Chapter no 19

Caraval (Caraval, 1)

Follow the boy with a heart made of black.

Nigel’s words rushed back to Scarlett right as Dante’s eyes fell on her. The look he gave her was pure loathing. But rather than frightening Scarlett, it ignited something inside her; she imagined this was the game’s way of testing her resolve to play without Julian’s help.

When Dante disappeared out the tavern’s back door, Scarlett dashed outside after him. She didn’t realize how toasty it had been in the tavern until she escaped into the brittle evening. Crisp, like the first bite of a chilled apple, smelling just as sweet, with hints of burnt sugar weaving through the charcoal night air. Around her, the people on the street were as thick as a murder of crows.

Scarlett thought she glimpsed Dante slip onto a covered bridge, but once she reached the bridge it contained nothing but lantern light, and led to a disappointing dead end. All Scarlett found after she crossed it was an alley made of brick walls, and a cider cart manned by a cute boy with a monkey on his shoulder.

“Can I interest you in some burnt-sugar cider?” asked the boy. “It will make you see things more clearly.”

“Oh, no—I’m looking for someone, with tattoos all over his arms, all black clothes, and an angry look on his face.”

“I think he might have bought some cider last night, but I haven’t seen him tonight. Good luck!” called the boy as Scarlett darted back onto the bridge.

Once she reached the other side, she spied a number of young men with untidy black clothes—at this point in the game, everyone was starting to

appear a bit ragged around the edges—but no one had arms covered in ink. Scarlett continued weaving through the crowd, until she caught sight of someone with what looked like a black heart tattoo heading up a set of emerald stairs a few shops past the Glass Tavern.

Picking up the hem of her skirt, Scarlett rushed to follow her black-hearted boy. She tore up the stairs and onto another covered bridge. But when she reached the other side of the bridge, all she found was another dead end and another cute boy, again with a cider cart and a monkey.

“Wait—” Scarlett paused. “Weren’t you just over there?” She motioned vaguely, no longer quite sure of where “over there” was anymore.

“I haven’t gone anywhere all night, but that bridge you just crossed moves quite often,” said the boy. He flashed his dimples and the monkey on his shoulder nodded.

Scarlett craned her neck back toward the bridge, its lights fluttering as if winking at her. Two days ago she would have said it was impossible, but now the thought didn’t even cross her mind. She wasn’t sure exactly when it happened, but she’d stopped doubting the magic.

“Are you sure you don’t want any?” The boy stirred his cider, sending fresh streams of apple-scented steam into the air.

“Oh—” Scarlett was about to say no, her standard response, but then she remembered something. “Did you say this would help me to see things more clearly?”

“You’ll not find a brew like this anywhere else.” The monkey on his shoulder nodded again in agreement.

A welcome chill raced over Scarlett. What if this was the reason Nigel had told her to follow the boy with the heart made of black? Maybe if she drank the cider her eyes would be sharp enough to spot the clue she needed.

Scarlett snuck a peek at the game’s instructions: Number four will cost you something valuable.

“What will I have to pay?” Scarlett asked. “Not much—the last lie you told.”

It didn’t seem like much of a price. But even if the cider was not the next

clue, it would most likely give her some sort of edge, which she definitely needed.

Feeling fortunate she’d taken Aiko’s advice in the tavern, Scarlett leaned close and whispered her story about the mermaid fountain. The boy looked disappointed at not being told a juicier lie, but he handed her the cup.

Browned sugar and melted butter with hints of cream and toasted cinnamon. It tasted like the best parts of the Cold Season, mixed with just a hint of heat. “It’s delicious, but I don’t see anything different.…”

“It takes a minute or two to kick in. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.” The boy nodded a parting good-bye, and his monkey saluted her as he began pushing his cart in the direction of the tricky bridge.

Scarlett took another sip of cider, but now it tasted too sweet, as if it were trying to mask a harsher flavor. Something wasn’t right. Scarlett’s emotions were swirling into messy grays and dull whites. Normally Scarlett just saw flashes of color attached to her feelings, but as she watched the boy depart, she could see his skin shifting to ashy gray, while his clothes turned black.

Scarlett blinked, unsettled by the image, only to be more disturbed when she opened her eyes once more.

Now everything was shades of black and gray. Even the candlelight lining the bridge was foggy gloom instead of golden. She tried not to panic, but her heart beat faster with every step as she crossed back over the bridge and returned to a world no longer full of color.

