Chapter 26 - Passage Through Time
"Damn girl, that's a lot of coffee." Julia spluttered said coffee (admittedly it was her seventh cup) all over her paper work, and then spent a few flustered moments trying desperately to save her files.
Giving up with a sigh, Julia glanced up to find Adelphia's amused face smirking down at her, an expression rather reminiscent of Kata.
"Adelphia? What are you doing here?" Adelphia rolled her eyes, cleared one of Julia's filing cabinets of papers and perched herself on top of it, cross legged, while Julia eyed the mess of work on the floor with a resigned eye.
"Well, Saya's asleep. So I figured it wouldn't be too long before you came looking for answers." Julia gazed at her for a few moments, a calculating frown on her face.
"So you decided to turn up and get it over and done with?" Adelphia grinned a little, the expression for some reason quite soft, if marred by a darker, unnameable edge.
"This isn't something I want to dwell on, Dr Silverstein." Adelphia replied in a murmur, ignoring Julia's startled jump when she noticed Nathan in the shadows, leaning against the wall, arms crossed, as he turned his head and fixed her with a dark stare. She shivered, glancing back to Adelphia as the soft evening light suddenly seemed a lot colder.
When Julia reached for her phone in a hesitant movement, Adelphia's lips curved, but she wasn't smiling. Instilled with a sense of sudden rash bravery, Julia dialled the Omoro, while Adelphia simply watched, her face impassive.
Her expression didn't change much when Kai, David, Lewis, Solomon, Hagi and all three of the Schiff turned up, gazing at them shrewdly as they entered the room and hesitantly placed themselves around it, David approaching Julia with a concerned glance at Adelphia.
"What is it?"
"Adelphia agreed to answer my questions, I thought you all might want to hear." Julia explained, speaking to David but her eyes fixed warily on Adelphia, whose body language was relaxed, but unnaturally still in a way that unnerved them all.
"Silly child. Don't be frightened, I'm not going to hurt you." Adelphia murmured, something in her eyes shifting suddenly, her voice carrying a timbre that very abruptly reminded them all of her great age. The weight of all the years they were now remembering she must have seen seemed to be settling themselves around her. "They can listen. I know they would have found out eventually anyway. I have only one condition." They all turned to look at her as her mismatched eyes brightened just beyond the realm of natural light.
"You must not say a word of this to Saya, or Hibiki, or Kanade. Ever." The words hung in the air, weighted with unspoken threats.
"Why?" Solomon voiced what everyone had begun to wonder; his voice soft and unassuming. Adelphia's eyes shifted back to normal as she looked around at them.
"Reasons upon reasons. There are things I do not want my sister knowing, not yet. Things that when they do hear of them, must come from my mouth, when I feel that they are ready, and when I feel I am ready. There is much difference between telling this story to acquaintances, who judge you daily no matter what, and telling it to your family." The difference in her speech patterns, in her manner and words, did not escape any of them, but they didn't comment on it.
"Okay." Lewis shrugged, his face amicable. "I won't tell." One by one, the rest of them agreed to Adelphia's request; last of all Kai, whose reluctance was obvious, but he agreed as well.
"So, where do you want to start?" Adelphia asked, a small smirk playing across her lips as she met Julia's gaze. Her message was clear; you are in charge of this. Julia coughed nervously, clearing her throat before taking a breath, grabbing a notepad and pen.
"You said that you were an artificial chiropteran, created from the DNA of Saya and Diva's mother and aunt, correct?"
"Correct." Her voice was soft, but still carrying that ancient tone.
"How… When did that happen?" Julia debated for a second, before settling on a simpler question. Adelphia eyed her for a moment.
"Well… I was created in 1863, in a lab in Russia…"
The small bundle of cells shifted, the light playing off their translucent surfaces and giving the whole tube an eerie glowing colour.
"This one is it, then?" The man was gazing at the test tube, his face hard and unreadable as he watched the cells. Another man, more timid in his demeanour and clothed in a white laboratory coat that nearly dwarfed his wiry frame, nodded and pushed his glasses up his nose with sweaty fingers, the other hand gripping a clipboard.
"Yes. This was the only successfully embryo. The rest perished." The man didn't react to the news, his eyes still raking greedily over the test tube.
"How many did we try this time?"
"Seventy. Over three-hundred have failed thus far." The scientist answered, and the other man swore quietly at the numbers.
"Then what is different about this one? Why is this one so… determined to live…?" He wondered, but the scientist remained silent until he turned and looked at him questioningly.
