Disclaimer: The following piece is in no way a claim to ownership of the depicted characters. Yu-Gi-Oh, Yu-Gi-Oh R, Yu-Gi-Oh GX and Yu-Gi-Oh 5D's are owned by TV Tokyo, Konami Corporation and Kazuki Takahashi. This story as presented is strictly for entertainment purposes, both for its owner and readers.
Chapter 1 – A New Apostle of Darkness
From within the darkness of the Dark Signer's layer, an echo of footsteps drew the intrigue of the three large male figures in the room. Within moments the face of a familiar person made their way into the room, their body coming into view just as Rudger began to chuckle.
"So…" the leader of the Dark Signers declared, "I see you managed to find our layer rather easily."
Growling lightly, the figure issued, "you've got some nerve asking someone like me to join your side." Moving forward more, the figure revealed himself to be none other than the late Yusei Fudo. "You honestly think a Signer like me would join the Dark Signers?"
"If only you knew," Rudger thought to himself. However, instead he said, "Why? You have a reason to seek revenge, don't you?"
"On who?" Yusei said, not amused. "Darkness? Judai got revenge on him."
"Ah, but Judai brought Darkness here," Rudger corrected.
Seeming shocked, Yusei simply said, "What?"
Demak, the yellow-robed Dark Signer, finally spoke up with, "Darkness only came to this world this time to get revenge on Judai."
"Had he not," the final Dark Signer declared, "This whole ordeal would not have happened, and you would still live."
"Bommer?" Yusei said when he realized who it was.
"The man met an…" Rudger answered calmly, seemingly more to himself than Yusei, "…unfortunate end because of his actions toward Rex Godwin at the Fortune Cup."
"The destruction of his village…" Yusei remembered solemnly. "The Crimson Dragon… Momentum…" Snapping out of his funk at that point, he yelled angrily at Rudger "That has nothing to do with me! What are you trying to prove?!"
"Prove?" Rudger repeated, seemingly surprised by the notion and yet still malice at the same time. "Why do I need to prove anything? The only one who need prove anything is you, Yusei."
"Me!" Yusei snapped. "I'm not here by choice! I am not a Dark Signer, nor should I be!"
"Tell that to the mark on your arm," Demak chuckled. Pointing at Yusei's right forearm, Yusei pulled up his sleeve to reveal a blackened outline where his Dragon's Birthmark had been. At that moment, he remembered Dick Pitt's comment in the parking lot about wanting to bye his mark black.
"Satellite," Judai said sternly while he observed the decayed city around him, "The place where the Dark Signers reside, where the old Momentum caused Zero Reverse 17 years ago."
"Congratulations," Jack said sarcastically, "You've done your homework. Sadly, it seems you fail to realize that there are real people living in this place."
"I never said anything to the contrary," Judai replied, attempting to remain calm.
"This is not the time to be fighting," Hell Kaiser interjected as he walked over to the two other men. "We have to keep ourselves focused on the task at hand."
"Says the person who betrayed their friends for power!" Jack's words were dark and stern, and in response Hell Kaiser bowed his head in shame.
"Look Jack," Crow said, trying to show his seriousness. "Without Yusei around, the last thing w e need is you being a prick and fighting with our friends."
"I'm sorry for what I did," Hell Kaiser explained. "Darkness told me that I could help him save the world from the Dark Signers if I could be his conduit to this world. I just wanted to help that cause."
"Nobody blames you Ryo," Asuka said in reply, "We're simply on edge from losing Yusei."
"More is the reason to remain solidified," Johan stated.
"Now then," Judai said, "Where would the Dark Signers' layer be from here?" His eyes then glowed over with Yubel's irises, and then his gaze was drawn to his right arm where a red glow began to show through his sleeve.
"Judai," Johan said in a stunned tone, "You're…"
Rolling up his sleeve Judai saw the mark of the Crimson Dragon's tail appear on his lower arm and engrave itself as it stopped glowing.
"…a Signer," Judai completed the thought. "Because I was able to wield Stardust. But only until we can restore Yusei to this world…"
"Restore Yusei?" Rua, who had not said anything for some time, piped up with. "You mean we can bring him back?"
"I believe so," Judai restated. "But first, we need to find the Dark Signers."
"You," Yusei growled, pointing at Rudger. "What did you do?"
