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    Chapter 243: Imperial Envoy

    Receiving an imperial edict is a ceremony with its own protocols, and Fan Feiniang had come to oversee these matters. The one who would receive the edict was Sang Luo, but without a doubt, the Shen family would accompany her during this significant event. Hard on her heels, the news prompted Shen Lie and his brother to rush back home.

    Preparing an incense table, studying etiquette, grooming appearances – despite the Shen family's humble and impoverished background, they couldn't afford luxurious attire, so they sought only cleanliness and tidiness in their appearance. Amidst the hustle and bustle of preparations, they heard the commotion of the imperial envoy's procession approaching.

    "Here they are."

    The unrelated people, like Old Lady Chen, retreated in a flurry to the outskirts of the Shen residence. Some were restless with the urge to catch a glimpse of the envoy's procession. As they turned their heads, they were astonished to find that although the procession wasn't overly grand, the number of villagers who had followed from a distance was astonishingly numerous.

    It's better to stay where you are, at least you can hear what's going on.

    Shen Ning, nervous, had already secretly exhaled twice. It was only with Sang Luo's comforting squeeze on her hand that she managed to calm down slightly.

    Sang Luo had assumed the so-called angel was a eunuch. But as the person approached, she noticed the official attire and realized it was an actual government official. Judging from the light pink robes, though she wasn't well-versed in such matters, she could tell the rank was not insignificant.

    Full of curiosity, she thought to herself, the plow is indeed impressive, but not so much that it warrants such grandeur.

    As her mind raced, the envoy over there also sized up their group and asked, "Where is Lady Sang?"

    Sang Luo took a step forward and bowed. "This commoner is Sang Luo."

    The envoy was taken aback. He had assumed that the person who could improve the plow would be at least a middle-aged woman in her forties. But this... She looked to be around eighteen or nineteen? Maybe twenty?

    He instinctively glanced at Governor Zeng, who was accompanying him. Governor Zeng nodded with a smile.

    There was no mistake then.

    Although the envoy was filled with astonishment, he didn't delay. The Shen family had no courtyard or hall; just three separate thatched cottages. Thus, he read out the imperial edict in the open space outside the house.

    It was Sang Luo's first time kneeling in her entire life, of course, along with her whole family. The imperial edict was written in exquisite language, a delight to listen to. Naturally, it was also her first time receiving an imperial edict in both her lifetimes, so she was nervous like Shen Ning. She was too preoccupied with her nerves to appreciate the words. However, soon enough, Sang Luo wouldn't even be nervous anymore. She was overwhelmed by the generous rewards from the emperor.

    Field archways, silver, money, and silk.

    Not only was Sang Luo in a daze, but the onlookers of Xingxing Village, who were watching from a distance, began to feel dizzy as well.

    The emperor's intentions were straightforward. If there was merit, it should be rewarded. Since she excelled in agriculture, he granted her fields.

    An abundance of fertile fields, a hundred acres of forest land, two hundred taels of silver, thirty bolts of silk, and most importantly, an imperial edict personally written by the emperor, carefully held by the eunuchs, declaring that it was to be enshrined in a monument.

    A monument indeed.

    Who wouldn't be overwhelmed by such an honor?

    Sangluo received the imperial decree in a daze, suddenly feeling anxious about her humble thatched cottage for the first time. How could she preserve the decree and the emperor's handwritten message?

    Fortunately, the nobleman seemed to understand her predicament upon seeing the Jia family's modest home. He smiled and said, "Madam, you'll need to entrust this imperial decree and the emperor's calligraphy to Governor Zeng for now. The emperor wishes for the decree to be inscribed on a stone tablet, and his handwriting to be displayed on a monument and plaque. Once they're completed, they will be returned to your family for veneration."

    Sangluo heaved a sigh of relief and promptly passed the imperial decree and the emperor's handwritten note to Governor Zeng. "Thank you for your trouble, Your Excellency."

    After the reading of the imperial decree, the silver and silk were to be bestowed upon the Jia family. Carrying the silver was manageable for Jia An, but receiving thirty bolts of silk was too much for Jia Ning. Even with Jia Jin and his brothers' assistance, it would be challenging.

    Sangluo and Jia Ning guided the eunuchs to their two-room house. They cleared the table of brushes, ink, paper, and books to make space for the silk.

    Outside, another eunuch was instructing Sangluo on how to properly store the imperial decree and other items. She listened attentively, thanked the eunuch, and discreetly slipped him a pouch of money.

    The eunuch felt the weight of the silver ingot in the pouch, surprised by the family's humble abode. His eyes flickered, but he maintained a cheerful expression as he accepted the gift. "Many thanks, Madam."

    ...

    The imperial envoy's retinue arrived swiftly and departed just as quickly.

