Author's Note: Well, here it is. The last chapter! It's up a bit later than usual today, and I'm sorry for that, but life's been more stressful than usual since school started. This chapter is longer than all the others ones and I wanted to give it the attention it deserves. So with that, I hope you enjoy it, and see you at the end.

Chapter 26. The Choice.

"I've… I've got to go," Filia said, sitting up in bed and moving away from the hand that reached out to stroke her cheek.

Xellos withdrew his hand and looked at her somewhat coldly from his perch next to her. Finally he said: "Perhaps you didn't notice the fact that this isn't a table."

"I noticed," Filia said, getting out of bed. "…And I appreciate that," she felt moved to add at the disapproving look on his face. "But this is the last day of the summit."

"It is," Xellos said, as if this hardly mattered.

"There are things I've still got to do, and people I've still got to talk to," Filia said. "This'll be my last chance."

Xellos appeared to give this some grave consideration. "It might be," he said. "But then again, it might not."

Filia got his meaning and nodded. "Still, I've got a responsibility right now. I've got to go out there and act in the best traditions of the Dragon race." Because if I stayed here I certainly wouldn't be able to.

"The best traditions of the Dragon race include burning those weaker than them to a crisp and pounding religious mania into anything too stupid to resist," Xellos said calmly.

"No, those are the worst traditions of the Dragon race!" Filia snapped. "I'm talking about the good ones!"

"…You mean the ones you don't practice?" Xellos asked.

"Hmmph," Filia said to herself, moving toward the door. "It's never too late to start a new tradition."

"I suppose not," Xellos said.

There was a silence and Filia reached for the doorknob. Then Xellos said: "And you're going out there even now to complete your work. My, my, my…" he trailed off. "What a sense of professionalism you've acquired," he said, sounding as though this was slightly distasteful.

Filia hesitated at the door. Then she opened it and said: "…I'll be back."

"Ah," Xellos said, sounding as though he was cheering up. "So not completely professional, then?"

Filia had gone back to her room to gather some things together and change into clean clothes before braving the more public areas of the summit. She'd stopped by Rasmus's and Cleon's room… or, at least Cleon's room now, and found that Cleon was gone. She'd consulted with one of the summit guards and apparently Cleon was fine. He'd been taken down to the infirmary when he was discovered unconscious and he was sleeping it off.

Filia couldn't help but feel relieved… and not for any of the right reasons. Sure, she was relieved that Cleon was alright, but she'd pretty much expected him to be alright after the healing anyway. She was mostly relieved that he was sleeping and therefore she had an excuse to not talk to him yet. By all rights, she owed him an explanation for what had happened first, but she wasn't about to complain if she could put that off for a little while longer.

So she walked toward the bar down in the lobby. After all, it was nearly nine o'clock in the morning. The alcoholics would be positively parched. So she was sure to see some familiar faces.

"'Morning, Miss Filia," said alcoholic #1, otherwise known as the President of DASIS. He toasted her with something that definitely wasn't orange juice. "Heard there was a big broo-ha-ha with your clerk getting hurt or something yesterday," he said. "Someone try to kill you again?" he asked with only mild concern.

"Yes, Mister President," Filia admitted, walking past him. "But that's… taken care of now."

"Good, good," DASIS said jovially. "Can't stand the idea of assassins crawling around the place, myself." He then seemed to get distracted in search for some matches. His ceremonial outfit didn't seem to have any pockets. He eventually located them in his hat.

"Miss Filia!" a voice called out, as Filia was joined by the caller (Amelia) and a toothpick in a shocking green dress that could only be Gardenia.

"Are you alright?" Amelia asked worriedly. "We heard you disappeared last night and one of your advisors was hurt."

"I'm fine," Filia said comfortingly. "Some… pretty crazy things happened, and I'll tell you the whole story later," – when you don't have that fourteen year old brat trailing behind you – "but it's okay now."

