Storytelling Competition - (click for the map) | (printer friendly version)
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||You are on Week 433
Every week we will be starting a new Story Telling competition - with great prizes! The current prize is 2000 NP, plus a rare item!!! This is how it works...
We start a story and you have to write the next few paragraphs. We will select the best submissions every day and put it on the site, and then you have to write the next one, all the way until the story finishes. Got it? Well, submit your paragraphs below!
Story Four Hundred Thirty Three Ends Friday, October 16
Sedrik looked down at the Neopoints in his paw, up at the frowning vendor's face, and then back down at his money.
"How much did you say it was?" he asked, smiling sheepishly at the street vendor.
"Thirty-five Neopoints, kid, now do you want this pasty or not?" the Yurble asked, waving the warm, steaming pasty at Sedrik.
"Yes! It's just... do you have change for a 200 NP coin? It's all I have."
The vendor tossed the pasty back onto the pile in disgust. "I don't make change. Now either buy something or clear off!"
"Fine," Sedrik muttered as he walked away. His stomach growled noisily and he pressed his paw against it. He knew he should've just gone to one of the regular food shops in Sakhmet, but he'd been feeling homesick that morning, and that particular vendor was the only one in the Lost Desert who sold pasties that tasted like the Breadmaster himself had baked them.
The Bori wandered the bustling streets of Sakhmet for a while, trying to find something to buy or sniffing for some other snack that would tempt him, but it was no use. "Well, it couldn't hurt to ask another merchant to make change for me, I guess. These Sakhmetians seem so touchy about their money, though."
Sedrik ducked into a small tent with a strange sign out front that advertised "The Finest in Lost Desert Oddities," whatever that meant. Inside, he found a few shelves full of dusty junk and a small Mynci behind the counter.
"Hello, would it be possible for you to make change for this 200 NP coin?" Sedrik asked politely.
The Mynci jerked as if Sedrik had pricked her with a pin, her already large eyes widening even more. "I don't know," she squeaked. "Perhaps, if you made a purchase of one of the precious things of the shop..."
The Bori shook his head. "Sorry, I browsed a little bit, but they're all out of my price range. Could you please just give me some smaller NP coins in exchange for this one?" He held out the 200 NP coin to the Mynci, who flinched back as if Sedrik had offered her a spitting Reptillior.
"I... I'll have to ask my manager," she whispered and ducked behind a piece of cloth that Sedrik had assumed was the back wall of the tent.
The Mynci was gone for what seemed like hours. Trying to distract himself from his gnawing hunger pangs, Sedrik looked at the strange objects on the shelves a few times, but finally he couldn't bear it anymore.
"Hello? Is anyone there? I just need some change..." He walked around the counter and pulled back the curtain the Mynci had stepped behind...
Author: There's nothing for you here!|
Date: Oct 12th
...and into the cool darkness of a hallway, patterned with tiles so intricate and beautiful that the Bori was loathe to even gaze upon them.
The tent sure didn't look this big from the outside...
None of what he was seeing made sense, the hallway seemed to stretch on and on, the Bori squinting into the darkness only distance can cause and having the unsettling feeling that should he venture further, he was only going to see more hallway.
At least it explained what was taking the Mynci so long, although it certainly raised more questions than it solved.
Cautiously, the Bori stepped forward, leaving the cushy sandiness of the tent floor and playing a paw onto the shimmering tiles. It was like he imagined walking on water must be, tantalisingly cool and inviting.
"Hello? I don't mean to be a bother..."
Was the pasty really worth this?
Who was he kidding? It wasn't about the pasty at this stage. How often do you stumble upon a Sakhmetian oddity like this? Even if Sedrik had been the type to turn and bolt in fear, the dark, cool hallway seemed to have its own siren's appeal, lulling and tempting, inviting him to enter and explore.
As Sedrik took another step forward, the paw still clutching the flap of the tent door released the sturdy fabric, which fluttered lazily back into place. A strange sound, almost like china settling upon china caused the Bori to spin around, eyes widening in shock and concern at what he saw. Where seconds ago had fluttered the heavy canvas of the tent there was now nothing but more of the beautiful, intricate tiles, delicately patterned and utterly motionless.
As if the tent had never existed.
