Chapter 1794: Hou Junji's Final Destination!

Chapter 1794: Hou Junji's Final Destination!

Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
The scene suddenly changed, and Hou Junji now saw himself kneeling in Taiji Palace, his hair disheveled. Standing not far in front of him was the man he had served his entire life and respected with all his being, the man known by all the foreigners as the 'Heavenly Khagan', His Majesty Taizong. He was wearing a dragon robe, and had his back turned.
"I didn't think that you would betray me. You've deeply disappointed me!"
The figure's back seemed extremely lonely and sorrowful.
"Your Majesty, it's all my fault, all my fault! I offended Your Majesty, and if Your Majesty chooses to execute or torture me, Hou Junji will have no complaint. But Yue'er and Tai'er are innocent. Your Majesty, out of consideration for my many years following Your Majesty on the battlefield, please spare their lives. Even when Hou Junji is down in the netherworld, he will still thank Your Majesty for your benevolence!"
Hou Junji watched as he kneeled on the floor and madly began to kowtow, splattering the glossy surface with his blood and turning both his forehead and hair into a mess.
"Go! We agree to this!"
That man finally turned around, a sharp light in his eyes.
"Thank you, Your Majesty! Thank you!"
……
In the cold and empty confines of the palace, Hou Junji saw himself weeping with joy, lying prostrate on the floor for ages.
Countless images flashed past his eyes, and Hou Junji suddenly returned to that moment.
"Acceding to the will of the heavens, the Emperor declares:
"Army-Shattering War God Hou Junji colluded with Crown Prince Li Chengqian, plotting rebellion. This matter was confirmed by investigation of the Court of Judicial Review and the Three Departments. This wicked crime cannot be forgiven, and by law, he is to be executed! His execution is scheduled to be at the western marketplace in ten days!"
Hou Junji could hear the white-whiskered Inner Court Eunuch Director announcing the decree from atop the white jade steps.
Hou Junji was also in front of Taiji Palace, dressed in a prisoner's clothes, his hair a filthy mess. He saw the familiar figure of Tai'er, her face soaked in tears and grief.
"Husband, we can only meet again in our next life!"
"Daddy! I don't want Daddy to go!"
A young child, only three or four years old, was being held by his wife. He suddenly seemed to sense something, shook off the hold of the woman, and rushed into Hou Junji's chest and loudly cried.
As he embraced that young life, Hou Junji felt like ten thousand arrows had penetrated through his heart.
This was his last meeting with Yue'er and Tai'er. But even though he had been waiting for death, Hou Junji had not felt much regret.
The victor was king and the loser scorned. He had brought all this on himself. What was most important was that the man in Taiji Palace had finally agreed to his request.
"Go in peace. Your wife and son, as family of a criminal, will be sent to Lingnan, their descendants to never leave that place or set foot in the Central Plains again. This is the greatest leniency We can give you!"
"Thank you, Your Majesty! Thank you!"
Hou Junji kowtowed repeatedly in gratitude.
Even though they were being sent to Lingnan, he had left behind enough money for them. Even if they were no longer nobles and stripped of their fame and status, they could live out the rest of their lives in peace as ordinary people.
He had no more regrets.
……
"Traitor!"
"Rebel!"
"Kill him!"
On the day of execution, he stood in the prisoner cage as the packed crowds lining the street threw vegetables and eggs at him to vent their anger.
Hou Junji gave a miserable smile, right up until the moment that the cage was shattered and those people took him away from the execution ground.
Hou Junji had struggled at the start, but then, those people told him that nightmarish piece of news.
"Hou Junji, let me tell you something. I hope you can bear it. Not long ago, we learned that when your wife and son were crossing through Lingnan Circuit, they were killed by the man escorting them, Feng Zheng. In the end, the Imperial Court still decided to kill them to completely pull out the roots."
Shock!
Disbelief!
How could a man of his word like Taizong betray his promise? Only when he saw Yue'er's jade bracelet and Tai'er's body did he finally believe, and grief immediately stabbed through his heart.
As he stared at the child's body and caressed that familiar jade bracelet, he began to wail and weep.
Countless memories began to flood through his mind.
"Husband!"
Hou Junji recalled the day he had welcomed her into his household, when he had used the golden weighing rod to lift her veil, her blushing face, her eyes as beautiful as plum flowers.
"Yue'er! You won't hate me because I'm older than you, will you?"
Hou Junji recalled how he had teased her, a smile on his face.
He was ten-some years older than Yue'er, but in response to this tease, his wife solemnly and properly bowed.
"In Yue'er's eyes, Husband will always be the youngest. No matter what happens in the future, Yue'er will always stand by your side!"
Hou Junji's heart thumped, and he could only stare speechlessly at his wife.
……
A maple leaf drifted into the study while he was reviewing memorials from the border. As he was gradually growing tired, he suddenly smelled a thick fragrance. The door creaked open, and that familiar and slender figure softly walked over with a plate.
"Husband, you must be tired. Your wife made this for you. It's getting late! You should rest soon!"
