Luo Jing’s head was rumbling.
His head once again rumbled as his body violently jerked before falling down. Boom!
His head smashed onto something hard, causing him to grimace in pain.
As he slowly opened his eyes, he could only see a dim, blurry background. In front of him, a silhouette was moving back and forth, as if it was busy closing the window and cleaning up the room. Next to the silhouette was a window; lightning flashed outside, brightly illuminating the room as if it were day.
Luo Jing moaned as he tried to raise his hand to rub the back of his head, but his body wouldn’t move: a mixture of pain, itching, and numbness had left it paralyzed. It was as if his limbs didn’t belong to him; they firmly laid on the ground beside him like four wooden sticks.
"Am I dead?" His mind was still chaotic. He had a flashback: while taking a shower, he had accidentally touched the power outlet with his wet hands, electrocuting himself in the process. With his own eyes, he watched as a burst of blue electric current emerged between his finger and the sockets, and after which came a pungent smell of burnt flesh as he lost consciousness.
His head was in a daze; it seemed like all his memories had turned to mush.
Luo Jing opened his eyes as much as he could, trying to figure out what was going on around him.
After another violent rumbling, his head hit the headboard of the bed, filling him with yet another outburst of unbearable pain as he passed out soon after.
Nobody knew how long it had been, perhaps one day or perhaps several days, when he finally regained consciousness and could feel his body once more.
He heard the soft sound of a door closing.
"Has mother left already?" A girl’s voice asked.
"Yes, she ate breakfast before us and went out to get some groceries. I’m going to leave to visit your auntie soon as well." The familiar voice of a man answered, followed by silence.
Luo Jing found himself in a small bedroom. In front of him was a reading desk. He was holding a black pen, writing something on a piece of white paper. A bright light shone from the window to his right; light rain showers fell outside, and the roof of the residence building across the street was soaked through.
Suddenly, like a flood breaking out of a dam, a huge and complex wave of thoughts rampaged into his mind.
He unconsciously groaned and gripped his forehead with his hands. Countless new memories swarmed into his brain.
"Garen? My... my name is Garen? Have I traveled to an alternate reality?"
He couldn’t think about anything else; still bearing a headache, he started exploring the memories that had just flowed into his brain.
This world was similar to Europe prior to the Nuclear Age. There were cars, planes, and firearms like guns and cannons, but weapons of mass destruction had not been developed yet.
His new identity was a boy named Garen from a middle-class family. He was 16 years old and his parents were employees of a rubber company. He had a little sister called Ying Er. The lifestyle was like that of the 20th century Europe, but the memories of his family and his own appearance made it clear that this place was definitely not on Earth. Both Garen and his sister were born with dark purple hair and eyes the color of wine. Their hair color was passed down from their father and eye color from their mother. He’d never heard of anyone born with these hair and eye colors on Earth. Furthermore, in Garen’s memories of history, the most powerful countries in the world were not China, the United States, or Russia. Instead, they were the Yalu Confederation, Weisman Empire, and the Republic of the Tulip. Just like Earth, there were a few hundred other countries of varying sizes and governments.
Asides from the difference in names and lifestyle, things were very similar to Earth. People who lived here received education as well, starting from elementary school, then middle school, and finally college. Right now, Garen was attending the third best high school in the province, Shengying Nobles Academy. It was the first year of school. During the school break, Garen was sick in bed with a fever and actually died, just as Luo Jing died in his world and ended up here.
Still collecting his memories, Luo Jing started to change clothes. When he snapped out of his trance, he found himself in a small and tidy room, eating a soft cherry cake on the dining table. The palm-sized cake had a creamy-yellow color, and was decorated by a ring made of whipped cream with cherries on top.
Luo Jing’s mind was still going through Garen’s memory. Although they were attending a nobles’ academy, their parents were barely able to pay the fees by living frugally and working overtime. In order to let both their son and daughter attend this academy, all expenses at home were cut to the bare minimum: their parents didn’t buy new clothes or jewelry, the handsome bonuses and the salary from the rubber company were all used to pay for their tuition.
Unfortunately, the two children weren’t particularly gifted when it came to studying. Thus, no matter how hard they tried, their rankings and scores were always in the lower half of the class rankings. In the academy, the other students all came from well-off families. As a result, the siblings started feeling inferior compared to their peers, and that affected their once optimistic personalities. Garen became an introverted "weirdo", and Ying Er became taciturn.
"You are heading off for school soon, don’t fight with your friends, work hard and try to get into a good college." The father, Mr. Lombard, sat across the table and urged him while eating his plate of salad. "And you Ying Er, don’t read those fiction books all day, school subjects are your priority."