Caraval had shifted to black and white.

Scarlett dropped the cider, buttery gold liquid splashing over gray walkways, the only puddle of bright amid the awful new dull. The boy with the monkey was nowhere to be seen. He was probably laughing at her as he pushed his cart, searching for a new victim.

She looked up and found herself near the Glass Tavern’s back exit. Aiko had just stepped outside, her bright dress now charcoal.

“You look dreadful,” she said. “I’m guessing you didn’t catch the young man you were after?”

Scarlett shook her head. Behind Aiko, the door to the tavern was closing.

Scarlett scanned the inside quickly enough to see Julian had still not arrived, or if he had, he’d already left. “I think I’ve made a mistake.”

“Then make it into something better.” Aiko strolled down the cobbled street as if the world could crumble around her and she’d just keep going. Scarlett wanted to feel like that, but the game seemed to be constantly working against her, and she imagined it was easy for Aiko, since she was only observing. No one had stolen her sister, or the color from her world. Scarlett could picture Aiko gliding on air if enough bits of earth fell away. The only thing she held on to securely was the battered notebook in her hand. Brownish green, the color of forgotten memories, abandoned dreams, and bitter gossip.

It was an unattractive thing, yet—

Scarlett’s thought broke off. The journal was in color! An ugly color. But in a world made of black and white, it called to Scarlett. Maybe this was how the cider worked? It took away the colors of everything so Scarlett could clearly see the things that really mattered—or find the next clue.

Number four will cost you something valuable.

Nigel’s advice really had been clue number three. After Scarlett followed the boy with a heart made of black, he had led her to the boy with the cider, which had taken away her ability to see colors—costing her something valuable.

Her chest now fluttered with excitement, rather than panic. She hadn’t been tricked; she’d been given what she needed to find the fourth clue.

Scarlett followed as Aiko paused in front of a busy waffle-maker. He dipped one of his pastries in the darkest chocolate before passing it to Aiko in exchange for a glimpse at a page in her journal.

Carefully, Scarlett tried to take a look as well.

Aiko snapped the book shut. “If you want to see what’s inside, you’ll have to give me something like everyone else.”

“What sort of something?” Scarlett asked.

“Do you always focus on what you’re giving up, rather than what you’ll be gaining? Some things are worth pursuit regardless of the cost.” Aiko

beckoned Scarlett onto a street lined with hanging lanterns, smelling of flowers and flutes and long-lost love. The road narrowed, a watery canal hugging one side as the other curved around a carousel made of roses.

“A song for a donation.” A man in front of a pipe organ held out a thick hand.

Aiko dropped something, too small for Scarlett to see, in his palm. “Try to make it pretty.”

The organist began to play a melancholy tune, and the carousel started to move, spinning slowly at first. If Tella were there, Scarlett imagined she would have hopped up on it, plucked its red roses, and put them in her hair.


Scarlett watched as the rosy carousel continued to twirl, shedding brilliant red petals onto the path. A few landed on Aiko’s waffle as well, sticking to the chocolate.

Scarlett couldn’t tell if her senses were coming back, or if the carousel was somehow important, for at the same moment that Scarlett realized she could see the rich red of its petals, a gentleman with an eye patch walked by. Like everything else he was painted in shades of gray and black, except for the crimson cravat around his neck. It was the deepest hue of red she’d ever seen. His face was equally hypnotic. He possessed the kind of dark good looks that made Scarlett wonder why everyone else wasn’t staring as well.

She debated following him. He was mystery and unanswered questions. But something about him made her feel perilous shades of silky black. He moved through the crowd like a wraith, graceful but with an edge that felt a little too dangerous for her liking, and even though she felt a pull toward him, Aiko’s journal called to her just as strongly.

The pipe organist’s song picked up speed, and the carousel spun faster and faster. Petals landed on more than just Aiko’s dessert. They flew until the path in front of them turned to red velvet and the canal beside them transformed into blood, leaving the carousel naked save for its thorns.

The few other people on the street clapped.

Scarlett felt as if there were a deeper lesson there, but she couldn’t quite

grasp it. Her vision was back to full color. The gentleman with the patch had almost disappeared from view, yet Scarlett continued to feel an unwanted pull toward him. If he’d been wearing a top hat, she might have wondered if he was Legend. Or maybe this enigmatic young man was a decoy Legend had placed in the crowd to lure her away from the actual clue. Earlier that night, as she looked at the winking bridge, Scarlett would have sworn she’d felt Legend’s eyes on her, spying on her attempts to figure out his clues.

