Rugal - Tale of Two Kings: Soldiers Of Fortune

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Description: After securing Vinnie on behalf of Fujimura's orders, Takawashi retires to the old Mercenary bar 'Mukaezake' to blow off some steam. While fighting with his fellow Tekken Force soldiers, he meets with his old friend and current Parliament member Kawabota. There, he shares some of his thoughts with the direction of the Mishima Zaibatsu, as well as some possible opportunities he had heard of...

Before the Gears War, Mukaezake was a much more global place.

While formally described as a 'bar' for 'mercenaries', the tavern was of both eastern and western origin. Formed shortly after the west was opened up and the Meiji Restoration began, it originally was a coffeehouse organized for setting up small scale capital projects. When local organized criminal syndicates became involved, however, the Mukaezake established its independence from Yakuza when foreign merchants hired disenfranchised ex-samurai, as the abolishment of the status left the warrior class without the means to earn a living. Over the decades, the Mukaezake became a location to not only hire mercenaries, but for mercenaries to coordinate and organize themselves within Japan, or simply relax. The layout, past the reinforced and isolated entryway where the bouncers checked people in, had square booths and round tables in an outer loop, with a long bar on the far side of it. The ceiling was semi-open; exposed windows let the wind blow in from the roof. Lanterns hung in the air. In the middle, there was a large, sawdusted arena. Normally, the cliental was awfully diverse.

After the Gears War, however, there was really only one mercenary group that hung out there.

Almost every seat in the house was filled by a member of the TEkken Force. Crow, Falcon, Hawk, even Owl in some cases; the Tekken Force had practically taken over the bar over the months. For now, there wasn't much tension over it; the phrase 'simply business' was a long enduring one in the old tavern. Right now, a bit of an inter-force rivalry was being settled in the arena. Takawashi was currently in the 'demonstration' ring. The demonstration arena was originally used as just that, a means to demonstrate the skills and talents of mercenaries. Now, it was primarily used to settle arguments and run what really amounted to local tournaments, though arguably that was another form of demonstration. The Hawk currently had another Hawk, from another commander, finally in a chokehold, with three Falcons being revived from the sidelines. Bloodied and bruised, the mercenary's eyes were focused, even amongst the cheers and growls from the crowd.. He wasn't going to kill him, he never had it. But there was a certain anger from Takawashi now, even as he clenches his hold tighter, the Hawk's eyes going wide. Takawashi wasn't going to kill him. But the other Hawk was trying to tap out, trying to surrender.

And Takawashi didn't seem to notice.

Kawabota was no stranger to killing men.

He's been in covert operations across the globe, shooting, stabbing and beating men during the reign of a more lucid (or sane) Heihachi. He was the most decorated soldier in the Tekken Force, his salary at least ten percent higher than that worm Nakatomi, and six percent higher than the rest of them. There was a point in time where his annual salary was higher than the yearly Kuma budget (though that time has passed). He was the Zaibatsu's longest employed asset, and Kawabota had pride in that. For almost thirty years he's been at Heihachi's side. Not only was he the highest paid Owl, he was the first Owl, and he was proud of that, too.

Kawabota was also, not to make a big sentimental deal out of it, proud of the friends he made along the way. Takawashi was one such man. It was fifteen years ago they had met, and say one thing for Kawabota, say he had an eye for talent. Him and Takawashi fought in some of the most harrowing battles together, first as Tekken mercenary giving backup to a soldier, than as officer giving commands to a newly minted mercenary himself. Battle after battle they fought, with Takawashi's career raising at the same pace Kawabota's did. A meteoric rise in the ranks tainted only by Heihachi's hiring of that Yakuza trash, Nakatomi.

In fact, if there was only one problem Kawabota had with Heihachi-sama, a man he has sworn undying loyalty towards, it was with the other Owls that Heihachi had chosen. Matsumoto was a Falcon before he was an Owl, never showed up to Parliament meetings and honestly was one of the most incapable men Kawabota had ever met. He hadn't even seen him since his promotion.

Takenaka he could understand. Takenaka was from one of the ninja clans that stood on the outskirts of Southtown, and Kawabota once lost a whole squad of men to Ryu Hayabusa, so he knew (if he didn't believe it before) that not only were these ninja clans still mighty, but with the way the world was today, necessary for Japan to keep up with the rest of the world in strength. He could understand Takenaka, even if he couldn't tolerate his carefree taunts and that Heihachi trusted him with secrets that Kawabota was never privvy to. Whatever. Ninjas, right?

