Hikaru ga Chikyuu ni Itakoro:Volume3 Chapter5
Chapter 5: The Whereabouts of the Purple Grass
Hikaru said that there was a message sent to Shioriko's cellphone in the middle of the night.
Once Shioriko saw the message, she closed the cellphone with a gloomy look, pondered for a while, stood up, changed her clothes, left a message in the notebook, hugged her Capybara plushie uneasily, shook her head, and tottered out.
Hikaru could only move near Koremitsu.
He tried his best to wake Koremitsu up, but Shioriko had already left the house by the time Koremitsu woke up.
Masakaze and Koharu too did not realize that Shioriko left their house in the middle of the night.
Koremitsu was riding the bicycle, rushing towards Shioriko's apartment before dawn even broke. But she did not return there.
He went to the hospital, and after inquiring at the night shift counter, learnt that Shioriko did not go there. It was a miss.
“Maybe Shiiko went back to her old house.”
And so, Koremitsu followed Hikaru's lead as he raced over on the bicycle.
However, there was no human activity to be seen in the garden full of trees, shrubs and plants; the house was locked, and nobody responded despite him ringing the doorbell.
He returned home wearily. Masakaze and Koharu too were running around, looking for Shioriko; Koharu was asking people if there was a girl wandering in the middle of the night, whilst Masakaze asked the police for help, only to be rebuffed by the impatient policeman, who argued that she should be at her relative's house since she wrote it as such. That utterly nonchalant attitude from the policeman really enraged Masakaze.
Shioriko had no relatives other than Tomohiko himself.
Finally, Masakaze and company went off separately to look for her.
Koremitsu and Hikaru went to Shioriko's school, her favorite park, and any possible places she could be, contacting Koharu and Masakaze from time to time. However, even at noon, they had yet to find her whereabouts.
Koremitsu then went to her apartment, where she lived when she was young, and the hospital.
Feeling guilty, he told Tomohiko that Shioriko went missing, but the he merely smiled and answered,
“Oh, Riko will probably come back when it's dinner.”
This made Koremitsu morose. He inadvertently gritted his teeth, frowning.
Upon seeing this,
“You don't have to worry. That girl's old enough now. Maybe she went to find her father...”
Tomohiko calmly stated.
Koremitsu exchanged looks with Hikaru.
Tomohiko mentioned that she was looking for the father. Would this father here be Shioriko's? But her father was already...
“Eh, Mr Wakagi, who's Shiiko's dad? Is he still alive?”
Koremitsu leaned forward and asked, but Tomohiko's eyes seemed to look into the distance as he vaguely answered,
“The father of that child in the tummy...should be somewhere in the Spring hall, feeding the bruins, travelling in the Silver World...carrying the sword of Seto around, watching the pitiful crickets...he may no longer be able to see Riko anymore...it's really tough for Riko to give birth without the father...if she hopes so, I too...wishes for her child to be part of my family.”
(Did he mix up the girl in elementary school with his daughter who gave birth?)
Koremitsu could not comprehend Tomohiko's words at all.
(Spring hall, bruins, what sort of fantasy is that? If he's in the clouds, that means Shiiko's dad is Mamoru Yoshikuni?)
Koremitsu glanced at Hikaru, and found the him pondering with melancholy.
And so, they were still without a clue when they left the hospital.
Shioriko did not return to the Akagis even at night.
The next day, after seeing that Koremitsu did not sleep a wink for the entire night,
“Koremitsu, go to school today.”
Koharu ordered him.
“Gramps and I will continue to look for Shiiko. If there's anything, we'll notify you firsthand.”
He was in no mood to head to school.
But he was too tense, too lethargic. Koharu advised him to first cool his head, and go to school for the day.
“Listen to Miss Koharu for now, Koremitsu. You'll faint at the rate you're going.”
Hikaru managed to convince Koremitsu to go to school.
Koremitsu sauntered into the classroom with large black eyes. Honoka, typing furiously at the cellphone, stopped in place completely gobsmacked.
The braided class representative, who would typically greet him tentatively, was standing far away, too afraid to approach as she watched on.
“Eh...Akagi, what's with you? You look very tired. You took leave yesterday, are you still not feeling well today?”
Honoka moved her chair over to Koremitsu, and asked this worriedly.
