quaint_twilight: (kagetora)
quaint_twilight ([personal profile] quaint_twilight) wrote on February 16th, 2009 at 12:42 am
Book 16 Chapter 12 「鷲の羽」は潰えず
Japanese to Chinese translation by Hinako. Chinese to English translation by me.

Basics of this chapter: so where is Kagetora anyway?


The landscape of Kitagai Rinzan as seen from Aso-gogaku made him temporarily forget that he was in Japan.
Pastureland made up a large portion of the crown of Kitagai Rinzan. The summit of the mountain was flat, but when observed from a distance, one could also see an area shaped like a bare escarpment apart from the yellow grass. It could well be deemed as the Grand Canyon of Japan.
A chain of mountains surrounded it. That said, they were not a mountain range. They were projections formed due to the collapse of the central region, thus it was more accurate to describe them as the edge of a pond. For this reason, the height of mountains around Kitagai Rinzan were almost identical.
However, one had to wonder if this man what America's Grand Canyon was like.

Hearing the room door opening, Nezu Kouichi - Katou Kiyomasa - turned around.

"Did you have a good night's sleep?"

A man and a woman, dressed casually in jeans, asked as they entered the room. They were from the group of bird people that had saved Takaya and Kiyomasa at the Katou shrine the day before. Kiyomasa replied in an unpleasant manner.

"Sure, I had the best sleep of my life thanks to the anesthetic you guys forced on me."

"Glad to hear it."

"What are your motives for imprisoning me in this place?" Kiyomasa pressed his left shoulder. "This insertion of weird objects into someone's body, do you think you can rely on these things to hold me captive?"

"Seems like being a kanshousha proved to be a disadvantage this time around."

A young woman with long hair remarked as she emerged behind the other two and entered the room. That woman was the same one who had accompanied Takaya to the hospital. She was dressed in a pink set of clothes.

"What we've buried into your body is known as the luminous stone Reiseki. It's the same object that was used yesterday to defeat the enemy. It's made by crystallizing the spiritual might of a volcano, and the stone's cooling and heating tendencies are completely under my control. There's no way you can remove it by yourself."

Kiyomasa glared at her hatefully and asked in a calm voice.

"What happened to Uesugi-dono? Is he still alive?"

"...Our benefactor would like to have a word with you."

"What?"

The woman walked to the doorway and made a few gestures. A man much older than any of them entered the room. --He was not one of the bird people.

This man...

Kiyomasa immediately sensed it. --This man was similar to him.

"Well if it isn't Katou Kiyomasa-dono."

The man stated his name clearly.

"Who are you?" Kiyomasa grew more cautious. "You are an onshou I believe. Which clan are you from? State your name."

The man responded to Kiyomasa's sharp questions with a relaxed smile.

"If Kagetora-dono were here, he would immediately know."

"What?"

The man gestured for the bird people to leave the room. They left quietly, leaving the two of them alone. The man spoke.

"The situation yesterday was truly a disaster. I did not expect it to develop into an all-out fight... Fortunately, we drove him away, that hateful Rairyuu. He had been warned against acting on his personal grudge yet he still resorted to such stupid actions. Shimazu-dono probably wasn't very willing to have that walking bomb of a man as his accomplice."

"Who are you! A commander of Shimazu's?!"

"Kiyomasa-dono. You are the general that Taigou-dono raised from young. At the head family, I was taken under Toyotomi's command, and have lived in seclusion ever since, that is why we have never met. But my younger brother was one of members of the Council of Five Elders and you should have met him many times at Osaka castle..."

"Council of Five Elders?"

Kiyomasa looked perplexed, however the man continued in a steady way.

"I was told that you fight for the Oda in the Yami Sengoku. ...As it should be. Taigou-dono was once a general of the Oda."

"That's right! Nobunaga-kou is Taigou-dono's lord. To repay my debt of gratitude to Taigou-dono, I have to serve Nobunaga-kou. Furthermore, Kumamoto has its importance to me as the territory where I was raised."

Kiyomasa said in an intense voice.

"For the sake of those who built that shrine in my honor, the people of Kumamoto who revere me, I, Kiyomasa, had to be resurrected. I absolutely will not allow those vile onryou to run amok in this place!"

"But you have fallen into our hands."

"...!"

The man slid his hand into his pocket and approached Kiyomasa.

