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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Read Online (FREE)

Nina smoothed her hands over the ridiculous costume. “I’m about to be very popular.”

“I wonder what Matthias would have to say about that outfit.”

“He wouldn’t approve.”

“He doesn’t approve of anything about you. But when you laugh, he perks up like a tulip in fresh water.”

Nina snorted. “Matthias the tulip.”

“The big, brooding, yellow tulip.”

“Are you ready?” Nina asked as they pulled their hoods far down over their faces.

“Yes.” Inej said, and she meant it. “We’ll need a distraction. They’re going to notice four girls went in and only two are coming out.”

“Leave it to me. And watch your hem.”

As soon as they opened the door to the hallway, the guards were waving them over impatiently. Beneath her cape, Nina flicked her fingers hard. One of the guards bleated as her nose began to gush blood down the front of her uniform in absurdly forceful gouts. The other guard recoiled, but in the next instant, she clutched her stomach. Nina was twisting her wrist in a roiling motion, sending waves of nausea through the woman’s system.

“Your hem,” Nina repeated calmly.

Inej barely had time to gather up her cape before the guard bent double and heaved her dinner over the tiled floor. The guests in the hallway shrieked and shoved at each other, trying to get away from the mess. Nina and Inej sailed by, emitting appropriate squeals of disgust.

“The nosebleed probably would have done the trick,” whispered Inej.

“Best to be thorough.”

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d think you liked making Fjerdans suffer.”

They kept their heads down and entered the swell of people filling the rotunda, ignoring the Zemeni fawn who tried to direct them to the other side of the room. It was essential that they not get too close to any of the real Menagerie girls. Inej only wished the cloaks weren’t so easy to track through a crowd.

“This one,” Inej said, steering Nina into a line far from the other members of the Menagerie. It seemed to be moving a bit faster. But when they reached the front of the line, Inej wondered if she’d chosen poorly. This guard seemed even more stern-faced and humorless than the others. He held his hand out for Nina’s papers and scrutinized them with cold blue eyes.

“This description says you have freckles,” he said in Kerch.

“I do,” said Nina smoothly. “They’re just not visible right now. Want to see?”

“No,” the Fjerdan said icily. “You’re taller than described here.”

“Boots,” Nina said. “I like to be able to look a man in the eye. You have very pretty eyes.”

He looked at the paper, then took in her ensemble. “You’re heavier than it says on this paper, I’ll wager.”

She shrugged artfully, the scales of her neckline slipping lower. “I like to eat when I’m in the mood,” she said, puckering her lips shamelessly. “And I’m always in the mood.”

Inej struggled to keep a straight face. If Nina resorted to eyelash batting, she knew she would lose the fight and burst out laughing. But the Fjerdan seemed to be eating it up. Maybe Nina had a stupefying effect on all stalwart northerners.