Ballet was everything to Mina. It was her life; her past, her present and her future. She had started when she was only eight years old and has been doing ballet for eleven years now. Mina was expected to be a professional ballerina when she would finish her schooling. From all sides, she was pressured in doing ballet more, doing it better, getting more professional and whilst that might be tiring to others, it energized Myoui Mina. To become the best dancer had always been a dream of hers and she wouldn’t stop until she achieved that.

And she would have become the best dancer in her dance school a long time ago, if only there wasn’t a minor convenience… a minor convenience who happened to be the daughter of her mother’s best friend.

The Hirai family came over once every month and Mina hated the moment the loud family entered the Myoui house. The parents weren’t even that bad. Her mother was best friends with Mrs. Hirai and her father and Mr. Hirai got along as well. The only problem was that Mina was expected to get along with the youngest child – Momo, who was about her age – too, only that she couldn’t. Because Hirai Momo was the only thing that kept her from becoming the best dancer in their dance school.
Mina didn’t only dislike Momo because she was a better dancer – Mina questioned that, by the way – but also because her personality was just a pain in the ass. Whenever the Hirai family came to have dinner at their house, the only thing she did was eat. She didn’t talk, she just ate. And honestly, Mina had no idea why she didn’t become incredibly fat, because she probably ate more than a grown man.
On top of that, she was sloppy; she had literally no manners. Especially if they were eating meat in some sort of sauce – don’t get me started about spareribs – then it was just horrible and disgusting to watch her.
The worst thing was that Momo didn’t even seem to care and that after she wiped her mouth, she just grinned at them all, as if she was proud. She didn’t say much, but that simply annoyed her more, because it always seemed like she was secretly peeking at her from the corner of her eyes.
At the dance school, she seemed like a whole other person. Hirai Momo was confident there, with a straight back and a smug smile on her pretty face. She wore clothing that the other girls could only dream of and always danced in the center, at the front.
Momo’s class was before hers, so they usually met when Momo was coming out of the practice room – no drip of sweat on her perfect body, despite the fact that she was panting and probably worked her ass off – and they crossed each other on their way to the dressing room to the practice room, or the other way around. Whenever they happened to meet each other’s gaze, Momo would wink at her, causing Mina to grit her teeth in annoyance. It felt like Momo knew that she was better and more loved than she was and that she just wanted to show it all off.
No wonder her nickname was JYP Nation’s Dancing Machine.

Therefore, she didn’t understand why Momo was so loved by all the other girls in her dance class. Whenever she entered the dressing rooms, all they talked about was Hirai Momo, almost as if she was a celebrity or something. It annoyed Mina endlessly.
The fact that it did annoy her, irritated her even more. It wasn’t like they were competitors or anything; Momo excelled in hip hop, pop and locking and a little bit in breakdance whilst Mina liked to stay classy. She performed ballet flawlessly and even her dancing teacher looked at her in awe.
Mina had won so many prices that she had had to buy multiple shelves to display them all. Since the age of eight she had competed in competitions, dancing better than everyone. She wasn’t egocentric at all, but she knew she was a good dancer.
That’s why it pissed her off that she was jealous at Hirai Momo. She knew she could never be better than Momo at dancing because they didn’t dance the same kind of style, but it sure as hell pissed her off. Mina might not be an egoist, but she sure was competitive and the fact that she would never be able to beat Momo and wipe that smile off of her face caused her to grit her teeth.

Mina hadn’t been able to hide her annoyance when their dancing school had been selected to participate in an upcoming dancing program, called Hit The Stage. The winner would either be rewarded with a scholarship or a reserved spot at one of the big labels for upcoming idols. Each dancing school had to choose their best dancer and send them off to the show as a representative, hoping to win first place. It would not only benefit the dancer, it would also bring a huge sum of money back to the dancing school.
Momo had been selected to represent their dancing school, called JYP Nation. Her dancing instructor told her they went by that choice because Momo’s dancing style would provide a bigger chance for them to win; they would not be able to win Hit The Stage with a ballerina. Mina had sourly nodded and not paid attention to it anymore.
At least, that’s what she tried to do. Every other girl had been gossiping about how Myoui Mina – the school’s most experienced dancer – had been turned down for Hit The Stage and they had gone with Hirai Momo instead, the rookie who had joined them one year ago. Mina had still been able to get over the fact that she had been rejected, after all there was a certain truth in the fact that a ballerina wouldn’t be able to win Hit The Stage, but when everyone started talking and spreading rumors, Mina got more annoyed by the day.
Momo seemed to love the attention she was getting, which caused Mina to direct her hate to the blonde instead of the girls who were keeping the gossip alive. It was easier to.

