The teleportation was giving me a weird sensation, like it was very normal. I don’t how the right word as it gives an impression that I’m unable to explain, but it’s unlike my teleportation that cross between worlds. This teleportation just gives a natural feeling, as if this was very normal.
Still don’t understand? Well, I don’t blame you as even I don’t understand it myself.
Anyway, once the light that brought me here was fading away I found myself standing in a enormous hall. This hall was bigger than the hall where I fought Elsha and the knights. It was easy to notice that the shape of this area was circular, and towering pillars hold the sturdy construction at the place. The walls were made from refined stone but unlike the stones from earth, it has a beautiful color. And on the other side of the hall was a giant gate made out of metal.
Hmmm, this place was reminding me of the Coliseum in the city of Rome. I’ve been in Italy before but I didn’t get the chance to visit the Coliseum. Maybe I should go to Italy with Evelyn for vacation, I have enough for that.
I then glanced at the other contestants. As I eyed my soon to be opponents, I could tell that they truly came from different backgrounds. Among them, I could spot people that seemed to be rather experienced adventurers. Maybe among them were former soldiers from different countries, or from this country that were searching better job with better prospect, and it seems most them know each other from the way they were getting along and talking. While I’m here and nobody was talking to me… Ugh… I’m not lonely, okay?
Well, as much as experienced as they are, I could take them on — each one of them, on the right conditions. Some were even without any gear as if trying shows their might. But unfortunately for me, I couldn’t tell what kind of magic they were able to cast. There was a high possibility that one of them was some sort of overpowered mage or warrior. Ugh, I hope not, it will really be a problem for me if I actually encounter one. Nah, its fine! It’s just my negative mind whispering to discourage me! OP or not, they’re mortals like me. Oh, wait, I’m still wondering whether they are human or not. AHH! Scratch that. Human or not, I believe they can still be beaten by me. Yes, you can do this, me!
Then I saw the knights in my surroundings. They were Vaerian knights. I could tell immediately from their armor and emblems on their capes. Seeing them just standing there without doing anything was giving me a weird feeling. Maybe because I’m already used to fight them as soon as I meet them, and see them as enemies to kill! Well, I guess the knights here were the guard of this tournament. So, I don’t need to pay attention to them.
Wait, currently I wasn’t wearing my mask! My face was quite well-known in the palace, and one of them might recognize my face! I need to cover myself! Blending amongst the other contestants, I searched for my mask in the dimensional pouch while watching the knights with caution. Ah, I found it. I quickly put my mask on and pull my hood while still remaining cautious to my surrounding. Phew, I am glad I took some precautions by bringing spare masks in case if the mask was destroyed or lost.
Looking at the knights again, I’m glad they didn’t noticed. If they noticed, it will be a hard fight as there were too many of them here, especially if I include the contestants. They might end up attacking me even before the knights did.
But, if they did noticed me… Well, if we came down to that route, as usual, I wasn’t going to surrender easily, will just keep slicing or shooting at them. And even if they realized who I was, then they could’t kill me as I’m bonded to Evelyn. But I won’t say I am in advantage here as at the worst, they might actually kill me. Ugh, let’s stop with this… l really should stay low profile and focus on my goal right now.
I shifted my eyes back to the other contestants. If I’m not wrong, the apparent numbers of contestants here were only roughly 60-70. That’s less than I thought. That’s weird. I was sure the receptionist girl mentioned something about over a thousand contestants as if this tournament was very popular. I guess she just exaggerated the tournament. I glanced at the contestants again. They were supposed to gather adventurers from every city of this kingdom, right? What we have here was hardly equivalent to “all of the cities.” I mean, I ain’t complaining. Less was easier, but to be honest, I prefer if I have to fight more often. I need to fight more to sharpen my fangs. So I would be ready to fight Elsha or Leonardo when I encounter them in future.
A bell rang out in the hall. What is that? As the bell rang, the small chatter died, and everyone was looking at certain area in this hall. I also turned around and saw a stage suddenly erected at the center of the hall where everyone was looking.
Then the giant gate was opened up and the knight that was wearing a far too familiar armor walked in and move forward to the stage, along with the other knights and people in formal robes.
