Chapter 181 – 185 An Understated Dominance
“S–so that was a charm after all?”
Everyone at the scene was frozen in place as they stared at the red snake that Xavier vomited.
One by one, their faces showed looks of disbelief. No one could’ve ever imagined that the esteemed heir of the Horst family, who had a bright and promising future ahead of him, had stooped this low just to court someone.
“Xavier, I never thought you’d be like this!” Claudia yelled angrily in shock.
Who knew that she’d be the one who would be deceived by trusting him too much in the end? She almost
became an accomplice in his schemes too!
“–” Xavier was at a loss for words as his face turned pale.
The truth was already laid bare for all to see, so even if he still insisted on denying it, his attempts would be absolutely futile.
“Hmph. It’s a good thing Dustin has a good eye to see through your evil schemes. Otherwise, Sheila would’ve fallen right into your trap!” Ruth spat, her expression full of contempt.
She hated cespicable and shameless men like him the most, the type who was incapable of landing a girl for himself, and yet insisted on using unorthodox methods to do so. Absolutely disgusting!
Sheila said nothing to all of this and merely looked at Xavier with disgust and a heightened sense of awareness.
“Yeah, so what if I gave her the charm? The only reason I did that was because I liked Sheila so much! I assure you that I’m the only person who’s the best match for Sheila in the entirety of South City, so much so that Uncle Caden already treats me like his son–in–law! I only did this to expedite the marriage between both of our families, so what’s so wrong with that?” Xavier roared, clearly irritated.
“Ugh, you’re such a hypocrite! It still doesn’t change the fact that you had to stoop so low to get what you want. You’re disgusting!” Ruth spat on the ground.
“What do you know? What I have is true love for Sheila, a love that can’t be compared with anyone else!”
Xavier retorted angrily.
“True love? If it really was true love as you proclaimed, why’d you have to kidnap Miss Murray in the first place?” Dustin snorted.
“What the fuck are you talking about, kid?” Xavier scowled.
“Miss Murray had been attacked twice, and your timing was right on the dot, which meant that someone secretly tipped you off. And as for the Serpent Love Charm and the Spider Venom you put inside the Four Scoundrel’s bodies, they both came from the same person. So, I’ve concluded that you have close ties to the Four Scoundrels,” Dustin explained as a matter of factly.
“What a load of bullshit!” Xavier yelled in response.
“If you really did nothing wrong as you claimed, then would there still be any need to kill the man off just now?
Dustin threw the question back.
“I–I was just worried about Sheila’s safety, which is why I struck him with my full power!” Xavier explained stubbornly.
“Is that so? We still have a survivor here, so what say we call them up to ask them their side of the story?” Dustin said before picking up a badly injured Wade with one hand.
It was a good thing Wade was still semi–alive and not completely out of the picture yet.
“That’s enough! Everything ends here, right now!” Claudia shouted all of a sudden.
“Didn’t you want me to state my case just now? Why the change of mind now?” Dustin snickered.
“You’d better quit it now if you know what’s good for you, Dustin! Tearing each other apart like this won’t benefit anyone. Besides, this matter should be kept between the three of us and our families. We’ll come up with the best way to deal with this, so we certainly don’t need any outsiders butting into our business now!” Claudia roared at Dustin.
The Murray family, Doyle family, and Horst family had always been longtime friends. The three families were basically married to one another as their interests were intertwined. If one of them went down, then the rest would go down together too.
Thus, if the scandal got out today, then it wouldn’t just be the Horst family’s reputation that would be damaged, but the Murray family and the Doyle family too.
Therefore, even if it were at Sheila’s awkward expense right now, they had to cease all questioning. immediately.
“Wait, this guy’s rotten to the core, and yet you still insist on helping him? Have you ever considered Sheila’s feelings?” Ruth yelled back in frustration.
“Shut up, you don’t have the right to butt into our business!” Claudia spat in disgust.
“Why you-” Just as Ruth was about to explode in fury again, Dustin stopped her by putting his hand in front of her. “Just let it go already. She’s right; it’s their own steaming heap of shit to take care of. It has nothing to do with us.”
“But what about Sheila?” Ruth frowned. The two of them had a good thing going, so she did not want her best friend to suffer like this.
“I’ll be fine, Ruth. I’ve decided to leave this matter in the hands of my father,” Sheila said as she forced out at smile.
