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    Chapter 260 - Bestowing a Title as Reward

    When an emperor gains an immense advantage over a commoner, especially when it's willingly offered by her for the greater good of the kingdom and in recognition of his imperial status, and when that offering proves to be of tremendous utility, how would the emperor react?

    The one sitting on the imperial throne before her would feel a strong desire to compensate.

    The fact that Sang Luo's contribution to papermaking could not be publicly acknowledged made it difficult for the emperor to find an appropriate opportunity to reward her previously. Now, with this chance presented before him, the urge to make amends naturally arose.

    The last topic before the afternoon court session adjourned was proposed by the emperor himself. "Let's hear your opinions, ministers, on how to reward Sang from Daxing Village."

    This was where the civil servants' expertise lay. Immediately, someone stepped forward to express their views, some advocating commendation, others suggesting rewards of silver or silk. The emperor listened attentively to several ministers' suggestions, which ranged from granting fields to bestowing rolls of silk. He smiled but neither approved nor disapproved, instead turning to Zeng Zixuan. "As the local governor of Shezhou, you're most familiar with Sang's accomplishments. What do you think?"

    Zeng Zixuan wasn't foolish, especially when the emperor emphasized her achievements. He instantly grasped the emperor's intentions and swiftly weighed the desired level of recognition. Stepping forward, he began praising Sang's innovations, from the curved plow to yam cultivation and castration techniques, using elegant rhetoric. Then, he shifted gears to the main point. "Your humble servant believes that the contributions Sang has made this year, particularly the curved plow and pig castration method, cannot be fully acknowledged merely through rewards of silver, silk, or a hundred acres of land. I dare to suggest conferring a title upon her. For a woman, the lowest rank of county lady would suffice. Your Majesty, what do you think?"

    Bestowing a noble title!

    Upon a common peasant woman?!

    The courtiers were taken aback, even Li Yu and the other trusted ministers close to the emperor were momentarily speechless.

    For the emperor to bring it up, how bold was Zeng Ziqian being?

    This was entirely different from Fan's elevation to Third Rank Lady. Fan herself came from an esteemed background, but more importantly, she was Zeng Ziqian's wife – a husband's glory brought honor to his wife. It was customary for the wives and mothers of high-ranking officials to receive noble titles.

    But what was a Xiangjun? Princes, princesses, county princesses, and town princesses were typically bestowed upon royal family members, while county ladies and town ladies were given to the daughters of meritorious officials. Qi Dynasty was newly established, and there were indeed many new nobles and meritorious figures. Many of those who had fought alongside the emperor in conquering the land had been granted titles, but not a single one of their daughters or sisters had received such honors.

    In other words, there were no county ladies or town ladies in the entire realm of Great Qi!

    Now there's a peasant woman who has attained the title of Sealed County Lady for her skill in castrating pigs?

    The emperor hadn't spoken yet when an official stepped forward and declared, "This subject objects!"

    "Throughout history, titles of nobility have been granted for martial achievements. County and Lady titles are bestowed upon the daughters of distinguished warriors. To confer such a title upon someone who merely alters plows and castrates pigs would make a mockery of our Qi Kingdom's Ladies of the County. If commoners can attain noble ranks with such ease, Sir Zeng's suggestion is indeed too whimsical!"

    Zeng Ziqian countered, "Which do you mean, Your Excellency? Is it easier to invent the Quyuan Plow, or to allow the common folk of Qi to raise a pig that yields nearly a hundred pounds of meat extra each year?"

    In the imperial court, a verbal sparring match ensued as ministers traded arguments back and forth. The emperor, having observed for a while, lifted his chin slightly and posed the question: "Councillor Xue, do you believe it appropriate to grant Lady Sang the title of County Princess?"

    Several ministers who had remained silent until now felt their eyelids twitch as the emperor called for Xue Yan.

    Though Xue Yan had not spoken up before, he showed no hesitation when addressed by the emperor. Stepping forward to salute, he declared, "I concur with Minister Zeng's proposal. Matters of state revolve around rewarding merit and meting out punishment. Though Lady Sang is but a peasant woman without influential relatives, she has shown great dedication to agricultural studies. Whenever she makes a discovery, she shares it openly, contributing twice to the court within a year. Though she has not fought on the battlefield, her deeds have benefited the state and its people. I believe that she deserves the title of Country Lady, and it is indeed the most fitting reward for her at this moment."