At first, I thought I saw Leonardo, and felt a sudden burst of anger. I was practically sizzling but calmed down quickly as I saw the knight’s face. He wasn’t the guy. The man was quite handsome in his mid-twenties and he just wore a similar armor to him. Who is this guy? Is he in the same rank as Leonardo?
As I thought that, I had noticed my hands squeezed into the fist. Wow, that man really got me riled up with just one meeting. I never thought I have this much anger toward him like this. Maybe because the fact he IS Evelyn’s fiancé was enough to make my blood boil. I took a deep breath and then looked at the knight.
Taking up center stage, he gazed upon the knights and adventures on this hall. The knight didn’t say anything at first. Then he opened his mouth.
“Brave Warriors of Vaerian!” The knight boomed, sweeping his eyes across us.
“Welcome to the [Taebutopia Rey House’s Tournament!]. Today we will all be watching the opening fights of the best and brightest!”
No, no. Not another speech please. I’m here not to listen to another speech! Well, at least he wasn’t wearing a wrestler’s outfit. A bit more… Um… Manly. Manly, is not the word I meant, but close enough. Okay. You twisted my arm; more decent and less gay. There you go.
The knight suddenly stop talking as though he was thinking. Then he starts coughing. What is up with you, dude? Do you have stage fright?
“*Cough… Ahem… I’m not really good with speech, so I will keep this short.”
Good. At least you save my time. But at least they should choose better person who fit with this job. This guy clearly wasn’t up for this job.
“And I am going to spare you with th unimportant nonsense.”
Yeah! Get to the point!
“All of you are candidates guard for the VIP of Taebutopia Rey’s household!”
Candidates, huh. Well, everyone here was a proper candidate… except me.
“Well then, listen up! You are the warriors that will fight each other today! The tournament will continue until sunset! So fight with all your might!”
That’s really short and terrible speech. Not that I mind, though.
“To get to that most glorious reward! Each person who chooses to fight in the arena must win the fight until the end!”
The knight then pulled a familiar card from his pouch. An A.I cards? Was he also working as Adventures?
“I have your contestant numbers on your personal A.I cards. You can check it later. This number is important, but you don’t have to memorize it as long as you have your card.”
The knight started pacing around, almost like examining us.
“‘Okay, but then what?’ that must be what you all are thinking, right? Then, let’s make the rules very clear.”
Finally! The rules!
“The first and foremost, killing is forbidden. This competition is not going to be a bloodbath. I am sure most of you are already aware of this.” The knight stopped.
Right, this was going to be easier. I can incapacitate my opponent way easier. Killing a man is much easier than just simply beating him, though. But thanks to this, I could save a noticeable amount of my ammo.
“The rules are otherwise relatively normal. All the non-lethal subduing methods are allowed.”
The knight signaled to one of his knights, who was standing behind him to come closer. The knight start walking next to the leader knight’s side. Man, this is so confusing… Let’s just call the leader of the knights who wears the similar armor to Leonardo as… DB, short for douchebag. Yeah. The armor was really giving me bad impression.
The knight nodded as he walked to DB’s side.
“You must win the fight without causing death. The VIP who you supposed to guard doesn’t want or need any unnecessary death on their name.” DB said as he turned to the knight.
“Let me demonstrate. How the tournament work!”
The knight stood in front of DB as though he was waiting for order and suddenly, without saying a word, DB charged to the knight and then swept the knight’s legs. The knight fell, but before he could reach the ground DB stunned him with a suave yet sharp hit on the neck. We could hear only a faint grunt as the knight lost his consciousness. Wow, that’s really…. Merciless.
“In this tournament, breaking bones and such methods are allowed. You don’t need to be scared of pain here, because we will heal you. But let me tell you. Once this competition starts, you’re going to feel more pain than having your bones broken. You will feel that engraved on your entire body, very thoroughly.”
Spare me of the commentary. Of course, we will feel them. I saw few contestants starting to looking pale, especially the people that were wearing expensive looking armors. What did they think this tournament was about when they signed up for it? A chess tournament?
“Just be prepared and take good care of yourselves. We are searching for the best. Not the kindest.” DB raised his voice, almost smiling. Was that a joke? Don’t know. But I’m sure I was the kindest. Didn’t you know? I sneered. That was a better joke. Hah.
