It has been a little while since I updated, my mum has been in hospital having a knee replacement so all my time has been taken up looking after her since she returned home.
A huge thank you for your reviews, I hope you continue to like what I have in store!
What I would give to erase the scars from that night and to heal Jushiro entirely; but I can't do more than what I have no matter how hard I desire it. I can only reassure him in the knowledge that that beast died painfully for his crimes.
That night marked a change for both of us, in more ways than one. It carved the route to my forgiveness and it also paved a route to my fate as a Taichou. As always, Jushiro was a little bit in front of me, but it didn't matter and in the end we graduated together as friends and as the Captains of Divisions set up by Yamamoto Genryusai.
Had it not been for that night I believe it would have taken me a long time to find that power within myself. I sometimes wonder if perhaps... It was destiny. No matter how ridiculous it sounds, many things which have been set in motion in recent years would not have done so had it not been for that very night.
I like to think that maybe, just maybe, the Soul King was watching us both and guiding our actions. It is... A pleasant thought in my mind.
~ The Last Words ~
There was a strong flare of Hollow reiatsu from the other side of the Academy grounds, following swiftly by a burst of reiatsu he knew so well.
Jushiro was in danger.
Without thinking, Shunsui yanked on his clothes and tied his growing brunette curls of hair in a loose and short tail at the nape of his neck; wasting no time, he lunged at the window, throwing it open and leaping out, falling several stories down before he hit the ground and rolled to break the fall; setting off in a speeding Shunpo towards the Hollow reiatsu, panic flooding his lungs as Jushiro's reiatsu continued to pulse with an echo of fear residing within it.
The brunette haired teen flash-stepped as fast as he could, leaping across the smaller rooftops and through the trees without a break or pause. His heart was thundering in his chest and his fear of losing his best friend propelled him onwards.
He reached the other side of the campus about six minutes after he had first sensed the Hollow reiatsu; sprinting inside the building and darting for the stairwell, he followed Jushiro's dwindling reiatsu and gasped for breath, sweat trickling down the side of his face as he pushed himself further than his limit.
He ran down the third floor corridor and stopped outside of the room he sensed Jushiro's reiatsu inside; he sensed the Hollow as well, but he wouldn't allow that to stop him saving his friend. It was in these few seconds of thought that he realised all he cared about was his friend, his friend's happiness and safety and if that meant accepting that he had a boyfriend and he was having sex then so be it. If Jushiro was happy then he would be happy for him.
Taking a step back, Shunsui held his breath and ran at the door, throwing his weight against it and breathing a sigh of relief as the wood flew open under his body mass, the lock shattering.
Not missing a beat, he scrambled into the room and searched around the living space, the kitchen, and the bathroom. He came to a stop outside of the bedroom and licked his lips.
This was going to be the first time he saw a real live Hollow. He knew from what he had overheard from older Shinigami and Students that Hollows were terrifying; they had that power to freeze you with a single menacing look and then they would devour you. They were monstrous and strong. And only a Shinigami could destroy them, purify them, and revive their souls as Plus Souls.
He swallowed and reached out, grasping the bedroom door handle before he flung it open, recoiling for a moment at the sight before him.
Jushiro's skin was almost grey - and he could see a lot of it thanks to his friend being in the nude - and his eyes were dull; his head lolled to the side; pinning him down into the mattress was a dark haired man who was completely naked and from the angle Shunsui as at he seemed perfectly normal, until another burst of Hollow reiatsu emanated from the man lying over his white haired friend, defiling him even while he was practically unconscious.
Shunsui's eyes widened for a moment before he ran in, thoughtless of his own safety, he jumped and wrapped his arms around the creature's neck, pulling with all his might and slowly peeling the thing away from his friend.
With a jolt, he recognised the still humane face of the Academy Counsellor, Katsuki.
"What... What the hell are you doing you monster?!" he yelled, throwing him to the floor and placing himself between Katsuki and Jushiro, "Y-You're..."
"Tch... Of all the people who could have... Sensed my real form... It had to be you didn't it?" the green eyed man snarled, his eyes narrowing slightly as the sclera was slowly taken over by black colouring; the green getting brighter and brighter until it was practically glowing in the darkness; the pale skin over his forehead began to flake and peel away, revealing a white bone structure which curved into two ringlet shaped horns; he pulled on a dark kimono from the trunk at the bottom of the double bed.