Gardenia nudged Amelia in the ribs and Amelia looked down. "We uh… we heard lots of other rumors too," she said.

Courtesy of Rasmus's lack of indoor voice no doubt, Filia thought, rolling her eyes. Isn't it enough that he tried to kill me, restart the War of the Monsters Fall, and nearly transformed the world into a hallucinogenic nightmare? Does he have to ruin my reputation too?

"Oh," was all Filia could say.

"Rumors about you and… Mister Xellos," Amelia went on, sounding like she didn't really want to have this conversation.

"I see," Filia said, and wondered how long she'd be allowed to play it coy.

A fan snapped angrily open and Filia could see that Gardenia wasn't pleased with how Amelia was conducting this interview and planned on taking the reins. "There's one rumor where he offered you half his kingdom if you'd only sleep with him once. And there's this other one that says that you turned spy for him against your own people. Then there's this other one that says you two are actually secretly married, though that happened by some kind of accident and you—"

"Miss Gardenia!" Amelia said, cutting the girl off as Filia wondered where that last one had even come from. The rumor mill certainly seemed to be alive and well.

"We all know none of that's true. Right, Miss Filia?" Amelia said, waving her hands. But Filia recognized the tone. It went like this: 'Of course I know it's not true. I just would feel more comfortable if you'd tell me that for yourself. …Oh GOD it's true, isn't it? I knew it!'

And Filia might have confessed what had happened to Amelia. The girl seemed to half-expect it anyway (which struck Filia as a bit unnecessarily dirty-minded for a shrine-maiden and Princess of Seyruun), but she wasn't about to do it with Gardenia there.

"Ha," Garden said, fanning herself haughtily. "Of course it's true. Something romantic was bound to happen at this thing sooner or later."

Filia glared at Gardenia. "Now, listen here!" she said, hands on her hips. "This is a diplomatic summit, not that masquerade ball you wanted. It's not supposed to be romantic. It's not about moonlight encounters or secret liaisons. It's about policy, goodwill, and professionalism. The sooner you learn that the better you can serve your people. Because whatever crazy fairytale you've got floating around in your head: the truth is that no professional diplomat would do the kinds of things you're talking about."

Unless there were extenuating circumstances. And Xellos was practically the definition of extenuating circumstances.

…Anyway, it was the version of events that stupid girl needed to here.

Gardenia rolled her eyes. "Boring," she said.

Filia clenched her fist. Throttling teenage countesses was also not something a professional diplomat would do. And this time there were no extenuating circumstances.

"I've just seen someone I've got to talk to," Filia said, looking across the room. "See you again sometime, Miss Amelia."

"I hope so," Amelia said.

"Feel free to come around the shop," Filia said, as she walked across the room.

Admittedly, part of that had been to escape from Gardenia's insufferable… insufferableness. But Filia really had seen someone. It was someone she felt she owed a lot to, but someone she hadn't been sure if she'd be able to find. It was someone who was being spoon-fed applesauce.

"Commander Banner?" Filia said, as she approached the man in the wheelchair. "Could I speak with you for just a minute?"

"Alanis, my dear. The time is now!" Banner said through a gummy, applesauce-filled mouth.

"You can try," his nurse said, wiping the corner of his mouth with a napkin. "But he's really not at his best this time of day."

Filia took a knee so that she was closer to the old man's eye level. She said softly: "I think… you didn't knock over my glass by accident. I think you knew it was poisoned. Maybe…" she paused. "You're a military man, maybe people have tried the cowardly poisoning tactic on you too. Rasmus seemed to think you could smell the poison."

The old man smacked his lips noisily.

"Maybe you just knew it was poisoned, maybe you didn't see who did it," Filia said quietly. "You couldn't really do much to break character, otherwise people would know this is just an act."

"I think you should leave, Miss," the nurse said coldly. "I don't know what you're talking about and, frankly, you're going to get him overexcited with that kind of talk."