Nakatomi was the first of bad decisions, but in a sort of begruding way, Kawabota could understand him too. He was Yakuza, another part of Southtown and Japan as a whole that was vital to its political ecosystem. He was also a retainer for the Tokugawas for a little while, handling their under-the-table affairs. But he was still at the end street trash, and a coward besides. The man sweat as if he was in the jungles of Grenada, a place Kawabota and Takawashi once crippled due to a hefty United States contract Heihachi-sama was more than willing to take.

Fujimura he couldn't. Kawabota liked to tell himself he didn't hate her because she was a woman. She had no ties to any of the families the Zaibatsu had under its protection. She was no Yakuza, she wasn't a ninja, and she certainly wasn't Tekken Force. That's what Kawabota told himself when he was in his cups, thinking about why Heihachi made the decision he did. He had some unkind thoughts about why Heihachi would choose her, but he'd tell himself afterwards, and his buddies whenever he'd gripe, it had nothing to do with her being a woman.

Because if it was Kawabota's choice, and Kawabota thought at this point he should have at least some say, he would've chosen Takawashi.

Just look at him. This is a man who fought Gears. This was a man who just took on four other men at the same time, men Kawabota himself would swear by. Takawashi would've made a good Owl. He just had to get more control over his emotions. Another one of their pals, Daisuke, sat next to Kawabota, covered in bruises himself, having also been on the wrong end of a fight against Takawashi, but having the good sense and comradery to be let up.

This poor bastard in the ring wasn't one of their circle of friends. "He's going to kill him," Daisuke warns, and Kawabota sighs. He wasn't a friend, no, but he was a good soldier, one of Kawabota's own Hawks. Takawashi was transferred to Fujimura's division due to a need for capable soldiers. It wouldn't do.

"Takawashi!" the giant of a man calls out, and Kawabota raises a bottle of beer up, one unopened. "Let him go! We've got drinking to do!"

There wasn't a lot that would break Takawashi from his death hold.

But Kawabota was one of those things. As the towering titan calls out, the Hawk's eyes snap out of their staring. He releases the Hawk, rolling him to the ground. "You need more practice." He states coldly, as he rises into a full stand. Striding from the arena, he doesn't even seem to respond to the cheeers. Kawabota would know better. Takawashi adored the admiration of the other soldiers. It was a certain spirit of the Tekken Force that he always hungered for. Takawashi put on a face of someone who was just as admirable and ruthless as Kawabota, but underneath that mask was a storm of emotions.

But even now he knows well enough to make Kawabota lose any face here.

"My apologies, Kawabota-sama." Takawashi states humbly, bowing his head as he reaches Kawabota. They were old friends, and he does his best to hide his smirk. "There was a misunderstanding. I hope I made myself very clear." Even with the barely concealed smirk, there was that flare of hot anger. Daisuke was an equal to Takawashi, but Takawashi was always trying to find ways to one up the others. Even his friends now, more and more. And after the last mission, well. The details had not been shared, though some of the details found their way anyways. THere were official statements, official comments. But the fact everything was still obscured made it clear something was being done in the shadows. Besides.

It was hard to hide missing friends, no matter how elegant the lies were.

Takawashi doesn't wait for the cermony of sitting down. Putting himself down next to his old friend, he quickly rakes the bottle cap off the beer, and quaffs it as the bubbles surge up. Clearing his throat, with the pain and blood around him, the words glow off him like steam from a pressure cooker. "I have to always make myself clear here. It seems everyone forgets to show respect to Fujimura." The words are almost sarcastic, caustically mocking. "It seems that the other Hawks can't keep things together. THey need to have their leaders around to remind them of their status, their standing. Because if their Owls don't mingle, they just go off and do their own thing. THat's why you told me it's so important you keep amongst the men. You could be off doing paperwork or mingling at cracker plate parties, sending out orders from phone calls without even the glimmer of respect by-" There is a shattering sound as Takawashi places his bottle down.

As the force of it shatters it, wasting the beer across the table and his pants.