“Did something happen? You looked very jumpy last Saturday.”
Koremitsu grunted back,
“...the one at my house disappeared.”
“At your house? The cat you mean?”
Koremitsu dumped his bag and sat on the chair, a bitter groan escaped his dry lips.
It was useless of him to mention this to Honoka.
But he was at his wits end, forced into a corner.
“An elementary...school girl.”
And he inadvertently croaked.
“Elementary school girl...!?” Honoka gasped, “Is it that girl in the newspaper report? I see, so she's a relative of yours? What? That's how it is, huh? But, disappeared, as in?”
“...she wrote a message and left my house in the middle of the night. She still hasn't returned!”
“Left the house...?”
“I don't know. She wrote that she's going to a relative's place, but I have no idea who that relative is!”
He slammed his head with his hands in fury.
Honoka in response looked more worried by the moment.
“Did you go to the police?”
“Gramps contacted them, but he seems to be angry that they aren't going to seriously look for her. Damn it. If something happens to her–”
If only I had woken up earlier.
I guess it's not the time for me to come to school after all.
Koremitsu felt a knife twist in his gut, as regret and anxiety interwove within him.
“Please do not blame yourself, Koremitsu.”
Even Hikaru's consolation was unable to reach him.
At this moment, Honoka spoke adamantly,
“Akagi! I'll help you look for that kid too! I'm going to get everyone's help on the internet!”
Koremitsu lifted his head in shock.
“You...can do that?”
“I'm not sure since I never tried this before...but since you look so down, there's no way I can take this any further...I'll try it then.”
Honoka's expression and voice were filled with a yearning to help Koremitsu.
Those direct, straightforward emotions of hers caused the hesitant Koremitsu to harbor hope.
“Ask her for help, Koremitsu.”
Hikaru too sounded rather perked up.
Honoka showed a reliable smile.
(This girl's eyes are really pretty.)
The situation was dire, but her blazing, lively eyes enthralled Koremitsu.
“I'll help out too~!”
Suddenly, a busty short-haired girl showed her face at the side of the table, causing Koremitsu and Honoka to be taken aback.
“Oumi! When did you come here?”
“Where exactly were you hiding!?”
Hiina Oumi of the newspaper club seemed relaxed as she faced the wraths of two angry glares.
“Well well, the pretty girl reporter appears whenever she wants to. I've already known the rough gist of things, so I can help out as well. Just think of it as atonement for that lolicon report.”
She prattled on.
“That report's all gossip anyway. I don't think you're the type to atone for such things.”
Veins were popping out from Koremitsu's forehead as he mentioned his grudge vengefully, but Hiina gave a teasing look as she curled her bewitching ample lips.
“Don't worry about such small things. My specialty is in search and investigation; I can do anything. If it’s to investigate the daily life of any male or female, I’ll even scrub the toilet to do that.”
“Well...we're in an emergency. I guess it's great that you can help me out. Thanks.”
Koremitsu glanced above, and saw Hikaru nod.
“It's decided then! Let's begin our investigation!”
“Hey! Wait! I never said Shiiko's name and school or anything like that!”
“I know everything!”
She answered cheerfully as she bolted from the classroom.
(Why does she know that!?)
Koremitsu was feeling jittery.
“Akagi, I'll begin now. Tell me all about Shiiko.”
Honoka had both hands on the reddish-purple cellphone, on standby as she raised her eyebrows, looking completely amped up as she said.
“I must find her before Oumi.”
She murmured to herself, but luckily, these words did not reach Koremitsu's ears.
She took the photo of Shioriko published on the lolicon report with black censor bars, uploaded it to her website, and asked for anyone to report if she was found.
Though this managed to gain a lot of replies, most of them were trolling remarks or ads for erotic websites. Honoka continued to watch the cellphone screen, tapping away at the keys quickly.
During break time, Aoi appeared at Koremitsu's classroom for some reason.
“Are you free now, Mr Akagi?”
Hikaru looked rather surprised, whilst Honoka, tapping at the cellphone, twitched her ears and shoulders.
Koremitsu got up and went to the corridor, whereas Honoka looked aside to peep on them.
“What is it, Aoi?”
Koremitsu walked to the window and looked outside. Aoi stared at Koremitsu with a serious expression, and said,
“Mr Akagi, I heard that a girl a relative of yours has disappeared. You must be really worried, aren’t you? Could you please let me help?”