“And for healing abilities, they’re allowed to be used. And for Magic, they are permitted to some extent.” DB nodded his head. “Yes, as long as the magic are not utterly destructive and capable of destroying the arena. I’m talking of wide scale magic! Such as Meteor Rain, Howling thunder and etc. The arena wasn’t equipped to handle that kind of destructive power.”
Wide scale magic?! This world has such OP magic?! Now I have to be careful if I face magicians. Kill them before they could cast!
DB continued speaking. The other knights carried their unconscious friend away. Poor man.
“The fight is going to be one on one. Any kind of interfering will lead to immediate disqualification.”
The audience murmured. The whispers ran across like a wind through the trees. Did they thought this was to be a group fight?
“The fights last as long possible until one of the contestant is either subdued or unable to fight,” DB said out loud.
He then turned around and clapped his hands, and a big board appeared from nowhere.
Magic trick? Oh, right. It’s magic. Real one.
“Let’s get it on,” DB said and then stepping aside.
The board then was showing the tournament bracket. I guess I have to find my number.
Let see. I took a few steps closer and squinted my eyes. I pull my A.I Cards out and glanced at it. The number was 61. I searched my number from the board. I didn’t find it at first but… when I found I frown. Damn. I was the first? Just my luck and I was against… Number 15. Right.
“You’re the 61?” I heard a booming voice behind me.
I turned to the voice. It was a man who standing around 6.5 foot tall wearing full armor and armed with a great sword on his back.
“What a runt of a man. I’m going to make you regret that you ever took part in this competition.” The man continued with a condescending smirk. What a cliché.
This pattern already? Sure. I wasn’t going to respond. I want to keep my hand on the game.
“What’s the matter, runt? Can’t defend yourself from words?”
I spared only a glance for him. I had a high ground against this idiot. I knew it was enough. As I turned away, the man was still was mumbling like an idiot.
“With this tournament -” DB’s words faded as I walked further.
Leaving the hall, I walked around the Coliseum examining my surroundings. The ground was sand, but not the smooth type. It was rather hard. Moving wasn’t going to be a problem. I kneeled and moved my hand through the silky sand. Smooth, but firm. A combination you can only find in a few places on earth. Well, considering my experience in the army, I was familiar with sands. Especially as I had a campaign in the desert before.
I rose up and looked up. The sky was clear.
Oh? That figure over there. I recognized her, which made me ducked behind the pillar.
Yup… there’s no doubt about it. That was the beauty from last night! The rude spoiled brat who had received a spanking of a lifetime! Well, what I practically gave her satisfaction, and first sexual experience.
What’s she doing here? Is she the contestant too? The beauty was also looking around the Coliseum. Luckily, I had my mask. I doubted she could recognize me. Regardless, I should avoid her. She would notice my voice for sure if she came up to talk..
Hiding behind the pillars I made my way towards the other side of the Coliseum. She didn’t suspect a thing. Whew. Her clothes were as revealing as the day we met. What a nice ass she had… Damn it! Head on the game, Kyou!
I believe I said already that women are my kryptonite. I could have dismissed the provoking man, but a woman in a mini skirt with g-string… Really?
As I left the area, i thought that if she was a contestant then I hope I don’t face her. She’s a sadist and sure knows how to ruin a man. And thinking about our history I wasn’t the one she’d simply let leave. The kick to the balls would be one of the many humiliating parts. Ugh. And the breaking… Hell no.
But if I really have to face her then… as someone who advocates for gender equality I won’t show any mercy!
Half of the participants were taken to the waiting room. There was long table and seats placed along with them and on top of that were mountains of different foods all looking delicious. I walk to the nearest seat and sit down.
As I sat, I retract my mask to eat a little while I look around and see a lot of different people. Luckily, the beauty wasn’t one of them.
There were a multiple small windows without glass on the wall. The contestants could observe the fight through those rustic holes.
The arena was empty – waiting for blood to be spilled. It was deadly silent. Nobody cared to talk. The atmosphere was heavy. This must be how the gladiators felt.
As I keep eating, I can feel the gaze of a few people on my back. Hey, don’t look at me just because I try to relaxing here!
Then I heard a similar bell tolling as if it was the sigh that the tournament had started. The bell continued echoed through the rocky walls.
Guess, I didn’t have to wait long for the match to start. It’s the time.
“Let’s do this.” I clicked my neck as I get up from my seat.