Even though she said that, she secretly knew that her father would take Xavier’s side out of his great fondness for him.
When one was born into a wealthy family, joy wasn’t as much of a significant consideration as the family’s interests.
“Alright. We all know how much Uncle Caden adores you, so he definitely wouldn’t let you suffer,” Ruth replied. and she no longer pressed her for answers.
“Let’s go back home and take a nice nap, Ruth,” Dustin yawned. After retrieving all of his golden needles, he spun around and was about to leave when a voice piped up again.
“Running away already?” Xavier taunted, his expression now full of furious rage and his gaze scorching.
He immediately pounced on Dustin while he wasn’t paying attention and stabbed him with a knife!
“Just die already!” Xavier roared as he pushed the tip of the blade into Dustin’s back.
“Behind you!” Ruth and Sheila shrieked in horror,
Everyone else at the scene was also stunned by Xavier’s sudden attack. No one expected that he’d launch a sneak attack against Dustin.
“Oh?” Dustin hummed as his footsteps came to a halt. He then slowly turned his back to meet Xavier’s crazed gaze. “You want to kill me?”
“So what if you die? I can kill trash like you whenever I want!” Xavier laughed maniacally as he used more force to push the blade further inside.
But it was soon after that he realized that something was off. It was strange to him that he couldn’t seem to push the knife in any further as he tried to put more force behind it.
“Since you explicitly said that you’re cut for my blood, then don’t blame me for being merciless,” Dustin grabbed Xavier by the neck and lifted him off the ground.
“Urgh!” Xavier gasped for air as his face turned red. He struggled to break free from Dustin’s grasp as he flailed his legs wildly in the air.
“Dustin! Release him right now!” Claudia commanded, her face aghast, after feeling an urge to kill him.
“He wants to kill me though? Are you saying I should just stand here and let him kill me?” Dustin turned his head sideways, his gaze was as cold as ice.
“I don’t care about that! You just can’t hurt Xavier, no matter what. Otherwise, you’ll be making yourself an enemy of all three of our families!” Claudia threatened,
“That’s right! Just let go of Xavier already! Or else, you won’t like it when I’m angry!” Nigel echoed.
“Mr. Horst is not someone you can mess with, Dustin. Just admit you’re wrong, and who knows, you might just receive his forgiveness,”
“Can’t you look at the situation and adapt? Just let Mr. Horst stab you with a knife to let off steam, and all of this will be over. As long as you dare put up a fight, you and your family will be faced with calamity in the future!”
“Yeah! In this world, it is useless to rely on strength alone. The most important thing is still power, so just kneel down to Xavier and admit your mistakes already. It’s not anything shameful if it’ll help you make it out of here alive, you know.”
The crowd erupted in a flurry of scoldings toward Dustin.
Although they all knew that Xavier was in the wrong, they understood that he was still the one with absolute power. At this stage, it wasn’t important who was right or wrong.
“Heh, you hear that, Rhys? I’m not someone you can simply cross, you know. So what if you can fight? You’re just a puny martial artist, after all. One word from me, and your entire family goes poof! Kneel and bow down to me right now. Who knows–if you manage to appease me, I might even spare your puny life!” Xavier sneered and believed that he already had this in the bag.
“What makes you so sure that I don’t dare to kill you?” Dustin asked, amused.
“Do you, though? If you do so much as touch a single hair on my head, I’ll have your whole bloodline wiped out! Come on then, kill me! Aren’t you the one who kept saying they were so powerful? Then kill me if you have the balls! I want to see if you have the balls to-!” Xavier shouted profusely, taking it to the extreme, until he was rudely interrupted by a violent smack by Dustin, which decimated his neck.
He died instantly!
“Why don’t you get a better brain in your next life.” Dustin spat as he looked at Xavier’s corpse. And with one swift motion, he threw his dead body to the side with one hand, as if it were trash.
Xavier’s body landed with a “thump” near Claudia and the other’s feet.
Xavier’s face was riddled with fear and disbelief. Even up to his death, he didn’t understand why Dustin dared to make a move on him.
Everyone gasped, petrified, as they stared at the corpse beneath their feet. Every single one of them was frozen in place and was at a loss for how to respond to the scenario in front of them..
To think that an heir from an affluent family, who was also the pride of an entire city, had his life taken from him just like that?
