War of Dragons: Fort Ouph
The various Adventurers enter into the depths of Fort Ouph, guided by one of the Landers, in an attempt to try and find the 'Old Man' of Breg Epona. They have the aid of a shadowy organization that has been looking into the matter the moment the matter of Mac Anu came out.
This is aimed mainly at New World Alliance, as they are investigating this Root Town, but there's open spots for people who can't make the other events.
Maneuvering into the depths, the part is currently following a woman wearing dark blue colors. The pale Imp, known by the name of Mora Chester, is the Hero of the Imp race. She's not that talkative, and portrays this air of power as she leads the groun to the center regions of Fort Ouph, and begins her way down one of the unfinished stairways downwards along the edges of the city.
"Please be careful of your steps." She warns. "There are many dangerous places here." The woman proposes, as she steps up onto the rather rickety looking wooden deck at the bottom of some stairs, and touches a little dial that seems like it has four colors attached to it.
The metal jumps into place, and after confirming the color is correct, she starts stepping through a wooden door into what looks to just be a regular old livingroom with a hearth and various seats within.
"Stay close to me, Rama. If it's as dangerous as she says, I don't want anything bad happening ot you." The Ranger ruffles the large, furred ears of her animal companion, then rises, keeping one hand on her sword. In such close confines, the bow wouldn't be as useful of a weapon, most likely.
The white haired human looks to Yeo first, who was heavily involved with the search effort. The blue eye goes to the Imp hero after. A little bounce on his feet to test his footing to be careful on where he steps. A time and a place to have fun. A time to be serious. Seems more on the right side of the dial today. "It is," he asides to Merek, "like a big capture the flag match. Getting points on the board will keep a lot more people safe." That is an oversimplification of the sort of malady that could befall a 'not safe' scenario. He looks around for the Fuka to go for a hand. To bravely go where no Adventurers have gone before! Probably.
Standing in the back of the group is Rizadoman as he watches his alliance mates infront of him. Perhaps it is due to whatever guilt he has about all this or perhaps it is just the ever looming present of death that seems to have cropped up. At the simplification of the situation he turns to Haru, " Just remember, this is not a game. Especially not one we can afford to lose." Shouting towards the front he speaks up to their guide, and in his voice is a sort of reverence, "Lady Chester, does the guardian protection not work down here?"
Still, she'd spent most of the time just proceeding with the group, while looking over some of her notes. Up until a gust of wind slapped the parchmet in her face. "... Oh.. we're down in the windier areas." Quickly she folds up her notes and tucks them back into a belt pouch so she doesn't lose them. Runs a hand through her hair. Come on girl, get with it. Work to be done. ".. That's actually a good idea, Rizado."
"It's never been a game, no. Anyone who thinks so is delusional, my old friend."
The elf then gives Shiruba a nod.
Does a flying city even have depths? Fukaziroh even posed the question at one point, no doubt getting ignored. Not that she lets that stop her, as she perhaps makes up for Mora Chester's lack of talkativeness by keeping up a steady stream of commentary. "Do people actually go down here often?" "Oh hey footprints. Wait, they're your footprints." "Do the depths have a rat problem? I've never had rat duties send me here." "I can see my house from here!"
Fortunately Fuka's easy to ignore, as she's not being terribly loud or terribly pushy. She doesn't expect replies, and is content to natter on regardless. She's careful of course. Sure she can use her wings if she falls off, and frankly skydiving sounds like a fun thing to do later, but she's here for a reason and it's not going to be well-served if she falls off!
She's also willing to offer a hand to Haru. She can protect him from falling! By keeping him safely up here of course, not flying with him. And he can keep her from being flighty likewise, though so far all she is is chatter-happy. "Oh hey that's a neat button. And that's a neat room! Cozy! But ... uh... who'd live down HERE?" she asks, somewhat dubiously. Sure it's got a great view, but the commute is brutal.
When the door opens to the living room, he frowns faintly, "This ain't it, I hope." He keeps his left hand resting on his belt, thumb hooked just behind the belt buckle, as he looks around. The place doesn't look abandoned despite the path it took to get there.
When the door closes behind them, sealing thm from the nasty winds, she takes a moment to count the lot of them, making sure nobody fell on the way in, and then steps towards the hearth. "As such, it has a lot more secret ways to get around the limited space that is available to this sky fortress." She motions towards the hearth itself, and then steps away.
