Chapter 21: Weaving The Threads of Tragedy
The workshop within the backroom of the Blue Pharmacy was filled with a spicy-sweet scent.
The aroma laced the wafting steam rising from the bubbling cauldron. Slow-burning flames stationed within a brick furnace that was anchored against the stonewall had brought the contents nestled within it to the boiling point. The water inside was evaporating and in doing so condensing down the residual powder that would serve as part of the mixture for a medicinal ointment.
The faucet attached to the sink dripped unhurriedly. Freshly washed measuring cups were drying out next to a metal stirrer that laid on over the rim. A jar containing herbs soaking in distilled water rested nearby with condensation trailing down the side.
Scribbling could be heard from the table resting against the wall in a corner of the room. It was nestled by a shelf upon which rows of reference books could be seen. Its topics ranged from toxicology, biology, and herbology to almanacs that touched on the weather, seasonal patterns, and monster manuals.
Sitting down on a stool from which the fluffy brown tail that marked her as a Chienthrope swayed off to one side was Naaza Erisuis.
She was dressed in a long skirt with a tunic that was asymmetrical, the left sleeve being short enough to expose her bare arm while the right one hid it from view completely. Her purple eyes half-hidden behind messy locks of brown hair were fixed onto a set of six vials that were all filled with the base fluids for a work in progress. It was the new potion she had been working on for such a long time.
Countless hours of studying various texts. Experiments with the different materials to create an optimal solution. Deriving the mixing patterns to ensure effectiveness had been a nightmare. But all together they brought her to this moment as she slowly added individual reagents one-by-one to the set of rows and see how they reacted.
The first vial’s color turned a shade of purple. Her nose, which was her sharpest sense, detected the faint hint of a rotting fruit scent that had resulted. The medicine had become a poison due to the chemical reaction from the extract, exacerbating the wrong properties. She capped it to stop the smell from spreading and chalked it up as the first failure.
The second vial’s color slowly turned into a light red hue. Light bubbling from the vial showed the chemical reaction was a lot more violent than intended. She couldn’t detect the previous scent when it had finished, indicating that it had removed part of the compound and the intended use of the finished result. Another failure.
The third and fourth vials didn’t fare much better. And considering she had diluted the materials in spring water from the Middle Floor of the Dungeon that had revitalizing properties, that meant it had cost them quite a bit. More so since the fountain tended to dry up depending on the timing and how long it would take to well up again.
Once she set down the second-to-last vial, another failure, the despair that has slowly been swelling in her chest returned. She was so sure that one of them would work. That was why she had spent so much time researching every possible combination. Not to mention the costs of gathering the reagent components and how dire their financial situation was. If this didn’t work…
It shouldn’t have to be this way.
Her left fingers instinctively reached for her right shoulder, where flesh gave way to smooth metal inlaid at the joints with gemstones beneath the cloth. The artificial limb there was a masterwork that could only be wrought by the hands of one who had reached the pinnacle of skill with their craft. Not merely some prosthetic that was shoddy and would render her unable to work, but possessing tactile feedback for unwavering precision and additional sensory input.
It was the embodiment of Lord Miach’s generosity.
And the embodiment of her sin in dragging such a wonderous god into poverty.
They had once been a Pharmaceutical Familia that was among the most prominent within Orario. Great enough to rival the Dian Cecht Familia that now sat as the best within the Labyrinth City, frequented by Adventurers of all ranks. A rivalry between the two divines started in the Heavens above and carried on when they descended below, recruiting children to their cause and bequeathing them with their knowledge.
The competition was fierce but friendly. In challenging one another it forced their skills to improve, and with it, the quality of medical assistance provided to the citizens of Orario rose as well. It was once joked that between their Familia there would come a day when they would be able to cure even death itself.
And then all it took was a single mistake for her to break that cycle to pieces.
There was no more friendly but fierce competition. Lord Miach was cast down into the depths of poverty and forced to bow his head before Dian Cecht. And he loved to stand above and lord it over them every time he personally came to collect upon the loan owed and take in the extent of their fall.
Their Familia had dwindled to only the two of them. The others left them behind despite everything Lord Miach had done for them. The worst of them joined the very one who put them into that state. And their debt was so massive that no one would join such a poor Familia and inherit the burden of paying for it.