Scarlett only had a moment left to make her decision—if she was going to follow the young man, or try to look in Aiko’s journal, the only thing untouched by red petals. If Scarlett’s theory about the cider was right, both the young man and the journal were significant, but only one could lead her closer to Tella. “If I do make this trade to look in your notebook, what is it I’ll be gaining? Is it the fourth clue?”

Aiko swayed, humming cryptically. “It’s possible; lots of things are.” “But the rules said there are only five clues.”

“Is that really what they said? Or is that just how you interpreted them?” asked Aiko. “Think of the instructions as a map. There’s more than one way to get to almost every destination. Clues are hidden everywhere. The guidelines you received just make it easier to spot them. But keep in mind, clues are not the only thing you need to win. This game is like a person. If you truly want to play it right, you need to learn its history.”

“I know all about its history,” Scarlett said. “My grandmother has been telling me tales since I was a little girl.”

“Ah, tales passed on from your grandmother, I’m sure they’re very accurate.” Aiko took a bite of her waffle, white teeth sinking into the red petals on top of it, as she started down a new path.

Scarlett looked a final time for the man with the eye patch. But he was already gone. She’d missed her chance. She couldn’t lose Aiko as well.

The pretty girl was now in the middle of buying edible silver bells, and coin-size cakes dipped in glitter. As Scarlett followed, she imagined the girl was about to burst from all she had eaten, but she continued to buy from every vendor who asked her to make a trade. Scarlett discovered Aiko

believed in saying yes whenever possible. Conversation paused as she bought confetti candies that glowed like fireflies, a glass of drinkable gold, and everlasting hair dye—for those silver hairs you want to be rid of forever— though Aiko looked far too young for it.

“So,” Scarlett started as they wove onto a street full of shops with pointy roofs but blessedly free of vendors. She felt ready to make a deal, but she wasn’t about to jump into it blind, as she had done before. “Caraval’s history is written in your notebook?”

“In a manner,” Aiko said. “Prove it to me.”

To her astonishment, Aiko offered her the book.

Scarlett hesitated; it almost seemed too easy. “But I thought you’d only let me see if I gave you something in return.”

“Don’t worry, you won’t be bound to any deal unless you decide you wish to see more. The pictures that would help you are sealed by magic.” She said the word magic as if it were a private joke.

Scarlett took the book cautiously. Thin and light but somehow full of pages, every time Scarlett turned one, two more seemed to appear behind it, all of them painted with fantastical pictures. Queens and kings, pirates and presidents, assassins and princes. Grand ships the size of islands and tiny slips of wood that looked like the boat she and Julian had—

“Wait—these are pictures of me.” Scarlett flipped the next few pages. Aiko’s art showed her on the boat with Julian. Trudging half naked to the clock shop. Arguing behind the gates of the turreted house.

“These were private moments!” Thank the saints there were no compromising pictures of her in her room with Julian, but there was a very vivid piece of art showing her fleeing from Dante as every eye in the tavern looked on in judgment.

“How did you get these?” Red-faced, Scarlett turned back to the picture of her in the boat with Julian. She remembered an eerie feel of being watched when she’d first arrived on the isle. But this was far worse than that. “Why are there so many pictures of me? I don’t see drawings of other people.”

“This year’s game is not about other people.” Aiko’s gold-rimmed eyes met Scarlett’s. “Other participants aren’t missing their sister.”

When she’d first arrived to the isle, the idea of being Legend’s special guest had made Scarlett feel privileged. For the first time in her life, she’d felt special. Chosen. But once again, rather than feeling as if she were playing the game, it seemed as if the game were playing with her.

Sour shades of yellow-green made her stomach roil with trepidation. Scarlett didn’t like being toyed with, but what made her even more uneasy was the question why, out of all the people in the world, Legend would choose to make this game about her and her sister. The day in the clock shop Julian’s comment made it seem as if it had something to do with her appearance, but now Scarlett felt there was much more to it.

“In the tavern you started to ask me who I was,” Aiko went on. “I’m not a player. I’m a histographer. I record the history of Caraval through pictures.”