Shunsui stared slightly as he watched Katsuki stand back up, his kimono falling away at the torso to reveal a Hollow hole the side of a golf ball in the very middle of his chest, between his pectorals.
"It would seem I was wrong after all... You are not some lazy bastard... You do have some raw talent of your own. After what Jushiro explained about your personality and way of living I had determined that you simply rode off his glory and his talent. But here you are; you sensed my reiatsu when even the Sensei didn't, impressive. But now that means that you have to die too. A pity I'm sure." Katsuki was half cooing as he observed the brunette student before him.
"I won't let you hurt Jushiro..." he growled, "I don't care how angry he is with me... Or how much poison you've dripped in his ears... I won't let you hurt him!"
The Hollow tilted his head slightly, "What can you hope to do against me? Surely you have realised that I am no ordinary Hollow."
Shunsui swallowed and observed him for a moment, briefly recalling his lessons on Hollows that appeared in human form... Vasto Lordes, the most powerful of all Hollows. Well damn.
"I don't care how strong you are... Or how huge your reiatsu is..." the student murmured, closing his eyes and letting his head fall forwards, "Jushiro is my friend, regardless o how badly I've treated him I would never do what you've done! You tricked him, he believes that you care about him and yet here you are trying to suck the life out of him. What are you? Some kind of perverted lecher?"
"You would know about being a pervert better than I, I believe." The darker haired man sighed and inspected his nails, "Besides... I am not trying to kill him; I was merely devouring his reiatsu. He would have survived without it."
"His... Reiatsu?" Shunsui repeated in confusion.
A smirk appeared, "But of course, I am a Vasto Lordes at the very peak of evolution and yet I still hunger for reiatsu, but not just any reiatsu... I hunger for powerful reiatsu. And among the students here there are only two which I wouldn't mind tasting. Ukitake Jushiro's and your very own, Kyoraku Shunsui. You both have such... Delectable reiatsu. And when this one," he pointed at Jushiro, "Came to me in need of help I was overwhelmed by his vulnerability. He had an innocence about him which made his reiatsu even more provocative and he never even realised it."
"You fiend..." the student was shaking with anger, "You fiend! How can you stand there and talk about him like he is a snack?! You pretended to care about him!"
"Of course, it was the easiest way of getting close enough to him to take his reiatsu. I never expected it to be as easy as it was but then... I have you to thank for that, Shunsui. If you hadn't broken him like you did he would never have left himself open to what I had to offer him, and once we had that first kiss it was easy to impregnate his mind with the idea that I actually loved him. He is the kind of child who is susceptible to such suggestions."
Shunsui snapped and ran at Katsuki, swinging his arm around wildly to strike him; he was unsurprised when his wrist was caught in the steel grasp of the Vasto Lordes before him. He was no match for the strongest type of Hollow and he had been a fool to think he was, he would never be able to protect Jushiro at his current level no matter how much he wanted to. He needed to get stronger.
"You have the way of success at your disposal, you merely lack the means to access them." A female voice murmured suddenly.
He watched as the world went black around him and he felt like he was falling; when his feet finally touched the ground again he was surrounded by steam and shadows, there was no sun in the sky and he was no longer in Katsuki's bedroom.
Frowning slightly he wondered if Katsuki had killed him so fast that he hadn't even realised it. Was this what awaited the death of a Shinigami? No, for some reason he couldn't accept that, so where the hell was he.
"You are finally ready to hear my voice, Kyoraku Shunsui. So stand tall and look at me when I am speaking to you."
That female voice from before called out to him again.
He looked around for the source of the voice and blinked suddenly as he watched the shadows to his left shifting and moving like a thick bubbling liquid towards him; from them emerged a young woman with vibrant purple hair and an eye patch. Her hair was held up in two tails, kept in supremely neat ringlets which trailed down to her shoulders. She wore a black and purple kimono, it was floor length, and it gushed out from the waist, making her appear fuller in stature than she actually was. She looked very stern...
"Who are you?" Shunsui asked with a frown.
She scowled at him and folded her arms, "My, my have you not learned anything from your studies at Shino?"