"I believe this is something you Adventurers may be good at."
The stones of the hearth are arranged in unusual color combinations, each baring crystals of a particular color. "This is the only place we could not figure out within our decades within this city. And brute-forcing the solution takes too much time." The woman explains.
She then motions at the chamber. There's various objects, like candles, couches, things that have been locked with code combinations.
"I think the Alv that created this room enjoys puzzles too much."
"I think whomever designed this place, liked team-building exercises a bit much." Mikage comments, noting some of the stranger objects in the room even before Mora draws their attention to it. "We did one of these once. Mihara messed up so Icchan made him drink matcha icecream through a straw."
With a motion of her hand, Miki seems to command Rama. "Let's see what we can find. There's got to be something in here to help us solve things." Sure enough, both she and her animal companion manage to find some crystals attached to a few objects in the room. "Found a few of these!" She calls out. "I'm putting them over here so they're all together."
"So there could be much to find down here or other things in the way of defences." Also it was good to have an idea of how deep the guardians went. She would look about nolw pauing to sense for the sign o ghidden passages as she looks about the chambers tying to see if she can find a way forward. "humm I wonder is this candle holder..."
Once inside the area and once it's sealed, Fukaziroh stretches with a loud sigh. "Secrets are pretty great!" she agrees, looking around in fascination. "Oooooh I love puzzle games!" she exclaims. Which is probably funny to those who know her and have done duties with her, because she's extremely hit and miss with puzzles and tends to get frustrated if they don't spill their secrets in a predictable fashion.
Still, she starts poking about the room, actually managing to be rather keen of eye and attentive to detail. Not solving the puzzles themselves, but finding things which apparently are meant to work with the puzzles. Crystals and crystal-adjacent items. They look important! She's more fascinated by the searching out of the special items than she is in actually putting them in appropriate places, so fortunately there are others around that are willing and able to take that role.
"It is windy," Haru says, taking one of the notes and handing it to Shiruba. Gives her a good look over to see where her fatigue levels are at before handing her jerky and an apple snack along with it. He is no physician and he would rather lean on the safe side of the Commander's health.
Thankfully Fuka's questions are making up for Haru's lack of commentary. Of the two, she is more likely to keep him from falling due to his lack of Phys and her affinity to Air. He keeps it all Grounded. "Someone who does not want to be found," the man observes. To Kaydon there is the notion, "that won't take long..." the last words draw out slowly as they end up in a living room. He didn't know what to expect, and in retrospect a living room makes sense, but he also didn't expect this. Something Adventurers are good at? Haru loses the good hand contact with Fuka with a nod to go searching. It isn't his strongest ability, but colors and symbols always remind him of Enchanting foundations. Of course the act of going through them sends him in a logical loop that is performed out of order. Book up, candle down, chair... rotated? No you rotate the chair first. "They do like their puzzles," he rumbles, seeing the third Immortal Object warning on the candle holder. It was the Alv in the Study with the Candleholder!
Rizadoman moves in slowly as he listens to the Hero speak, and looks around the room slowly as he hears the suggestion that we adventurers may be good at puzzles. He steps in slowly and begins to look around for any form of clue. What he learns is that when he tries to move something, he gets an immediate 'NO' in the form of an IMMORTAL OBJECT message. This doesn't just happen once either, at one point he is so on edge about it and finally he tries to move something else and again he gets the message. "Cursed puzzle! Give me a book, a language, anything but a damn number game."
She listens carefully to Mora Chester as she explains about the Guardians, and about secret ways, filing away the information for general knowledge.
Inside the room, she hrms, and looks at the puzzle, and at the pieces. But ... is that all the pieces there are? She chuckles as Mikage mentions team building exercises. It's interesting what it tells you about a team, but also, sometimes good teams resent being tested. So it's sometimes hard to say based on a strict reading of the results.
Turns out she does find a few more pieces, placed in out of the way locations. Apparently it's important to consider -all- the pieces so any missing could throw this off. Fortunately, it looks like we've made a pretty good search of the area.
He starts doing his best to direct traffic amongst the people working that portion of the puzzle, and then helps out where he can as an extra pair of hands when people need them to assist with the puzzle.
Not that she gives this away too far. Her expression is only /somewhat/ readable.
