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    Chapter 277: One Word - Defiant!

    Three years is not merely three years.

    In times past, when rewards could not be bestowed and the matter had to be concealed, it was because the invention of papermaking could not be attributed to Sangluo's contribution. Now that her exceptional talent in agriculture has been revealed, how could the Emperor possibly allow her to remain in Shezhou?

    The decision to wait until October to join the tribute convoy was made with consideration for the fact that the Shen twins were currently too young.

    There was no way around it; one had to be exceptionally cautious with someone so young. Though he did wish to employ Shen Jia, he wasn't so insensitive as to disregard the family's situation altogether. He could afford to wait eight or nine months.

    Perhaps, one could say that the Emperor was most patient and thorough with the people and matters he held in high regard.

    Zeng Ziqian also quickly grasped the situation and felt genuine joy for the Shen family, even though he would no longer be able to bring them monthly updates.

    Ah, such a delight, once tasted, it's vexing to think of losing it again.

    But considering the potential benefits Sangluo's arrival in the capital could bring to Great Qi, such disappointment was insignificant!

    The imperial assembly persists, deliberating upon Lady Yunyang's proposition to establish public latrines across all prefectures and counties in the Grand Qi realm, as well as her recommendation to appoint specialized agricultural officials dedicated to the study and advancement of horticulture. The focus now lies on determining the precise measures for implementing these proposals.

    Sang Luo, the Lady Yunyang, unknowingly had made a name for herself in the imperial court. Her two casual suggestions had become the main topics of discussion among the civil and military officials during their assemblies.

    ...

    In Daxing Village, Sang Luo remained oblivious to the happenings in the capital. Since the establishment of the school on the 15th day of the first lunar month, it had only been twenty days, but Shen Ning, Xu Wenying, Chen Xiaoya, and Shi Qiaoer, the four young girls, had already established a brush-making workshop.

    It all started when the sales of Sang Luo's specialty products from Daxing Village expanded to neighboring provinces. The pork jerky and pork floss became popular, and even cold rabbit meat was ordered daily. As a result, there was a significant increase in the supply of hog bristles and rabbit fur.

    However, Shen Ning and her friends were quite busy. Not only did they teach at the school, but Shen Ning and Chen Xiaoya also managed their own accounts. Thus, they had less time for brush-making. Inspired by Sang Luo's fan workshop, the four girls decided to establish a brush workshop. They even planned to involve the merchant apprentices from Shen Jin's team to distribute their brushes in other regions.

    Of course, Shen Ning had become adept at handling such matters. She knew it wouldn't be appropriate to use her sister-in-law's resources without compensation. So, she negotiated with them to share part of the transportation costs for the brush workshop, and also proposed a commission on brush sales.

    The workshop would be set up in the same room where the Xu family previously made brushes, with additional workstations. The bamboo handles would be outsourced to nearby farmers skilled in bamboo crafting, who would be given samples and paid according to the agreed price. For the brush heads, they recruited a few diligent teenage girls from the external students at the new school, also paying them based on production volume.

    They had learned quite well how to run a business.

    Sang Luo couldn't help but give them her approval.

    This was clearly an exceptionally positive development for the school. Girls in their early teens, who at home were occupied with chores like gathering pig feed, feeding chickens, and cooking meals, had, after just twenty days of studying, stumbled upon an unexpected source of income.

    Upon hearing this news, the notion that education was beneficial gained even more traction among the villagers surrounding Daxing Village, resulting in an increase in the number of evening school eavesdroppers.

    While this was a favorable outcome, Sangluo never expected a negative consequence to arise.

    In fact, the affected party hadn't even approached her to voice their concerns. Sangluo learned about the issue from Feng Liu, who visited with her child in tow.

    The head family of the Lu clan was planning to split off into separate households.

    The catalyst was Lu Dalang's intention to remarry. Without informing his family, he had entrusted a matchmaker to propose to Butcher Zheng's family. After being rejected, several days later, Zheng Datong came for her night classes and was followed home by Lu Dalang when she left.

