended to pull the plow himself?

    Would he ask to be yoked like an ox and plow the land himself?

    Chu Qichang was an ambitious man, but even he was momentarily stunned. His eyes started to water.

    The nearby villagers, who had heard his words clearly, were equally bewildered, especially the farmers and common folk. It took them a long while to process what they had just heard.

    "What does Governor Ceng mean by that?"

    Did they hear him right?

    No one dared to believe their ears.

    Over there, Governor Ceng had already begun removing his boots and rolling up his trousers. He then called out to Shen Lie, "Come here, help me harness this plow. Let's try using the old one first."

    Shen Lie didn't hesitate. Instead, his respect for Governor Ceng grew, and without further ado, he stepped forward to assist with the harnessing and gave some basic instructions on how to handle the plow.

    Someone had to guide the plow as Governor Ceng pulled it, so after attaching the harness, he surveyed the officials around him. None of them looked remotely capable of farm work. Thus, he pointed at Shen Lie and said, "You, come guide the plow."

    Without complaint, Shen Lie tied up his robe, removed his shoes and socks, and rolled up his pants before following Ceng into the field.

    The moment the two of them started moving, the crowd that had earlier heard but dared not believe erupted in an uproar.

    "The Governor is plowing!"

    "The Governor himself is pulling the plow!"

    Among the onlookers were many seasoned farmers, some in their fifties and sixties, who could no longer manage the task themselves due to its weight and intensity. Their sons and grandsons had taken over such laborious work, while they could only assist with lighter tasks like guiding the plow.

    However, witnessing the young governor tuck his official robe around his waist, remove his shoes, roll up his pants, and step barefoot into the muddy field, more emotionally invested individuals—especially those who had just borrowed oxen and seeds from the government office—were visibly moved.

    "What a good official, what a fine official."

    Those who couldn't secure a spot along the roadside or arrived later could only stand several rows back, confused by the commotion. They asked those in front what was happening, and someone turned to inform them that the Governor was personally plowing the field.

    And they emphasized: Not guiding, but actually pulling the plow!

    Pulling the plow.

    The Zhengs, Wangs, and Lins also arrived one after another. Their household servants managed to clear a path for them through the crowd, positioning them at a vantage point with a good view, yet at a respectful distance from the Fan family.

    Upon witnessing the scene before him, he too stood transfixed.

    Sang Luo observed as well, noting that there was not the slightest hint of reluctance on Lord Zeng's face. She turned her head to look at Madam Fan.

    Looking at Zeng Sanlang, Fan's eyes were devoid of discomfort or displeasure; they were filled with admiration and affection.

    Sang Luo smiled, gently redirecting her gaze back to the two individuals engaged in plowing the field.

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

    Zeng Sandang had grown up studying alongside his grandfather, but he had never neglected martial arts; from a young age, his family had hired a martial arts master specifically for him.

    However, practicing martial arts was a far cry from plowing a field. As a noble son, how could he have been exposed to such tasks before assuming the position of governor in Shezhou? Despite his physical strength and martial background, even he felt the slight weight of the plow after dragging it just a dozen steps.

    Considering the farmers toiling in the fields, Zeng Sandang pondered. In this year's harsh conditions, the poorer ones likely relied on wild vegetables to supplement their meager meals just to survive. How did they manage to endure such arduous work day after day?

    He didn't stop after a few steps as a mere test. Instead, he pulled the plow all the way to the end of the field before attempting to turn it.

    The old plow couldn't be turned around easily; it required lifting and moving to a new position to continue plowing.

    Chu Qichang had already rushed over with the new plow, followed by the chief secretary who had descended the field embankment and a few others, including Chen Lao, who had involuntarily tagged along.

    The chief secretary approached and advised, "Your Excellency, you've tried the old plow. Why not give the new one a go?"

    How could they possibly take the old plow back now? What was Zeng Sanlang's background? For a young master from such an esteemed family, this might be his first time working in the fields, treating himself like an ox to be driven hard?

