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“Is it safe for them on the streets?” asked Wylan.
“They're probably the only Grisha safe in Ketterdam,” said Kaz. “Even if the Shu are working up the nerve to start hunting again, they aren't going to start with two highly placed Ravkan dignitaries. Nina, does Genya have the skill to restore Wylan's features?”
“I don't know,” said Nina. “She's called the First Tailor, and she's certainly the most gifted, but without
â¦” She didn't have to explain.
was the only reason Nina had been able to manage Wylan's miraculous transformation into Kuwei. Still, Genya Safin was a legend. Anything might still be possible.
“Kaz,” Wylan said, twisting the tail of his shirt. “If she's willing to tryâ”
E M FORSTER´s Other Kingdom read online and download free ebooks for your reading devices. Freeditorial more than 50.000 ebook to download free. Crooked Kingdom is the sequel to Six of Crows. It was released September 27, 2016. It is the final book in the Six of Crows Duology. 'To Holly and Sara, who helped me build; Noa, who made sure the.
Kaz nodded. “But you're going to have to be twice as careful until the auction. Your father doesn't want you showing up to skunk the scam he's pulling on the Merchant Council and the
. You'd be smarter waitingâ”
“No,” said Wylan. “I'm done being someone else.”
Kaz shrugged, but Jesper had the feeling he was getting exactly what he wanted. At least in this case, it was what Wylan wanted too.
“Won't there be hotel guests at the baths?” Jesper asked.
“I had them reserve the whole place for Mister Rietveld,” said Nina. “He's very self-conscious about disrobing in front of others.”
Jesper groaned. “Please don't talk about my father taking his clothes off.”
“It's his webbed feet,” said Nina. “So embarrassing.”
“Nina and Matthias will stay here,” said Kaz.
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“I should be there,” Nina protested.
“Are you Ravkan or a member of this crew?”
“Exactly. This conversation is going to be tricky enough without you and Matthias there to muddy it up.”
Though they went back and forth for a while, eventually Nina agreed to remain behind if Inej went in her stead.
But Inej only shook her head. “I'd prefer not to.”
“Why?” Nina asked. “Someone needs to hold Kaz accountable.”
“And you think I can?”
“We should at least try.”
“I love you, Nina, but the Ravkan government hasn't treated the Suli very well. I'm not interested in exchanging pleasantries with their leaders.” Jesper had never really considered that, and it was clear from the stricken expression on Nina's face that she hadn't either. Inej gave her a tight hug. “Come on,” she said. “We'll get Colm to order us something decadent.”
“That's your answer for everything.”
“You're complaining?” Inej asked.
“I'm stating one of the reasons I adore you.”
They went to find Colm, arm in arm, but Nina's teeth were worrying her lower lip. She had to be used to Matthias criticizing her country, but Jesper guessed it stung more coming from Inej. He wanted to tell Nina that you could love something and still see its flaws. At least, he hoped that was true, or he was truly cooked.
As they split to prepare for the meeting with the Ravkans, Jesper followed Wylan down the hall.
Wylan kept going.
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Jesper jogged past him and cut off his path, walking backward. “Listen, this thing with Kuwei isn't a thing.” He tried again. “There is no thing with Kuwei.”
“You don't owe me an explanation. I'm the one who interrupted.”
“No, you didn't! Kuwei was sitting at the piano. It was an understandable mistake.”
Wylan stopped short. “You thought he was me?”
“Yes!” Jesper said. “See? Just a big misâ”
Wylan's gold eyes flashed. “You really can't tell us apart?”
“IÂ â¦ I mean, usually I can, butâ”
“We're nothing alike,” Wylan said indignantly. “He's not even that good at science! Half his notebooks are full of doodles. Mostly of you. And those aren't good either.”
“Really? Doodles of me?”
Wylan rolled his eyes. “Forget it. You can kiss whomever you like, Jesper.”
“And I do. As regularly as possible.”
“So what's the problem?”
“No problem, I just wanted to give you this.”
He placed a tiny oval canvas in Wylan's hand. “I took it when we were at Saint Hilde. I thought it might come in handy if Genya's going to try to put you back to your old merchling self.”
