As a result, just after finally making a brake near some old-fashioned, unstable food stands, did she really get the chance to look around and try to gauge where exactly she was – and how she could get to her apartment.
If there was a public phone-buff anywhere near, even better!
Gasping for air, Sam rested against a light-colored wall and supported her hands on her knees, feeling so tired that, given the chance, she probably would drop right there and sleep for an entire week. Just then, she heard some talk and weird whisperings around her, followed by the same feeling of eyes glued to her skin that had accompanied her since she left the "Loonies Summer Camp".
Putting aside her growing annoyance, Sam breathed deeply and lifted her head high, ready to pretend nothing was happening...
All blood left her face, flowing down her frozen body and disappearing into the street. A very sandy, very non city-like street.
All around, people with thin eyes and disapproving frowns studied her, commenting on her sleeping garments and bare feet. Somewhere to her left, she could hear the fain neigh of a horse... The sounds of wooden wheels rolling over the irregular floor... Someone far away shouting for people to make way to Lord something...
Her head spun dangerously, all those buildings with light, yellow walls, red pillars and gable roofs gracefully curved, creating a beautiful leveled effect on two or three stories constructions. The stone steps for some places where still covered in a fine dust, while others were beings thoroughly swept by tired looking servants in old, brownish clothes.
Hairs stiled on complicate plaids, richly decorated clothes, bright jewels and white faces seemed to be everywhere, just like the peasants sitting alongside the streets or going from a food stand to another rummaging the garbage cans.
Sam felt disoriented, almost blind before all those judgmental eyes.
'I have to get out of here' she though desperately, trying to rationalize all that her eyes were telling her that was truth, but that her very logical mind insisted was impossible. I mean, not even David would go as far as send her all the way to the other side of the globe in order to avoid the courts. It was ridiculous. It was...
"There! She is right there!"
"Fifth Young Miss!!"
Caught off guard, Sam looked over her shoulder, just to see the two maid that were with her running her way, along with three other servants and the two guards that she had seen on the Manor's entrance.
"Oh, no, you won't!" she said determinedly, instantly forgetting her most recent revelation and taking off once more, navigating the streets as fast as she could without bumping and pushing all those fancy-dressed ladies and long-haired man on her way.
"Think later, run now! One problem at a time" she repeated her old moto while turning left and wright blindly, feeling like the invited character on a Scooby-Dooh episode.
It took more than fifteen minutes to loose her persecutors, and almost the same about of time for her heart to slow down again... Just for everything to start all over again.
To everyone on the city, it was clear that there was something very wrong with the Fifth young miss from the Jiang family. She had never been exactly a bright child, of course, but to play cat and mouse like that in the middle of the streets with her servants... And dressed like that...!
"No shame, no manners at all!"
"That kid has finally lost her mind!"
"Didn't I always tell you? Those Jiangs, all uptight and superior... Humpf! A bunch of rotter apples, its what they are!"
"Her poor uncle... I heard he left the palace in a hurry just to care for her!"
"... Has gone completely crazy!"
In less than half an hour, there wasn't a single soul in the whole Imperial City that wasn't talking about the Crazy Fifth Young Miss and how Master Shu was unfortunate indeed to have such a family.
To Sam, of course, that still though of herself as Samanta Courtenay, all that pointing and talking about some Jiang Ying Yue was all gibberish that didn't deserve her attention. So she kept going.
It should be past the midday when she finally found a shadowy place to rest near some tall trees, her forehead glistening with beads of sweat while her body shook with unsteady, painful gasps of air. Her erratic breathing just wasn't worst than her heart kicking at her ribcage. Legs, arms, everything hurt, her feet bled profusely, till she ripped part of her garments and wrapped it over the damaged soles.
Going much further wasn't an option anymore, but staying wasn't possible either.
Feeling dismayed, she held her face on her hands and tried to think of a way out of that nightmare, of something to do besides running like a demented dog for the entire day.
Sounds of running and loud voices filled the otherwise empty, residential road.
Her body reacted before she could process what she had heard, and suddenly Sam was on her feet again, running through a narrow passage and almost tripping over a skinny dog before falling into the bustling street market one more, using the crowd of spectators as a shield.
Skidding slightly, she stopped in the middle of the road for a single second, her heard whipping up and down the street to see where the calls where coming from. Her brows furrowed slightly, understanding downing on her in an instant.
They were trying to ambush her!
A bit desperate, she turned on her heels and prepared to go back from where she came... Just to knock her head on something strong and hard, the impact pushing her body back with such strength that, had not it been for a pair of fast arms encircling her midsection, she would have crashed on the ground full force.
Blinking rapidly, she tried to steady her heartbeat, eyes still wide open fixed on the pair of arms keeping her still. On the distance, the calls of the Jiang staff were getting nearer by the second.