"Me?" Rudger, once again surprised, reiterated. "I've done nothing Judai did this to you by using the power of Savior Star Dragon. Your mark was pulled from your body, so the Earthbound Gods could take over your body.
"He didn't know," Yusei rationalized in defense of his friend. "He couldn't. He thought I was already dead."
"And you were," Demak explained.
"But you could have been restored," Rudger said. "Your soul could have been returned after Judai won, if you had your mark. Judai knew that, and yet he dueled on anyway. All he wanted was to satisfy his lust for victory."
"That's a total lie!" Yusei scoffed in rage. "Judai would go to any lengths to save his friends.
"Really?" Rudger chuckled. Taking the striped glove off his left arm, Rudger revealed a black mechanical arm with wires that stuck out like veins, which surprised both Yusei and the other Dark Signers. Pressing a button, it displayed a shot from the Duel with Darkness that Judai had finished, specifically when Judai's scleras had gone black. "Thewn explain this."
"Judai…" Yusei began to stammer. "He… he was… no… no, it can't be true!" Holding his head with both hands in frustration, he sank onto his knees and began to shiver at the thought of such a just figure being to dark.
"He belongs in this room now, not you," Bommer said. "There's no excuse why someone as dark as him is alive when one who was as pure as you is dead.
"Bring him to us," Rudger said, pulling his glove over the mechanical arm and pulling a card from his pocket. "Use this to bring him to us," he continued as he handed Yusei the card, "And we can restore you to your body. Until then, you may call us your family."
"Picking up the card, Yusei looked at it and said, "This is…" Unable to grasp the idea, he buried his face in his arms in despair and shook a bit more.
"Ccapac Apu," Demak clarified, "Kiryu's Earthbound God. It has enough power to be used, and enough to restore you if you can claim Judai for us."
"So, are you up to the challenge?" Rudger darkly questioned.
Moments later, the mark of the Giant that represented the God Yusei had been handed appeared on his right upper arm, opposite his chest. When Yusei lifted up his head and rose to his feet, his own scleras had turned black and they were reflecting light in the same purple glow as Rudger's. "Judai doesn't deserve to be a part of this world!"
"Excellent," Bommer smirked as he tossed a Dark Signer Duel Disc to Yusei, "Now go forth and bring us Judai!" Nodding, Yusei put the disc on his arm and inserted the deck into its slot, then turned and walked back into the darkness towards the mouth of the layer.
Turning back towards the others, Rudger said, "It's time we too headed out into the Satellite. Now that I have brought them here, it's time we took down the Signers and raised the King of the Underworld once and for all." When the others agreed, they stood up and the three undead Signers all walked towards the mouth of the cave after Yusei.
While Judai and the others spoke, Manjyoume had walked towards one of the buildings because he saw a flash of light. Crow had followed after him, and now they walked through an old department store looking for any signs of life.
"Do you really think you saw people in here?" Crow asked Manjyoume, who was 5 rows down from him.
"I don't know what I saw," Manjyoume answered honestly, "But I know it was something."
"Damn it man!" Crow yelled. "We've been looking around in here for 25 minutes, and there's nothing here. Thanks for wasting our fucking time!"
"Listen Crow!" Manjyoume barked as he rounded a corner. "Everyone else is arguing about dumb stuff so at least you and I should… Ah!" Crow heard Manjyoume utter a dark scream from that distance, as though he had seen something terrifying.
"Manjyoume!" Crow said, running after him. When he got around to where Manjyoume had been, he saw nothing but the black trench coat he had been wearing. "Manjyoume? Manjyoume?"
"Looking for me?" he heard a dark version of the man's voice say. Turning around, Crow saw the duelist walking towards him with a glowing spider mark of his right arm and a dark glow in his eyes.
"Damn it, they got Manjyoume!" Crow said to himself as he readied a Duel Disc. "But I won't let you keep him! I'll take him back here and now!"
"Very well!" Manjyoume's Duel Disc then activated and he pulled 5 cards, while Crow's personal black Duel Disc spat out his five. The two people then stepped back until they were proper distance from each other and yelled,
Crow: LP 4000
Dark Manjyoume: LP 4000
As they started up the duel, a glowing purple ring formed around the two duelists that made the sound of flames crackling.
