Chapter 10:

Case 10 - The Present, Past and The Future

The Dejected Detective

“Oi! Ayame! Wake up!” Bookmark here

She opened her eyes, Asuka and a few of the staff members knelt over her.Bookmark here

“Ah, good, you’re okay” said Asuka, relieved that Ayame was not seriously hurtBookmark here

Ayame sat up slowly and rubbed her eyes. “What happened?”Bookmark here

“Quicker to show you than to tell you,” Asuka responded. She placed her hand over Ayame’s forehead and closed her eyes. Ayame looked confused, Asuka’s magic activated and her surroundings vanished. Ayame was floating in an eternal darkness. In the distance were flickers of light that disappeared as quickly as they appeared. All of a sudden, she was falling into the light. She landed in her usual seat, watching the front entrance. It was like any other day, Okazaki came in late again, he had to go and get a fresh batch of cooling strips for his migraines. By that time Ayame had already done all of her paperwork and helped out Asuka by moving some old boxes in the Archives. The agents had come and gone, out on their missions and now, it was rather dull. She quickly used a talisman to get a coffee and sat back. She barely got a sip in before something made a noise behind her, when she went to investigate there was nothing there. Once again the sound caught her attention and once again there was nothing there. She realised that it was leading her away from the entrance, further and further into the office. Before long, the entrance was blown open and the shockwave launched debris everywhere. A section of it smashed into the wall next to her and knocked her unconscious.Bookmark here

Ayame woke up from the spell. Asuka’s nose was bleedingBookmark here

“What was that?”Bookmark here

“The head of the Archives team is given a Birthright magic when they are assigned the role. It’s called Archive, I know, creative name. It allows the user to see into the memories of anyone they use it on, as well as being able to show that person as well.Bookmark here

“Well, that was unexpected,” Ayame added. She noticed that Asuka’s face was beet redBookmark here

“Uhhh, are you okay?” She asked Bookmark here

Asuka covered her face with her hands and bowed down “I’m sorry Ayame, while I was going through your memory I saw…” she couldn’t finish her sentence Bookmark here

…”saw what?” Ayame asked curiouslyBookmark here

“You… Captain Okazaki… doing, things…”Bookmark here

Ayame realised what she meant and her face copied Asuka’s, beet red. Bookmark here

“Forget it!”Bookmark here

The staff members cautiously left the building. Any of the staff that had vigilance spells were put in front to gauge their safety before taking the next step. They finally reached the exit and fled. Only Asuka and Ayame remained just outside the office. Both stared into the buildingBookmark here

“You head home, Asuka. There’s something I still need to do in there”Bookmark here

“Are you crazy?! Going back in there is just asking for trouble. What could possibly be so important?”Bookmark here

“The recall.”Bookmark here

“Eh?” Bookmark here

“Okazaki controls more than just a handful of agents. One of them was supposed to be on her way back in the next few days. But there are still a hell of a lot more out there that we need here now. Pressing that button requires a key that a number of people hold… but only two are here now. The captain and I have keys, but if he isn’t able to get to it, this whole office and everyone in it is done for. If I can just unlock the door and press that button… all those agents will be forcefully recalled to this building, it’ll completely turn the tables!” Bookmark here

“Then I’m going with you! There’s no way I’m letting you go in there alone!”Bookmark here

“Two people are easier to spot than one, it’d be safer for us both if you left this up to me”Bookmark here

Asuka shook her head “absolutely no way. If you’re going in there then I am too”Bookmark here

Ayame searched for another argument to stop Asuka, but the determination on her friend's face was too much. She sighed loudly “Fine. But we’re splitting up”Bookmark here

“Eh? What good will that do” Asuka asked.Bookmark here

“I’ll head to the Recall, I need you to look for the captain. If someone finds both of us together then the Recall is a lost cause. The captain is the only other person in this building who can get in there. If I don’t make it, he will”Bookmark here

She looked back at Asuka who was tearful, sniffing back her emotions and hiccuping for some reason, it creeped Ayame out a little. “What’s up with you?” Bookmark here

“I get it, I get it”Bookmark here

“Get what?”Bookmark here

Asuka stood quickly and pushed Ayame forward “Go forth Ayame, I will find your love and protect him with my life!” She saluted and ran off into the base. Ayame blushed “OI!!” As she chased after Asuka, she felt a pulse inside, and blacked out. Asuka was already too far to notice. “Not, now…” Ayame mutteredBookmark here