How was this remotely possible?
After a brief silence, everyone at the scene erupted into a frenzy of chatter.
“Are you out of your mind, Dustin?! D–d–did you actually just kill Xavier?” Claudia shouted with a face full of shock, looking at Dustin as if he were a maniac.
The action of Dustin killing Xavier was akin to a peasant killing a king.
It was simply treacherous and heartless!
“You’ve done it this time, bastard! You’ve really done it this time!”
“Since you were the one who killed Xavier, no matter where you go in this world from now on, you’ve got nowhere to hide!”
“The Horst family would surely want to exact their revenge on you, your entire family, and your friends after this. Everyone whom you’ve ever loved will be a target of the Horst family now, and they’ll follow all of you to your graves!” Nigel hissed frantically.
“He’s insane! This guy’s truly gone off his rockers!”
“The Horst family comes from a long line of martial artists, and their influence spans the entirety of South City.
They have countless disciples under their wing, so the fact that you committed such a heinous act means that you made yourself an enemy of said countless disciples too!”
“Do you even know what you did? How dare you kill Mr. Horst? Even God can’t protect you now!”
The crowd was in an uproar. No one had expected that Dustin would be so bold as to kill someone. Did he want to die so badly?
“As long as you don’t cross me, I won’t do the same back to you, but if you do, then I’ll return the favor. This Horst wanted to take my life, so how could I let him live?” Dustin’s expression remained stoic.
“You’re fucking insane! You madman! You’ll definitely regret this!” Claudia roared; she was still in shock at the turn of events. She shot him a look as if she were looking at a dead man.
“I never regret anything I do. If the Horst family wants revenge, just tell them that they’re free to come to me anytime.” Dustin snapped before turning around to leave.
“Hey, wait for me! You were so cool tonight, Brother–in–law, but Xavier’s not some small fry, you know. I doubt if things are going to end well after killing him. But you shouldn’t worry, with the Harmon family’s help, I’m sure we can take care of this matter for you!” Ruth exclaimed before running up to catch up to him.
“Don’t bother. I was the one who dealt the killing blow, so I shouldn’t be afraid if his family wants to get back at me. Even if we end up fighting again, who knows which side will emerge as the victor this time around?” Dustin was unconcerned.
“Are you for real? You don’t need to put up a front, you know!” Ruth said while eyeing him suspiciously.
The Horst family, while slightly inferior to the Harmon family in terms of power, was still a force to be reckoned. with in the city.
While Dustin had great power himself, he was up against an affluent family that had been here for years. Thus, it would seem like a single person was unable to fight against such a powerful force.
“You’ll find out soon enough.” Dustin let out a soft chuckle and refused to reveal too much.
As soon as the two of them left, the room erupted into chaos once again.
“Quick! Notify the Horst family immediately!”
“To think that that madman dared to kill Mr. Horst. We’ll make sure he pays the price for it!”
Inside the council chamber at Fallridge Haven, Caden was drinking tea with a middle–aged man.
“I need to apologize to you about the Gozoraberry, Sir Gabriel. Unfortunately, the gem isn’t in my possession right now, so I can’t give it to you at the moment,”
“Oh, what happened?” Gabriel Horst asked with a puzzled look.
The Gozoraberry was said to aid one in their quest to become a high–level martial artist. After hearing about this piece of news, he jumped at the first chance to obtain it for himself.
“Two days ago, this punk named Dustin got lucky and managed to cure Sheila’s illness, so he was rewarded with a Gozoraberry,” Caden explained.
“How can a mere brat have such a valuable item in his possession?‘ Gabriel spat as he narrowed his eyes, his gaze annoyed.
“I thought the same thing. Although I was the one who gave it to him, it doesn’t mean you can’t get it back,” Caden insinuated.
“You’re too kind. Since you can’t be the one who takes it back from him, allow me to take care of this,” Gabriel grinned.
“That would be the best course of action for now. However, try not to Involve the Murray family, I don’t want anyone gossiping about this,” Caden replied.
“Consider it done! This won’t be the first time I’m killing someone just to get something I want, so I’ll make sure that everything is done discreetly so that no one ever finds out about this,” Gabriel plotted as an evil glint flashed across his eyes.
Every man was considered innocent until a bounty was put on their head. How could a mere background character with no influence on his name possess such a valuable treasure?