“I’ve never heard of a histographer.”

“Then you should feel lucky to have met me.” Aiko plucked back the journal.

Scarlett didn’t imagine luck had much to do with their meeting. She couldn’t deny that what she’d seen in the journal’s pages had been disturbingly accurate, but even if this girl really was a histographer, Scarlett wasn’t sure she believed she’d only come there to observe.

“Now you have seen a glimpse of my book,” Aiko went on, “and while I may show occasional peeks to vendors on the streets, what I offer you is a rare opportunity. I’m not the only artist who has stained its pages. Every true story from every Caraval in the past is in here. If you choose to examine all the stories inside, you will see who has won and how they did it.”

As Aiko spoke, Scarlett thought of Dante, then Julian. She wondered what had happened when they’d each played before. Other stories came to mind as well, like the woman who was killed years ago. Scarlett’s grandmother, who’d claimed to have charmed everyone with her purple dress. Scarlett doubted she’d actually find her nana in the book, but there was one person she did not doubt she would see. Legend.

If this book detailed the true history of Caraval, then Legend was certain to be pictured in it. Rupert, the boy from the first night, described the game as a mystery to be solved. And the first clue said: This girl was last seen with Legend. It made sense that if Scarlett found Legend, she would then find Tella as well, without having to search for the next two clues.

“All right,” Scarlett said. “Tell me what you want for another look in the journal.”

“Excellent.” Aiko appeared to sparkle a little more than usual. She guided Scarlett past a button-lined path leading to a hatter and haberdashery shaped like a top hat. Then she stopped in front of a dress shop.

Three stories high, made of all glass to better display brightly lit gowns in every material and shade. The color of late-night laughter, early-morning sunshine, and waves crashing around ankles. Each gown seemed to speak of its own rare adventure, with unique prices to match:

the thing you regret the most, your worst fear,

a secret youve never told a soul.

One dress only cost a recent nightmare, but it was plum, the one color Scarlett couldn’t stand to wear.

“That’s your price, you want me to buy you a dress?”

“No. I want you to purchase three dresses for yourself. One for the next three evenings of the game.” Aiko pulled open the door, but Scarlett did not cross its threshold.

A funny thing happens when people feel as if they are paying less for something than they ought: suddenly the worth goes down. Scarlett had glimpsed the book so she knew it was valuable—this had to be some sort of trick. “What are you getting out of this? What do you really want from me?”

“I’m an artist. I don’t like that your gown has a mind of its own.” Aiko’s nose wrinkled as she looked over Scarlett’s dress, which appeared to still be in mourning: it had even managed to sprout a small dark train. “When it gets

emotional, it changes, but anyone who opens the pages of my book might not know that. They’d just think I’d made a mistake, giving you a new gown mid- scene. I also despise the color black.”

Scarlett wasn’t a fan of black either. It reminded her of too many unpleasant emotions. And, it would be nice to have more control over her clothes. But since she could stay only two more nights, at the most, there was no need for three dresses.

“I’ll do it for two dresses,” Scarlett said. Aiko’s eyes shined like black opals. “Done.”

Silver bells chimed as the girls stepped into the shop. They made it two feet before encountering a hanging, jewel-encrusted sign that said: Thieves Will Be Turned to Stone.

Below the beautiful warning, a young woman made of granite stood frozen in place, her long hair flowing behind as if she’d been trying to run.

“I know her,” Scarlett muttered. “She was pretending to be pregnant last night.”

“Don’t worry,” Aiko said. “She’ll be back to normal once Caraval is over.”

A piece of Scarlett felt as if she should pity the girl, but it was overshadowed by the thought that Legend had a sense of justice after all.

Beyond the granite girl, every creation in the shop glimmered with Caraval magic. Even the garish ones that looked like parrot feathers or holiday packages with too many bows.

Tella would adore this, thought Scarlett.

But it seemed the enchanted dress Scarlett wore didn’t like the shop at all. Every time she selected something, her gown would shift as if to say, I can look like that too.

Finally, she settled on a gown of cherry-blossom pink, oddly reminiscent of the first garment her magical dress had formed into. Full of tiered skirts, but with a bodice lined in buttons instead of bows.

At Aiko’s insistence she also chose a more modern, corsetless gown. Sleeves that dipped off her shoulders attached to a sweetheart neckline lined with champagne and pale-orchid beadwork—the colors of infatuation. The

ornamentation grew denser as it trailed down a slightly flared skirt, which ended in a graceful train that was very impractical but terribly romantic.

