Feng Mian tried acting as normal as she could in front of Concubine Zhou although she could not help feeling peeved every time she recalls last night's matter. She wipes the rosewood table distractedly.
"555, do you think Junli is the emperor's son or the Prince of Chu's?" After asking around to see if there are any royal descendants that lived outside the palace, she found out that the late emperor only had two surviving kin. His youngest prince, The Prince of Chu, Tian Yu, fits the description of the man from last night.
Concubine Zhou who sat on the other side of the table felt the burning stare boring holes through her powdered face.
She dropped the book in her hand with a 'thud' on the vermillion table. "What is it Wan Mei? You have something to say to bengong?"
She had a lot to say actually, but any one of her questions could potentially cause her to lose her pretty head.
"Go ahead Xiao Mian, ask her if the emperor is so lacking in bedroom matters that she had to go look for fun somewhere else," a certain system butted in.
Feng Mian nearly winced. "That- are you hungry niangniang?"
"Lunch was an hour ago."
Concubine Zhou hid a smile as she coughed lightly. "You can go to the kitchen and tell the cooks to prepare some light snacks."
"Ah alright. What would Your Highness like?"
"They're for you."
Concubine Zhou flashed her an amiable smile. Her well-manicured hands extended to grasp hers.
Feng Mian flinched.
"Bengong is not someone who forgets favours. Bengong remembers clearly that it was you, this little maid who saved bengong's life. Don't worry Xiao Mei, bengong will treat you well. If there are any requests, you must not hesitate to come ask."
Though it was partly because of her mission, Feng Mian was somewhat flattered. In the span of three years she had serviced this little ancestor, it was the first time she received Zhou's gratitude.
Feng Mian was someone who has a face thick enough to compliment herself all the way to heaven but is awkward when faced with other's flattery. She flashed an awkward smile.
"No need. No need. This servant had only kneeled in the rain for a few hours. Hahaha, I'm this young and healthy, what are a few hours? It's not like I've soaked for days. Hehe"
Concubine Zhou fought hard to keep her smile. She wasn't sure if this maid was truly being humble or is indirectly reminding her that she had soaked herself in the rain for her.
555 tsked. "You're wrong host. I think you're sick. Sick of living."
Feng Mian cursed her blabbering mouth.
"Then this servant will go get the pastries," Feng Mian hightailed out of the vicinity after barely a curtsy.
Feng Mian sat languidly on the only wooden bench in the kitchen while humming a small tune. There was a smell of smoke and sweets coming from the wooden bamboo basket behind her.
"Tsk, tsk, tsk. Look at you this freeloader being so carefree. Do you plan on staying in this plane until you die of old age? Where's your motivation? Your redemption? You think soul shards will come crawling by themselves ah?"
"You said to wait until the soul wakes up. How do I wake him up ah? This Junli, you don't know, even when he's sleeping, he's impossible to wake up. It can't be you want me to hit him awake right?"
"Of course not. To wake a sleeping soul up there has got to be outside stimuli. Someone or something that could make him realise that he's not part of this plane, but rather an external force. That's why the system picked you in the first place, you're the closest person to him. How to stimulate if you're out here eating snacks?"
Feng Mian twirled her sash in her hands. "Then what do you suggest?"
"Well, there are many ways. Task takers who transmigrate into planes would usually resort to using seduction, it's the quickest way to finish a mission."
"Ah! Little Junli is so little. How to seduce ah? This sis is a good law-abiding citizen, I don't hit on little shotas."
Feng Mian recalled the rows of mirrors in their house.
"Even if he's all grown up, that Junli is an ascetic monk. He'd rather look at himself in the mirror than look at ten naked supermodels."
"Well… there are other ways. But the mission target this time is truly a little poor host. Having a mother is the same as not having one at all. How well does a disfavoured prince get treated?"
Feng Mian frowned. "But he's still considered the emperor's son, no? How would they dare neglect him?"
Although that's what she said, Feng Mian felt a sense of foreboding. There was a slight chance that 555 could be right.
She turned her head and asked the cook who's busying himself with cleaning up. "Brother, how much do you know about the Fifth Prince who was newly born?"
The cook paused. "The mute prince?"
"Hn, that one."
"The poor fella's been crying since he was moved to the side courtyard. That's all the sound he makes." He let out a chagrined sigh. The kitchen was the closest to the fifth prince's courtyard and it was not once or twice that he had heard sounds of a baby sobbing.
"The maids and wet nurses pay him no mind since the concubine doesn't ask. I reckon the maids skimped out on his meals too. Been crying day and night. Truly unlucky that one." He shook his head despondently as he moved to open the bamboo casket. Fragrant steam rose up and he readily began to plate the water chestnut cakes.
"How many of these do you want? They're quite big."
His questions were left unanswered as Feng Mian had been long gone.
There was no one guarding, not a single maid, stationed at the front doors. Feng Mian had grown livid with concealed fury stuffing her chest.
"I told you," 555 snapped.
There was a sound of suppressed sobs coming from the corner of the room. Feng Mian hastily covered the distance between her and the wooden cradle. She saw the baby's 一 Junli's 一 unfocused misty eyes clouded by streams of tears as his tiny hands reached for something to grasp on.
She held his fumbling fingers in a delicate hold. Little Junli was struggling to produce a series of noises from his throat, excitement growing from having formed human contact.
Feng Mian lifted the baby up into her arms and patted his back in a circular motion. "Shhhh. Be good. Big sister is here." Even if he couldn't quite hear her, Little Junli still quietened down.
[SYSTEM PROMPT: Soul fluctuation detected. Awakening revived by 50%.]
System 555 was the most excited one out of the two of them. "Host, host! There's progress!"
"Jiayou host! Embark on the path of an old maid robbing the cradle! This system will definitely turn a blind eye to society's morals for the sake of completing our mission. Don't fret Xiao Mian. Capture with ease."
Feng Mian nearly dropped the baby from 555's impetuous comment. "...Who said that this lady will rob a cradle? Isn't there still the older sister route?"
"Aiyooo don't be shy. Just go with whichever way works then."
Feng Mian smelled the sour stench of urine coming from the baby in her hands and frowned.
"Let's get you clean."
A tub of warm temperature water was prepared and little Junli was stripped before he was dipped into it carefully.
As she scooped water onto his back, Feng Mian spoke, "Junli ah, it's the first time this sister has bathed someone. In the future when you're all grown up remember to pay filial respect to this old lady."
"Hmph. If this system didn't enlighten you, the target would already be drowned in his own urine," 555 scoffed.
"Right. In the future, pay respect to 555 also," Feng Mian said agreeably.
"Can you produce milk Baobei?"
"Nani?! Why would this daddy, a male system, squeeze out milk for?"
"You're male?" Feng Mian was honestly surprised. "How do you tell apart which system is male and which is female?"
"Easy ah. Male systems have more ones than zeros."
It was hard for Feng Mian to express her understanding.
"Exchange for milk and baby bottle then."
System 555: "'Ding!' Items exchanged. You have a balance of 450 points, host."
"Hnn. Baobei… ah I forgot you're no longer the baby of the family anymore. Daddy 555 can you look after Little Junli for a while? I'll go warm the milk."
"Wait, why are you leaving me with him?"
"I thought we've agreed on joint parenthood? Let's split the responsibilities equally ba."
"...When did I agree?"
"Just now. You're the dad, I'm the mom. The books say that having committed parents taking equal parts in nursing roles is important for the child's growth." She laid the dressed Junli back into his cradle.
"Now son, go play with your dad."