I made my way into the area through the narrow corridor. I took a deep breath steadily ascending on the upward steps. My opponent wasn’t next to me. I guess the half of contestants was divided into two. He would meet me on the arena. My nerves hadn’t taken hold of me. I could beat the guy even without gun or sword. My knife was more than enough.
While it still theory, I believe grenades and shotgun can be used solely to destroy magic barrier. I doubted my opponent in front me could cast it though.
The man was smirking. He had looked like a dull, small witted man. I walked into the arena and saw my opponent brandishing his large sword.
To my surprise, almost all the Coliseum was packed with audience. Hey, half hour ago wasn’t packed like that. I saw DB was sitting on the upper level along with his knights, looking at us firmly. Go ahead. Judge all you want. I’ll show you.
The man lifts his swords as I also grasped my knife and readied my battle stance.
I saw a tall dark man in tuxedo who was standing next to a bell, picked up a gong and smashed it into the bell.
The match had finally begun.
The man ran towards me with a ferocious yell. I didn’t yell. Why I should do that? Well, I will answer his charge. He began with a high swing which I dodged easily. The man counterattacked with his hilt but missed as I rolled behind him. I kicked the man’s knee, and he grunted painfully.
Seeing him holding his leg like that, I put my knife on it sheath. I guess using a knife was overestimating him. Let’s resort to a more casual way!
The man stands up and charged again. That’s really idiot. He was basically repeating the same mistakes.
I dodge his charge but the man turned with a backhand which I blocked with traditional boxing style. Wow, guess this dude have a brain! The man swung his sword from the back right, but I dodged it again with ease. The clunky sword was powerful, but damn it was slow. But the biggest problem though was the length of the sword.
As the man thrusting with force, I swept next to him, hitting an excruciating blow into his armpit. I heard a snap. I’ve dislocated the man’s shoulder.
“Gotcha!” I said, but I let my guard open.
Gritting his teeth, the man punched my stomach, but the armor absorbed the blow. I jump and kneed the man down. As he down, I punched the man’s stupid face hard.
He was unconscious with that punch. I had won but my arrogance had taken the best of me. This guy could had costed me everything if he was competent. But thank god he wasn’t, otherwise it won’t be laughing matter. I guess the first opponents are always bad if they don’t trigger loser flag by provoking their opponent with cheap provocation before tournament start.
“Done.” I said, looking up to the knights.
The knights talked amongst themselves, surely about how amazingly sufficient I had been in disposing of that bastard.
The audience gave me little to none attention. What? Is that boring?
DB nodded to me. Then I suddenly felt a tingling feeling and felt that nudge on the bottom of my stomach. I was teleported back to the waiting room. Ugh. I will never get used to that because my teleportation was more comfortable!
I looked at my A.I card. The number had changed to 15. I was in the next round.
The time passed quickly.
After my second match there where several more fights for me, where I had to beat them all.
The first round had been an elimination round. The following round was going to be against four other contestants. Three of my opponents had all been defeated without too much of a trouble. The last one was quite annoying. What was his technique? Concluding he is a mage was the only reasonable explanation. He wasn’t physically strong, but he didn’t look like a stereotypical wizard. You know. He was a scruffy man with reddish stubble on his chin.
The man was armed with fist weapons of which suited me fine. During the fights, I had to resort to using my gun. Not much though, but I had had to use only one round of my pistol ammo, and one shotgun blast to make a dust cloud. That man attacked me with great speed and scratched my armor with his fist weapon.
He moved like lightning. I thought as I dodged another of his attacks. After receive same attack thrice, I noticed the pattern. He was always doing a circular motion, returning to his stance like a boomerang. But such patterns are easy to read.
As he came to me the fourth time, I fought against my instinct and instead of dodging his attack, I chest-bumped him. He had moved too fast to react to my counterattack. He didn’t manage even strike and fell on the ground. I saw him trying to rise, but with a quick shot from my pistol. I shot him in the leg.
Audience exclaimed loudly. The man yelped, and I kicked him on the ground with a jump kick.
The audience gave me applauds, now I was clearly one of their favorites.
I turned to face the good ol’ DB with a confident smile. Of course, he couldn’t see my expression, but I hoped it would resonate through my mask. This time he didn’t nod and just waved his hand indifferently.
