Home > The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2)(9)

The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2)(9)
Marie Lu

They reach his sister. She is huddled in a corner of the courtyard, hiding her face behind a shawl. When she sees Raffaele approach, she makes herself even smaller and lowers her eyes.

The boy leans down to Raffaele as they reach her. “An Inquisitor seized her on the night they broke shop windows in Estenzia,” he murmurs. He bends closer and whispers something in Raffaele’s ear. As Raffaele listens, he studies the girl, noticing a scratch here, a bruise there, black and blue marring the skin of her legs.

When the boy finishes talking, Raffaele nods in understanding. He tucks his robe under his legs and kneels beside her. A wave of her energy washes over him. He winces. Such overwhelming sadness and fear. If Adelina were here, she would use this. He’s very careful not to touch the girl. A few clients had done the same to him in his bedchamber, left him bruised and trembling—the last thing he ever wanted afterward was a hand on his skin.

For a long time, Raffaele sits and says nothing. The girl watches him in silence, transfixed by his face. The tension in her shoulders doesn’t go away. At first, Raffaele senses a wave of resentment and hostility from her at his presence. But he doesn’t look away.

The girl speaks at last. “The Lead Inquisitor is going to enslave us all. That’s what we’ve heard.”

“Yes.”

“They say the Inquisition has set up slave camps around Estenzia.”

“It’s true.”

She seems surprised at his refusal to soften the blow. “They say after they’re done with us, they’re going to kill us all.”

Raffaele is silent. He knows he doesn’t need to say anything in order to give her an answer.

“Are the Daggers going to stop him?”

“The Daggers are going to destroy him,” Raffaele responds. The words sound strange in his gentle voice, like metal slicing through silk. “I will see to it personally.”

The girl’s eyes wander across his face again, taking in his delicate beauty. Raffaele holds a hand out to her and waits patiently. After a while, she extends her own hand. She touches his tentatively, then gasps. Through their contact, Raffaele tugs gently on her heartstrings, sharing in her heartache, soothing and caressing as much as he can, replacing her sadness with comfort. I know. Tears prickle the girl’s eyes. She keeps her hand there for a long time, until at last she pulls away, huddling back into her crouch with her face turned down.

“Thank you,” her brother whispers. Others cluster behind Raffaele, watching in awe. “It’s the first time she’s spoken since we left Estenzia.”

“Raffaele!”

Lucent’s voice cuts through the scene. Raffaele turns to see the Windwalker cutting her way through the crowd, her copper curls bouncing in the air. She looks every inch a typical Beldish girl here in her homeland, with furs thick around her neck and wrists, and a trail of beads clinking in her hair. She pauses in front of him.

“I hate to interrupt your daily healing session,” she says, motioning for him to follow her, “but she arrived late last night. She’s asked to see us.”

Raffaele nods a farewell to the malfettos in the courtyard before matching Lucent’s pace. She looks agitated, possibly at having to track him down, and she rubs her arms incessantly. “Kenettran summers have turned me soft,” she complains as they go. “This cold is making my bones ache.” When Raffaele doesn’t respond, she turns her irritation on him. “Do you really have so much free time?” she says. “Making sad eyes at malfetto refugees every day isn’t going to help us strike back at the Inquisition.”

Raffaele doesn’t bother looking at her. “The bald boy is an Elite,” he replies.

Lucent makes an incredulous sound. “Really?”

“I noticed it yesterday,” he continues. “A very subtle energy, but it’s there. I’ll send for him later.”

Lucent glares at him. He can see the disbelief in her eyes, then annoyance that he has surprised her. Finally, she shrugs. “Ah, you always have a good reason for your kindnesses, don’t you?” she mutters. “Well, Michel says they’re out on the hills.” Her footsteps speed up.

Raffaele doesn’t add that his heart is still heavy, as it always is after he meets the malfettos. That he wishes he could have stayed longer, that he could do more to help them. There is no point in mentioning it. “Your queen will forgive me,” he says.

Lucent huffs at that and crosses her arms. But underneath her nonchalant show, Raffaele can feel the threads of her energy twist painfully, a knot of passion and longing that has tightened and tightened for years, anxious to be reunited with the Beldish princess. How long has it been since Lucent was first banished from Beldain—how long has she been separated from Maeve? Raffaele softens toward her in empathy. He touches her arm once—the strings of energy around her shimmer, and he reaches for them, pulling on her powers, to soothe her. She glances at him with a raised eyebrow.

“You will see her,” Raffaele says. “I promise. I’m sorry I kept you waiting.”

Lucent relaxes a little at his touch. “I know.”

They reach a high stone entrance that opens out onto the vast grasslands behind the castle. A smattering of soldiers are training out in the yard. Lucent has to lead Raffaele in a wide arc around the dueling pairs until they leave the castle behind and enter the tall grass. They crest a small hill. Raffaele shivers in the wind, blinking through the snow flurries, and pulls his cloak tighter around his shoulders.

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