He definitely deserved to die..
“Sir Gabriel! Something terrible has happened!” A guard from the Horst family suddenly interrupted the two of them with a panicked look.
Because he ran too fast, he tumbled onto the ground after losing his balance. His movements made Gabriel furrow his brows.
“You fool! What are you panicking for?” Gabriel snapped at the guard.
“I-“The guard wanted to say something but stopped himself.
“Spit it out! What the hell is going on?” Gabriel snapped, confused.
*Sir! Something terrible has happened! M–Mr. Horst has been killed!” The guard wailed as he fell to his knees.
“What?! What the hell are you talking about? My son seemed fine not long ago, so how is he dead now?”
Gabriel shrieked and shot out of his chair, his face full of horror.
“But it’s true, Mr. Horst had his neck broken, and his corpse is outside as we speak!” The guard cried.
“That’s impossible! Absolutely impossible!” Gabriel spat and frantically shook his head in utter disbelief.
However, when they carried Xavier’s corpse into the room, Gabriel felt as if he’d been struck by lightning, and his face turned pale as a sheet.
“Who?! Who the hell did this?!” Gabriel yelled frantically after reeling from his shock. His eyes turned bloodshot, and he started acting like a rabid beast.
Such senseless violence!
“I–it was done by a guy called Dustin Rhys.” The guard managed to sputter out.
“Dustin Rhys, you fucking dog! How dare you kill my son? I’ll break your body into pieces! I’ll tear you to shreds! “Gabriel roared while gnashing his teeth, his eyes almost popped out of their sockets.
“Pass on the order! Use up all your resources to search the entire city if you must! We must find that bastard at all costs!”
After sending Ruth home, Dustin returned to the Peaceful Medical Center.
However, he couldn’t help but frown the moment he opened the doors to the building. The place looked as if it had been ransacked. It was a mess.
Boxes of medicine were scattered all over the place, and Dahlia, who had been rushing here and there the whole time, had on a face that was drenched in sweat.
“Diarhica, Where did he put the Diarhica? Dahlia mumbled to herself with a prescription in hand.
After looking around for a while, she finally saw a box of Diarhica that had been stored in a medicine cabinet high above the ground. Since it was out of her reach, she could only retrieve it by stepping on a stool.
“What are you doing?” Dustin asked coldly.
Dahlia was startled by his question and lost her balance on the stool, Seeing as she was about to fall to the ground, Dustin instinctively grabbed hold of her before that could happen.
It felt as if he was carrying something precious in his arms, as a nice smell wafted into his nostrils.
After propping her up on her feet, he immediately without a moment of hesitation and let go of her.
“You’re back already?” Dahlia asked as her expression lit up for a brief moment before she quickly snuffed it out.
“Where did you go in the middle of the night? How come you didn’t pick up my calls?”
“I just went out for a bit and didn’t bother checking my phone. What are you doing here?” Dustin answered back with indifference. He assumed that she wasn’t the type to take the initiative to search for him, especially with her arrogant attitude.
“I just so happened to pass by and saw Mr. Jones passed out at the entrance, so I helped him get inside.” Dahlia explained.
“He passed out? What happened?” Dustin asked with a frown.
“I heard that his house had been ransacked by thieves, and after fighting them off, he got severely injured in the process. I think you should head inside to take a look at him,” Dahlia urged.
Dustin said nothing more as he immediately complied with her request.
Sure enough, he saw Gregory Jones lying on the bed with a pale complexion. Inside the steel basin under his bed was a pool of contaminated blood.
When he went up to him to check his pulse, he immediately frowned. Gregory’s Celestial Decay seemed to be getting worse.
It was also getting worse at a faster rate than he had expected.
“You’re back already, kid?” Gregory asked as he slowly opened his eyes. He had a nonchalant expression on his face.
“I guess this condition is back again, but since that Dahlia girl gave me some medicine just now, I should be fine now.” Gregory explained.
“What the hell happened here?” Dustin asked as his brows furrowed deeply.
To curb his Celestial Decay, he had specially placed several seals on Gregory’s body. But now he could see that the seals had been loosened. This indicated that Gregory had been forced to use his true energy.
