Part of a Your Most Faithful Companion translation project at fruitydeer.com.
Do not download, copy, or redistribute without permission.
Source: 不止是顆菜 by Bu Zhi Shi Ke Cai // Translated By: Xin (fruitydeer)
As mentioned in my review, here’s the first extra for Your Most Faithful Companion.
Here’s some additional context for those not familiar with the story: The heroine, Ji Ming Shu, and her love interest, Cen Sen, grew up in the same neighborhood, surrounded by a bunch of rich families. In the novel, little Ji Ming Shu took an innocent fancy to Cen Sen when he first moved in, but he (for his own reasons) ignored her existence. She was disgruntled, and he subsequently thought her as a spoiled brat, a prejudice that persisted for the next twenty years. After adulthood, they end up getting married for business reasons, but it’s a long time before this mutual disdain sorts itself out.
This alternate universe explores how things might’ve changed had Cen Sen been more accepting of Ji Ming Shu when they were children.
The Frontier Poet x Little Golden Canary:
Childhood Playmates Alternate Universe (Part 1)
At 10:30 in the morning, the bell signaling the exam’s end rang out with ding-ling-ling sounds in succession, as if urging one to their death. Ji Ming Shu hurriedly finished the last portion of her essay, scribbled the final period at the end of her test paper, then breathed a long sigh of relief.
The teacher proctoring the exam stood at the podium, directing the collection of test papers in a Z-shape.1 Ji Ming Shu leaned back in her chair as she as looked out the window while lackadaisically massaging her hand.
Her desk was next to the window. The window faced the brick-red teaching building of the third year high school students, and she could vaguely make out the emptiness inside of Class 38’s classroom. She stilled for a few seconds before finally remembering that the third years were taking fitness exams today. Her eyes drooped downwards and she blew the bangs across her forehead in boredom.
The only exam this morning was for literature. After the exam, the hallway was filled with the sounds of students discussing their answers.
A little girlfriend nestled over to Ji Ming Shu and pulled her along, but she looked rather listless, hemming and hawing with every other sentence.
“Ming Shu, what’s wrong?” the girlfriend asked with concern.
Ji Ming Shu shook her head, “Nothing much, just a bit hungry?”
“You didn’t eat breakfast?”
Ji Ming Shu couldn’t resist complaining, “With an exam at 8:00 a.m., who has the time to eat breakfast?”
“That’s true, the exam clearly finishes by 10:30 and the next one doesn’t start until 2:00 in the afternoon, why don’t they just delay the test until 9:00? The administrators are so annoying!” As they walked out the entrance of the teaching building and her girlfriend walked down the stairs with her arm hooked with Ji Ming Shu, she concurred, “I almost didn’t have time this morning either, luckily the bread I bought last night was enough cushion my stomach. Ei, how about I go to the canteen with you to eat a little something?”
Before the girlfriend had finished her words, someone shouted from behind them: “Ji Ming Shu!”
Ji Ming Shu turned around hesitantly.
The boy’s head was tilted slightly upwards. He bounced a basketball a few times, then sandwiched it back under his arm. He smiled, scratched the tip of his nose a bit, then came over to ask: “Have you not eaten breakfast? There’s a new Japanese restaurant that just opened off-campus. Want to go together? I’ll treat you.”
This boy was tall and looked bright and clean, except she didn’t know him.
The girlfriend showed no surprise as she teased quietly, “It’s the third one this month.”
Ji Ming Shu glanced sideways, signaling her to shush.
Just as Ji Ming Shu was about to speak up with refusal, yet another voice shouted loudly from behind: “Wei, Xiao Shu Shu!”
This voice was familiar. She didn’t even need to look to know it was Shu Yang.
But Ji Ming Shu still turned around subconsciously and looked.
Her girlfriend was one step ahead of her, quickly saying next to her ear, “Your Cen Sen ge-ge is here.”
Right after the fitness test, the group of boys were all sweaty. Cen Sen and Jiang Che trailed at the back. Other than the dampness of the hair hanging off their foreheads leaving the vestiges of a workout, everything else seemed very normal.
The two were discussing one thing or another, conversing back and forth. At the end, it was Jiang Che that tilted his chin slightly upwards that finally caused Cen Sen to stop talking and look towards Ji Ming Shu.
In this morning at the height of summer, the sun was scorching. The sky was bright and harsh. It was clearly Ji Ming Shu standing higher on the steps, but when Cen Sen stood there, lifting his gaze ever so slightly, and their eyes met, his gaze had an inexplicable aura of one looking down at others from high above.
The boy standing behind her with the basketball had yet to be clued in, even coming forth and adding to the chaos: “That Japanese restaurant’s head chef is a Japanese person, so it’s very authentic. Let’s go?”
Ji Ming Shu said nothing, merely pressing her lips together while looking at Cen Sen.
Cen Sen was the neighorhood ge-ge that she grew up with as childhood playmates. He was older by two years, and though his personality was a little cold, he had always treated her very well. When they were young, she would spend the whole day glued to his behind, even shamelessly lazing on his bed when bedtime came around.
As she slowly got older and came to understand the divide between males and females, she was too embarrassed to insist on sticking to Cen Sen ge-ge like a siamese twin. However, the two remained close and she has always relied a lot on Cen Sen.
During junior high and high school, it was Cen Sen that helped her move into the dorms. On the weekends, it was Cen Sen that gave her lifts on his bicycle so they could go home together. It was even Cen Sen that helped her buy feminine products the first time her period came.
Her mother passed away early. Though her two paternal aunts treated her well, at the end of the day, they still weren’t her biological mother and would not take that much care of her physiological hygiene. The first time her period came, she even thought she was suffering from some sort of strange illness with non-stop bleeding. She tearfully held onto her Cen Sen ge-ge‘s arm to say her last words.