Soichiro’s spells were beautiful artworks. Mana that shaped itself into animals, using their movement and traits. His sparrows dodged any mana bolts aimed at them effortlessly and dive bombed. Kagari managed to avoid the winged projectiles and any that did manage to outmaneuver him were intercepted by Dojima’s vines and branches. Bookmark here

“Brilliant, you’re doing very well” Soichiro praised the two, who both are gasping for airBookmark here

“Is this guy for real” Kagari comments “who compliments people their trying to killBookmark here

“There was no one like this in Gallus, I’ve never seen someone mould magic so skilfully and effortlessly.”Bookmark here

Soichiro smiled smugly, his workers continued moving batches of spells into the vans but their work rate had slowed as they caught glimpses of the fight. Their boss noticed this and glared at them, causing them to promptly pick up the pace. Kagari took Soichiro’s wayward gaze as a chance to catch him unaware, but after his first step forward, his second was pulled back by a vine wrapped around his ankle causing him to face plant the ground. Dojima shrieked as he fellBookmark here

“Sorry, Kagari. Are you okay?”Bookmark here

He popped back up, with a river of blood pouring from his nose. But he still held up his thumb “all good!”Bookmark here

“Uhh, are you sure about that?”Bookmark here

“Listen up Kagari, this guy is on a whole other level. Rushing in would’ve only ended badly for you. The spells he’s casting take a huge amount of mana and concentration. For him to use them as frivolously as he has and still not even break a sweat means this guy could give Izuki a run for his money. If we’re going to get past this guy, we need to be smart and watch each other’s backs”Bookmark here

Kagari smiled and nodded, and the pair faced Soichiro. His magic formed in his palm “You did well against level one. I have high hopes for level two” Bookmark here

Minagawa searched through the rooms he passed. Each one was either empty, or in complete disarray. The people in there, were already gone. He encountered the occasional grunt here and there but managed to either take them by surprise or work his way around to get the knockout. The hallway that led to the conference room was filled with Izumi henchmen, struggling to open the door. It was almost guaranteed to be the sanctuary any survivor seeked and held up in, this was not something he could pass by. The hall was narrow, with barely any room to slip past, but he used this to his advantage. He fired a mana bolt which took out the grunt at the back and alerted the rest who got stuck in the narrow hall and couldn’t fight back. Minagawa blinked forward, his feet landed on the stained glass door and he pushed off, tackling the group of grunts and taking a majority out. Any that remained active, he knocked out swiftly with mana-infused strikes. His next hit was on the door which swung open and smashed the glassBookmark here

“Anyone in here?!” He shouted. But to his surprise, it was empty. He closed the door, but as it shut… it cast a shadow, it formed the shade.Bookmark here

“You again?!” Minagawa growledBookmark here

“Not to fight” it said in its grating voice like nails on a chalkboard. It’s words took the agent by surpriseBookmark here

“Oh really? The top brass of the Izumi are here, killing and torturing innocent people, you want me to believe you aren’t a part of this?” He laughed and shot a mana bolt that slipped right through the shade. It faded through himBookmark here

“If I wanted you, or anyone in this building dead I’d do it myself and no one, including you would be able to stop it. But I’m here to warn you. One more person will die before this is over… Okazaki Souji, Kagari Shoto… Minagawa Atsushi. One of you will die today. Currently, Okazaki Souji faces a foe he cannot defeat. Kagari Shoto may have Dojima Otoha at his side, but their opponent is Soichiro Muramasa. Their chances of survival are higher, but this is only a chance.”Bookmark here

“And me? What are my chances?”Bookmark here

“I told you already, I’m not here to fight. Their time is ticking, and it will run out. One will die tonight, Minagawa Atsushi, that I can promise”. Bookmark here

The shade began to disappear, Minagawa watched it as it wentBookmark here

“Who are you?”Bookmark here

“Now is not the time for that. But when it is right, you will know my name”. The strange being disappeared, Minagawa ran back down the hallway, his goal? Okazaki’s office.Bookmark here