I teleported back and noticed the number on my A.I card was now 13. Wow, I was a black cat now, huh. Am I bringing misfortune to my target? Well, I was clearing these contestants like nobody’s business. The last opponent had been the hardest, but he just managed to make a few scratches on my armor. If I have to be honest here, I was extremely bored with this competition. I feel like I was completely wasting time and strayed from my original goal!
No, this might the only lead for me to meet Evelyn! I told myself that. Hopefully this tournament was worth it!
Well, with that, the tournament was finished for today. I continued to enjoy the food in the waiting room until the maid came to me. Then I was lead to the room where contestants were resting. As I entered, I saw the contestants were laying and relaxing on their seats.
After looking the numbers of the contestant. To my surprise, the number of contestants had significantly dropped to 20. I don’t really care about it. I was more curious to what other drink. From what I see, it was some kind of bright liquid that resembled soda. Man, I could go for a soda.
“Yo, where did you get that?” I asked the nearest contestant. He was a well build man wearing leather armor contestant leaning to the armchair.
“Hmm, you can get one of these from the counter over there.” The contestant nodded to the bar counter where an enchanting barmaid lady was pouring drinks. She reminded me of Marie a bit. Well, just the bartender part beside that I didn’t feel a thing toward her. Even though she got big boobs.
“Mike.” Man chuckled as reaching his hand to me. Mike? I feel I have heard that name before… Where was it?
“I have watched your match! You are truly splendid! And very efficient! What’s your name?”
“Oda Kousuke.” I answered as we shook hands.
“Please, sit down.” Mike offered a seat in front of him.
I sat down as I wasn’t lying about being thirsty. I removed my mask and smiled at him. I hope Mike doesn’t know how to read minds since as I sat down, he waved his hand and barmaid came to us with her bouncing breasts. That’s really for my eyes.
“Could my friend get one of these, please?” Mike said raising a glass to the barmaid.
“Right away.” Maid nodded.
“Good service, huh?” I said as fixated to look maids swaying hip as she went to fix me a drink. Nice bottom.
“Yeah. Sir Leonardo is truly a man; like I thought he would be. The hero of the nation!” Mike began and took another sip of his drink.
….Erm, dude… I think we are completely having different conversations here.
“He really makes sure that people that try to get to work get a taste what’s waiting for them. Waiting for men like you and me!!” Mike speaks excitingly.
I smiled but felt slight discomfort on the top og my stomach. Dude, I was talking about the barmaid, not Leonardo. But Mike continue talking.
“I can’t wait to serve under this man!”
“Yeah. He’s quite the man, all right!” I replied convincingly as the barmaid handed my drink.
Not the best acting, but good enough to convince Mike as he nodded in agreement. Are you child?
Now, I remember… This guy was the guy that the adventurers were talking about back in the Inn. He was the strongest among the group. He is the man who passed out because of happiness. Apparently, this guy was dreaming to be a guard of Leonardo’s household. I thought he was just a mob character that won’t last in first elimination match. Guess I was wrong.
“That’s a good job.” I said knowing as I sipped my drink.
“Job?! A mere job you can have by shaving sheep! This is much beyond that!” Mike boomed. “This is a lifetime wish. An extreme commitment”
“Oh, yea? What do you…!”
“I naturally, am just not after his style. I would serve this man even if he didn’t pay me anything but bare minimum” Mike interrupted me.
….. Hah? Serving him would mean…He wasn’t talking about that, right? He wasn’t, right?! STOP. Don’t try imagining it!
I forced a smile and then repeated: “You know, about this job…”
“The same as you, but knowing Sir Leonardo, the training is going to be picture perfect!”
Now I’m completely unable to understand what this guy saying…
“Yeah. All the discussions with him. Taking part in securing his household. All the suitable countermeasures.”
And this dude still keeps talking about something that I don’t understand. And I lost interest in it halfway.
He sure was just a fanatic nutcase. I hope he wasn’t part of Leonardo’s fanatic group that want to kill Evelyn. Well, but I can use him for information. I mean, fanatic always have information of their idol.
“Hey, do you think the mansion is close?”
“Thousands of mansions, gotcha, but do you think, Leonardo will be in the same place as the VIP.”
“Who cares? It’s part of the job. I just want to be influenced by his radiating manly power. Masculinity…”
… Is It just me or he was dodging my question? Well, I can safely conclude that Mike knows exactly as much as I.
“Yea, yea,” I replied, but he just kept rambling.