“No returns or exchanges,” said the shopgirl, a shiny-haired brunette who looked no older than Scarlett. She made her statement without emotion, yet as Scarlett stepped closer she had a prickly sort of feeling that told her she’d reached the point in the game that marked no returns as well.

In front of her, a pincushion, along with an equal-arm brass scale, sat on the edge of a polished mahogany counter. The scale’s pan for the goods was empty but the tray for weights contained an object that looked disturbingly close to a human heart. Scarlett had the alarming vision of her own heart being taken from her chest and placed on the empty pan.

The shopgirl continued, “For the dresses, that will be your worst fear and your greatest desire. Or you can pay using time.”

“Time?” Scarlett asked.

“We’re having a deal. Tonight it’s only two days of your life per dress.” The brunette spoke matter-of-factly, the same as if she were asking for ordinary coins. But Scarlett felt sacrificing four days of her life was no simple matter. She knew she shouldn’t have been keen to give up her secrets, either, but her fear and desire had been used against her already.

“I’ll answer your questions,” Scarlett said.

“When you’re ready,” the shopgirl instructed, “remove your gloves and hold the base of the scale.”

A few of the shop’s other patrons pretended not to watch while Aiko looked on eagerly from the edge of the counter. Scarlett wondered if this was perhaps what Aiko was really after. Of course, if she’d been watching Scarlett, she should have already known her answers.

Scarlett took off her gloves. The brass felt surprisingly warm and soft under Scarlett’s fingers. Fleshy, almost, as if it were a living thing. Her hand grew clammy and the surface grew slick.

“Now say your greatest fear,” the shopgirl prompted.

Scarlett cleared her throat. “My greatest fear is that something bad will happen to my sister, and I won’t be able to protect her.”

The brass scale creaked. Scarlett watched with marvel as the chains shifted and the side containing the heart slowly rose while the empty pan mysteriously lowered until the two were perfectly even.

“It’s always nice when it works,” said the shopgirl. “Now, let go.”

Scarlett did as instructed, and the scale reset, returning to an unbalanced state.

“Now grab hold again and tell me your greatest desire.”

Scarlett’s hands didn’t sweat this time, though the scale still felt too alive for her liking. “My greatest desire is to find my sister, Donatella.”

The scale shook. Chains rattled gently. But the side with the heart remained firmly weighed down.

“There’s something wrong with the scale,” Scarlett said. “Try again,” said the shopgirl.

“My greatest desire is to find my younger sister, Donatella Dragna.” Scarlett squeezed the stem of the scale, but it made no difference. The empty pan and heart both remained unmoved.

She squeezed harder, but this time the scale didn’t even wobble. “All I want is to find my sister.”

The shopgirl grimaced. “I’m sorry, but the scale never lies. I’ll need another answer, or you can pay with two days of your life.”

Scarlett turned to Aiko. “You’ve been watching me; you know finding my sister is all I want.”

“I believe it’s something you want,” Aiko said. “But there are many things to want in life. It’s not a bad thing if there are other things you desire a little more.”

“No.” Scarlett’s knuckles were turning white—the game was playing with her. “I would die for my sister!”

Chains rattled and the scale moved again, balancing until it evened out. This statement was true. Unfortunately, this was not a viable form of payment.

Scarlett ripped her hands away before she was robbed of any more secrets. “So, two days of your life it will be,” said the shopgirl.

Scarlett felt as if she’d been tricked. This must be what they had been after all along. She thought about backing out. Giving up two days of her life left her with a feeling of indescribable unease; the same sensation she experienced whenever she made a deal with her father. But if Scarlett backed out now, it would further prove finding her sister was not what she desired most. She wouldn’t get a glimpse into Aiko’s secret notebook, either.

“If you take two days of my life, how does it work?” asked Scarlett.

The shopgirl pulled out a miniature sword from her pincushion. “Slice your finger with the tip of this, then squeeze three drops of blood over the scale.” She pointed to the shriveled heart.

“If you want, I can cut it for you,” Aiko said. “Sometimes it’s easier to let someone else wound you.”

But Scarlett had had enough of other people hurting her.

“No, I can do it myself.” She ran the tiny sword over the tip of her ring finger.

