This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Sakura petals flew in a woman’s mind as she laid asleep on her futon, it had been utter bliss that night. The scenery was beautiful and what took her breath away was the star filled night sky. Her eyelids fluttered as she remembered a kiss that touched her knuckles, her heart to skipping a beat before warmth entered her body. However the one thing she couldn’t shake off was the guilt. If only he knew that she wasn’t who he thought she was. Would he still have still said those things? Would he still have been interested in her?
She wasn’t sure but what she did know was that it had been the best night of her life. Not once did she regret it, but that didn’t meant that she shouldn’t watch her back just in case something bad were about to happen. Especially now.
The woman groaned as she slowly opened her ocean blue eyes as they fluttered from adjusting to light around her, her eyes went to her long wavy black hair that could mostly be seen on her right side. But when she looked down, she smiled at what was there.
Her little one, only now it was resting leaving her time to reminisce. To think this all started back at an abandoned house, she only tried to save a little girl only she died as an troll crushed her head so crudely and from an angle filling the front of the terrified woman who was only a teenage girl with blood. Not knowing what to do she was forced to sit and watch as he drew near to her, the woman had been filled with nothing but fear as he forced her to the ground and was planning to violate her before he devoured her. However he never did get the chance as bluish black flames attacked him until he was reduced to ash.
This caused the woman to sit up and stare at HIM, his eyes were wild and dangerous leaving her feeling nothing but unease. She remembered him going towards her and without warning slammed his hand on the wall beside her causing her to jump slightly as she heard the wood groan from the sudden pressure he caused, a small gasp left her throat leaving him to smirk at her reaction. He then had his hand on the bottom of her face by her chin, allowing his fingers to graze her face including her mouth and cheek as he observed her. Not liking what he was doing she bit him making him blink in shock as he retracted his hand from being bit again, he suddenly smirked while his eyes glinted darkly from what she had done but she cared not. No, he had no right to touch her in such a familiar manner and in truth it made her sick to her stomach, he wasn’t married or related so what right did he have to do that? To touch her in such an indecent manner, it was disgusting.
She remembered that someone had entered the abandoned house and had called a person’s name, which then caused him to leave her on the floor and quickly closed the door just to greet who it was but made sure that she was not seen when he blocked the person’s view. This in turn provided her with an opportunity to escape and she took it without hesitation, she also remembered running until a demon almost ambushed her to the point that she had fallen off a cliff and immediately assumed that she had died when darkness appeared. By the time she came to, she had woken up to meet Ami for the first time. It was a meeting that allowed them to become close and allowed her to meet him when she saw him injured and alone in the forest. It left her sad to know that some yōkai and Gods wanted him dead enough to ambush him when his guard was down, it was a cowards way and she knew it.
The woman immediately went to wash her face, mindful of her bump as she knelt by the bucket. The water felt cool on her face and removed the last traces of sleep, allowing the woman to start the day.
Making sure that her yukata hid the bump she went out of her home in order to work, after all she needed to make sure that her strength was up in order to keep her baby healthy. Her job involved working in a household filled with noblemen and women, some were polite while some were not leaving her missing Ami and her home before she stopped that trail of thought. No she was her friend who deserves all the happiness in the world after yōkai burned her home to the ground and killed everyone Ami had known, she would never wish that on anybody that’s for sure.
As usual she greeted the family of the household before getting started on her chores, to the inhabitant’s surprise she had asked to live alone which had been a strange request but allowed it to pass. Not once did they suspect that she was pregnant and that was how she would like to keep it that way.
The chores were hard thanks to the fact that she couldn’t bend as much as she could anymore, she was guessing that she was about six months along but still kept it silent given that the last thing she wanted was to be out of the job with no money to support her or the baby. She would also never reduce herself to go and find him for help, no this baby deserved a happy carefree life and that’s what she was going to give her baby.
The woman felt happy and blessed to know that the household was giving her money for food and clothes, she had never complained once for she’d accept whatever help that is available for it was beneficial or would be in the future. However she did know that she would have a lot explaining to do if people had found out about her pregnancy, she did have one idea but it was a depressing one. But she did hope that they would believe her and not ask for any more details.