    "Oh?" The emperor raised an eyebrow. "In what way is it the most suitable?"

    "Our new dynasty is still in its infancy, with many endeavors awaiting revitalization. Your Majesty is in dire need of capable individuals. If a peasant woman like Lady Sang can earn a title through her achievements, how can we worry about lacking talented individuals stepping forward?"

    Not waiting for the emperor to call on anyone else, the Left Prime Minister stepped forward. "In ancient times, a king spent a fortune to buy a horse's bone to show his sincerity in seeking talent. Minister Xue's words resonate with me, and I also request that Lady Sang be granted the title of Country Lady."

    "I second that motion!"

    "I second that motion!"

    ...

    As soon as the key officials took a stand, a chorus of agreement followed from those behind them.

    The emperor was pleased.

    "Excellent, an admirable display of valuing talent. I shall heed the advice of my ministers and confer the title of Fifth Rank Country Lady upon Lady Sang of Xizhou."

    The drafting of the imperial edict would be handled by the literary attendants. The tribute from Xizhou was genuinely beneficial to the people, with the yam being planted in the royal manors once spring arrived. As for the castrators brought by Zeng Ziqian, they would temporarily remain in Chang'an, beginning the implementation of pig castration methods in the surrounding prefectures and counties from the following day.

    After dismissing the court, the emperor returned to his study in an exceptionally good mood. Even before reaching his destination, he instructed Cen Xi to send all the tribute items from Xizhou, excluding the pigs and yams, to his study for him to inspect.

    Curiosity had piqued during the previous session. What exactly was this fermented tofu, and how was it consumed? As the eunuchs delivered the items, the emperor, with clean hands, allowed them to unpack the boxes while he effortlessly picked up a jar. Without hesitation, he opened it and popped a piece of fresh meat jerky into his mouth.

    Cen Xi's eyelids flickered at the sight of the meat jerky, then his thoughts drifted to the newly appointed Country Lady. Indeed, his previous speculation seemed to be correct.

    The Great Prosperity Manor was no ordinary place.

    Just as he pondered this, the emperor generously handed him a jar of the meat jerky. "This tastes delightful. Consider it your reward."

    Cen Xi exclaimed in delight, hastily expressing his gratitude for the gift.

    The emperor had already moved on to inspect other novelties.

    ...

    Outside the Taiji Hall, it was past the usual time for officials to disperse. After the court session, a group of ministers left the palace directly.

    On this day, Xizhou emerged as the greatest victor once more. Those who earlier mocked Zeng Ziqian, presuming he would receive no reward, now kept their distance, avoiding him altogether. How could he have received nothing? This time, he was granted the title of a Country Lady, a rank might not be high, but it was a noble title for a woman!

    Not to mention Zeng Ziqian's own future prospects; it was evident to all with eyes that the emperor was pleased. With each term lasting three years, his promotion was now a certainty. Even the Governor of Meizhou benefited from this, leaving a favorable impression on the emperor.

    Zeng Ziqian merely smiled, awaiting his grandfather as they prepared to exit the palace together.

    He did not linger in the capital, resting only for a day before departing with the imperial envoy for Shexian on the second day.

    As a professional novel translator, I will provide an elegant and contextually faithful rendering of each line. Please provide the lines you would like translated, and I will ensure they are seamlessly adapted into English while preserving their literary essence and nuance.

    When the second angel arrived at Datong Village, it was the seventeenth day of the twelfth lunar month, nearing the end of the year. Farming activities had ceased, and households were relatively idle.

    The twins were now nearly three and a half months old, no longer as tiny as when they were first born. Under Sang Luo's meticulous care, the two little ones had grown more distinct features, their eyes and brows gradually unfolding. They could coo and babble, with Ah Yao in particular giggling at the slightest provocation, endearing herself to all.

    Shen Lie doted on his two children and, following Sang Luo's blueprint, crafted a baby carriage during the brief time after school each day. On sunny days, the little ones would be taken out for some sunshine and to join in the village's liveliness.

    When the Shen family's carriage appeared, Lu ErLang and Chen DaShan replicated one for their own daughter and son. This way, Sang Luo wouldn't be tied down and couldn't venture out. During winter's sunny days, the three families - the Shens, the Fungs, and the Zous - often strolled together with their children.