And did you know the worst thing about Hirai Momo? The fact that her mother was best friends with Mina's mother. That was probably the worst.
Not only did that mean that Momo’s mother was over at the Myoui household more times a week than Mina could count, but that also meant that she saw Momo way more often than she wanted to.
Their mothers had gotten this crazy idea, a year or two ago, that not only they should strengthen their friendship, but that their husbands and daughters should do as well, which resulted in a monthly dinner with both families.
Mina was forced to sit and have dinner with the Hirai family the whole evening and it was easy to say that she was not happy about that.

Mina liked Mr and Mrs. Hirai – they were kind – but to sit through an entire dinner with the Hirai sisters was agony to Mina, being an only child. Mina liked to stay as quiet as possible and nod along to the conversation the adults were having, which resulted into the sisters starting their own conversation most of the time. They barely paid attention to her and she liked it that way.
That didn’t mean they left her completely alone. Especially Momo liked to pull her into their conversation a few times per dinner. Unlike Momo’s older sister, who had stopped trying after a few times, she kept trying to make her join the conversation. Mina often cautiously answered the questions they asked her if they weren’t too bold and tried to block them out as soon as possible, only to be pulled back in after another quarter.

The dinners were exhausting, especially because ‘the kids’ were directed upstairs to Mina’s room as soon as the dinner was over. The adults wanted to talk and they didn’t want their kids to be there when they did. It was Mina’s job to take the other two girls upstairs and somehow entertain them whilst her parents chatted with Mr. and Mrs. Hirai.
Mina had made clear that they weren’t allowed to touch anything in her room, but that had resulted in Momo picking up everything she could find. She held up her cute plushies – to take a better look, she had apologizingly said when Mina had shot her a look – and grabbed her trophies like they were nothing.
Mina couldn’t stand the boldness of the Hirai sisters – Momo’s a little less than her sister’s. She hated the days the get-togethers happened and she had even begged her mother to let her stay at a friend’s place when the Hirai family was coming. Her mother hadn’t budged and just told her to get over her own feelings and act professional.
“If you don’t like Momo, that’s all fine, but you’re going to attend the dinners and be polite and kind,” she had told her. Mina had not been happy. Not at all.