There were times when she had caught the looks of one of the noble men in the house, some in fact stared at her with sometimes indecent eyes leaving her feeling uncomfortable from their gaze. However she knew very well on how to defend herself when the time came, she could only hope though that it wouldn’t hurt her baby when she had to defend herself. No, this little one was her only family. Her whole world and she would never change that for anything in the world.
“Yuuki-chan” came a female’s voice causing her to look up.
“Oh Cho-sama how are you?” Yuuki asked politely making the girl chuckle.
“Oh Yuuki don’t be like that when we’re alone” Cho said making Yuuki smile softly before continued to clean the floor.
“So how are you?” Cho asked as she smiles at Yuuki with a grin on her face, Cho was the middle child of the family but was very sickly. Some worried that she would not be strong enough to bare any children leaving the family with almost no expectations on her at all, which in itself was upsetting given that her father would easily cast her away if something were to happen if she was deemed useless much to her mother’s shock. It had always been like this before Yuuki had showed up, but it was thanks to Yuuki’s kind patient heart that encouraged Cho to be friends with her. At times they would talk about what was on their mind and never told anyone their secrets to anyone.
“Just tired but I’m okay” Yuuki answered with a sigh as she wipes the sweat from her head. Cho nods in response to Yuuki’s claim given that it was very hot outside. At a distance she spotted the young Lord known as Hiro who was very timid and frail for a seven year old. At times he could be seen against at tree where the small lake was and would be sitting down as he read one of his scrolls, not once showing any emotion as he read. He to Yuuki’s dismay was always looked down upon for being the runt in the family leaving her sad by their attitude towards him, at one point she had went to Hiro and placed a plate of sasamochi down in front of him before greeting the boy and left without another word. Not once did she check to see if he was eating or not, she had just left him alone knowing that he needed space but she did catch the sounds of his brothers laughing at him as they tormented him for various reasons. At times they ruined his scrolls before they threw him in the lake much to her fury, sadly she couldn’t tell them off but she did inform the mother who immediately scolded them as Yuuki went to get him out of the lake. Not saying anything Yuuki had patted him down even though he shrugged her off and told her to leave him alone. However not once did Yuuki say anything or leave, instead she just continued drying him off before handing him a new yukata from his room. After doing that did she leave but only once he was dry and left him with the semi wet blanket so he can finish drying in peace.
Cho at times did comment that Hiro did like Yuuki and would often stare at her with curious eyes whenever she entered his line of vision.
“I have to admit he does love the sasamochi but is too shy to even ask for it” Cho giggled at a shocked Yuuki who then smiled softly from her friend’s words. “In fact it’s thanks to you that he’s starting to open up in some way, mother is grateful too” Cho comments with a grin.
Now as the months went by he would still sit in his usual spot at the tree, thankful that the shade was being giving to him by the tree was blocking the sun light.
Cho smiles as she fiddles with her kimono sleeve before she turns her head to look at Yuuki, this caused the young woman to look up and chuckle lightly.
“What?” she asks before laughing as she saw that her friend wasn’t going to stop looking anytime soon.
“So? When’s it due?” Yuuki immediately froze from Cho’s words, her cloth had now fallen to the floor after she dropped it by accident the moment she heard those words.
“When? What is due?” Yuuki asks stiffly as she realizes that she had frozen which in turn gave herself away much to her dismay. Cho giggles as she looks at Yuuki.
“The baby silly, I saw the bump a few months ago” Cho replied with a smile, she was happy that her friend was pregnant but confused as Yuuki never did mention about any husband. Yuuki was not rooted to the spot, not moving from the fact that she had been found out so soon.
“It’s no surprising since you were sick when you came here and then you started eating a lot of stuff after a few months” Cho comments with a smile.
“I...I...” Yuuki looked away feeling sad, seeing this took Cho by surprise.
“You’re not happy? But why?” Cho asks looking worried leaving Yuuki mentally cursing at how she was hesitating.
“My husband died before I came here, I was only trying to keep it a secret so I wouldn’t be a bother” Yuuki replied meekly, hoping that it would allow the girl to back off. Cho’s eyes went wide from the news not believing what she was hearing, she never did expect that Yuuki would be a widow much less married.
“Yuuki I’m so sorry” Cho said before hugging a shocked Yuuki.
“Don’t worry I won’t tell a soul” Cho said sternly as she gave her friend a reassuring smile, hearing this left Yuuki slightly relieved, however Cho frowned after she pulled away from the hug “and don’t ever say that you are a burden!” she snaps taking Yuuki by surprise from the sudden attitude.
