Chapter 14: Xander
The Plague is now in its third month. Xander receives a new group of patients at the medical center. One is experiencing an atypical rash that extends around his torso. Xander calls in a virologist, who says that a mutation of the virus is possible if a selective pressure was applied, perhaps in the form of the cure. He has Xander take a blood sample to analyze for abnormalities. At this point, the head physic insists that Xander take a break.
Lei approaches Xander as he eats his lunch in the courtyard. He tells her about the new, acute form of the rash. He also says that his “other name” is Xander, and she tells him that hers is Nea. They talk about their Matches for a moment. Lei likes how hers is never afraid. Xander finds it difficult to talk about Cassia and doesn’t say much. Lei comments that taking care of people comes naturally to Xander, likening him to a particular kind of fish she knows that swims upstream each year until it reaches home. Xander wants to tell her how he came by the extra blue tablets for Cassia, but heads back to work instead.
In a flashback, Xander meets a strange man behind the public pool in Mapletree Borough. The man instructs Xander to use a syringe to draw blood from a number of waiting people to make tissue preservation samples for them to keep. Though reluctant to be a part of a black market deal, Xander does. When he finishes, the man gives him the tablets. Back home, Xander uses a scalpel to carefully cut into the foil backing of the tablets and insert the papers with his microcard information on them. The next morning, Ky is taken from the borough.
In real time, Xander returns to work and he and a nurse find another large rash on the back of one of the patients. When Xander reports this to the head physic, he’s contacted by the virologist, who confirms that they have a mutation on their hands.
Chapter 15: Cassia
Cassia’s hub of artwork sharing has acquired the name The Gallery. People come from all over to present their creations. One woman carves and chars wood and presses it into paper to make images. A former Official creates his own unique, colorful clothing. Dalton comes with many homemade sculptures. When she has time, Cassia teaches some people how to write. There is a rumor that someone that night will sing for everyone.
An Archivist approaches Cassia and surprises her not with a message or trade item, but a story that he’s written to contribute to the Gallery. He says that people have been bringing their art for trade and he’s been sending them on to Cassia. He’s heard rumor that the Plague has mutated and wanted to write down his story before he ran out of time. Cassia thinks about the end of her message to Xander, in which she told him that he shouldn’t wait for her anymore, and that she hopes he finds a love of his own.
Chapter 16: Ky
Ky and Indie climb into an older air ship and await instruction. Indie alludes to training to be a fighter after the Plague has been eradicated, though Ky doesn’t plan to. Their assignment comes and they’re surprised to learn they’ll be bringing the cure to Oria Province, where Ky used to live. From the sky above it, Ky attempts to show Indie the Hill where he and Cassia fell in love, but is horrified to discover that it’s has been destroyed to the point of being entirely brown and bare.
On the ground, they discover a carving in the hull of the ship depicting what Indie describes as people “drinking the sky” (p. 184). Caleb denies having drawn it. Indie confronts Caleb about what he’s been carrying back onto the ship after each cure deposit. He refuses to disclose it, saying that if she and Ky were supposed to know, they would. Indie cuts deep by telling him that the Pilot doesn’t think of Caleb as his own kin, the way they all so desperately want him to.
Later, in a field near the camp, Indie and Ky discuss making an admittedly futile run for Central. Indie believes she flew with the Pilot during training, describing his flying abilities as akin to drinking the sky like the illustration in the ship. Ky asks Indie to smile and she does, beautifully. Ky reminds her that he’s in love with Cassia, but Indie nonetheless steals a kiss from him, and says she’s “not sorry” for having done so (p. 187). Ky describes it as completely different from kissing Cassia.
Chapter 17: Cassia
A trader coming into the Archivists’ hiding place is met by a horde of flashlights shining in her face, including Cassia’s. The Head Archivist accuses the girl of having cheated the system by dropping off a client’s item for trade and then pocketing both the items given in return instead of completing the transaction. The Archivist tells her that her dishonesty has undermined their operation. The girl attempts to defend herself but is stripped of her red trader’s bracelet and made to leave.
