Chapter 1329: [Beiyue] Live as long as the Zhongnan Mountains

"Today is father's birthday?" Shadow was shocked as well. He looked up at his mother. "Mother dearest, you didn't know either?"

Qin Min's heart was greatly stunned as she looked towards Gu Beiyue, unsure how to answer. Gu Beiyue didn't know what to say either, and the family of three was left standing in silence before the door. In the end, it was still little Shadow who spoke first.

"Father, why didn't you tell mother or me?"

Gu Beiyue thought it over before he came up with an excuse. "Because, because it just happens to be Mid-autumn, so it's better to celebrate that instead."

"Why can't you celebrate your birthday and Mid-autumn?" Shadow cocked his head.

"Because…because father doesn't want to celebrate birthdays," Gu Beiyue crouched down earnestly.

"Why not?" Shadow persisted.

"Because, because having a birthday means getting a year old. Father…doesn't want to get old," Gu Beiyue replied.

That was enough to convince little Shadow. No matter how smart he was, he was still a child! He giggled and said, "So father's afraid of getting old!"

Gu Beiyue pulled Shadow up with a wordless smile, but the boy suddenly shoved him aside and gave him a respectful bow. "Nanchen wishes father to never age and live as long as the Zhongnan mountains!" he cried loudly.

As long as the Zhongnan Mountains…[1]

In a flash, Qin Min's eyes grew red. She looked away so Gu Beiyue and Shadow wouldn't see, striving to calm her feelings. Gu Beiyue's heart shook as he looked at the docile little Shadow and slowly felt his heart seize. He knew he had wronged this child, but he had never felt so miserable facing him as he did now. After meeting him in the past, he always felt it'd be easy to hide things from a child. But after personally instructing him in lightness techniques in Ningzhou, he discovered that it was the most difficult thing of all to trick a child.

Back then, he only wanted a child to continue the Shadow Clan's lightness techniques and their protection mission. Because he had an agreement with Qin Min, he married her. Now he realized he had been rash in choosing this path. In this life, he could control many things including his own heart. He knew what to do and not do and understood best of all not to cross his own bottom line. Towards Han Yunxi, no matter how he loved  and admired her, he constantly respected his boundaries. Even after his identity was exposed, he assisted Long Feiye with a clear head. Towards Qin Min, he was logical as well, even if he was reluctant and distressed. His every word and action had been cruel as he held back.

She was doing her best.

He knew the ending of their agreement after five years. He didn't say it out loud and let her strive on. He knew only that would leave one with no regrets and finally let go. But today, he realized it was really hard to keep singing this tune in front of little Shadow. The older the child grew, the more he'd lose control. He smiled and said nothing much but picked Shadow up.

Shadow was like Yan'er, the kind of baby who loved to sleep. They'd doze off as soon as it was dark. Tonight was already an exception and he'd been drowsy on the way back, but news of his father's birthday woke him right back up. 

As soon as they entered the house, he struggled free from his father's arms and ran into the rooms to find a fiery-red tillandsia. "Father, here! For you!" 

This was from his mother and he'd raised it from a seedling. It'd taken an entire year before it bloomed. Gu Beiyue grinned and accepted it while Shadow clung to him and said a bunch of details about the tillandsia plant. He repeatedly reminded him not to water it too much or else it'd rot. In the end, Shadow was too sleepy and asked, "Father, it's so late. Are you going to sleep?"

Gu Beiyue carried him to bed and lay down next to him, but Shadow actually reached out for Qin Min. "Mother, it's time to sleep."

Back at Ningzhou, Shadow always slept early after Qin Min coaxed him to bed. She used to say father needed to read his medical books, so he'd come to bed later. Shadow didn't get up early either, so by the time he woke Qin Min had already made breakfast and said father got up ages ago. Thus, Shadow grew used to it after a while. 

The couple never expected to face sleeping in the same bed on the first night back in the Grand Tutor's Estate. But Qin Min smoothed things out easily. She said, "Shadow, mother will sleep with you. Your father still needs to soak in his medicinal bath today."

Shadow knew about his father's medicinal baths because he was studying medicine at the same time as his martial arts. But his current skills were too low to understand any treatment properties of the baths. Moreover, his mother would often soak him in medicinal baths too, so he treated it as a way to nurture the body and didn't think much. Shadow was so sleepy his eyelids were sliding shut. He only said, "Mm" to agree. By the time Gu Beiyue got up, Shadow was already asleep before Qin Min lay down.

She helped changed Shadow's clothes and wash his face and feet without waking him up. Gu Beiyue watched quietly from the sidelines and didn't leave. After she finished and saw him still there, she murmured, "Aren't you going to take your bath?"

Gu Beiyue replied, "Perhaps…we shouldn't have lied to him from the start."

Who knew whether everything would've changed if Qin Min had known about Gu Beiyue's illness from the start? 

She simply remarked, "It's impossible to go back. We said we'd lie to him for a lifetime."

Gu Beiyue had no words as he turned to leave. After soaking in his bath, it was already late night. He opened the door and actually saw Qin Min with a bowl of longevity noodles standing there to wait. She must have come recently because the bowl was still steaming.

She said, "Grand Tutor Gu, it's both Mid-autumn and your birthday. Why don't you treat me as a family member for now and eat this bowl of noodles?"

After his grandfather passed away, no one else ever made him longevity noodles again. Gu Beiyue didn't say anything, but he did nod his head. He cleaned out the bowl of noodles while Qin Min sat by his side, feeling more miserable as she watched. 