"I guess what I wanted to say is just…" Filia stood up and smoothed out the wrinkles in her dress. "Thanks for saving me."

There was a loud pause as Commander Banner sucked at one of his few remaining teeth before finally saying: "Well, gee, little lady, you're welcome for the fly-fishing lessons!"

It had been a long day of regards-giving. Or at least… attempted regards-giving. Arkon had basically shrugged off all her attempts. She was pretty sure she'd embarrassed him, which seemed to her to be quite an accomplishment.

But the day had been rough and it wasn't over. She'd had to give answers to questions that she wasn't even sure about. The rumors had been flying and, worse yet, some of them were accurate.

Lycristy had been one of the harder ones to talk to. She deserved to know about the Pro-Human League especially considering that she was their intended target. Lycristy wanted to go after the League, which was her own business. She wanted Filia to get the dragons to join her which was not. Filia had intended on the League getting what they deserved but… well, perhaps she was spending too much time in politics. You couldn't risk everything all because of some fringe group of idiots that couldn't plan and wasn't even that powerful. It was a cost-benefits assessment that you had to make.

Lycristy hadn't been pleased. She'd said that she'd hoped that the werewolves and the dragons could work together in the future. Filia insisted that this was still a possibility, just not in that way. Lycristy hadn't particularly cared for that answer either.

Filia sighed and leaned against the wall. If Xellos honestly thought for a minute that she'd rather have left than stayed with him then he was dead wrong. But there were things that needed to be done, and she wasn't even finished yet.

A wry smile crossed her face as she began walked toward her next destination. Xellos probably didn't think that at all, the smug bastard. In fact, he probably hadn't expected her to leave in the first place. What made it worse was knowing that she'd only really been able to leave by telling herself that she'd come back.

She reached the door she was looking for, knocked on it, and could swear she heard the swish of fans being set down and the jangle of a beaded curtain parting.

Once Lopa had told her numerous, suspiciously attractive and muscular bodyguards to get lost, she and Filia were soon around the table, each enjoying a cup of tea. Well, Filia's was plain tea, Lopa had put something in hers.

"Well, now," Lopa said, taking a sip of her tea and then pouring the remainder of a small unmarked bottle into the cup, "there have been so many rumors swirling around about you lately. Some more interesting than others."

Filia had a sneaking suspicion that the ones about the Daius Seed and Rasmus were not the more interesting ones that Lopa spoke of.

"You've made quite a splash here," Lopa said with her painted smile. "I hope you know what a good story can do in the business of politics. It'll certainly be interesting to have you around from now on."

Filia look down into her tea. "This was temporary, you know."

"Oh, but it surely doesn't have to be," Lopa said. "Couldn't you keep doing this? You could be good."

"Yes," Filia said. "I could be. But… do I want to?"

Lopa waved a hand. "Oh, trust me. It's not like it'd be like this all the time. Diplomacy is more like chess than bowling. You wouldn't have to deal with assassinations on a daily basis. Maybe every couple of months, but that's tops. Otherwise, it's a pretty good gig."

"You don't always think so," Filia said in a low voice.


"You said that you never asked to be loved," Filia said. "Isn't that… kind of sad?"

Lopa shrugged as though to indicate that there were many things in life that were more important than love such as fine wine, expensive parties, assorted gemstones, and your own personal masseuse.

"But Arkon loves you," Filia said softly.

Lopa gave an unladylike snort. "Arkon. I'm sure. The poor dear would've said anything to get away from your question!"

"But he does," Filia insisted.

"Oh, don't worry about it," Lopa said. "It doesn't bother me. He tricks me, I trick him. Somehow it all evens out in the end."

"Do you love him?" Filia asked.

Lopa stared at her. "Do you want to know why Arcet is allowed to be under my rule? It's because if they put a general or a duke like Arkon in charge of it then that person would have the power to challenge even the mighty empire of Renz. That is politics for you."