There were rumors and speculation, of course, but nothing Kawabota paid any attention to. He didn't even know if the mission affected Takawashi in any way, really; in Kawabota's mind, and from the context clues he was getting, this was about Fujimura. Of course it was. Daisuke shrinks under Takawashi's anger and doesn't meet his gaze, but for Kawabota, his old friend's rage was practically contagious. But the giant holds it in, watching Takawashi, though even he flinches at the bottle shattering.

A disgruntled server had already brought more than enough bottles to Kawabota's table in his effort to avoid it, but he returns to mop whatever mess got onto the floor, though he's largely ignored by Kawabota, who slides one such beer over towards Takawashi to replace it, a faint noise made as shattered glass is pushed aside. "When's the last time you've seen her do a combat mission herself?" The giant wonders, his tone one of solidarity and mutual contempt for the woman. "Her and Nakatomi, serving him sake and tea and calling themselves Tekken Force," he grouses. "None of them have ever worn a uniform," he grunts out, but he watches Takawashi while Daisuke keeps his head down and his lips pursed, whether their together or wrapped around his own beverage. "What was it this time?" It's not quite expectant, he knows that the information is considered classified, but something was clearly bothering Takawashi more than the rest. He's only seen his friend like this a few times before.

Cheers and greetings ring out as another Owl arrives, Takenaka, flanked by two of his own Hawks who take up residence on the other side of the room. Kawabota's eyes lift only briefly towards him and his entourage, but his attention remains otherwise solely on Takawashi.

Takawashi's eyes reveal what is underneath, as he cleans up his own mess.

Takawashi wanted to tell Kawabota. Certainly, if Takawashi was willing for fight for his Owl, he declared a certain level of loyalty. But with what happened in those tunnels, the Vinnie, the Girl, the horrible supernatural terrors. The fear that struck him. THe disgust that he was not only throwing his own life at risk, but for what? For Fujimura to send the remains to a temple of Raiden? The same god he practically waged a war with? It was more than just a peace offering, it was- it was shameful, in Takawashi's eyes. He didn't fully understand it, of course.

But he didn't fully understand the situation with Matsumoto either.

When Takenaka arrives, he manages to control himself just long enough. "Why does she need to perform anything herself, when she has me to get things done. It's almost like she has her own personal Owl to do the work for her, doesn't it? To carry out dirty work, to transform the nature of Tekken Force. That's what happened to Matsumoto, after all. I wonder which one of us will get the next promotion." He states bitterly, but swishes the venom in his mouth. He cannot bring himself to state what he thinks about Fujimura, his commander. Even the thought of it made him want to drag the whole of the room into the arena. Anybody. His eyes were fixed on Takenaka. He chooses his words very precisely, hoping the meaning of them can pass, without having to lose face for explaining it. He was not speaking of the Yakuza, when he tersely bites his words.

"I wonder if Nakatomi is serving more than tea, to keep his position."

Takenaka was a man who had the habit of making eye-contact with anyone looking his way, no matter if he seemed aware of their presence or not. His eyes met Takawashi's, but he made no other acknowledgement of him, instead chattering on with his own entourage, who were animatedly talking about things going on in the arena right now, where two Falcon-class mercs were beating the hell out of each other.

Kawabota knew exactly what Takawashi was putting down. He had alluded to the same himself, also speaking about Fujimura rather than Nakatomi. The truth of the matter was that Kawabota did, in fact, put Takawashi's name forward to Heihachi when he was seeking a new Owl. And Heihachi-sama had agreed to take the opinion into consideration, something that he rarely ever did. It seemed like it was all the confirmation Kawabota needed that his good friend would be his peer, and he had prematurely taken him and Daisuke out for a night on the town in celebration, only to have Fujimura, who had came out of nowhere, be the one named Owl in the ceremony the next day. It was a spit in the face, and more and more Heihachi-sama seemed to trust her more in clandestine meetings than Kawabota himself. It made him fume, his anger more sympathetic than anything; he still got the biggest paycheck after all.

"I cannot pretend to know the designs of our great leader," Kawabota tells his friends, though he's speaking more to Takawashi really than Daisuke. It was their dynamic, really; Daisuke got to sit at their table and talk when the other wasn't present, but the pair largely dominated the conversation while he just sat nearby and bobbed his head up and down, whether he agreed with them or not about whatever topic was up for discussion. "You are a more capable soldier... a more capable leader than Matsumoto though, and most of Parliament besides," he grunted out, not at all hiding his contempt but still choosing his words carefully. "If you are not selected next, I do not know how much faith I have in... the future of the Zaibatsu."