"Uh..." he looked skyward and thought about it for a long moment, "At a certain point in a Shinigami's training they will find themselves in a state of semi-unconsciousness where upon they sink into a realm which can only be described as an inner world... Where they can meet their-"
He broke off suddenly and his eyes snapped to her single one, his mouth going dry for a moment before he started laughing hysterically, "Oh my god!"
"It appears you have realised just who I-"
"Who would have guessed that my Zanpakto would be such a beautiful woman with such voluptuous curves?!" he exclaimed, scratching his head thoughtfully as he appraised her appearance, stopping suddenly when he saw a slightly murderous expression cross her features, "Ah... Haha... Uh... My apologies... Ma'am?"
"That is more like it!" she barked at him, "I am your Zanpakto so you will show this lady some respect you lecherous... Young man."
He laughed weakly and rubbed the back of his head, "So forceful..."
"You'd better believe it, Buster." She sniffed and unfolded her arms slowly, "Now listen carefully... I am only going to tell you this once."
Another figure emerged from the shadows behind the purple haired woman and forward walked a young girl, she appeared in her very early teens; her hair was also purple and she was dressed in dark green. She wore the same formidable expression as the elder woman.
Eyes flashing open as he returned to the present, Shunsui tore his wrist free and held his hands out to the side, crying boldly, "KATEN KYOKOTSU!"
Summoning from nowhere, two blades appeared in his outstretched hands, the katana glowed for a moment before evolving into two Chinese Falchions; in that moment Shunsui's reiatsu grew exponentially and flooded the room, shaking the walls as he stood between the Vasto Lordes and his friend once again.
"Just you TRY hurting him while I'm here!" he yelled, "Just you TRY it! I will bring you a swift death; that I swear!"
Katsuki's eyes widened momentarily before he sighed and inhaled the reiatsu being emitted by the young student, "Ah... Your reiatsu is even more potent than before... I will defeat you and take it for my own before finishing that pitiful creature behind you."
He tensed slightly, completely in the dark about anything other than the name of his Zanpakto, which wasn't going to get him very far in a battle with a Vasto Lordes intent of stealing his reiatsu. What the hell had he gotten himself into? Taking a breath, he prepared himself for a world of pain.
They met in the centre of the room with a flourish of blades; Shunsui gritted his teeth under the pressure of the Hollow's attack and knew that this was going to be hard. He needed to flow with his instincts, and the instincts of his sword. They hadn't touched on that in class yet considering that no one in their year had produced their Zanpakto yet. Shit.
"Trust in us, we will not lead you to harm."
"Easier said than done, Ladies..." he thought bitterly before he closed his eyes and let out a long and steady breath.
Letting himself seep into the realm of his Zanpakto, he allowed them to control the movement of his arms and legs; giving himself over to them completely before he opened his eyes and began his counter attack.
He was going to kick this bastard's ass.
Dropping down and kicking out, he knocked Katsuki's legs out from under him before he leapt back as he saw the lash of blade coming in his direction; he shot forwards again and drew both swords around from the right, one blocked the attack of the Hollow's Zanpakto while the second blade snuck underneath and buried itself in Katsuki's side. Drawing scarlet blood.
Shunsui flipped back, shooting his heel into the other's chin before he touched back down and slashed towards him again, this time, both blades coming from above.
He was blocked this time but as they both disengaged he listened more and more to the whispers in his mind, coming freely from the soul of his Zanpakto; they urged him to lay his trust in them and to do as they did, to allow the flow to grow stronger until they were one.
So he did that; he laid his life in their hands and allowed them to guide him through this perilous darkness, towards the light beyond, "Bushogoma!" he called, swinging his dual blades around from the right to the left, cleaving twin semi-circular whirlwinds towards his enemy.
They made contact and he swiftly followed up by Shunpo-ing forwards and booting his stunned foe in the cut, sending him crashing into the wall. He lifted his sword and repeated the attack for a second and third time before he took a break to catch his breath.
He watched the dust clear from around Katsuki's now bruised and bleeding body and felt a smug feeling of pride jolt through him at the strength of his Zanpakto.
"Don't get over confident. The enemy is not dead yet, Shunsui."
He put one foot behind the other and crouched slightly, preparing for a counter attack, from wherever it might come from. He would be ready and he would protect Jushiro. No matter what the cost.