It was only because of sleepless nights and the fact that she had the Synthesize Development Ability prior to then that they were barely hanging on. She had the knowledge and could work with what they had. Everything he had taught her had been able to keep them afloat until now.
But only just that.
They had been relegated to a small store nestled so far away from the main street that customers were scarce. The name of their Familia no longer reached the ears of the upper ranks of Adventurers, but instead the poor and desperate. They had no hope of ever climbing out of poverty within her lifetime when the very debt itself had been taken in her name. And yet…
He cried tears of joy when he saw her arm work for the first time. He thanked her for working so hard for his sake. He never blamed her for their fall into ruin. He smiled every time he saw her to this day.
He still loved a woman like her who had dragged him down into poverty and shame.
…It was an innocent but unforgivable sin to drag a man like Lord Miach so low. Her mistake had cost him everything. His status, his Familia, and even his pride as one of the divine. Yet he asked for so little in return.
She had to atone. And the only way to do so was to undo her mistake. To raise him up even higher than before. If it was for his sake, then she’d do whatever it took. She would sacrifice anything for the sake of it.
…The shift in the scent had been subtle. It had been something that had almost eluded even her keen senses. But it hadn’t. The moment she caught wind of it her eyes drifted from the embodiment of her sin to the embodiment of her hopes—the final vial.
The smell was rich. The hue was now a deep, dark blue. Her breathing hitched as she gently grasped it in her artificial arm and her lips trembled as the fear of failure waged against the fleeting hope. Her unflinching arm brought it to her lips and she took a sip…
The results were immediate. The weariness from hours of study and preparation of the various concoctions melted. Her mind that had been mired in doubts sharpened with newfound clarity. The restoration of physical stamina and mental energy.
Hope blossomed in the form of hot tears slipping from the corners of her eyes. Her atonement. Their salvation. It was literally in her very grasp.
She set it down and went over the notes she had accrued for that specific formula. It had been the accumulation of thousands of hours and hundreds of experimentation using nearly every material that she could get her hands on. Some of it was through legitimate means but others less so, Adventurers who possessed damaged goods that wouldn’t be able to fetch a decent price at the Guild or were willing to run an unofficial Quest for the sake of tax-free valis.
The secret component until now was something actually common, but getting her hands on them had been a gamble considering it could be constituted as contraband depending on how it was obtained. If it was listed for medicinal purposes and a fee was paid, then she could have gotten it through legitimate means since they were a Pharmaceutical Familia. But given the costs and how she had to keep quiet on what she was doing to avoid Dian Cect and Amid taking away her only chance, she had elected disreputable means.
Monster eggs were the final thing that had been missing. They were something that existed only outside of the Dungeon. Monsters born within the womb of that hellish place possessed unparalleled strength because their magic stones came straight from the source. But it was a different story for monsters outside of it.
The Ancient Era had long passed and with the Age of the Gods came their decline. Their strength wavered and the ones that were above had to resort to instinctually breeding and reproducing via laying eggs. Without a direct connection to the Dungeon the magic stones that crystallized within their eggs and gave them life diminished in size and the power they provided. As a result, their individual strength wavered over hundreds of generations even as their numbers remained high.
Such small magic stones weren’t even fit for most of the technology used today, which was why Orario being able to export them from the Dungeon made it a global power. Drop items were also rarer because they were so weak that the magic wouldn’t be able to concentrate within individual parts as easily. That’s why no Adventurer would think to look outside the Dungeon for something of value from the monsters.
Her desperation had led to her taking the gamble and it paid off. In order to support the growing lives inside of them the eggs had to have special nutrients within the yolk that the embryos could sustain themselves off until they hatched and were ready to survive on their own. Isolating and refining it to take out the most essential components had given her the key to the stimulation of Mind production.
That being said the result she had now was so minuscule that it wouldn’t be enough to just resort to collecting the eggs of Goblins. If she took into account that larger monsters would require more proportionally potent nutrients to sustain them as they grew, then she would need something from the Large category and ideally more ravenous. Something that needed a high intake to survive out of the egg would need more nutrients inside of it.
She reached for a bestiary that was a remnant of her days as an Adventurer. Her eyes skimmed over the pages until they settled on Bloodsaurus, a Level Three Monster due to where it was located and the strength it possessed. It was a species normally only found on the Thirtieth floor within an area known as the Dense Forest Ravine, a heavily forested area that was high in humidity and semi-tropical temperatures. The nature of the floor meant even crops spawned there though most Agricultural Familia lacked anyone capable of heading that deep to retrieve them personally.