    Censor Zeng and the chief secretary accompanied them, while Lady Fan chose to stay behind. She took a look at the Shen family residence and playfully advised Sang Luo, "Madam Sang, you'd better hasten the repairs on this house."

    Otherwise, there would be no proper place to honor the imperial edict.

    Sang Luo replied with a smile, "Thank you for your kind reminder, Lady."

    Originally, I intended to wait until the harvest season was over, but now it seems we must hasten the work. With the two hundred taels of silver granted by the palace, we can indeed build a finer house.

    Fanny Fan chuckled. "There's no need to address me as Lady either. We're half compatriots, after all. My given name is Fanny, so you may simply call me that."

    This response caught Sang Luo off guard, but recalling Fanny Fan's warm reception during the plow offering and their harmonious conversation, she admired Fanny's character. Thus, she smiled and said, "In that case, don't call me Madam Sang either. My name consists of only one character, Luo. If it's not too much trouble, Fanny, you can call me Ah Luo."

    They both laughed at this understanding.

    Fanny Fan glanced at Shen's humble thatched cottage and continued, "Your family's land doesn't seem very spacious, does it?"

    There were only four people in total. Recently, Fan Feiniang had frequently disguised herself in men's clothing to accompany her husband on his travels to various counties. She was well aware of the imperial policy regarding the allocation of garden lands in Da Qi.

    Sang Luo nodded in agreement.

    Fan Feiniang continued, "It won't make much difference if we wait a couple more days. Your family has received an imperial edict and a tablet from the Emperor, so your situation is unique. It's not bound to this particular plot of land. Once the fields and woods granted as rewards are assigned, you can allocate a portion of that land to expand your garden residence, allowing for more spacious living quarters. Cui Shi should be arriving soon to handle this matter; you can discuss it with him."

    The silver and silk granted by the Emperor came directly from the palace, whereas the allocation of the fields would be handled by the Xizhou provincial office.

    Upon hearing that their garden residence could be expanded, joy sparkled in Sang Luo's eyes. "Excellent, thank you for the advice, Feiniang."

    "What thanks are necessary? Alright, I must return now. If you have some free time, feel free to visit me at the provincial office's residential area."

    With that, she bid farewell with her maid and left.

    ...

    The moment the governor's wife departed, Chen Po and the others felt completely unleashed. They had been too timid to approach before, but now they all gathered around, still in a daze.

    "Was it really the Emperor who granted the reward?"

    A hundred acres of fertile land, another hundred acres of mountainous terrain, two hundred taels of silver, and thirty bolts of silk. Old Lady Chen pinched her own cheek hard, gritting her teeth in pain. It was no wonder she reacted this way.

    This was a gift from the Emperor himself.

    Putting aside the fact that it was a royal grant, two hundred acres of land in total – these were not lands that would be reclaimed by the government upon one's death. They could be passed down to generations.

    Two hundred acres – how significant was that? According to Qi's current land allocation system, a male who had reached the age of eighteen could receive ten acres of permanent land. One would have to have twenty offspring, all of whom must reach adulthood, to accumulate that much land from the government.

    Old Lady Chen calculated her family's population. How many generations would it take for them to possess two hundred acres of permanent land? She doubted she would live long enough to witness it.

    And there were also two hundred taels of silver. Who among these people, apart from the Xu family, had ever heard of such a substantial amount?

    Thirty bolts of silk – what value did they hold? They were tangible goods that could be exchanged for money once taken into the city.

    Amidst the chatter, there was no chance for Sangluo to respond.

    Village Chief Zhou was equally thrilled. "They're even building a monument for you, Ah Luo. Did you catch what was written on it? I didn't quite understand the string of words they recited."

    Sang Luo shook her head. "The imperial edict didn't mention it. We'll probably only know when the arch and the plaque are completed."

    "That's right, build the house! Alei, Aluo, you'd better hurry up with your construction. The emperor's gift of a plaque must have a place to hang, don't you think? I overheard that the imperial edict should also be displayed, isn't that so?" Zhou Cunzheng seemed to have suddenly come to his senses. "We'll all lend a hand when the time comes. I'll even call some people from the neighboring villages."

    Some villagers who had come to watch the excitement were also in the village. Hearing this, they laughed. "Master Shen, Lady Sang, if you're building a house, just give us a shout. We'll come and help out for a few days."

    Many others echoed their offer with laughter.

    Sang Luo and Shen Lie thanked each person individually.

    Since there was a large amount of silk to be sorted, despite everyone's excitement, they moved to chat outside the compound, making it easier to speak with the nearby villagers who had heard the news. Soon, the Shen family was left with only their own kin.

    Shen Jin and his two brothers didn't leave. They followed Shen Ning to inspect the silk.

    The three brothers, accustomed to heavy labor, had rough hands that they dared not touch the delicate fabric.

    "Big Sister-in-law, how much is this worth? Did the modification to the plow really deserve such a generous reward from the court?"

