Translated by: Hypersheep325
Edited by: Michyrr
Li Taiyi raised an eyebrow, but his expression was unchanged.
This scene was completely within his expectations. The moment he had left the imperial horse track, the Fourth Prince had reported the matter to Second Prince Li Chengyi.
Li Chengyi saw this as a rare opportunity, and he was not of the personality to relinquish it.
But if he thought that Li Taiyi was just going to wait around for death, then he was gravely mistaken.
Li Taiyi ignored Li Chengyi's fervent criticisms and turned to his father seated upon the gilded dragon throne.
In this hall, there was only one person who could decide his fate.
"Unfilial son, what do you have to say for yourself?"
The Tang Emperor's face was as cold as ice, lacking even the slightest warmth.
"Imperial Father, your lowly son truly did execute Huoyuan, yet your son did all this not because of a private grudge, but for the sake of the Great Tang!"
Li Taiyi bowed, his expression confident and open, his voice forceful and vigorous. Even though the entire court was staring daggers at him, he remained calm and unflustered.
Everyone in court was taken aback by this reply, and even the enthroned Emperor was somewhat taken aback.
His son Xuan seemed to be completely different today.
That he could say these words in front of the assembled officials was already surprising.
But a moment later, everyone regained their senses.
"Third Prince, you dare to argue! The facts are clear, and yet you still dare to try and argue nonsensically in front of His Majesty! There is no saving you!"
"For the Great Tang? You killed him for the sake of the Great Tang? Your Majesty, this matter cannot be allowed to pass!"
"If a Prince commits a crime, he must be punished the same as a commoner! A Prince executing a court official is rare even in other dynasties. Such wicked acts must be heavily punished, or else how can the dignity of the laws be maintained? How can the masses be appeased?"
"Third Prince, you had better have thought this over properly! Attempting to deceive His Divine Majesty only increases the weight of your crimes!"
The officials exploded in anger. The Great Tang had a well-ordered style of government, and the laws had to be abided by all from the Emperor to the common people. The Third Prince's actions had already set off a public outcry.
Li Chengyi was unmoved by this sight, but there was a faint smile on his lips. From today's situation, he could tell that his third brother was done for.
But Li Taiyi was also unperturbed, his eyes slowly sweeping over the gathered officials as he made an assured smile.
"Imperial Father, do you remember the flood in Qu Province on the first month of the fourteenth year, when I embezzled the money intended to be used for disaster relief?"
The Tang Emperor frowned and sternly said, "This matter was settled long ago. Why do you bring it up now?"
"Third Prince, it has been so long since this matter. Do you still plan to defend yourself on it?"
The officials all scowled. There was truly no saving the Third Prince.
"Imperial Father, at that time, the one who truly embezzled the money was not your lowly son, but Huoyuan!" Li Taiyi declared.
The hall fell silent at these words, and then the officials exploded into an uproar as if a giant boulder had crashed down amongst them.
None of them had expected Li Taiyi's words.
Even Li Chengyi trembled in shock.
For some reason, he had an ill foreboding.
"Third Son, do you have evidence?" the Tang Emperor solemnly said.
Li Taiyi lowered his head and sternly said, "Imperial Father, your lowly son obtained an account book which recorded where the disaster relief money went, and everything was inextricably connected to Huoyuan. Later on, your son began an investigation and found the scope to be wider than expected.
"Due to the gravity of the matter, your lowly son passed all the information he gathered to the Bureau of Punishments seven days ago. What? Did Imperial Brother not receive it?"
Li Taiyi suddenly turned to Li Chengyi.
These words alone made Li Chengyi's heart thump, and his face paled.
He had his Imperial Father's trust and had recently been allowed to participate in court discussions. Besides that, the Bureau of Punishments was currently under his purview.
He had also been the one to investigate the embezzlement of the disaster relief money.
More importantly, the Bureau of Punishments truly did receive an account book and a letter not too long ago, but few people knew about it. Moreover, Huoyuan had already become a member of his camp, so Li Chengyi had decided to confiscate the evidence to protect him.
Later on, Li Chengyi had even dispatched people to clean up after Huoyuan and find out who had sent over the account book and where they had gathered the information.