The Head Archivist brings Cassia into a huge room full of shelves upon shelves of artifacts. These are the Archives for which the Archivists are named. The Head Archivist shows Cassia a case full of chocolate, and another of silver. She explains how coins and notes were used as currency before the Society, which Cassia doesn’t quite understand. She then asks, rather subtly, if Cassia possesses any blue tissue sample tubes to trade, saying that many people consider them very valuable and would be willing to trade a lot for them. Cassia tells her she doesn’t have any. The Archivist then praises Cassia for the creation of the Gallery, though she concedes that everything she’s doing “has been done before, and better” (p. 197).
As Cassia later approaches the Gallery, she hears a woman and man singing. Their song’s conclusion is met with great applause. They sing another and everyone joins in, even Cassia. She begins dancing and wishes that Ky and even Xander were there to share in the moment.
Chapter 18: Xander
The hospital has received a concerning influx of new patients. Many of them show symptoms of the mutation. One patient experiences a sudden internal rupture and dies, bewildering the medics. They, along with the head physic, conclude that a significant portion of the population is still at risk because many patients grew ill after receiving their cures. Xander’s hospital wing is immediately quarantined. The virologist attempts to flee the wing before its implementation, but Xander tackles him to the ground and argues that they have to avoid exposing the population if they’re infected. Together, they reach the conclusion that those with a red scar near their neck have already experienced the pre-mutation version of the virus and so will not get sick. Those without the scar are still at risk. The virologist has Xander inspect his neck and learns he doesn’t have the mark. Xander doesn’t want to inspect his own neck. The virologist desires to flee to the stone villages beyond the Provinces, but Xander’s never heard of such a place. New to seeing patients die, the virologist is scared he himself may die. Xander is as well.
New personnel are ordered in to help with the mutated patients. Xander finds Lei in the courtyard and tells her about the red mark indicating immunity and a lack of one indicating a risk to exposure. She doesn’t quite understand, and when he likens the changing mutation to the changing fish she described earlier, she corrects him that the fish don’t change, they just adapt and are not gone. They inspect one another’s necks. Xander sports the red mark and so is safe. Lei, though, does not. Xander touches her neck with sorrow and she grasps his hand in hers.
Chapter 14-18 Analysis
In this section of the novel, the reader begins to see the inevitable complications that come with the Rising’s attempt to assume control of the Provinces. Though the virus and cures were both meticulously administered to bring down the Society without loss of life, their hubris has brought about a natural mutation that causes a death, something not often heard of in the Society. This foreshadows the dark events still to come in which the Rising loses further control of their plan to hold dominion, however much more lenient than the Society’s, over the Provinces.
A key theme of creation and originality is brought to the forefront of the plot with the erection of Cassia’s Gallery. While in the past she has only dreamed of being able to write, sing, dance, and the like, her efforts to bring these abilities to her community quickly flower into a hub of creativity and happiness. This exemplifies a concrete improvement in the citizens’ everyday lives as a result of the transition of power from the Society to the Rising.
Chapter 16 gives us the most significant turn in Ky and Indie’s relationship yet as their relationship peaks with a stolen kiss. Much is revealed in this singular moment. Though Ky has demonstrated genuine curiosity for Indie’s love, his immediate reaction that kissing her is nothing like kissing Cassia demonstrates his heart’s true allegiance to the latter. This parallels Cassia’s tempting feelings for Xander and her ultimate decision to still give her love to Ky. Indie’s declaration that she’s not sorry for having kissed Ky sticks true to her rebellious, unapologetic nature and reveals her desire not for something lasting but simply momentarily significant.
And we similarly see such a desire in Xander and Lei at the end of Part Three when they share a very brief moment of intimacy in holding on another’s hands upon learning that Lei is not safe from the mutation. Much is foreshadowed here: the possibility of a stronger relationship between the two, as well as Lei’s potential fate as a victim of the plague and Xander’s as a survivor. Like Ky and Indie, their relationship continues to shift and grow, but unlike the former pair, theirs has not yet hit a peak of emotional intensity.