The Amulet of the Four Gales

The North Gale gives to those who give.
The South takes from those who take.
But only when the East and the West are upheld will the 4 gales blow.

-Inscription on the rear of the Amulet of the Four Gales

“Cody! Where are those files!”

I sighed to myself and picked up the phone. “They’re on the network, under ‘Summer Campaign.’”

I held the phone away from my ear as Donald shouted into it, “It’s about time. Don’t you know I need to look over them before I present them to the board.”

Rolling my eyes, I responded, “Yes, I’m aware. But the product was slightly more difficult to make a proper visual ad for.”

“I don’t care! It’s your job to make these ads and I expect you to have them on time.” Donald then slammed his phone down, disconnecting the line and I sighed, “Actually, you’re head visual artist, I think it’s your job.”

Grabbing my pencil, I returned to work on a spray cleaner ad. But, my heart wasn’t really into it. All I could think about is “Why am I here?” I took this job long ago with dreams of filling the skies with my art. But ten years later, I was stuck in the same office drawing for Donald who didn’t seem to care.

Now, you would think after ten years, I would’ve quit or become bitter, but that’s just not me. I disliked Donald at times, but there are a few good qualities about him. He’s charismatic, he works hard at the gym and has an excellent physique, and he can be nice. Unfortunately, none of those characteristics usually came up around me. I wished I could’ve known him differently. He seemed to know a lot about working out. But sadly, I couldn’t be friends with him. He had this snub attitude towards me and the other artists. He thought because he’s lead designer, he’s better than us. Funny thing too, he only got that job by hooking up with the VP of design.

Every day, I saw him walk through the area, that cocky swagger of his working his way across the floor. He picked up Jessica and they would leave, either on some luxury vacation, or some fancy dinner, or simply to go home and have sex all night, leaving us to work tons of hours over for a meager salary.

To my detriment, all these hours working over had killed my social life. I rarely have time to see my friends anymore. I ate tons of fast food and take out, and that just gave me a huge gut. The gym that I joined a while back to try and fix that problem was a 24 hour place, but just doing a little workout the night before killed me at work the next day, and soon after, I quit working out.

Maybe I envied him for that. He was confident enough to go have sex with the VP and get promoted. He worked hard in the gym to maintain his looks. I’d be willing to bet he even had a bathroom full of care products he used. There I was, 29 years old, single, fat, and fairly unhappy. “Maybe I should do something about it.”

I was woken from my daydream by the lunch timer on my computer. I grabbed my lunch and headed to the break room. I sat down to enjoy my meal when I felt eyes on my back. I turned around to see Donald standing there. Every time he’s that close, I was amazed at how big he is. I was 5’7’’ at my last physical and he’s at least 6’4’’. We both probably weighed the same, but I knew for a fact that my 250 lbs was all fat and his was toned muscle. I could see his pecs strain against the silk shirt he wore. His arms were solid mass under the jacket he wore. He even looked better than me in that tailor made suit he got. I could see how women fawned over him. Hell, if my muscles bulged against clothes like that, I’d probably have had women too.

He looked down and me and snickered. I turned back and resumed my meal when Mr. Winters, the president walked in.

“Donald, the board loved your latest idea. They’re going to immediately put it into production. How do you keep coming up with these amazing ideas?”

“Well, you know, I have to say that when you have talent like mine, it just comes naturally.”

“Well, I thought you would want to know that billboards are already being made with that great slogan, ‘All things are possible if you just be-Weave’”

I perked up at hearing that slogan and realized that it was the one I just got finished making this morning. Donald glanced at me with a sly grin and said, “Yeah, thanks a lot for letting me know.”

I wanted to say something right then and there, but I waited till Mr. Winters left. I stood up and said, “That was my slogan. It’s not right for you to claim it as your own.”

Donald walked up to me and lifted me off the floor by my shirt. “No, I think that was my slogan. If you say anything to the contrary, I promise I’ll make your life here a living hell. Besides, who are people going to believe, me, a VP or you, a loser?” He then tossed me aside and laughed as he walked out. I picked myself up off the floor and finished my lunch deep in thought.

I pondered my situation. I wasn’t happy. I worked hours upon hours for little pay, for a job that I didn’t love anymore. I lost a lot of my friends, my body was completely out of shape, and everything sucked. Plus I was at the mercy of Donald’s every whim. I felt like I was back in high school, being forced to do homework for the jocks or be beat on. I thought this kinda stuff was supposed to stop in the real world.