    He had been standing by earlier, aware that two hundred mu of land and two hundred taels of silver were at stake. Amidst the excitement of the villagers, Shen Jin was so overwhelmed that he could barely speak.

    Is it much?

    Indeed it is.

    Sangluo knew that the recognition she received was likely connected to her contribution of the plow and Governor Zeng's assistance. The tale of the world's hearts converging was a beautiful story.

    However, it wasn't something she could share with Shen Jin. Sangluo explained, "The Emperor is seeking talents, and the commendation given to me is also meant to inspire the learned people across the land."

    Shen Lie cleared his throat and gazed at Sangluo, smiling. "I suspect it was your words that day that won the Emperor's favor. When An and I returned from the provincial school, new edicts had just been posted at the government notice board. Can you guess what they were?"

    Sangluo looked puzzled, but Shen An had already started laughing. "An and I were in such a rush to come back that we didn't bother to read them. However, the officer who sent us back mentioned the titles of the edicts. There were two: one was the decree praising the Sang family for their plow, and the other was an edict renaming Jianye to Chang'an. Elder Sister, the officer said that the renaming to Chang'an was inspired by your phrase 'Prosperous Chang'an' from that day."

    Sangluo's eyes widened in astonishment, her mouth hanging open.

    Shen Lie chuckled softly. "A'ro, those edicts were issued to every prefecture and county across the Great Qi."

    In other words, her name, A'ro, had become known throughout the land.

    ...

    While Great Prosperity Village bustled with excitement, the envoy and Governor Zeng's party had already left the village. Their mission to proclaim the imperial edict was completed. Back at the governor's residence, they sat down, and it wasn't until tea was served that Governor Zeng found the chance to ask, "Lord Li, why did you personally take on the task of proclaiming the edict?"

    Who is Li Yu? He is the one who has been by Prince Qi's side from the very beginning, helping to conquer the land and establish the kingdom. Though a scholar by nature, he is greatly trusted by Prince Qi, playing an instrumental role in devising strategies, recruiting talents, and ensuring the stability of their rear. Holding now a fourth-rank official position, it would be highly unlikely that he would be dispatched for nothing more than presenting an accolade to the Sang family.

    They had once served under Crown Prince Qi, and there was a certain bond between them. That was why Governor Zeng dared to ask.

    Li Yu sighed. "It's not that I can't speak of it. This journey serves two purposes: first, to assess the southern situation on behalf of His Majesty; second, to make a visit to Jiaxing."

    "Kuaiji? You mean..."

    Li Yu chuckled. "It's just as Ziqian imagined. Not only do the various prefectures and counties below use the old paper from the previous dynasty, but even the court does."

    Magistrate Zeng's brows furrowed so tightly that a fly could be trapped between them. "What could Luo Clan possibly be thinking? With Da Qi now unified, who would dare to cause trouble? What benefit could they gain by withholding the paper?"

    Li Yu sneered. "Their ambitions are vast. For now, they're claiming that the family member who held the paper-making formula has perished in the chaos, and the formula hasn't been found yet. The Emperor can hardly say anything about it."

    As for what they were truly planning, Li Yu didn't elaborate.

    Even without Li Yu's explanation, Third Son Zeng could guess. It was all about profit. The Luo Clan no longer had a place in the current court. Recalling the positions Luo Clan members had held during the Great Kan period, Third Son Zeng's eyes narrowed. They hadn't been seen during the conquest of the world, but now they dared to demand offices and titles.

    With the matter unresolved, Li Yu didn't dwell on it and said, "I'll rest here for an hour. I'll soon make a simple journey to Kuaiji. If your provincial office lacks paper, you should start making preparations. It might not be that easy to wait for Luo's paper."

    Governor Zeng nodded, hearing that Li Yu was leaving in the afternoon. He asked, "After such a long journey, won't you stay for the night?"

    Li Yu waved his hand. "The mission is of utmost importance."

    "Alright, then I won't hold you back. I'll host a meal at noon and have my wife prepare some food and water for your journey."

    Li Yu smiled. "Thank you, Sister-in-law."

    ...

    In the afternoon, the couple sent Li Yu off. Upon noticing that Li Yu's carriage was heading in the wrong direction, Fan Feiniang asked about it.

    As they were alone, Zeng Sandang replied, "He's going to Kuaiji."

    Fan Feiniang, being astute, quickly understood. "To Luo's place?"

    She laughed out of frustration. "Doesn't Luo fear overextending himself?"

    "What is he afraid of? Everyone on this stage speaks with decorum; who would genuinely expose their true intentions? It all comes down to who will cave first in the matter of profit and loss." Sanlang Zeng pursed his lips. "On my end, I'll have to arrange for the office to hire a few craftsmen skilled in making bamboo scrolls. We're running out of scrap paper."

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