"Uh, we don't know. According to our charts, there is nothing different in its DNA, or any of the other factors."
"I see. Then it is… perhaps a will to live, that the others were lacking."
"Perhaps, sir." The man splayed his hand across the glass, staring intensely at the life behind the glass. As if aware of his scrutiny, the movement of the cells dividing and growing seemed to accelerate, as if the barely-formed body was squirming under his gaze.
"Keep me updated on its progress. I want to hear every single thing, every change in numbers, every last detail, you understand?" When the scientist nodded his agreement frantically, the man smiled a little, removing his hand from the glass and leaving a dark, smudged handprint behind. "Continue with the other experiments also, but make this your priority. I want this to succeed this time, Jones." Dr Jones stammered, reassuring and agreeing in equal measures until the man left the room, the steel doors sliding shut behind him.
His mouth stretched into a grin as he strode down the corridors, his dark grey slacks rustling with his movement, before he raised a hand to his ear.
"Inform the President that Project ExeT23 has been successful." There was a crackle of static that echoed slightly around the empty, narrow stone hallway.
"Affirmative. Transitioning into Project ARb25, stages 1-3."
Adelphia paused when Julia dropped her pen with a clatter, her eyes widening.
"Project ExeT23? !" She blurted, and Adelphia tilted her head, appraising the doctor curiously.
"I did wonder if you'd heard of it. It's bandied about quite a bit in the upper levels of chiropteran research, in the US especially, though very few people actually know what it is."
"You've heard of it?" David asked, and Julia nodded, her gaze un-focusing slightly in that way it always did when her mind was focused and whirring.
"Yes. I came across it when I was working with Amshel… Argeno mentioned it to me; Experimental Trial 23."
"I've heard of it also... though I, too, never knew what it entailed exactly." Solomon joined the conversation, his expression equally thoughtful.
"So what is it?" Kai asked, turning to look at Adelphia once more, whose expression had turned slightly disgusted.
"How ridiculous. I should have guessed Amshel would have liked to drop it into conversation… and doubtless had people looking for information on it while he did, but I know for a fact he never got near those files. He didn't know what it was either, ignorant bastard." She muttered, before shaking herself a little.
"Project ExeT23 was a process implemented by the US government, and backed by most of the political powers in the world, to deal with the threat of the chiropterans. There were of course many ways of killing chiropterans, but often they were impractical and expensive, and caused unacceptable levels of collateral damage in most cases, so they looked for another weapon. That was how researchers stumbled across the matter of blood killing opposites. They tried inserting blood into bullets and weapons, but to no avail. As I'm sure you know, it has to be fresh. So they began to look elsewhere; into the idea of living weapons.
"They captured a queen." All of the assembled listeners stiffened at that, before Lewis voiced the question; unusually sombre.
"One of her chevaliers betrayed her." Nathan said softly; causing them all to jump; most of them having forgotten that he was there at all. Adelphia scrutinised him through narrowed eyes, but didn't comment; returning back to her own story with a shrug.
"Well, they captured a queen. Saya and Diva's aunt, Ariella."
"You know their names?" Solomon asked, and Adelphia's eyes dropped, Nathan's expression closing off.
"Yes. Adeline and Ariella. Theirs is a story I am less familiar with… and it is not one that should be told to those who are not family."
"That story has not seen the light of day for… so many years…" Nathan murmured, his gaze settling on his queen in such a way that they knew he was speaking to her and her alone. "Perhaps, soon…"
"Soon." She agreed, softly, meeting his gaze briefly before looking back to the rest of them.
"They captured Ariella, but they found that this meant they could only kill half of the chiropterans populating the earth… and even if they could use her to kill Adeline, they couldn't use her to kill the chiropterans she herself had created."
"Wait, how on earth could they make her do that?" Kai interrupted, and Adelphia's expression immediately hardened.
"There are ways of getting people to… cooperate, no matter their strengths." She muttered, the almost fragile nature of her voice warning them away from the topic for now.
"They devised a weapon; a chiropteran pureblood, artificially created and suited to their needs, with the ability to kill both chiropteran bloodlines; red and blue. If red killed blue, and blue killed red, then what they needed was purple." Adelphia explained, ignoring the frowns she received for her analogy of colours.
"How does that work…?" Julia muttered, eyes glazed again as she thought through the process. Adelphia raised an eyebrow.