But no matter how much he investigated, he had not been able to find any clues.
He had never imagined that it had been the third brother that he had always looked down on!
As all the officials stared, Li Chengyi was rendered momentarily speechless.
But before he had a chance to explain, Li Taiyi spoke again.
"That shouldn't be. Imperial Brother has always been just and fair, and even the court officials are effusive with praise. This matter should not have anything to do with Imperial Brother. Could there have been someone under my brother who confiscated the information? This is a major disrespect!"
Second Prince Li Chengyi scowled at these words.
Li Taiyi's words were as sharp as arrows, and they carried a deeper meaning.
If he said that he did not know, it would mean that he was lacking in his management and was letting down his father's hopes. If he said that he did know, then he was essentially declaring that he had no regard for the sovereign and was concealing a crime, and attempting to deceive the sovereign was a grave crime indeed!
Whether he admitted or denied it, Li Taiyi would be pushing him into the water in front of the officials and their father, forcing him into an extremely passive position.
He was now in an extremely disadvantageous position.
Sure enough, upon hearing Li Taiyi's words, the Tang Emperor turned a gaze as cold as the winter winds onto Li Chengyi.
"Chengyi, was there really such a matter?"
The Tang Emperor's words rumbled like thunder in everyone's ears.
Li Chengyi stiffened up at his father's gaze, but he reacted quickly, bowing to the Emperor as he solemnly said, "Imperial Father, your lowly son did not receive such a memorial!"
Li Chengyi lowered his head so that no one could see his expression, and only he knew just how stunned he really was.
His third brother seemed far too different today. When had he become so sharp and incisive?
Was this still the third brother he knew?
Even worse was that because of his hedonistic ways, everyone had a low opinion of him and did not take any countermeasures against him.
Who could have imagined that he would be able to do so much in secret!?
Had he been playing the part of the pig to eat the tiger this entire time? Was this the real him?
If this was true, this kid was far too shrewd and frightening.
But if he thought that this was enough to bring him down, then he was too simpleminded.
"Imperial Father, the officials of the Bureau of Punishments are all loyal and outstanding. Imperial Father and all the officials present know this. If they did not present it, there must be a reason. Either that account book was not trustworthy enough or it was too trivial a matter, so they elected to not bring it up. After all, the Bureau of Punishments receives many reports every year, enough to make mountains out of them," Li Chengyi sternly said.
The officials couldn't help but nod in agreement. The Bureau of Punishments truly did have many pressing affairs, managing the nearly ten million square kilometers of territory and its vast population, and it truly did receive many reports.
Moreover, these could be fabricated reports intended to obtain personal revenge through public means, and the Bureau of Punishments could not possibly investigate them all.
"Of course, if there was no error in the Bureau of Punishments, it is possible that Third Brother never sent it over at all, or perhaps Third Brother wanted to, but his subordinates were incapable and never delivered it, or delivered it elsewhere.
"After all… this is not the first time Third Brother has failed to recognize someone."
Li Chengyi stared at Li Taiyi and coldly laughed.
Li Taiyi had killed Huoyuan, but hadn't Huoyuan originally been his attendant?
While others might not know this, how could his father not know?
More importantly, so long as he insisted that the Bureau of Punishments did not receive it, what could his brother do?
The Tang Emperor's face turned grim as he coldly spoke.
Li Taiyi stared at Li Chengyi and sneered. The Second Prince perhaps thought that he was too naive. Did he really think that he could muddle him with just these words?
If he was not ready, how would he have dared to kill Huoyuan in broad daylight?
"Imperial Father, your lowly son would not dare to deceive you. Fortunately, to prevent any mishaps, your lowly son only submitted a copy."
Li Taiyi bowed.
"The original is still in your son's hands, and your lowly son has already ordered that the originals be waiting outside."
Li Taiyi clapped his hands, and the rolling of wheels came from outside. A moment later, three minor eunuchs pushing three small carts appeared outside Taihe Palace.
The sight of the three carts piled high with books had the entire court buzzing.