“Where did you hear that!?”
(That Oumi! Why did she mention that to Aoi!!!)
Hikaru already had a hand on his head, looking very troubled. He knew Aoi very well.
“You took care of me a lot of times, so I want to help you. I did not do anything for you the last time you were treated as a vengeful spirit, so this time...”
Aoi had a serious and earnest personality.
Koremitsu however was hesitant.
Though he was glad to see Aoi show such intent, she was ultimately different from Honoka and Hiina - a princess in a cage. She’s someone very precious to Hikaru. He did not wish to get Aoi involved.
“Thanks for your concern, but you don't have to worry about me.”
Hikaru lowered the hand on his head as he suddenly realized something, and interrupted Koremitsu with a poised tone,
“No. Let Miss Aoi help out. You may ask her about the latest events going on with Soichiro Kuze, any special events. Try and collect as much information as possible, no matter how tiny it is. Miss Aoi of the Saotomes will definitely be able to do it.”
(Soichiro Kuze? Shiiko's target? That monster sparrow?)
Koremitsu had long since forgotten that name due to the commotion over the hospitalization of Shioriko's grandfather. Upon hearing Hikaru mention this name, he suddenly felt a jolt.
Why investigate Kuze? And is it really good to ask Aoi to do this?
Koremitsu felt uneasy, but asked this to Aoi who has her head lowered in dejection.
“I guess I'll ask you for help then. Do you know about Soichiro Kuze? That old man who often appears at volunteer events.”
“Eh, I do...my father attended many of Mr Kuze's study seminars, and Asa is a member of the floral lover club Mr Kuze's chairs.”
“Great! Please investigate if there's anything strange going on around him, find anything you can find. Ah! Please remember to be safe too!”
Aoi widened her eyes skeptically at first, but soon broke into a smile. Her face reddened.
“Don't be too reckless!”
Koremitsu too was overly protective when it came to Aoi.
It was not simply because Aoi was Hikaru's beloved, but also because she personally exudes a charm that would cause others to protect her at all costs.
Koremitsu watched the flowing black hair and clear white ribbon gradually disappear into the distance, and turned back to find Honoka inside the classroom, raising the back of her chair slightly, looking at him.
Koremitsu was taken aback.
Honoka blushed once her eyes met his, and nearly lost her balance along with the chair. After panicking for a while, she puffed her cheeks, and said,
“So you asked Her Highness Aoi for help to find Shiiko?”
“It doesn't matter, but be careful. Don't get expelled by the Matriarch Asa because you were flirting with Her Highness.”
“I wasn't flirting.”
Upon seeing Honoka pout, Koremitsu felt a little guilty.
After school, both Koremitsu and Hikaru went off to places Shioriko might have went to.
It was their third trip to the house Shioriko used to live in. Koremitsu conversed with Hikaru as they went on their way.
“Do you think Shiiko's disappearance has something to do with Kuze?”
“Yeah...it certainly is strange for Shiiko to take action now when her grandfather is in such dire condition. Mr Soichiro was her last target before her grandfather fell ill.”
Shioriko said that she wanted revenge.
Koremitsu recalled the report on the weekly newspaper regarding the incident ten years ago.
The mass food poisoning on Marine Day in Shimane Prefecture.
The children who ate the seafood hamburger at the community event the Kuze Corporation organized complained of tummyaches.
The Chairman's Secretary, Yoshikuni tried to cover up the incident, and was heavily criticized by the media.
Yoshikuni protested, decrying that the Chairman himself had asked for this to be done.
But Kuze had an alibi, and there was news of Yoshikuni receiving bribes from food manufacturers. Soon after, he died in a train accident.
“Mr Soichiro resigned ten years ago in response to this matter, removing himself from the role of Chairman, but in actuality, he still holds managerial authority in the company as an advisor. After that article was published however, I do think Mr Soichiro's position is a little unstable. Even if the timeframe for defamation has passed, Mr Soichiro definitely will not tolerate any little commotion. Also, if Shiiko really has evidence to prove Mamoru Yoshikuni's innocence...”
Hikaru lowered his stare in melancholy,
“What do you think? Does Shiiko really have evidence?”
–I found a letter from my papa written to my real mama..
Shioriko mentioned this to Kuze in the park back then.