"The science behind that is more complicated and time consuming than I can be bothered to deal with right now, so if you don't mind." At a nod from Julia, Adelphia continued.
"They began to search out the other queen, determined to create this weapon, and eventually they found Adeline's mummified form, in the Zoo, in France. They took only a small sample from her, which is most likely why Joel never noticed the theft. But from that they could extract the DNA, and that was all they needed."
"So Project ExeT23 was the final stages of this plan; the forced creation of these mutant embryos of mixed DNA." They all started at the bitterness in Adelphia's voice when she said this, her voice spitting out the words as if they physically pained her. "Only one survived, and so the Project moved into its next stage; ARb25; or as they used to call it in the labs, 'Arbalest'.
The same man; aged slightly by five years but otherwise exactly the same; right down to his over-polished shoes and well-cut suit, stood in the same place that he stood when he last visited in person, his hands clasped behind his back.
This time however, the chamber he stood in was lighter, filled with more activity; more panels of glowing lights, the technology slightly more advanced, more men in white coats bustling around the room, but the man at his shoulder, clutching his clipboard, was the same; his name tag reading 'Dr Jones'.
"Isn't it magnificent?" He asked. Another thing that had changed; the success of his project had instilled in Dr Jones a quiet confidence that he had been previously lacking, but the man didn't care; his gaze was once more fixed upon the slightly luminescent tube in front of him.
"It is." He reached up a hand one more, placing it reverently on the glass as he mimicked his actions from so many years ago; his eyes once more riveted by the object contained in the test tube.
Rather than a bundle of barely formed cells, a much more recognisable creature floated in the liquid; small, but undeniably humanoid; pale limbs, delicate features, an undeveloped, child's body mostly concealed by long, thick locks of dark hair which were wafting slightly from tiny movement caused by its breathing.
For the creature was undeniably not dead; contained as it was in liquid, pale and lifeless as it appeared, it breathed, it… lived, for want of a better word. Its eyes moved behind its closed lids, its chest expanded with the movement of its lungs, its fingers twitched with phantom movements caused by shreds of dreams.
Covering the lower half of its fine-boned face was a plastic mask, with a long tube twisting up through the liquid like an unnatural mimicry of an umbilical cord. It was feeding air along it and to the creature's mouth; pale, nearly colourless lips were slightly parted as the stale air was drawn in and then expelled; a few bubbles escaping around the edge of the mask.
"How long until it can be awoken?" He asked, and Dr Jones pushed his glasses up his nose, glancing at his clipboard to reaffirm the information he had already memorised.
"About ten to twelve weeks. We've been speeding up its growth so it can be functional as soon as possible, but there will be a period where it has to adjust to a more normal aging rate. Once it reaches adolescence, it should stop aging like it's originals." Dr Jones explained, and the man made a thoughtful noise.
"Physically, what is its human age?"
"Around eight or nine years." With a brisk nod, the man turned on his heel and strode from the room, leaving as abruptly as he had arrived with a parting; "Notify me when you wake it up. I want to be here."
"That was when I found her." Nathan's soft voice made everyone but Adelphia jump, as per usual. Kai blinked, a frown crossing his face, before Karman spoke.
"Wait, the… creature in the test tube, that was you! ?" He blurted, turning to look at Adelphia; whose gaze was on her knees, expression distant.
"Yes, that was me. But I was unaware of all of these happenings… the next part of this story is Nathan's." She murmured, her face closing off further as Nathan stepped forwards, his arm curling around his queen's side and for once not being pushed away, although she didn't exactly welcome it either.
"I had heard of Project ExeT23; I was aware of all forms of chiropteran research going on at the time, but I didn't pay particularly close attention to it until it transgressed into ARb25. It took several years to dig into that tangle of information properly; but I did it. When I found the location of the labs, I travelled there…"
He watched from the corner. The chamber was so cloaked in shadow that it was ridiculously easy for one of Nathan's abilities to hide himself in the darkness; and so he observed as the flow of people lessened, as the weak lights started to flicker out; circuits interrupted by a flick of a switch, until the room was empty.
The only light left was that faint, unnatural green glow from the test tube, a few winking lights around the base of the tube and the closest monitors belaying the mere dormant state of the machinery. The only movement was that faint expansion and contraction of pale skin, as it was stretched taut and then relaxed over small, rounded ribs, and that of Nathan himself as he crept forwards, his simple cloth boots making no noise on the cement floor.