Drip drip drip.

Only three dots of blood, yet Scarlett felt each one, and the pain went beyond her finger. It was as if a hand dug nails into her heart and squeezed. “Is this supposed to hurt?”

“A little light-headedness is normal. You didn’t expect losing two days of your life to be painless, did you?” The shopgirl laughed as if it were a joke.

“I’ll let you take the buttoned dress now,” she went on, “but the beaded gown won’t be delivered until two days from now, once your payment is fulfilled. After that—”

“Wait,” Scarlett interrupted. “Did you just say you want my debt paid now?”

“Well, it’s not going to do me any good next week, once the game is over, is it? But don’t worry, I won’t take the full payment until the sun is up, which gives you enough time to get somewhere safe.”

Somewhere safe?

“I think there’s been a mistake.” Scarlett gripped the edges of the counter. Was it just her imagination or had the heart in the scale started beating? “I thought I’d lose two days at the end of my life.”

“How should I know when your life is going to end?” The shopgirl chuckled, a harsh sound that seemed to make the world quake beneath Scarlett’s feet. “Don’t worry, as long as nothing happens to your body, you’ll come back to life at dawn on the eighteenth just fine.”

That was only two days before her wedding. Scarlett fought against a new surge of panic. It came in shades of hemlock green—the color of poison and terror. She had only lost three drops of blood, but it felt as if she were hemorrhaging. “I can’t die for two days—I need to leave in two days!”

If Scarlett died now, she’d never be able to find her sister and make it home in time for her wedding. And what if someone else, like Dante, found her sister while she was dead? Or the game ended early and Tella found Scarlett dead? The field of Scarlett’s vision was narrowing, going black around the edges.

Aiko and the shopgirl exchanged a look Scarlett didn’t like. Still gripping the shiny counter, she turned to Aiko. “You tricked me—”

“No I didn’t,” Aiko said. “I didn’t know you wouldn’t be able to answer the questions.”

“But I did answer the questions,” Scarlett tried to yell, but the effects of her trade were growing stronger, dulling her senses, making the world feel thicker, while she felt thinner. Powerless. “What happens if someone harms my body?”

Aiko grabbed Scarlett’s arm to steady her as she swayed. “You need to get back to your inn.”

“No—” Scarlett tried to protest. She couldn’t go back to La Serpiente; it was Julian’s day to use the room. But now Scarlett’s head felt like a balloon, trying to detach from her shoulders.

“You need to get her out of here.” The shopgirl cast a sharp glance at Scarlett. “If she dies on the street she’ll probably find herself buried underground.”

Scarlett’s horror spiked, turning shades of quicksilver. Her hearing was almost as fuzzy as her vision, but she could have sworn it sounded as if the girl wished this might happen. Something acidic and moldy and burnt bubbled up through Scarlett’s throat—the taste of death.

She barely felt strong enough to stand, let alone walk all the way back to the inn. When she woke, she’d have to choose between finding her sister—or leaving to make it back to Trisda in time for her wedding. Scarlett knew it might come down to this, but she wasn’t ready to make the choice yet. And what would Julian do if he returned to their room and found her dead body?

“Scarlett!” Aiko shook her again. “You need to stay alive until you make it to safety.” She pushed Scarlett toward the door and shoved a sugar cube inside her mouth. “So you’ll have the strength. Don’t stop walking no matter what.”

Scarlett’s leaden legs quaked with lines of sweat. She could barely stand; she wouldn’t make it back. Aiko’s sugar had dissolved into rot in her mouth. “Why can’t you walk with me?”

“I have places I need to be,” said Aiko. “But don’t worry, I’ll keep my word. When someone takes days of your life, your body dies, but your mind exists in a sort of dream world. Unless your body is destroyed.”

Again, Scarlett tried to ask what would happen in that case, but her words came out garbled, as if she’d bitten them into pieces before spitting them out. She swore the whites of Aiko’s eyes shifted to black as she said, “You’ll be fine as long as you make it back to your room. I’ll find you in the dream world and show you my book.”

“But”—Scarlett swayed—“I usually forget my dreams.”

“This you will remember.” Aiko steadied her, and thrust another sugar cube into her mouth. “But you must promise not to tell anyone. Now”—Aiko gave Scarlett a final shove as she put the cherry-blossom dress in her hands

—“get out of here before you die.”

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