The real challenge had come when Momo’s sister had fallen ill. After the dinner – which had been awkwardly silent, since neither Momo or Mina had initiated a conversation – the two girls had been forced to go upstairs to Mina’s room. Without her sister, Momo wasn’t as daring as usual, nor as loud. Mina hoped she could just relax on her bed and play games on her phone to pass the time until it was time for Momo to leave. Hopefully Momo would do the same; hopefully she’d get the hint.
Though, as soon as Mina shut the door of her room, the blonde turned around to her, her arms crossed in front of her chest and a stubborn look in her onyx eyes.
“Mina, why do you hate me so much?” she blurted out immediately, causing the brunette to look up surprised. She blinked a couple of times, completely taken aback, trying to form an answer that wouldn’t hurt her too much.
But when you had to explain to someone that you didn’t like them simply because everyone else did, it was hard to find good wording. She wouldn’t come off as a good person if she just told her that she was jealous her and had been jealous at her from the moment she had set foot in their dancing school. Momo’s whole appearance just bugged her and it was not something Momo could help.
“I do not hate you,” she eventually muttered, as she lowered her gaze and walked around the girl to sit down on her bed. She tried to take her phone out of her pocket and open her social media, but Momo wasn’t done with her yet.
“Obviously you do. I’m not stupid, you know. I see the way you look at me, like I murdered your grand-mother or something,” she said, rolling her eyes. Mina looked up from her phone and pursed her lips for a moment.
“I do not hate you,” Mina repeated. “I merely… we don’t fit together well, that’s all.”
“Then that feeling is one-sided,” Momo said. “-because I don’t think I dislike you. But if I ever did anything to hurt or annoy you, you should tell me because then I can stop.”
Mina sighed and shook her head. The fact that Momo was asking her what she did wrong so that she could improve herself set her even off more. Momo was nice enough to be willing to change herself so she could appeal to Mina more and that was simply annoying.
Why couldn’t Hirai Momo just be egocentric? Or rude? Why did she had to be this perfect human being who immediately blamed herself even though she knew she was not at fault here? The girl immediately wanted to change when Mina had expressed her discomfort, even though there was nothing she did wrong. It was such a pure gesture that it just pissed her off.
“You’re doing nothing wrong,” Mina was forced to say. “We just don’t click, that’s all.”
Momo rose one of her blonde eyebrows and scoffed.
“Well, then I want us to get along better. If our mothers are going to stay friends ‘till the end of time, like they claim, then we should be able to get along better too.”
Mina skeptically squinted her eyes.
“No,” she immediately said. “I’m fine this way.”
“But I am not,” Momo insisted. “Let me try, one time. I can get you tickets to Hit the Stage, if you want. Special V.I.P places. I was allowed to give out five and I still have one left. Take it and come and see me.”
Mina rose her eyebrows skeptically, wanting to tell her no immediately. She felt nothing for going to Hit the Stage, the show she had not been good enough to participate in, and watch Momo stand there whilst it should have been her who should have shone on that stage. On top of that, she didn’t even want a good relationship with Hirai Momo. It was easier to dislike her and pretend Momo was the reason of everything that went bad in her life.
But Momo looked at her almost pleadingly. Her eyes resembled a puppy’s… and Mina had always been a sucker for big, dark eyes.
“Please?” the blonde asked her. “It won’t disappoint, I promise.”
Mina sighed. She closed her eyes for a second and ran with her hand through her hair.
“… Fine,” she answered eventually sourly. When she opened her eyes again, she was greeted by Momo’s huge grin. Mina immediately regretted her decision.
“Amazing!” the other girl chimed. “You won’t regret it, I promise! I’ll get you your ticket as soon as possible, okay?”
Mina nodded quietly. “Sure,” she muttered.

The next day in the dressing room, Momo approached her as she was changing.
“Here you go,” the blonde said. The same smile covered her face as she handed Mina the special ticket. The other girls eyed the two suspiciously. It was generally known that Mina and Momo did not get along and this new development was closely observed by a dozen pair of eyes.
“Thank you,” she said flatly. “Is there anything I need to bring?”
Momo thought for a moment, then smiled cheekily.
“A banner with ‘Momo fighting’ perhaps?” she suggested, as she winked. Momo started to laugh when she saw Mina’s unamused, neutral face.
“Just be there, okay? Promised?”
Mina rolled her eyes. “Yeah, promised,” she said. It wasn’t like she could say no anymore, especially not now that she had received the ticket. On top of that, she guessed that it would be fun to go no matter what and see Hit the Stage live, even if it wasn’t for Momo. There’d be a lot of amazing dancers and if there was one thing Mina liked, then it was to watch others dance.
Momo smiled widely another time, nodded, and ran off, back towards the dance studio. As soon as she had left the dressing room, Mina was surrounded by her fellow ballerina’s.
“I thought you hated her?” the dark-haired beauty, called Sana, asked her. She was one of Mina’s best friends but she was by far the clumsiest ballerina there was. Her posture wasn’t that good and she kept falling over her own feet when she tried to make more than one pirouette, but the girl had a heart of gold and had this special attraction that was hard to ignore. Whenever her face lighted up and her laughter was heard across the dancing studio, Mina couldn’t help to smile too.
“I do,” Mina said.
“Then why did you accept this?” Sana asked, nodding towards the ticket Mina was still clutching in her hands. The brunette shrugged.
“Would you reject it? A free V.I.P place at Hit the Stage?” she asked, smiling weakly. “I get to see all these amazing artists.”
Sana slapped her shoulder in shock.
“Oh, Myoui Mina, you’re so cunning,” she chuckled. “I never expected you to be like this. Tzuyu definitely, Nayeon perhaps, but you? You surprise me.”
With a chuckle, Sana walked off again. Mina watched her go. Her smile slowly faded off her face as she looked back to the ticket. With a sigh, she shook her head and stowed away the ticket in her bag. She flung it over her shoulder and left the dressing room.