"I'll go first," Manjyoume said as he drew his 6th card. "I play Angel's Gift, meaning I draw 3 cards and discard 2." Picking up his three cards, he showed Crow two cards – Ojamagic and Blood Vols – and placed them in his Cemetery.
"Next, since I sent Ojamagic to the Graveyard by a card effect, I add Ojama Yellow, Ojama Green and Ojama Black from my deck to my hand." Pulling the three aforementioned cards and placing them in his hand, Manjyoume merely smirked as Crow growled in anticipation.
"I summon Beetron-1 Kabutop (ATK: 1700)!" From his hand Manjyoume called forth a mechanical beetle with a cannon-like face, 4 legs and a pair of wheels where the other 2 should have been.
"Next from my hand I activate Ojama Get Ride. Now I discard my three Ojamas and summon up o 3 Level 4 or lower Machine-type Union monsters from my deck. I summon Beetron-2 Kabuturbo (DEF: 1800), Beetron-3 Spider Base (DEF: 2000) and W-Wing Catapult (DEF: 1500)." In front of Manjyoume appeared the image of a mechanical beetle with two huge pincers and a rocket mounted on its back, a mechanical figure composed of two mechanical red domes with three pointed legs on each one, and a blue jet-like platform.
"Next, by returning all 3 Beetrons to my Deck, I Special Summon Assault Cannon Beetle (DEF: 2800) from my Extra Deck." The spider figure split into its two parts, each with 4 legs on them, and they fused onto the top and bottom of the original beetle whose legs retracted. The legs of the second one then retracted and it fixed onto the end of the other beetle in a vertical position, forming a strange conglomerated piece of mechanical insectoid. The entire thing then changed into several shades of blue to indicate its position.
"I activate Ojamandala, so I pay 1000 Life Points to Special Summon Ojama Yellow (DEF: 1000), Ojama Green (DEF: 1000) and Ojama Black (DEF: 1000) in Defence Position from my Cemetery." Beside the giant mechanical bug formed the image of three small figures clad only in red bikini briefs; one yellow one that was very skinny with eyestalks, one green with muscles and a single eye, and one black with some muscle, a pot belly and a huge nose. All three of them chuckled in the same dark, possessed way Manjyoume did, before they too turned blue.
"Now I activate my Cannon Beetle's monster effect; for each other monster I sacrifice, the opponent receives 800 points of damage. I Release Ojama Green, Ojama Black, Ojama Yellow and W-Wing Catapult!" All four of the mentioned cards changed into glowing red orbs that entered into the back of the beetle's head and shot out one by one, straight into Crow. The force of the impact knocked him back against the edge of the rings.
Crow: LP 800
Manjyoume: LP 3000
"Since I cannot Release Assault Cannon Beetle for its own effect," Manjyoume declared, "from my hand I play the Magic Card Front Change. I Return Assault Cannon Beetle to the Extra Deck, and from there I Special Summon Combat Scissors Beetle (ATK: 3600)."
The three pieces of the beetle returned to normal colour and split apart.
This time, one half of the spider machine mounted on top of the cannon beetle's carapace, while the other half mounted on the back of it. Two of the legs spun around to face down and make 6 total legs, while the other two latched onto the scissor beetle and mounted to facing parallel to the other beetle.
"When this monster destroys an opponent's monster by Battle," Manjyoume informed, "1000 damage is dealt to the opponent."
"Damn it," Crow realized. "I can't afford to lose a monster."
"Finally, I set 2 cards and end my turn."
"Then I draw!" Crow said as he drew, and stepped back into place.
"Something's not right here. This is Manjyoume's normal Deck, and everyone made a Dark Signer so far had their Deck changed. And I'm not a Signer to boot, so..." With that realization dawned on him. "Shit, these bastards are using Manjyoume as I diversion! I'd better win fast!"
"Continuous Magic: Black Whirlwind!" As the magic card appeared before him, Crow explained, "When I Normal Summon a Black Feather monster, I add one with lower attack strength from my deck to my hand. Then, from my hand I activate the effect of Black Feather – Sirocco of the Dawn: since you have a monster and I do not, I Normal Summon its card without Release (ATK: 2000)."
In front of Crow formed a tall, bird-like figure with black feathers, a human face mostly obscured by a bird's head-like mask, ornate clothing and a pair of dark grey wings mounted on its back. "Now, by the effect of Black Whirlwind, I add Black Feather – Blast of the Black Lance to my hand. Now, Blast of the Black Lance's monster effect: Because I control a Black Feather monster, I Special Summon this monster from my hand (ATK: 1700)."