“Have you read about his heroic deeds? He’s an inspiration to the nation…”
Is he a fucking god now or what? Go and make a temple already. I’ll make sure to ruin the fucking thing! Gonna make sure to burn it to ground.
Maybe because he was too keen on talking bullshit, Mike couldn’t read my expression.
The discussion had reached the point where I was already feeling really uncomfortable. The chair felt like it was chocking me, but I know it was just the slimy presence. That fanatic admiration pushed me down and was suffocating my lungs. Ugh.
I forced the drink down to my throat.
“Truly, something else. It was nice talking with you.” I said and nodded.
“Likewise, comrade!” Mike replied and leaned back to his chair.
I just smiled at him as I left the room. Seriously, I really was feeling like punching him for calling me his comrade. Resisting this urge was much harder than rejecting a women’s advance.
Right after leaving the tavern, one of the maids was waiting for me outside and she gave me a key. I thought that was invitation. Then I realized it was keys for my room that had been prepared by Taebutopia Rey’s household… Man, that’s annoying, let’s shorten it to TR Household. Yup, that’s much better.
Now, I was searching for the room. You know, I have to say, this TR household was really giving proper service and treatment to make their guard candidate to be happy. I can see how important this guard role is already.
After walking around the hall, I finally came across one that was number 669 same as my key. When I entered the room, I froze.
“What the fuck…” I said under my breath.
Yeah, this room made me feel shivers. The room was your five-stars class hotel room! But what I meant was… There was a TR emblem on the wall, a big poster of… Leonardo’s smiling face with his white teeths showing. I really want to break those teeths. All these people did was worship him like a god. ‘He’s so modest.’ I had heard that on the corridor before coming here. Is this modest to you?!
I took a deep breath and start removing the worshipping items and put them under the bed. I don’t want to sleep with Leonardo’s face in this room.
After finishing them, I statr removing my armor. Layer by layer. As I took the armor off, I lied in the bed and let out a drawn-out sigh.
I was wasting my time in every essence of the phrase.
The only reason I am doing this is to reach Evelyn, but after coming here I started to feel overwhelmed to the point that I was starting to doubt myself. Am I choosing the right path? What if I blow my cover after winning this tournament? I’ll just go back to square one… But as I thought things thoroughly, I decided – no. I can’t go back to square one anymore. I would know where Evelyn was at that point. Nothing else matters. If I’d get that information right away. I would jump out of this fortress and went to her side.
Well, enough with that, I need to get some sleep. Tomorrow might bring me some surprises, which is very unlikely, but still…
I tried to close my eyes, but I wasn’t sleepy at all. I was…
A sharp noise snapped me back to reality. I sensed something. Suddenly, a ghastly feeling crept up my spine, into my head. Somebody was here. An Assassin!? I remained calm to analyze. Sudden movements can alert the bastards. Feel those eyes – observing. Those ears to hearing, I could even sense breathing. I sat up and pretended to stretch and yawn.
I looked around the room, but there was nobody here. Even just this looks expensive. If I exclude bathroom, the room was too small for group attack and the ceiling was low, and there were no places anybody could hide in here. Outside? There was a person standing outside my room.
I took my pistol and swept it inside my pants imperceptibly. I knew that from the keyhole you could only see the ninety degrees of my room. The foot end of the bed would be in the blind spot. I acted quickly. I couldn’t hear the person leaving. I was still feeling the presence. I sneaked to the door, holding the pistol handle on my hand. Ready pounce.
I slammed the door open like a police officer going to a drug lords mansion ready to arrest them. But only to find the corridor was empty. I looked around but saw nothing.
There is no way this just my imagination. Absolutely not. The person will come during the night. I am sure. There’s something I can do to prevent him from murdering me in my bed though.
As I scanned the room, I saw a wardrobe standing alone. There is no way the assassin is hiding inside, right?
I opened wardrobe and find it empty. Nobody’s home.
“Yup, it was empty.”
Lowering my gun, I pushed the wardrobe in front of the door. It was quite heavy, I wonder what’s the material to make this thing heavy. That should hold off the intruder. If you’re going to explode the door with some sort of magic I was going to notice it, and then return the favor to their face, with my shotgun. I rolled the shotgun next to my table which I had also dragged into the blind spot.
Well, let’s go to sleep.