Kai is unsettled as he watches Queen Levana easily quiet the crowd. He comments to Sybil Mira that brainwashing isn’t the way to handle unruly citizens. When Queen Levana returns, she angrily confronts Kai for harboring Lunar fugitives—she’s just seen one in the courtyard with the protesters. Kai says that this is the first he’s heard of Lunars in his country, and Torin chimes in that they monitor all spacecraft coming into and leaving the Commonwealth. Queen Levana insists that fugitives must be found, and Torin promises that they can search for them after Kai’s coronation.
While Kai is self-sacrificing and empathetic, he recognizes how the Lunars compromise the integrity of their leadership positions by brainwashing innocent citizens. Rather than oppress his people further, as the Lunars do, Kai acknowledges the legitimacy of their demands and wants to work with rather than against them. This is a testament to how those who work on behalf of others are virtuous, while those who abuse their power can potentially destroy individuals as well as entire societies.
The conversation turns to Kai’s coronation: Queen Levana has brought him a gift. She presents him with a vial, explaining that she’s been dedicating a research team to studying letumosis for some years now. Her scientists have finally discovered an antidote: the vial contains a dose for one adult man. Kai erupts in anger, asking how long she’s had this cure. The queen assures him calmly that it was only confirmed as an antidote hours before she left, but Kai knows that she’s lying. The queen assures him that it is in both their interests to rid Earth of letumosis, but that she’ll require compensation. Kai is shocked that she’d let so many die for a political bargaining chip.
Again, the book emphasizes a contrast between Kai and Queen Levana. While Kai would do anything for Earth’s citizens, Levana is just the opposite: she uses her power not to help those below her but instead to help herself. Kai suspects that she’s had the letumosis cure for some time, which would mean that Levana was willing to risk political upheaval by letting Emperor Rikan die. Here, she also demonstrates that she’s willing to let millions of people die, simply to leverage her own power and wealth.
Just then, Nainsi appears, and Kai coldly thanks Queen Levana for the gift and leaves. In the hall, he lets out a scream and slams his fist against the wall. He tells Nainsi how glad he is to see her, hoping that they can continue their search for Princess Selene and give Dr. Erland the antidote to duplicate it; he does not want to become a “puppet.” He then asks Nainsi why Cinder isn’t with her. When Nainsi replies that Cinder is likely waiting outside, Kai goes to find her, hoping that she’s changed her mind about the ball.
Kai again emphasizes how he does not want to be manipulated as a “puppet,” as he describes, suggesting that he lacks agency in the situation and feels that Levana is completely in control of him. This again illustrates the problem with the Lunar gift, as it only makes Kai and others more resistant to their control and their demands.