The Bori's hunger pangs quickly became a thing of the past as he puzzled the situation out. Claws tentatively slipped over the tiles that had obscured his exit, seeking a hidden catch or concealed doorknob, but nothing except the dainty patterns and cool panels found his touch. If there was a way out, it wasn't going to be through the wall.
Inhaling slowly and trying to ignore the trembling butterflies that seemed to have taken up residence in the pit of his stomach, Sedrik turned around and slowly began wandering through the hallway. The patterns of tiles, so beautiful moments ago, became almost hypnotic. Identical and strange, the sheer number of them mesmerised him. They were patterned with swirls and triangles, as if depicting the sands and pyramids of the desert in their most abstract form, each eleventh triangle with a large, shimmering sphere above it.
The Bori leant in, squinting slightly. The sphere that indicated the sun really only occurred ever several feet or so, due to the impressive size of the tiles. It was strange, indented a little while the other patterns seemed painted on. As Sedrik studied the glittering shape, something occurred to him.
They're not just meant to be the sun... they're some kind of button.
Gently he allowed a claw to trace one of the shapes, feeling it give a little under the pressure. There must have been at least thirty of them in this section of the hallway. He could continue wandering into the darkness and hope that somehow he tripped over the Mynci or an exit, or he could take his chances and see what pressing one of the strange spheres did.
A glance at the endless infinity of the shadowed hallway confirmed it. With a determined sigh, the Bori sank his claw into the sun, which regressed into the wall with a loud, grinding moan...
Date: Oct 12th
Slowly, the surrounding tiles seemed to retreat backward, revealing a tired old wooden door behind them. It looked quite out of place in the hallway, just as the tent flap had done.
Sedrik barely hesitated as he reached for the door and slowly turned the knob.
The room inside stunk of dung and ill-kept food. The dust of Sakhmet was one thing, but this place almost offended his senses.
To his surprise, Sedrik found that it was a shop.
Just like the desert tent, the shelves were full of dusty old junk that was well out of the Bori's price range. The walls here were not made of fabric, though; instead they seemed to be made of a more robust wood.
Sedrik ducked his head outside of the shop for a moment.
A scene of green fields greeted him. A distinctive white castle on the horizon confirmed the location.
Somehow, Sedrik was in Meridell.
He ducked back into the shop, noting that the sign outside read, "The Finest in Ye Olde Meridell Oddities."
A small gasp from behind the shop's counter alerted Sedrik to the fact that he wasn't alone.
A small elderly Shoyru who was herself so covered in dust that she seemed to blend in with the shelves behind her had woken from her sleep.
"Can... can I help?" she asked, as if the prospect of a customer was something she hadn't encountered in a long time.
"I..." Sedrik glanced back toward the wooden door he had arrived through. "I'm not sure you can. I'm from the Lost Desert."
The Shoyru stiffened slightly, "Not local, then?"
"No, most certainly not," Sedrik explained. "I was in a shop in the Sakhmet, and the shopkeeper there was getting me some change. I followed her into her back room and..."
Sedrik glanced around the shop, not exactly sure what had happened to him.
The elderly Shoyru stared at him.
"You went through the back room?" she asked.
Sedrik nodded. "Yes, I think so; it was more of a corridor really."
"I'll have to get the manager," the Shoyru replied, turning toward the wooden door. "You wait here."
"Now wait!" Sedrik called out. "The Mynci back in the Lost Desert said she was getting the manager and she never came back. Just what is going on here? What kind of shop has rooms all over the planet?"
"It's a franchise," she answered plainly as if that explained everything. "Now, you wait here, I'll be back before you know it."
"No!" Sedrik shouted, following the Shoyru toward the door. "If you're going somewhere then I'm coming as well. I'd like to... er... launch a formal complaint. I'd like to see the manager!"
The Shoyru sighed slightly and grabbed the doorknob, "All right then..."
Date: Oct 13th
The Shoyru led him back through the wooden door without a backward glance. Apparently she wasn't too worried about anyone approaching her shop while she was away.
They walked back down the endless hallway. Sedrik slowly started to notice different pictures emerging and realised they probably held a clue to the location of the shop within.... or on the outside... or he wasn't really sure. He was just amazed this secret underground franchise actually existed. He'd never heard of such a thing.