'Forget it!' she decided, chancing a glance at the dark, worried eyes of the man that still held her 'Better a total stranger than possible kidnappers!'.
Before the older man had a chance to speak, she righted herself and took the loose sleeves of his vests in a tight, desperate grip.
"Sir! Sir, you have to help me!" she pleaded, not needing to pretend the tired, almost crazy gleam to her eyes "There are people following me! I don't know what they want, but you have to help me, please!".
At this point, the road was so quiet that even a single needle dropping would sound as loud as the booming of a thunder. Everyone seemed to be holding their breaths, watching enraptured the scene before their eyes.
"It is better than the opera!" a merchant whispered to his apprentice, giving a small smile that was clearly mocking those noble people that always walked before then with their noses up in the air.
Gently, with a soft smile and eyes that seemed liquid chocolate, the man freed Samanta's hands and took both of them on a caring grip, every move quite and slow, as if he was afraid of scarring off a frightened animal.
"Yue'er, everything is going to be alright" he assured her, his deep voice so gentle that almost brought tears to her eyes "Uncle will take care of everything... I won't let anything happen to you again".
Sam smiled despite herself, relief flooding her aching muscles so suddenly that she almost feel to her knees. It was over. It was finally over... Her eyes closed, shoulders falling like a heavy weight had been lifted.
The man couldn't help the smile that graced his delicate, almost feminine, face.
"Let's go home" he said softly, reaching forward to take her on his arms.
Her eyes opening wide with a panicked gleam. She studied the man in front of her, unconsciously retreating a few steps to put some distance between then.
"What did you just say?" she asked slowly, every word postulated by a fast glance to the other sides of the street.
She had been careless. Stupid. Now, where could she run to?!
"Yue'er" Jiang Wang Shu frowned slightly, his arms falling to his sides in a defeated gesture "Uncle will not let anything happen to you" he repeated, and his words sounded so sincere that Sam almost wanted to believe them.
There was just one small problem.
"I don't know what you are talking about" she answered, eyeing him warily "I'm not Yue'er. I'm Sam... Samanta Courtenay... I don't even know you!".
More whispers could be heard, like the breeze singing through the grass after a rainy day.
"Yue'er... Uncle understands that it is still a bit confusing... You had a great shock and has barely recovered...".
"I'm not this girl" she screamed "I'm not her! I'm not from here... I...".
<i>"MeiMei!"</i> The voice sounded out of breath and muffled, as if the person had been crying for a long time.
As one, every person on the marked street turned to look at the girl in light expensive robes running down the street, the pins on her head shakings as strands of her dark raven hair fell free around her beautiful, tear stricken face.
It was such a ethereal sight that all those present felt their hearts ache for the girl, the beauty of her penetrating eyes, the refined air that surrounded her... It was too much after all the commotion!
"Mei Mei!" Qing Shan repeated, trying to get to Yue'er, but stopping at her uncle's side when she saw the other girl retreating with every step she took. She couldn't mask the hurt on her voice when she said "Yue'er, please don't blame Uncle Shu... It was my fault, I didn't take care of you as I should! It was all my fault!".
With such deep feelings, no-one could help but feel moved. Some even agreed that, whatever had happened, it definitely wasn't that Young Miss's fault.
"I'm not, Yue'er, dam*mit!" Sam finally lost her mind, gaining a sereis of dark looks with such strong, unladylike vocabulary.
Why was that tomboy making things so hard for her poor sister? Aya... It was always the beautiful, innocent ones that suffered! Such an unfair life...
"I don't know who you are, and I really don't care. Just please leave me alone! I don't care how much David paid you, but I promised to paid double if you'll just let me go home!".
Deep silence, like a heavy blanked fell over that piece of the street, leaving everyone rooted to heir places. From affair, the sounds of a crowd still could be heard, merchants selling their products, people talking and street artists performing with drums, flutes and even the faint, whispered notes of the sheng.
Someone dropped a bowl of noodles on the ground, ripping the tension the filled the air apart like a knife slicing a piece of butter. Suddenly, everyone was talking at the same time, shimmering, pointing and even chanting protection mantras.
"She is possesed!"
"A fox demom!"
"The poor family... It would've been better if she had simply died!"
Qing Shan gasped in horror, looking at all those familiar faces defaming her sister and pointing fingers at her family.
"Uncle..." she whispered, eyes bright with tears "What are we going to do?"
Jiang Wang Shu gave her hand a small squeeze, his eyes never leaving Ying Yue for a single second. There was something wrong, something he couldn't pinpoint.
And then she looked straight at her eyes.
Dark, phoenix eyes that had always looked at him with peach black irises.
Eyes that, now, looked at him with a beautiful, hazel color, almost green under the sun light.
 It is a mouth blown instrument made of bamboo. It consists of multiple vertical pipes.
Wu Xiao Jie: fifth young miss
MeiMei: younger sister