"But do you love him?" Filia asked again.

Lopa stared again. Then she sighed and said: "I suppose I do… in my own fashion. More the fool me, I suppose."

Filia nodded, apparently satisfied.

Lopa rested her chin in her hands and looked on her. "So that's alright then? You can stay with your dear enemy, serve your own race's needs, and keep your ideals."

"Maybe," Filia admitted. "But maybe I don't want to."

Lopa opened her eyes wide. "Why not?"

"Because I don't know if I want subterfuge hanging over my love life."

Lopa laughed. "You get used to it, hon."

"But maybe—"

"I know, I know," Lopa said. "Maybe you don't want to. That's the choice." She swilled around her tea… or mostly tea in her mug. "So… I understand your… well he's one of the monsters."

Filia looked up, but she supposed she shouldn't have been surprised. "You have a good information network," she mumbled.

"I have a good information network. Arkon has a good information network. Together we have an excellent information network," Lopa said. "So… fancy that, eh?"

Filia wasn't sure how to respond.

"How are things?" Lopa asked.

"Fine," Filia said. "I think."

"…You want any tips?" Lopa asked slyly.

"No!" Filia shouted immediately. "At least…" she added with a little blush, "not right now."

"Alright," Lopa said slowly. "Then… what did you really come here for?"

"Just this," Filia said. "Mostly. I just think for a… well, for a politician, you're alright."

Lopa's laugh burbled. "You only think that because it doesn't profit me to do you harm."

Filia decided to ignore that comment. "I also wanted to give you this," she said, fishing out a flat cardboard box she'd packed earlier and handing it to Lopa.

Lopa opened the box. "…A dress?" she asked.

"Well, you did say I could give you one of mine," Filia said awkwardly.

"I didn't expect you to actually take me up on it," Lopa said with a grin. "But it's cute… all… ribbons and stuff." She took something heavy and metal out. "Whatever are these?"

"I… don't exactly know what they're called," Filia admitted. "You wear them with the hat."

"What," Lopa said, holding up the green and gold orbs that would usually hang from the hat, "are they like, shock-absorbers or something if you get hit in the head?"

"Not really," Filia said. "They're meant to cover your ears for if dragons want to go among humans without them knowing what they are."

"…But I've seen some dragon elders before and they never wore these," Lopa said doubtfully.

"Well," Filia admitted, "It was really only for the females. Apparently seeing a girl's ears was supposed to cause lustful thoughts?" Filia tried. "I never really understood that."

"I see," Lopa said.

From Lopa's tone, Filia gleaned that Lopa was very keen on causing lustful thoughts, so she added: "The high priestess said they're very fashionable items, nonetheless."

"Never trust a clergy member on the subject of fashion," Lopa said sagely. "Nevertheless, thank you."

"There are two conditions for accepting that," Filia said seriously.

"Oh? Do tell."

"One," Filia began, "you must keep it. I don't want it back. And two, and this is important, you must never tell me what you do in it."

Lopa beamed a wicked little beam. "I think I can manage that."

Filia was in the infirmary. She didn't want to be there, but she knew she had to.

"Miss Filia?" Cleon said, sitting up in bed. "Oh, Miss Filia! Rasmus is—"

"I know," Filia said hurriedly, taking a seat by him. "It's alright now. He tried to activate the Daius Seed, but he's been trapped behind a force field. There's nothing he can do now."

This was probably a bit too much for the recently concussed, but Filia didn't want to mince words.

"You disappeared yesterday! Where have you been all this time?" Cleon asked, his eyes saucers of concern.

"I was… with Xellos," Filia said carefully.

The concern only intensified, and it took a shade that Filia didn't like. It had a certain 'Oh, you poor, brave thing' quality about it.