"Alright Daddy," Ying Er replied. She sat at Luo Jing’s right side, wearing a fine white girdle waist sweater. A white corsage on her chest outlined her immature yet fine body line. She was wearing a deep purple bouffant mini skirt and her legs were covered in black leggings. While Ying Er was eating the cake, her two small black shoes were pointed inwards, her head was down, and she looked submissive.
Luo Jing silently ate the cake and drank a sip of milk from time to time. He looked at his sister’s dress: it flaunted a glowing black silver pin on her chest that looked like a wreath surrounding a logo. This was an indication that she was a student of Shengying Nobles Academy.
He looked at his own clothes: a slim-fit white shirt which had black and silver stripes on the cuffs and neckline. The lower body was also a pair of slim-fit black trousers, paired with black dress shoes. His uniform looked striking yet delicate.
The siblings both had very average appearances, the only highlights being their purple hair and their wine-colored eyes. The sister looked ordinary, with some freckles and acne on her face. Garen himself had messy hair, and his eyes looked empty because the sockets sank deep into his face, giving the impression that he had been sick for years.
Luo Jing wasn’t able to absorb most of the information from Garen’s memories until after breakfast. The siblings helped in cleaning up the dishes before going back to their rooms to get ready for school.
"Brother, have you seen my history textbook?" asked Ying Er loudly from her room.
"Nope," answered Luo Jing, or should we call him Garen now, thoughtlessly.
He was also preparing his textbooks. History, geography, etiquette, math and other various subjects; they had more subjects compared to the high schools on Earth. There were even swordsmanship and archery textbooks among them. Garen let out a relieved sigh after shoving all the books inside the black backpack. He walked to the window and pushed it open, letting in a moist and cool breeze.
Outside the window was an open space between two residential buildings; the ground was covered with a black and gray checkerboard pattern. To the west of the field, some people were lining up behind a brawny man with a sign. The crowd was slowly gathering, and it seemed like they were going somewhere. The letters on the sign spelled ‘Collins Wins’.
Just below the window, on the first floor of the building where Garen lived in, a woman walked out while pushing a grayish yellow trolley. It was filled with utensils and cooking materials for making crepes.
"Whoosh!" A white bird flew in front of his window and made a few turns before disappearing again.
Entranced by the bird, he suddenly snapped out of his daze, realizing that he was really in a completely different world now, standing on the fourth floor of a building in a totally different environment from the China he knew.
Most people outside had either blond or silver hair, while some had red hair, and their eye and skin colors varied greatly. The language they were speaking and writing in was an alphabetic language like English. Having obtained the memories from before, Garen was able to understand it.
He was no longer the adult man on planet Earth, but an ordinary boy of only sixteen years of age, with an ordinary family, look, and background. Along with that, there was also his weak and ill body. His parents worked every day, from dusk until dawn. He and his sister came home from school once a week and, between school and home, life was boring and linear. He just had to graduate from high school and take part in the national examination. If he was lucky, he’d get into a decent college, have a good degree, and find a well-paying job in the future. He was one among thousands of students that would take the examination.
Their parents’ greatest expectation for them was to have a decent job.
"If this kid weren’t sick and ill, I might not have successfully traveled into this world," Garen thought with a wry smile. He had a feeling that earlier in the carriage during his coma, it might have been the body of Garen instinctively resisting Luo Jing’s consciousness. If Garen had a healthy body, he might have prevented Luo Jing’s spirit from ever possessing it.
"From his memory, this world should still be in the era just before World War II, without large-scale weapons of war; this is a world similar to mine before the emergence of nuclear weapons." He carefully thought, "This isn’t what I imagined. There’s no magic, no energy, not a XianXia world, not even a small trace of supernatural events."
Thinking of this, he didn’t know what to do. When he found out he had traveled to an alternate reality, he had some small expectations. But after scrounging through Garen’s memory, he realized that this world was merely one that was decades behind in technology.
"Oh well, let's take it step by step, recuperating is of utmost importance right now." Garen raised his arms, which were skinny like bamboo sticks, and a helpless smile showed up on his face.
Bringing their respective backpacks, the siblings walked outside together and closed the door. Garen walked in the front with garbage bags in his hands, and as they stumbled down the stairs, he carefully observed the other households and the situation of this era: the staircase was dark, each floor only had two households, and every one of them had a brass mailbox on the left side of the door, with names engraved on them. They looked quite old.
The residents going in and out were wearing tidy and elegant suits and dresses. Although they had very tired expressions, they moved in a hurry and kept their backs straight; it was natural to say that they just had very fast-paced lives. Only a small number of households were in poor condition, and some were rented by street vendors.
The two walked out of the staircase in silence. Garen disposed the garbage and looked at his sister to his left. Ying Er was a few inches shorter than him, and she was brought in by his stepfather after Garen’s father had passed away. Thus, they were not blood-related, although the two had the same hair and eyes. The relationship between them was not close, not any better than normal friends.
As usual, the two got on the school bus, which was already littered with a few students.