When they are done, the hearth...
It doesn't open. It doesn't holographically disappear. No, it's as if the hearth itself just fades away, as if the material was being brought 'elsewhere' beyond their kin. Behind it, a simple door.
"I will remain here." Mora Chester explains. "I feel like I should not go beyond that treshold." She expresses, while looking at that door itself with a wry look.
When they open the door and step through...
For many of them, it's like being on a class trip. Stepping out onto what is basically just a squared observation deck. Glass panes ahead of them. Beyond, they see a few birds flying. The subtle rumble of wind playing at the glass. And beyond it, they beautiful Tokyo skyline. There's yellow lights hanging above them, as well as large yellow balls, suggesting a New Years celebration.
There various lights in the houses ahead are lit, and the moment they step through that treshold, it's almost like they stepped into a new world. Their Chimlinks suddenly stop working as well.
"I did not expect anything like this."
She will check her menu, okay good that's still working.
"I'll scout ahead, Shiruba? Shall we?"
If no one stops her she'll start to head off to see what she can find.
Only to stop and stare at the windows at the view presented. "... No way..." As a Tokyo native she recognizes the skyline. But how is that possible? Is it some kind of projection? There's no way they could of actually stepped back out to the 'real' world... is there?
Of course, what lies beyond is something even more, quite literally, other-worldly. "Is that..." Mikage had lived in Toyko, so the sight is all too familiar to her. She goes qiuet, looking out at the sight before them. She almost seems paralyzed by it, "Is this some kind of hologram or...?"
The questions don't quite fully form, but the feeling of homesickness settles in her chest briefly before a nudge from Rama brings her back around to reality. "So... we're trying to find a person, right? Seems like we need to keep looking." Her eyes keep going back to that skyline, though.
Rizadoman steps through the threshold and Rizadoman panics for a moment, it's like being back in that world. He checks himself first, and even goes so far to open his menu as if checking he was still where he was. Retrieving from his inventory a small mirror he looks at himself and relaxes a little before stepping forward. "This is still a part of Yamato," the Lizardman's voice is stern as if he is trying to convince himself just as much as others and if he states it is true it must be. Taking a deep breath he walks towards the window slowly to take in the skyline for a moment. Even for him there is still, something...sentimental about it all.
Taking some step forward he then turns and looks towards the others "Mikage is right, we need to spread out and keep looking. For anything and anyone that ccan help us." Taking a moment more to stare at the skyline he would move to seek with others.
Apparently it's not new to some of them, but Kaydon sure as hell hasn't seen anything like this. When folks start checking menus, Kaydon does the same. He opts to stay in his were fang form, however, "If we're off the server, then where the hell are we?" He asks as he looks over at Merek, "Our menus still work so we're not out of the game.." Also he's still a gnoll, a pretty good sign he's still in game.
Fuka doesn't even notice Mora's observations, or at least pays them no heed as she searches. This is, after all, a game. She's a gamer. This sort of activity defines her. She's not as good at it as some, naturally, but few will be more enthusiastic than her.
The payoff as they complete the escape room sequence is impressive, to be sure. "Oooooh. It's like it's a portal to another world opening up!" she coos. She glances at Mora questioningly, then shrugs. Perhaps she'll share the outcome later. Perhaps this is one of those things the Imp Hero doesn't want to know. Fuka falls in line though. SHE wants to know.
She stops to blink as she sees what awaits her. "Oooookay, it WAS a portal to another world." she says. "Are we like... is this Tokyo Tower? I haven't been up it since I was a kid! It is, isn't it?"
Abruptly Fuka pauses, straining to look at herself. Checking out her hair, her wings, her boobs. "Oh. Yeah, still Fuka I guess!" she claims cheerily to Haru. She wouldn't have minded being Miyu again, but that would be way too easy wouldn't it?
"Sorry, ma'am, scuse me!" she calls to the Hero as she barrels past, tipping a nonexistant hat and skidding to a halt just behind Fuka. "Wait, wha?" she says, staring out. "Did somebody switch servers on us while I was running after you lot?"
There's a Gyaru woman with long multi-colored fingernails leaning over one of the railings, staring off at the distance as a plane slowly slides along the far skies, pushing herself up along the railing. Long blonde hair unable to hide the green Sylph glowing wings on her back, which peek through her gaudy black and gold clothes as if they were not even there.
