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Home > The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2)(6)

The Rose Society (The Young Elites #2)(6)
Author: Marie Lu

“You’re beautiful.”

Violetta flushes bright red. I step closer to the balcony. “And who are you?” I call up to him.

His notes turn into a melody as he starts to play in earnest. The tune distracts me—despite his flippant attitude, he plays with skill. Hypnotizing skill. There was a place behind my old home where Violetta and I used to hide inside the hollows of the trees. Whenever the wind rustled through the leaves, it sounded like laughter in the air, and we would imagine it was the laughter of the gods as they enjoyed a cool spring afternoon. This mysterious person’s music reminds me of that sound. His fingers run along the length of the lute’s strings in fluid strokes, the song as natural as a sunset.

Violetta glances at me, and I realize he is making up the tune on the spot.

He can lure you straight off a cliff and into the sea with music from his lute.

“As for you,” the boy says in between notes, shifting his attention from Violetta to me. “How’d you do it?”

I blink at him, still distracted. “Do what?” I reply.

He pauses long enough to shoot an irritated glance at me. “Oh, for the gods’ sakes, stop being so coy.” His voice stays nonchalant as he plays. “You’re obviously an Elite. So. How’d you do it, with the blood lines and the knife?”

Violetta gives me a quiet nod before I go on. “My sister and I have been searching for someone for months,” I say.

“Is that so? Didn’t know my little gambling stand was so popular.”

“We’re looking for a Young Elite named Magiano.”

He stops talking and plays through a fast series of notes. His fingers fly along the lute’s strings in a blur of motion, but the notes each come out crisp and clear, absolute perfection. He plays for what seems like a long time. There is a story in his notes as he makes up the melody, something cheery and wistful, maybe even humorous, some secret joke. I want him to answer us, but at the same time, I don’t want him to stop playing.

Finally, he pauses to look at me. “Who’s Magiano?”

Violetta makes a muffled sound, while I can’t help but cross my arms and sniff in disbelief. “Surely you’ve heard of Magiano,” my sister says.

He turns his head to the side, then gives Violetta a winsome smile. “If you came here to ask me my opinions about imaginary people, my love, then you’re wasting your time. The only Magiano I’ve ever heard of is a threat mothers use to make their children tell the truth.” He waves one hand in the air. “You know. If you don’t stop lying, Magiano will steal your tongue. If you don’t pay proper tribute to the gods on Sapienday, Magiano will devour your pets.”

I open my mouth to say something, but he continues as if talking to himself. “That’s enough proof, I think,” he replies with a shrug. “Eating pets is disgusting, and stealing tongues is rude. Who would do such a thing?”

A little ribbon of doubt creeps into my chest. What if he’s telling us the truth? He certainly doesn’t look like the boy from all the stories. “How do you operate your gambling game and win so frequently?”

“Ah, that.” The boy continues playing his song for a while. Then he stops abruptly, leans down toward us, and holds both hands up. He smiles again, flashing his teeth. “Magic.”

I smile back. “Magiano’s tricks, you mean.”

“Is that where the word comes from?” he asks lightheartedly before slouching backward again. “I didn’t know.” His fingers find the lute’s strings and continue playing. I can tell we’re losing his interest. “Nothing more than sleights of hand, my love, tricks of the light and a perceptive use of distraction. And, you know, the help of an assistant. He’s probably still hiding somewhere, stupid boy, scared out of his wits. I warned him not to run.” He pauses. “That’s why I’m here talking to you, you know. I wanted to tell you both that I’m grateful you saved my helper, and now I’m going to leave you to enjoy your night. Best of luck to you in finding your Young Elite.”

The other malfetto was working with him all along. I take a deep breath. Something about the way he says Young Elite triggers an old memory. He does sound familiar. I know I’ve heard his voice before. But where? I frown, trying to place the memory. Where, where …

And then I realize it.

My prison mate. When the Inquisition first arrested me and threw me in their dungeons, I had a half-crazed companion in the cell next to my own. A laughing, giggling, singsong voice, one belonging to someone who I’d thought had gone mad from his long imprisonment.

Girl. They say you’re a Young Elite. Well, are you?

He sees the recognition in my eyes, because he pauses again in his playing. “You’re making a very odd face,” he says. “Did you eat a bad lamb skewer? That happened to me once.”

“We were in prison together.”

He stops at my words. Freezes. “I’m sorry?”

“We were in the same prison. In the city of Dalia, some months ago. You must remember—I know your voice.” I take a deep breath, revisiting the memory. “I was sentenced to burn that day.”

When I squint at him in the darkness, I notice that he has stopped smiling. He turns his full stare on me.

“You’re Adelina Amouteru,” he murmurs to himself, his gaze wandering across my face with renewed interest. “Yes, of course, of course you are. I should have sensed it.”

I nod. For a moment, I wonder if perhaps I’ve told him too much. Does he know that the Inquisition wants us? What if he decides to turn us in to the Merroutas soldiers?

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