"I'm sorry you've had to go through this," Cleon said, staring at his sheets. "Mister Rasmus was… well, he was right about one thing. I… bought all those lies about the Supreme Elder being a good dragon but… to find out he would stoop to a plan like this? Disgusting! How can I support a man who would ask such a thing of one of his own… Well, I assure you Miss Filia, I will do everything I can to make sure he doesn't stay Supre—"

"Stop," Filia said. She said it quietly, but with a certain amount of force that stopped Cleon mid-revolution.

"Look," Filia said. "Rasmus was right. The Supreme Elder is sneaky and deceitful. But he doesn't want war and he's a shrewd leader. We're much better off with him than any of the senior elders nipping at his heels."

"But after what he had you—"

"The Supreme Elder didn't ask me to do anything!" Filia shouted. It would hurt Cleon, but he needed to understand. "This isn't the Supreme Elder's plan, this isn't Xellos's plan, although knowing him he probably thinks it is, this is me. It's my responsibility."

"But he—"

"Please," Filia said. "If you're going to stay in this diplomacy business and do any good at all – which I think you could and I think you should – then you can't be black and white about people. Not about the Supreme Elder, not about Xellos, and certainly not about me."

"But aren't you going to—"

"I thought I'd learned long ago that people aren't how you expect or want them to be," Filia went on, ignoring the half-asked question, "but I guess I'm still learning. You should learn too."

He stared at her. She stood up.

"It's late," she said. "I told Xellos I'd be back."

"Miss Filia…"

"I hope your head feels better," Filia added awkwardly as she left.

Everything since then had been chaotic. All the way up to and including where she now sat in front of the Supreme Elder, uncertainties still swirling away. And before that while she waited for the Supreme Elder to be briefed on the events of the summit. And before that on the carriage ride back to the temple while she and Cleon hardly spoke to one another. And before that where she'd asked the guards for her mace back with a 'Yeah, yeah. I'm sure you guys were too busy confiscating maces from innocent people to worry about such trivial events as shootings and poisonings. Good job, guys'. And before that with Xellos…

She gripped her knees. This wasn't the time to agonize over decisions already made.

"Well, now, Miss Filia," the Elder said, shuffling through his papers. "It seems that you've done admirably well even in the face of tremendous adversity. You should be very proud of—"

"How much of it did you expect?" Filia asked bluntly.

The Supreme Elder pause, sighed, and rubbed the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. "I expected many things. It's a good way to avoid getting caught by surprise."

"The assassination attempts?" Filia asked.

The Supreme Elder laced his fingers together and looked at her over them. "It was… reasonable to expect something like that. The Dragon race has plenty of enemies. Though I always thought our most likely attackers would come from within."

"Rasmus," Filia said.

The Supreme Elder shrugged. "Or Cleon," he said. "Or some political fanatic who followed you. It was really impossible to control. Anyone I sent would've had that problem. But you had a powerful protector. That's one of the reasons I chose you."

"That's not the only reason you chose me," Filia said darkly. "Xellos thinks the main reason you chose me was to tempt him."

The Supreme Elder gave a wan smile. "That's a little… conceited of him, isn't it?"

Filia gave him a sharp 'welcome to my world' look.

"I… didn't know what would happen between you two," the Supreme Elder admitted. "But I had enough information put together from your travels with him that I thought it was a legitimate possibility."

"But you didn't tell me to try anything on him," Filia said.

"Of course not," the Supreme Elder said.

"Not because you're above such dirty tactics," Filia went on, "but because you knew I'd refuse. You just… set people up. You don't give orders; you just make sure that what people want to do is what you want them to do!"

"Best way to get things done, really," the Supreme Elder said unabashedly. "Do you think my motivations in choosing you were not painfully obvious to both Xellos and Beastmaster whom he serves? She is thoroughly pragmatic. If Xellos had resisted you, then you would wield power of him. If you resisted Xellos then he would wield power over you. But for it to occur as it did… was a mutually beneficial situation. She let it happen."