Katsuki got to his feet slowly, blood spewing from several cuts on his arms, legs and torso; he smirked and wiped his mouth before he lifted his sword again and pointed it at Shunsui, "Let us see how you respond to this. Child." Shunsui's eyes widened slightly as he watched a bright green ball of light swirl into life at the time of the katana which was being aimed at him before it grew larger and larger, Katsuki's smirk turned masochistic, "Cero."
The green light fired with an explosive burst of power which shattered the windows and made several of the walls crumble. He had put up a good fight and he hoped Jushiro would be proud, but now it seemed that his fight was to be cut short, he couldn't save his friend.
"Wave, become my shield; lightening become my blade! Sôgyo No Kotowari!"
The flash of white hair before Shunsui's eyes made them widen slightly before he saw the glint of two metal swords, the left blade pointed into the heart of the cero which was heading their way and before their very eyes the green light was sucked into the blade and the rope connecting the hilts of the two swords lit up a pale blue shade before the right sword was lifted and pointed at Katsuki.
Jushiro's eyes narrowed slightly before the cero was released with more force and speed than before and it enveloped Katsuki in an instant. The white haired male lowered his swords for a moment as he watched the green light cause the room around them to explode outwards and they were suddenly bathed in the moonlight from outside; he winced for a moment and his skin still held that sickly grey hue but his eyes were bright and confident.
Shunsui winced slightly as they were suddenly revealed to the night's sky and he moved forwards slowly, until he was stood beside his sickly looking friend, "A-Are you..."
"I'll be fine." The white haired student replied softly, sparing a glance to the brunette before he flashed a small, shy smile, "Thanks to you bursting in when you did he didn't take all my reiatsu. If he had of done then it would have been curtains for me."
They looked in the direction of Katsuki again and they both tensed as they saw the Vasto Lordes staggering and bleeding heavier than before, but nevertheless he was still alive.
"Where the hell is everyone? Surely they must have sensed his reiatsu by now." Shunsui cursed.
"He has had months... Years to set up his life here. It is likely that he set traps for any outsiders who might have ever discovered his true identity. I can sense some faint reiatsu from the student accommodation, so they may well be doing some fighting of their own. It all comes to the same answer however... For the time being we are on our own."
"Well... Not entirely alone anyway." Shunsui grinned before turning serious, "I'll attack him head on, if he tries firing another of those ceros switch with me and I'll flank him."
They lifted their Zanpakto again and Shunsui shot out of the room into the open sky, tackling Katsuki with several swings of his twin blades; letting out cries of exclamation as he forced himself to go further and faster, slowly catching up to Katsuki's speed as he began to parry his attacks easier and with greater accuracy.
But the time they parted for a few second of reprieve they were both littered with fresh wounds.
Katsuki's eyes narrowed slightly and he glanced towards Jushiro before he fired another cero from the tip of his blade; in a heartbeat, just as the cero closed in on Shunsui, they switched places and Jushiro was suddenly there, absorbing the cero with one sword and firing it from the other; at the same time Shunsui appeared behind the Vasto Lordes and thrust his blades towards him; his eyes widening momentarily as they both met flesh and buried within it. He watched as Katsuki let out a Hollowfied roar and arched, being struck head on with the cero at the same time that he was stabbed in the back.
He lunged and kicked the brunette student aside before he Sonido-ed back several paces and hunched over, spewing blood from his mouth as his injuries made themselves known. He shook slightly and glared at the pair, and what a pair they made. Their attacks were perfectly suited for each other's support. They were deadly.
Jushiro and Shunsui moved together again and looked at the Hollow before them, eyes narrowed and expressions set in determination.
They moved suddenly, without warning and without giving him a second to prepare; they appeared either side of him, their swords set aside for a moment before they both raised their hands and called out, at the same time, "Byakudo 4: Hainawa!"
Katsuki growled and began struggling quickly as he was entrapped with two shining yellow ropes of Kidou. He looked up as they spoke again and his eyes narrowed further.
"Byakudo 61: Rikujokoro!" they chanted; both impaling him with a set of six yellow beams, "Byakudo 63: Sajo Sabaku!" With the final chant, Katsuki was bound with two thick chains of reiatsu, holding him still and preventing him from attacking and fleeing.
The two students, both sweating slightly after using two high level Kidou spells without their incantations, glanced at each other before they drew their Zanpakto again and looked back at Katsuki.