"We can kill you or torture you according to our fancies."

"...What do you intend to do with me?"

"I have yet to recompense for the grievances at Itsukushima. Our homeland was invaded by the joint forces of the Oda and Sue Harukata. You are the enemy general. Come to think of it, I should eliminate you this very moment."

"!"

"I have many important questions for you regarding the Oda. So we would like Kiyomasa-dono to be our prisoner for now."

"You...!"

Kiyomasa lunged at him. The man repelled him with an incantation.

"!"

Kiyomasa was flung back against the wall, and crumpled to the floor.

"Damn it...!" Kiyomasa pressed his left shoulder, roaring indignantly. "What happened to Uesugi-dono! Is he still alive!"

"...Are you concerned about him?"

"I have to capture that large tiger alive and present him to Nobunaga-kou!"

"Then I shall tell you that he is dead." The man walked out the room, turned his head back once again and said, "Katou Kiyomasa's victory over a tiger is legendary, no? But now that you're locked inside a cage, there's nothing that you can do."

With that, the man disappeared to the other side of the doorway. Kiyomasa punched the wall, refusing to submit to his predicament.

"Damn it...!"

The man did not state his name. Who was he?

His younger brother was one of the Council of Five Elders? Grievances at Itsukushima? With Sue Harukata?

"!"

Katou Kiyomasa spun around. All of the key words led to one name.

Could he be...!

***

Their hideout was in one of the mountains of Aso-gogaku - the hillside of Mt. Eboushidake. It was a shabby cabin built in the mountain woods. There was a footpath from the cabin to a log house, which looked somewhat like a villa.

Snowflakes were fluttering about outside.

As the man walked down the footpath, a woman came out of the log house. She was the same woman who had appeared earlier, the one who accompanied Takaya to the hospital. She noticed the man and acknowledged him in a courteous manner.

"How is he?"

"He has just woken up. Although he still looks a little disoriented, he can talk now."

"Already awake? How are his injuries?"

"In stable condition. Much better than last night."

The man looked relieved. "I see."

"He still has a slight fever, but with some rest he should recover pretty quickly. Seems like his body is slowly adapting to presence of the buried luminous stone. The power of the Reiseki should be able to hasten his recovery rate. I don't think there should be any problems, seeing as how his body managed to withstand the journey to this place. But just to be safe, try not let him move around too much. ...Also," the woman added, lowering her voice. "It appears that his spiritual strength has become rather weak. The depression afflicting his spirit will affect his recovery, please be cautious when you speak with him."

"...I see." The man's shoulders slumped as he sighed, then he gently nodded. "I understand. I will see him in a moment. I heard there's a young doctor in your company. Thank you. Thank you for your assistance."

"It is our honor to serve you. ...We already have the hospital staff hypnotized, so please do not worry about that. The soiled uniform has been taken to the laundry. If you have any other concerns, please do not hesitate to ask."

"Mmm. Thank you for your kindness."

The woman bowed. Just as she was about to retire, the man called her once again.

"...Is something the matter?"

The man looked as though he was struggling to word his sentence, then he smiled sadly.

"Thank you... for saving him."

The woman smiled and nodded.
Perhaps they had been taught not to probe into the affairs of others. The bird people, including their leader, did not raise questions in an unrelenting manner, or go into the whys and wherefores. There was moderation on their part despite their position as important comrades in this undertaking.
The man entered the log house.

"..."

It was gloomy inside, the curtains were tightly closed. The brightness of the lamp was adjusted such that it would not disturb the patient's sleep. Inside the room, there was a drip, a simple oxygen mask, basically a set of emergency medical apparatus that was placed beside the bed.

Ougi Takaya was lying on the bed. His eyes opened in a lethargic manner. He was not fully alert yet, his half-opened eyes gazed at the ceiling. Takaya showed no reaction to his presence in the room. The man walked to the bedside and looked at Takaya's condition for a short while, however Takaya's eyes did not move, his mouth slightly opened as he looked at the ceiling with a vacant expression. The man gently stooped over, blocking his view of the ceiling and spoke to him.

"Kagetora-dono. ...Do you recognize me? Kagetora-dono."

"..."

"It is me. Kikkawa Motoharu. Kagetora-dono."