“Not long ago, a few scums arrived at the medical center and started blabbering about arresting you and talking about taking this Gozoraberry or something from you. Naturally, I refused to tell them anything and even beat their asses before they fled. However, I didn’t know that by doing that, I’d be using my true energy. which would cause all of my old wounds to reopen. I really fucking don’t know what to say!” Gregory huffed.
To think that ten years ago, he could’ve easily taken care of all of those scum with a flick of a finger. It seemed that his age had finally caught up to him!
“Oh right, before they fled, they left you a note. Take a look at it yourself.” Gregory added before pulling out a blood–stained sheet of paper.
“What?” Dustin gasped after reading the paper over. Two lines of words were written on it.
“Meet me at the Horst Dojo at 10 pm! Remember to bring the Gozoraberry as well. If you don’t show up, we’ll get rid of your entire family!” were the words that were written on the paper.
After he finished reading it, Dustin crumpled the paper into dust with one hand.
It was fairly obvious that this was the work of the Horst family.
He didn’t want to make a big deal out of it, but since they were the ones looking for trouble in the first place. they couldn’t blame him if he decided to play along.
“Anyway, it was a good thing that Dahlia girl came in clutch at the right time. Otherwise, I would’ve been in serious danger by now!” Gregory let out a small sigh.
Although the scoundrels didn’t manage to scratch him, his internal injuries were quite bad. So, if it weren’t for Dahlia’s timely treatment, his life would’ve been in jeopardy.
“Thanks.” Dustin muttered as he turned around to look at Dahlia with a complex look on his face.
“You’re welcome. Mr. Jones has always been good to me, so I felt that it was only right that I returned the favor,” Dahlia replied while wiping off her sweat.
“Regardless, I should still thank you for everything. Anyway, I have places to be again, so I’ll have to trouble you to take care of Gregory here,” Dustin said.
“Where are you headed to this time?” Dahlia frowned.
“To get my revenge!” Dustin declared.
At night, in the commander’s room at South City’s military headquarters, a handsome young general was analyzing his battle formations on a sand table.
Standing behind him were several female lieutenants, all of whom merely stood guard as they allowed him to do his thing.
All of their gazes were filled with admiration and worship towards the man.
One must know that the person in front of them was actually the youngest commander of Dragonmarsh!
Paired with the Goddess of War, Scarlet Spanner, they were known as the rising stars of the Spanner family!
Not even thirty years old, he held power over hundreds of thousands of troops, he’d won hundreds of battles, achieved countless merits, and was definitely worthy of the title God of War indeed!
No one was more capable in the entirety of Dragonmarsh than him!
He was known as the “National Warrior“!
At that moment, his phone started ringing. He’d received a call from an unfamiliar number.
Adam Spanner raised his eyebrows slightly at this, as he thought that it was a bit strange.
“Hello, is this Adam Spanner?” A familiar voice asked him the moment he answered the call.
“Who are you? How dare you call this commander by his name? The nerve-
“This is Dustin Rhys speaking” Adam instantly froze on the spot and didn’t know how to respond. He immediately swallowed his words back down.
After staying silent for a while, he finally mustered the courage to reply in a stiff manner, “Well, well, well, if it isn’t Mr. Troublemaker. I thought you died in a ditch somewhere, I even brought flowers to visit your grave every year.”
“Stop talking shit. I need you to do something for me.” Dustin snapped.
“Hey, watch your tone! I’m the commander of an army now, not some puny mafia character you can brutally beat up!” Adam whispered.
“Oh, so what do you want me to do?” Dustin taunted in reply.
“I want you to give me more respect. Like when you ask me to do something for you, you need to word it in a way that sounds like you’re pleading. You could, like, butter them up a little first,” Adam said while dusting the badges on his shoulder pad.
It seemed to Dustin that he was still as arrogant as ever.
“Forget I said anything: I’ll go find someone else,” Dustin spat, as he wasn’t in the mood to play games with him.
“D–don’t hang up on me yet!” Adam responded, all startled, before continuing with a face that was all smiles,” Look at you, can’t you take a joke? Honestly, you get mad at everything I say. You know how it is between us: if you have anything on your mind, you know that you can just tell me!
“What was I thinking? You’re the commander and military god of the Dragonmarsh army now, after all. So, how could I possibly trouble you with this? Perhaps it’d be better to just find someone else.” Dustin trailed off.
