Chapter 1: First Meat
—“Because even if all else failstime travels, at least losers can’t fail at failingtime travel.”
Everything was caused by a bowl of braised meat.
– – –
Back then she was a maiden of 16 years, as delicate as a flower budding at the cusp of womanhood. She was at that age where one ought to start looking for a fine husband, and yet, her heart only stirred for one and only one thing. Meat. It didn’t matter whether it was a fat or lean cut. Pork, beef and lamb were her favorites, followed by chicken, duck and fish.
Tasty meat was all she cared for.
Oh, she knew it was bad for her.
It was written bright and clear in her university nutritional studies textbook: “Meat is acidic. Eating too much is unhealthy.”
But she couldn’t help thinking of her mother’s braised meat. That warm and familiar taste was something she craved very much.
There was one time she tried becoming a vegetarian to lose weight, but meat was her love. Meat was her life. Thinking that vegetables could ever take the place of her beloved meat was utter foolishness… Oh, how foolish she had been.
– – –
It was such a shame that, out of nowhere, her life ended in a car accident.
– – –
She was now Gu Qingqiao, a peasant girl who was adopted by a rich, prestigious family. She became the granddaughter of the general who founded the country and daughter of the Chief Minister of the Board of Rites. You could really say her lucky star was shining on her, the way she suddenly became the only child of a branch family of a promising new dynasty.
Surprise after surprise, the days passed by, but the novelty of her new life quickly wore off. Honestly, ancient people weren’t that interesting and they completely lacked any sense for fun. Eating became her only respite from being endlessly shut away in her private chambers, and the emptiness and monotony of her days made her feel more hungry. Her sole pleasure was finding delicious things to eat.
One day near the year’s end, a fortune-teller visited their home. A whole mountain of praises was sung for the young yet gluttonous Miss Gu, before the fortune-teller casually dropped a prophecy: her love for eating might cause some incidents and possibly bring calamity to the nation.
Wow, to think that just liking food could even bring disaster to a nation! It won’t be long until meat buns start murdering people.
She rolled her eyes at heaven.
– – –
On the fifteenth day of the New Year, her father, Chief Minister of the Board of Rites, suddenly announced that an important guest would be coming for dinner and ordered the cook to prepare a feast in advance.
She was about to say something when her father cut in: “Don’t worry, Qingqiao. There will be meat-filled moon dumplings. I already asked A’da to save some for you.”
As she quietly backed down, she stole a glaze from behind her sleeves and sneakily smiled at Aunt Zhao with arched eyebrows.
In this era, Qingqiao’s birth mother had long passed away, leaving her in the care of her father’s beautiful concubine, Lady Zhao.
O Aunt, Aunt, why are concubines always named Zhao?
However, her stepmother was not terribly malicious like the evil villainess in Xueqin’s most famous novel, so she felt a bit bad associating the two of them.
– – –
Qingqiao floated into the kitchen, where A’da was in the middle of chopping meat. He was very happy to see her.
“Miss, today’s meat is wonderful! It’s perfectly marbled with just the right balance of fat and meat, and nothing else would be more suitable for making meat-filled moon dumplings.”
A’da was Qingqiao’s hand-picked personal cook, who eventually became the head chef of the house thanks to years of her
She could still remember how she met A’da, back to the first time she celebrated the Lantern Festival after becoming Gu Qingqiao. Everyone ate their moon dumplings with sweet sesame, peanut, and date fillings, but she complained that she wanted salty moon dumplings and caused all the chefs to look at each other with skepticism. Nobody ever imagined that moon dumplings could be made salty.
In the end, it was the little kitchen servant A’da who stepped up to the challenge, and he molded the savory meat-filled moon dumplings that Qingqiao had been craving for.
“Very good, A’da. From now on, use pork bones to make soup stocks.” Qingqiao, who used to be a picky eater, munched while smiling happily. “And don’t forget to add more pepper.”
That incident gave birth to the Chief Minister of the Board of Rite’s family’s odd annual tradition of eating meat-filled moon dumplings.
In a blink of an eye, chef A’da became famous.
– – –
“Since the meat is such high quality, why don’t you cook braised meat for tonight?” She looked at the white glutinous rice balls on the kneading board, and began to feel excited.
“That wasn’t on the menu that Master gave me,” A’da replied awkwardly. “It’s all sea mollusk and swiftlet chips… and I didn’t prepare enough meat.”
Thinking about it, A’da had a point. Braised meat wasn’t a fancy dish, plus she could eat it whenever she wanted anyway.