In any case, Cen Sen was older than her by two years and understood things a little better. After figuring out the situation and then consoling her, he even thickened his skin and went to the convenience store at the end of the block to buy sanitary pads for her.
But it just so happened that after he bought the sanitary pads, he ran into Jiang Che, Shu Yang, and them. With laughter, they ridiculed him that, at this rate, he was essentially raising his own child bride.
Ji Ming Shu also heard, intentionally or otherwise, them say this phrase a few times.
The words that came from her mouth were complaining about them being annoying, but in her heart, she thought that being raised by Cen Sen into his child bride seemed quite nice as well.
A few days ago, she nagged and begged Cen Sen to give her last minute mathematics tutoring prior to the exam. After much persuasion, Cen Sen finally agreed, but because she went to attend a girlfriend’s birthday party, she forgot to finish her test papers. When Cen Sen realized this, he began coldly lecturing her. At first, she felt a little guilty, but then she started feeling wronged. In these past few days, the did not talk nor did they even run into each other.
Right now, Cen Sen was as calm and composed as usual. Even upon seeing someone ask her out, there were no such ripples of shock in his expression. She was a little angry. Without even saying whether or not she had agreed to lunch, she tugged on her straps of her bag and began walking forward, her eyes looking straight ahead. The boy quickly followed after.
But when she was about to brush by Cen Sen, he suddenly reached out and gently held onto her wrist.
“I went home last night to get my laundry. Brought back braised ribs for you.”
On his person was the nice fragrance of fir trees. It was like his voice, gentle and light.
Then, he added, “I made it.”
Following her unsteady stance, Ji Ming Shu’s body swayed and shifted direction. When she raised her gaze slightly, she was met with Cen Sen’s ink-black eyes.
Prior to noon, the canteen was empty and quiet.
Ji Ming Shu trailed behind Cen Sen, her head hanging. She was like a sad and droopy little tail.
Cen Sen ordered one meat-based and one vegetable-based pan fried dish, then had the auntie help heat up the braised pork inside the tupperware. He turned around and looked at Ji Ming Shu, asking: “What do you want to drink?”
Ji Ming Shu said in a miniscule voice: “Cola.”
“Acidic drinks are bad for the body.”
Ji Ming Shu: “Coffee.”
“You still have an exam in the afternoon. If you drink coffee, you won’t be able to rest at noon.”
Ji Ming Shu: “Then why did you even ask me…”
Sure enough, Cen Sen stopped asking, went ahead and put some coins in, then picked a bottle of lemon water for her.”
After ordering their dishes, the two sat down face-to-face. Ji Ming Shu, for some reason, stubbornly refused to look at Cen Sen, only burying her face and eating the braised ribs.
Cen Sen, on the contrary, asked with normalcy: “How did your literature test go?”
“Okay, probably,” she continued burying her face, “It’s just the essay that was kind of weird. It was hard to write.”
“What was the question?”
“A gentleman’s friendship…conversing as water? It was odd, I don’t know what the teacher was thinking.”
Cen Sen took a slight pause, “Are you sure it’s not ‘a gentleman’s friendship, insipid like water‘?”2
“Pah-ta–” The braised rib that had just been picked up with her chopsticks fell right back into the bowl.
Ji Ming Shu looked up, dumbfounded, “I don’t know, I didn’t read it clearly.”
She stilled. The more she thought about it, the more Cen Sen’s words seemed to make sense. Like making a great realization, she couldn’t stop prattling on: “No wonder the question was so weird. I’m done for, my essay score won’t be zero will it? After this exam, there’s going to be parent-teacher conferences…”
She subconsciously starting relying on Cen Sen, chattering anxiously: “Cen Sen, what do I do? If my literature score is non-passing, my uncle is definitely going to die of anger because of me!”3
“What did you just call me?”
Ji Ming Shu took a moment. She normally said Cen Sen ge-ge, but a few days ago when she went to attend her girlfriend’s birthday party, her girlfriends said that calling him Cen Sen ge-ge in high school felt very ambiguous. On the one hand, it would affect him getting a girlfriend. On the other hand, it would also affect her getting a boyfriend.
When she thought about Cen Sen getting a girlfriend in the future, she was secretly a little uncomfortable. However, she had to admit that what her girlfriends said made some sense. So that day she went to get tutored on mathematics with Cen Sen, she brought up the topic of changing the way she addressed him. She didn’t remember what he replied with, only that as they spoke, they started getting into an argument over the matter of her not doing her test papers.
She probed out: “Cen…Cen Sen?”
Cen Sen looked at her calmly and said nothing at all.
Her heart beat like a little drum as she probed once more: “Cen Sen ge-ge…?”
In that moment, his eyes seemed like defrosting snow, suddenly becoming gentle.
He reached out and wiped away the sauce that stained the corner of her lips, “Eat up, I’ll think of a solution.”
Translator’s Note: Guys, this is so cute. Like, silly mindless nonsense sort of cute. I love it.
- Looping from one row to the next, all the way to the back row.
- This is a proverb from Zhuang Zi. The original phrase is 君子之交淡如水 but Ji Ming Shu misread the fifth word, 淡 (dan) as 談 (tan). The Simplified version of tan makes the two words looks even more similar: 淡 (dan) and 谈 (tan). The proverb’s meaning is that the friendship between men of virtue is clear like water (no flavor, but free of harmful substances — i.e. self-interest. In contrast, the friendship between lesser men is sweet like wine, but lacks true substance). Source: Wiktionary.
- For those who haven’t read the story, Ji Ming Shu is orphaned but lives with her extended family, who are very strict with her.