Coda

The Ninth and his people were expecting them first thing, but Xanxus ignored that and turned away from the main pathway up to the house. Squalo followed her, pacing along at her heels as she turned down a little gravel path that went past the gardens and descended into the wooded area behind the house, which was when he understood where she was going.

The Vongola dead slept in their own cemetery tucked away from the main house, shaded by trees that measured their lives in centuries. It was carefully tended by the groundskeepers and the flowers on Enrico's grave had not even begun to wilt yet.

Xanxus ignored his grave, however, stalking past it without a second glance, and came to stand in front of a grave only a little less recently filled. Squalo, not knowing whether she wanted his company or not, hung back on the path, watching her stare down at the earth and the grave marker. She didn't cry, or speak, or anything—just stared at the grave in silence as the minutes slipped past.

When she did speak, it was to say, "Do you know what the worst part is?"

Squalo stepped closer, coming to stand next to her. "No, Boss."

"He died thinking I was angry with him." Xanxus stared down at the grave, eyes dark. "They arranged it so that he would die thinking I was still angry with him."

There wasn't anything Squalo could say to that. Instead he laid his hand against her shoulder, holding it while she communed with Federico's grave and her demons. At length she sighed and straightened her shoulders. "They're waiting for us," she said, turning away. "You coming?"

"Right behind you, Boss," Squalo said, "always."

end

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