“No need to bother with that, Dustin! It would be an honor for me to do something for you. Just take it as your granting a favor for me, alright? Please give me a chance: I promise to do a good job for you!” Adam begged in a panicked tone.
After waiting for so fucking long, he finally obtained a chance to show his strength. How could he let go of this opportunity so easily?
“Ha! Since you’re the one doing the begging now, I’ll give you a chance, as I can sense your sincerity through the phone,” Dustin said.
“Thanks a lot, Dustin!” Adam thanked him with a huge grin on his face.
This display of his soft side caused a few female officers near him to stare at him in disbelief. All of their eyes were wide with shock, and they all looked as if they’d seen a ghost.
Was this really their usual death stare and stoic commander?
Who exactly was the person on the other side of the phone?
How did they manage to make an esteemed military officer act so meekly like this?
At Fallridge Haven.
“Father! Please help Dustin; otherwise, he’ll die!” Sheila begged on her knees.
“Hmph! You have the audacity to request assistance for him?! He is responsible for Xavier’s death! That is the gravest of offenses! The Horst army has already assembled all of Swinton’s finest warriors! No one can save him now!” Caden spoke with a frigid tone.
“Father! Dustin has rescued me on numerous occasions. Please help him, for my sake!” Sheila pleaded, tears streaming down her face.
Ever since she returned to Fallridge Haven, she hadn’t stopped begging his father for his help. That was because only her father could go against the Horst army.
“It is exactly because he’s saved you that I refrained from taking his life!” Caden retorted coldly.
“Father! I will do as long as you save Dustin!” Sheila begged on all fours.
Soon, her knees started to bruise.
“You fool! You have no idea what you’re doing!”
Caden slammed the table as he stood up. “Do you want me to cross the Horst family for a nobody? Have you no care about what might happen to the rest of us?!”
“I don’t care about the others! I just know that Dustin saved me, and I must repay him!” Sheila said with tearful eyes.
“You“..you’re being foolish and naive! Claudia! Bring her downstairs and keep an eye on her. She is not allowed to leave Fallridge Haven!” Caden was fuming.
“Yes, sir!” Claudia replied as she dragged Sheila away.
“Claudia! Please, help me, would you?” Sheila’s eyes were swollen red from her tears.
“Dummy, it’s not worth it for a stranger.” Claudia sighed.
She could see that Sheila had fallen for Dustin. However, this love was destined to fail. She was from a rich family, and he was just an ordinary guy with no background. They were worlds apart.
“Claudia! Let me call Grandpa. As long as he agrees, Dustin will be saved!” Sheila begged.
“Sheila, General Murray has no longer been concerned with these matters. Your father is the one in charge of everything now.” Claudia shook her head.
“No matter what, I must give it a try. I won’t give up!” Shella said, full of stubbornness.
“Alright then I hope you don’t regret it.” Claudia could only pass her phone to Sheila.
From her standpoint, Sheila was wasting her energy.
General Murray was one of the highest–ranking generals in Swinton.
Ten years ago, he had already retired and passed down all his responsibilities to Caden. Unless his family is threatened, he would never show his face. It was impossible for him to put in such great effort for such a small matter. 10.00 pm, at Swinton Horst Dojo.
Gabriel, dressed in heavy armor, stood stoically within the ring, his fierce expressions sending chills down the spines of any who dared to meet his gaze.
Behind him loomed the elite members of the Horst family, their presence commanding respect and fear alike. As far as the eye could see, there were hundreds of them stretching across the horizon, a formidable force to be reckoned with.
In the crowd. Nigel was whispering to a group of people.
“Mr. Lincoln, do you think that Rhys fellow would show up tonight?” The girl in a yellow shirt asked.
“Hmph! Even if he doesn’t dare to show up, he’s still dead meat! The only difference is whether he dies alone or with his entire family!” Nigel laughed coldly.
The Horst family reigned supreme at the apex of the martial arts world, their wealth and power placing them among the elite in Millsburg. How can a nobody from the countryside be able to fend against them?
“He’s a fool who deserved death for crossing the Horst family!”
“Sure, he may bask in the glory for a few seconds, but eventually, he’ll have to face the consequences of his actions!”
A few people in the group shook their heads, waiting for the showdown to begin.
“Hey! I think someone’s coming!”
At that moment, someone from the crowd shouted.
Everyone looked over and noticed a silhouette slowly approaching them.