Also, like every other morning, a slightly familiar voice called from the outside of her bedroom, asking if she was feeling well enough to have breakfast with her elder sister and brother today.
As usual, Sam pretended not to listen a single word, barely moving from her place by the desk and simply waving a hand dismissively in Ah Mei's direction. The message was clear.
'Just say I can't and make them go away'.
Ah Mei was not a Lady's Maid. She had never been trained, nor did she know the codes and behavior protocols that were expected. However, since Wu Xiaojie had been, eh, dragged back to the Jiang Manor and decided not to meet anyone, she had been slowly assuming the tasks of her personal maid.
The poor girl wasn't familiar enough with her mistress "new personality", nor did she have the guts yet to try and change her mind, like other might do. So, instead of reminding Sam that she couldn't keep her family away for much longer and that postponing their meeting would just feed all the talking and gossiping going around, she simply curtseyed, walked out of the room to the large visiting area and explained – once again – to a very uneasy Third Young Miss that her sister wasn't feeling well enough that morning to entertain.
She could almost see the indignation burning on Zi Zhu's eyes as she knocked the food tray on a nearby table and crossed her arms. The maid seemed about to vent some anger when Qing Shan stopped her.
"Zi Zhu, that's enough" she asked in a gentle tone "I understand this is all very difficult to Yue'er right now. Remember what Doctor Li said, she might need some time to adapt".
"Bu Miss, she is clearly looking down on you! Look how much miss already did for Wu Xiaojie... How can she be so ungrateful?"
Qing Shan sighed, closing her beautiful, dark eyes for a few seconds, as if trying to recollect herself. Just after the Doctor had confirmed Yue'er's amnesia, she and her uncle had sat down and talked for a long time, trying to decide what to do to ease the girls life and help her remember who she was.
On the first days, as she seemed adamant about not meeting anyone, they decided the best approach was giving her the most space they could, and then slowly start interacting again. Maybe doing things she used to like together, eating her favorite food...
It had been five days ago. Now, they understood that the idea that seemed so good on theory was met with unforeseen problema: Ying Yue's unwillingness to meet them.
'Forget it' she told herself yet again, trying not to feel completely disheartened 'I just have to come back tomorrow. Maybe she will want to see me then'. Out loud she said:
"Zi Zhu, we are living".
"Go back first" she interrupted her, giving Zi Zhu a stern look "tell my brother I'll meet him soon". She waited until her unwilling maid be some distance away before turning once again to a very fidgety Li Mei.
"You are Li Mei, right?" Qing Shan asked "the girl that used to kelp with the knitting?"
Li Mei lowered her head, answering in such a small voice she herself could barely hear it.
"Actually, I'm happy there's someone beside Yue'er" the third miss continued to a bewildered Ah Mei.
'Ah?! She is not going to send me back to be a knitting maid?!' she thought in amazement 'This miss is really kind'.
"Since she woke up we're all so worried for her... She seems to not want any of us close, so we can't do much to help her".
"San Xiaojie, Wu Xiaojie is just a little confused" Ah Mei said quickly, trying to comfort the sweet looking girl "Miss has been a bit down this last few days, but she is definitely recovering. Xiaojie, just bear with it for a bit longer, Wu Xiaojie will certainly come around".
Qing Shan breathed deeply in sign of relief, her smile brightening a bit while looking at the young maid.
"I know nothing will happen to her, and still I worry" she said in a self deprecating way "Ah Mei, if anything happens to my sister, if she need anything... Just ask Zi Zhu directly, so that I can help you".
Ah Mei bowed again.
"This servant understands. This servant will not disappoint you".
Qing Shan nodded lightly, giving one last look at the closed door before finally turning to leave.
'Yue'er, please don't have me anymore... Your sister is sorry'.
Once back inside the room, Ah Mei walked straight to Sam's side, looking at her with an annoyed expression.
"Did they leave already?" Sam asked in a matter-of-factly voice.
"San Xiaojie just left" she confirmed, adding "She seemed very sad".
Sam lifted her head. "Sad?" she asked, a deep frown marring her white skin. "Why would she be sad?"
"Xiaojie, third miss loves you very much!" she said, a bit exasperated "She was worried for your health".
"Well... I'm completely fine" she retorted, still a bit confused "Was she really that bad because of me?".
It was never her intention to hurt anyone. Sam actually felt a bit of sympathy for Qing Shan. She remember from those days she stayed in a coma that the girl used to talk and even play to her. At the same time, Sam simply didn't know how to face those people!
She still remembered with painful clarity the look on Ah Mei's face the first time she saw her eating. It seemed like her eyes could fall out at any moment. And then, when she asked for a fork and knife instead of those hellish hashis...
If she couldn't even manage a meal, imagine being expected to interact and talk with her supposed family?! They might end up committing her!
So she decided to stall. It was just a temporary fix, just till she could put her head in order and learn a bit about that place she had landed without parachutes.
"If it is like this... Maybe I should eat with them tomorrow" she decided, going back to what she had been doing all morning.
Ah Mei followed her moves with curiosity.
"Eh?!" she exclaimed, coming closer to the desk "Xiaojie... What exactly are those?" the maid asked, her eyes examining the careful, if a bit blotched, lines of words Sam had written on a piece of thin paper.
It had actually taken her the best part of three days to be able to learn how to use ink and brush to write without ending up with a single black blot.