He approached the tube warily, his eyes raking across the form that hung suspended in the liquid; a small child, maybe nine years old, with delicate, achingly familiar features that just balanced that odd line between Asian and European. Eurasian, in a way he hadn't seen for far too many years. Its eyes were shut; black lines of dark, feathered lashes rimming the bottom of its slightly creased eyelids. Its skin was pale; but not the porcelain he imagined it could be. This child had never seen the light of day, and the sallow tone of its cheeks, the watery, limpid, wet appearance of its skin belied that fact.
Its hair was raven black, it's dark colour not reduced in the slightest by the green tint of the liquid it was floating in spirals in; spread around the child's figure in mysteriously random eddies that were somehow as beautiful as they were wrong.
For Nathan had seen chiropteran purebloods.
He had seen them grow from cocooned infants to proud, young women, to gnarled, old beasts; still majestic in their own way. He had seen them injured, tired, insane, lust-driven, hungry. He had seen them happy in love, had seen them angry and betrayed, had seen them sad and alone; unreachable.
He had seen them dead.
But he had never seen one like this; never one whose presence, even when dormant, screamed 'wrong' like fire along his nerve endings, never one that appeared so dead and yet was still living.
He reached out a hand, touching it to the glass just left of where the man had placed his own upon each of his visits.
But unlike when the man had touched the test tube, Nathan's touch sparked a reaction in the creature inside the tank.
A shiver ran through its frame; barely noticeable, and yet it changed its entire demeanour.
All at once, it was very obvious that this creature lived. You didn't need to look for the flashing monitors, for the movement of its lungs. It was obvious in it's very being; thrumming with a sense of vitality. Nathan froze, but didn't move, cautiously watching the creature as more shivers seemed to run up its spine.
And then it opened its eyes.
They were unfocused, pupils dilated and skin instantly contracting around them when the liquid rushed in, but they were open. Nathan drew in a shocked breath as time slowed around them; the creature hanging in the water, still thrumming with that sense of life, eyes open, tube still twisting up through the liquid above its head, while Nathan stood frozen, his fingertips touched to the glass.
Nathan breathed out slowly, his touch on the glass becoming more firm as the creature blinked, eyes moving around the water before trying to focus on Nathan's form; blurred to it by liquid. It stared, eyes glowing; one red and one blue, and Nathan thought he might have a little more idea as to what exactly they had done.
He glanced down at the files, stacked in a haphazardly neat way on the desktop, eyes roving over the neat print; names and figures and numbers. All chemicals and statistics.
'It has been growing steadily'
'Blood sugar levels rose at 16:04, but it was not unduly affected'
'Its oxygen supply was increased'
'It it it it it it it it it'
Everywhere, 'it' this, 'it' that, levels and numbers; all clinical and unfeeling.
Nathan looked back up to the child, meeting its gaze.
"You're not an 'it'. You're a 'she', aren't you…" He murmured. She blinked at him. A footstep sounded in the hall outside.
When Dr Jones entered the lab, it was empty. Her eyes were shut.
"You never told me that." Adelphia stared up at Nathan, her mismatched eyes wide and mouth parted. He looked down at her, one corner of his mouth tilted upwards.
"Never told you what?" He asked, in the manner of someone who knows exactly what the answer to their question is, "I've told you how I first found you about two months before you were first awoken, haven't I?" Her eyes narrowed, and she shoved at him in exasperation, which quickly grew to irritated defeat when he refused to budge, his arm tightening around her waist.
"Yes, but you never told me that I opened my eyes and looked at you! I thought I was crazy when I remembered that!" Nathan gasped; a real gasp, for once quite without his usual flamboyancy and theatrics.
"You… you remember that?" He asked softly, and her expression settled.
"Yes." She replied, an odd frown crossing her face, before Lewis pointedly cleared his throat, grinning broadly, and Moses interrupted.
"What happened next?" Adelphia blinked at them owlishly, as if suddenly remembering that they were there, before shaking herself a little and continuing.
"Well, my memory actually properly starts here, when I was first awoken… Before that, all I really remember is that I was alone. All alone. Then- I guess it was you," She glanced at her chevalier. "Came to visit me. I just remember suddenly feeling someone… like me. I realised that I wasn't alone. The first few times I was 'awoken' forcefully I don't remember very clearly… people in white coats, needles, plugs… blue eyes and curly hair," She shot a glance at Nathan, who was looking absurdly pleased with himself, "It's all very hazy…"
The monitors beeped steadily, at odds with the frantic anticipation of the people surrounding the stainless steel table. The creature lay upon it, long dark hair still tangled around its frame, clothed in a thin, white hospital gown.