That in mind she pulled out a map of the surroundings and searched for all the forested areas around the Labyrinth City, even past the Fianna’s Causeway. Then reached for a listing of travel routes in and out of Orario meant for merchants. They contained warnings for them along with sightings of monsters that were used to determine the price of hiring an escort.
Her organic hand settled on one place in particular—The Deep Seoro Forest. It was located at the base of the Alm Mountains located east of Orario. It boasted the closest terrain to that of their native environment and there were sightings, so she knew that she could get them there. The problem was how to do so discreetly.
The formula would only be valuable as a bargaining tool for her debt if it was unknown until she finished. Dian Cect would notice if she put out a Quest for someone to retrieve the eggs and then it would lose its value. And even if the Bloodsaurus weren’t nearly as much of a threat as if they were born in the Dungeon, the costs of clearing them out to retrieve the eggs from their nests would be… not inconsequential.
…Focus on the problem in front of you. She shelved that for the moment since if she couldn’t cross the immediate problem then she wouldn’t get anywhere. Namely the Blue PapillionPapillion Wings being one of the key components.
It was one of the few monsters that could actively heal others. The regenerative and restorative properties of one of the rarest monsters on the Upper Floors were very much desired for any Medical Familia. So much so that most of the experiments leading up to this one consisted of it.
It was also expensive due to those reasons. Not only was the monster in question rare, but the floor was one where Killer Ants spawned. Since they could cause a Monster Parade on their own and had such hard shells, requesting someone retrieve the amount she needed would be something she couldn’t afford.
It would be a different story if she could still go there herself, but…
Her thick drooping ears rose as the slightly tarnished brass bell affixed to the front door jingled. It was too soon for Dian Cect to be arriving. She rose to her feet and made for the door that would lead from the workshop to the storefront, cracking it open to see who had stepped into their little shop.
It turned out to be Bell Cranel who passed through the entrance. He was closing the door gently, shutting out the amber rays of the evening sun and leaving only the artificial light of the magic-stone lanterns to illuminate the interior around them. His red eyes seemed nearly as tired as hers while they skimmed the wooden shelves that lined the walls and rose to his chest.
The rows contained containers and bottles that housed different sundries suitable for the daily living of residents that one would expect from a pharmacy. She had made them for non-Adventurers to expand their clientele by providing shampoo and soaps for cleanliness, containers of small pills or bottles of remedies meant for simple ailments, and salves that could be applied to bruises and injuries to numb the pain and stem the flow of blood. None of which Adventurers really needed but civilians found them useful.
Lord Miach had introduced them. He was a nice but gullible boy, courteous enough that he even looked down at his boots to make sure he wasn’t bringing in too much excessive dirt into the store before he stepped off the welcoming mat. She appreciated that.
The grating of hinges drew his vision towards the back of a long, wooden counter that had a small pile of books stacked over on the left side with a hefty pouch tied atop it. She stepped out of the iron-banded wooden door nestled behind two cabinet shelves that had glass doors covering them and greeted him in a soft voice. “Have you come to buy something, Bell?”
He gave a slight nod of his head before he approached the counter. “I’ve come to buy Antidotes and Potions. Two of each for now.”
“Antidotes?” Her head tilted for a moment before she looked over to the left shelf where there were vials stationed that had a variety of different colors. Those were the ones that dealt with things outside of plain damage—mental exhaustion and status ailments. The ones on the right were those meant for restoring one’s health but were mostly plain colored. “Have you already made it all the way down to the Seventh Floor already?”
“That’s right,” Bell answered. “I found myself into a party with two others thanks to Lady Hestia and we’re heading down to that floor soon. But since there are monsters that can inflict poison, it was decided that we should get supplies ready.”
“I suppose someone who could kill a Silverback wouldn’t have any trouble getting that far so soon.” There was a slight hum in her throat as she turned back towards the door she had entered through for a moment and considered his usefulness beyond a sweet but easy mark. Her ears then twitched before she turned back to him. “…Bell, would you be willing to do me a little favor?”
His moon-toned hair shifted as he tilted his head. “I don’t mind if it’s something I can do.”