I went home depressed, again, and decided to pull out some stuff that made me feel better. Most of it were pictures of me spending time with my family, but the item that made me feel the most happy was a medallion my grandfather gave me before he died. I loved him more than any other relative, and he cared greatly for me. He gave me this necklace he wore ever since he found it on an excavation. It was a simple design, made from nacre, mother-of-pearl. It was four interlocking circles, each colored differently, but elegantly made. The top circle had a rope of treated rawhide looping through it that slipped over my grandfather’s head easily.

I remember that day so vividly. I was playing with him out in the woods. Even at his age, he was a vibrant man, full of spirit and life. We would spend hours upon hours playing games, walking, running, fishing, or just talking. He would take me to little league games because my parents couldn’t and he would always cheer me on from the stands. I think I spent more time at his place then I did at home. Anyway, we’re out running in the woods and he stops me. He gave me a hug and a noogie. I laughed, pushing against his big chest and he chuckled, holding me closer. Then he let go of me. He kneeled down and took off his medallion. Putting it around my neck, he gave me a gentle kiss on the cheek and said, “This is a very special amulet. When I found it, I translated the inscription I found on the back side.” He turned it over and showed me this kanji script. “It translates loosely to: ‘The North Gale gives to those who give. The South takes from those who take. But only when the East and the West are upheld will the 4 gales blow.’ I figured out a while ago what it meant, but you have to figure it out for yourself. Take care of this and yourself boy. I’m not going to be around much longer.”

I didn’t understand what he was saying then, but it felt foreboding. He quickly perked up though and continued our romp through the forest. A month later he died. I cried for almost a week straight over the loss of my grandpa. I quit all my little league stuff and I had my parents buy a special box to put his medallion in and a picture of him and me together, so I would always have something to remember him by. Even now, it hurts, but I still can feel his love from his gift.

I went to the bed with the velvet box and opened it, gazing upon the laminated picture of me and him after my first t-ball game. I smiled at the memory then looked down at the mother-of-pearl jewelry. It seemed so warm and inviting, conjuring memories of my grandfather working hard, lifting weights and exercising in the warm August sun, inviting me to join him in his physical activities. It also invoked memories of safety and comfort, memories of me sleeping in his lap, safe in his warmth, and memories of me in his tight bear hug, protected from the monsters that would threaten me. I sighed, wishing I could feel that once again. I gingerly took the medallion out of its box and closed the velvet case. Holding it close, I wiped away a tear from the corner of my eye and whispered, “I miss you grandpa.”

I took the rawhide strap in my hands and slipped it over my head. Slowly guiding the medallion down, it came to rest in the center of my pudgy chest. Looking down at it reminded me once more of how good it looked on my grandpa, how big and thick his chest was, how firm his pecs were, how massive his biceps bulged and how good he looked, and it also reminded me how horrible I looked. I didn’t even bother taking it off before I cried myself to sleep, curled in a fetal position.

I woke up about two hours before it was time for me to go to work. I walked to the bathroom, catching myself in the mirror en route. I stood there for a few minutes and just stared. My eyes were puffy from the crying I did last night, my posture was horrible. My shoulders hung down as if I were slouching. I had man-boobs that rivaled most women and my gut sagged over the waistband of my boxers. I had fat everywhere, from my head down to my pudgy torso and onward to my chunky legs. I didn’t look, but I knew that my package wasn’t much better. Hell, I was single for a reason. And then I saw the medallion again. All those memories of grandpa came flooding back, and suddenly I felt shame. I knew he wouldn’t be happy with me because I wasn’t happy with me. I decided that, after my breakdown last night, I needed to change my life. I was going to tell Donald that day that I couldn’t work all this overtime anymore. Right after work, I was going to find a gym, get a trainer and whip myself back into shape.

Donald had a new campaign waiting for me when I arrived on time. Seems from what the buzz was, the board was so impressed with his latest ‘idea’ that they gave him three more projects, which he in turn passed down to us. I started work, but made it a point to talk to him today about me getting off at a reasonable hour from now on.