Smiling, she put the brush down and turned to the younger girl.
"Ah Mei, if I told you this is one of the most spoken languages in another world, one that is very different from this one, would you believe me?"
Ah Mei blinked slowly, seemingly frozen in place.
Sam sighed, laughing at herself. 'The girl seem freaked enough to run for the hills now'.
"I'm just joking" she assure, laughing harder at the relief that suddenly flooded Ah Mei's eyes "This is simply a code I came up with this days... it helps me register some important things while I can't remember how to read and write".
The maid nodded thoughtfully.
"Xiaojie is very intelligent... It seems very weird and difficult to understand".
"Really?" she laughed "it's actually quite simple... I'm just making a list. It helps me think, I suppose...".
Sam watched as the girl just kept staring for a bit longer, as if deep in thoughts herself, before announcing she was going to the kitchen to bring some tea and pastries.
Once she heard the doors closing, the smile left Sam's face and she turned back to study her writings. It had been an oversight to do it in front of someone from that world (was it really a different world, or a different dimension? She still couldn't tell). Ah Mei could easily brush it off as one of her oddities, but Sam was quite sure that others might not look at it that way.
She remembered once doing a schoolwork about spies during war times. It had been one of this activities teachers think are cool and interesting and will suddenly make kids fall in love with History or whatever.
Obviously, it didn't happen. However, Sam still remembered some of what she read about the way they communicated and exchanged information while infiltrated in enemy ground. They used codes.
She looked once more at her work, pulling closer one of the scrolls still on the desk and comparing both languages. They were as different as oil and water. Different enough that it indeed could be seen as a code.
She was already in a difficult situation, not knowing anything, the lat thing she needed was someone with bad intentions finding those pages. 'Also, something DID happen to this body's last owner, or else why would I wake up from a coma here...?'.
Sam looked once again at the points on her list, just a few phrases stating everything she knew and everything she needed to find out before any other thing.
It was a moment to prioritize. So, first, she would find out who exactly were the Jiang's, what was this family history and, more importantly, who Jiang Ying Yue had been and wha had happened to her on the fateful day Sam crashed her car.
Then she could start planning ahead. If these people were really as kind as they seemed, maybe she could lower her guard a bit and try to be closer to them. They could be the support she needed while she tried to figure out how she ended up on this place and how she could go back.
If they turned out not to be what they seemed, however...
Sam frowned, folding her papers and and looking around for a while before deciding on the perfect hiding place: a tall, willowy vase with a thin mouth that sanded on a stool close to the door.
Some time later, when Ah Mei came back with a huge place of delicacies (no chocolate yet, unfortunately) and some warm, fragrant tea, she asked the girl to seat with her so that they could eat and talk a bit.
As usual, Ah Mei fidgeted and looked uncomfortable for a good minute before finally giving up and sitting besides her Miss. She would not, however, touch the food she had brought. This was a line Sam was still unable to cross with the girl.
They had been talking for a while about Ah Mei's previous life and habits on the Jiang Manor and, when Sam felt her companion was sufficiently at ease, she decided to broach the topic.
"Ah... I wish I could remember how all this was like" she said in a sad voice "Everything is still so confusing, Ah Mei... What if I can never remember my family?"
"Xiaojie, you can't think like this!" the girl affirmed with feeling "You are doing better every day! I'm sure with time everything will come back!".
Another sigh. Looking down with a defeated expression. Playing with a piece of lotus cake.
"I don't know... I can't even read now! Maybe if someone could tell me about them, it might help trigger some memories, but..." she breathed heavily "Forget it." she said, forcing a smile "I'm just being a bother now, right? I don't know where all this gloominess came from, sorry Ah Mei... I promise it's gone away already!". The cheerfulness on her voice was so false she almost cringed inside.
'You are being inconspicuous' she reminded herself 'Getting information without alerting the other team that you are collecting it'. She rolled her eyes internally. 'Maybe I've watched too many movies back home... I don't remember being so paranoid before'.
But, then again, she HAD been robed by her own boyfriend.
Maybe paranoia was a good thing after all.
"Xiaojie, do you really think it could help regaining your memories?" Ah Mei asked in a animated voice.
"It probably could help" she conceded "Thats why I asked the books before. But you know what happened...".
Ah Mei acquiesced, the pieces finally being put together on her mind. 'So it was like this' she thought to herself.
"Miss, this servant doesn't know much about Miss's family, as I've not been here for long. It would probably be better to ask an older servant...".
"But you know something?" she insisted. It would not do to go asking questions to another stranger. Before she confirmed she was safe and secure where she was, Sam would do everything in her power to restrict her interactions to the smallest number of people possible.
Ah Mei agreed slowly, seemingly thinking about something.
When she finally started talking, Sam conceded that indeed a servant girl, and of such young age, wouldn't be able to know much. Still, an incomplete story was better than knowing nothing at all.
With every new tale, Sam felt her fears easing a bit. The Jiang's seemed a very ordinary, very loyal and small family. They treated their servants better than most nobles, and were even considered liberals when it came to the rights and liberty assured to the girls and woman on the household.
"Wait" she asked suddenly, looking at Ah Mei with a confused expression "What do you mean, my father was accused of treason?".
Sam felt a cold shiver run down her spine.
Instantly she knew. No matter the answer to that question, Sam had a really bad feeling that things would only get more complicated from then on.