Over the wood floor, hanging from the poster bed and covering the round windows, draperies, rugs and curtains coordinated beautiful engravings of natural sceneries, with blues and greens and oranges of different hues delineated by thin, carefully embroidered gold threads.
Just like the fabrics, the furniture on the room gave off a refined, noble aura, even if the signs of the passing of time where already visible on slightly marred edges and carefully patched rips.
After the second maid had left, Sam saw herself curiously considering her surroundings, finally taking some time to understand where she was now. The idea of books was a relief, and if later she could get out of the room and get to know the Jiang Manor better, maybe she could find a way to get out.
If that was still a possibility that is.
Felling deflated, if a bit marveled by the careful decoration of her room, she sat once again on the rectangle stool in front of the tall dressing table and left the scarf fall from her head, floating to the ground like a cloud-like brume.
There, reflected on the circular, bronze mirror, a unknown face stared back at her. With fair skin, black hair that fell all the way till her waist and up-curved, narrowed eyes, the girl she saw (even if a bit distorted) was so different from the western face that she had known all her life that Sam couldn't help feeling a bit lightheaded.
When she tried to hold up her hand, the girl instantly emulated her movement. The tightness of her lips, the slight shake of the shoulders... It was all her, and yet it wasn't.
The only thing she recognized, the only trace that Sam had existed, were her eyes. Her hazel, worm eyes.
Touching the skin on her arms and cheeks, she kept her eyes straight on the mirror.
"I can't be imagining this" she said to herself "I'm not that creative a person...I...", Sam turned again to stare the room, standing slowly on her sore feet before starting to explore the place "But the alternative is too fantastical, right?" her fingertips slid over the tea-table surface, playing with what looked like a chess board without distinguishing between two colors. At the side, two small pots contained flat, circular pieces in back and white.
"Jiang Ying Yue" she said lightly to herself, observing how her long, slender fingers played with the pieces, the movements with a swiftness she didn't remember to possess "Who exactly are you?" her eyes strayed to the bad, remembering the girl crying by her side and the doctor's worried words "What exactly happened to you?"
Did she really die on that car accident and, somehow, ended up on this girl's body? Was it some sort of reincarnation?
But if it was so... Where had the real Ying Yue gone?
Once she started facing those dreadful hypotheses, more and more questions started popping on her head, almost at the same pace as the chilling sensation running down her spine like cold water.
She still remembered overhearing, some many years before, a particular heated discussion between her parents about a case. At some point, her dad had gotten up from his favorite armchair, gone to a particular shelf on the living room wall and taking back an old notebook. He than had opened and given it to her mom saying 'Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth'.
For some reason, the famous quote from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had stuck with her, being a direction whenever a problem seemed unsolvable.
"I can't deny that this body is not mine" she pondered out loud "And those houses and buildings outside..." There was no way anyone could pull something like that up without any flaw.
Sam sighed, her hands resting on the table top as her head fell forward, still thinking.
'Maybe I just need more time' she pondered 'eventually I'll get the answers for what is happening... Or at least some answers'.
Just as she was about to turn back to her bed and lay down for a moment, there was a soft, unsure nock on her door.
"Wu XiaoJie" a voice she vaguely recognized called from outside "This servant has brought the books".
Sam drones, then breathed heavily, rolling her eyes upwards. She could go with the different name (considering she wasn't using her body anymore), but at some point she'd take some time to make those people use the first person!
"Hum... You can come in" she invited, trying to decide if she should have gone and opened the door or just wait where she was.
Well, guess it'd be the later.
"Wu XiaoJie" the young maid greeted again, making a deep courtesy at her before going to the desk at the side, under a particularly large window, and putting what looked like wood and fabric scrolls over the wood surface.
With a slight limp, Sam started following after her, quick gesturing she was fine on her own when the girl made to offer help. When she was finally at her side, Sam looked questioningly at the contents that had been brought, her brows furrowing on the middle.
