The Curse of the White Phoenix

Episode Five

The Lady Herself

With Captain Stenfahl in hand, Itsuki, Hernandez and the others make their way back to their canoe and paddle out of the thick mangrove swamps…

Only to find their way barred by a very fancy yacht. Gold detailing on the rails, all very swanky. The uniformed steward leans over the rails (did we mention the gold detailing?) and offers a cheery welcome.

Our heroes know better than that and just keep on paddling. Until they hear the familiar voice of their friend Shì Dāwéi, who’s on the yacht. In his pyjamas, smoking a water pipe.

Itsuki decides to go aboard, leaving Hernandez and the others in the canoe with Stenfahl.

Stenfahl takes advantage of the sly ninja’s departure to begin making overtures to Hernandez. The defeated captain offers up a ship he claims to have stashed amongst the fishing vessels out by Oyster Point. Hernandez at least is considering the offer when events distract him.

Meanwhile, on board the well-appointed yacht Itsuki discovers that Dāwéi’s been hanging out with the bitter rival of their supposed boss – the wealthy ex-pirate Masakumi Hataki, who, along with the heart-stoppingly lovely Kitsune, is exploring options for how they all might work together – assuming that our heroes can be persuaded to hand Captain Stenfahl over to him rather than Bessala Day.

“What’s Day paying you for this little job?”

Itsuki stays unspecific. “Let’s just say it’s more about opportunity cost, really.”

Dāwéi’s business sense (and greed) kicks in. “How much are you offering?”

As negotiations proceed, Itsuki makes his way to where Dāwéi is lounging. He whispers an urgent question.

“What are the chances you’re packing heat?”

Dāwéi ignores the young ex-ninja and tries to continue to conversation with Hataki. Things become complicated, however, when Itsuki snags Dāwéi’s gun from his belt and levels it at their host.

“We have to leave now, sorry.”

The gun goes off, the bullet (fortunately) going nowhere near its target, and Itsuki grabs Dāwéi and leaps over the gold-detailed railing and into the sea.

Hernandez is there with the canoe to pick them up, and as nobody starts shooting at them, the escape is made.

Stenfahl offers a ship if they’ll set him free. Several times, but to his horror, conversation amongst his captors settles around the question of whether or not it’s okay to just start cutting on people to get the truth out of them. Uncle explains that torture is in no way morally problematic.

“You can cut off a man’s ear or nose and he can still have a son. Or a nephew.”

Stenfahl takes advantage of the silence that follows this statement to explain that his plan was really very simple—he wanted the Stormy Blossom to catch fire and sink so that Bessala Day (who’d given command of the fine craft to that blasted Captain Dragonfly instead of HIM) would lose her investment.

“I didn’t send any goons after you!”

Itsuki punches him.

“Well, just the one set. And the ones at the wharf.”

Punching, you see, is different than cutting.

The decision comes down to should they take their captive to Hataki or to Bessala Day? Dāwéi argues for Hataki on the basis of he’s been nice to them, while Day’s people (well, specifically Tang Li) haven’t. Hernandez weighs in with a thoughtful comment.

“I don’t trust pyjama-man.”

“Which one?”

“Either.”

Uncle resolves this issue with further wisdom: “Clearly the people who treated us more poorly are more powerful.”

With that, the decision is made, the die is cast, and the captive is brought to the service entrance of Bessala Day’s great estate. Stenfahl is immediately dragged off for horrible punishment, still offering up a ship and claiming it’s not yet too late to make a deal.

And then Bessala Day herself appears, and invites the gang to sit down and enjoy a little meal. Confusion of all sorts ensues as she tries to get the story of what happened from our heroes. In the midst of the chaos Itsuki excuses himself. Hernandez, impressed with the statuesque Day, attempts a little flirtation. But perhaps he’s not quite the man for her.

Bags of money are distributed, a promise of more work to come, and even a polite bow from Li. The world is looking up.

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