The slender figure took the memorial from his hand and placed it to the side, and then she used her soft and supple hands to give his shoulders a massage. The Zi Period (11pm-1am) had passed long ago, and even the servants had gone to bed.
That bowl of soup was still piping hot, and when he heard those warm and sincere words, the battle-hardened Hou Junji felt his heart go soft.
……
"Husband, you have ink on your face."
"How could that be? There's nothing!
"Where is it?"
"Here."
His wife extended a slender finger and tapped him on the nose. Hou Junji was flabbergasted and was just about to check when he realized that his wife had broken into laughter, her body shaking all over.
"There was nothing there before, but now there is."
Hou Junji stared in a daze, and when he saw the dab of ink on that slender finger, he finally understood.
"You tricked me!"
Hou Junji feigned anger as he pulled his wife into his embrace.
"Let's see how I should punish you!"
……
"Daddy, daddy, hug me…"
"Daddy, play with me!"
"I want that one! That one…"
He remembered when his son was just beginning to learn how to talk, or how he had tottered over into his embrace. He also recalled those countless days in which he wanted to play, recalled how much he trusted him, and how soundly he slept in his embrace.
All of it came flooding in, but now, it was all smoke and vapor. That young boy was nothing but a cold corpse in his embrace, and as he clenched the jade bracelet, tears flowed down his ashen face, and a wail broke free of his lips.
Only when a life was lost would one realize how precious it was, but by then, it was too late! In the many days to come, he had lived a life worse than death. The endless suffering and regret he had felt were his punishment from the heavens.
For the first time, he understood what it felt to have lost absolutely everything.
He could die, but why break the promise and snatch away his loved ones? Why take those two innocent lives?
He wanted revenge! Vengeance!
"Why?! Why?!
"Li Chengqian was the Crown Prince, the natural successor to the throne. He was the one who wanted me to support me. How could I have imagined that he would be in such a rush? And it's only natural for the Crown Prince to inherit the throne. What mistake did I make?!
"Why?! Why did the Imperial Court have to kill my Yue'er and Tai'er? Yue'er was just a weak woman and Tai'er was only four years old! Were they a threat to the country?
"Taizong promised me, so why did he go back on his word?! Since he treated me with no mercy, I will return upon him injustice! I will have the House of Li fall into familial strife for generation after generation, father against son, brother against brother! Let them experience my suffering!"
Hou Junji's eyes were streaked with blood as he roared at the three in front of him like a madman.
"Little White Ape, Taizong never issued this order!"
The three of them looked at Hou Junji and deeply sighed.
"You know just how much His Majesty Taizong favored you. Based on the crime you committed, Emperor Taizong was completely within his rights to exterminate your entire Hou Clan. And given His Majesty Taizong's nature, if he wanted to kill them, why would he need to pretend to pardon them first?
"And did you never think about why those people, who you had never met before, wanted to save you? Was it really for the sake of justice?"
That tall and slender figure in the group of three shook his head. With a shake of his wrist, he took out an ebony token from his sleeve.
"When you disappeared from the execution ground and Taizong learned that your wife and son had been killed, he was filled with deep remorse. As you had been snatched away from the execution ground, Taizong predicted that you would come back one day to seek justice, so he issued this token of pardon and left it to me to wait for you. His Majesty ordered that no matter what crime you committed in the future, this token would be used to pardon you from the death penalty!"
Buzz!
When Hou Junji saw that token of pardon, he felt like his mind had exploded.
"Impossible! I don't believe it! They would never deceive me!"
His body staggered backward, his face turning deathly pale.
"False kindness and false righteousness! You're trying to fool me! You must be!"
But despite his words, his body was trembling. As one of Taizong's closest aides, he was more than familiar with the tokens issued by the Imperial Court. This ebony token presented by the three was different from all the other tokens of pardon issued by the court. Emperor Taizong kept it at his side, and it was unique, impossible to duplicate.
"Little White Ape, so much time has already passed, and even His Majesty Taizong has gone. After all the trouble you've caused, you should have vented all your anger by now."
The three sighed as they gazed at the agitated Hou Junji. They stepped forward together, but at this time, Hou Junji had apparently lost the ability to resist. With a strike to the back of the neck, Hou Junji went limp, his vision going dark.
"Kid, tell your Young Master that he can rest easy. We're taking Hou Junji with us, and he won't appear again in the future!" the stalwart Cheng Zhijie said to Young Master Qingyang.
"This junior will comply!"
Young Master Qingyang had a vague idea of who these three were, and he respectfully bowed.
The three said nothing more. With one person to a side, they grabbed Hou Junji and began to walk toward the palace gates, and it wasn't long before they were gone.
"It's finally over!"
Nearby, Li Heng gave a long sigh of relief and then quickly turned to Young Master Qingyang.
"Right. Where is your Young Master?"

Starve, Hypersheep325's Notes:

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Written by Huangfu Qi 皇甫奇. Translated by Starve, Hypersheep325. Edited by Desertdoe, Welmar, RED, Michyrr.