She then turns and sits on the railing, regardless of the sign that says 'do not lean on the railing', and draws one leg over the other.
She looks between the lot of them and scoffs; "They really will let just anyone into this place now don't they?" She asks. "Sorry, but I will protect this Remnant of the Old World if I must." The woman professes, before turning her hand and looking at her nails. "Just try not to like... get my face dirty." Before throwing her blonde hair back a bit and exposing all that green makeup along her eyes, and runs her fingers through her hair for a moment before rolling her eyes at the people who've arrived before her.
Something Merek said picqued his interest. "This happened before with Helba? Before my time. Did she take you to an interdimensional corridor," Haru asks, sweeping a hand out. The clacking of his feet against the solid panes of the ground have an altogether immaterial sound given the space they are in. Clack Clack. He stops when he comes across the Gyaru. A finger rolls to his monocle to look at her and inspect rather naturally. He has a dozen questions but asks none of them yet. Since he imagines a fair deal of them are about to be shot out at her and she doesn't look like the patient type.
And then she remembers why they came down here. Quickly waves her hands. "No, no! We're not here to fight! We're here to make sure this place is safe from the invaders that -would- want to misuse it's potential importants." Pause. "And your face is very nice."
Crouching down, Mikage puts an arm around her companion, trying to sooth him as some of the others speak up first. "What do you mean by... Remnant of the Old World?" She doesn't try to make guesses on what seeing a place like this could mean. There are many explinations so it is better ask rather than make assumptions.
"I... don't think any of us have any intention of fighting you." Her voice is quiet. While the Ranger can be outgoing in some circumstances, in large groups she seems to fall back to a shy nature. "We're just trying to stop what happened in Mac Anu from happening again." Though, she hesitates, seeming uncertain if this being would even /know/ what happened elsewhere. "Did you know that the Old Man of Mac Anu has fallen under Palace Lands control?"
Rizadoman almost jumps when he hears the voice of Gyaru and turns to find the source. Rizadoman steps towards the lady and speaks, "We apologize for intruding upon your realm and we do not have any intention of fighting. As others have mentioned we are looking for the one who controls the ownership of Fort Ouph. Are you them, or a guardian of theirs? I am asking because we believe one of your compatriots was, well something happened to one of them. What I don't know, but they were in charge of Mac Anu." Taking a deep breath as other gets there word in before he adds, "We don't wish the same thing that happened there to happen here, wherever here is."
"A Remnant of the old world..."
she trails off lost in thought.
"To say this world is the past of this world?"
Maybe SEA is chasing pipe dreams after all.
"I am Erufu, I have no reason to fight you. The Palace Landers have enslaved the Old Man of Mac Anu much as they have the majority of the Adventurers in the Palace Lands. We will not linger long and it is likely those who rule the palace lands would revel to destroy anything to do with the Adventures homeworld."
A slip more so than she's ever made in her life since she's arrived here.
Tokyo what was part of it doing here? What was this place?
"So you just live here on this replica of the Tokyo Tower observation tower?"
Fuka grins playfully at Haru. "I'd show you! And I'd like to see your home too. Not sure I understand what you're saying about the lights, but ... I'm kind of confused right now so it's probably not your fault!" she claims, and then eeps as Miyako bursts in on their moment.
She doesn't *quite* pull away from Haru at that point, but it's a near thing. Fuka has little if any shame, but she does have a sense of propriety. And Miyako's presence reminds her that they're not alone, and in fact are here for a serious purpose.
Fuka looks curiously at Gyaru. A woman of this world, but one apparently influenced by the other world. Wait... does that mean their old world is literally this world's Old World? Is the world of Elder Tale actually somehow the future? Are they time travellers rather than isekai...ians?
Yeah, Fuka's confused. She doesn't bother protesting innocence though. It should be clear they're not here to fight. Adding her voice in to the questions would just delay someone else getting an answer, if there's a chance of getting such things at this point anyways. She just continues to stare, wondering just what exactly is going on. And what to do next. They've found what they came for, but is there any way to stop the Palace Landers from coming here somehow?
She then gets down. "Good. No fighting. I really don't like cleaning up this place. So like, that'll be better for me." She then gives Kaydon a look. "Don't go insulting my little home, alright? I don't 'just' live here. I do important work!" She remarks.