Shock appeared on the faces of the officials, particularly the Grand Preceptor and Grand Tutor. They glanced at Li Taiyi in surprise.
As for Li Chengyi, he did his utmost to maintain a calm composure, but he was inwardly scowling.
All of this was far beyond his expectations.
He had never imagined that Li Taiyi would be this prepared.
On the other end, the Emperor's chief eunuch immediately walked over to the carts. He took one of the books and returned to the cinnabar platform, where he offered it to the Emperor with both hands.
The Tang Emperor took it, and after flipping through it, he immediately turned pale and threw the book to the floor in anger.
"Gu Lianqing, Liu Shiming, Fei Qi… such audacity! We favored you for nothing, it seems. You dared to steal from the treasury and embezzle the tax grain!"
"Your Majesty, spare me! Spare me!"
Several middle-aged officials in violet robes immediately dropped to their knees and began to kowtow, their faces ashen as they pleaded for their lives.
Upon closer inspection, it appeared that a little less than half of the officials in the court were prostrating. There were so many account books, their contents so detailed, that there was simply no way of denying their roles.
The Tang Emperor's face darkened at this sight.
The Grand Preceptor and Grand Tutor immediately spoke.
"Your Majesty, corruption is a heavy crime, and this is the embezzlement of court funds for personal purposes. Given the time that has passed, officials must have been involved for at least two years, and there must be officials at all ranks, not just the ones named!"
"Your Majesty, this is a grave matter that concerns the dignity of the imperial family. It must be thoroughly investigated!"
They had come to this court session for the deliberations on Prince Xuan, never imagining that they would be caught up in a corruption case.
What was being embezzled was the money of the country, the money of the people! They would not let this matter go!
"Your Majesty, this subject proposes that this matter be investigated thoroughly! All officials involved in this matter should be harshly punished. There must be no excessive toleration!"
"This subject agrees!"
"This subject agrees!"
After the Grand Tutor and Grand Preceptor had spoken, numerous officials stepped forward to voice their agreement.
"Imperial Censor Duan, I give you authority on this matter! Find every one of these evildoers!" the Tang Emperor proclaimed, his voice rumbling through Taihe Palace.
The rage of the Emperor was the rage of a dragon!
With so much evidence before him, the Tang Emperor was furious, and that pressure was something that no one could bear.
"Xuan'er, regardless of your reason, you cannot kill a court official of your own volition. Although the Tang laws state that you should be executed, since you had your reasons and exposed so much corruption, recovering the losses of the country, you are excused from capital punishment for now!
"But such vile acts cannot be allowed. While the death penalty is avoided, hardship is unavoidable. Starting from today, you are restricted to Jade Dragon Palace. For the next three months, without Our order, you are forbidden to leave its grounds."
"Imperial Father, thank you for your benevolence!"
Li Taiyi immediately got on his knees and expressed his gratitude.
Everything that had happened today was within his expectations. Three months of house arrest was already the minimum punishment.
On the other end, the Golden Guards began to drag out violet-robed and green-robed officials. Second Prince Li Chengyi was already stupefied.
He had thought that he had a handle on Li Taiyi, and it was surprising enough for it to be turned on him, but even worse, the faction that he had worked so hard to establish had instantly been turned upside down by Li Taiyi.
And to his shock, the most Li Taiyi had suffered for this was a meager house arrest.
Li Chengyi's heart burned with hatred.
As he glared at Li Taiyi's confident back, he clenched his teeth.
"Third Brother, you will pay for this! It's not over yet!"
By the time he had returned to Jade Dragon Palace, it was late, the night cold and the dew heavy.
Li Taiyi sat atop his sandalwood bed decorated with the images of dragons, his eyes half-closed. Wisps of spiritual energy gathered in from the outside and rapidly converged on his body.
Li Taiyi knew that he was too weak. If he wanted to change the Great Tang and lead it in reversing the situation, besides changing the impression others had of him and his status in the court, he also needed to strengthen his constitution and raise his cultivation level.
He was only at the True Martial realm, but generals of the Great Tang had to at least be at the Profound Martial realm. He needed to find a way to get there!
As Li Taiyi was thinking, a light rapping came from his door.