Wylan stared down at the canvas. “My mother painted this?”
“It was in that room full of her art.”
It was small, unframed, suitable only for a miniature: a portrait of Wylan as a child of around eight years. Wylan curled his fingers over the edge of the painting. “It's how she remembers me. She never got to see me grow up.” He frowned. “It's so old. I don't know if it will be useful.”
“It's still you,” said Jesper. “Same curls. Same worried little divot between the brows.”
“And you took this just because you thought it might come in handy?”
“I told you, I like your stupid face.”
Wylan ducked his head and slipped the portrait into his pocket. “Thank you.”
“Sure.” Jesper hesitated. “If you're headed down to the baths, I could come with you. If you wanted.”
Wylan nodded anxiously. “I'd like that.”
Jesper's newly buoyant mood lasted all the way to the lift, but as they joined Kaz and descended to the hotel's third floor, his nerves started to jangle. They might be walking into a trap, and Kaz wasn't exactly in fighting form.
Some part of Jesper hoped that the Ravkans would say no to this mad plan. Then Kaz would be stymied, and even if they all ended up in Hellgate or swinging from the gallows, his father would at least have a chance to escape unharmed. Colm had spent hours with Nina and Kaz trying to learn his role, running through different scenarios, enduring their endless questions and prodding without complaint. Colm wasn't much of an actor, and he lied about as well as Jesper danced ballet. But Nina would be with him. That had to count for something.
The lift opened and they entered another vast purple-and-white hallway, then followed the sound of running water to a room with a large circular pool at its center, surrounded by a colonnade of arches. Through them, Jesper could see more pools and waterfalls, coves and alcoves, every solid surface decorated in glittering indigo tiles. Now
Jesper could get used to: pools of steaming water, fountains dancing and burbling like guests at a party, piles of thick towels and sweet-smelling soaps. A place like this belonged in the Barrel, where it could be properly appreciated, not in the middle of the financial district.
They'd been told they would be meeting with only two members of the Triumvirate, but three people stood by the pool. Jesper knew the one-eyed girl in the red-and-blue
must be Genya Safin, and that meant the shockingly gorgeous girl with the thick fall of ebony hair was Zoya Nazyalensky. They were accompanied by a fox-faced man in his twenties wearing a teal frock coat, brown leather gloves, and an impressive set of Zemeni revolvers slung around his hips. If these people were what Ravka had to offer, maybe Jesper
consider a visit.
“We told the Grisha to come alone,” said Kaz.
“I'm afraid that wasn't possible,” said the man. “Though Zoya is, of course, a force to be reckoned with, Genya's extraordinary gifts are ill-suited to physical confrontation. I, on the other hand, am well suited to all forms of confrontation, though I'm particularly fond of the physical.”
Kaz's eyes narrowed. “Sturmhond.”
“He knows me!” Sturmhond said delightedly. He nudged Genya with an elbow. “I told you I'm famous.”
Zoya blew out an exasperated breath. “Thank you. He's going to be twice as insufferable now.”
“Sturmhond has been authorized to negotiate on behalf of the Ravkan throne,” said Genya.
“A pirate?” asked Jesper.
“Privateer,” Sturmhond corrected. “You can't expect the king to participate in an auction like this himself.”
“Because he might lose. And it looks very bad when kings lose.”
Jesper couldn't quite believe he was having a conversation with
Sturmhond. The privateer was a legend. He'd broken countless blockades on behalf of the Ravkans, and there were rumors thatÂ â¦ “Do you really have a flying ship?” blurted Jesper.
“I have several.”
“Take me with you.”
Kaz didn't look remotely entertained. “The Ravkan king lets you negotiate for him in matters of state?” he asked skeptically.
“Occasionally,” said Sturmhond. “Especially if less than savory personages are involved. You have a reputation, Mister Brekker.”
“So do you.”
“Fair enough. So let's say we've both earned the right to have our names bandied about in the worst circles. The king won't drag Ravka into one of your schemes blindly. Nina's note claimed that you have Kuwei Yul-Bo in your possession. I want confirmation of that fact, and I want the details of your plan.”
