Lin Qingqing had just come out of the practice room when she received a call from Xiang Huayang. His voice on
the phone was as deep and melodious as ever. "The competition is tomorrow. Are you nervous?"
She was happy to receive his call, and a joyful smile lit up her face. "I'm not nervous. After the competition,
you have to remember to take me out for a meal."
Xiang Huayang smiled with a hint of helplessness. Despite his usually aloof demeanor, there was a trace of
fondness in his smile. "Don't worry, I won't forget you," he said, then paused for a moment before adding,
"Qingqing, let's have a good chat after your competition is over."
His sudden change in tone made Lin Qingqing a bit nervous, but she tried to sound casual. "What's the matter? What do you want to talk about?"
He simply said, "We'll talk after your competition."
Lin Qingqing clicked her tongue, and she had reached the dormitory door. From a distance, she saw someone
standing outside the dormitory, and she recognized it was Liang Xin. She turned to Xiang Huayang and said,
"Xinxin is here to see me. I'll hang up now."
He remained silent for a moment before saying, "Okay, good luck with your competition tomorrow."
Liang Xin approached her, and Lin Qingqing hung up the phone, smiling as she met her. Liang Xin handed her
a plush cat doll and said, "A lucky charm for you. Remember to hold it while you sleep tonight, and you'll do great
in the competition tomorrow."
Lin Qingqing took it, pretended to look at the doll critically, and then said, "It's not very cute, but I'll reluctantly accept it."
Liang Xin chuckled and said, "Look at you. But I can see you're in a good mood, and with that attitude, I'm not worried about your competition tomorrow. Well, I won't accompany you tomorrow, then."
Lin Qingqing immediately protested, "No, you have to come with me. I need you to support me." She patted her own mouth and added, "I'm talking nonsense. This cat is actually cute and adorable."
Liang Xin covered her mouth and chuckled.
Liang Xin and Lin Qingqing were close friends, the kind of friends who could make extreme jokes without blushing. Liang Xin was not only her friend but also her step-sister, just two months older. At first, Lin Qingqing didn't like Liang Xin because she despised Liang Xin's mother, Liang Feifei, who was the third party in her parents' marriage. Her parents divorced because of her, and her mother suffered greatly due to Liang Feifei's involvement and passed away shortly after the divorce.
After her parents' divorce, her older sister went with her mother, and she was assigned to her father. Soon after the divorce, her father married Liang Feifei, and Liang Xin was the daughter of Liang Feifei and her previous husband.
At first, Lin Qingqing saw Liang Xin as disgusting as she saw Liang Feifei. However, she witnessed Liang Xin being physically abused by Liang Feifei one day, and she realized that Liang Xin, like herself, was also a victim of this marriage. Both of them equally detested this union. This shared suffering quickly brought them closer, and they became good friends.
Over the years, the two supported and encouraged each other in their less-than-ideal family situation. Their shared passion for music, coupled with their similar backgrounds, made them have endless topics to talk about. They even ended up getting into the same music college.
Because of their common interests and shared family experiences, Lin Qingqing and Liang Xin always had a lot to talk about. Besides her mother and older sister, Liang Xin was the person she felt closest to.
After chatting with Liang Xin for a while, Lin Qingqing returned to her dormitory. Although they attended the same music college, they were in different departments, so they didn't share the same dormitory building. Liang Xin had spent about half an hour coming and going just to bring her the gift.
It was almost midnight, and her roommates were already asleep. Lin Qingqing quietly freshened up and went to bed.
Strangely, although she thought she might have trouble sleeping tonight, she found herself sleeping deeply.
The sunlight outside the window was glaring when she suddenly woke up. She reached for the alarm clock on her bedside table but couldn't find it, and that's when she realized something was amiss. Adjusting to the light, she looked at the room, and she was shocked.
This room wasn't her dormitory. However, the room seemed somewhat familiar; it was the room she lived in during her childhood, back when her parents were still together.
After her parents' divorce, her father had settled in Xianghai City, and she had moved with him. This place was where she came back every weekend after starting college.
It was strange. She was sure she had been in the dormitory, so how had she ended up here?
