Si Tian Guan Chapter 133

Chapter 133: Straw Dummy

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The night had fallen and the clamor of people had receded, leaving behind a silent darkness that was occasionally interrupted by the eerie hooting of an owl or the croaking of some bird. The unsettling sound made one’s heart race.

The faint chirping of the birds caused the person, who was bound and lying on the ground, to convulse slightly. This tiny noise brought them back from their unconscious state.

The owl cried out again, sounding like a mixture of laughter and weeping. The person on the ground moved unconsciously, tilting their head back and opening their mouth, but they were unable to make a sound. In the flickering candlelight, only two bloody, fleshless sockets where their eyes once were could be seen.

Despite the absence of eyes, the terror on their face was still apparent, as if the bird outside was not a bird at all, but a demon coming to take their soul.

The owl’s cries grew closer, and it seemed to fly right through the walls, swirling around the person’s body.

As it drew nearer, the person could finally distinguish that it was not the owl’s cry at all, but rather the wails of a baby, followed by the intermittent, muffled screams of a woman. The cries continued to grow louder and more incessant.

The person on the ground trembled as if they had heard something unspeakably horrifying. They struggled with all their might, writhing on the ground as if something was trying to take their life.

The cell was narrow, and they quickly collided with the wooden fence, but they still frantically kicked at the ground, as if something was haunting them.

Just as they were about to lose control completely, the ghostly cries and laughter abruptly stopped.

But as soon as he collapsed onto the ground, convulsing in a state of unconsciousness, an extremely sorrowful cry of a baby suddenly sounded in his ear, as if it were only half a palm away from him.

The man’s entire body stiffened, and he suddenly spewed out a mouthful of blood before falling still on the ground.

It wasn’t until a tea’s worth of time had passed and it was confirmed that he was truly unconscious that the several people standing outside the cell exchanged glances and retreated back up the stone steps.

Perhaps the sound was too eerie, but even if they had done nothing wrong, the group stood in the courtyard feeling the night breeze, still unable to recover for a while.

The only one unaffected was Fang Wuyang, who was just extremely parched.

“Have some water,” someone handed him a tea cup from the side, “brother.”

Fang Wuyang almost spat out the tea he had just taken a sip of, “What are you doing here?!”

Liu Zhongming reprimanded him with displeasure, “What are you screaming about in the middle of the night?”

“You…” Fang Wuyang’s lungs almost exploded, “Liu Zhongming, are you trying to take advantage of me again in the middle of the night? You think I want to come to your place to learn how to scream like a ghost? And you! What are you doing here?! Is Liu Zhongming plotting something against you again?”

Liu Zhongming glanced at the person who was whispering with Ling He, “Watch your words.”

Fang Wuyang lowered his voice, still unable to swallow his anger, and pulled Jingchen a few steps away.

“Jingchen, tell me, why… why won’t you even consider that position and insist on helping Liu Zhongming?”

Mu Jingchen lifted the corners of his mouth and forced a smile. Everyone had their own experiences, and he didn’t want to say too much and make people worry about him.

“My mother has been in poor health for many years. I’ve been taking care of her and hope that she can live well. That’s more important than anything else.”

“It wasn’t mine to begin with, and I don’t want to fight for it. I just hope that one day, we can get away from all the turmoil and have a nice family gathering.”

“Brother, when that day comes, would you be willing to be with us?”

Fang Wuyang was speechless and thought for a long time, but didn’t answer the question. He only asked, “Has Liu Zhongming really done nothing wrong? Why did you come here?”

Someone standing nearby leaned against the pillar with arms folded, speaking coldly. “His Highness only came here because he was afraid that you and Liu Zhongming couldn’t get along and couldn’t accomplish anything, so he just wanted to come here to stabilize the situation.”

Fang Wuyang saw the person and was not in a good mood. “What are you doing here?”

“The spy from Qi Wang’s side came to the door. Do you want it?”

“No, go away! I know you’re up to no good.”

Jiang Xingzhi didn’t even look at him. “Even if it’s something bad, we’re doing it together.”

“Alright, Xingzhi, don’t argue anymore,” Mu Jingchen interjected, standing between the two and gesturing to the side. “Liu Zhongming and the others have something important to discuss. Let’s go over there first.”

There were many trivial matters and people and things were all mixed together, but fortunately, they were all reliable and trustworthy people.

Liu Zhongming caught up with them and arched his hand to Mu Jingchen. “Thank you, Your Highness.”

Mu Jingchen stopped him from bowing.

“Zhongming, I should thank you instead. Recently, I have found a suitable prescription for my mother, and her complexion has improved a lot.”

