As Cinder, Iko, and Peony walk to the junkyard, Cinder tells Peony about Prince Kai’s visit to her booth. While Iko and Cinder dig out a magbelt from the debris, Peony asks probing questions about what the prince was like. Peony is excited that Cinder will be seeing the prince again, though she says that the market is going to be closed the next weekend because of the outbreak, so Cinder will have to drop Nainsi off at the palace instead.
While Peony is excited to go to the ball in order to meet Kai, Cinder has already been able to meet him because of her reputation for hard work. This highlights the difference between the two stepsisters: while Peony leads a privileged life full of glamor and excitement, Cinder has to work hard to earn money for her family. Even though the stepsisters are from the same family, Cinder is forced to develop skills like persistence and resourcefulness, while Peony seemingly doesn’t have to work for anything.
After retrieving the magbelt, Cinder replaces her wrench inside her prosthetic foot’s calf compartment. Cinder and Iko then look for other hovers to scavenge, while Peony informs them that Prince Kai is going to look for a bride at the ball. She also mentions another rumor—that he’s going to marry Queen Levana for a political alliance—but Cinder thinks this is absurd. Cinder looks up at the moon, where Queen Levana and the other Lunars live. Lunars aren’t human anymore: they can telepathically alter a person’s thoughts and control their actions, and this power makes them a “greedy and violent race.”
Even though Cinder faces discrimination as a cyborg, she, too, buys into stereotypes about the Lunars—describing them as “greedy and violent” paints the entire Lunar population with a broad brush. At the same time, the book highlights how holding power (like Queen Levana and the other Lunars’ telepathic ability) can enable people to use their abilities for evil and wreak havoc on a society as a whole.
There are other rumors about Queen Levana: that she murdered her older sister Queen Channary to take the throne away from her, and that she killed her niece Princess Selene (the only threat to the throne) by setting fire to her nursery. Cinder doesn’t think Prince Kai could ever marry Levana, or any Lunar.
While Cinder again shows her general bias against the Lunars, she also specifically references rumors about how Levana’s power went to her head and caused her to desire even more—maybe even to the point that she was willing to kill her own family members. This begins to suggest that positions of power have the potential to make people greedy—and that, if left unchecked, this impulse can be incredibly destructive.
Cinder and Iko discover an old orange gasoline car that hasn’t been used since the second era. Iko thinks the car looks like a “rotting pumpkin,” but Cinder says that with some attention, it could be restored to its former glory. Cinder suggests that it could be her escape car to travel to Europe. As Iko and Peony protest that the car would never make it out of the city, Cinder notices a dark spot on Peony’s collarbone. Holding her breath and examining the bruise, Cinder realizes Peony has letumosis.
Describing the car as a “rotting pumpkin” connects the car to the pumpkin in the original fairy tale “Cinderella” that the novel is based on. In that story, a fairy godmother transforms into a carriage so that the titular protagonist can get to a ball. However, the fact that Cinder has to fix up the car herself suggests that hard work and resourcefulness are more valuable and admirable than a reliance on luck or magic. The revelation that Peony has letumosis, meanwhile, presents another challenge that Cinder will have to overcome.