Gu Beiyue ah, Gu Beiyue, I can be ruthless and not love you. But…I'm not ruthless enough to stop caring and watching over you.

After Gu Beiyue polished off the noodles, Qin Min cleaned up the bowl and chopsticks and left. Lil Thing scurried down from the rooftops after that and clasped its paws in a greeting to Gu Beiyue. It had seen the noodles before and realized it was the gentleman's birthdays. It wanted to wish him a happy birthday but couldn't speak, so expressed itself with actions instead. Gu Beiyue understood and smiled as he cradled the animal in his hands to stroke softly. "Lil Thing, long time no see."

Lil Thing rolled back and forth in his palms before jumping on his shoulder to point at the moon in the sky. Gu Beiyue looked up and intoned, "Lil Thing, protect Qin Min and Nanchen for me in the future, all right?"

Lil Thing didn't understand and thought its gentleman was asking if the moon was lovely tonight. It earnestly nodded its head. 

That night, Shadow slept as always while Gu Beiyue and Qin Min spent the entire time staring at the full moon. The next morning, Shadow had just finished his morning exercises and was going back to his room when he saw Xuanyuan Rui standing in front of his door. His figure flashed before he was in front of the boy and bowing formally. "Your Highness Crown Prince, good morning."

"It's not early anymore," Xuanyuan Rui said coldly.

"Your Highness Crown Prince, what are your instructions?" Shadow asked with a grin.

"I was entrusted by someone to bring you into the palace!" Xuanyuan Rui's tone was icy and a little unhappy. He had a bunch of homework to do today, but Yan'er insisted on clinging to him so he could bring her to the Grand Tutor's Estate. Even if he had his mother's guts, he didn't dare bring that little devil out of the palace. First, he couldn't handle her; secondly, if imperial father found out, he would be grounded for sure. Without a choice, he could only make a personal trip to bring Shadow into the palace. 

Yan'er just wanted to come to the Grand Tutor's Estate to find Gu Nanchen and play!

Little Shadow grew nervous. There were only a few people in the palace, but only three could ask His Highness Crown Prince to do tasks: Princess Yan, Esteemed Empress, and the Emperor. 

Which of them wanted to see him?

Before Shadow could ask, Xuanyuan Rui spoke first. "Come on, my little sister wants to meet you!"

Shadow's eyes widened. "Why does Princess Yan want to meet me?"

Xuanyuan Rui rolled his eyes at him. "How should I know? Are you coming or not?"

"I have to tell my father and mother first," Shadow replied.

Xuanyuan Rui lost all patience and instructed Xu Donglin, who was always at his side, to tell Gu Beiyue and Qin Min instead before pulling Shadow after him. Shadow had rarely interacted with any girls and was a little afraid of Princess Yan after her conduct last night. He was tense the entire trip, but Princess Yan actually gave him a mooncake after they met.

"Big brother Yan, here. Zhao mama said these are an advanced tribute gift, they're really yummy."

Shadow was very surprised and didn't move. Yan'er giggled. "I know you like sweets, so I left it just for you. Eat it."

Puzzled, Shadow was going to ask how she knew when Yan'er said, "I kept count. Last night you ate a total of four mooncakes, one more than me. You really know how to eat!"

Shadow's face instantly turned red as he was at a loss for words. 

"Take it! Hurry and eat it, this is the last one. Otherwise I'll regret it!" Princess Yan urged.

At last Shadow took the mooncake and ate it in big bites. Princess Yan was happy. "Big brother Yan, play with me in the future and I'll give you goodies to eat."

Shadow nodded as he ate, just because this mooncake was truly delicious. It was the best kind of sweets he'd ever eaten. Xuanyuan Rui stood on the side and wanted to take Shadow with him to practice martial arts when he was done. But when he saw Shadow nod, he couldn't help rolling his eyes and turning away without a second thought. In his eyes, a companion who was easily bribed by food was no good at all.

Just like that, Shadow familiarized himself with Crown Prince Rui and Princess Yan, becoming a frequent guest of the palace. He read books with them, practiced martial arts with the prince, and often had the princess clinging to him to play. His father was a busy man, and now he was a busy boy himself. 

Qin Min shut herself up and didn't go out, studiously researching her acupuncture skills. When she was tired, she would take care of the wastelands in the estate grounds for a change of pace. Today she was discussing the healing effects of the medicinal bath with Gu Beiyue after Shadow had gone to bed. Although Gu Beiyue had been soaking in their effects for several months, Qin Min didn't find a hint of improvement in his condition. She currently couldn't tell from his pulse whether it had worsened, either. 

But after such a long period of treatment, no improvement at all was a type of deterioration already!

1. 寿比南山 shou bi nanshan - Traditional birthday well-wishes for longevity.

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Ruyi's Thoughts

ok i blame HYX and LFY for both being naturally arrogant as heck but oh my god their children...are so rude. just realized why they felt off to me besides the weirdly mature thing, they lack the cultured upbringing and manners that you expect from...well a crown prince and princess. i get they have a sassy streak, but if they're supposedly so "mature" and "ahead of their years" just ends up making them like precocious bully types. ugh, they'd be a nightmare at events with other royals with their noses stuck as high as mt. everest. 

really little shadow is too good for either of them. (no comments on his adult self, i swear he's a completely different person post-amnesia...)

and looking at yan'er now, if she kept growing up overprotected and sheltered in the palace like this i can imagine her being a perfect bratty princess in 10 years time...oh my god, imagine her chasing after her shadow clan guard and going "big brother yan" day after day...i just got murong wanru flashbacks of her crush on long feiye ahhhhhhhhh im getting goosebumps *shudders*