And she said that her father said that he was innocent in the letter, and there was evidence.
Kuze seemed to be very concerned about that letter, and even asked the girl to hand it over to him.
If that was simply a lie to lure Kuze in...
“...I cannot be certain about that, but.”
Hikaru frowned uneasily,
“I did mention about the time when I stayed at Shiiko's house when her grandfather was hospitalized during March, didn’t I? At that time, she once threw quite the tantrum because she would not eat the dinner I prepared, and I merely answered 'is that so'. At that time, she sat down with her knees cupped in, so I was worried if she was frustrated over something. She then suddenly stood up, and exclaimed,'Why aren't you angry!'...”
–Why're you always smiling!? I said that I wanted to eat Carbonara, you made it for me, and I didn't eat it once you did it. Why did you simply smile and answer 'is that so'?
–Shiiko, you can eat it whenever you feel like it.
–Carbonara will become soft when left for too long; I can't possibly eat that! Why are you only showing a wry look! Why are you still able to smile! Grandpa, Hikaru, both of you are so weird; why can you forgive others so easily? It's because of that that you're tricked by others, toyed, and slandered–all the bad things happen to you!
She clenched her trembling fists as she shouted, her eyes squinting as she tried her best to prevent the tears from flowing.
Hikaru embraced her, and she slammed her little fists on his chest, sobbing.
“Perhaps Shiiko's reaction back then was because she saw her father's letter, and learnt of the incident ten years ago.”
Hikaru's tone was dreary.
He lowered his eyelids, and with a glum look, said to Koremitsu, who listened with bated breath,
“If Shiiko really wants to take revenge for her father, it's not going to be good for her whether she succeeds or not.”
Certainly, if Shioriko had credible proof, Kuze may try something to crush her.
Hikaru probably realized the worst possible situation, and looked extremely tense.
Even Koremitsu felt his gut being wrenched.
“Anyway, the most important thing right now is to look for Shiiko. Let us not think of anything else for now.”
The duo moved through the silent residence in melancholy.
“Oh yeah. What did you do to Shiiko's old house after you bought it?”
“I would stay there once in awhile. It will decrepit if it is not inhabited for long, and the garden has to be maintained regularly. Shiiko insisted on staying inside only when she gets the money to buy the house back, but she definitely misses the place, and will sometimes head over there, but not often. She would stay by the outside to look into the apartment. In those situations, she looked happy, yet depressed.”
“What about the house now? The deed...”
Hikaru's face darkened.
And then, he showed a thin smile
“After I died, the house is probably under a family member's name. I suppose they will not sell it immediately, however...”
For some reason, they were back on this topic again. It seemed Hikaru was not too willing to answer this, and so Koremitsu remained silent. Hikaru was always like this whenever his family was mentioned.
Perhaps it was because of his standing as the son of a mistress that makes it awkward; thus, there was some distance between him and his family.
They trudged on, and arrived at a small hut surrounded with fence.
The trees in the garden were rich in greenery, and Kumquat fruits were growing from the lush branches. There were also grass and orange lilies growing around. The Summer Cammelias were about to wilt, as several small white Camellia-like flowers were scattered upon the ground.
Koremitsu frowned, and just then, Hikaru widened his eyes.
He seemed stupefied as he remained still.
Before Koremitsu could ask, Hikaru nervously said,
Koremitsu did not understand, but hid behind the fence.
Hikaru eyes seemed to absorb everything in sight as he stared at the fence. He looked deathly pale, not blinking once as he watched on.
Koremitsu saw that there was a woman sitting alone there, and was stunned.
That beautiful woman had long blond hair that dazzled under the sunlight. Some of the hair was draped in front of her chest, while the remaining was bundled behind her neck.
She had white, near-transparent skin, goose-like neck, cute lips, and brown eyes with long eyelashes; At first glance, one would assume she was an exact duplicate of Hikaru...
Koremitsu once met this young woman before.
She was dresssed in a black dress, seated at the relatives' area at Hikaru's funeral.
Back then, Koremitsu was mystified by how much of a striking resemblance she was to Hikaru.
At this point, she was not dressed in mourning clothes, but a soft fabric blouse and a long pleated dress.
Is that person your relative or something?
Just when he was about to ask this,
“...Please do not say anything for now. Just for this short time...please.”