Kagari dodged the strikes, left and right and ducked under the third. But the forth caught his leg and the fifth used his delay to knock him back. Kagari collapsed, he was covered in cuts and bruises, his shoulder was dislocated and popped back in during the fight. A few of Soichiro’s tigers pounced and were dealt with but one managed to claw at his back. He wouldn’t be able to defend against the follow-up but Dojima’s mushroom sprouted and ejected spores. The mana tiger was embedded with mushrooms that took control of it. She forced it to attack Soichiro, though he just summoned another tiger that destroyed the new foe and itself. As it did, more spores exploded outward, Soichiro cut through it with his mana.Bookmark here

“Splendid work! You are very good at controlling your spells, if you weren’t an Order dog I’d take you under my wing. And you, a young man without a birthright managing to survive this long is a first. Once I kill you both, I will sing songs of your feats! Your names will go down in history!”Bookmark here

Neither Kagari or Dojima had anything left at this point. Their mana was low, and Kagari was still hurting from the bout with Hado earlier; those injuries were making their presence known at the worst time. Each time he tried to lift himself off the ground he felt a stabbing pain in his chest, and his already banged up leg felt like it was a twist away from snapping in two. This did not escape Soichiro, he knew they would not survive another levelBookmark here

He sighed “You have done so well. Alas, I cannot disobey my orders, letting you live is not something I can do. So, to commemorate your skill, your tenacity. I will skip my usual level scale and show you my calling card. Be proud, the people who have died witnessing this are the ones I deeply respect”Bookmark here

“Kagari!” Dojima instinctively jumped in front of the injured Kagari, shielding himBookmark here

“Welcome to the hallowed halls. Join the undying Silver Winds!” He held his arms out wide and a massive amount of mana flowed, too much for one person to hold. It spread out as far as the eyes can see, individual specs floated in the air, shining like stars in the sky. Soichiro reached out to them and lowered his arm slowly. The mana copied his motion and fell like snow. Dojima lowered her guard, the only thing on her mind was the beauty of the spectacle. As one flake fell closer, she reached out… but a hand caught hers and pulled her back along with Kagari.Bookmark here

Atsushi was panicking at this point. Every door he opened, every hallway he went down, every corridor he ran past, there were corpses. Unfortunate souls who had found out that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. What about Kagari and Otoha? He already knew that they would struggle against Soichiro, would they be able to survive? No one had seen the other agents for hours, were they hanging in there? Were they crying out for someone’s help right now? That premonition, Kagari, Okazaki or Minagawa, one would die tonight. The decision between his new partner, and his boss was a difficult one. It felt like he was sentencing the one he didn’t go to, to death. But the one advantage Kagari had was Otoha, he had to trust she could keep the rookie alive. But Okazaki? There were too many variables.Bookmark here

His worry plagued his mind, once more he turned the corner and bumped into Saigusa. This time her sharp tongue and energy didn’t show, she stayed grounded, struggling to breathBookmark here

“Saigusa? Keep it together!”Bookmark here

She was exhausted, so much so that she couldn't even hear Minagawa talking. But she reached up, tears flowed from her eyes. “Please! Captain… In trouble!” Bookmark here

As her words reached his ears, an explosion in the main hall took his attention. He placed talisman for water and supplies next to Saigusa and ran offBookmark here

The explosion was from Okazaki’s office. The captain was splayed out across broken furniture. Clutching at his wounds. Minagawa rushed over and tried to help but Okazaki pointed back to his office. Akagawa jumped down. This was a stare down, not of enemies.Bookmark here

“...Ren”Bookmark here

“Oh? Atsushi?! Is that really you? What the hell are you doing here?!” He asked excitedly.Bookmark here

“I’m… I’m an agent” Minagawa reluctantly respondedBookmark here

“Is that right? Everyone told me you died after your folks. Yet here you are”Bookmark here

“Minagawa… What is he talking about? How does he know you?” Okazaki asked, his eyes darted across to the agentBookmark here

“Oh, I see. You didn’t tell your new friends about me? How cold, but then again it’s so like you!” Bookmark here

Minagawa froze. His head lowered and all he could look at was the ground, a memory flashed in his mind, the sight of his parents the day they died. They are talking about something that he can’t remember.Bookmark here

“I’m actually glad I got to see you again, I had something I had to tell you all those years back. Now that you are here, I get to say it…”Bookmark here

“You always made me sick Atsushi, acting so sorry for yourself and ignoring the blood on your hands.” Bookmark here

