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||You are on Week 475
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 Seventy Five Ends Friday, September 10
"But you didn't want revenge!" Reza cried. "We made a promise! Have you forgotten!? We decided that we had to move forward, we had to start over! "
Troy's blazing claws clenched, and the flames crept closer to his heart. Why couldn't she see?
"We can't move forward!" he yelled, the inferno around his back and wings flaring. She flinched, and so did something inside him. The molten core inside him recoiled momentarily, and the locket swayed against his neck before vanishing into his fires. "Because our past is in the way! How can we forget what they did to us?! Are you going to forgive them?" His tail lashed, leaving swirling flames in its wake.
"You're letting those monsters use you like a puppet!" she shouted back. "Do you think that they care what happened to us? Do you think they're really trying to help you?"
Troy faltered, and the voices came again, taunting him, challenging him.
Will you reject us that easily?
Do you want to be as weak as you were before us?
Stay with us, and you will be revered.
Your revenge will be glorious.
Everything you ever wanted will belong to you.
"It's the only way," Troy whispered. It broke Reza's heart to hear her younger brother's voice coming from that... that thing, not when she couldn't see a trace of him in his eyes.
"Brother, please..." The Aisha girl hesitated, fighting against the desire to run up and tug at the great, fiery monster her brother had become as if she could drag him back to sanity, back to the way things had been -- and she didn't know why she was resisting it. Not because she thought she had a chance, but because without him, there was no point. They'd been together ever since the accident -- sharing their memories, their triumphs, their pain. They were all that they had left.
And now the Three had taken Troy away from her.
The tears that she'd held within finally spilled over, a pure rain to wash away the ashes that had settled five years before.
"Please... don't go where I can't follow."
His sister never cried.
Something inside Troy broke.
Reza watched as the great, molten beast Troy had become shuddered and thrashed, its size inflating and shrinking like a wave on a high storm. There was a series of crashes and snaps -- vortexes of flames spun around him and choked out as Troy struggled with the darkness they'd filled him with. It fought back, threatening to snuff out his very self as he grappled with the void.
At last, one molten claw reached inside his fiery mane and pierced the amulet inside.
He heard three voices screaming, and then blackness.
With one final burst of light and heat, the towers of molten rock and fire collapsed on themselves, leaving an ordinary Draik sprawled in a heap of ash.
"Troy?" At last, her legs finally responding, she ran to him as fast as she could and knelt by his stirring form. "Troy!?"
"I'm sorry." He coughed as he tried to pull himself to his feet, clearing the smoke from his lungs. "I was an idiot. I never wanted to hurt you, I just... I..."
Her paw curled around his waist, supporting him; she offered the other to him.
"We just have to keep moving forward."
He took it and got back to his feet.
Editor's Note: This week's Storytelling beginning was written by Dianacat777. This story will be written in reverse, so the next entry should tell next-to-last part of the story and so on. Thanks!
Date: Sep 7th
"It's the locket!" Kelver shouted. He slammed the book closed and jumped to his hooves triumphantly. Then he looked at the clock. Eleven-thirty. They still had half an hour before it would be too late. "That's how we missed it!"
"What?" Reza looked up from her book. "That's not possible. He's had that since the accident. I gave it to him. I gave it to him and promised we'd never have to feel the pain of separation again. When... when I promised him I'd be his sister forever and ever."
"I know why we didn't see it before now either. Listen, Reza, it's not really the locket, but if we convince him to destroy it, he'll be free. The Three imprinted on it -- that's how they got in to his mind; that's how they corrupted him in the first place. He shut out their voices, and they found a way back in."
The Kau clambered across the room, his hooves clicking on the stone floor, and he gently tugged Reza's "I Survived the Haunted Woods" T-Shirt. "Reza, he didn't betray you."
The Aisha smiled for the first time in weeks. "You're sure?"