Filia was silent. The idea of Xellos having to get permission from his, let's not get stuck with terminology here, mom for this little plot was an unaccountably squirmy thought. But it was strangely pitiable too.

"Xellos," Filia'd said that morning. "There's something I have to say to you."

"You've done well," the Supreme Elder said. "And I'm not just talking about the situation with Xellos. The pride of the dragons has made subtle politics a joke in the past. You know more about the real world than most dragons ever will. What I'm asking is—"

"You want me to be the Premier of Foreign Affairs permanently," Filia said in a faraway voice.

"Yes," the Supreme Elder said. "You would be an invaluable asset to this administration. You'd get to see places you've never seen; walk with kings and queens; be the architect of the new trading program; shape the policy of the dragon race's future; and chair all talks with the monster race."

Filia caught that last one. It was the baited one.

"No," she said.

"They're going to offer me the Foreign Affairs job," she'd said that morning, not even bothering to sit up in his bed. "I just know it."

"That's a very confident attitude you've got," Xellos commented from next to her. "Though in this case I'd be inclined to agree with you."

"…I'm not going to take it."

He'd looked at her. It was the same look of disapproval he'd given her when she'd left the morning before.

"So you're going to go back to your little shop and sell knick-knacks for the rest of your life?"

"I like selling knick-knacks," Filia had said without much rancor.

"You could be doing important things," he'd said.

"Raising my Val is important," she'd said in a small voice.

"You wouldn't have to give that up and you know it. That's not the choice. That's just the excuse," Xellos had said in an absolute sort of tone.

"I'm not taking the job because just because I can have it both ways doesn't mean I should," Filia said firmly. "Just saying 'I'll use you and you'll use me' doesn't make it somehow fair. I don't want to go through life being used or using people."

"So, go on," she'd said, "keep this up if you want to. Spy on me if you want to, but you'll only be spying on a shopkeeper. I'm not going to give you any information on the Dragon race's plans if I don't have any, so it's pointless if that's your goal."

"I see," he'd said cryptically.

"Well, you can't honestly expect him to come back after that, can you?" the Supreme Elder asked incredulously. "Even if he wanted to, it's not that simple. He needs an excuse and you took it away from him."

"Maybe," Filia said in that same vague, faraway voice. Then her eyes flashed and she was all business again. "I may not be taking the job, but I still have some suggestions before I go back home."

The Supreme Elder sat back. "Oh. I'm sure I can't wait to hear them."

"First off," Filia said, "don't take Xellos's territory trade. It's not worth it. Start up the trading program, but don't trade weapons. Trade doesn't stop at party A and party B. Trading with one is like trading with them all. We can't put some moral magnifying glass over the whole thing or it won't work."

The Supreme Elder nodded.

"And send Queen Lopa one of our music boxes," Filia added at a sudden thought. "Complimentary."

The Supreme Elder nodded again.

"Ally yourself with the beastmen. They need friends right now and we have a lot of the same problems," Filia said firmly.

The Supreme Elder tapped his tabletop. "We're… trying to make nice with the humans right now. Many of them have rather… traditional ideas. Getting in too close with the beastmen will make us all the more 'other' to them."

"That's no excuse for ignoring them," Filia said. "Anyway… they can be helpful. You're the kind of person who doesn't like wasting anything that can be useful," she added accusingly.

The Supreme Elder let that pass. "I'll see what I can do."

"And have regular meetings with a representative from the Monster race," Filia said. "They'll lie to us and we'll lie to them, but at least we'll both know what the other race wants us to think and that's worth something. A cold war is better than a hot one."

"…You'll need to pick your representative with care," Filia added quietly.

"And you know very well that no one could do better than you."

"I'm going to suggest regular meetings between our races," she'd said. "You like to play politics. It should be fun for you."

"Yes," Xellos had said in an uncertain 'waitress, there's glass in my soup' kind of way. "But you won't be part of the meetings."

"No," Filia had said.