The man watched, breathless, as a flicker of something flashed across its face.
It was the fourth time the creature had been awoken; but the first time they were planning upon leaving it awake for more than a few temporary, experimental minutes.
The man stood behind the scientists, much as he wanted to be closer he did not possess the skill to take part in the procedure. It was remarkably similar to trying to persuade a coma-patient to wake up, only the coma was carefully controlled. Regardless, it would take a while before it was awake and functioning.
But five minutes later, it was blinking up at the ceiling, eyes unmoving, slow to respond to the light but bright and awake and- breathtaking. The very sum, the proof, of all he had worked for, all he had planned for; his achievement. The man pushed past the scientists, confident that it was safe to do so now, and stared down at it.
One red eye and one blue eye stared back at him, clear and blank; as yet un-tempered by any knowledge or emotion. Evidence of what he had managed to achieve.
"Do you understand me?" He asked it, as it was levered into a sitting position, not roughly but efficiently; no care or gentleness in those latex covered hands. Silently, it stared at him, before very slowly, almost experimentally, it nodded its head.
Perhaps this reaction should have worried him, coming from a creature supposedly designed as a weapon, but it was early days yet. It was expected; there was time for it to learn, and learn it would.
With a wide grin that was everything but happy, the man reached out and stroked a hand down its face, in much the same way he had touched the glass of its test tube so many times previously.
"Good. It is ready. My... Arbalest."
Adelphia's flow of words stopped, and an almost ringing silence hung over the assembled group. They had known from her revelations at the MET that Adelphia was artificial, in much the same way as Moses and the rest of the Schiff were, but none of them had fully processed what that really meant.
The only one who could have come close was perhaps Kai, having empathised with Irene's story so long ago, but even he hadn't connected that feeling with Adelphia. She seemed so strong, so in control, so… untouchable that the notion of her the weakness she was displaying in flickers now was foreign to all of them except Nathan.
"I may have to leave the room, little princess, or I might kill someone while you tell the next part." Nathan commented suddenly, although this time nobody jumped. Adelphia's mismatched eyes slid over to his, a small almost-smirk quirking her lips.
"You've already had your 'revenge', Nathan. You tore that man limb from limb, and the scientists too, and everyone who ever had a hand in my birth and… upbringing." Nathan growled, for once looking quite out of control. Like Adelphia, even upside down in the wrecked mess of a trailer he had always retained a cool composure, at least in front of them. To see him without it, to see both of them so human was jarring. Jarring because while Adelphia had shown more human vulnerability in her request of her sisters, and in the moment Diva died… it was different, somehow. More shocking, more like a slap to the face, in a way the shock of the MET's events hadn't allowed them to process.
"It's not nearly enough. Even if you do not feel it was necessary, I could slaughter the world and still it would not repay what they took from you." Nathan muttered lowly, only the sharpest ears in the room picking up his words. Adelphia didn't react.
"For those of you who are confused, what Nathan is referring to is my… name, amongst other things." Nathan hissed at that, but didn't interrupt. "They called me 'Arbalest' - it's a type of medieval crossbow, and as they viewed me as a weapon they were wielding… a weapon that they were ejecting into the action while staying safe behind the castle walls… I suppose they thought it was appropriate." Adelphia mused, gaze slightly unfocused.
"I didn't even know I was female until Nathan told me, I was simply an 'it'. I did not have a sense of 'I', but referred to myself as Arbalest or Arb. I am not human. Saya, Hibiki, Kanade, Diva, Nathan, Solomon, Hagi, the Schiff… none of us are human, but we are people. What I was… what Arbalest was was not a person. Arbalest was a weapon, nothing more." She looked up suddenly, eyes flickering between their faces with a sudden intensity.
"Did you know, that the people who fought with arbalests were called arbalists? And yet I was not even that… I was the inanimate object. The weapon."
The man smiled grimly, a hand cupping over his chin as he watched the scene in front of him.
Arbalest was magnificent. Truly magnificent.
He watched as it slashed its bloody way through the lumbering chiropterans. Experiments with Arbalests capabilities over the past three years had been fruitful, and it was now a fully functioning, chiropteran killing machine. Arbalest's blood was not quite as effective as the queen's against each other, the crystallisation effect slower, but that could be expected, given that it was a combination of both potent bloods in one body. As such, they had adjusted its fighting style to fit; chiropterans fell in pieces so small that they could not attack during the period Arbalest's blood took to fully turn them to stone.