Ukitake's expression betrayed only a flicker of pain before he Shunpo-ed forwards ahead of Shunsui and let out a yell as he plunged his twin blades forwards and ran Katsuki through with them both. Only a heartbeat later, Shunsui was behind Katsuki and his blades both penetrated the Hollow's body too.
Katsuki's eyes widened and he ejected blood from his mouth; he looked at Jushiro with an expression of shock before he looked down towards the four blades impaling his body.
"H-Heh... I never... Imagined you would manage this..." he gasped out, "... Do you feel no regret in killing someone you claimed to have fallen for?"
Jushiro closed his eyes and sighed heavily before he opened his eyes again and looked back at the Vasto Lordes before him, "I had fallen for you, head over heels, but generally, when someone tries to steal my reiatsu without my consent I realise that they are my enemy and not my friend." He looked into the green eyes of the other man, "I do feel regret, but it is not at ending you for your soul will now be purified and you will return to Soul Society as a Plus Soul. My only regret is that I allowed you into my heart before I realised the truth. I trusted and believed in you and I was wrong to do so, had I listened to a certain someone I would not have been put in this situation." He said, casting a glance at his brunette friend who was still stood behind Katsuki.
"Him?" the Hollow growled, "He betrayed you as well! He made it possible for this to happen! Had he not taken your virginity and then cast you aside then you would never have been so vulnerable and you would never have come to me!"
"Indeed, he had a part to play in this scenarios outcome; however the only one to blame is you. You concealed yourself among Shinigami and you lied to everyone. For the sake of stealing people's reiatsu. And that is a crime in this world." He shook his head slowly, "Regardless of my feelings, I cannot allow you to harm innocent people, and I certainly cannot allow you to take my reiatsu, or Shunsui's. So the only course of action for you is this... And you brought it upon yourself."
Katsuki glared, his expression close to murderous, "Tch... You both possess such magnificent reiatsu... I suppose... In the end... As soon... As you teamed up... I had... No... Chance..."
Jushiro and Shunsui took several hasty steps back as Katsuki's body slumped and slowly disintegrated into blackened dust, being blown away by a very convenient breeze. They swallowed in sync before looking at each other for a long moment.
"Well... After that I really could so with a bloody drink." Shunsui broke the silence and started laughing before realising that his friend was still as naked as he had been when he had entered Katsuki's bedroom. He shrugged out of his cream-white kosode and flash-stepped over to his white haired friend, helping him into the warm clothing and tying the blue obi around his waist before he put an arm around his shoulder slowly.
"Are you going to be alright, Jushiro?" he asked softly, his eyebrows slightly knitted into a frown.
"I..." he sighed and looked down, "I have been an idiot, but... I will survive it and come back stronger."
"Alright." He smiled weakly, "How long have you been able to summon your Zanpakto?" he enquired curiously.
"Hmm? Oh... For about six months." He pouted, "I decided not to tell anyone because they would have moved me out of my classes and into the next ones, and I didn't want to leave my poor best friend to study alone because he never would have got anything done." He grinned as he grabbed Shunsui's face and squished his cheeks playfully.
"Hey!" he pouted right back at him, "Well at least now we can come clean and move into the next class together!"
"Yeah! That sounds good to me!"
"Really?" Shunsui faltered slightly and looked down.
"I... I'm not angry with you anymore. I think... I think you are a total prick when you want to be, but you are my friend. Not many people would have got between me and a Vasto Lordes like you did and you... Did it without a care to your own safety so... Thank you."
"Are we friends again then?"
"Best friends." He grinned.
Shunsui let out a breath of relief before he looked around suddenly, swallowing as he saw several senseis appear around them with their Zanpakto drawn. The Head Sensei walked forwards slowly.
"Where is the Hollow?" he asked, his long white beard blowing slightly in the wind.
"Dead, sir." Shunsui replied.
Jushiro licked his lips, "The Academy councillor, Katsuki, was actually a Vasto Lordes in disguise as a Shinigami; he planned to steal certain people's reiatsu and feed off them... We killed him, Yamamoto-Sensei."
"The two of you? On your own?"
"Yes, sir." They said together.
Yamamoto, looking at his fellow tutors, sheathed his sword and walked over to them slowly, "Do you have any idea how dangerous that was?"