He walked by a large outline of a palm tree, concluding that shop must be located somewhere in Mystery Island, but the Shoyru marched on dutifully past. Next was a giant snowflake that the Bori could only assume led to Terror Mountain. Yet another picture, this one a skull and crossbones... Krawk Island, perhaps.
But the old Shoyru continued to walk until she finally stopped abruptly, Sedrik running into the back of her.
They had halted in front of a picture of a door, which was actually a door that led to another door... if that made sense.
The Shoyru reached out touching the tiled doorknob, and the door in the picture slid aside to reveal another wooden door, this one ornately decorated and pristine-looking.
She opened it without hesitation. Sedrik expected to see a manager's office of sorts. Maybe a small room full of filing cabinets, calendars, merchandise. Maybe with a large wooden desk where a surly Neopet would be sitting counting a large pile of Neopoints.
Instead, an icy blast hit his face and he gasped at the sudden chill that surrounded him. He looked around confused and saw they were standing in yet another shop, this one full of scratchcards, Candychan plushies, and Neggs.
A chuckling red Chia stood near the front laughing and shouting to customers, but he turned as the two Neopets entered his shop.
"Hey," he said accusingly. "You can't be back there. Now leave or I'll have to get my manager."
"That's odd," the Shoyru muttered, frowning. "This wasn't the door for Terror Mountain..."
Date: Oct 13th
Sedrik decided to give the Shoyru the benefit of the doubt. The pet was old, and perhaps age had taken its toll on her memory.
"Hey!" the Chia shouted again, but Sedrik and the Shoyru were already backing up. The door behind them had not yet disappeared, and the Bori shut it, returning to the hall of intricate tiles.
The old Shoyru was tracing the tiles with a paw. "Something's wrong."
"Maybe you picked the wrong one?" Sedrik suggested.
The other pet shook her head. "I've been working here longer than you can imagine. It's true I don't have the most exciting post, but it doesn't mean I don't know my way around this place. The door leads to the manager's office."
"Does every employee know that?" the Bori wondered aloud, thinking of the skittish Mynci that he'd encountered in the Lost Desert wing... the one who had yet to return.
"Knowing your way around is the first thing any new recruit learns," replied the employee. She frowned and fiddled with the doorknob button again. The wall slid back to reveal the same elegantly carved door of aged wood. Tentatively, she opened it.
Hot air gusted inward, bane to the frigid wind of Terror Mountain that this portal had so recently led to. The view was clearly of Tyrannia, and the mass of vaguely sculpted stone lumps scattered throughout the customer-empty shop proved it. The fact that it was devoid of customers seemed obvious to Sedrik -- the flooring was made of dung.
A blue Grarrl lounging boredly on two chunks of stone looked over at the pair emerging from the back door and scowled.
"Ugga uggoh gog!"
But Sedrik had already hastily closed the door before the angry -- and primitive-looking -- Neopet could advance.
"Terror Mountain and Tyrannia from the same portal..." whispered the Shoyru, looking purely uneasy. "Why?"
The Bori shrugged, suddenly wondering if any wing of the franchise sold pasties.
"There's only one possible reason the portals could be malfunctioning..." The Shoyru bit her lip. "What did the button you pressed to get to Meridell look like?"
Sedrik thought for a half minute. "It was a sun, I think."
The Shoyru groaned. "Even more proof. The sun leads to Altador -- at least, it should. The button that takes you to my shop is a shield with Meridell's ensign. If the portals are breaking, it could have very well deposited you into a black hole, or in the bottom of the Maraquan sea. We need to initiate a lockdown before that actually happens."
Sedrik gulped at the thought of the two situations the shopkeeper brought up. "How could this happen?"
The Shoyru's face was grim. "It means that somebody's kidnapped the manager..."
Date: Oct 14th
Sedrik sighed. "All this for a pasty," he muttered.
The Shoyru was also muttering avidly to herself -- something to do with doors and buttons.
"So what do we do then?" Sedrik asked, eyeing the door that had led to Terror Mountain and Tyrannia cautiously, as if it could break open and reveal gushing water at any moment.
The Shoyru looked pensive for a few seconds. "I don't know. This situation certainly wasn't in the handbook. Now if there was a sudden inflation in the price of turnips, that'd be a different story."
Sedrik could see that this conversation could easily have the Shoyru going off on a tangent. She seemed to be very well versed in the rules of the franchise. "Oh Fyora," he breathed.