His half-opened eyes widened a little, turning towards him slightly. After a while, Takaya replied in a coarse and frail voice.

"...Kik...kawa... Motoharu--...?"

Motoharu nodded.
The son of Mouri Motonari, one of the 'Two Rivers of the Mouri'. This man was the Mouri general who fought with Takaya and the others at Itsukushima two years ago - Kikkawa Motoharu.
But Takaya's reaction was dull, he merely gazed at Motoharu's face in a half-conscious state. It was only natural for him to find him unfamiliar. Motoharu's face was different from before, he had changed his hyouza.

"You have truly endured a lot of suffering, Kagetora-dono. This place is very safe. Please rest without any worry."

"...Nnn..."

Takaya slowly closed his eyes, moist as a result of his fever.
He found it unbearable to look at him.
The injuries he had sustained from the fight with Shimozura Rairyuu were more severe than he expected, fortunately they had acted quickly and managed to save his life. His entire body had received strong blows..., his ribs were broken, while the other wounds required numerous stitches...

Thankfully, we could save him.

He was indeed lucky to still have his four limbs in functional condition after surviving Rairyuu's attack, the Ikkoushuu's mad horse. Motoharu regarded Takaya with sympathy, then his eyes closed heavily, and soon after there was a lonesome expression on his face.

...He has grown thin.

He was much thinner than the last time he saw him.
For the past two years, how has Kagetora lived?

Kikkawa Motoharu was not exorcised during the battle of Itsukushima. After the Yamato sank, Motoharu managed to escape Takaya's Kekkai Choubuku with the sacrifice of his retainers' lives. During Nobunaga's attack, Kuchiba Michiyoshi had protected Motoharu with his own body. Looking at Takaya's face, Motoharu remembered the faces of his men during that time. Kuchiba himself had become Motoharu's shield. When he fell into the water, Kodama Narikata and the others had given up their lives to save him. That was the last he could remember before the chaos knocked him out.
When he came to, Motoharu had found himself in the far west region of the waters of Itsukushima, he alone had been rescued by a vessel belonging to a certain general.

"..."

Motoharu pursed his lips together. He was still alive due to the cooperative efforts of his men. But they had all returned to the place where they belonged to as a result of the purifying light of the Kekkai Choubuku. Motoharu was left behind.

But--...

Motoharu was not the only one left behind on that battlefield...

"...Kagetora-dono."

Motoharu called him once again. He gently repeated his name.

"How do you feel? Do you feel any discomfort?"

"..."

"Are you cold? Do you want anything?"

"Water..." Gasping softly, Takaya requested. "I want some... water..."

Motoharu picked up the glass kettle, a special one only used for the sick, placed on the small table beside the bed. He moved the slender nozzle to Takaya's slightly open lips and gently tilted it, allowing the water to flow into Takaya's mouth slowly. After several mouthfuls, Motoharu lightly wiped away the excess water around Takaya's mouth with a towel. Takaya exhaled through his moist lips, his breath was hot. Opening his eyes, it seemed like Takaya was trying very hard to make sense of his present condition. Motoharu stood up, wanting to warm the furnace by adding new logs of wood.

"Naoe-..."

Motoharu turned back. "What?"

"Is Naoe here..."

"..." Takaya placed his hand on his forehead in an exhausted manner. "I've been... hearing his voice. Until.. now..."

"Did you have a dream?"

"...It was not a dream-..." Takaya closed his eyes, coughing. "If it wasn't his voice, then it must have been a wave of thought... That's... right..."

"Kagetora-dono."

He probably had a dream. Motoharu thought in this way. He had heard of Naoe's death from a certain source. Naoe's weak condition at that time was very unusual, the level of his spiritual power had fallen beneath that of an ordinary person. It was a condition left him incapable of performing kanshou ever again. There was no doubt that he had been purified.

He even hears his voice in his dreams...

Truly pitiful. Motoharu felt this way.

"Where... is this place?"

"Our residence. At Mt Aso."

"Aso..."

"Yes. A very safe place. Please rest here until you have fully recovered from your injuries. They have driven Rairyuu away." Motoharu sat on the whitewood chair and said. "I take it that you've seen the people who descended from the sky. They saved you, they are the members of the Fire sect, who have the ability to fly."

"Fire sect..."