Shunsui nodded once, "Yes sir, but you see, Katsuki had taken Jushiro captive and was draining his reiatsu. So I kind of ran in and tried to defeat him, but he was strong and then I started floating in my head and when I opened my eyes again these two swords appeared and Katsuki fired a cero and I thought I was doomed-"
"But then I woke up sir and I used my Zanpakto and shielded us from the cero and then we fought him out here and defeated him with a combination of Byakudo and then we stabbed him." Jushiro finished for him and sighed softly, "We really had no other choice but to fight him, sir, everyone else was held up and he would have killed us both if we had just sat around waiting."
The Head Sensei stared at them both for a moment before he reached out and rested a hand on their heads, "I am very impressed. Not many students could take on a fully grown Vasto Lordes and live to tell the tale of it as you two have done. I am very impressed indeed. Well done, Ukitake Jushiro and Kyoraku Shunsui."
They shared a glance with each other before thanking their sensei and accepting his praise.
"Now, let's get you to the Medical room so we can get your injuries seen to, and your reiatsu restored Jushiro." The elderly man added, resting his hands on their backs and lead the way to the nurse's office.
~ The Last Words ~
Yamamoto Genryusai stood in front of the men and women of Central 46 as he finished giving his report on the recent discovery of a Vasto Lordes being disguised as a Shinigami in the Academy and waited for their verdict.
"As decreed to us by the Royal Guard of the Soul King himself, we deem you Yamamoto, to form a Protection Squad of the most skilled Shinigami to pass through the doors of Shinoreijutsuin Academy. There will be Thirteen Divisions in this Protection Squad, and you will be the Head Taichou of the First Division. The other twelve will be for you to decide in time, when the first branch of Shinigami graduates to your level. With this Protection Squad you will seek out Hollows proactively and you will protect the Souls of those who have departed in the World of the Living and you will sheppard them on to Soul Society where they can be safe." The spokesman dictated, "You will also ensure that one of these Divisions is adept to dealing with traitors and runaways; just in case another event like this one ever occurs again. Is this acceptable?"
He bowed his head, "It is. I have one request, if I may make it?"
"What is it?"
"The two Shinigami students I mentioned possess spiritual pressure unmatched by their peers and predecessors, I desire for them to take the position of Taichou of two of these Divisions when they graduate. My request is that I be allowed to tutor them in the ways of running these Divisions as soon as possible so that they might be ready for when the time comes."
"Granted. Name these Shinigami."
He nodded once and spoke proudly of his students, "Ukitake Jushiro and Kyoraku Shunsui."
"Very well..." the spokesman slapped his hand upon his desk, "Upon their graduation, providing that their grades match up to what we expect, they shall graduate as Ukitake-Taichou, and Kyoraku-Taichou!"
~ The Last Words ~
It was only several days later that we discovered the conversation between Yama~jii and Central 46; it was certainly an overwhelming moment when Jushiro and I discovered that we would both be made Captains upon our graduation.
Katsuki's last words were words of realisation, he had always known that we were powerful and I sometimes wonder if he targeted Jushiro after discovering what had happened between us because he wanted; needed to keep us separate, he knew that if we stuck together he would never succeed. But in the end it was because he targeted Jushiro that we ended up fighting together; he should have taken the time to realise that I would never abandon my friend because of a falling out... Whether he said he hated me or not, if he ever needed me I would be there for him without question.
My... Self-concealed jealousy for Katsuki being able to touch and be close to Jushiro was extinguished the very night we ended his life, but my desire to fill the gap left behind was... Well... Constant and unchanging. So I remained close, as close as I could be despite my fears of society.
But revealing and defeating Katsuki's reign of hunger was only the first of our trials. As the Goeti 13 began to rise around us all, taking its time honoured place in Soul Society so emerged the Five Noble Families. Kuchiki and Shihouen are the ones who have come the farthest, they have been unwavering and constant; carving their way through history in the Soul King's image, there to guide and preserve tradition.
Piece by piece, Seireitei was built and when we were ready, there was a place for Jushiro and myself there.
Ah, but alas, I get ahead of myself for there remain many years to my tale before we reach the point at which we currently find ourselves at. You will have to forgive the ramblings of an aging man... Then again, I think Jushiro would say I have always rambled despite my age. Heh, his sense of humour never fades regardless of the highs and lows of his sickness.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this chapter! Please review and feed the writer :)