"Tell me about it. When that book Gourmet Cooking for Your Pet inflated, our Neopian Central branch went crazy. Imagine what'd happen if turnips increased in value. I don't know if my poor store could take that."
"What about the manager?" Sedrik quickly interrupted, not wanting to stay in the strange hallway for longer than he needed to. He just wanted to get back to Sakhmet.
"Oh right, him," the Shoyru said, as if she'd completely forgotten about what had just happened. "I can't imagine that my manager would be taken without anything being amiss."
Sedrik raised an eyebrow. "You mean apart from the doorways being all messed up?"
"I mean in here. He's not the type to just get taken without leaving some sort of a clue," the Shoyru replied, giving Sedrik a momentary glare.
"Well, we can't exactly go around pressing buttons and hoping we find the right door."
The Shoyru shook her head. "No, of course not. I don't want to end up in the Haunted Woods -- that place gives me the creeps."
"Then I guess we'll just have to look around here," Sedrik suggested in reply.
The Shoyru led the way, walking far more briskly than Sedrik could. Besides, he was far too busy looking at all of the different buttons that protruded from the wall. Buttons shaped like pyramids, faerie wings, the Brightvale star, and even some symbols he didn't recognise. The hallways seemed to go on forever.
Sedrik was pulled away from his thoughts about the endless symbols when he walked straight into the Shoyru for the second time that day.
He half-expected to be chided for not looking where he was going, but instead the Meridell shopkeeper said nothing, and just seemed to stare down at the floor in front of them.
"There's a note..."
Date: Oct 14th
The Bori traced the Shoyru's gaze toward the floor, studying the curled piece of paper with interest. He had just stooped to pick it up when the Shoyru shrieked, causing him to straighten up so fast that his head spun.
"What? What is it?"
He half-expected her to explain that the note was the secret doorway into a portal that led to the most arid regions of Kreludor, but the Shoyru merely bent down and picked up the paper with a dignified look.
"All company property must only be handled by members of the franchise."
The Bori sighed, rolling his eyes in a discreet fashion and trying to peer over the Shoyru's shoulder, scanning each line that was scrawled in a rather messy hand.
Having watched with concern the effect of your franchise on the Neopian market I have removed your manager from his position. Consider this a hostile takeover.
The Bori blinked slowly as the Shoyru turned the paper over, as if searching for a signature or some hidden clue as to who had left the letter. She was still studying the blank parchment when Sedrik coughed and spoke up.
"What does that mean?"
The Shoyru frowned slightly, shaking her head.
"I suppose it means that the manager has been taken so that somebody can take over the company. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, we do have a massive profit margin, you know."
Sedrik contemplated telling her that he didn't know and indeed, that until hunger had driven him into the Lost Desert store he had possessed no idea that the franchise existed. Instead, he let the Shoyru continue her soft ramblings, suspecting she was trying to find some thread of reason within the confusing situation.
"Because we sell a bit of this and that, no matter what inflates in Neopia we reap the rewards. The manager gets paid terribly well, invests all his money in the Meridell potato market. Terrible lot of money in potatoes, you know."
Sedrik shook his head, having no idea about the Meridell potato market. All his money went into his little savings account at the Neopia Central bank, where he collected a small amount of interest each day. Having enough to invest in anything was a concept he suspected he wouldn't ever be familiar with. He was lost in the daydream of what life would be like as a rich Neopian when he became aware the Shoyru was still rambling.
"So it has to be someone who is aware of what goes on in Neopia. Someone who understands money. Someone who..."
Sedrik glanced up expectantly, waiting for her to continue. The Shoyru slowly turned the piece of paper over in her hands, drawing an exasperated sigh from Sedrik.
"Someone who what?"
The Shoyru's gaze drifted down the hallway in the direction they had just come from, a puzzled expression on her face.
"Someone who understands a good investment..."
Date: Oct 15th
"And that would be...?" Sedrik asked, exasperation trickling into his voice. The Shoyrun had trailed off again, and was staring at the ceiling, a curious look crossing her face.
Sedrik tapped her lightly on the shoulder; she jumped, but it managed to stir her out of her reverie. "Oh, I don't know," she said, regarding him with wide eyes. "Someone. There are a lot of somebodys out there, you know."
