Dear Xue Qing,
This is Xue Ting, and I'm writing to tell you the news because Xue Ling can't. Oh, I barely know how to write this, my hands are shaking so I almost dropped the brush. Cousin, Xue Ling has been arrested by the ya men
Xue Ling must have told you all about the fortune teller that Second Wife consults, and how he was mysteriously kidnapped. In the chaos of the past week, we'd forgotten about him entirely. Until this morning, when he appeared at our gate with the ya men
's officials and accused Xue Ling of attacking him and robbing his shop and home.
We were so amazed when the official read the charge that for a moment, none of us could answer. The fortune teller took it as a chance to point a finger at her.
"Look, she's speechless! She can't deny that she did this to me," he shouted, gesturing wildly at his face. He'd lost a tooth and his eye was swollen; from what I saw, his arms were covered in bruises too. Of coure, Xue Ling was furious at the accusation - her eyes narrowed and she clenched her fists as if she was itching to summon her sword.
"And why should the ya men
believe a lying con like you?" she snapped. "I have better things to do with my time than attack fat old men who make it their business to drug their customers with dangerous herbs and steal their money with lies! You must have gotten your just deserts for working for the Hell's Venom sect!"
"I don't know what you're talking about!" the fortune teller spluttered. "I'm just a poor fortune teller trying to make an honest living -"
"Oh, I'm sure the ya men
will find otherwise if they searched your house! Or did the Hell's Venom sect burn it down to make sure there would be no evidence?"
The official was frowning at their heated exchange, so I caught Xue Ling's wrist. "Xue Ling! I am sure there's been a mistake," I said, trying to sound soothing. "Maybe he mistook you for someone else. Officer, my cousin would never attack someone like this!"
"The Li family's skills are well known in the town," the officer said. "And Miss Xue Ling's especially. I am sorry, Miss Li, but we need to investigate this thoroughly."
For a moment, Xue Ling looked like she was going to hit something, or shout again. I quickly pulled her back. "Xue Ling! Don't fight the official!" I whispered worriedly. "It'll only make him angry and think you're guilty!"
She took a deep breath and gripped my hand. "I know, I know, Ting," she said, and shook her head. "This must be a ploy by the Hell's Venom sect to get me out of the way. The /ya men/ might take days to investigate this. But Father and Aunt are on their way, they should be in San Dao in two or three days, and I'm sure they can get me out."
"There has to be something we can do to stop this," I said despairingly. "I can't just let them take you away, Xue Ling! We could talk to the judge, or someone!"
She sighed. "This would be easier if Tian Jie was also here to vouch as my witness," she said. "Ting, I need you to be here watching over everyone. Don't worry about me, you need to be careful! The Hell's Venom sect could be plotting an attack while I'm gone."
I felt an icy shiver run down my spine. But I couldn't fail Xue Ling now by showing my fear, not when she was being taken to face the ya men
for a crime she hadn't done. I nodded bravely.
"I will try my best," I said. "Oh, why is this all happening now? But you have to take care of yourself while you're there! I'll come visit when I can, and I'll let Xue Qing know about this."
"Tell her not to worry, or she'll try to come haring back from the capital and get herself in trouble. She has to stay there and look after Ping! I will be fine with the ya men
, and we'll sort this all out." She hugged me fiercely. "Take care of everyone," she said, and then bowed to the officer. "I will assist you in your investigation every way I can, Sir."
As they left, the fortune teller trailed behind them, and I saw him turn his head to stare around him. For a moment, our eyes met as he looked back at the house. He looked away again, and hurried to catch up with Xue Ling and the officer, but I'm sure I didn't miss it. He was almost shaking with terror.
Xue Qing, I know that this is terrible news, but you mustn't do anything foolish! I am sure that we'll be able to clear this up quickly. The fortune teller is clearly lying, and if we are lucky, Xue Ling could be back even before Aunt or Uncle get here. And I think you must be careful in the Capital too. Who knows how far the Hell's Venom sect might go to harm us? You and Xue Ping mustn't do anything reckless. Take care of yourselves, cousins.
I've forgotten how ya men
would translate in English without resorting to "police", so uh. UNTIL I REMEMBER.