Beside Crow's existing Tengu formed another bird-like creature, this one with red and blue body feathers and dull yellow wings. Along with that, it also held, as per its name, a huge drill-like black lance. "And finally, I also use the effect of Black Feather – Gale of the Hurricane to Special Summon it as well (ATK: 1300)." Along with the existing monsters, a new one formed; this one a blue-feathered bird-like creature with a beakless face and green feathers that formed a smaller pair of wings on either side of its head.
"So you can summon three monsters in one turn," Manjyoume declared, "Big deal. None of them can match my monster in battle." "Besides, even if they could, I can use either my Attack Nullification or my Reactive Armor and stop the attack cold."
"Because I control 3 Black Feather monsters exactly," Crow continued, "I meet the condition to activate Delta Crow – Anti Reverse from my hand, which destroys all set Magic and Trap Cards on the opponent's field!" The three bird-like figures all assumed a triangular formation and created a black vortex of air that spun straight through Manjyoume's set cards and shattered them.
"Now, by the effect of Gale of the Hurricane, I divide the attack strength of Combat Scissor Beetle in two (ATK: 1800)!" The small bird flapped its wings and produced a wave of wind that struck the huge machine, weakening it severely.
"Damn it!" Manjyoume declared, realizing he had lost.
"And now, I use the effect of Sirocco the Dawn to make the ATK of Blast of the Black Lance equal to the combined attack of all Black Feather monsters I control (ATK: 5000)!"
"No way! 5000 attack strength?!" Manjyoume was stunned to see such a huge strength from a monster that had been weak against his moments before
"Blast of the Black Lance, attack Combat Scissor Beetle!" The huge spear held by the blue and red bird-like figure began to spin the air around it as it lunged towards the mechanical beetle. The spear then imbedded itself in the beetle's carapace, the resulting impact tearing the beetle in two in a huge explosion. Manjyoume was flung back against the ring of purple flames, just as Crow had been, only this time he went straight through them as they began to fade away.
Crow: LP 800
Manjyoume: LP 0
"Manjyoume!" Crow yelled out as he began running toward his friend. The images on the field all faded away as he reached the figure. When he got close, he saw the spider mark fade away and the spider begin to scurry off into the distance. "Good riddance," Crow said under his breath.
"Hey, Crow," Manjyoume said as though he had a headache, getting the Satellite's attention. "What just happened?"
"The Dark Signers used you to Duel me as a diversion and I kicked your ass," Crow said.
"Come on!" Manjyoume exclaimed. "Why am I always the one to be possessed?"
Crow shrugged. "Maybe because you're easily manipulated?"
"Either way it doesn't matter," Crow stated, getting them back on topic. "If you were a distraction then the others were the targets. We have to get back to the group!" Manjyoume nodded and stood up, then both of them ran towards the doors to the store.
Back at the town square, Johan was engaged in a duel with another Dark Signer-possessed figure, this one of a robe like Misawa and Amon had worn. The Dark Signer figure held 4 cards in his hand, controlled 4 Scapegoat Tokens (DEF: 0, x4), DNA Transplant and the fiery demon Balrog (ATK: 3500). Johan controlled the gemstones for Ruby Carbuncle, Amber Mammoth and Emerald Turtle, and a Gem's Tree with 3 Gem Seeds on it. The Dark Signer held 2 cards in hand, Johan 3.
Johan: LP 1200
Dark Signer: LP 3600
"It's my turn," Johan declared, "And I play Rare Value! Now you select one Gem Beast in my Magic & Trap Card Zones to send to the Cemetery, and I draw 2 cards!"
Chuckling darkly, the dark voice of the figure said, "I select Ruby Carbuncle." Johan pulled the card from his Disc's tray and inserted it into the Cemetery as its gemstone vanished, before he pulled his 2 cards.
"Now I play Gem's Guidance! Since I have 2 Gems still in play, I Special Summon Gem Beast Topaz Tiger from my deck (ATK: 1600)!" In front of Johan formed the image of the white tiger with spined and yellow gems, but it instantly burst into flames.