A week passed and the day that Mina had to attend Hit the Stage came nearer an nearer.
The building was surprisingly small for a show that had been promoted so well. Mina waited in a line with the rest of the audience, clutching the ticket Momo gave her in her fist.
Mina had dressed up unintentionally, meaning that she basically had traded her the old T-shirt she normally wore for a white blouse, which she had tucked into a dark blue pair of jeans. With her beige coat over her arm, her mother had commented that she looked beautiful for the camera’s. Mina had gladly copied her mother’s reason to look pretty.
In fact, Momo had been on her mind when she had opened her drawer that morning and picked out her outfit. Momo had only seen her in her ballet outfit, or in a shirt with leggings. Now that she would see her in better clothes, she wanted to make sure she looked her best to show off.

The queue slowly moved and Mina eventually got into the building. She moved along with the crowd towards the performance hall. Mina found her seat – it was one of the reserved ones in the front, right behind the judges – and sat down.
It took half an hour before everyone had found their seats and gotten their drinks and snacks for during the show. The stage had already lighted up red, yet the seats of the participants on stage were still empty. Mina waited patiently, playing on her phone to pass the time.
The seats next to hers stayed empty, although they were reserved to Momo’s name as well. Mina couldn’t help to wonder if no one else was going to come and cheer her on. Hirai Momo, the girl with a huge number of fangirls and fanboys… It would be weird if no one would be there but her. Sure, there were other people willing to cheer her on, wouldn’t there?
She knew Momo’s parents were busy people so it wouldn’t surprise her if they couldn’t be here to support their daughter but Mina started to feel more awkward with every minute that passed without anyone else being there. She fidgeted uncomfortably with the zipper of her handbag, watching the crowd fill the enormous hall.
As soon as everyone sat down, the lights dimmed, causing only the red lights from the stage to lighten the hall. A murmur went through the crowd. People nervously bumped against each other with their arms, trying to feel if the person next to them was still there, nervous about the sudden change of situation. Mina sat silently in her chair, watching the stage whilst clenching her jaws.
The room went completely dark. The crowd started to cheer and clap as soon as the teaser trailer of the show appeared on the big screens. Mina watched it like she hadn’t watched it a thousand times before.
When the lights went on again, the seats of the participants were filled; eight in total, five boys and three girls. The cheering grew louder, especially when the hosts appeared on stage. They introduced each other quickly. Mina watched with focus, trying not to let her gaze slide over to the participants.
As the hosts were talking and introducing the first episode of Hit the Stage, Mina couldn’t help but to be drawn to the artists, curious who the other dancing schools had chosen. SM Town had sent in three participants this round; a blonde woman who looked like she was late in her twenties, a younger man and a teenager. Starship Entertainment had a woman and a broad looking man. Woollim had sent in a muscled male and Stardom one as well. JYP Nation’s only representative was Momo who, despite the fierce-looking competition, looked very relaxed. Her eyes were fixed on the hosts, but she almost seemed to sense that Mina was looking at her because she turned away, searching in the crowd. Eventually her gaze landed on the brunette and she smiled smugly for a split second. Mina immediately looked down, pretending not to have seen her.
When she looked up again, Momo was whispering with the teenager from SM Town next to her. They laughed. Mina pressed her lips upon each other and watched bitterly.

The hosts didn’t take long to open the episode, since everyone in the room knew what it was about anyway. They went on with introducing the participants instead, calling them out one by one. SM Town’s representatives were called Hyoyeon, Taemin and Ten. There was a boy named U-Kwon – although Mina guessed that this was his stage name – and one named Hoya. The ones from Starship were called Bora and Shownu. As their names were called, they all stood up and bowed towards the audience, each with their own characteristic smile. Finally, Momo was mentioned. She bowed as well, grinning widely.

The hosts announced the jury. Each of them was a first-generation dancer who knew they were talking about. Therefor it was even more surprising that when one of them was asked who they expected the most from, they turned to Momo. The blonde’s cheeks had colored and she had muttered a thank-you into her mic. Mina had smiled softly at the sight of that. It didn’t happen often that Momo got flustered.