Takawashi only externalized the pain of the rejection and disappointment, when his current commander was selected over him.

"There was a time when we could, though." Takawashi states firmly, looking to the nodding head of Daisuke, almost feeding off the bobble-headed support. "There was a time when there was no mystery of what we needed to do. The Zaibatsu has business interests. Those business interests are threatened by criminals and opportunists. We move to protect the business interests of the Zaibatsu. Sometimes the business interests are being held by other businesses, and they need to be encouraged into keeping them secured within the Zaibatsu. These are old words, Kawabota. No different from the Shoguns from hundreds of years ago, protecting the cities of Japan. Now, we are... aping the madmen of the world, in securing the most supernatural and exotic interests in the world, and for what? There was a time we didn't even have to ask that. There was a time when there wasn't mysteries about where the future would lie." Takawashi averts his eyes from Daisuke, almost half heartedly looking at the fight breaking out.

And then the words are spoken.

There are words that seem to selectively cut through the Mukaezake. They weren't particularly loud words, in fact Takawashi spoke them rather softly. And yet, they are certain words that cut to certain ears from certain people in the bar. Certain words that would rattle in the heads and hearts of some, would wait on the lips of other. They are idle words, careless words. But when Takawashi speaks them, he speaks them as effortlessly as breathing.

"Maybe the future isn't in the Zaibatsu."

Those soft words are like a shockwave in the Mukaezake. Some tables seem to have missed been missed by it, lost in their chatter about past or future missions and the progress of this season's Neo-League, but others were afffected in other ways.

Some tables the conversation within was halted, with Tekken Force veterans and recruits alike looking or avoiding looing towards Kawabota and Takawashi's table. Still other tables seemed to talk more animatedly. And at one table, the chatter continued, but the Owl that was present was no longer speaking, his eyes on Takawashi at his table. And then he's gone, having left without the notice of anyone, not even those who he was accompanied by on the way in.

Daisuke heard it, and his head bobbed a few times before exactly what Takawashi said sunk in, and his friends caught him with his mouth open, kind of gaping. This open-mouthed surprise seemed to hold Kawabota's attention for a moment or two, but the titan turned his eyes to his closer buddy and huffed slightly. "Drink, Takawashi," he insists on. "You don't know what you're saying."

But Kawabota did know what he was saying. Anyone who heard him did.

Takawashi wanted to drink.

He wanted to drink, and forget, and let it wash away. There was a feeling that rotted in him though. Kawabota didn't experience that horrible thing in the tunnels. He didn't experience the horror of the ghost girl, the man who was possessed by her, how he was- how he was murdering their friends and compatriots. ANd how, right now, he couldn't explain it to anyone. How he could really be expected to drink away the memories and horrors. And how many more would die as an offering for this magic, for gods. Would he become transformed? Would they put Kawabota in a robot body? There was no- there was no honor in the way Fujimura was carrying herself. So when Kawabota tells him that he didn't know what he was saying? Takawashi steels himself, and looks back at his friend, his superior.

And he reaches into his jacket.

He starts to frown at the blood-stained, stiff piece of paper that was folded up. He kept his back straight, his expression intense. He speaks forcefully, almost sounding like he himself is possessed. "Righteousness. Heoric Courage. Benevolence. Respect. Honesty. Honor. Duty. And Self-Control. Those are the ways which commanders should observe in their daily life. If the Zaibatsu does not want to have the eight virtues in it's command structure, and it treats those who carry those virtues as- as abominations, then a warrior must find a new master. Honor demands it." After flattening out the brochure, he places it on a wet spot on the table.

It looks tacky.

The picture on it shows a group of what looks like clean-cut paramilitary types alongside some grinning scientists or lab technicians. It's a staged shot, and in the middle is a smirking dark skinned man with glasses, a clean looking hat, and a lab coat. His arms are around the paramilitary and scientist, but he is looking at the reader. On it, reads a small advertisment.