"The other dragons are not nearly as fun as you," Xellos said wistfully.

"Well, I should hope not under the circumstances," Filia had said lightly.

Xellos had looked at her and raised an eyebrow. "That's a rather risqué comment for you, isn't it?"

"What can I say," she'd said, "you're a terrible influence."

"I try."

"…I think you know what my answer to that is," Filia said.

"I see." The Supreme Elder sighed. "What a shame… for both the Dragon and the Monster races."

"Funny," Filia began, "Xellos said the same thing."

It was hard, but Filia was getting back to her normal life. It's strange how a week can change a person. Her life as a shopkeeper and a mother-eventually-to-be seemed so much smaller than it had when she left it. Oh, in many ways it was wonderful to be back. But so many things that she had to deal with now seemed… petty now. Whenever it got her down, she retreated to the nursery where the unhatched egg containing the reborn Val stood in its bassinet. Then it all seemed worth it again.

She was there now, looking the glowing shell and the new hope it contained. It warmed her to look at it, but even it couldn't give her the peace she needed. She still agonized as to whether she'd done the right thing or not. She was beginning to think that there was no right thing for her to do. She'd merely taken the option that made her feel the least guilty.

…But she still felt pretty guilty.

She sighed. It was best this way. The world of politics was too changeable. Sure, she could've done good, but she had the sneaking suspicion that she could've done evil just as easily and frequently. And as for Xellos… well, that was the worst of it. But if she loved him then she didn't want it to be under that shroud of excuses. It would've just been… inauthentic and selfish. If her choice meant losing him through either his inclination or what was permissible then… then that was the way it had to be.

Still… she couldn't shake the diplomat thing entirely. Lopa would be coming for a visit next Tuesday. She said she might even get Arkon to come with her. Filia made a mental note to restock her liquor cabinet.

And the President of DASIS wanted a huge order of pottery for his capital building. Ash-trays apparently. Well… at least that was good for business.

And she'd received news that Cleon had been promoted to Foreign Policy Administrator. She hoped he'd taken her advice. She was a little miffed that his title didn't have 'Affairs' in it, but it was probably for the best. Anyway, she wished him luck with all he'd have to deal with. Putting together a comprehensive trade strategy while dealing with the monsters wouldn't be easy.

…Not that she'd bother with any of that stuff. Surely that was all far above the world of a pottery shopkeeper. …Even a pottery shopkeeper that talked with queens, dukes, and presidents on a regular basis. It wasn't her concern anymore.

…Which was… too bad in so many ways, but still the best choice. It might not have been the right choice, but it was the right choice for her.

…And it would've all been so much easier without that one regret. She sighed.

"Oi, boss!" Filia heard Jillas say from the doorway. "What's our policy on discounts?"

"We don't give them," Filia said, not taking her eyes off the egg. "You know better than that. Full price no matter who buys. No exceptions."

"Isn't there any room for negotiation?"

Filia whipped around. "Xellos?" she cried.

People aren't always how you expect them to be.

The End.

Closing Author's Note:

1. Thank you so much to everyone who read, reviewed, and was a part of this. Writing this story was a very special experience for me, and I'm a bit sorry to see it over even though it is my longest fic to date.

2. After I finish putting this up, I'm going to set to work on the finishing touches of my commentary/annotations for this fic. When I finish that I'll put it up on my forum. You'll be able to find a link to it in my profile. Once it's up, I highly recommend checking it out. I think this fic has more little tidbits that I'd like to talk about than any other fic.

3. Future project updates for Xellia fans: After I finish my other fic A Little Opposition I'll finally be setting to work on the sequel to Legal Matter which will be called From Now On. I'm very excited and a little nervous about tackling this long awaiting project. So I hope you'll keep an eye out for it and read it when the time comes.

Once again, thank you so much to all of my readers. I hope you enjoyed reading this even half as much as I enjoyed writing it.