The Gyaru girl clicks her nails together on her right hand, rubbing them and making sure they're still looking good while putting her other hand to her side, now that she's no longer leaning on the railing. "So like, the Old Man was always such as stick in the mud. So whatever to him. Mac Anu is just a shitty Prototype anyway. Even Rosenheim was better than that place." She mutters with a roll of her eyes.
She stops staring at her nails and then steps towards Fukaziroh, planting her fingers against her face and considers her for a moment. Effortlessly moving her face while she gives her better looks. "Need more colors! Apply a bit more makeup. Be more extreme!" She demands from her. "Hmmm, if I only had my kit here right now." She murmurs.
Gyaru, the Gyaru (Pooka?) lets go of Fukaziroh and looks around. "Such sweeties. Here to protect me. So... what, are you all going to stick around here? I don't think that'd be a good idea. You lot should be out free and doing Hunter Guild quests or something. I think that's what they call them these days?" She asks. "Anyhow - you all confirmed I am safe. Now shoo-shoo. Should I be making sure a certain kind of people can't get near? How does this work, huh?"
"Interesting you should mention Rosenheim, they are one of the people I'd recommend keeping out. " Rizadoman says before he eases a little as he has to agree with the lady, at this rate they did what they came to do but a littler more information never hurts. " The landers, the npc, of the palace land have created or managed to find some sort of relic that can force others including adventurers to obey them. They look like crowns and we think that one was put on the old man of Mac Anu." Taking another deep breath he adds, " The people behind it are the rulers of Kallamore, Rosenheim and Thor. " Another moment of consideration before he adds, "Could you tell us how we could get to the old man of Mac Anu, so we could help him?"
Fuka's eyes go wide as the sylphen gyaru approaches her with those long, possibly vicious fingernails. But the much littler sylph is pretty easygoing and quick to engage in something social. "You think so? More makeup? Bolder colours? I certainly could use more colours. They don't work so well in my work clothes..." she says, slapping a palm against her opposite vambrace with a clank. She's often out in the wilderness after all, and bold colours really don't work. "A shame I didn't visit in casual wear! I'd have blown your socks off with the bold colours!" she boasts to Gyaru cheerfully.
As to the question of what next, seems not even Gyaru knows. Fortunately, wiser heads than hers are present. Letting them speak up, Fuka retreats to Haru's side. "Well she seems nice." the little sylph murmurs to Haru. "What do you think? More makeup?" she quips with a grin.
"You couldn't pay me enough to stick around here." Mikage mutters. Oh sure, the view is almost heartbreaking for Mikage, and that shows on her features, but having to deal with Gyaru? No thank you.
So, she leaves the discussion of what to do in the hands of more socially minded people. She just backs as far as she can towards the entrance, watching the backs of her companions with her hand on her sword, even as her eyes continue to linger on the skyline.
"Free isn't much of an option with a Crown on your head, if freedom is what you value," Haru notes, finally adding to the conversation. A hand gestures and says what is on his mind, "How is it you are responsible for what does or does not pass for Law in Fort Ouph?" He knows that looks can be deceiving and she clearly has a drive to protect this fragment of the Old World, but something doesn't add up yet.
She then motions her hand at Fukaziroh, "Oh girl, don't you know it! If it wasn't for the fact that I am not supposed to have visitors, I would like, totally invite you. Maybe have a drink with you! But I can't really leave this place y'know? It's my like, job." She makes an exasperbated sound and touches her chest while winking at her.
The woman then motions to Haru; "I mean, like, it's what I was created to do by the Alv! Honestly, kind of awful people. But like, not the worst, y'know? Yeah, I bet you know." She motions her fingers out at Haru while remaining standing at position. She then just laughs with nothing much to laugh about. "All of us Kunie rule important places like these. Can't expect anyone else to do this job."
She then turns to Miyako; "Oh hunie, no such thing. But they /are/ registered to the Kingdom's rulers. So like, if you can flip the ownership, or get the owner to just take them off, it's all good. It's all mightily tedious, but like, no big deal or anything."
She doesn't comment on Shibuya, but it isn't a root town.
Rizadoman contemplates the uestioning going on and steps back from the group. His questioning is done for now but he woulds tay and listen until they are either thrown out or the others are done badgering the woman. Instead he simply moves to the edge of the observation platform and simply enjoys the skyline. It was nice to bask in the sentimental for a moment. No reason for everyone to throw questions at her, though he hopes someone does take a moment to ask her for her name. Gyaru seemed more like a class type then a name.