"Of course, I'm sure! Look," he trotted back across the room, retrieved the book, and flipped it to the right page. "Here, it says that the Three have been known to manifest as things other than thoughts -- shadows, voices in the night. They could easily have imprinted on a locket, too. But we have to hurry. Time's almost up."
Kelver closed the book again. Firelight danced across the surface, illuminating the title: The Gallery of Evil: How to Spot it and What to Do About It. The light didn't come from a fireplace or even a lamp. It streamed in through the window, the cast-off of the Haunted Woods' latest landmark. The tower burned and burned, though it was never consumed by the fire, and it lit the entire forest like a second sun.
"Let's go!" The Aisha too sprang up. She grabbed her coat from the coat rack and zipped it up. "On second thought," she whispered, and took the coat off again. Reza plucked at her shirt. "I want this to show."
The two best friends, Kau and Aisha, sprinted through the night. They heard the ghoulish howls of the Haunted Woods' denizens, but didn't take any notice. They dashed around trees and darted over dangerous roots without caring that a single misstep could foil their rescue attempt. Instead, they had only the clock to consider, the precious seconds that were slowly ticking out. Ticking so loudly, in fact, that both pets could hear the twirling second hands in their ears, even though there wasn't a clock nearby.
They leaped and ran and twisted through the mesh of the Haunted Woods, dodging houses and buildings and Test Your Strength until they could both feel the heat of the tower's flames.
"I'll go in with you," Kelver offered.
Reza shook her head. "No, I need to do this on my own. He might not believe me if you're there. Kelver -- thanks for everything -- I..." She trailed off and stepped through the small, flameless gap that passed as a front door.
Everything inside was consumed by flames. There were wooden tables and chairs, preserved against the heat by some foul magic, and standing in the midst of it all, cackling, grinning in a way that tore at Reza's heart, was her adopted brother.
He saw her enter and laughed louder, loudly enough to nearly drown out the flames. "Reza! You're just in time! Come, sister. Soon I'll have my revenge. And yours..."
Date: Sep 7th
"I just don't know which pieces are missing." Kelver muttered, tracing the edges of each page he read with the tip of his hoof -- a nervous habit he developed as a child.
"You're a genius, Kel. Figure it out." Reza paced to and from the walls of the study, inhaling the familiar scent of mothballs when she passed an oakwood desk centred in the carpeted section of the room.
Father, she thought, show us something. Anything. Troy, he's -- it's just like what happened to you. The Three have returned, Father. Just as you predicted!
Her head snapped up to find her friend shoving a book toward her irritably, turning the page in his own book hard enough to tear. "If you're just going to stand there and fall asleep, you ought to at least give me a hand here."
The clock ticked mockingly as books were torn apart. Time. They were running out of time.
Reza read many reports of siblings cursed by the Three. None of them had any connection whatsoever to their father -- no similarities in appearance, occupation, history -- everything was a blank. She slammed the record onto the table for the fourth time in the last hour, rattling Kelver's water glass and knocking over the immense pile of already read files he had accumulated.
"Nothing," she hissed, "nothing at all."
"We can't give up now. We haven't read all the reports, and there's plenty of them left on the shelves we haven't even opened yet--"
"But just look at the situation, Kelver! And look at us!"
"Look at us," she repeated. "We knew better than to challenge the Three. Save the world? The Victims?" She scoffed half-heartedly, no longer choking back defeat. "What delusions have we dug ourselves into this time?"
Kelver examined his friend from afar. This wasn't like her -- at all. Reza was the type of Neopet who would never, under any circumstances, abandon her loved ones, and here she was giving up on her brother?
He remained silent as he opened yet another record, pushing up his glasses wordlessly and turning toward the Aisha, eyes unreadable. "I am going to save him," he said simply, "and for the sake of your father, bring peace to this matter."
Reza looked as if she had just been punched in the stomach. Kelver focused on his work, eyes narrowing.
