“…What you are seeing right now are several unknown cars that were found to be illegally speeding along the Garonne River at the eastern section of the Pyrenees mountains in southwest Europe.
The nearby French police have already been alerted, and…” the pleasant voice of the TV anchor calmly relayed the developing events on the scene as the screen behind her broadcast the leading story.
On the screen, several sports cars could be seen driving dangerously fast, and in the night sky, a helicopter was closely following.
Trailing far behind the group were numerous police vehicles in pursuit, their sirens blaring as they tried to flag down the speeding cars.
“…the French Police have reason to believe that the people in the cars are from Asia, although this information has not yet been verified.
The news camera that was on location zoomed in, enlarging the car chase as well as the cacophony of sounds, from the blaring horns of the police cars and the loud revving of the luxury cars down to the deafening sound of the sirens and the whirring noise of the helicopter’s propellers.
The thin walls hardly managed to block out the sounds of the television outside.
Resigned, Jiang Se crawled up from where she sat on her bed and went into the narrow living room.
She looked around the room, but Du You, who had been watching TV, was nowhere in sight, and only the sight of the flickering television showcasing a furious car chase remained.
On the screen, a crowd of people was slowly forming as they lined the streets, watching and recording the excitement.
Just as Jiang Se was about to turn off the TV, the news camera suddenly shifted, and the image of a white sports car at the head of the chase filled the screen.
A door on the left side of the room burst open, and the angry voice of Du Hong Hong rang out as she shouted, “Don’t you know what time it is It’s already late at night, and I’m about to take my midterm exams!”
Jiang Se turned her head towards the voice just in time to see a young girl, wearing a red nightgown, impatiently slam the door of her room closed.
The windows in the living room rattled at the impact, and chips of peeling paint fell from the walls.
Jiang Se silently turned the television off before returning to her warm room.
It was nearing the end of May, and the weather was heating up.
An old electric fan faced the single bed, slowly swiveling left and right, sending cool air into the room.
Jiang Se got into bed and lay down, the lamp’s dim light illuminating her dazed face.
She recognized that white sports car that was rampantly speeding—that was Pei Yi’s.
Jiang Se’s mother’s voice suddenly interrupted her train of thought, and the door was pushed ajar.
“It’s already past nine o’clock,” Zhou Hui said, leaning half of her body inside the doorway and pointing at the light.
Jiang Se nodded and pushed herself up, then reached for the rope at the side of the bed.
The room was immediately sent into darkness.
A faint sliver of light came from the corridor outside the room, and it illuminated Zhou Hui’s slightly cowering and stooping figure.
“Hong Hong will soon have her midterm exams, and just recently our electricity bill has gone up.
And Se Se, this month your Uncle Du’s benefits from the factory aren’t so good.
So… you can only turn on the fan for a short while, all right Once you’ve cooled yourself enough you have to turn it—”
“I know,” Jiang Se interjected, cutting her mother off mid-sentence.
Zhou Hui paused, as if debating whether to tell her off.
An awkward silence engulfed the cramp room, and then finally, the door shut.
Without the light from the corridor, the room was pitch black.
There were no windows in her room, not even one for ventilation.
Jiang Se turned over in her bed, and her thoughts flew back to what she saw.
It had been a long time since she thought about the things from ‘before,’ but because of the news headlines tonight, she was suddenly reminded of a lot of things—of before—and now it was making her feel slightly gloomy.
Half a month ago, she was still the precious daughter of the Feng family, Feng Nan.
Somehow, one day she woke up and became Jiang Se.
Half a month ago, her grandfather was still Feng Zhong Liang, who once served in the army when he was younger.
It was a time when China was in turmoil, when heroes were made, and when her grandfather made great contributions and merit.
After he finished his service, Feng Zhong Liang brought his family out from the mainland and immigrated to Hong Kong.
He purchased a hotel and then, step by step, earned his fortune and built it to what it is today.
The Feng family was one of the few who were regarded as having some level of influence, prestige, and wealth in Hong Kong.
Feng Zhong Liang, however, was finding it harder to control his homesickness as he grew older.
His children were already grown and had their own families, and his wife had gone on ahead of him years before.
Feeling a little lonely and bereft, he made the decision to return to China, bringing along with him one of his granddaughters, Feng Nan.
Feng Nan’s circumstances and environment compared to Jiang Se’s were as different as they could be, like night and day.
Where Feng Nan lived most of her life in comfort and luxury, Jiang Se’s family toed the poverty line.
Jiang Se’s mother divorced Jiang Se’s father when she was still a baby.
For reasons unknown, she left her ex-husband, took her daughter with her, and married Du Chang Qun.
Not long after, she became pregnant and had children, one after the other, forming a new family.
Du Chang Qun, the stepfather, was a factory worker, but despite working there for more than 20 years, he was still only a salesman at the lowest level, so his meager pay could barely support such a large family.
Jiang Se’s position in the family has always been very awkward.
She was not Du Chang Qun’s biological daughter, and yet he had to provide for her.
As their financial situation deteriorated day by day over the years, his dislike of her grew.
Because of this, Jiang Se’s half siblings have never treated her with much respect.
This year, Jiang Se turned seventeen and was also in the 2nd semester of her 3rd year of high school.
However, she has never been one to care for her studies.