'Join Dr. T Ray in a Seminar for New Employment Opportunity for Researchers at the Howard Hotel! Also Presenting New Openings in Multi-Layer Mercenary Positions! 35000 Yen REgistration Fee, Catering Is Provided'

Takawashi crosses his arms, looking sternly back at Kawabota. His face was red, and there was an apprehension, like he was about to fight again. He was looking at Kawabota. Maybe hoping for something. ANything.

Maybe even approval.

Kawabota took this time to drink himself. He stared down at the brochue as it dampens, taking in Dr. T Ray and the rest of them.

It's not as if the Tekken Force itself wasn't tacky sometimes, but the Gear Wars had definitely sombered them up, made them more contemporary, added a glossy makeover to its own materials, but there was a certain charm, a certain nostalgia to the brochure he was looking at. And it's not as if Takawashi's words weren't lost on him. Heihachi-sama had been a different man since the Gear Wars, since rumors of Kazuya resurfaced, Kazuya a man Kawabota felt threatened by the very existence of. He didn't treat Kawabota like a friend anymore. He treated his most decorated soldier with the same dismissiveness he treated everyone with, and as much money as Kawabota saw on his paycheck, it was grating on him. But Kawabota also saw himself as a man who filled these virtues that Takawashi mentioned. Maybe some of the time the heroism was lost in him, the righteousness and the benevolence, too, but the honor, duty, self-control and respect part, that was something Kawabota tried to adhere to above all else.

Still, Kawabota couldn't bring himself to be supportive, even now. Daisuke kept his mouth shut, but he was leaning forward and looking like he might consider it too. But Kawabota?

"Takawashi," he states, very carefully. "This is beneath you. Heihachi-sama has started to listen to me about Matsumoto's performance, and said he might consider a replacement. With other soldiers on Parliament, we can perhaps... convince the old man to return the Zaibatsu to its routes." He taps a thick finger onto the brochure. "The man's in a labcoat. It'll be the same thing, the same work," he tries to sound convincing, but he's worn down by it. Heihachi-sama's behavior has bordered on the bizarre for a few years now.

"You'll go there," Kawabota predicts gravely, still staring at the picture. "And you'll just be disappointed."

Takawashi felt himself shrink, even as Kawabota is polite.

He had spent a lot of time with Kawabota, to know what was really being said. It wasn't a full rejection, he -was- speaking to Kawabota's heart. But he was not embracing him. He was not supporting it. He was supporting the Tekken Force. Takawashi was not angry at his friend. But he wasn't changing his mind so easily. Thus, like in the ring only a few moments ago, he deftly counters Kawabota's gentle rebuttal with a sharp, decisive hit.

"That's what you said about the Tekken Force. Don't you remember?"

The Hawk taps the paper with his own finger. "There was a time where we were hungry and poor, and we couldn't work in the armed forces anymore. And there was a dumb private army which named itself like- like a damned bird zoo, whatever it's called." Takawashi can't help himself to break from his gloom with a smirk. He finally focuses on their third partner. "Daisuke, what the hell did you call that bird zoo? Avery?" He barely gives him a moment to give the real name, before he focuses on the meat of what Kawabota was suggesting. "There isn't a lot of legitimate business options for mercenaries these days, and the lack of competition is probably hurting the Zaibatsu. Maybe there are some fresh ideas there. Maybe... maybe the force can be fixed, especially if Matsumoto's performance is..." Takawashi hesitates, rethinking his own standing.

"How many are there, though?"

He looks back at Kawabota. "How many are willing to get the Zaibatsu back to it's honorable? There would be you, and me. Hell, if Daisuke would make the cut, I'd take that even. But you would need three out of the five to really push the right direction here. Fujimaru has much more... progressive ideals. Nakatomi is too, representing the new ways. That's just two. You would need a third, and..." He looks back over to Takenaka. He scratches his chin. "Takenaka though, I kind of like him. He's from one of those ninja clans, right?" He places his hand on the brochure.

"How much do you trust him?"

Where Takenaka was only moments ago, only the Falcons he arrived with were left behind. He was gone without a trace, and Kawabota's brows knitted together as he looked back in that direction as well, while absorbing his old friend's words.

Daisuke, not to be confused with a certain red-headed green-eyed Taiyo High kid, was struck out of his trance in listening to the other two men. He brushed some hair out of a bruised eye and answered the question given to him. "Aviary."

