Paladin goes to a Chinese funeral to pay his last respects to his friend, Hui Song. As he leaves, a man Chee Yan tell him that a friend would ask him a favor. Paladin goes with Chee to a nearby room. Hui's mother, Jin Ho, is waiting. She says that her son died owing many debts, and now her granddaughter, his child, is to be taken in payment of those debts. Paladin figures that there is an alternative, and Jin Ho sys that in five days a ship bound for China will be near Monterey. If a signal fire is lighted, they will send a boat ashore. Jin Ho wants her granddaughter Kim Sing to board it. Jin Ho doesn't fear the Tongs that will seek revenge, and Paladin promises that Kim Sing will meet the ship. Jin Ho pays him with a rare statuette, "The Lady of the Five Moons", so she won't be too indebted to Paladin. Paladin kisses her hand, takes the statuette, and leaves. Chee is asked to take Kim to rendezvous with Paladin.
Paladin arrives at the rendezvous and meets with Kim and Chee. He compliments her with a line from "The Gate of the Five Moons" and says that the wood for the signal fire is cut and ready. Chee takes up his watch for the ship, and Paladin warns him of the Tong. Once Chee leaves, Paladin gives Kim her gun and she laughs. She admits that it's the first time since she has done so, and Paladin warns her that the Tong is still hunting for her. She wonders if they're already dead and in Heaven, and Paladin checks her back trail for assassins. Before he goes, he recites the second verse of the legend, and he talks about the golden darts of love.
That night, Paladin prepares a crossbow and tells Kim that it has the advantage of silence. She asks why he's thoughtful and sad, and wonders if she can take happiness. Paladin admits that it's transient, like life itself, and Kim says that she wants to feel royalty rather than sit at the feet of a fat merchant in San Francisco. He says that she has a third choice, and they hear a twig snap. Paladin investigates and sees a hatchet man approaching. The gunfighter kills him with the crossbow, and then tells Kim that there was only one... for now.
Paladin and Kim lie together and she wonders if they're happy. He tells her that they are, and she wonders why they should give it up. Paladin reminds her of the royal robes, and Kim says that she doesn't want them without him. Kim says that for that night, there's only the two of them and the moon.
After Kim dozes off, Paladin covers her over and sits by the fire. He takes warm coffee to Chee, who is standing watch for the ship. Chee explains that there are those in China friendly to Kim's family, and will help restore her to her station. Paladin wonders what Chee would do, but Chee warns that there's no way to know what a woman would do. When Paladin goes back, he discovers that Kim is awake. She says that she had a dream where she dreamed that she was a man dreaming that she was a butterfly. Then she woke in the dream, and didn't know if she was a man who dreamed he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming she was a man. Paladin wonders which they are, and Kim tells him that she doesn't know.
The ship comes in sight and Chee goes to tell Paladin and Kim. Kim tells him to light the fire despite the danger. Another hatchetman moves in, and Paladin realizes that Kim has made her decision. He offers to light the fire for her, but she refuses. The hatchetman throws a knife into her chest, and Paladin shoots him dead. Dying, Kim tells Paladin that it was so short a season and she was not worthy of love or of Paladin. She dies in Paladin's arms, and Paladin recites the end of the legend where the Lady passes through the fifth gate of death. He picks up the body and leaves with Chee.
Written by Gadfly on Oct 15, 2017