“I was going to post this as a Quest with the Guild originally,” she lied as easily as she breathed while pulling a notepad from beneath the counter along with a quill. “But since you’ll be going to the Seventh Floor where they can be found, I’ll give it to you directly. If possible, could you collect about five of the drop items from a monster known as a Blue Papillion? As for a reward…”
Her purple eyes rose from the notepad over towards the right cabinet, where behind the looking glass were vials of Potions. They were the ones that were available for around 500 valis that Bell came to purchase, being suitable for most normal injuries. “Since you’re in a group now, I would be willing to grant you two dozen Potions as a reward—a value of 12,000 valis.”
Bell looked up in surprise at that offer. “Is it okay to give that much?”
She nodded her head slowly. “It would be a big help since those wings are useful when it comes to making Potions. They are considered rare monsters, but if you happen to come across them while you’re on that floor keep me in mind.”
“All right.” He rolled up the quest notice and set it into his pocket before pulling out the payment for the Potions and Antidotes he needed now. “I’ll look into finding them.”
“Just bring them straight to me when you obtain them.” And with that, the exchange was made for the goods. She saw the boy off with a slight wave that fell once he passed through it, leaving her to sigh softly as she looked back to the cabinet.
It wouldn’t take much for him to figure out the value of what she was asking if he searched, so she needed to sweeten the pot. But to give him that many would also mean she couldn’t afford other things she needed. Her dour expression then fell to her sleeved arm as she considered a way to remedy that… one she had gotten all too used to by now.
Naaza braced the silver arm for a moment in absolute silence as she remembered her goal.
She had sworn to raise Lord Miach up high once more no matter what. The solution had literally been in her grasp mere minutes ago. The longer she took the less time she had to act upon it. Nothing was off the table, no matter what she had to sacrifice.
Not even if it meant betraying the Hippocratic Oaths she’d sworn.
Or that earnestly gullible boy.
The morning sun beat down over the expanse that was Central Park.
Babel—the white spire that was erected as a monument to the divine after their descent to the Lower World. It stretched to the very firmament from the heart of Orario. Its length cast a shadow that ran long like the hand of a clock that slowly made its way around as time moved forward.
Liliruca kept to herself on a bench in the park. It was set at the base of one of the trees that had been planted within the forest of stone. The little sections of greenery served to drink in the heat from the sunbaked streets while adding to the decorum of the park along with the fountains.
She was alone at the moment, with the bushes ringing the tree keeping her oversized bag out of view. The boy who was to serve as her shield against retribution had yet to arrive. But despite the threat that Ged still represented she wasn’t worried about herself right now.
Because at the moment she was not Liliruca Arde. She was not a Supporter of the Soma Familia. She was simply a curious Chienthrope child watching as the brave Adventurers set off into the great hole that rested beneath the tower that rose to the sky.
Cinder Ella—that was the name of her magic. She had heard once upon a time that the magic granted by the Falna was the manifestation of their deepest desire. It had been a long time since she had been told that. So long she couldn’t remember the name of the person who it was that had told her in the first place.
But for Liliruca it was an absolute truth. Because the essence of her magic was that it gave her the one thing that she desperately wanted above all else. The thing she had only a brief glimmer of when she first ran away from the Soma Familia.
It gave her the chance to live another life where she could be happy.
Like something out of a fairy tale, she could stop being herself and instead become someone else with the muttering of three lines. She could become a member of the most beautiful and graceful race as an Elf. She could become a coy yet cheerful Cat Person. She could become a brawny Dwarf that strode down the stone streets with confidence in every step.
The only limitation was that her size didn’t change. But over time she had become more and more proficient. The transformations gradually became more expansive and defined, going from merely changing her clothes to even taking on the traits of other races. There was a very real chance that even her size could become malleable with enough time and practice.
But it was still a lie in the end.
No matter how exquisite the life she could live beneath the glamour of it. No matter how real it seemed. Liliruca would always be reminded that it was just a dream once the spell was broken. Everything would be as it was before at the stroke of the midnight bell.
And she would just be herself. A Pallum who had to eat scraps tossed to her. A Supporter who had to beg for the brave Adventurers to take her with them into the Dungeon because she was little and weak to become one. A Thief who did what it took to survive.