Misinterpreting the difficult look on the miss's face, Li Mei immediately blurted an explanation.
"Miss, this are just a few of the books about the Nam Region history from Master Shu's collection" her words were fast, almost tripping over one another "If miss is not satisfied, this servant can bring more at any time!"
Sam blinked, trying to conceal the flabbergasted look on her face.
"Eh... I'm sorry, what did you say was your name?" she asked, forcing a small giggle before adding "You probably already know, but my memory is not at its best this days...".
The poor maid looked terrified enough to simply drop dead on the floor at any second now. Cold sweat dripped over her face and her frame shook visibly.
What did Fifth Miss mean by that? Did she want her name to get her killed?! Maybe she meant to punish her family as well...?! Was it all because she didn't bring enough books? But there were so many...!
"Wu XiaoJie" she mumble in a tremble voice, falling to her knees "This servant is sorry! This servant is crude and doesn't know better!..."
It felt just as shocking as the first time that happened, Sam decided, trying to close her gaping mouth and blink the round, wide opened eyes.
"Ah!" she cried suddenly, cutting the young girls words and grasping her arm to push her up "Look, I didn't know it was a delicate subject. You don't need to tell me anything, all right?" she tried, mildly annoyed at the growing confusing and panic of the maid "Pretend I didn't ask" she insisted, forcing a small "Just... Just don't do this kind of stuff anymore".
The maid gaped at Sam as if there was a third arm growing out of her forehead.
Self-conscious, Sam fidgeted a bit, her eyes going from the floor to the scrolls to the windows and to the floor again. 'Such uncomfortable silence...'.
"Li Mei" the two syllables sounded like a screech.
Sam looked up.
"I'm sorry... What did you say?".
"Answering Wu XIaoJie" the girl said again, in a more even voice "This servant's name is Li Mei: family name Li, given name Mei".
"Li Mei..." Sam repeated, as if tasting the sound on her mouth, before turning again tu the girl and smiling more warmly "Okay, so... Should I call you just Mei, then?" she asked, sounding a bit confused "How do your friends usually call you?".
'Ah, Young Miss, can you please stop scaring me? This servant has a wick heart, right?' Li Mei thought to herself, feeling like spiting blood.
"XiaoJie, people usually call me Ah Mei" she answered slowly "But XiaoJie can call this servant as Miss sees fit".
Sam simply smiled, turning back again to the scrolls and taking her sit in front of the desk.
"All right, then! I'll just call you Ah Mei" she decided, smiling to the maid over her shoulder while picking up one of the manuscripts and shaking it a bit "So, thank you for all this Ah Mei. I really appreciate it", and then, before the girl collapsed on the floor or really had some shock induced heart problem, Sam turned back again to what she was examining "These are the books then..." she said to herself, picking one particularly large, made of light, clean wood, and put the rest aside on a pile.
"It seems quite old..." she mumbled, turning it on her hands "It also doesn't seem all that convenient to write like this. Ah Mei, there aren't any paper books here yet?" Sam addressed the girl again, turning her head back just for a second, before trying to understand how to open the thing.
"XiaoJie" Li Mei answered, feeling happy to be able to give some sort of coherent, normal answer "Our household's library do have books made of paper, as well as wood and fabric scrolls. Eldest Young Master said the first stories about the Nam Region are too old, and thus still weren't transcribed to paper volumes. Young Master said Miss might like these ones.".
And here it comes this Eldest Young Master again, Sam thought with amusement. Apparently, his relationship with the other Ying Yue was quite good.
"Oh!" she said "He was the one to chose this particular volumes, th... Hein?" Sam stopped, looking in puzzlement at the wood scroll opened in front of her "What... What exactly are these?"
She simply couldn't believe it! There was not a single word on that thing, only symbols. How was she supposed to understand anything? Was this a code? Some sort of drawing like primitive communication? 'Just like those weird Animes Amelia made me watch back on the time'.