Liu Zhongming didn’t feel good about it. 

He naturally wouldn’t talk about his mother’s affairs with outsiders. He only let the trusted physician who had recently joined his sister’s side go to check on Concubine Xian’s condition, and privately told Mu Jingchen the prescription – Xueshanghao and Tianxianzi. 

“What did the physician say?”

“The imperial physician said that my mother has been sick for too long, and can only gradually recuperate. She will eventually get better than before,” Mu Jingchen forced a smile. “After so many years, I don’t expect too much. To live an ordinary lifespan is enough for me to be content.”


Liu Zhongming couldn’t help but smile bitterly. If it were really just that, why would Mu Jingchen, who had never cared about court affairs, naturally and calmly stand on his side?

Just because of that unspeakable blood relationship?

After enduring so many years, even if he didn’t have the intention to fight for the position, how could he not feel resentment?

Everyone was intelligent.

Although he understood in his heart, with this “favor”, Mu Jingchen, who already had a relationship with the Liu family, would not only lend a helping hand, but also stabilize Fang Wuyang and Jiang Xingzhi at the same time.

But Liu Zhongming felt guilty and couldn’t accept this gesture. He could only force a smile, comfort a few words, and ask Mu Jingchen to rest.

The matter of Pan He is the current priority.

Upon seeing him coming, Ling He and Qu Chenzhou stopped their discussion. 


Liu Zhongming nodded at the two of them. He was not someone with an empty mind like Qi Wang. Just by looking at Pan He’s reaction earlier, he knew they were on the right track.

Before going to Jinping Village, Qu Chenzhou left only the word “baby” to Ling He.

After pondering with Rong Jiuan at home for a few times, Ling He decided to take a risk and try. Pan He was already a frightened bird, and if their attempt failed, they might never be able to move Pan He again.

Even luckier, they had Qu Chenzhou.

After listening to their plan, Qu Chenzhou went to the underground and confirmed their attempt.

From this day on, the crying of the baby became a nightmare that Pan He could not shake off. After eight days of hysteria, he was already at his limit, just one last shot away from being shot down.

The three of them sat down at the stone table, and Ling He opened several pieces of paper, each with a few words written on them—this was Qu Chenzhou’s favorite way, and Ling He had learned it by reading a few times.

“Bing Dilian, twin siblings,” Ling He pointed to the six words on the first piece of paper, and then read them one by one: “child born of sin, baby. Let me first tell you the result of my discussion with Chenzhou.”

Liu Zhongming looked at him sideways and smiled slightly—Qu Chenzhou, these words came out so naturally from Ling He’s mouth.

A clever fox in winning people over, indeed.

People like Ling He, who were proud and arrogant, despised embroidered pillows the most, but they couldn’t resist someone who was efficient and better than them in actual skills.

The little fox has it all – beauty, intelligence, and cunning. Ling He’s scrutinizing gaze climbed from the depths to the heights, admiring and even reverent.

“People who react strongly to the cry of an infant like Pan He have often committed murder, and the victims in these murder cases are usually infants and women.”

“Next is the twins.”

“Following our previous idea, the infant that Pan He killed was a twin, and perhaps the pregnant woman was also killed to silence them.”

Steady as ever, Zhongming placed the two sheets of paper side by side on the table.

In fact, even without Ling He’s explanation, he gradually had a rough idea in his mind. 

It was all painted with blood.

If he had heard these things suddenly in the past, even if he prided himself on being mature, he would probably be shaken.

But since he met Qu Chenzhou, who had died and come back to life, one fake facade after another was uncovered, and those hypocrites were all barbaric.

When his father spoke to him about what his mother had done over the years and her whereabouts now, he was calm enough to remain expressionless.

His sister was right – he was the backbone that everyone relied on, and he had to support everyone’s efforts.

“Then there is the child born of sin,” Zhongming gestured to the opposite side. “Chenzhou knows more details, let him speak.”

“The incident where Lord Marquis and the Emperor met a fortune teller on the street, you all know about it, so I won’t repeat it,” said Qu Chenzhou, picking up a charcoal pencil and circling three characters on the paper, and then writing three other characters next to them.


“Fan Wuyang and I went to Jinping Village and secretly observed them for several days. There were about seventy people living in the village, and thirty-five of them were child born of sin.”

Ling He was horrified to hear this and couldn’t help but exclaim, “How can it be so coincidental?”

It was rare enough to have twins, and it was even rarer for only one of them to survive, but thirty-five people with the same experience happened to be living in Jinping Village.

Unless…someone had done it intentionally.

And they all guessed the name of that person.