Afterwards, the theme was announced; the first being called ‘Devil’. Mina couldn’t help to raise her eyebrows in surprise. It sounded like a very dangerous, dark kind of concept and she didn’t know whether Momo would be able to handle that well. She was a good dancer and her facial expressions were often good enough but she wondered if Momo could be sensual enough for a Devil concept. It would have something dark and mysterious about it, right?
But then again, she wouldn’t have been chosen to represent JYP Nation at Hit the Stage if she wasn’t professional enough. Even Mina had to admit that.

The directors had decided the order of contestants by showing them all a video containing a jump scare; whoever screamed the loudest had to go first. Mina couldn’t help to chuckle when they showed Momo’s video and that she was ranked pretty high as well.
And after a few more formalities, the performances started. The participants left the stage to prepare themselves for their own act. SM Town’s Ten was first, followed up by Starship’s Bora.
Ten, despite being the youngest participant, was incredibly impressive. His performace was named ‘Becoming the devil’ and it told the story of a boy being consumed by evil. His facial expressions and the team work with his background dancers was terrific and Mina’s mouth had dropped already a few seconds into the performance.
Bora performed ‘Seducing witch’ and it was about as impressive as Ten’s. Her score was a little lower than his, causing him to still be in lead when Momo was about to perform.
Mina was curious about what the blonde was going to do. The curtains on stage slid together until they were almost closed. Momo took in her position in the opening.
The girl had pushed her hair back and with the dark lightning her cheekbones and jawline suddenly turned very sharp. The heavy eye make-up gave her something dark and accentuated her cheekbones even more.
She wore a bright red blouse, tugged into black shorts. There was a band strapped around her upper thigh and the heels she wore looked as much impressive as painful. Her nails were painted in the same bright red color as her shirt and there were golden rings shimmering around her long fingers. Smoke appeared on the stage and the screens behind Momo showed a churchyard.
Momo closed her eyes and placed her hands on her chest. Mina suddenly understood why the curtains around her were almost closed: it mimicked a coffin. She immediately sat a little straighter in her chair. The music started; a church bell echoed through the hall and caused a shiver to run through the bodies of the public. Goosebumps appeared all over Mina’s body.
Suddenly dozens of hands were appearing from behind the curtains along to the sound of a horror movie, running over Momo’s body whilst she kept herself still and silent. They disappeared at the beat of the music and Momo came to live.
Her eyes shot open and she curled her hands like claws and brought them up to her throat, almost burying her own nails deep into the delicate skin. A dangerous, almost crazy kind of grin appeared on her face as her eyes settled on the public. For a moment, she thought that Momo looked directly at her, pinning her down in her chair. Mina’s breath got caught in her throat as she watched.
The hands returned and Momo’s head snapped backwards and to the side as the church bells rang again. Right before the blonde stepped out of her coffin, a bloody hand appeared and Momo’s gaze turned nearly hungry at the sight.
Under the sounds of screaming people and heavenly singing, Momo emerged from her coffin. At first there were no other back up dancers except one man, whom she worked to the ground and bit in his neck as if it was nothing. When she looked up, her gaze settled upon Mina again. The blonde grinned widely and sensually wiped her lips.
As the man crawled away, other female dancers appeared on stage. They made a group around her and accentuated Momo’s dancing, causing her to look like a queen with her servants. She danced together with the man again until the group of women closed in upon her and dragged her body backwards by her legs under loud screaming coming from the speakers. Her nails ran over the ground as in a thriller. One of the girls brought her up again and Momo seemed to rise from the earth like an undead goddess. The girl ran her hands over Momo’s body and she whacked them off but her neck was whipped to the side and the girl nipped at it before letting her go.
Momo was back being the vampire queen and she finished the performance with an amazing ending. As she took her ending post, the church bell rang one last time. As soon as the public started to clap, she broke character by letting a shy smile appear on her face. Momo changed back to the sensitive girl she actually was. Mina let out a breath she didn’t know she had been holding.

Momo disappeared from the stage again after her score turned out lower than Ten’s and the other performances were played out. Mina especially liked Hyoyeon’s Femme Fatale, because the theme fit surprisingly well with the tango, and Taemin’s Waking the inner Demons. His style of dancing was incredible and it didn’t surprise her that he won the contest.
Momo, weirdly enough, ended pretty low. In fact, she her score was the lowest of them all. Mina agreed that some participants had out-performed her, but Momo had definitely been better than the two fake Jokers. Their performances had more been about acting than it had been about dancing and Momo had had some pretty impressive moves.