I got my chance around 2 that afternoon. I was walking to the restroom and he was just finishing up. I bumped into him and excused myself and he growls back, “Watch yourself pip squeak.”

I hesitated, but decided I need to start being bolder. “Donald,” I started, “I need to speak to you about my work schedule.”

“Oh really, what is it?” he responded in a condescending tone.

“I have to start getting off at reasonable times. I can’t stay till 11 every night any more.” I noticed that one of the administrative assistants raised an eyebrow as she passed and I assume that Donald also saw because he grabbed me roughly by the shoulder and pushed me into the men’s room.

“Now look here you little prick,” Donald snarled as he shoved me against the bathroom wall, “I am this fucking close to a raise and you’re going to fucking keep doing what you’ve been doing. Or else I swear I’ll get you fired so fast your fucking head will spin.”

As soon as he said that, a bolt of light seemed to tunnel its way through the roof and engulf him. He seemed to be screaming, but no sound left his anguished mouth. I began to panic as I saw his body seemingly racked with pain and then it started. Suddenly, the suit that fit so well seemed to become looser on his body. His muscles and size slowly began to leave him, shrinking him slowly but evidently. His chest, which swelled against the jacket every time he inhaled gradually became smaller and smaller, to the point where the shirt began to flutter around in the pillar of light. His legs, which were thick like tree trunks that threaten to burst through his pants slowly shortened and shrank. It looked like a kid was trying to wear a grown adult’s pants as his legs grew smaller and smaller. His waist, which used to be part of his tapered torso, began to inflate, as if all his muscle was turning to fat and migrating there. I watched with morbid curiosity as the muscles gained from years of work in the gym slowly deflated and the height that he loved slowly dissipated. After it all was over, he floated there, not even a shadow of his former self. He now looked more like me than a charismatic muscle giant and I began to become exceptionally worried.

Then suddenly, my world turned white and I felt indescribable pleasure surge through my body. It felt like an orgasm, only a hundred times more intense. I had never felt anything like it before, not even when I first lost my virginity. But even through the immense bliss, I felt my body. It began to change as I floated in a world of nothingness. I could feel my gut shrink down, the tail of my shirt fluttering in a cool breeze. I felt my pecs tighten and shrink, then expand with new muscles. My legs stretched against the loose pants I wore to the point of rupturing. The hem of the slacks began to slide up my calves as I felt my bones stretching to accommodate my new size. I saw my arms, slowly growing and the veins in them working their way to the surface. I slowly flexed my arm, seeing the bicep swell to a huge size and ripping the sleeve of my shirt. It felt so amazing.

Then suddenly, I was back in the men’s room, but things had changed. Before me was a shrunken version of Donald. He was short and pudgy now and was screaming as he wondered what happened to his body. I instead, took a more quiet approach to this newfound situation. I felt more alive and more powerful than ever before. I ran my hands all over my body, feeling tight, rock hard muscle everywhere. If you’ve been fat and short for most of your adult life, then suddenly you were this tower of muscle, you would begin to understand how I felt at that moment. Every part of me seemed to swell with muscle. I glanced down and I could see my package without having to suck my gut in. Just the realization of that was too much excitement for me and I let out a whoop. Even my voice was better, drenched in a deep silky baritone. “Fuck yeah, I’m huge! Look at this muscle! I don’t have a gut! I can see my penis!” Then I realized that it was even bigger and thicker than I could imagine and I was lost in ecstasy. I took it out right then and there and began to stroke it, enjoying the new length and girth of my now impressive tool. My glance fell upon my corded forearms, thick with meaty muscle and up to my massive biceps that were bigger than my former legs.

I was too lost in my self exploration to notice how small and girlish Donald sounded now. He was complaining about his size and what happened to him or something when suddenly I heard a third voice speak up, “This is balance Donald.”

I stopped and looked up to see this ethereal figure standing in between us. Neither I nor Donald moved as it spoke. “The Keeper of the Amulet has suffered from your whims long enough, and the North and South Gales have decided to balance the scales. This is what they have decreed. The bodies you see before you are how they have judged. Now Keeper,” he said as he rotated towards me, “are you pleased with how the scales have been tipped to your favor?”