Hikaru stammered as he pleaded, about to hyperventilate at any given moment. His tense expression gradually weakened, and he looked frail enough to disappear at any given moment, but the eyes that were staring at her were filled with an indescribable desire.
Hikaru continued to look on, his soul seemingly bounded, his eyes never averting the slightest..
Koremitsu watched from the side, and even he too was being smothered by the pressure, his pulse racing.
That woman placed her long slender legs gently on the floor, her skirt swaying as she strolled through the garden. Once she walked to a certain point, she suddenly stopped, and lowered her head.
That pretty yet crestfallen expression was fixated upon the bluish-purple flower in front of her.
The stem was growing out from the thin, long leaves, and there were tiny star-like flower gathered upon them, blooming.
Hikaru clasped his hands together, stopping the emotions from surging within him.
(That flower...isn't that the flower Hikaru was looking at when I was on my way to school? I remember the name's called the Purple Wisteria.)
–When I was young...I always thought this flower was the reincarnation of the Wisteria flowers, After the Wisteria flowers landed, new Wisterias will grow again...
–The floral language of this flower is 'news of love'...or...lover...
Just as Hikaru petted the flowers gently, the woman resembling Hikaru petted the light bluish-purple flower.
Her gentle actions, and even her mannerism of lowering her eyelids, were exactly like Hikaru's. This made Koremitsu skeptical.
She then showed a melancholic expression similar to Hikaru's, moved her lips slightly, and showed transparent beads of tears in her moist eyes.
The crystal-like tears silently slid down the white tender face.
She also wept back at the funeral.
It was a gentle, forlorn sobbing.
And yet, as she cried, her lips...
“Let us go...Koremitsu. It seems Shiiko is not here.”
Hikaru turned his face away, seemingly begging as he said.
(But that person's your...)
Hikaru clearly looked too anguished, his expression pale, his heart that had already ceased to beat, was almost splintered. Thus, Koremitsu did not ask anything, and quietly left, being mindful not to let the woman in the garden notice him.
(Don't you often go comfort women when you see them cry? It's not like you to see such a depressed beauty alone.)
Koremitsu muttered in his heart.
Once they left the house, Hikaru knelt on the roadside, cupping his knees as he lowered his head.
“...Sorry, I am really sorry about that...we have to hurry up and look for Shiiko, but...sorry...”
Due to the trauma caused by his mother, Koremitsu really hated it when people apologized to him. Hikaru clearly knew about it, but his mind was filled with thoughts regarding that woman, and had clearly forgotten about this fact. One could tell at first glance that Hikaru's feelings were not that simple; they were bitter, tormenting.
At this moment, Hikaru could say nary a 'sorry' as he remained silent, sealing his inner heart.
And Koremitsu stood beside Hikaru without saying anything.
The radiant sunlight indicating the arrival of summer rained down from the blue sky, scorching Koremitsu's face. He narrowed his eyes, thinking to himself that he hoped to at least be Hikaru's shelter when he is feeling down.
Curiously, Koremitsu did not know whether ghosts would feel heat...
Once the sunlight weakened slightly, Hikaru finally lifted his head.
He looked over at Koremitsu tentatively, and found him looking back docilely.
“Shiiko is not inside that house, right? Let's go look somewhere else.”
Upon hearing Koremitsu say this with his usual tone, Hikaru winced a little before relaxing his shoulders in relief, muttering,
Koremitsu coldly answered.
At this moment, the cellphone in his pocket rang.
It was from Honoka.
“Akagi! I got information from someone who claimed to have seen Shiiko!”
Hikaru immediately sat upright.
The informant was a male who follows pop idols. He mentioned that during noon, while he was waiting for an idol to appear in front of the TV Bureau, he spotted a man in suit escorting a girl who was most probably in elementary school.
“He said that she's a pretty girl even all the current child actors can't hold a candle to, and regretted that he only watched without taking a picture. That twin-tailed girl has a grassy green pochette, and looks just like Shiiko.”
“Which TV studio is that?”
Honoka stated the name of the studio.
At this moment, another call came.
“Hello hello? Is that Mr Akagi? I heard that there's something similar to little Shiiko eating with a fat old man with an expensive watch at a hotel restaurant. It seems people are calling that old man 'director'.”