Qingqiao turned around and impulsively made an order before drifting away: “Then just make one bowl for me, and use the leftovers to make moon dumpling filling. When it’s finished, have Dongxi bring it over in the evening.”
“Eh? You’re not attending the banquet tonight, Miss?!” A’da asked with bewilderment.
“What ‘eh’? Haven’t you heard of the saying, ‘Small meals leave you unsatisfied, large feasts leave you hungry’?” Sighing ruefully with puppy-dog eyes, she continued with thinly veiled bitterness, ”It’s the New Year, and you actually have the heart to let your honorable and fragile mistress go hungry?”
A’da stood frozen to the ground in a daze.
“Oh, one more thing, A’da. Don’t forget my bowl of white rice.”
– – –
In the evening, the important guest arrived, and Qingqiao resorted to her old antics — faking an illness.
In this world, there were a million ways to trick someone, and the easiest was feigning illness because it didn’t require any props or preparation. You just had to plop into bed, pull up the sheets, sniffle a few times, and that was it. Her old man could neither do anything about it nor force her, so in the end he’d walk away with a stony face.
As soon as her old man’s front foot stepped out of the room, Qingqiao would kick off the sheets with her back foot, giggling with laughter!
If Dongxi strained her ears, she could faintly hear her mistress singing, “Fake illnesses, I love you~ I love you~♪ Just like a mouse that loves rice~♪”
Curling her lips, the maid servant regarded that wearisome display with a shake of her head — she’d already heard her mistress sing this song countless times, and every time only the first word would be different: “XXXXX I love you~ I love you~♪ Just like a mouse that loves rice~♪”
Miss Gu never gets tired, she thought.
Dongxi was not an ordinary servant. She had an incredibly high level of tolerance, and she had long ago gotten used to her mistress’s strange escapades.
– – –
“Why do I have to wear ittime travel? Why do I have to wear ittime travel?! Tell me why do I have to wear ittime travel?!!”
“…Because… if you don’t wear ittime travel… you’ll catch a cold…” Dongxi had been grabbed and shaken so violently by her mistress that she nearly crumbled to the ground. Yet somehow she still managed to gasp those few words out.
Qingqiao grew miraculously silent.
“…You’re right.” The young miss gave her a bizarre smile. “If I don’t wear ittime travel, I’ll get cold.”
Then she released her and tenderly examined the red marks her grip left on Dongxi’s arms.
“I’m sorry, I should really stop learning from my brother Jingtao.” Qingqiao’s voice was extremely gentle, light as a floating bubble that slowly drifted in the air. “From now on I swear I will cut my ties with the Rage Sect!”
Brother Jingtao? Rage Sect?
Dongxi was mystified when she heard this, but at that moment, she couldn’t help but think that her mistress was so beautiful.
A billion times more beautiful than any other person she had met.
It was a pity that since then, Miss Gu went back to normal and rarely displayed such crazy behavior again. Though she would occasionally sigh, “To be honest, I really don’t want to wear anythingtime travel…”
There were times when she’d even mutter out loud that she ought to become a “loser”.
“Why?” Her father would hear and get angry.
“Because even if all else failstime travels, at least losers can’t fail at failingtime travel.”
Miss Gu smiled sweetly, and looked exceptionally beautiful.
– – –
Looking at the beauty who was humming and sipping tea before her, Dongxi could not help but speak up: “Miss, the person who is attending the banquet today is the super-famous Prince Duan Yuduan. Don’t you want to take a peek?”
The mistress spat out a large mouthful of tea with a “pfuu” sound.
Dongxi quietly shifted a little bit further away in mild disgust.
“Duanyu? Is there really a prince with that name?” The mistress stared at her blankly, after which she immediately seemed to recall something, and she sighed towards the sky. “Aiyaa, my poor hero Qiao, if only A’zhu…”
Dongxi tsked as the babblings of her mistress, who couldn’t help but be overcome by grief, started again.
– – –
It was nearly an hour after the banquet started, and Dongxi who had been dispatched to the kitchen had yet to return.
Qingqiao’s stomach started to growl and she could not sit still anymore.
Since her current body was used to being treated like royalty, her biological clock was tightly fixed. If she didn’t eat soon, it was quite likely that she’d get a stomachache.
She thought and thought to herself, before finally
instinct her stomach triumphed over reason. She draped on a black robe and sneakily crept outside.
It was a dark and stormy night, the perfect conditions to pilfer some tasty food.
She fumbled to the room that she knew so well, pushing the door open to steal a peek. A pot on the stove was blowing hot steam, and the mouthwatering aroma of meat dribbled everywhere throughout the room. Beside the pot was a small white porcelain bowl that was covered — even without looking, she knew that fresh rice was inside.