I looked down at myself, drinking in the wonder and beauty I was now. I felt so powerful, so masculine right now. I had muscles everywhere. I could feel separation in my abs, veins in my arms, strength in my chest and striations in my legs. I now had a cock that women would jump at the chance to have in them and a body that could have sex all night long. But I knew it wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair or honorable for me to take it all away from Donald, even if he’s treated me like crap all this time.

“I’m sorry, I can’t accept this. Sure Donald’s treated me horribly ever since I’ve started working here. I’ve spent nights just crying because of how bad it felt. But this isn’t right. It’s not honorable for me to take what he’s worked so hard for and give him nothing but my pain in exchange. Please, change us back to how we were before.”

“Are you sure you do not wish the scales of fate to be balanced? He has tormented you these past ten years, taunting you with his position and his physical stature. Do you not wish vengeance and justice?”

I looked at down at him. It would be so easy for me to keep this new size and strength. It felt so good being huge, strong and endowed, but seeing how sad he was about his lost, to the point of crying, I knew that I had to give it up.

“Sometimes, I wish I didn’t have this honorable nature,” I said to Donald more so than the spirit, “but yes, I want our two bodies returned to their former state.”

“So be it Keeper of the Four Gales. I hope you are happy with your choice here.”

Somehow, I didn’t think I would be, but my happiness wasn’t going to come at the expense of another. The spirit closed its empty eyes, then a bright flash engulfed the room. When it cleared, I was back to looking at Donald’s chest. I looked at myself and sighed. Donald ran his hands over himself and almost shouted in joy, finding everything returned to normal. He spent almost too long groping his crotch. I guess I would too if I suddenly lost my package just a few moments ago.

I went to leave the restroom but Donald stopped me. He placed his huge hand on my shoulder and turned me around. “Dude, I can’t believe what just happened. You gave up all this for me?”

“Well, as gay as that sounds, it’s not entirely true or false. I know how hard you worked to get that body, and it’s my nature not to cause suffering to others. I know your life would be hell even if mine would be heaven, and I couldn’t do that.”

Donald looked down at me and then hung his head. “Man, I can’t believe you. I’ve been a complete and utter ass ever since you’ve known me, and you still have my feelings in mind? God I’m such a jerk.”

“Damn right you are, but maybe now you’ll change.”

“Fuckin’ hell I will. I mean…damn, I don’t even know where to begin to thank you.”

“Well for starters, you can share the work load around here. I’m sure the other guys would like to get off at normal times. Then maybe you could help me out in the gym.”

“Man, you’ve got a deal. I’ll go tell the other artists right now.” He turned to exit the bathroom but stopped at the door. “Thanks a lot man.”

I smiled as he walked out and went to the sink to wash my face, wondering why in the hell I just gave up everything I wanted. The cool water made me want to forget everything that just happened, but I know I couldn’t. I had it all, I was tall, had a sexy body and a cock to die for, and I gave it up.

I walked out of the restroom and returned to my desk. Donald came by and leaned over my cubicle wall.

“So Cody, obviously you will be able to get off earlier, but you mind if I ask what sparked the discussion?”

I looked up at him, glancing at those thick forearms of his and respond, “Well, I just wanted to start hitting the gym again. Got tired of seeing the gut, ya know.” I laughed a bit while Donald looked at me. I thought he was preparing some witty and snide remark, but he surprised me.

“You got one picked out already?”

I raised an eyebrow and said, “No. Why do you ask?”

He stood up a bit and placed his hands behind his head, unconsciously flexing the balls of muscle in his arms, “Well, you know, I have been an ass to you for a while, and I’d like to make it up. How ‘bout you join my gym? I can help train ya if you’d like. You don’t have to say ‘yes’. I can understand if you don’t like me enough to come.”

I interrupt him before he could get any more out, “Of course man, I would love to lift with you. You have the exact physique I’m hoping for. But are you ok with it? I’m probably weak as hell and you are probably in some hardcore muscle gym.”

He smiled, “Yeah, there’s some hardcore muscleheads in there, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m sure they’ll welcome ya too.”

I couldn’t help but smile back at him because I realized that this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

The next few months were good. Not amazing, but good. I spent every day after work in the gym with Donald. It was an interesting time. I was extremely far behind Donald’s lifting, but he was sincere about his desire to help me. I felt kinda weird about hanging out with him, in a gym full of beefy muscle men, but after the first month, it felt like home. Every day I would be inspired by not only Donald, but other behemoths of muscle that frequented the gym. Instead of being callous to me, they were helpful, guiding me with meal plans, exercise routines and direction.

