Cinder leaves the facility and returns to the research wing of the palace. When she gets into the elevator there, Kai dashes in at the last minute. As Cinder and Kai walk through the lab together, many of the researchers offer their condolences. Cinder realizes that Emperor Rikan has died, and she offers her sympathy. Kai tells Cinder that his father’s death isn’t his only issue—Queen Levana is visiting Earth that day. Kai then asks if Cinder can fix Nainsi as soon as possible. Something in his tone makes Cinder realize that Nainsi has vital information, and she assures Kai that she’ll fix Nainsi as soon as she returns home.
Even though Kai’s father has just died, he’s focused on his newfound responsibility for his people rather than his own grief. Rather than being allowed to mourn his father and behave like a regular teenager, he instead has to prepare for upcoming diplomatic negotiations. He also has to ensure that people in the Eastern Commonwealth are safe, which is why he is going to Dr. Erland’s to check on the progress being made on the letumosis antidote. Kai is essentially sacrificing his own needs and emotions for the common good—and given how many citizens stand to benefit from the peace negotiations and the letumosis cure, the novel implies that this is a virtuous way to rule.
When Kai and Cinder reach Dr. Erland’s office, Kai asks about the progress, but Dr. Erland again assures him that he’ll be the first to know if he’s made any concrete discoveries. Kai gives a bow to Cinder and kisses her hand. After hesitating, he asks if she would be his personal guest to the ball. Cinder is surprised and says that she’s not going to the ball. Kai asks if she’d reconsider, but Cinder is planning to escape with Iko on the night of the ball. She respectfully declines, and Kai tries to avoid looking dejected as he leaves.
This is another big change between the original fairy tale “Cinderella” and Cinder. While in the original, Cinderella was an anonymous girl who attended the ball and dazzled Prince Charming with her beauty, here Prince Kai has already gotten to know Cinder. Furthermore, she’s is able to go to the ball is because of her kindness toward Kai and their budding romance, not because of luck or magic.