Minagawa flinchedBookmark here

“Even with these agents I bet you’re still playing the same game. I bet they think you’re just some innocent kid right? Oh! You didn’t even tell them what happened that day did you!?”Bookmark here

“Stop it.”Bookmark here

“That day you lost your parents. What tale did you spin? I heard all sorts of rumours, but the boss let me know the truth. It really is so you!” Bookmark here

“Ren!”Bookmark here

“Would it hurt if they knew? Would it kill you inside?! If they knew about your lies. Don’t you feel sorry for them? They’ve believed you all this time, going along with your fantasy!”Bookmark here

Minagawa’s thoughts were plagued with flashes of the scene, visceral images of every detail. His hands cupped his head, he broke out in a cold sweat “please stop…” Bookmark here

“Tell them Atsushi! Tell them about the day the Izumi family member took your loved ones away, right in front of you!”Bookmark here

“Stop!…” he struggled to get the words out, the scenes continued flashing in his mind and the blood rain fazed into his view again, tears formed in his eyes. Okazaki’s mind was racingBookmark here

“Such an innocent boy, watching his parents being ripped away! Who could do such a thing?!”Bookmark here

“Please” his voice waveredBookmark here

“But, that’s the thing that confuses me. This person that killed them, doesn’t exist… There was no one there, was there Atsushi.”Bookmark here

Saigusa turned the corner at top speed, aimed her mana blade high.Bookmark here

“STOOOOOOOP!” Minagawa screamed at the top of his lungs, so loud he felt lightheaded. Bookmark here

Saigusa was launched across the room, spitting blood mid air. She didn’t move after her landing. Bookmark here

“What? She got what she deserved, interrupting someone while they are talking is extremely rude.”Bookmark here

Minagawa hoped to see her move even slightly, but she didn’t budge.Bookmark here

“Where were we? Ah yes. This imaginary Izumi henchman, no record and no witness. Just admit it Atsushi. There was no other person that day. The person who murdered your parents…”Bookmark here

The room fell silent, Okazaki had a look of despair, he knew now. Akagawa’s stare was blank. Bookmark here

“It was you.”Bookmark here

Minagawa jolted, he looked up slowly and Akagawa had the glare of death itselfBookmark here

“Minagawa Sato and his wife Minagawa Mitsuri… were murdered by their own son, Minagawa Atsushi.”Bookmark here

Bookmark here

Minagawa’s eyes rolled back and his head slammed into the ground. He blacked out. In his dream the vision replayed again in flashes. Random snippets at random intervals circled Minagawa who was sat in the darknessBookmark here

“Remember, Atsushi. You aren’t like other children, you are special and that means it’s your responsibility to help those in need. Now, repeat after me…”Bookmark here

Nothing was saidBookmark here

“We are justice, we will dirty our hands so that the weak and innocent need not…” current day Minagawa mimed. Bookmark here

That was a saying in our family. It was beaten into me, I recited it so many times, it became all I could think about. Now that I think of it, I realise the true meaning behind it, “there are good people in this world that need to be protected, and there are bad people that need to be brought to justice”. It all sounded so amazing as a kid, thinking that you’re a hero that saves the day. That’s before you look down at your feet and see the river of blood you are walking through. Bookmark here

That saying, it was taught to my parents by their leader… Izumi Hisashi. They were good people who wanted to use their power to help people. When they failed to meet the expectations of the WWO they were disheartened, but soon Hisashi approached them.Bookmark here

They were hesitant at first, but he explained his evil as a necessary good. The WWO agents existed only to halt their justice. What good was that? Imprisonment? It doesn’t change people, they just learn to not get caught. No, they needed to be expelled from the world, and if the WWO was not brave enough to face that fact, it was up to the Izumi to bloody their hands for the greater good.Bookmark here

He brainwashed my parents, taught them that they were chosen to eradicate all of the darkness in this world. They didn’t see that they were becoming the evil they chased. The line between light and darkness, how do you define such a thing? Bookmark here

In the snow, a bunny hopped around searching for its mother. It was injured and couldn’t move well. Minagawa, age seven, watched it and tried to figure out a way to save it. But, by the time he had gone and collected a shoe box, some warm towels and some water, it had met its end. A cat had pounced on the newborn, taking its chance to hone its hunting skills. Minagawa was heartbroken, stood over the body and glaring at its murdererBookmark here