“Huh?” Yuuki was baffled by the tone of Cho’s voice.
“You are anything but a burden, you are a valued member of the family Yuuki! So never doubt that!” Cho comments as she looks at Yuuki “if anything you work too hard, take a break later” Cho ordered leaving Yuuki completely stunned.
“What? But why? I’m fine-” Yuuki stutters as she tries to pick up the cloth she dropped.
“No you’re not, so don’t go hiding it from me” Cho folded her arms. “You nearly fainted a few times due to the heat, pregnant mothers should rest or they could hurt their baby. You don’t want that to happen right?” Cho asks Yuuki with a stern look, Yuuki sighed deeply before nodding. In truth she was getting a little light headed since she hadn’t been able to drink anything after she left the house. Seeing Yuuki nod made Cho grin.
“There you see I’m right! Now finish this spot and go lie down okay, I’ll tell mother that the heat is bothering you okay?” she winks before running to her mother leaving a smiling Yuuki behind. The young woman shook her head before moving to get back to work.
“!!!” Yuuki blinked in shock as her bucket had been kicked to the other end of the porch causing the earth to be stained with water.
“Oh how clumsy of me” said a male causing her to look up and hide her scowl. Lord Kaito had appeared once again much to her dismay. He had black hair and brown eyes but was wearing a green kimono and the black tall hat. “Forgive me Hisae-san I didn’t see you there” he said almost sounding sarcastic but fake.
"Yeah right! That was so deliberate you pervert!" Yuuki mentally snaps but keeps her composer.
“That’s quiet alright, the water was getting to dirty for me to use anyways” she replied with a smile that almost made him twitch had he not kept his composure.
"What is with this girl? Not once does she respond to what I do, why though?" he asks himself as he looks at her. Yuuki then grabs the fallen bucket and stands up slowly so she didn’t injure herself.
“Well I’m going to finish my chores, you be sure to get to your father’s study on time” Yuuki said politely masking the sting of her words with a smile as she goes to refill the water with fresh water, Hiro however remained staring at his brother and sighs as he shakes his head from Kaito’s antics. What did his parents even do to bring this idiot into their lives was beyond him.
Kaito however was glaring at his brother before going after Yuuki causing Hiro to stand up and go to his father’s study, alerting him of his brother’s advances even though their father had warned them to leave the maids alone after the last few incidents that took place.
“Hisae-san wait” Kaito’s voice left Yuuki mentally groaning, couldn’t she catch a break from this player? She turned and faced him keeping her shoulders stiff as she looks at him.
“Yes Kaito-sama” she asks politely as they stood in a dark area of the household. The area left her slightly cold but it was better than dealing with the heat outside.
“I wanted to talk to you about something” Kaito said as he looks at her.
“You’re talking to me now with all due respect” she said trying to mask her sarcasm, Kaito raised a brow from her comment but said nothing.
“Well you see, my father has recently been asking me to look for a wife” he explained.
"Here we go" she thought grudgingly as she looks at him blankly.
“What I’m trying to say is that I want to court you” Kaito explained with a smirk as he looks at her with an expression that left her wanting to scoff and walk away... typical.
“No” was all Yuuki would say before turning her heel, she then tried to leave only before she could he grabbed her by her arm and pulled her close to him so her back was touching his chest.
“And why not Hisae-san?” Kaito asks as he whispers in her ear leaving her to shiver in anger and disgust.
“I don’t like you that way or feel anything remotely close to anything of that nature” she replied coldly, she almost elbowed him from the fact that he was nuzzling her neck. What was he a dog or something? Kaito grunted but quickly regained his composure.
“Don’t be like that Yuuki-chan, I find you very likeable” he says in a husky tone as he tries to grab the front of her clothes.
“I don’t! Please just let me go” she asked before he wrapped his arm around her waist only he froze from the fact that her stomach was big compared to the other maids.
“What is this?” Kaito barks as he turns her round to her horror, he then pushes her against the wall making her grunt from the pain from how forceful he was being. Yuuki’s eyes went wide at what he was doing, she was forced to endure the fact that Kaito had pulled the folds of her yukata to see her bump leaving him to glare at what he was seeing.