    But Zeng Sanlang was unperturbed. He called for Shen Lie and said, "You pull the old plow, and I'll try my hand at guiding it."

    He then asked for tips on guiding the plow.

    In the blink of an eye, their roles were reversed.

    Guiding the plow was indeed not just about strength. The initial results were rather disastrous; the path he plowed was hardly acceptable. Chen Lao, who had been watching from the side, couldn't help but offer some pointers. Zeng Sanlang took it all in with delight, occasionally asking for more details. Gradually, his plowing technique improved.

    After guiding the old plow for a while, he switched to the new one. Once again, Zeng Sanlang was the one pulling.

    After just a few steps with the new plow, he felt its benefits. He paused, his eyes shining bright. "It's more efficient! Much more efficient! How does it feel guiding the plow?"

    Shen Lie chuckled. "Guiding is also easier. Your Excellency should give it a try later."

    Cuzhiqiang on the side remained silent, his expression unreadable.

    His younger brother was truly capable.

    The long-bearded historiographer couldn't help but give this young man a second glance.

    Zeng Sanlang, on the other hand, responded with a smile. The few steps he took were just an appetizer; he pulled the plow for a full stretch. During the process, he paused to switch from shallow to deep plowing and even attempted turning. After completing the journey, he was ecstatic. He turned back to examine the land he had plowed, comparing it with the results of the old plow.

    It was different, far too different!

    His heart burned with excitement. Once he had enough of plowing, he removed the harness and called out to Shen Lie, "Come, come, you try pulling the plow while I guide it."

    By the time they returned to the starting point for the second round, he was already brimming with joy. The two plows had been lifted by Old Chen and his companions onto the field's bank. Everyone knew that this was the main event, so Old Chen and the others quickly rinsed the plows with water from the ditch before asking the strong young men, including Shen Lie, to carry them up to the main road.

    The crowd had surrounded the small area tightly, leaving many unable to squeeze in.

    Zeng Sanlang also made his way to the main road. Disregarding everyone else, he circled around the two plows, trying to understand the reason behind the new plow's efficiency. He could see that the plowshare was sharper and narrower, similar to the forging of swords and sabers. It reduced resistance and made it more effective – a concept that a martial artist like him could comprehend.

    However, there was much more about the plow that Zeng Sanlang found difficult to grasp.

    This explanation is best left to Sang Luo. She can articulate the principles of mechanics in the simplest terms possible.

    Not only Governor Zeng Sanlang, but also Fan Feiniang, the magistrate, Cui Qichang, and the other officials who accompanied them, were all captivated by her words.

    Even those from the three prominent families, who had initially tried to avoid the officials, moved closer to listen. Among them were a few scholars from the state academy who had come with Old Master Lin; they too strained their ears to hear.

    In this assembly of respected figures in Shezhou, some listened with shining eyes, their faces alight with wonder; others grasped the essence of her explanation; while still others were utterly perplexed.

    But it didn't deter their admiration. How could she have come up with such ideas?

    Looking at Sang Luo, they realized—she was a woman!

    A woman!

    Zeng Sanlang added inwardly—what an extraordinary one!

    He couldn't help recalling the imperial edict that called for the recommendation of talented individuals from each province. If Sang were a man... He lowered his gaze and then asked, "Your invention of this plow has greatly contributed to the government. Are there any rewards you desire? Speak freely, and I will present your request to the court."

    Sang Luo shook her head. "I am but a humble peasant woman. After years of turmoil, I have finally found peace under His Majesty's rule. The government has granted us land and homes, ensuring us food and clothing. Farming is my duty as a farmer. Improving the plow and offering it to the authorities is simply fulfilling my duty as a citizen of Great Qi. Why would I need reward? If Your Excellency asks if I have any wishes, I do have two hopes."

    San Lang lifted his brows. "Go on."