"You guys have this in hand. I'm heading back." Mikage comments, motioning Rama with her. "I'll go talk to Mora about seeing how we can keep this place from being found. It... might be as simple as taking a few of the puzzle pieces with us so the answer can't be found."
She leaves it at that, then rises and starts to depart. This time, Mikage doesn't look back.
There's a fair deal of information here to unpack, and while Shiruba is absorbing it, most of it is getting filed away for later. The matter with the demonic gnoll cult is already trying to drag her attention away again in the back of her mind.
It draws another question from the Artificer, "Why are you talking to us, anyway? Though, not being allowed to have visitors sounds very," and he looks to Fuka for one of her coined phrases to him, "boring." He turns his head to watch Mikage go, giving a little nod to the decision.
She waits while others ask their questions and make their assertions before a thought comes to her mind. "Does the term 'Wave of Calamity' mean anything to you? Something to do with hourglasses counting down to a breach between this world and another?"
Fuka nearly bursts out laughing at Haru's horror at the thought of her going Gyaru. To be fair it's not Fuka's style at all, but she does take note of how much this poor ... Kunie? This poor Kunie seems to enjoy the idea. She makes a note to herself: if she has reason to return, be sure to be fashionably bold while doing so. It's a good idea to appeal to your host when you want something, after all, and she figures at least Gwen would have a good time suiting Fuka up in something colourful!
She pauses a moment at one bit of information. They're registered to the kingdom's rulers. The crowns, presumably. So that means what? That for the Palace Landers to crown a Yamatoan, they need a crown registered to Yamato? Or does it mean that if the ruler changes... the crowned loyalty of anyone from that nation changes? That sort of makes sense, and it would explain what happened in Mac Anu. Sort of. "Saaaay, the Guardians are also linked to who rules a given city, right? Or are they linked to the ... to the Kunie who is in a given city? Because they changed who the Guardians defended, so that's either because the ruler changed or because they took control of the Old Man or something?"
She shakes her head at Haru's question, not because she dislikes the question but because she could imagine nothing more boring than not having any visitors. Oh, she could do it, but not without some kind of socialization. Being a shut-in gamer would be fine so long as you have internet gaming! Without that, well, she herself nearly went out of her skull!
"I see, I will keep all of this in mind also thank you for a warm welcome and being willing to enterain our questions before we depart from this place."
"You just figure that out on your own." She then tells Miyako on the ownership flip. She motions her hand. "Go on. Off you go." She tells them. "I'll keep an eye out for like, those crowns or whatever. I'm going to get myself drunk or something."
She then looks to Fukaziroh. "It's a bit complicated. But I kinda like, decide who the ruler is. And like, it goes from there." She explains. "The Guardians have some temporary overrides I can put in place, but mess with the Cluster too long, and they get all uppity and complain about following the rules. Like, they're /so/ lame." She rolls her eyes. "Einweg this, and like, Befehler that."
She raises her hands to the air and starts motioning her hands more dramatically - showing the back of her hands to them. "Anyhow. Come on. Out - out! Out with the lot of you."
Fuka has never been particularly gyaru in style or nature. In the other world she's a hardcore yet fashionable nerd, perhaps willing to wear bold colours but not to the excesses Gyaru would probably prefer. She isn't that much of a drinker either, though of course she enjoys a good treat. Still, she nods enthusiastically to Haru's comment. "That sounds like it'd be so much fun!" she agrees even as she knows she wouldn't seek out that kind of a good time. If it happened she'd run with it, but never seek it out.
No, she takes her cue from the shooing, retreating. Considering whether or not she'd come back. If she does she'll bring high bold fashion and drinks, of course, but she isn't sure she'd be let in, even assuming she could figure out the entrance puzzle on her own. Well, she'd probably bring various LOONS along, and surely they'd be fine in a group, but she figures she should have a better reason than hanging out with a Kunie who hasn't had a good party in... well, probably millenia. It's still a possibility though!
"You could drop a hint where to start looking, at least?" She sighs softly as she straightens. She considers for a moment, then adds, "I know someone who makes some killer ramen.... could bring a few bowls by."