“So you are a whore after all?” he asks coldly causing her to glare and slap him hard, Kaito grunted from the blow as he held his face but kept his grip on her arm.
“I am anything but that you jerk!” Yuuki snapped as she tried to push him away.
“Then how are you with child?” Kaito asks coldly as he glares at her for the slap, the nerve of this lowly maid who would dare slap him at all. This in fact to him was an insult given that maids had no right to attack their masters.
“I am a widow!” Yuuki yells at him hoping he would back off but highly doubted that he would, Kaito’s eyes narrow in anger not believing her for a second.
“I doubt it, if you are a widow then who is your husband and where is he buried?” Kaito ordered as he stared at her his expression not changing for a second.
“He was buried in my old village!” Yuuki yelled in anger, still he did not believe her.
“Unless you want me to tell everyone in the village that you are sleeping around, you will do as I say” Kaito hissed darkly as he grabs both her arms, almost close to breaking them thanks to the way he was grabbing them. Yuuki felt herself grow scared as her heart began to beat from panic, what was he going to do to her?
“STOP IT!” Yuuki screams as she tries to get out his grasp but no avail.
“What is going on here?!” demanded a furious voice causing her to panic, she suddenly knees Kaito as best she can in order to get away. However this made her captor howl in pain before she was released.
“Ouch! You bloody slut!” he yells, Yuuki then pushes him away before he could grab her so she could try to escape only to see the members of the household staring at them causing her to stop and shiver in fear. Cho immediately rushed towards Yuuki and hugged her as she tried to get Yuuki away from Kaito, her father however was beyond furious as he looks at Yuuki and then his son.
“Is this what I raised you to be Kaito?!” their father yelled as Kaito got up and rubbed the blood off his sleeve with his lip grudgingly.
“That woman is a whore, I saw her with a man last night and I went to see if it was true” Kaito grunted as he got up, their father looked at Yuuki who’s eyes showed disbelief. It didn’t even seem possible to the father, after all Yuuki had proved time and time again to be loyal and hard working so it was clear to him that his son would lie just to save his skin.
“What proof do you have of this?” their father asked coldly as he looks at his son, watching Cho hug Yuuki from the corner of his eye.
“Because she’s with child” Yuuki’s heart stopped from hearing his words, no please anything but that!
The father then looked at Yuuki in shock.
“Is this true?” the father demanded as he yelled at Yuuki, as he went towards her he was blocked by an angry Cho shocking him and the spectators.
“Her husband was murdered by a yōkai attack!” Cho yelled shocking the family members except Kaito, “You can’t honestly just think that my brother is telling the truth” Cho cried in anger as she tried not to cry in frustration from what her own brother was doing. Cho’s mother soon started to look at her son Kaito with disgust, to think that he would stoop so low as to attack a women regardless if she was pregnant or innocent had left her sick to her stomach.
“She’s lying!” Kaito responded in anger. “Some have seen her talking to demons, in fact they say she bewitches people-”
“That’s enough!” their father yelled silencing his son completely.
“You will speak no more lies about her Kaito, I know for a fact that you have prayed on some girls in the village and have ruined their innocence. It is just lucky and yet unlucky that you have done this- allowing me to catch you harassing one of our maids in my HOUSEHOLD!” The father scolded harshly making Kaito bite his lip. “Which is why I was planning to have you married off, so you will be rooted and committed but it seems that it was a mistake to believe that it would happen” he added scornfully. Kaito did not respond knowing that he was going to suffer if he spoke out of terms.
“You will go to your room until I send for you, if you run then I will banish you from this house leaving you with nothing” their father warned, Kaito nodded before leaving the area.
Once he was gone did the father look at Yuuki.
“I am truly sorry for what he has done” he apologies “What he has said is inexcusable and immoral” Yuuki shook her head and looked at him.
“It was to be expected” this took the father by surprise by how she was responding to the situation “the maids have been spreading rumors about him given that he caused one of the maids who had worked here before to leave after he violated her” Yuuki explained leaving him to clench his fists.
“I am truly sorry about this Hisae-san, I fear that he will spread rumors to discredit and slander you” Yuuki nods in agreement knowing that he had a point.
“I understand Fujita-sama” Yuuki replied as she bowed in respect, she saw his eyes grow heavy as he looked at his wife.
