Prince Kai watches Emperor Rikan through a glass pane as a med-droid tends to him. Rikan’s advisor, Torin, tells Kai that Rikan likely only has days to live. As Kai watches his father wheeze, he recalls how vibrant the emperor was a week earlier. Torin tries to tell Kai that he must prepare for his coronation, but Kai is in denial that his father will die soon. He says that he’s going to go find Dr. Erland.
At this point, Kai is just an 18-year-old trying who’s terrified of losing his father. He’s not yet willing to think about taking up the emperor’s mantle and making sacrifices for the good of society as a whole.
As Kai walks to the lab with Torin, he sees Sybil Mira, the head thaumaturge to the Lunar crown. She is beautiful, but she is the last person he wants to see. Sybil offers her condolences about Emperor Rikan. She says that this is particularly bad timing, given the alliance discussions that Rikan and Queen Levana were in the midst of. Sybil hopes that Kai will be more amenable to their demands, but Kai says that he will pursue the same policies as his father.
Sybil Mira’s underhanded comment about Rikan’s death being bad timing hints that she, as Levana’s head advisor, is manipulative and cruel. Readers also know that Lunars have a unique power to control others, so it’s possible that Sybil Mira’s beauty is a false front—a way for her to make herself look more attractive to others in order to get her way. But this deception is self-defeating, as it only make Kai distrust them and remain staunch in his loyalty to his father.
Kai and Torin leave Sybil, and Torin suggests that Kai should formulate a plan about Levana. Kai insists that he will not marry the Queen—she would turn Earthens into slaves. Torin says that he should simply hold out for a peace agreement—if she wanted to start a war, she would have already done it. Kai wishes he’d already married, so that this wouldn’t be an issue. Torin suggests that perhaps he can find a girl at the ball.
Although Kai isn’t fully ready to take up the Emperor’s mantle, Kai’s discussion with Torin illustrates how he is already trying to prioritize the good of the country over himself (though this sense of responsibility also aligns with his personal desire not to marry Levana).
Kai also notes that there have been rumors that Princess Selene is still alive—if this is true, he could marry the true Lunar heir. Torin points out that that the whole bloodline is greedy and violent, so Kai shouldn’t marry any of them. If Queen Levana found out that he’s searching for Princess Selene, it would destroy their chance at a peace treaty, and Kai knows that they would not win a war against Luna.
Torin continues to reinforce the stereotypes about the Lunar people as a whole, using them as justification for Kai not to marry a Lunar. Still, Kai is trying to find a solution that will help his society avoid a war with Luna, even if it means putting his own safety at risk.