    "The farmers toil tirelessly. This humble woman offers this plow with two wishes: that His Excellency the Governor can expedite the spread of knowledge and use of this new plow, alleviating the hardships of labor and increasing the harvest for every meal. Secondly, I cherish the peace we enjoy today, which was hard-won. I am delighted to contribute my small part and pray for the prosperity of Great Qi, may our dynasty endure forever, and our capital, Chang'an, flourish in its golden age. This is the wish of a simple woman."

    Each word rang clear and melodious, delivered at a measured pace. Upon finishing her speech, she placed both hands at her chest and made a slight bow.

    The crowd fell utterly silent.

    Despite the hundreds present, not a sound could be heard, until San Lang's voice broke the stillness.

    "I shall fulfill your wish, not just for our Xizhou, but by presenting this new plow to the capital and the Emperor, so that all the people of Great Qi may soon learn of it and benefit from its use."

    Voices finally emerged from the crowd, someone cheering, followed by applause that seemed to erupt from every corner. The atmosphere brimmed with excitement.

    In the midst of the throng, Wang Maolin's gaze flickered towards the Shen couple standing beside the governor and his wife.

    As for Zheng, Lin, and the state academy scholars, some were discreetly asking others if they knew the identity of the woman, while others whispered instructions to their servants to gather information.

    Sang Luo paid no heed to these matters. She withdrew a rolled-up drawing from her sleeve and handed it to Shen Lie, who was to present it to Governor Zeng.

    "This is a blueprint for a flexed plow. The drawing might be crude, but please see if it's of any use, Your Excellency."

    As Zeng Sanlang unfolded the scroll, several scholars from the provincial academy had already noticed Shen Lie's scholar's attire. One whispered, "Is this one of the students the academy has enrolled this year?"

    Two of the teachers, who had already given lessons to the students the previous day, nodded. The one with better memory said, "His surname is Shen, and his name is Lie. According to the enrollment list, he's from the Daxing Village outside the city. It seems his younger brother was also admitted this time."

    "Daxing Village, huh."

    Someone murmured, jotting down these details in their mind.

    Afterward, Governor Zeng announced to the crowd that he would expedite the production of the new plows and how the exchange process would work with the old ones. He even recruited carpenters on the spot, inviting them to register at the government office later.

    Sang Luo took a step back and stood among the Daxing Villagers.

    The new plow from the Shen family would be sent directly to the capital by the government office, while the plow the Shens used would be replaced with the new model first and delivered to their home.

    Upon hearing that they would have access to new plows, the citizens cheered, causing another uproar of joy.

    Starting with just a few dozen people, the grand presentation of the Daxing Village plow soon drew an audience of at least four or five hundred, creating a lively and bustling atmosphere.

    With his mission at Daxing Village accomplished, Shen Lie paid a visit to his mentor and asked for leave, explaining that he would return home briefly to prepare before rushing to the provincial academy.

    A group of gentlemen were particularly affable, assuring him not to worry and offering words of encouragement before taking their leave.

    Censor Zeng also led the officials back to the provincial office. With mud on one of his legs, he naturally had to return to the rear mansion for a wash. As the couple made their way there, Third Son Zeng sighed, "If only Xi San was a man."

    Madam Fan, having navigated such circumstances herself and being acutely aware of the numerous constraints that women face in comparison to men, empathized deeply with her husband's sentiment.

    However, having grown up in a distinguished and influential family, the closer she drew to the upper echelons, the more acutely Princess Fan understood how arduously entrenched the rules and constraints, forged over millennia, were to be upended.

    "When Third Lang offers the plow, he might as well clarify the identity of Lady Sang in his memorial."

    As for embellishing or flattering words, Lady Fan deemed them unnecessary. She believed that the mere mention of Madam Sang's two heartfelt wishes, without any further elaboration or flourish, written in their original form on the memorial, would be sufficient to demonstrate the people's yearning for unity under the great rule of the Qi Dynasty.


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