Several minutes passed before Reza slammed yet another book to the table, knocking off Kelver's glasses and earning a rather startled expression from the Kau. Reza opened the book to where she'd left off and glued her eyes to the pages. "Sorry about that, Kel," she said with a grin. "The heat must be getting to me."
There it is, Kelver thought, smirking. It's about time you started getting serious, Reza.
Silence set in yet again until midnight, when Kel let out a startled gasp and started choking on the water he was drinking. He set the glass down with purpose, his head snapping up with his epiphany. "R-Reza, I.. It's..."
Date: Sep 8th
"Troy?" Reza called from the porch. She dropped her grocery bags, spilling assorted Almost Gummy Rats across the welcome mat; she'd bought them as a pick-me-up for her brother. But, when she turned into the driveway, the Aisha noticed immediately that the front door was open, the latch splintered, and the vase that always stood just inside the hall, shattered.
"Troy!" she screamed. She gave up on the sweets and pushed the door open cautiously. She heard hoofbeats clomping up the path and retreated into the hallway.
"Reza, it's just me," a Kau called.
"Kelver, you scared me!"
"No more than that brother of yours scared me. Right after you left, he stormed out screaming about how he'd finally realised what he has to do to rid himself of this shadow. Reza, I swear I tried to stop him. It's like he didn't even hear me."
"W-what?" the Aisha stammered. "He did all this himself?"
"It's like he was crazed, or possessed, or something. I don't know where he went. I'm sorry."
"No, no, no. No. No! He was just getting over all this!"
The Kau stepped close to his friend, offering her a shoulder to cry on. "I'm sure he'll be fine. He's done stuff like this before."
"But not this. Kelver, he never lies to me. He'd never betray me like this, not after he promised..."
"Come on. Let's go inside. I'll warm up some Borovan. Reza, he'll come home.
The Aisha sniffed, but allowed Kelver to lead her inside and sit her down in one of the kitchen chairs. She found an interesting black spot on the wall to stare at while he fished a pot out of one of her cabinets and set it to heat over the fire.
"Kelver, do you ever think this will be behind us? I mean, the memories will never go away, but will we ever be able to move past it? Father did a terrible thing, but everyone admits it wasn't his fault. What happened to Troy, to me... that was just an accident, wasn't it?"
"Trust your memory and yourself and your brother. It'll get better, you just have to work at it, and remember that he lost far more than you did. His desire for revenge is stronger than yours, and he unders--"
Kelver's speech was cut off by Reza's scream. He turned around to see her on her feet, trembling, pointing at the speck on the wall. Choked garbled escaped her mouth, but the Kau couldn't make out a single word. Then he followed her pointing paw and gasped. There on the wall was an all-too-familiar, three-headed shadow.
"It's THEM!" Reza finally screeched.
Laughter filled the room. "He's finally ours. Our prize!"
And the shadow disappeared as quickly as it had come. Reza stood frozen, still pointing at the wall; the speck was gone.
An ethereal voice echoed through the house: "Midnight. At midnight the magic is done, and he will forever belong to the darkness that made him!"
Silence. The two friends shared a glance, both thinking the same thing. The Three.
"No. They couldn't!" Reza cried.
"We might be able to stop them, For good. I have an idea. We can beat the Three!" Kelver jumped up into the air. "I know we can."
"The same way we break shadows -- finding out what's really there. Come on. We just need to find out how they're holding him. We can go through the reports from the Gallery of Evil!"
Kelver was in the hallway and halfway out the door before Reza had decided to try.
By the time she caught up with the Kau, he was already deeply engrossed in a book about the various evil figures of Neopia.
"It must be something about that amulet," he mused. "Apparently it's made up of several smaller pieces, but when I saw it on Troy, it wasn't whole. The only problem is that..."
Date: Sep 8th
"I think that something's wrong with me, Rez," Troy whispered, his eyes wide. He hadn't said what was 'wrong' with him, but Reza could tell from the half-crazed, fearful look in his eyes that he was undergoing the same... transformation that Father had gone through.