“Get some rest Hisae-san and I’ll call you when I’ve reached a decision” Cho’s eyes went wide as a gasp left her lips.
“Father you can’t be serious! She can’t leave just because of Kaito, can’t you kick him out?” She cried leaving him to sigh.
“Your mother and I will discuss what is going to happen. For now look after Hisae san” Fujita said softly before walking out the room with his wife.
It was agony waiting for the verdict, especially for something that she didn’t do. She knew that he had to stay or it would leave a bad stain, it would give them a bad reputation and all because of him. But then there’s the fact that Kaito would spread more malicious lies and rumors in order to discredit her without a shadow of a doubt, and since maids didn’t have much support from the higher class it would be the maids’ words against the ones who attacked them.
The mere thought terrified Yuuki as that would definitely put her and her baby at risk of death, mostly due to the fact that this was their only source of income and if that went then where could they go? Where would she be able to work if the news about why she was sent away travelled to the other households, no one would want a troublemaker much less someone who is a victim to such slander.
Cho no matter how much she tried to stay positive was in a state of shock. To think that he would go after her friend had left her sick to her stomach. At times she looked at Yuuki and had tried to smile as she held her friend’s hand, Yuuki however could feel Cho’s shaking a bit as she tried to remain calm but was finding it hard to do so given the circumstances. So Yuuki patted Cho’s hand causing the younger teen to pause and look at her, she was surprised to even see that Yuuki was smiling despite all this.
“Everything will be okay, remember that” Yuuki said calmly causing tears to run down Cho’s cheeks, she then immediately hugged Yuuki leaving the pregnant female smiling.
“I don’t want you to go away it’s not fair, why did he have to do that?” Cho cried as Yuuki remained calm as she patted the upset girl’s back lightly, not saying anything for she too was too was confused by the whole turn of events.
After what seemed like hours did the door open to reveal a maid who looked at Yuuki with sad eyes.
“Fujita-sama wishes you to enters his studies now” the maid spoke softly, Yuuki nodded before getting up only just as she stood up did something grab her hand. She turned to see Cho looking at her with a look in her eyes.
“I’m coming too” Cho said sternly. Daring the maid to question her authority, the maid however did not and allowed them to go ahead much to Cho’s relief.
The walk was long and agonizing, almost too much to bear for them as the only thing that they can hear were the sounds of either their breathing or their footsteps that paddled on the wooden porch before they entered Fujita’s study area. Yuuki’s heart throbbed in her chest as she tried to gather the courage to open the door, what seemed like ages did she open the door.
“Enter” said a stern voice, it was then that Yuuki turned to Cho and gave her a soft smile knowing that no matter things will work themselves out soon.
The room was filled with scrolls and many shelves that stored them, a low table could be seen near the fireplace and a window above one of the areas in order to bring light to the semi dark room.
Yuuki swallowed before taking a deep breath and entered the room until she was sitting at the table opposite the man who had a scroll in front of him. Beside him was his wife who had a brooding look on her face which gave them the hint that something bad has or will happen.
“Thank you for coming Hisae-san” the father said softly before looking at his wife briefly. “We have come to a decision and it was not an easy one to say the least”
“Can she stay please? Are you going to kick Kaito out?” Cho asks as she looked at her parents with hopeful eyes, however instead of saying anything they went silent leaving her feeling like she had been hit by frozen cold water.
“Kaito has made his intentions clear, if we banish him then he will discredit not only us but Yuuki as well and given her condition. It will not be best to test him for he will be a person of his word” the father replied weakly while his wife sighed from feeling drained by the whole thing, Cho however was angry.
“How can you allow this to happen? Either ways he’ll do it so why are you giving in? He’ll do it again to some other poor girl and then what? We hide this and pretend that it never did happen?” Cho cried leaving her parents unsettled by her words.
“We know, that’s why we are sending him away so he won’t be a bother but then that leaves the situation with Yuuki, gossip will spread fast and it’ll discredit her to the point that things will happen. Unwanted things Cho and that’s why we’re sending her somewhere safe” Cho’s mother replied softly, her heart heavy from having to send a daughter figure away but if it meant keeping her safe then she’d do it.
“It’s not fair!” Cho cried. “Why must Yuuki-chan get punished for something she didn’t do?” The parents looked at each other wordlessly.
