A claw scratched a line across the porcelain of Shard's wrist, drawing out a vibrating, discordant note.
"You could have taken my offer," Cuts crooned, letting the sound vanish into the thick dark around them. "You could have stayed my cripple-toy."
How many times has she had this realization, Shard asked herself, weak beyond motion? How many times did she have to see that she has always had the choice to stop, to walk away? How many times did she have to be surprised at the event of her fall?
A chisel ground against a whet-stone. A sturdy steel table awaited.
But also never again.
"Mother wants you alive."
Though it was a cold comfort, it pleased Shard to finally understand what it was that she had been missing all those times. What she had failed to account for, every time she slipped and fell, always lower.
"But you have taught us well, dear sister."
Shard thought of Ifi, and of every single promise she had made to her and broken before her. She could only hope that someone else would take care of the alchemist, and better than she ever could. As for herself…
"You showed us that we do not die easily."
As for herself, the truth was that now, as before, she deserved everything that was coming to her.
"So we have time."