“That’s not all,” Qu Chenzhou added, “Among these thirty-five people, there are men and women, from infants to middle-aged.”

This was the first time Ling He had heard him mention it, and he asked with a frown, “Are there any other characteristics?”


“In that case…” Ling He shivered, not sure if it was because of the cold wind at night or because of what he was thinking, “If they are only living there because of their sin-born status, could it be…straw dummy?”

There was a saying in the market that if a wealthy family had a precious and sickly child who was difficult to raise, they would say that heaven couldn’t bear to see such a child’s great fortune, and would take the person back.

In order to protect the child, the most common method was to use a straw dummy as a substitute.

Originally, the straw dummy was mostly made of rice straw, with valuable objects and the child’s birthdate and horoscope placed inside. Later, it evolved into finding a poor and tough child to be well-fed and well-cared for, acting as a substitute for the precious child’s suffering, and the name “straw dummy” was used to refer to these substitute children.

Qu Chenzhou had discussed the possibility of taking the blame for someone else with Liu Zhongming, but neither of them knew that there was such an allusion. After hearing Ling He’s explanation, they became more certain of their previous guesses.

The diviner’s idea for the emperor was undoubtedly to use a “straw dummy” to replace the emperor in bearing the illness and congenital guilt.

“There is another thing,” Ling He’s face turned pale. “Do you remember the Thousand Child Pagoda?”

Of course, they knew that shortly after the emperor ascended the throne, he ordered the construction of Thousand Child Pagoda in the north east south and west, all four sides, saying it was to pray for the blessings of the Da Yu’s offsprings. At that time, many people in the court opposed it, saying that it was a waste of resources. However, the result of the power struggle was that the emperor ordered the scale of the Thousand Child Pagodas to be reduced. The four Thousand Child Pagodas still stand in the four counties.

Upon hearing Ling He’s reminder, Liu Zhongming immediately realized, “You mean the Thousand Child Pagodas were not built by the emperor to pray for blessings…”

“Was it to suppress the grievances of those innocent infants and women who were sacrificed by him?” Qu Chenzhou sneered, “So the emperor is also afraid. I thought only Pan He was afraid of the ghosts and spirits seeking revenge.”

If Ling He’s guess about the Thousand Child Pagodas was correct, then all the clues would fit perfectly, except for one thing.

“Why are there 35 people?”

“The number thirty-five, is not the number of years since the emperor ascended to the throne, nor does it match the number of years since the emperor met the fortune teller. I considered that maybe I had seen it wrong and thought of going back to take a look another day.”

“Let’s put that aside for now,” Liu Zhongming interrupted the contemplation of the two in front of him. “Since it involves the Jinping village, let me tell you about the recent findings, which may provide some clues.”

“Jinping village is not too far or too close to hunting grounds. It’s about half a day’s ride on horseback. The distance is quite cunning. Common folks live there and except for being a bit remote, there doesn’t seem to be any problems.”

“Except that the people from the village would have a vegetable garden they own half a mile away and would send things there every month.”

“I had people follow them twice, and the people delivering the goods come from a village west of Jinping, where there aren’t many outsiders. My people couldn’t easily go in and chat with them to inquire, but while they were out working, they took a look around inside the house.”

“Several houses have signs of renovation, probably less than a year old.”

“A year…” Ling He murmured, repeating it again. The three of them looked at each other, all knowing what that time frame meant.

It was about a year ago when Pan He went missing and the people in this village were asked to deliver food to Jinping village.

“When was Jinping village built?” He asked Liu Zhongming.

“It’s an old village that was built a long time ago. It was renovated and expanded about a year ago.”

“Very likely,” Ling He pondered, slowly speaking, “about a year ago, these people were transferred from Pan He’s hands to Jinping Village.”

Stirred by the realization of this hypothesis, Liu Zhongming couldn’t sleep again. He was about to put on his clothes and go for a walk when he saw Qu Chenzhou sitting up from the mosquito net and following him.

“Chenzhou, I might become like Liao Guangming and Pan He in the future,” he said without fear but with a heavy heart, “will you think I’m disgusting?”

Qu Chenzhou placed his hand in his palm, and their fingers intertwined, intimate and inseparable.

“No, I won’t.”

With the warmth of his palm, he could hold his head high and forge ahead.

What did Pan He do, and why was he inexplicably terrified of the cries of babies and women? The answer was about to be revealed.

But would revealing this truth to the Emperor be what he wanted?

Liu Zhongming was lost in thought when he saw Qu Chenzhou raising his finger.

“Shizi, there is someone whose mind is sharp and may be able to help us think.”

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