“We are sending her to one of our homes up north in order to keep her away from the unwanted attention, this will allow her to have her baby in peace and she’ll be given some money from us in order to help with the baby” her father replied with a sad smile, even this was upsetting him but he would not let it show until it was over.
Cho refused to back down until Yuuki placed her arm on Cho’s shoulder.
“That is fine” Yuuki replied leaving the parents not only sad but relieved that Yuuki would accept, this way she would not have to find work and could spend more time resting and raising her baby without any problems.
“How can you say that? I won’t be able to see you, none of us will be able to unless we leave the house and it’ll take days to reach you” Cho pouted hearing this made Yuuki smile knowing that her friend was worried about her.
“Don’t worry when things settle we can visit one another right?” Yuuki asks with a sad smile that left Cho in tears. Why did this have to happen?
"I sure hope he suffers for tearing this family apart" Cho thought grudgingly as her anger slowly mellowed knowing that Yuuki hopefully will be safe from harm, Yuuki meanwhile continued to try and sooth Cho by rubbing her back as the shaking girl nods.
“I’ll miss you” Cho’s voice shook as Yuuki comforted the upset girl.
“I’ll miss you too Cho” Yuuki says softly.
“I’ll never get to see the baby as it grows up” Cho wailed leaving Yuuki smiling slightly.
"Believe me if the baby had any part of him or has his powers, then it’ll be best not to. The last thing I want is to put you in danger" Yuuki though wearily as she felt her heart grow heavy. The parents immediately hugged Yuuki after the girls parted from their hug.
“You can set off tomorrow if you want since it’s getting dark out there and there will be yōkai running around” the mother offers. Yuuki nods as she smiles from the kind gesture.
The next day Yuuki’s items were placed in the carriage securely so nothing would get damaged or fall out. Yuuki soon hugged the mother, father, Cho and a reluctant Hiro before setting off in the carriage.
“Bye I’ll miss you all” Yuuki waved only to laugh at their response as some waved or ended up teasing Hiro thanks to his antics. Now putting her head back in the carriage she began to sigh and relax as she rubbed her belly, smiling as she felt a kick within minutes. Mentally preparing for the journey ahead, while also hoping that they would be safe from any danger no matter what.
263Adder: Okay so I adore this story. I only knocked one star off plot for historical inaccuracies because I'm a bit of a stickler for that. The ending broke my heart though, considering you already changed history couldn't you (SPOILER) change it a bit more and have them together!!!! I want an alternative...
MavisMcQueen: "To Live Again" is a well crafted, highly engaging, heart vibrating tale surrounding our favorite Elven King. The author will keep you engrossed until the very end and by that time you will feel so strongly for Clara and the other characters that you will never want it to end...like ever. Thrandu...
LouiseJ2: I enjoyed the detail you went into with regards to the case. It made the UNSUB appear believable. The crisis in the middle of the story was my favorite part, very dramatic but not over the top. I feel like sometimes pairings can be overdone but I liked that some of the relationships were a little...
ernbelle: When I first started this story I was a little unsettled by all of the information that appears in the prologue, and wasn't sure if I would continue. However, I am very glad I did. The plot was very well thought out and really interesting. There were not any page breaks or markers to acknowledge ...
Ruby0h: Overall I thought your story was really good! It drew me in right away and kept me interested as the story progressed. I loved the character of Kayla being inserted into this story, and the way she affected and shaped the life of the original story into something totally new and interesting. I lo...
Flik: Hi! ^.^ huge fan of yours on ff.net! When I saw the note about this contest on The Way We Smile, I couldn't help but rush over here, create an account, and vote! XD Seriously love this story and would recommend it to anyone! :D best FT fanfiction out there. Amazing story, amazing concept that wa...
summerstone: Seriously this is one of the best books I've ever read. The plot is intriguing, I love the narrative style. Its very descriptive and unique, with minimal cliches. It makes for a great read and the sequels are amazing. Totally worth reading. ^^ That's me trying to be professional. But in all hones...
FreakyPoet: "you made me laugh, made me cry, both are hard to do. I spent most of the night reading your story, captivated. This is why you get full stars from me. Thanks for the great story!"
Sara Joy Bailey: "Full of depth and life. The plot was thrilling. The author's style flows naturally and the reader can easily slip into the pages of the story. Very well done."