The show came to an end faster than she had thought it would. The hosts ended the episode and disappeared, as well as the other participants, off the stage. The lights dimmed and the public was requested to get up and make it to the exit.
Mina was about to get up as well, until her phone buzzed. Curiously she opened the message from the unknown number. It were only a three words: ‘Wait for me.’. Mina sighed and pressed her lips stiffly upon each other until they formed a thin line on her face. She put her phone away and sat back down on her chair.

Momo appeared out of nowhere. Her cold hand tapped Mina’s shoulder and a shiver ran through her spine as she looked up. Momo smiled widely at her, still wearing her performance clothes. Her hair had fallen in front of her face by now, but it didn’t make her look less fierce. A little smugger, perhaps, but she still looked like she could rise out of her coffin at any time and dig her fangs into the soft skin of Mina’s neck. The thought alone made Mina shiver.
“You came.”
It was more a statement than a question, although Mina still nodded to confirm it.
“Did no one else?” she asked, glancing around the dancer to the still empty seats. They had stayed empty throughout the whole show and even though Mina didn’t like it to sit next to someone whom she didn’t know, it had been quite weird.
“Mom and dad are on a business trip. My sister moved away for college,” Momo simply stated. “I had no need to invite anyone else.”
Mina, cocking her head slightly, let her gaze run over the blonde, finding nothing but indifference. It was a bit odd that Momo didn’t invite anyone else, especially with such a large fanbase back in JYP Nation. Should she feel honored that Momo invited her and only her?
She guessed not. After all, wasn’t this all part of her plan to make Mina like her too? Mina was probably the only person who actually disliked Hirai Momo and if she had been her, she wouldn’t have liked that either.
“- you think?”
Momo’s sudden question snapped her out of her thoughts.
“What?” she muttered.
“What did you think? Of my performance, I mean,” Momo repeated, chuckling a little this time.
“You did well,” she answered, albeit a little flat. In fact, Momo had been amazing, incredible, fantastic, but it was beneath her to praise her like that. On top of that, people like Hyoyeon, Ten and Taemin had outshined her, but she definitely hadn’t been the worst of them all. Perhaps she was a bit biased because she wanted JYP Nation to win, but in her opinion, Momo had definitely out-performed the two Jokers.
“I finished last,” Momo said, raising her eyebrows.
“That doesn’t mean you’re not good,” Mina immediately commented. “I’ve seen what you can do and even though this performance was… very good, you didn’t reach your maximum. I don’t know about the other dancers but you didn’t show them the best of yourself yet.”
“You seem to be very trusting,” the blonde chuckled, shaking her head. “Does that mean you’d say ‘yes’ if I asked you to perform with me on the next episode?”
Mina frowned her eyebrows.
“What?” she blurted out, immediately feeling a little bit dumb.
“Would you perform with me on the next episode of Hit the Stage?” Momo asked again. Her eyes had lost their cheesy sparkle and they were dead serious. Mina was a bit thrown back and could only stare back in helpless confusion.
“Why me?” she eventually asked. “Why not any other girl in the dance school? Why not an instructor?”
A weak smile formed on Momo’s lips. She shrugged and looked down to her shoes.
“You have something about you that is hard to ignore,” she simply said, looking back up in confidence.
“Even if I’d say yes, then there’s still the problem that I know very little of hip hop and you don’t know anything about ballet,” Mina said, still trying to find a way out of this. She was already feeling that her heart was going to say ‘yes’ soon enough, but she wanted her head to make an excuse before she’d agree to work with Hirai Momo.
“I’m willing to learn ballet. It’s a genre that I’ve been willing to dance for quite a while but have never found the time for,” Momo answered casually. “So… will you join me?”
Mina sighed and rubbed her temples, taking her time to answer. Eventually she just moaned slightly out of frustration and nodded.
“Yes. Yes okay, I will,” she said. A big, pleased grin occupied Momo’s face as soon as Mina turned her gaze back towards her again.
“Amazing!” the blonde called out in excitement. “We’re going to be amazing together. This time, I won’t lose.”
“Do you already know the theme of the next episode yet, then?” Mina asked, suddenly realizing that if they had to prepare a dance, it’d be good to know what the next episode was about.
Momo’s eyes started to glitter again.
“It’s called ‘This love’.”

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