She frowned. "None of them good."
Well, that was kind of anti-climactic, Sedrik mused to himself. "So... what now?"
The Shoyru blinked. "Well, we... have to find someone, don't we?"
"Oh, right. That's who we have to find." She paused. "Where is he again?"
Sedrik sighed and pointed to the note in her hands. The Shoyru blinked and looked at the note as if she were seeing it for the very first time.
"I see," she glanced up suddenly and walked over to the wall, pushing one of the tiles before Sedrik could blink.
"Wait! I thought you said it was dangerous to open a door when the portals were broken!"
"Did I?" wondered the Shoyru, but the tiles were already retreating and gave way to a worn door.
Sedrik sighed and was about to say something -- but whatever thought crossed his mind floated away as soon as movement caught his eye.
The recently revealed door was opening...
Date: Oct 15th
...and it led not to a shop or a breeze from faraway land, but a void.
That was just it. There was nothing there. Not as in a lack of anything interesting filling the space between the archway; there was a blackness, a void, something plucked from the very fabric of a child's nightmare and woven behind a wooden frame.
Sedrik's eyes bugged. It looked like she really had opened up a gateway into a black hole. There was even a certain quality to it, something tugging... he took a hasty step back.
The Shoyru didn't seem remotely fazed, as if this was her standard routine. "Come on, I'm not getting any younger here."
Sedrik blanched. "I wouldn't jump into that even if the portals were working right!"
"This portal," the employee explained, "doesn't work like the rest of them. It has no finite location. It takes you where you need to go, and nowhere else."
The Bori gave the shimmering blackness a wary glance. "Seems kind of powerful to just leave lying around, don't you think? Couldn't it be used for... I don't know, bad things?" he finished lamely.
The Shoyru was affronted. "We take great pride in our work. No employee would ever stoop so low as to using this for unorthodox purposes."
"And this is orthodox?" Sedrik felt compelled to point out.
"I believe it's in the rulebook that we're allowed to use any means necessary to rescue a kidnapped comrade." She pulled out a very thick volume and began to leaf through it. "Shall I search for it for you?"
"Uh, no, that's fine."
She put the book away. "Anyway, we shouldn't be able to use this. I don't know why it's even working. Only the manager can access it. But hey, I'm not going to complain."
"Then how do you know if it's even going to work ri--aaarrghhh!"
Calmly, the Shoyru shoved the Bori into the yawning blackness, and then casually bounded in after him.
Everything spun and twisted in indistinct and fuzzy shapes that floated in half-light, and Sedrik tried to scream, but the scream was locked in his throat as he hurtled through...
With an oof, the Bori was unceremoniously deposited on an oaken floor. The Shoyru landed behind him in a slightly more graceful -- or perhaps just practiced -- fashion.
Sedrik glared at her.
The Shoyru wasn't even looking at him. "Rule #3437; in cases where it would be beneficial, profitable, or otherwise favourable to our work, you may use force in order to spur a less motivated co-worker into success."
"I'm not your co-worker!" Sedrik said pointedly.
"Situationally, you are. Now quiet down. You kids are so noisy." She looked around, and despite himself, so did the Bori.
"It's the manager's office..." she said slowly.
Sedrik could believe that. The walls were a rich, dark wood, as was the large and paper-strewn teak-trimmed desk in the center of the room. The chairs all had lush velvet cushions, and the floor shone with varnish. Candles wavered in their holders on the wall, casting a wan but warm light over the room.
It was empty, but there was no sign of a struggle...
"But why..." The Shoyru looked around. "What kind of hostile takeover doesn't show any signs of the act? Whatever ruffian is behind all of this has absolutely no--"
And then the Shoyru gave a little gasp.
"Where did you get that?"
The Shoyru was pointing at his sleeve. Bemused, Sedrik looked down at the red knit pattern.
"This shirt? Uni's Fine Clothing. Winter sale."
On any other day, the faithful employee might have let out a hiss of distaste at the mention of her franchise's sworn enemy in the wearables department, but she was too perturbed to care. She exhaled an impatient sigh. "No. That coin."
"Oh." Sedrik had completely forgotten that he was holding the small 200 NP coin. "Uh, I don't remember. I..." It came to him then. "Oh! Back when I was in the Lost Desert, I found it in the sand. I thought I was really lucky, because it would buy me breakfast. But..."