I was home one night after an extremely grueling workout with Donald. He had me doing supersets of some leg exercises and I was beat. I hopped in the shower as soon as I got there. Letting the hot water soak into me, I stayed in the shower for almost an hour. Finally, I turned it off and stepped outside my shower to see the ghostly form of my grandfather standing before me.

“I’m damn proud of you boy.”


“You did the best thing without even researching the amulet. Now the 4 Gales can truly blow.”

“What does that mean anyway Grandpa? What the hell are you talking about?” I said in utter confusion.

Pointing at my medallion, he said, “Remember that day you got Donald’s muscles? It was sort of a test. There was no real right or wrong answer, but you chose wisely. The East Gale represents Honor and Truth. The West Gale represents Change. You upheld those two aspects that day by changing how you were living and by being honorable when you were tested with your greatest temptation. I’m so proud of you.”

I smiled at my grandpa and asked, “So, now that these four gales are blowing, what will happen?”

“Well, from experience, I can tell you your life will become very interesting. Donald, I’m sure, will continue to change for the better, and if you’re like me, you should be hitting a second growth spurt as you’re in the gym. I know you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.”

I stood there, mouth agape as my grandpa smiled at me, “Enjoy the rest of your life kid, I know it’s going to be interesting.” Then he waved at me as he faded from view.

That was about six years ago. Since that time, Donald has become best of friends with not just me, but the entire artist board. He gives credit where it’s due and pulls his own weight. The artists have never been closer. We all eat lunch together, Donald and I opting for our healthy stuff. We hang out at a bar on Wednesday and even recently started a bowling league. Seems that Donald has really turned around, not out of fear as one might think, but out of understanding of what it’s like to be different, if only for a moment.

Grandpa was right also, I did hit a second growth spurt. I’m now about 6’5’’ 260 lbs. I look like an off season bodybuilder and everything, including the goods seemed to grow this time around. I’m working on becoming a powerlifter as of late. I’ve gotten so big that the fellas at the gym are pushing me to train with them and Donald’s thinking bout powerlifting too.

On the weekends, we usually go cruising for chicks at the bar down the street and we’re the two most popular guys there. Even though I’m still interested in women, I’ve come to enjoy the company of a nice big man too and will often have a nice guy over for some fun.

I look back on that day and I sometimes wonder what would’ve happened if I had chose to keep Donald’s attributes. But I can’t think on what could have been. I know right now that I’ve never felt so vibrant before, and life is great. I have friends that I would’ve never had before, I enjoy my job again and I fuck guys and girls that would have never even seen me before. And it’s all because of a little choice that made a world of difference.

I looked down at myself, drinking in the wonder and beauty I was now. I felt so powerful, so masculine right now. I had muscles everywhere. I could feel separation in my abs, veins in my arms, strength in my chest and striations in my legs. I now had a cock that women would jump at the chance to have in them and a body that could have sex all night long.

And damn did it feel good. Finally, I was the fucking man. I was the biggest and baddest guy in the area for once and I knew I couldn’t give this up.

“Yes, I think this is a perfect arrangement.”

“As you wish Keeper, the scales have been balanced. I hope you enjoy.”

The specter closed its empty eyes and a bright flash engulfed the room. When the flash cleared, I was standing looking down at Donald, our positions reversed since when we entered the bathroom. I stood there with one massive hand on my engorged cock and another rubbing my thick arm. Donald was now a chubby little guy, plump and balding and scared like a small animal. I turned to my left to look in the bathroom mirrors and was awestruck.

I stood at least 6’5’’ and I had to be near 250 lbs. But instead of it being fat, I could tell it was all thick muscle. I wore a black pinstripe suit with a silk shirt and the fabric looked like it was almost painted on me. I flexed my arm a few times and saw the suit stretch as it conformed to my new biceps. I glanced down to see my hard cock, almost a foot in length, twitch appreciatively in my hand. I then looked at Donald’s reflection. He was over a foot shorter than me and fat. I could see him sweating as he looked up and down my new physique. A smile crept across my face and I reached over and locked the bathroom door.

“Wha..wha…what are yo…yo…you go…go…going to do?”