It was familiar to him, but his mind was blank thus he could not remember. Takaya slowly shifted his clouded eyes towards Motoharu.

"Kikkawa... Motoharu..."

"Yes?"

"...Is it... really you?"

"As you can see, I have changed my hyouza, but you should be aware of this. Kagetora-dono. Or perhaps due to the overwhelming number of enemies you've faced, you can't remember me, a rather insignificant character."

"You were not... exorcised..."

Motoharu nodded. Despite hearing these words, they did not sound real at all to Takaya in his current condition. Perhaps he did not even have strength left for vigilance, he only stared at Motoharu's face dully.

"Why... did you save me..."

"Why?"

"I am... the main cause... for the destruction of the Mouri..."

"The one who sank the Yamato was Nobunaga. Perhaps you were the one who killed Takakage and Terumoto, but..." Motoharu lowered his eyes, sighing deeply. "For some unknown reason, I can't bring myself to hate you. Although I hated you during that time to the point where I was close to insanity..."

"..."

"Why is that now?"

Takaya opened his eyes fully.

"You have been able to live to this day."

Motoharu gazed at Takaya with a swelling sense of regret.

"How have you lived for the past two years?"

"Two years..."

"Have you finally managed to somehow overcome the pain of losing Naoe?"

Takaya gasped. "?"

Takaya's reaction was quite different from what he expected, Motoharu was surprised.

"What is the matter?"

"You... said..."

"Ah... I am sorry. How inappropriate of me. I should not be making you talk too much at this moment. Although I have a lot of things to discuss with you, it would be better of me to wait until you are well."

"You said... losing Naoe...?" Takaya asked with a serious expression. "Why do you say that?"

"..."

Motoharu froze. He realized that the complicated feelings in his heart were not the reason he found Takaya's behavior strange.

"Kagetora-dono."

"...You said two years ago..." Takaya was still staring fixedly at Motoharu. "Two years since when?"

"...Two years since the battle of Itsukushima of course. I am truly sorry for what happened to Naoe. Although the Uesugi and the Mouri are enemies, I feel a deep sense of grief over his death."

"His death?" Takaya appeared even more puzzled. "Are you saying that Naoe died?"

Motoharu stared at him. Takaya lowered his eyes and smiled.

"...I don't know who told you this, but that is false information. Naoe... he didn't die at all."

"Kagetora-dono."

"Are you saying that Naoe died at Itsukushima? Who told you that..."

"It was Hagi, Kagetora-dono." Motoharu uttered in a grave tone. "It was Hagi city. Do you not remember?"

"Remember? Remember... what?"

"Do you remember our conversation? When you were about to stamp the written oath, pledging allegiance to the Mouri, with a seal of blood. You backed out because you wanted to return to Naoe, and burned down Hagi city with the power of fire dragons. Then, if I am not mistaken, you went to save Naoe. And the following incident."

Takaya stiffened. Then he slowly raised his head to look up at Motoharu. Motoharu's eyebrows were raised, he earnestly returned Takaya's gaze. Takaya... suddenly felt a fit of uneasiness and turned away.

"Please look into my eyes. Kagetora-dono."

Motoharu grabbed Takaya's shoulders, and said in a tough tone.

"What happened to you? You look strange. Do you not remember what happened at that time?"

Takaya shook his head continuously.

"After that you should have met Terumoto. In order to protect you, Naoe was shot by Terumoto, right? The swarm of fire dragons that followed after were created by you. I certainly heard your cry. The one who destroyed Hagi city with tremendous power was none other than you."

"I don't know...!"

"Kagetora-dono!"

"Fire created by me, what is that? Cry? Destroyed Hagi city? Naoe... was shot?" Takaya shook his head intensely. "Those things... did not happen!"

"Kagetora-dono, you..."

"Absolutely did not...!" Halfway through his sentence, Rairyuu's miserable scar suddenly flashed in Takaya's mind.

--You caused this at Hagi city! Burns resulting from the flames ignited by that monstrous power of yours!

"Absolutely... did not...!"

"Kagetora-dono!"

Motoharu prodded Takaya with more questions despite the latter's confusion.

"Do you really not know! Do you really not remember!"

"Fire... fire....!" Takaya murmured. Sensing a reddish-brown haze slowly coloring his vision, he shut his eyes firmly. Motoharu tightened his grip on his shoulders.

