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Home > The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2)(14)

The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2)(14)
Author: Marie Lu

His smile is the one I remember—feral, sharp in a way that tells me he is observing everything about us. Studying our possessions. Something about his eyes sends a chill through me. A pleasant chill.

The famed Magiano.

“I admit I don’t know how you took our possessions,” I say, with a stiff jerk of my head. “Please. Enlighten us.”

He pulls his lute from behind his back and plucks a few notes. “So, you’re impressed, after all.”

My gaze shifts to the lute. It’s different from the lute he had yesterday. The instrument he has now is an opulent one, encrusted with glittering diamonds and emeralds, the strings painted gold, the knobs on the lute’s neck made out of jewels. The entire thing looks like a gaudy mess.

Magiano holds out the lute for us to admire. It twinkles madly in the light. “Isn’t she amazing? It’s the best lute that a night of gambling can buy.”

So this is how a famous thief spends his winnings. “Where do you even go to buy a monstrosity like that?” I say, before I can stop myself.

Magiano blinks at me in surprise, then gives me a hurt frown. He hugs the lute to his chest. “I think it’s pretty,” he says defensively.

Violetta and I share a look. “What is your power?” I ask him. “All the rumors say that you’re a Young Elite. Is it true, or are you simply a boy with a talent for theft?”

“And what if I’m not an Elite?” he says with a grin. “Would you be disappointed?”

“Yes.”

Magiano leans back on the beam, hugs his lute, and regards me in the way that an animal might. He says, “All right. I’ll enlighten you.” He picks at his teeth. “You are a worker of illusions. Yes?”

I nod.

He gestures at me. “Create something. Anything. Go ahead. Make this broken place beautiful.”

He’s challenging me. I look at Violetta, and she shrugs, as if giving me permission. So I take a deep breath, reach for the threads buried inside me, pull them out into the air, and begin to weave.

All around us, the interior of the bathhouse transforms into a vision of green hills underneath a stormy sky. Steep waterfalls line one side of the landscape, and baliras lift ships from the ocean to the top of the falls, setting them safely on the shallow, elevated seas. Dalia, my birth city. I keep weaving. A warm wind blows past us, and the air fills with the scent of oncoming rain.

Magiano watches the shifting illusion with wide eyes. In this moment, his mischief and bravado vanish—he blinks, as if unable to believe what he’s seeing. When he finally looks back at me, his smile is full of wonder. He takes a deep breath. “Again,” he whispers. “Make something else.”

His admiration of my powers makes me stand a little straighter. I wave away the illusion of Dalia, then plunge us into the twilit depths of a nighttime ocean. We float in the dark water, illuminated only by shafts of dim blue light. The ocean transforms into midnight on a hill overlooking Estenzia, with the three moons hanging huge over the horizon.

Finally, I take the illusions away, bringing back the ruins that surround us. Magiano shakes his head at me, but doesn’t say a word.

“Your turn,” I say, crossing my arms. My body hums with the ache of using energy. “Show us your power.”

Magiano bows his head once. “Fair enough,” he replies.

Violetta takes my hand. At the same time, something invisible shoves against my hold on my dark energy—and the world around us vanishes.

I throw my hands up to shield my eye from the brilliant light. It is searing bright—is this his power? No, that can’t be right. As the light gradually fades, I chance a look around. The bathhouse is still here, still all around us … but, to my shock, it has transformed into its former self. No ivy or moss hangs from broken pillars, no holes in its crumbling dome roof let light paint patterns on the floor. Instead, the rows of pillars are new and polished, and the water in the pool—its surface adorned with floating petals—gives off clouds of steam. Statues of the gods line the pool’s edge. I frown at the sight, then try to blink it away. Beside me, Violetta’s mouth hangs open. She tries to speak.

“It’s not real,” she finally whispers.

It’s not real. Of course it’s not—with those words, I realize that I recognize the energy this place is giving off, the millions of threads holding everything together. The renewed bathhouse is an illusion. Just like something I would have created. In fact, the threads of energy that created this image of the perfect bathhouse feel exactly like my own threads.

Another illusion worker?

I don’t understand. How could he have created something with a power that should belong to me?

The illusion breaks without warning. The brightly lit temple, the steaming water and statues—all disappear in an instant, leaving us back in the dark recesses of the broken bathhouse and its overgrown shell. Spots of light still float across my vision. I have to adjust to the darkness, almost as if I’d been blinded by something real.

Magiano swings his legs idly. “The things I could’ve done,” he muses, “had I known you earlier.”

I clear my throat and try not to look too stunned. “You … you have the same power as I do?”

He laughs at the hesitation in my voice. With a grandiose half bow, he jumps onto his feet and spins once on the beam, like he is dancing. It looks effortless. “Don’t be stupid,” he replies. “No two Elites have the exact same power.”

“Then …”

“I imitate,” he continues. “Whenever I encounter another Elite, and she uses her power, I can briefly glimpse the weave of her energy in the air. Then I copy what I see—if only for a moment.” He pauses to give me a grin so large that it appears to split his face in two. “This is how you saved my life, and you didn’t even know it. When you were in the dungeon cell next to mine, I mimicked you. I tricked my way out of my cell by making the soldiers think my cell was empty. They came over to investigate, and I stepped right out when they opened the door.”

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