I chuckled aloud. God this was going to be great. He even stuttered now. I slowly peeled off my new suit jacket, then rubbed my muscles through the silk shirt. “Well, Donny, I think I’m going to start by taking this body, and especially this cock, out for a test run.”

Donald’s eyes widened as he glanced at my awakened beast and panicked, reaching for the door. I swiftly grabbed him with one arm and lifted him up, marveling in how utterly light he was. “Look here you little prick, you’re going to stand there and be a good little bitch while I experiment. In fact, I think you need to suck this huge meat.”

I tossed him onto the floor and walked up to him. He began to whimper and cry, but I wasn’t going to have any of it. I wanted to fuck his mouth hard and rough. I wanted him to feel the despair and sadness I’ve felt for years. I grabbed his head, pulling him by some of the hair he still had and I thrust my cock into his face. “Suck it bitch,” I growled, “and suck it like you mean it.”

Donald hesitated and I gripped him tighter and shoved my thick cock into his mouth. I could feel his jaw stretching to accommodate my now amazing dick. His mouth felt warm around my cock and it hit all sides of his mouth at once. I moaned slightly as I looked down and saw Donald’s eyes watering. I smiled and thrust my cock a bit deeper into his throat, eliciting a gag from my former tormentor. I then ran my left hand up to the top of my chest and slowly unbuttoned it, sensually and slowly, drinking in the sensations of the smooth fabric caressing my skin. I used my right hand to guide Donald in his sucking, apply pressure to the back of his head when he tried to slide further off it.

I finished unbuttoning the shirt and started rubbing my swollen pecs and my new chiseled abs. The muscle felt so good against my calloused hands and I could feel a load building in my balls. I held off the explosion a bit longer so I could flex and explore a bit more. I released Donald’s head and grunted, “Keep sucking that cock little man.”

I raised my right arm up and flexed a bit. I could see the muscle bulge under the shirt and I ran my left hand up the sleeve to feel the muscle. I moaned aloud, never knowing feeling muscle like this or having this kind of muscle could feel so fucking good. I looked into the mirror and saw how perfect I was. Raising both my arms up, I did a double biceps pose. Damn I was too sexy. I could feel myself about to shoot and I shoved my cock down Donald’s throat and unleashed a torrent of cum that was larger than all my orgasms before. I could hear Donald choking on my manhood and I kept shooting down his throat before pulling my cock out and spraying his face with my milky liquid.

He started to stand up but I placed my hand on his shoulder and kept him on his knees. “Swallow it all now,” I commanded as he looked up at me. He did, with great trepidation, swallow the load that I had left him. I glanced back at the mirror and smiled. This is how it was going to be from now on. Donald, the former big man on campus, on his knees, face to face with my huge cock and covered in jizz. “Yeah, I think this is a great start,” I said as I stuffed my softening meat back into my trousers and buttoned up my shirt. “Now clean yourself up and get back to work.”

Donald remained on the floor, muttering to himself as I placed my jacket back on. I unlocked the bathroom and chuckled as I went back to the main floor. I walked to where my desk used to be and noticed that it had changed too. Instead of having the various decorations that I possessed, now it was completely different. Scattered about were mugs and pictures and other items, all depicting Donald’s new life. I smirked as I continued about the floor, greeting and being greeted by the artists. Seems that everyone loved me now just as much as they did when before. I strolled up to the corner office and peered in, gazing at the various trinkets and items that were strewn about.

Each picture and item depicted a smart jock, which I had become. There were bodybuilding medals and pictures of me at the gym. My gym bag sat in the chair on the right side of my office. There were sports posters and bodybuilding items scatter about and my artist easel had a promotion for the latest bodybuilding supplement that I was working on. The whole area had an aura of manliness that I knew came from me. I sat down at my desk and picked up the phone to answer my voice mail. One message was from the guys at the gym, inviting me out for brews after we got finished working out. Another was from a hot chick thanking me for last night. The third was from a guy who saw me in the gym and was offering me 300 dollars to pose for him and let him worship my muscles.

I leaned back in my chair and looked around my office, absorbing the details about my new life. I would’ve been crazy to give this up. My life is full of fun and friends, I have a body to die for and best of all, I can make Donald suck my cock whenever I feel like it. I flexed my arm a few more times and said to myself, “Yeah, I do like how the scales have been balanced.”