"Because of DNA Transplant," the Dark Signer spoke, "Your monster becomes FIRE, so Balrog gains 500 more ATK (ATK: 4000)."
"That doesn't matter," Johan said confidently. "By Sending Gem's Tree to my Cemetery, I place Gem Beasts Sapphire Pegasus, Cobalt Eagle and Amethyst Cat in my Magic & Trap Card Zones as gemstones!" The Tree then disappeared, leaving its three seeds to change into the form of the purple, blue and indigo gemstones.
"Next I play the Field Magic Rainbow Ancient City – Rainbow Ruin!" As he played the Card, Johan changed the field into a Roman Coliseum with a rainbow visible in the sky. "And since I have 5 Gem Beasts in my Magic & Trap Card Zones, I can Special Summon Amethyst Cat from them (ATK: 1200)!" The purple gemstone cracked, forming the image of a lavender panther with a gemstone mounted on a gold winged talisman around its neck.
"Neither of your monsters can touch mine," the Dark Signer pointed out. "Especially since a new FIRE monster is now in play (ATK: 4500)."
"Not them, but by the effect of my Field Magic, because I have 4 Gemstones I draw 1 card." Reaching over to his card, Johan gripped it firmly and pulled it, then held it to the sky as all his Gem Beasts, gemstones and his graveyard lit up with their respective colours.
"Yeah, Johan!" Judai cheered, knowing what he drew.
"When all 7 Gem Beasts are on the field or in the Graveyard," Johan declared, "I can Special Summon Ultimate Gem God – Rainbow Dragon (ATK: 4000)!" The glowing lights from the cards shot up into the sky and joined together, then returned to the ground into the form of a serpent. When the lights subsided, it revealed the form of a huge white dragon with 4 wings, 4 eyes and the 7 gemstone colours along either side of its body.
"The mighty Rainbow Dragon!" The Dark Signer said, completely in shock and awe. "No matter though," he said regaining his composure, "Since Balrog gains 500 more ATK (ATK: 5000)."
"Now for long," Johan declared. "From my hand I activate the Equip Magic Rainbow Veil and equip this card to Rainbow Dragon!" The card itself produced a radiant aura of the rainbow that wrapped around the dragon and shone brightly. "Now, Rainbow Dragon, attack Balrog!" Johan's declaration shocked the entire crowd, but especially the Dark Signer.
"What are you doing?" he responded. "My Balrog has more attack strength than Rainbow Dragon!"
"Not for long," Johan smiled. "When a monster equipped with Rainbow Veil battles, the effect of the opposing monster is negated!" The large burning creature before the Dark Signer let out a dark growl before its power drained (ATK: 1000)."
"Go, Rainbow Dragon! Over the Rainbow!" The Dragon formed a sphere of energy in its mouth that was surrounded by a rainbow halo, before it released the energy and shot through the creature, destroying it instantly.
Johan: LP 1200
Dark Signer: LP 600
"You bastard!" The Dark Signer declared. "But, you still can't win against my Scapegoats who are in Defence Position."
"That's where you're wrong," Johan declared. "As long as she only inflicts half Battle Damage," he pointed at the panther, "Amethyst Cat can attack the opponent directly!"
"What?" The Dark Signer said in shock.
"Johan's won!" Asuka said in a cheery tone.
"Of course he has," Hell Kaiser declared. "He's a truly great duelist."
"Amethyst Cat, direct attack the Dark Signer!" The panther nodded, then jumped up into the air and slashed through the figure, tearing through his cloak and flinging him to the ground before returning to her spot beside Johan.
Johan: LP 1200
Dark Signer: LP 0
As the entire field faded away, Johan and the others heard some dark chuckling. Looking up to the top of a building, they saw the images of three robed figures in purple, red and yellow-striped cloaks staring down at them.
"Bravo Johan," the red-robed one said, "Bravo all of you on your most exceptional dueling skills. I had felt that the battle between Signers and Dark Signers would be an unfair fight, but I see that's simply not the case."
Judai, Jack and Ruca all felt the marks on their arms begin to dig painfully into their flesh, telling them of danger. Even Aki's flared into life, which seemed to stir her and make her clutch her arm in pain. As she stood up Judai yelled up to them, "You're the real Dark Signers, aren't you?"
"We most certainly are," the yellow-robed one declared as the three of them jumped down from the building, landing effortlessly on their feet. By this point in time Crow and Manjyoume were returning to the group, which caught the red robed figure's attention.