"Is it because of your hurt? Or was it like this before? You just said that Naoe is still alive right? Then where is he now!"

"Yesterday... No, the day before yesterday... I met him at the hotel."

"How can that be!" Motoharu strongly refuted it. "Whom have you taken as Naoe? After the battle of Itsukushima, there has been no sign of Naoe Nobutsuna on the frontline of the Uesugi, all of my sources have confirmed that!"

"Impossible! We have always been fighting together! Always... together..."

Motoharu's face grew stark, he eyed Takaya like he was an abnormal object.

This person...

Motoharu was shocked, he then revisited his understanding of Takaya's personality. As expected, he could not just live on as though everything was fine. He had been so intensely attached to Naoe, almost to a morbid degree, that there was no way Kagetora could just carry on as though nothing had happened after the sudden loss of Naoe.

Has he... gone mad?

Motoharu gulped.

He managed to live on because he has gone mad?

"Kagetora-dono. How much can you remember of the events at Hagi?"

"How much? ...All of it."

"Try recalling it again. The events that took place after we separated. After burning down the house with the power of fire dragons, you went to save Naoe. And then..."

"And then..."

Takaya wanted to remember, he pressed against his temples. He did indeed find Naoe amongst the flames. He found Naoe, and then...

And then...

"You don't remember? Kagetora-dono."

"I... don't... remember...!"

Takaya held his head painfully, shaking it intensely.

"Nnnnn, ...nnnnn!"

"Kagetora-dono!"

"Nnnn...! Ahhhh!"

Takaya could not endure it and cried out. It was not because he could not remember. An extreme unease and oppressive dread had assaulted his senses when he tried to remember. His entire body was drenched in sweat, his heart was pounding rapidly, the agony was unbearable, almost driving him insane.

"I'm scared...!" Takaya shouted in a tearful voice. "No! I'm scared...!"

"Kagetora-dono!"

"Ahhhh!"

Motoharu could not bear to watch anymore, he held Takaya's shoulders in a frenzied manner.

"I understand! Calm down, don't say anymore for now. Wait till your body has fully recovered before talking about it."

"...Ngh... Ngghh..."

But Takaya could not hear him. His eyes were wide open, his two hands pressed against his face, still shaking his head incessantly. Motoharu could feel the shoulders in his grasp trembling violently, it sent a chill down his spine.

How did he end up like this...

Takaya groaned. His lower jaw, about to convulse, clenched.

Is he that Kagetora?

Motoharu was startled.

--Only I have the right to determine whether he lives or dies. Only I have that right!

That Kagetora...

--I won't allow anyone, apart from myself, to have any sort of relationship with him!

Is this your answer?

Motoharu felt as though he had seen something forbidden and covered his mouth with his hand. What on earth was this? On that day, the words and actions of Kagetora that had overwhelmed Motoharu appeared in his mind one after another. Was this the resulting conclusion?

Is this the end of your relationship?

At that time, Kagetora had demonstrated a solid faith that overwhelmed everyone, a dominating flair. He had the impression that the existence of this talented individual was one that encompassed all human emotion, but was it really just madness? Was it because he sought for someone 'who would never yearn for another apart from himself'?

Takaya could not stop shaking. He was in a state of confusion. The shock of seeing something that he did not understand almost made him cry out in madness.

What was that just now...?

Takaya did not know what it was.

Something... that happened at Hagi...?

Motoharu gazed at Takaya solemnly.

Is this retribution...?

Unable to utter a word, Motoharu stared at a distressed Takaya.

***

The powder-like snow swirled through the air in a dance, there was no sign of the snow letting up.
Once he walked out of the log house, Kikkawa Motoharu noticed a man in a white overcoat standing beneath a tree. The man had black hair and snow-white complexion, so fair that one could mistake him for a woman. He smirked a little when Motoharu came out.

"The situation is becoming ever more fascinating, Kikkawa-dono," said the man with red lips. "Uesugi Kagetora. Who knew he was such an ignorant man."

"Did you hear our conversation inside the room?"

Motoharu, who appeared slightly worn out, addressed the man as 'Kousaka-dono.'
Kousaka Masanobu curled his flirtatious lips, facing Motoharu with that usual, arrogant smile.

"Rairyuu, that fool of a man. There was no instruction to attack Kagetora, just to kidnap the woman. Our prospects are looking bleak with an accomplice like him."