Arbalest now appeared like a strangely evenly proportioned twelve or thirteen year old girl; skin pallid, as it mostly moved around at night, and dark hair worn in one long braid down its back. It was still growing, but that would cease soon and then, then their weapon would truly be complete.
Nathan watched with gritted teeth as the girl finally came to a halt. He'd lost count of how many of these 'hits' he had observed, how many times this child had been forced out onto the field, often still coated in the dried blood from her last mission.
He knew what they called her.
'Arbalest', the product of Project ARb25; a living weapon, made from combining the DNA of two chiropteran pureblood queens… without the neutralising effect of the chevalier, it should have been impossible.
The twins created when a chiropteran pureblood became pregnant, only possible by one of her opposing twin's chevaliers, were, genetically, near replicas of the previous generation. Each generation of queens were only slightly tempered by the influence of the chevalier who fathered them, but it was that slight difference that allowed the queens to keep reproducing, despite the opposite effects of their blood. The fact that their blood would crystallise upon contact was partly the reason that they always produced twins. The blood was too potent; it could not coexist.
To have forced that blood to run through the same veins… to have forced the opposites into one body… Nathan didn't know what would happen.
He had seen her charts - and he stubbornly kept referring to her as her, despite the fact Arbalest was an it to everyone who knew of Arbalest's existence - and Arbalest may be stable now, carefully controlled… he was both scared and eagerly anticipating what would happen when that balance was lost.
Her job finished, Arbalest stood calm and quiet, bloody sword by her side, as the cleaning crew moved in around her. She didn't react until her handler came up to her, instructed her to return to her bunk, no doubt. Then she simply sheathed her sword in the long, oblong package on her back, and retreated into the darkness.
Nathan watched from the shadows, thoughts tumbling over each other as he formed half-plans and calculations.
Arbalest sat on its bunk. Its eyes did not move from its blade as it smoothed a cloth over it.
'Kill the beasts, clean the blade, rest.'
That was all it had to do. Kill, clean and sleep. Every five hundred hours, it would be linked up to a tube system that fed blood into its system, leaving it energised. But it didn't have to do anything for that, just sit. Kill, clean and sleep.
It wasn't sure when the last time it had been clean was, but that didn't matter. Perhaps somebody would notice the smell, and then it would be instructed to clean, perhaps not. It didn't matter, as long as it could still kill.
It was instructed to clean so it could kill, to rest so it could kill. Everything, everything it did was to kill.
Somewhere, deep within Arbalest, there was a flicker of restlessness, a sense of frustration.
Arbalest knew what they thought of her; a blank doll for them to make kill over and over again. They weren't wrong. A few people were more aware; aware that it could think, to a certain extent, could process instructions, could differentiate and prioritise; kill was always the top priority. Other instructions, it could and would override if necessary, if it would mean killing more of them or more quickly. The next priority that took precedence over everything except kill was keep hidden, but kill came before that. It could analyse situations, it could think on its feet, in a small capacity.
But nobody knew that Arbalest was aware.
It was aware of its own existence, in a strange, convoluted and warped way. It knew it lived. It felt… emotions. Small, squashed and it wasn't able to name or process them. The melancholy heaviness that lay in its stomach, getting heavier with each kill. It took it a long time to figure out what that was; sadness.
Arbalest was sad that it had to kill.
It knew this and felt this, small and squished under all of the drugs and training and apathy, but it didn't know what to do about it; didn't know if it was something that it should act on.
Sometimes… when it was resting, sleeping, it dreamt. It wondered what it would be like to not be… Arbalest. That was what it was called, but it wasn't a name, not like theirs; a title, a label, but not a name.
And deep inside, Arbalest desperately wanted a name, and the meaning that came with it.
Oh god I'm so sorry about the updating time for this chapter, and the whole thing really. It's been about nine months since I last updated this, so I don't know whether anyone's still out there.
I think I've improved a lot in those nine months, so I hope you enjoy this chapter - consider it a little Christmas gift, if you like! I hope that updating time will be more regular, as I am very determined to finish this. I may be rewriting some of it in the future, but for now I'm focusing on finishing it.
Part of the next chapter has already been written, and I have the rest of it mapped out, so I hope anybody still reading looks forward to it!
Thank you so much to everybody who's read, reviewed, favourited and alerted this - I can't tell you how much that means to me. Thank you! X