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Foul Lady Fortune: Epilogue

Phoebe Hong walked through the gates of the orphanage with her handbag swinging. The set of her shoulders was rigid and proud, keeping her posture vigilant. She had been countering sympathies and sidelong glances all week, and she couldn’t bear a second more of it. That was what happened when your parents turned out to be national traitors and hauled your brother along, she supposed. She didn’t know if people were looking at her because they pitied her or because they suspected that she would be next.


A toddler ran up to her, clutching a jar of jam in her hands. She gave Phoebe a toothless grin. “Can you open this for me?”

Phoebe crouched down with a responding smile, setting her handbag on the grass. She took the jam from Nunu and pretended to struggle with the lid.

“Oooh, this one is tough. Does Sister Su know you’re rummaging around the jam cabinets?”

Nunu raised her chubby fists, doing a small dance on the lawn. “Nooo! Don’t tell on me!”

Phoebe bit down on her laugh, twisting open the jam jar. “Okay, okay. Here’s your jam.”

With a cackle, Nunu took the jar and ran away, skirting around the lawn and seating herself on the playground. The morning sun was bright today despite the cold, and Phoebe had trouble fully opening her eyes in the direction of the orphanage, where the stained-glass windows reflected a dozen colors. Despite its quaint appearance, the orphanage was enormous, hosting multiple guest rooms at the back.

Phoebe retrieved her bag and walked into the building, closing the heavy wooden doors after herself. Inside, Sister Su was dusting the pews while keeping an eye on the children playing around a plastic table, and Phoebe waved at the nun, saying her hello.

“I didn’t expect to see you here anytime soon,” Sister Su said when Phoebe approached. “I heard about your brother.”

Phoebe breathed in. When Silas told her what happened that night, having gathered information from the Kuomintang the next day, he had braced himself as if he expected her to fall apart. To his surprise, Phoebe had remained calm. Her brother had not become a mystery, nor was he in immediate danger. They knew exactly what was going on and they knew that her mother would not hurt him. The Kuomintang’s spies could continue tracking his movements as Lady Hong hauled him along, moving from base to base with the Japanese mobilization efforts. The problem was meeting him in combat. The problem was engaging in a rescue without losing their own lives in the process—which seemed impossible at present.

“He will be okay,” Phoebe said firmly. She believed it. He was strong. “Can I hang around?”

Sister Su pursed her lips, her eyes darting once to the back rooms. “I suppose so. There is nothing else to tend to right now?”

She knew what Sister Su was asking. “Not at the moment, no.”

With a yielding nod from the nun, Phoebe proceeded through the orphanage, coming into the kitchen and putting her bag down. There was a back door here that opened into the yard, where a tire swung from a thick tree branch. She heard the leaves rustling outside as she looked through the cupboards, rising onto the tips of her toes to fetch a teapot. The clouds were rapidly thickening while she poked around the kitchen. By the time she found a tin of dried chrysanthemum flowers and scooped out two heapings for her tea, the sun was mostly covered, turning her surroundings dreary.

“Hmmm,” Phoebe said, craning her head against the window as the water boiled on the stove. Perhaps it would clear up later.

The water finished boiling. She filled the teapot, then set it on the table with two teacups. Just as she heard a door opening down the hallway, Phoebe eased into one of the seats, pouring the tea and watching the yellowish liquid swirl.

When Dao Feng walked into the kitchen, he did not look surprised to see her. He only sat down and picked up the cup of tea that she had set out for him.

“Hello,” Phoebe said.

“Fancy seeing you here,” Dao Feng replied. He took a sip of his tea.

Phoebe examined her nails. “I had to ask my questions somehow. I trust that you’ve made a full recovery.”

“Indeed, Miss Hong. Did you come to inquire after my health? How kind of you.”

Evidently not. Without any further small talk, Phoebe asked, “Did you know that Orion was the one doing the killings when you sent him to investigate?”

“Of course not.” Dao Feng’s reply came quickly. “We wouldn’t waste our time like that.”

“When did you find out?”

“Midway in. By then it was too late to pull him from the mission without raising suspicion from the Nationalists. It was easier to use him. Wait patiently and see if we could take the asset from him at the end.”

Phoebe’s fingers tightened on her teacup. It was bizarre that this was supposed to be business, nothing personal, but wasn’t everything in politics personal? What was the point of politics if not for the individual people it claimed to represent?

“It didn’t work, so you didn’t do a very good job,” Phoebe said. “And you had to poison yourself too? You couldn’t have simply gone into hiding? So dramatic.”

“I was hiding in plain sight, Miss Hong.” He took another deep drink of tea. “If I had actually disappeared, I would have been investigated. It would have given the two others no time to get their affairs in order and remove themselves too. No one thinks to investigate a man at death’s door. No one looks in that direction.”

Phoebe leaned back, her fingers tapping on the table. With every movement, she felt her earrings swing, the pearls brushing against her skin; all her impractical accessories jangled with constant sound, making interruptions to the otherwise quiet kitchen.

“My judgment remains. I saw you fall. Dramatic.”

Dao Feng straightened in his chair. He was casting his mind back to that night, puzzling out this new information. He must have caught a glimpse of her when she slipped forward to see what on earth he was putting into his arm; she had fled quickly when someone else started running into the alley, summoned by Dao Feng’s feigned shout.

“That was you,” Dao Feng stated, as if he had solved one of his own internal mysteries. “You took the file from Lang Shalin. You were still lurking around that night.”

“I had to sneak a peek at what the file said. I heard some rumors. Needed to make sure all my affairs were in order. Unlike yours.”

Now Dao Feng understood. He released his teacup, the drink finished, a glint of satisfaction entering his expression because he had finally connected the dots. If he had been bothered before about why she was sitting in this kitchen, why she was familiar with this orphanage as a base, he was no longer.

“Hong Feiyi, you are a lot smarter than you act, you know.”

Phoebe smiled. It was unlike her other smiles, quiet and subdued rather than a bright grin that aimed to dazzle. “I get that a lot.”

Dao Feng reached for a handshake. Phoebe extended her fingers, meeting his enthusiastic grasp. When he spoke next, his voice was filled with warmth.

“It is a pleasure to meet you properly, Priest.”


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