    Zheng Datong attended the night school alongside Lady Gan, the wife of Brother Two from her village, and the Feng family members. However, the Gan and Feng households were separated from the Zhengs, so once the other two families reached their homes, Zheng Datong was left walking alone with her nephew.

    It was then that Lu Dalang appeared, asking Zheng Datong why she refused his proposal. He claimed to have investigated and found that as a widow and a widower, they were a perfect match. He wondered what she saw as lacking in him.

    If this had happened to anyone else, it might have ended with a few sharp words. But Zheng Datong had already experienced unpleasant events in the past, making her far more timid than before. The dark night, combined with a man chasing after her and Lu Dalang's hoarse voice, genuinely frightened her.

    Fortunately, Zheng Datong's brother, Shuzhu, who had noticed something amiss in the past twenty days, had been discreetly following her to ensure her safety during her night classes. Sensing trouble, he promptly intervened, introducing himself, apologizing, and pulling his father away.

    Zhang Datou recognized Lu Shuzhu as a fellow classmate from the school, and her heart finally settled.

    She didn't say anything more; her brothers went straight to Daxing Village and gave First Brother Lu a sound beating!

    "They didn't confront you because they were sparing your face. You don't even know your own age or reputation, yet you still sent someone to my family to propose marriage. How dare you still follow my sister at night after being rejected! Trying to scare her! You dared to scare my sister!"

    They really beat him to within an inch of his life!

    The Lus' eldest branch lived in the most remote part of the village, and the Zhang brothers were frequent visitors to Daxing Village, often helping Sangluo slaughter pigs. Thus, when they entered the village, no one paid them any special attention. No one outside the Lus knew that First Brother Lu had been beaten up.

    "My mother was furious. Shuzhu is nineteen, Tiezhu seventeen. Because of that incident years ago, it's not easy for Shuzhu to find a match. Neither he nor Tiezhu has any prospects yet, but he's already thinking of remarriage."

    With a personality like Feng Liu's, she couldn't help but twitch her lips when discussing this matter. She genuinely pitied her nephews.

    Their neighbors were all from the mountains back then and had some familiarity with them. Those who hadn't seen the Lus' eldest branch for several years could guess what had happened. As for the Zhangs, how could they not have heard any rumors?

    Even if they weren't particularly close, they were all part of the group that sought refuge in the depths of the mountains back then. Everyone in Daxing Village knew each other well, except for the Lus' eldest branch, who returned months later from elsewhere. Who wouldn't be cautious about that?

    So since last year, Mother Lu had been eager to find a match for her eldest grandson to uphold the prestige of the eldest branch. After months of bustling around, she couldn't find a suitable candidate. Who was to blame for that?

    Now, Lu Da actually had the audacity to consider remarriage!

    "He's thirty-six, while Zheng Da'niu is likely no more than twenty-three or four. He really has some nerve."

    Sang Luo couldn't help but laugh through her anger.

    In truth, Zheng Da'niu was quite attractive. When they first met, she appeared plump with a round, cheerful face, and her fair skin suggested she had been dearly cherished by her parents since childhood. Her family's circumstances seemed decent, allowing her to be well-nourished.

    After the incident where she was trapped in the county, and then brought out again, she never regained her previous weight. Her features and eyes became more prominent.

    On the other hand, Lu Da was the complete opposite. He didn't take much care of himself and had become coarser over time. One glance at him could easily make people believe he was the father instead of the husband. Yet, he had the gall to do so.

    Sang Luo almost spat in disdain.

    She used her leg to stop Tianyi, who, with the warmer weather, had started not only to turn over but also crawl around the bed. Turning to Feng Liu, she asked, "What happened next? Did Lu Nai mention the separation of households?"

    "No, it was Shuanzhu who proposed it. He wants to separate Iron Column and his siblings into a separate household. I noticed that all four of them follow their eldest brother closely."

    Sang Luo raised her eyebrows, quite surprised.

    Madam Feng laughed. "Didn't expect that, did you?"

    "I really didn't. Has he done something in the mountains again?"