Lin Qingqing sat up in bed, and as she did, she felt a sharp pain in her head, prompting her to instinctively touch her forehead. Her hand met a bandage wrapped around her head, leaving Lin Qingqing bewildered. How had she gotten injured? She had been perfectly fine before going to sleep.
Furthermore, as she looked at herself in the mirror, she noticed something was off. The face staring back at her was undeniably hers, but it appeared much thinner, with a pallor that wasn't healthy. It seemed like the complexion of someone suffering from malnutrition.
Lin Qingqing couldn't make sense of what was happening. Everything felt dreamlike and unreal. Just as she was doubting the reality of it all while looking at her familiar yet somewhat unfamiliar reflection in the mirror, her gaze unintentionally shifted to the wall clock hanging on the wall behind her.
The clock's hands pointed to 9:20.
Suddenly, Lin Qingqing jolted awake. She had a competition today! She was still in her pajamas, and she hurriedly started searching for clothes to change into. However, the clothes in the wardrobe looked unfamiliar, and their style was more mature. Especially the row of lacy nightgowns on the hangers, something a person her age wouldn't consider wearing.
But she couldn't dwell on that now. She grabbed a random set of clothes and put them on. Just as she finished changing, she heard a knock at the door, and then her sister's voice, "Qingqing, are you awake?"
"I'm awake..." Lin Qingqing's voice startled her. What had happened? Her voice had become so coarse and unpleasant. She tried to clear her throat and speak again, "I..."
Her voice remained harsh and unpleasant.
Lin Qingqing was completely shocked. How had her voice changed like this? She had a competition to attend today!
Her sister, Lin Zhenzhen, had already entered the room. Seeing her sister's distressed expression, she knew Lin Qingqing wasn't intentionally causing trouble. She approached her, placing her hands on her shoulders and asked gently, "Don't worry. Tell me, what competition are you talking about?"
Lin Qingqing quickly replied, "It's the Pineapple TV talent show. It's a once-every-three-years event, and the North City regionals are starting today. If I miss it, I'll have to wait another three years, and by then, I'll be twenty-three. I want to make a name for myself as soon as possible. But my voice, how can I participate in the competition with my voice like this?"
With her voice sounding like this, how could she sing? She became tearful, and her tears flowed down. Lin Zhenzhen watched her sister's face closely, knowing her better than anyone. Lin Qingqing's expression was genuine, and she wasn't pretending. Lin Zhenzhen thought for a moment and asked, "Tell me, what's the date today?"
Lin Qingqing replied, "May 23rd. The elimination rounds begin on May 23rd. I remember it clearly." She had already successfully passed the auditions and the second round, and the elimination round was the key to her success. She absolutely couldn't afford to miss it.
Lin Zhenzhen then asked, "What year is it?"
Lin Qingqing answered confidently, "2013."
This unwavering response, coupled with her clear eyes, made Lin Zhenzhen even more astonished. She stared at her sister for a long while, then took a deep breath and told her, "Qingqing, it's 2018 now."
Lin Qingqing was momentarily stunned, and her expression quickly shifted to panic. "Sis, why are you playing such jokes on me at a time like this?"
Lin Zhenzhen didn't respond but instead took Lin Qingqing by the hand and led her outside. She brought her to the hotel's entrance, where the words "Peace Hotel" were written in calligraphy. This hotel had been founded by the sisters' grandfather.
Lin Qingqing and Lin Zhenzhen now stood at the hotel's entrance. The cold wind blew outside, and it seemed like snowflakes were falling from the sky. The room had been warm, and she hadn't noticed, but now she felt the cold wind. She had been under the impression that it was summer, so she was dressed in short sleeves and shorts. As she stepped outside and was hit by the cold wind, Lin Qingqing shivered.
On the street, billboards were adorned with slogans welcoming the year 2018. Lin Qingqing quickly noticed that several tall buildings had sprung up around the hotel, and even the familiar streets had undergone significant changes. Only the street where the Peace Hotel was located retained the old charm of North City.
"See it now?" Lin Zhenzhen asked her.
But Lin Qingqing still couldn't believe it. How was this possible? She had been in her dormitory just yesterday, preparing for her exams. How could she have woken up in the year 2018?