“All right,” said Kaz. “Let's talk in the solarium. I'd prefer not to sweat through my suit.” When the rest of them made to follow, Kaz halted and glanced over his shoulder. “Just me and the privateer.”
Zoya tossed her glorious black mane and said, “We are the Triumvirate. We do not take orders from Kerch street rats with dubious haircuts.”
“I can phrase it as a question if it will make your feathers lie flat,” Kaz said.
“Zoya,” said Sturmhond smoothly. “Let's not antagonize our new friends before they've even had a chance to cheat us. Lead on, Mister Brekker.”
“Kaz,” Wylan said. “Can't youâ”
“Negotiate for yourself, merchling. It's time you learned how.” He vanished with Sturmhond back into the corridors.
As their footfalls faded, silence descended. Wylan cleared his throat and the sound bounced around the blue-tiled room like a spring colt let loose in a corral. Genya's face was bemused.
Zoya crossed her arms. “Well?”
“Ma'amâ¦” Wylan attempted. “Miss Genyaâ”
Genya smiled, her scars tugging at the corner of her mouth. “Oh, he
“You always take to the strays,” said Zoya sourly.
“You're the boy Nina tailored to look like Kuwei,” Genya said. “And you want me to try to undo her work?”
“Yes,” Wylan said, that one word imbued with a whole world of hope. “But I don't have anything to bargain with.”
Genya rolled her single amber eye. “Why are the Kerch so focused on money?”
“Says the woman with a bankrupt country,” murmured Jesper.
“What was that?” snapped Zoya.
“Nothing,” said Jesper. “Just saying Kerch is a morally bankrupt country.”
Zoya looked him up and down as if she was considering tossing him into a pool and boiling him alive. “If you want to waste your time and talent on these wretches, feel free. Saints know there's room for improvement.”
“I'm going to go find a dark room with a deep pool and try to wash some of this country off.”
“Don't drown,” Genya called as Zoya flounced off, then said conspiratorially, “Maybe she'll do it just to be contrary.” She gave Wylan an assessing glance. “It would be difficult. If I'd known you before the changesâ”
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“Here,” Wylan said eagerly. “I have a portrait. It's old, butâ”
She took the miniature from him.
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“And this,” Wylan said, offering her the poster his father had created promising a reward for his safe return.
“Hmm,” she said. “Let's find better light.”
They fumbled their way around the facilities, poking their heads into rooms full of mud baths and milk baths, and one heated chamber made entirely of jade. They finally settled in a chilly white room with a tub of odd-smelling clay against one wall, and windows all along the other.
“Find a chair,” said Genya, “and fetch my kit from the main pool area. It's heavy. You'll find it near the towels.”
“You brought your kit?” said Wylan.
“The Suli girl suggested it,” said Genya, shooing them off to follow her orders.
“Just as imperious as Zoya,” Jesper grumbled as he and Wylan obliged.
“But with better hearing!” she called after them.
Jesper fetched the box from near the main pool. It was built like a small cabinet, its double doors fastened with an elaborate gold clasp. When they returned to the clay room, Genya gestured for Wylan to sit near the window, where the light was best. She rested her fingers under his chin and tilted his face this way and that.
Jesper set down her kit. “What are you looking for?” he asked.
“No matter how fine a Tailor's work, if you look closely, you can see the seams, the place where one thing ends and another begins. I'm looking for signs of the original structure. The portrait does help.”
“I don't know why I'm so nervous,” said Wylan.
“Because she might mess up and make you look like a weasel with curls?”
Genya lifted a flame-colored brow. “Maybe a vole.”
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“Not funny,” said Wylan. He'd clenched his hands so tightly in his lap his knuckles had become white stars.
“All right,” said Genya. “I can try, but I make no promises. Nina's work is near flawless. Luckily, so am I.”
Jesper smiled. “You remind me of her.”
“I think you mean she reminds you of
Genya set to unpacking her kit. It was far more elaborate than the one Jesper had seen Nina use. There were capsules of dye, pots of colored powder, and rows of glass cases filled with what looked like clear gels. “They're cells,” said Genya. “For a job like this, I need to work with human tissue.”