Queen Levana tells Kai that Cinder can live if he marries her, and Cinder pleads with him not to agree to this. Kai says that hours ago, he told his country that he would do anything, but he cannot have peace at the expense of freedom—he will not marry Levana. Relieved, Cinder thinks that she’s not worth starting a war over. Queen Levana tells Kai that they will no longer continue their alliance discussions.
Queen Levana continues her manipulative streak here, using Cinder’s life as a political bargaining chip. Yet at the same time, both Cinder and Kai choose to put the good of the country over their individual desires to save Cinder. Recognizing how far Levana is willing to go for power, Kai realizes that the most important thing is to protect his citizens from her: living under her rule would be worse than any disease or war.
Suddenly, Cinder gasps as she starts to see pasts Queen Levana’s glamour—she isn’t beautiful at all. Levana steps forward, telepathically forcing Cinder to snatch the gun from the guard and press it against her own temple. Kai rushes toward her, but she can’t move. She can feel her finger slowly pull down on the trigger, but her retina display starts to initialize a resistance to the biological manipulation, and she forces the gun away from her head and towards the ceiling as it fires.
Queen Levana shows her complete abuse of power as she tries to cause Cinder to harm herself. But luckily, because of Cinder’s cyborg operation, she is able to resist the Queen’s gift. Again, the very aspect of her identity that people have discriminated against is actually what protects her and makes her more capable than others.
Cinder crumples and doubles over—she feels like she’s on fire. Her glove begins to melt away in front of Levana and Kai. Cinder then takes the gun and points it at the queen. But when she pulls the trigger, a guard jumps in front of the bullet, and it hits his shoulder. Cinder drops the gun and runs for the exit, down the garden stairs. Suddenly, she feels her foot unlatch, and she falls down the stairs. Kai looks at her over the railing, taking in her metal legs and arms.
Cinder losing her entire foot on the stairs ties back to the original tale of “Cinderella,” wherein the titular character lost one of her glass slippers at the ball. In the original, the slipper symbolized luck, as it was given to her by magic and ultimately allowed the prince to find her. Here, by contrast, Cinder’s mechanical foot represents her perseverance in the face of difficulty. Even on her small, rusted foot, Cinder does her best to warn Kai and escape Levana’s wrath, even if it means Kai finding out the truth about her.
Sybil and Levana join Kai on the balcony, commenting that Cinder isn’t a shell after all. Kai sneaks down the stairs, a look of disgust on his face. He picks up the rusted cyborg foot and asks Cinder if everything was in his head. Cinder assures him that she wouldn’t lie, though she knows that she has lied about many things. Kai tells her that she’s more painful to look at than Levana. He turns back to Levana and says that he’ll imprison Cinder until they decide what to do with her. In exchange, Levana will not wage war against his planet. Levana agrees that she will not wage war on Earth for this infraction.
Kai clearly carries some of the typical bias that most fully human Earthens harbor against cyborgs. But at the same time, the book implies that he is more hurt by the fact that Cinder lied about her identity than he is disgusted by her robotic parts. Notably, this is another connection between “Cinderella” and Cinder: both Cinder’s mechanical foot and Cinderella’s slipper help the respective princes in the story discover the women’s true identities. But while Prince Charming of the original tale remains in love with the humble Cinderella, here Kai feels betrayed and no longer wants anything to do with Cinder. Thus, Cinder’s deception was actually harmful to her relationship with Kai because the truth came out later—more so than if she had been open in the first place.