"I see you two made it back safe and sound," he spoke out.
Turning to him with a disgusted look on his face, Manjyoume pointed at him and said, "You! Your voice was the one in my head when I was possessed."
"My name is Rudger," he declared in response. "I do apologize for how long this has taken to set up; I never expected to encounter such resistance from Darkness. However, now everything is ready for the battle between Signer and Dark Signers."
"Very well then," Aki said, releasing her arm, "we'll fight against you as much as we must."
Chuckling darkly, Rudger replied with, "That's exactly what I wanted to hear. Very well then young Miss Izayoi Aki, you shall be my opponent for the final battle."
"I, Demak, Rudger's second-in-command to the Dark Signers," the yellow-robed one declared, shall challenge young Ruca, as I have something I think she wants." Pulling a card from his pocket, he held it up for the young girl to see, and what she was shocked her.
"Ancient Fairy Dragon," she realized. "Why do you have that?"
"I can answer that," Rudger cut in. "During Zero Reverse 17 years ago, the Ancient Fairy Dragon card was accidentally left behind while the others were taken out and released to the public so the Signers could find them. And 5000 years prior to that, the Earthbound Gods imprisoned her within the depths of the Underworld."
"Defeat me and I shall release her to you," Demak concluded.
"And finally," the purple-robed figure, who had yet to speak, said and pointed, "I challenge Jack Atlus."
"Very well then," Jack said.
"Judai," Judai heard a familiar voice say, in a stern manner, within his head.
"Yusei," Judai though in reply.
"Meet me 5 blocks east and 2 blocks south of where you are. I think you know why."
"And now," Rudger said, "let us all be on our ways, for we cannot all duel in this one place. "We will lead our respective Signers to their places. Those of you who are not dueling may go where you wish, but do try to avoid standing in the geoglyphs."
Nodding, the three Dark Signers and three Signers they were facing went their separate ways. Hell Kaiser and Asuka tagged along with Jack, Rua and Crow with Ruca, and Manjyoume with Aki. As Johan saw Judai start walking in his own direction, he followed him as well.
When the two of them had walked their course, they looked at one street corner and saw a figure. As they got closer, the figure stepped out into the light, out from the shadows. For a split second Johan and Judai were thrilled to see the figure there, but then they turned very grim and serious. Before them stood their friend, partner and fellow duelist Fudo Yusei.
Only he didn't look like Yusei. Black scleras, pale skin, his criminal mark dyed dark red, the giant mark glowing through his upper right arm and wearing blue-striped robes, Yusei's now dark voice said, "I'm glad you could come, Judai."
"Yusei, why would you do this?" Johan asked.
Pointing at Judai's arm, Yusei said, "That's exactly why. Because of Judai, I'm now trapped in darkness."
"I'm… sorry…" Judai said weakly.
"That does neither of us any good," Yusei's harsh tone indicated his seriousness. "What will is if you submit to your darkness like you wanted to, and then you could take my place." Smiling insanely he added on, "Then we'd both get what we want!" before laughing maniacally.
"That's insane!" Judai said hostilely. Pulling his Duel Disc from his back and strapping it on, he pulled out Yusei's riding deck from his pocket and mashed it together with cards from his own deck. "I'll set you free myself!"
"Good luck with that," Yusei said slyly, activating his own Duel Disc and drawing 5 cards. When Judai shuffled up, activated his own Duel Disc and pulled 5 cards as well, they both shouted,
Judai: LP 4000
YUSEI: LP 4000
Card of the Week – Johan
Rainbow Ancient City – Rainbow Ruin
Effect:This card gains the following effects based on the number of "Gem Beast" monsters treated as Permanent Magic Cards in your Magic & Trap Card Zone:
1+: This card cannot be destroyed by a card effect.
2+: Once per turn, reduce Battle Damage to your Life Points by half.
3+: Send 1 "Gem Beast" monster you control to the Cemetery to negate the activation of a Magic or Trap Card and destroy it.
4+: Once per turn, draw 1 card from your Deck.
5+: Once per turn, you can Special Summon 1 "Gem Beast" monster treated as a Permanent Magic Card in your Magic & Trap Card Zone.
*So that it goes on, so that it never fades…
Review if you'd like.*