Chapter 34 Summary
All the ball guests stare at the wet, mud-spattered, grease-stained, ratty-haired mechanic girl standing at the top of the stairs. Kai’s mouth actually drops open. Pearl, beside him, turns red with embarrassment. Searching the crowd, Cinder finds Adri looking mortified as well.
Cinder is in a tight spot. Pearl has probably told Kai she is a cyborg. She has no way to escape town now that she has crashed the car, and there is no chance that Pearl and Adri will forgive her for tonight’s embarrassment. Most worrying of all, Queen Levana may return to the ballroom at any time—and when that happens, Cinder will probably die.
In spite of all this, Cinder does not regret her choice to come to the ball tonight. She must tell Kai what she learned about Queen Levana’s plans, no matter what the consequences, and no matter what he thinks of her. She holds her head high and proudly descends the stairs. As she approaches him, his shock melts away. He looks like he wants to laugh at the spectacle she is causing.
Before Cinder reaches Emperor Kai, Adri stops her and accuses her of stealing Peony’s dress. When Cinder refuses to go home immediately, Adri raises a hand to slap her. Emperor Kai catches Adri’s arm. As the whole room watches, Kai tells Adri that he will not have his personal guest treated in this way.
Emperor Kai orders the party to resume, and the band starts playing a new song. Before Cinder knows what is happening, the emperor pulls her onto the dance floor. Everyone else is too shocked to join them, but Kai pretends not to notice. He banters with her briefly, and then asks, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Briefly, Cinder thinks that Kai knows she is a cyborg and still likes her. Then she realizes that he is talking about the death of Peony. He says that he is “the biggest jerk in the world” for forgetting what Cinder said about her sister being infected with letumosis. He apologizes for pushing her so hard to come to the ball.
Although Cinder is shaken by this conversation, she does not forget her mission. She hurriedly tells Kai everything she learned from the Lunar girl via the direct communication link: Queen Levana is planning to wage war on Earth no matter what Kai does, and she is planning to kill him as soon as they are married.