A’da, I love you~ I love you~♪ Just like a mouse that loves rice~♪
She sang praises in her heart.
– – –
She opened the pot to nab some meat before mixing some of the simmering meat juices into the rice. Everything was so delicious.
Since the little pot was still stewing, she stood there, alternating between picking pieces of meat and eating mouthfuls of rice while she reminisced about the one person in the universe whose food she loved the most.
The hot steam that made her nose red quickly condensed to mist, leaving a shiny coat of water droplets on her cheeks.
“Why are you crying?” a voice suddenly asked her.
“Because this meat tastes too good.”
She subconsciously responded as she turned her head around.
– – –
With a golden crown in his hair and clothing fluttering in the wind, the person was so gorgeous that he looked like a celestial who descended from the very heavens.
For Gu Qingqiao, this was the first time in her life that she was dumbstruck just by looking at a man, to the point that she even forgot to keep chewing on her meat.
- A’da in this context is a nickname, and it is not his formal name.
- Dream of the Red Chamber: one of the four great Chinese classics. Concubine Zhao is a famous villain who plots to murder several characters to gain political power.
- Sea snails and swiftlet chips are all extremely expensive foods. According to Wikipedia, swiftlet chips (edible bird’s nest) retails for about $2,500 (US) per kilogram in Asia.
- “Small meals leave you unsatisfied, large feasts leave you hungry“: An idiom. In small meals by yourself/with family, there’s not a lot of variety and the food can be boring — at most maybe 1-2 dishes. However, you can eat as much as you want. In large banquets with guests/important people, you can’t eat freely because of the random rules and etiquettes. For example, you should never be the first person to start eating, and you should never be the person to take the last piece of any dish. It’s important not to eat too much because you don’t want to look crude/starved/pleb-like. Rich people will actually put on airs and act like they eat fancy meals like this all the time and pretend the present dishes on the table are “boring” (even if it might be their favorite dish), and people will notice if you take from a certain dish more than everyone else does.
- “Just like a mouse that loves rice~♪“: These are song lyrics pulled straight from Mice Love Rice, which is a super duper famous Chinese romance song. It’s so famous that its inspired adaptations in lots of other languages. “Cause I love you” (North) is composed on the same tune.
- This is an important pun. In Chinese, 穿 = wear clothes = 穿越 = time travel. Thus, this sentence can also be read: “Why do I have to time travel? Why do I have to time travel?!”
- Ma Jingtao: a famous actor who has a meme shaking women when he gets really excited/emotional. The Rage Sect is an internet cult/sect dedicated to the actor Ma Jingtao (and his ways of raging/shaking on TV).
- I’m guessing (only a guess) that this is a continued satire/jab at Ma Jingtao — while I’ve never watched any of his TV shows/films, my guess is that the girls still somehow manage fall for him despite the ridiculous shaking treatment. (What makes this case even funnier is that they’re both girls ~ yuri!)
- “Even if all else fails, at least losers can’t fail at failing“: An idiom. This is the punchline of the chapter. I’ve modified it so it’s more intuitive to English readers. The more literal translation is: (“This fails and that fails, but flattery can’t fail”). The meaning is that pretty much everything on earth will fail (“fall through”). Your car will get a flat tire and fail. The date you scheduled on Friday with fall through. Even Lelouch’s best evil plans will fall through. The only time things don’t fail is when you’re being flattered. You end up being caught up in a chuuni dream where everything is great and wonderful and awesome. Flattering dreams doesn’t fail because by definition, flattery is the chuuni dream. As for how this relates to this chapter, did you notice the presence of the character 穿? If you recall, 穿 = wear (clothes) = time travel = fall through/break/fail (in this case). Level three pun! Basically, read this idiom a different way and you get: “This time travels and that time travels, but flattery can’t time travel.” (Aha! So MC-chan wants to be flatterer so she doesn’t time travel….)
- Reference to Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils by Jin Yong (probably one of the most famous Wuxia novelists of all time). Incidentally, I’ve watched the TV drama for this. It’s pretty good. Duanyu is one of the three main male characters, and actually a real historical figure as well. He’s the most comedic of the protagonists, cute-faced, gets into hilarious situations (because he’s “against violence” in a Wuxia novel), and somehow manages to pick up a lot of girls. Incidentally he’s my mom’s favorite character (lol).
- Qiao Feng is the hero of Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, and A’zhu is his lover. This is a reference to one of the big plot twists in the novel. It’s tragic. It’s depressing. Lamentable. People cry over it for weeks, lol. MC-chan clearly still isn’t over it even after being reincarnated (back in time).