Kawabota didn't even acknowledge the brief aside to Takenaka, his attention instead fixated on Takawashi. "I trust him about as far as he could throw me," he grunts, but nods his head to the empty spot the ninja was moments before. "He has his uses, though; at the very least, he's the most competent Owl besides me," he grunts, showing his ego just a little.

"It'll be difficult, and I know patience is a young man's game," he allows eventually, with his eyes straying back towards the brochure again, definitely looking like he's contemplating.

Eventually he concedes, but not to his friend. "I won't be going. I have duties to attend. But maybe you should go, just to see," he says, somewhat supportively. "If it looks good... just don't do anything rash, that's all. If it looks good, maybe there's a way we can do this... a right way," he grunts.

Daisuke just bobs his head agreeably, returning to his silence.

Without a Takanaka around, Takawashi could only scowl.

Kawabota states his finding on Takenaka, and the Falcon shakes his own head. "Then I can't trust him. Then we need three of us to be Owls, in order to get control back of the Parliament. To get thing back on track. There's- there's one other guy I think that might help us. A Falcon, Alexandersson I think his name is. Can't remember his first name." INstinctively, Takawashi rubbed his ribs. Lars was... definately someone who made an impression in the ring. Takawashi would challenge a lot of people for sparring.

He wouldn't challenge that guy again.

I didn't think you could go." Takawashi stated softly. Kawabota had standing. Of course, the man who gave it to him wanted Takawashi to share the brochure with his friends. So far, it didn't even look like Daisuke would be joining in. "You have your duties. And I... I need to know what is going on outside this- this Aviary. Maybe everyone else is just as bad as- maybe everyone else has already done the changes." Takawashi sighs, standing up from the table. "I'll make it a report. Tell you what I find. I won't make any commitments without checking through you first. I guess I could get you some." He squints at the faces on the brochure, with the fine underneath. "Free... natural enhancement... chi... pills..." He repeats back dully, cheeks turning red.

He shuts his eyes painfully, turning away from the table.

Kawabota didn't say anything about the chi-enhancement pills. Daiskuke did defend them, though, when he glanced between the other two. "Hey, those things work!"

Kawabota only gave him a glance, before nodding to Takawashi. "Alexandersson. Westerner, but he looks like he has some Japanese in him," the giant recalls, nodding his head. "He ran that mission to retrieve Kazuya," he says, making a face. "Heihachi-sama was very impressed with him, despite that...whatever that was that happened there." He didn't want to mention it's one of the times the Tekken Force fought a God. That's the sort of thing you don't say out in public.

"Patience, Takawashi," Kawabota does tack on as he stands, lifting another bottle to his lips. He chugs down the whole thing before he begins to strip his shirt off, revealing many of his scars and some metallic plating under the skin of his right shoulder-blade, a war wound he hates talking about. "I'm going to go show these men the mighty Kawabota!" He raises his voice gradually, and much of the crowd cheers.

When Tekken Force fought a god, and now Takawashi had to give that same god an offering.

It was the only thing he could do to hint what he was up to. He didn't want to think Heihachi-sama had gone mad. BUt people like Fujimaru... fed into that madness. ANd there was the rumors about the little girl, the mention of the bounties. Madness. Just spiraling, consuming madness. Kawabota keeps talking about patience. And Takawashi pauses, turning back to his friend after a moment. "If I am any more patient at this point, I might be dead." He states coldly. Not even Kawabota bringing his best to the ring would pull him away. There was a bitterness.

And there was business.

Takawashi doesn't leave the bar just yet. He steps down the hall to the rest rooms, far on the side away from the roaring violence. THere, he passes further and further down to small booths in the corner. In olden days, they served a different purpose. NOw, they were private business corners for phone calls and the most private conversations. Also sometimes the old purpose because hey sometimes love can blossom on the battlefield. Once alone in a booth, he pulls out a cellphone, to his contact. It was a burner, it was given to him by, well, it was given to him with the brochure. He calls, and after a moment, he speaks. "Hey, it's me. Takawashi. Yeah. No. It will be just me. I'll report back what I find though." He beats a fist on the wall of the booth. "So I'm- we're expecting to be impressed." There is a pause. "Sure. Sure." Another pause.

"No, nobody suspects anything yet."

Log created on 09:55:19 10/04/2022 by Rugal, and last modified on 11:02:58 10/11/2022.