That was her reality. Her magic offered her a chance to escape reality by letting her dream of the life she could have lived the way she had when she had found a family to take her in. But she would be right back where she started once the dream ended, just like how that brief moment of happiness ended as quickly as it began.
It was so tempting to completely drown herself in becoming someone else entirely and getting lost in the dream. But every time she came across the members of the Familia whose emblem was emblazoned on her back, she was reminded of what awaited her should she allow herself to become dependent on the escape from her life it offered. And if there was one thing she desperately refused to be it was like the addicts that had their souls stolen by Soma’s brew.
Liliruca was a liar. She was a thief. She was a manipulator. That had become her reality for a long time now when her first attempt to leave behind the Soma Familia had failed. Her magic only came into existence once she swore revenge on Adventurers and their ilk, as if bubbling up from the desire for revenge itself.
But at the very least she could claim that she was the master of her own soul.
…He’s here. Her senses enhanced by her magic picked up Bell’s scent as he approached. She didn’t smell Ged anywhere nearby, so she could only assume he hadn’t arrived. It would just be another workday.
She slipped into the bushes and undid her transformation out of view before pulling her way out with her bag and going up to him. No need for magic. Just the face she put on for work to survive. “Morning, Master Bell. Are you ready to go back down into the Dungeon with Lili and collect lots of magic stones?”
“Yes, but…” His brows scrunched up for a moment in thought. “Lili, would you know a place on the Seventh Floor where Blue Papillions spawn frequently?”
The Pallum looked up at the inquiry. “…Lili has some idea where to look. but is there a reason Master Bell asked? Last time he mentioned not going to the next floor without his Party.”
A hum briefly escaped his throat in confirmation before he pulled out a sheet of parchment and handed it to her. It looked like a Quest, but not quite touched up to the extent that it would be posted on the board. “A friend who owns a Pharmaceutical Familia asked me to retrieve five in exchange for a dozen Potions. You said that I’m capable of going down deeper before and it wouldn’t just be because I want to do it—”
“No need to explain to Lili. Master Bell wanted to procure them ahead of time for his other Party, yes?”
He nodded. “I figured it would be the best way I can contribute to the group and not weigh them down by going entirely blind. What we have now will more than make up the cost for the Antidotes that were going to me, so getting just a little ahead couldn’t hurt.”
She bobbed her head along with his justification, regardless of how flimsy it sounded to her knowing the need to contribute to his Party because he felt the least experienced based on what she could gather from their discussion. It was a common sentiment in fresh adventurers who hadn’t yet cut their teeth on the life. That also made it a very common tactic for members of the Soma Familia to prey on newbies like him by feeding into that.
And when they were done, the Seventh Floor was the perfect place to get rid of them.
Accidents happen after all. For people who don’t know better the spike in difficulty really catches them by surprise. Bell probably bought Antidotes expecting the Purple Moths, but really there were far greater threats for the unaware.
Not that she particularly cared if it didn’t involve her, but she still needed him to be around if she was going to deal with Ged. Knowing he was going to run off on his own the moment she turned her back, it was smarter for her to help him now rather than letting him try to do it on his own as he planned. “However, the fact that Master Bell asked Lili if she knew where to look rather than ask her to show him means he probably intended to go alone, yes?”
It was a natural assumption. She had seen his type before and he was mostly easy to read. The overprotectiveness towards her from projecting someone else onto her meant he’d want to exclude her from something too dangerous. But he was also overconfident to think he could handle such a thing alone with only whatever scraps of knowledge others gave him and his current preparations.
Hence why she told him in as saccharine a manner as possible the immediate flaws in his plans. “Master Bell doesn’t have a map or knowledge of the floor structure, so it would be easy to get lost on his own. In addition, unlike magic stones, Papillion Wings are delicate. They need to be carefully harvested or else their value will drop. More so considering how rare they are and how Master Bell has not encountered such a monster before. If the Quest giver needed them in pristine condition, then it would require an experienced hand in gathering fragile materials.”
Blue Papillion and Purple Moths were soft-bodied and didn’t require a lot of force to kill. Their advantage for survival was to take to the sky and rain from above, using other monsters as shields or distractions. Damaging the wings was dreadfully easy even if the monster itself was gone and left them behind as a Drop Item, with the oils of the hands being more than capable of eroding them—let alone how being anything more than delicate would result in tearing them.