“My, such a shame” a warm, soft voice soothed the soulBookmark here

“Mother, why would it do such a thing?” Minagawa sobbedBookmark here

“The world is a cruel place sometimes” Mitsuri kneeled down and placed her hand on her son’s head, consoling the mourning boy. “This world lives by the rule of the strong. The weak, and the injured are at the mercy of beings they can’t defeat. But that is what we are here for” she pulled her son close, holding him in her arms. Bookmark here

“The strong need to protect the vulnerable. The good must defeat the bad”Bookmark here

“Atsushi. When someone does something bad, they are punished. Whether it’s by law or a higher power. Sometimes, this doesn’t happen, and that is where our family steps in.” Bookmark here

Young Atsushi looked up at his mother, she pointed forward and he followed the direction. The cat from before noticed a small hedgehog. It tried to pat it and got caught by its quills. It jumped into the air and ran off. Bookmark here

“The pain it felt will teach that cat a lesson. You see, Atsushi. There are people who cannot be prevented, who cannot be cured or set on the right path. How do we protect the innocent then?”Bookmark here

Atsushi looks clueless. His mother smiles warmly and laughs softlyBookmark here

“Pain. When a creature experiences pain, it learns, but it also feels fear. Pain leads to fear, fear leads to respect… and respect brings rule and law. Those magic police, they do their job wonderfully, but there are things they cannot do. There is a very thin line between good and evil. It’s a border across two pitfalls and it is a thin lane we walk across for true justice. For a world of peace, without suffering. So that, one day, everything we hold dear can relax in the sun without the fear of death”Bookmark here

“We are justice, we will dirty our hands so that the weak and innocent need not…” the words echoed again in his mind.Bookmark here

“In their world, no one was innocent.”Bookmark here

The faces of Minagawa Sato and Minagawa Mitsuri were splashed with blood, and were engulfed in flames.Bookmark here

“Let me out. Let me out. Let me out.” That voice again, a beast trapped within, scraping away at his insides. It’s voice grew larger and largerBookmark here

“Let me out.”Bookmark here

“Let me out” Bookmark here

“LET ME OUT”Bookmark here

Minagawa’s eyes opened wide and his magic exploded, sending shockwaves around the room. Both Okazaki and Akagawa covered their faces from the harsh winds and looked on in awe as the fallen agent stood slowlyBookmark here

“You have awoken me, my eyes will never close again!”Bookmark here

An alarm blurred instantly, but this was no alert to a fire or a break in, it was a sound that Okazaki knew well despite only ever hearing it once before. Bookmark here

“The Recall?” Okazaki uttered, astonished. Bookmark here

Ayame had opened the failsafe and activated the Recall, she struggled her way in and reached up with her fingertips to reach the button. When the alarm blurred she passed out, relieved she had completed her duty. Bookmark here

None of this mattered. The possessed Minagawa disappeared, reappearing at the side of Akagawa and hitting a spinning back fist, launching him into the wall behind him. The red thread pounced at Minagawa at blinding speeds but he dodged it easily and pulled his opponent out of the wall and launched him back into the building. Whilst in mid-air, Akagawa used the blood dripping from his new cuts as more strings but with each strike it completely faded through Minagawa. His flash step was being used multiple times a second, leaving after-images that Akagawa couldn't trace. They were almost like clones as they jumped at him, the blood master growled out and combined his strings and lashed out knocking Minagawa back, allowing Akagawa to land cleanlyBookmark here

“Using your flash step a lot, aren’t you Atsushi? Feeling tired yet?” His string lashed out but once again faded through the after image. The only reply he received was more flash steps, this was different though. Akagawa knew where Minagawa would land and twisted in the air, launching his strings at his intended point. Minagawa did stop where he thought he would, but he disappeared immediately after and his mana punch did major damage. Akagawa grimaced, he gathered all the blood he shed and took full control. Launching wire after wire, all spinning and turning in different directions. Each one faded through the after images but landed on the ground and flipped to aim at again. Minagawa was everywhere, but also nowhere, and the red thread formed a cage, shrinking with each movement. Minagawa’s arm caught on one of the strings and pulled him in, it was game set, match!Bookmark here