"...Indeed. I never expected him to injure Kagetora-dono to this extent."

"My my..." Kousaka slanted his head a little. "You seem very protective of him. Has the great one of the 'Two Rivers' developed feelings for Kagetora-dono?"

"No such thing."

"Hmph. Kagetora-dono himself is no less of an annoyance. It seems like the rumors are true. After Naoe's death, he has taken that Fuuma as Naoe."

"What?" Motoharu looked sharply at Kousaka. "Is that true?"

"Mmm. Perhaps you were not aware this since you've always been with Shimazu, Motoharu-dono, but this is the truth. It's really bewildering. How naive of him, making one feel he is not even worthy of discussion. This is simply like an open invitation to the enemy to take advantage of him."

"..."

"But perhaps, in Kagetora-dono's eyes, someone like Naoe was merely someone who can be easily replaced by anyone. Still, Kagetora-dono's actions were incredibly immature."

His tongue was still as sharp as ever. There had been no information on this man's whereabouts for a period of time but, as one would expect, he did not die at the Suigun Castle. Neither had he changed his vessel, as one could see, his poisonous tongue was still in perfect condition.

"What do you intend to do with Kagetora-dono? Kousaka-dono."

"Nothing will be done. ...But after all the trouble taken to ensnare this tiger, there's no reason to let it go. Isn't he something that would be of value to Shimazu-dono as well? He would make a good receptacle, or a display item for all to see, please see that he fetches a high price."

Kikkawa Motoharu was currently an important guest of Shimazu Yoshihiro. After the naval battle of Itsukushima, Shimazu's ship had saved Motoharu. Thereafter, he had taken command of what was left of the Mouri army at Yukushi under the leadership of the four Shimazu brothers.

"Receptacle you say?"

"Yes. That's right. Receptacle."

Kousaka's smile had hidden implications.

"Shimazu-dono is looking for a receptacle and isn't that fierce tiger just perfect?"

"...But..."

"In any case, Kagetora-dono will return to the Hojou and that will make him an ally of ours. There shouldn't be any problems."

"Are you planning to persuade him? I don't believe Kagetora-dono will so easily yield to us. At Hagi city, his faith in Kenshin remained unshakable, and thus rejected our terms. I don't think he will surrender because of so small a matter."

"Don't worry about that. I have a good idea."

"A good idea?"

"There's no reason to turn a blind eye when opportunity presents itself. Let us use that Fuuma a little shall we. If he believes that Naoe isn't dead, then good. Considering the present circumstance, Kagetora-dono will easily fall into our trap. Now is our chance to make him leave the Uesugi."

The good-looking tactician stretched his slender fingers into the air, catching a falling snowflake with the tip of his finger.

"Exploiting the enemy's weakness is our specialty. Furthermore, this is something they brought upon themselves. Kagetora-dono will have nothing to say."

"Are you going to tell him that rumor?" Motoharu asked seriously. "But it's just a rumor at the end of the day. How much of it will Kagetora-dono believe?"

"He will definitely believe it to be true. ...Moreover, it's not a completely baseless rumor."

"What?"

Kousaka smirked. "Kagetora-dono said that he 'heard his voice calling out to him' in a dream, didn't he? That is the truth. While Kagetora-dono was unconscious, someone did continuously transmit a wave of thought to him."

"Really? Who was it?"

Kousaka did not say out the person's name. However, he truly found it interesting. Kousaka snickered to himself, taking extreme delight in this discovery that he had made.

"Don't worry about it for now. Let's get back to discussing work. If the people of the Fire sect have brought the head of Kihachi here, all that's left is to wait for the arrival of Asara." The handsome strategist said, squinting. "Very soon we shall be able to witness a splendid show at Aso."

Motoharu stared at Kousaka with a nervous expression.

"Do you really feel we can control a weapon that surpasses the 'Yamato' in power? Kousaka-dono."

"We have an extremely reliable ultra-sensor in the form of Kagetora-dono at our disposable, don't we? Not even the Demon King Nobunaga will be able to move this time. Let us destroy him together. Motoharu-dono." Kousaka smiled. "The same can be said for Kenshin and his lackeys."

Snow began to blur their view, the mountains of Aso appeared to be cloaked in white.
 
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