She turned her head downwards enough and put on a small frown that one would expect from a child as she finished her lecture with a soft, “Or does Master Bell not need Lili anymore to do that?”
The way he grimaced showed she hit the mark. The implication hadn’t been present in how he presented it, but it was easy to interpret it that way. And while she hadn’t really done so, he didn’t know that. “I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just that…”
“Lili knows that Master Bell does not want to put her in potential danger he cannot be sure to protect her from,” she filled in. “However, Lili is best suited for aiding Master Bell in this endeavor if he intends to go on his own without his Party, as she can guide him best to avoid unnecessary danger. And has Lili not proven she can avoid troubling Master Bell to this point?”
“…You’re right.” His tone was one of resignation as those facts registered. She was more suited for harvesting than him and they both knew it. If he still didn’t take her, he would be implying that she wasn’t good enough even after all she had done and that she was causing him trouble when prior he said that she hadn’t been. “I didn’t mean to belittle your experience, but I didn’t want to put you at risk.”
“Lili did not take it personally. She knows that Master Bell only has the best intentions.” She rocked on her feet as played on his naivety. There were some benefits that she could see from helping him here aside from Ged. “Hunting rare monsters in this way will require preparation. If Master Bell will follow Lili, we can get started while it is early.”
The first stop was at a notice board where Lili checked some of the listings posted by the guild. One of them was something called a Sweeping Schedule. She explained that Dungeon Floors on the Upper Floors were occasionally swept up by Adventurers off the beaten path to avoid the risk of a Monster Parade—an incident where several monsters would swarm in great numbers.
It was a Quest offered by the Guild regularly and reported as general information that was provided by the Guild. And it was often taken by middling Familia to grind up some of their lower members or to help in acquiring the Hunter Developmental Ability. The Seventh Floor had been swept not too long ago by the Apollo Familia, which was fortunate since it meant that it would be safer to do what she had in mind.
The next was equipment procurement. Bell followed her to a shop that specialized in adventuring gear for exploration and paid for everything that Lili said they would need if they were going to do this. That included a camouflage cloak, some monster lures, repellants, and some additional ammunition for her wrist-mounted crossbow since his ranged weapon would cause so much noise.
By the time they were done, the morning rush had gone through the Upper Floors and so they had no issue making it down to the Seventh Floor. They were there until the evening, but her plan proved successful in the end. He was so happy he didn’t even consider that the equipment he bought for her factored into her payment and gave her half of the magic stones that they had collected on the way up.
Lili couldn’t help but think that he was too naïve for his own good. That served her purposes for now, but she genuinely hoped he would learn to grow a little more skeptical for his own sake when it was all over. Otherwise, people would take advantage of him until they ran him into an early grave.
That included her.
An angry shout was punctuated by the sole of a boot slamming against the bottom rail of a large, cast-iron swing gate that stood between two men with the emblem of a goblet nestled within the cradle of a crescent moon worked into its design. It didn’t remotely grab the attention of the nearly immaculately dressed swordsman with gray hair who continued to walk further into the compound without looking back while disheveled-looking men and women were watching with sneering grins nearby.
Their gazes only served to further infuriate Ged Raish as he picked himself up from the ground. The left side of his face stung as he spat onto the emblem itself with a glob of spit consisting of blood mixed with saliva in an act of disrespect to the Soma Familia itself. Then he stormed away past the towering wall and down an alleyway before he slammed the bottom of his fist against the wall.
He had been searching for the Pallum since he’d been denied his chance to exact justice against the thieving Supporter. But the slippery rat had been difficult to track down to this point. So he came to demand reparations for what was stolen or else he’d take it to the Guild.
It was foolish to expect the Familia of the Pallum would be better than her. They were the same kind of scum at the end of the day. Thieving and conniving addicts. He damned them all and made to leave when the sound of boots on concrete reached his ears.
Ged drew the long sword off his back and pointed in the direction of the alley mouth. “Show yourself!”
That was when a stocky Raccoon turned the corner. The man had his hands up in the air. “Now, now. Don’t want any trouble. I just heard you were lookin’ into a Supporter that’s been going around besmirchin’ the name of our Familia. Me and a few fellows have also been lookin’ to take care this little problem for a while now…”
The Raccoon put on a smile that honestly sickened him.
“How about we talk out an… arrangement?”