Hold on a second...
"Don't tell me" she said slowly, turning to face Ah Mei with such a disheartened expression that the maid feared her miss would start crying at any moment "Don't tell me that this are actually... Words".
Please don't. Please God, Buddha, or whoever is out there, please don't let me be stuck in some Chinese-like reality! PLEASE!
"This Servant won't say it" Ah Mei acquiesced easily, sounding quite satisfied with herself.
Sam, for once, felt like spitting blood. And crying. And maybe running away again.
Instead, of course, she contented herself with closing her eyes and knocking her head repeatedly on the table, as if trying to clear her thoughts.
Till that moment, she had never stopped to consider the language barrier and how, on those first moments before awakening, the words and voices had sounded foreign to her years. Ah, such an oversight... She had really been a bit stupid about this.
"Why isn't this a Germanic Inspired dream? Hein?!" she whimpered "Why does it have to be like this?!".
Illiterate. She had spent half of her life on a desk, looking at a blackboard and copying obediently the most nonsensical phrases on the world, just to know find herself, once again, completely incapable of reading!
It was like pre-school all over again. A nightmare.
Back home, she had chosen Italian as her second language, and then tried a bit of Portuguese on the last years on high school, but it didn't seem any of those could provide any sort of help.
'Illiterate...' the word echoed on her thoughts like a mantra 'What am I to do then? Even if I get out of here, how am I supposed to survive, or understand what is happening?! So much relies on written words... Aya!'
"Eh, Ah Mei" it was as if a sudden wave of inspiration had hit her. Stopping her movements, she pushed the scroll in the direction of the girl before turning once more to look at her. "Can you read these?" Sam asked, patting the document. 'And, if you can, please teach me!' she wanted to add.
Ah Mei frowned.
"XiaoJie, this servant is of humble background. My mom only knew how to teach me to right my name. XiaoJie's family is good and lets servants learn a bit to better serve Miss, but still this servant can's compare with XiaoJie's noble status and education".
Sam was just opening her mouth to repeat her request when it hit her.
<i>'Now I'm doomed.'</i>
"My education, eh..." she laughed a bit hysterically, foreseeing all the possible bad outcomes that problem could have "Yes, about that... Hehe... Ah Mei, do you know if the other Ying... Eh, cof, cof, I mean, if before I lost my memories I could read. Well?". The words "at all" had almost slipped her mouth at that last moment.
"This servant doesn't know" the girl declared. A bit to quickly for Sam's taste.
She sighed. What exactly was this girl like in the past? And what had happened to her for all to get to this point? Ah, too many questions, too many questions...
"Ah Mei, just speak freely" she insisted, trying to sound less outlandish "You know, it's not like I can remember... Because of the shock and all... So it's not really like you are talking about me" Sam pondered, trying to sound convincing "Really, it's like talking about another person entirely!"
For a few moments, Li Mei seemed to be digesting and considering every word on her head, the thin eyebrows on her forehead scrunched together in a sign of deep rumination. When she finally decided to answer, Sam could almost see the marks of her head's gears printed on the words.
"XiaoJie... Before the accident, miss had always had a very lively and outgoing disposition. Miss would always go for a walk or visit the shops on the market street, or even go play on Eldest Young Master's courtyard. The house was always very lively and busy."
"What about my studies...? Was I good?" let's please just go to the important part little girl, I'm asking you kindly here!!
"XiaoJie was really hardworking when you were home" which, Sam suspected, was hardly never "The masters always praised XiaoJie's creativity and resilience. Very dedicated.".
Sam blinked, looking at Ah Mei without a single expression on her face.
'Was it really that bad?!' she cried inside, swallowing the hysterical laugh that threatened to burst through her lips at any moment.
'Oh, what a joke' Sam taught to herself later, while laying sideways on her bad.
'Illiterate. Alone in an unknown world. And stuck with the face of a spoiled brat.'
"What am I supposed to do now?".