Instead, she was always daydreaming and fantasizing about how she could use her looks to get into the entertainment business.
Jiang Se thought that only by becoming a star would she be able to stand out and make a name for herself.
All of that was the status quo half a month ago, and Feng Nan—now Jiang Se—slowly figured it out after that fateful day.
She had already thought about what happened countless times before, yet up until now she was still unable to figure things out.
How did she suddenly become ‘Jiang Se’ and who was ‘Feng Nan’ now
Jiang Se sighed then turned over again, and the steel wires of her bed issued a faint creaking sound.
Thud! Thud! Thud!
Du Hong Hong banged heavily on the wall next to her, and her irritated voice came through the wall, “Are you done”
The Du family lived in the country’s capital, and the land here was notorious for being extremely expensive.
Six people, including Du Chang Qun’s mother, Du Mu, crowded together in the tiny 15 square meter room of an old building.
Wooden boards were used to partition the rooms, giving everyone some semblance of privacy.
Jiang Se was given a room in the corner most area of their home, which could barely fit one single bed and a stool.
There were no windows, no proper lighting, and no ventilation, and the walls were as thin as paper.
Once the door was closed, the room would be plunged into darkness.
Above her room was her mother’s and her stepfather’s bedroom, so her ceiling was actually very low.
On the first day Jiang Se ‘arrived’ here, she could hardly believe that such an old house could exist in the city, much less such tiny rooms.
Du Hong Hong swore and cursed on the other side of the wall, grumbling at the noise and how inconvenienced she was.
Jiang Se wordlessly closed her eyes, her long lashes framing her cheeks.
‘Jiang Se’ had a very beautiful face with facial features that looked as if they were meticulously shaped and then arranged to be as pleasing as possible.
Thus, because of this outstanding appearance, the original Jiang Se was determined to enter the entertainment circle.
The Jiang Se of before was obsessed with becoming famous.
Beside the bed, various posters of all sorts of actors, singers, and idols—artists from all fields—filled the wall, and under her pillow was a notebook written by a young girl, filled with her dreams to succeed.
The next day, Jiang Se was awoken by a burst of coughing sounds.
For several days now, Du Chang Qun had been coughing sporadically, and his cold had not gotten any better.
Zhou Hui quietly persuaded him to take the day off and go to the community clinic to get an IV drip, but this only made Du Chang Qun angry.
“What about the money Where do I get the money for that, huh Don’t you already know how much the factory would deduct from my salary if I even took one day off The whole family is relying on me alone to feed them! And you still think I should ask for leave”
Jiang Se blinked away her sleepiness and gradually came to her senses.
Du Chang Qun’s rants about money were almost an everyday occurrence.
He swore and raged, even going as far as blaming Zhou Hui for bringing Jiang Se with her when she remarried: “She’s already seventeen, and she still refuses to do proper work! She only knows how to spend money! When I was seventeen, I had already started working and entered the factory.
But look at what your daughter is doing!”
Zhou Hui never said a word of refutation.
When Du Chang Qun finally calmed down and came down the stairs, he was still disgruntled.
He hardly acknowledged Jiang Se when he saw her, and proceeded to quickly wash up before heading out the doorway.
“The pressure your Uncle Du is going through has been quite a lot lately,” Zhou Hui dully explained as she looked at her daughter.
Jiang Se at seventeen looked incredibly young but striking, and even when she used Du Chang Qun’s washing water by wetting a small handkerchief to wipe her face with, it could not detract from her beauty.
Jiang Se quietly cleaned herself up and then walked to the kitchen for breakfast.
“Jiang Se, you have never been interested in studying, and your grades are not that good.
So… What I mean to say is that your younger brother and sister are still young and…”
Jiang Se immediately understood what she wanted to say.
In English class, Jiang Se absentmindedly drew on her notebook, her thoughts drifting as she paid partial attention to the teacher’s lecture.
This morning, Zhou Hui haltingly told Jiang Se that she and her stepfather would rather she dropped out of school after finishing her senior year and started earning money to help out the family.
Her stepfather’s rant today had not been for nothing but had been his subtle hint to her concerning her future.
This demand completely blindsided her.
When she was still Feng Nan, she had never once worried about money or having to work for a living.
She was unsure of what to do next, and this completely left her dumbfounded.
Am I really going to have to work at the factory
Vaguely, she felt something suddenly nudging her out of her trance.
She turned her head to the side and saw Lu Bao Bao on the table next to her, lightly jabbing her on the arm with a pen.
Lu Bao Bao was a year older than Jiang Se, but with her slightly round face, she looked young and adorable.
Lu Bao Bao was the original Jiang Se’s only friend.
Just like Jiang Se, Lu Bao Bao was also very interested in gossip, especially entertainment gossip and news about celebrities.
Her day-to-day schedule consisted of looking up famous stars’ whereabouts and the rumors that surrounded them and then prattling on about so-and-so celebrities, dreaming that one day she would just like them.
So, the original Jiang Se, who wholeheartedly wanted to become a star, got along with her like a house on fire.
Since the start of class, Lu Bao Bao had noticed Jiang Se’s preoccupation.
Having finally caught it, she quickly bowed her head and wrote a line of words in her workbook: What are you thinking about I’ve been trying to get your attention.