    In her memory, the Lu family's eldest branch children were overly filial.

    It wasn't that being filial was bad, but they were too soft. Regardless of what Lu Da and Wang Chunniang did, their children couldn't stop them or restrain them. They also couldn't bear to punish them severely, which led to the gradual deterioration until the whole family was sent away.

    Now, they actually had the determination to separate from the main family for their siblings. Wasn't that surprising?

    Madam Feng shook her head. "I don't know. I haven't heard anything since he returned, but it seems like there was some estrangement between him and his father. Before proposing the separation, he seemed to have spoken with his grandparents. The old lady was quite upset and went over to take charge directly."

    Oh, so this was what she meant by Lu Da must have done something else in the mountains those years.

    "It's good that they're separating. Both sons are at marriageable age, yet the older one is still unmarried at nineteen. As a father, he's already thinking about being a groom himself."

    To be so unreliable, one could only imagine that it would soon be time for Shuzhu, Tiezhu, and Dadao to start considering marriage. In an era where parents arranged marriages, their fate truly depended on luck.

    ...

    After eating a round of melons at the Lu family's, Old Lady Lu pulled off a major move in just two days.

    Wonder what it was?

    She made Lu DaLang sign a deed to separate households and then another for land exchange.

    With whom did she want to exchange lands?

    With Tiezhu, who wouldn't turn eighteen for another year.

    She had Lu ErLang specially seek out Zhui Qichang to intercede, asking if they could allocate land outside of Daxing Village to Lu Tiezhu after a year, followed by a land swap between father and son.

    In other words, she was directly kicking Lu DaLang out of Daxing Village.

    Who was Zhui Qichang? The official in charge of household registration and land allocation, with close ties to Daxing Village. Both were sharp-minded individuals; a few subtle inquiries would be enough for them to figure out the whole story. There might have been some complications in the process, but since it involved a father-son separation and they signed an agreement with seals, the matter could certainly be arranged.

    Moreover, he facilitated the matter smoothly. First, he handled the change of household registration and land transfer for Lu DaLang, moving him out right away. As for the plot of land that originally belonged to Lu DaLang and was already cultivated, the Zhu brothers would pay the annual rent to the government office and use it temporarily for a year, until it was officially allocated to Tiezhu.

    San Luo found it astonishing: "Given Daxing Village's prime location and the fact that the land is already cultivated, how could he agree to it?"

    "Certainly not. Thanks to your family, life in our village is much better than outside. To be honest, mentioning Da Xing Village makes it easier to arrange marriages for our folks."

    "So how did he agree?"

    Feng Liu's expression turned odd as she replied, "The old lady was determined. She sought our and Third Brother's consent, then placed fifteen strings of coins on the table. She said that if he agreed, the money would serve as compensation. If not, it would be payment for the labor of the villagers to dismantle and rebuild a section of the wall around Da Xing Village, isolating him from the rest. Of course, in the end, Zhan Shu took the money from his own share, not taking a penny from the old lady."

    Sang Luo was stunned by what she heard.

    Da Xing Village was originally a manor belonging to the Wang family of Shezhou. For easier administration, apart from the area close to the mountains, the rest of the village was surrounded by an earthen wall.

    It was also because the head family of the Lu clan returned late and didn't mingle much that they chose a location at the very edge of the village for their land and house.

    Sang Luo pondered the location of the Lu family's land; to encircle Lu Da alone would indeed require quite an extensive fence. This wasn't about building a house where friends might pitch in for a few days out of goodwill.

    Well, this situation is rather unconventional, I'm afraid there might be a fee involved.

    Indeed, even if rice and vegetables were grown at home, the mere cost of purchasing meat and paying laborers to work on the project would likely require a substantial sum, perhaps fifteen ke of copper coins or more.

    The crux of the matter was, if Old Lady Lu were to follow through with this, Master Lu would become infamous. Even if he continued living here, he would never be able to hold his head high again in this region outside of Shezhou City for the rest of his life.

    Sang Luo summed it up with one word: "Perfection!"

    This job was executed flawlessly!

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