    Of course, the most frequented spot was still outside the Shen residence, as there were often children reading or studying there, with either Shen Ning or Xu WenYin taking turns as a young tutor.

    The four little ones loved to join in the fun. A Yao, who couldn't sit up yet, would delight in lying in the carriage, her hands waving excitedly, babbling happily. Even Qian Bao, who usually preferred quietness over his sister A Yao, would attentively listen with his ears perked and his bright, black eyes gleaming.

    It was at this moment that Nanny Zhong arrived, announcing that the imperial court had bestowed a reward, and the envoy was already at the governor's mansion, set to arrive at their home in half an hour.

    Upon hearing this, Shen Ning abandoned his studies, putting down his bamboo slip and exiting the pavilion. "An envoy? Another imperial edict?"

    Nanny Zhong beamed. "Indeed."

    This time, they didn't need to borrow a sacrificial table from the Xu family, as the Shens were well-prepared with all necessary items and had experience from the previous visit. Sang Luo entrusted her children to Shen Ning and requested the assistance of Qin FangNiang, Wei LingZhen, and others who were also basking in the sun. Together, they began moving things around, arranging for the ceremony. She also inquired about the number of envoys and prepared red envelopes for the impending rewards.

    For the second time, Shen Lie and Shen An were summoned from school by the governor's mansion, again for the same reason: to receive the imperial edict at home.

    Was the imperial edict a cabbage?

    It had been a year, and this was the second time.

    Not only were the teachers and classmates stunned, but even Shen Lie and Shen An themselves were taken aback. However, they knew they couldn't delay any longer. They quickly asked for leave from their teacher and headed home. When they arrived at Daxing Village, the grandeur of the imperial envoy's entourage drew countless villagers from neighboring areas to witness the spectacle.

    In the fifth year of her journey through time, Sang Luo received the imperial edict for the second time. This time, it was delivered by an eunuch, not a special envoy. She guessed that it was because of the castration method that she was being rewarded. She imagined receiving silver, silk, fields, and land, but never did she expect to be appointed a female baroness of Great Qi! ??

    Bearing the mandate of heaven and following the emperor's command, after the string of accolades, came the title of a fifth-rank country lady?

    Everyone in the Shen household, except for the two infants still in their carriages, stood there with their jaws dropped in astonishment.

    What else did the imperial messenger announce? That she would not receive a territorial income but could annually receive 40 taels of silver and 40 bushels of grain, and that the emperor had even granted her a manor in the capital?

    As the imperial edict and the hairpin and ceremonial dress were presented before her, Sang Luo remained dazed, her heart pounding fiercely. The crowd of onlookers, including Chen Po and the others, stood with their mouths wide open, as if they could fit an egg inside.

    The eunuch delivering the edict kindly prompted, "Country Lady, please accept the edict and express your gratitude."

    Sang Luo suddenly came to her senses and hastily accepted the edict, expressing her gratitude. She then took the hairpin and ceremonial dress from the eunuch's hands. Shen Lie, at the right moment, slipped a red envelope into the leading eunuch's hand, while Shen An took care of the other attendants.

    The eunuch, who had been forewarned by Cen Xi, treated the Shen family with courtesy. He accepted the red envelope with a smile, tucking it into his sleeve. "The Country Lady's manor needs some renovations and adjustments. When you come to the capital in the future, you may proceed to the Ministry of Household Affairs to receive further instructions."

    Sang Luo expressed her gratitude, wondering how Shen Lie had managed to entertain the guest and send them off so well. She pinched her own cheek and looked at Shen Ning, who was assisting with the chores. "Am I really a Country Lady?"

    Shen Ning was even more stunned than she was. "Big Sister, pinch me."

    Before Sang Luo could do it, Xu Wenying from the group that had entered with Madam Chen, promptly pinched both of them. "This isn't a dream..."

    When Shen Lie returned after seeing the guest off, the couple respectfully displayed the imperial edict. They stood in the southern room, staring at each other in disbelief before they both chuckled softly.

    Shen Lie teased, "Congratulations, my dear wife."

    News of Sang Luo being granted the title of a Country Lady spread through Xizhou like wildfire. For the first time, the people realized that by seriously studying agriculture and pig farming, one could actually earn a noble title and wealth!

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