“Blood Diamond!” Akagawa gripped his fist and the cage imploded. The agent was gone, the blood net must’ve sliced him into tiny pieces, Akagawa wanted to check out his handiwork… but there was nothing there. Nothing at all but a sliced up jacket and small traces of blood. No minced meat, no gore, nothing. Another flash of light and Minagawa sliced at Akagawa’s chest and followed up, spinning round to hit a roundhouse kick. Bookmark here

This was the end of their face off. Minagawa charged his mana for another leap and a mana blade. Akagawa stumbled to his feet and gathered his blood. “There’s another reason I always hated you, Atsushi. Always getting ahead of yourself, always thinking nothing can touch you. But I can wipe away that arrogance, along with every worthless soul in this building… hell, everyone in a mile will be wiped out. Their blood will fuel me! I WILL CREATE AN ENDLESS BLOODBATH!” Bookmark here

The silver winds reflected and shot off into the skies. Dojima raised her head, their saviour stood tall, focussed on Soichiro. He was confident but cautious. He was someone that gave Dojima more relief than she could handle at this moment. Kagari was still trying to catch a glimpseBookmark here

“...Izuki-senpai?” Bookmark here

Izuki looked at his Kouhai and nodded. One by one, more and more agents materialised. Bookmark here

“Ren!” Hisashi called out from the balcony just before the two enemies made contact. Akagawa’s focus was pulled towards the voice “We have what we came for. Time to leave” Bookmark here

The voice did not make Minagawa so much as hesitate. Hisashi jumped in between the two and knocked Minagawa back and pulled Akagawa closer to the exit, practically launching him there in fact. Minagawa made a beeline the Izumi headBookmark here

“A pup baring its fangs is still a mere pup.” He reached out and his magic activated “Silence” . Minagawa's mana was gone. It was like all his energy was drained from him, that was not the case, it was sealed away. The loss of mana forced him out of his trance and he collapsed to the ground. He felt no sensation, the only thing he felt was the overwhelming fatigue, so strong that he blacked out instantly. Bookmark here

Soichiro examined the situation calmly. He was surrounded, but his men were gone. They had escaped with the spells and their duty was complete. He chuckledBookmark here

“It seems that is my que. We should do this again, Mr Izuki”Bookmark here

“I don’t know many men that rain check their deaths” the veteran agent respondedBookmark here

Soichiro chuckled again “Nor I” His silver wind was gone, as was he, in the blink of an eye. Bookmark here

Kagari tried to push himself off the ground but everything around him shook and he too lost his consciousness. Bookmark here

Back in the main hall. Ren was pushed out as the other agents materialised. Hisashi followed AkagawaBookmark here

“Fleeing again, Hisashi?” The familiar voice reached out to the Izumi head. He did not greet him eye to eyeBookmark here

“Doesn’t matter how many of your dogs you have at your beck and call, Honsho. You couldn’t kill me if you had a hundred agents.”Bookmark here

“We’ve already tried that, so your comment is a tad arbitrary. But even if we cannot stop you now, you can’t survive us forever.”Bookmark here

“I can damn well try. Oh, and keep the kid, his parents were useful puppets… but I have no room in my halls for a broken toy.” He disappeared into the nightBookmark here

It had been around an hour since the raid, Hisashi entered his chambers, locking the doors behind him. The family completed their mission, the WWO was crippled and a lot of their key agents had left their defence points. Hisashi couldn’t care less, the spell in his hands was what he longed for, what had kept him going for the past few years. Within the reflections of the glass container, he saw his son again, and he dropped to his knees, weeping. The label read “Resurrection”Bookmark here

“I promise, Hikari. I’ll hold you in my arms again” Bookmark here

The aftermath at the WWO was a solemn one. Kagari and Otoha were banged up and bruised but managed to survive thanks to the elite agent Izuki’s interruption. In the office, Okazaki had gone through a lot. Mental and physical torture. Minagawa had passed out, and Honsho let Okzaki rest for a second. He stood over the agent, and place his arms behind his back, cuffing himBookmark here

“What are you doing, Honsho-senpai? He’s one of ours!” Okazaki cried outBookmark here

“I’m sorry, Souji. I’m so sorry.” He looked down at that young boy, crying in the office. Reaching out to his parents’ soulsBookmark here

“Minagawa Atsushi… you are under arrest.” Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.