The posh hotel Hiina mentioned was near the TV studio Honoka had just notified him about.
Koremitsu cut the line, and exchanged looks with Hikaru.
“What's going on? That brat wants to be an artiste?”
“Impossible. Shiiko has been scouted so many times, but has insisted on not being an actress because of her mother. She would not accept any name cards at all.”
Hikaru spoke sternly, and this time, Aoi called.
“Mr Akagi, you asked me to investigate about Mr Kuze, so I asked father and the other elders. A friend of mine in school is also about to be betrothed to Mr Kuze's son.”
From what Aoi had gathered, it seemed that in Kuze's company, there was a power struggle between the secret backer Kuze and the current chairperson. Kuze wanted his sons to take over the company, but his three sons were very foolish, and the new chairman's party was hoping to expel Kuze's power entirely and take over it completely.
The director called Gohara was the main general under the chairman's side, and it was said he took a very cute girl away, hoping for her to be an image spokesperson artiste for the company.
(That image spokesperson is...)
This completely matched the information Honoka and Hiina gave.
Koremitsu stared at Hikaru, who nodded grimly.
Aoi then said tensely,
“I think that girl is Shiiko, the one you are looking for.”
And then, she suggested with a serious tone,
“Mr Akagi, how about we go visit the Goharas? I once met Mr Gohara at a party before. If I accompany you, perhaps you may meet him.”
Koremitsu begged many times to Aoi, telling her that she could just tell him the address, but she would not tell.
“I will not tell you if you do not let me come along.”
She insisted, and so, both of them arrived at the Gohras.
“I called the company, and was told that Mr Gohara is on leave today. He should be here if that is the case.”
“Hey, Aoi. You can just accompany me here. You already helped me out a lot here. You can go back now.”
The sky was dyed golden, and Koremitsu hoped she would return home before it got dark.
However, she swayed her long flowing black hair, and said,
“No. If you go in alone, they might think of you as a hooligan and call the police to take you away. You will gain some more unwarranted slanders in school again.”
She looked up at Koremitsu with clear sparkling eyes.
Koremitsu knew that she was worried about him, and was inadvertently touched, but felt worried,
“Miss Aoi sure is very stubborn.”
Hikaru too looked to have given up as he muttered,
“So you were with that wild dog after all.”
A chilly voice suddenly rang, and Koremitsu turned back to see Asai walking out from the back seat of an annoying looking Rolls-Royce.
“You retired for the day without telling me, and I was worried. I heard you went to your grandfather's factory, and even visited the uncles at the Konoes and Master Kiyoshi of the Takatsukasas.”
“Sorry, Asa, that is...”
Asai clasped Aoi's hands tightly, seemingly protecting her, and turned towards Koremitsu, giving a chiding look.
“Do not get Aoi involved in troublesome matters. Gohara and the girl you are looking for are not here. It is better for you to leave before things get out of hand, and before your infamous reputation in school worsens.”
“You are wrong, Asa. I insisted on helping. Mr Akagi did no wrong.”
Aoi, who was protesting against Asai, gasped upon hearing this.
“Since you are so certain that Gohara and Shiiko aren't here, that means 'you know' where those two are?”
The blazing eyes were staring forcefully at Asai's pretty, stoic face.
Aoi and Hikaru held their breaths as they watched Koremitsu.
“What is it then!? Asai Saiga!”
The rage in his eyes looked as if fire could surge out from them. One had to wonder what would happen if it were to burn the ice-like stoic face of Asai's.
Asai coldly answered,
“I do know–”
Koremitsu clenched his fists.
“But I have no obligation to tell you.”
Upon hearing Asai's unsympathetic declaration, Koremitsu's face winced as he glared furiously, and he took a step forward.
The killing intent he gave off caused Aoi to shiver in trepidation, whereas Asai's condescending look remained unchanged.
“Are you seriously going to threaten me to spill the information with a barbaric method?”
(This woman is really, damn annoying. She's always thinking of me as an enemy or a lowlife. If she's not a woman, I would have beaten her up already.)
Koremitsu took the last step forward.
Hikaru frantically yelled.
The smile disappeared from Asai's face.
Koremitsu suddenly knelt down at Asai's feet, pressed his head heavily onto the floor, and yelled with a firm, determined voice,
“Please! Tell me where Shiiko is!”
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