He stopped, because it was clear the Shoyru wasn't listening anymore.
"That's not a coin," she whispered. "It's a key... His key..."
"And I," said a third voice, stepping fluidly from the shadows, "should have taken that from you when I first had the chance..."
Date: Oct 16th
"Well, why didn't you?" Sedrik was tempted to ask, looking into the pasty vendor's face. If only he'd gotten rid of that 200 NP coin, he'd have avoided all this trouble of running around getting dragged through portals. And best of all, he'd no longer be hungry...
But he found himself mute, his voice seized by an unfathomable fear. Both the Yurble and the Shoyru were staring at the coin in his hand. He did not like the looks on their faces.
"I thought it'd be safe with a poor foreigner like you," the Yurble went on, seeming to talk to the coin rather than to Sedrik. "That's why I let it drop in your path. I knew no Sakhmetian vendor with any business sense would accept such a weird coin. I expected you would ultimately take it back with you to Neopia Central, making my takeover complete. I planned to seal off the manager's office from the rest of Neopia by casting its key into the mindless consumer populace..."
The Shoyru patted her thick volume, smiling mirthlessly. "Rule #4244," she cited. "Business competitors will always clash, no matter how hard they may each try to be original."
"So that is your manager's theory, is it?" The vendor's face turned an ugly colour. "Domination, monopolisation, no tolerance for any competition?"
"I did not say that," the Shoyru replied calmly.
"Well, I am playing the same game," said the Yurble. "I am tired of losing customers to the pastry branch of your franchise. There will be domination in the market, indeed. Except this time I will be the dominator."
"You can't," said the Shoyru.
"And why not?"
With a movement so quick it confounded Sedrik's vision, the coin was swept out of his grip by two equally fierce hands. Sedrik landed on his back with a yell, and the coin arced over his head, turning heads over tails, tails over heads, glittering like an unreachable dream...
Both the loyal employee and the would-be dominator leapt into the air, touching the coin with a force that burned Sedrik's eyes. There was an impossibly bright flash, an impossibly loud clash. Many shops in many worlds seemed to streak past like plummeting comets. And then there was nothing.
Except for the heavy book which fluttered down and landed with a solid thunk.
The oak-panelled office shuddered.
Sedrik climbed slowly back to his feet. He wandered around the office for a while, gazing dumbly at the framed charts and the myriad folders. Then he became aware of someone groaning. Crouching to look under the great table, he traced the source of the misery to a large, well-dressed figure. A Skeith in a tight-fitting suit, bound up in vicious cables.
Sedrik fetched a penknife. The simple workings of the knife were almost comforting to him, after having gone through such bewildering adventures. The Skeith lay still, utterly within his trust, while he cut loose the terrible binds. Then he found a paper cup, filled it with water from a fancy fountain, and in a short time the Skeith was back in the large leather armchair, authoritatively clearing his throat.
"You're the manager of the company?" said Sedrik.
"Yes," said the Skeith. "You have abided well by the rule of rescuing a kidnapped comrade."
"I'm glad to have been of help," Sedrik replied. "One of your employees, though, a Shoyru, I don't know what happened to her. And the key is gone too."
The Skeith waved his hand dismissively. "That is no matter. Employees can be re-hired and keys can be re-forged. Now, what would you like in return for your excellent work?"
"Well... I wouldn't mind some Neopoints," said Sedrik slowly, thrown by the manager's seeming nonchalance about his employee's mysterious disappearance. "I started this day hungry."
"And the size of your loan would be?" the manager pulled out a notebook.
Sedrik stared back, unable to answer. He couldn't believe the enormity of the manager's selfishness. The day's adventures whirled again in his head, the endless corridor, the glimmering symbols. Suddenly he no longer felt hungry.
"Actually, I changed my mind," he stammered. "Um, have a good time managing your business. I must be on my way."
Back in the endless hall, Sedrik stumbled determinedly toward the Neopia Central icon. He had one destination in mind: the Breadmaster's bakery. It was the only concrete thing in his world right now, and he intended, subsequently, to forget all the abstract things that had made him so unhappy.
A pasty, he sighed to himself. The simplest pleasure. The most comprehensible.
Date: Oct 16th
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