"It's still early on in the... process, Troy," Reza said. She wasn't certain of what to call the transformation, but she knew that she couldn't bear losing another member of the family to the curse -- especially so soon after Father had been lost -- and that if it were to happen again, she, too, would lose all sanity.
"I guess so," Troy said, his cheeks flushing, "but I'm still... scared."
Reza was momentarily stunned into silence; Troy hadn't confessed to feeling afraid since what they had been referring to as 'The Incident'. She knew that if he had admitted his fear, he must've felt truly frightened. "Don't worry too much about it," she finally said.
"But --" Troy began to say.
"I'll figure something out, okay?" Reza interrupted before the Draik could finish voicing his and her worst fear. She knew that it was irrational, but she felt that saying the words out loud would make the... situation all the more real.
"Okay," Troy whispered, looking away in what the Aisha guessed might've been irritation.
"This is random, but do you wanna walk down to the corner store with me?" Reza suddenly asked. She thought that they could pick up a few bags of candy there, invite Kelver, and have a mini-party to take Troy's mind off of the situation.
"Nah," Troy said, shaking his head.
"Okay, I'll go by myself," Reza said. "I'll be right back, okay?"
"Okay," Troy said.
Reza leaned forward, hesitating for a moment, and gave the Draik a tight hug that he surprisingly returned. She turned around and headed out the front door. "See ya!" she called over her shoulder.
About half an hour later, Reza was leisurely walking back home with a bag of assorted Almost Gummy Rats grasped in one paw. She was softly humming along to a tune that only she could hear; she was certain that Troy would be cheered up by the treat.
But upon reaching the driveway, the Aisha increased her pace and ceased humming. She could tell that something had gone terribly wrong while she had been absent...
Date: Sep 9th
Troy crashed through the underbrush, through the tangled vines and roots that grasped at his feet as he tried to make his way through the forest of Meridell. Looking back at the small Aisha who struggled to keep up with him, the Draik thought bitterly to himself, Why did I make that promise to Father to watch out for her? To not use my wings and go where she could not follow? With frustration he called over his shoulder, "You have to run faster, Reza, the battlefield is in flames, the trumpets of war are signalling the end, and we must find him."
Reza fought through the pain in her side to keep running, to prove to her new brother that she could be a help to him and not just the burden that he made her out to be. Waving her hand to signal that she was coming as fast as she could, the Aisha dug her feet into the muddy path and surged ahead just as Troy reached the field of war. She nearly slammed into his back as he stopped dead in his tracks.
The wide plains that had once hosted festivals and open air markets and relaxing families with their brightly coloured picnic blankets now smoked in foul black clouds. The green expanses of grass were replaced by mud and muck and the castoffs of battle, the broken swords and lances and abandoned banners. Soldiers lay moaning or stumbling, helped off the battlefield by their companions in arms, returning to their homes as either victors or the vanquished. Troy slowly turned his head to train a withering look at the floating Darigan Citadel, silently cursing the ambitions of those who brought his people to war, regretting once more that he had been too young to fight and protect his beloved homeland of Meridell.
"I see Father!" Reza exclaimed and Troy turned his head to include the Aisha in his look of contempt. She calls him 'Father' so easily, but who is she, really, to us, this orphan of war?
The Draik's bitterness was soon washed away with feelings of triumphant expectation as he followed Reza's pointing finger to where his father was, indeed, struggling to his feet. Troy took to his wings to cut the distance between as quickly as possible and landed by his father's side just in time to lend the aged Yurble a hand. Troy beamed at his father, but the smile was completely erased when he met the other's eyes, eyes that glared cold and grey back at him. The Yurble swiped at his son, knocking him backward into the lumpy mud.
Reza arrived just in time to help her brother to his feet, and as he struggled to escape her grip, the Aisha pointed to the Yurble's chest with a quivering finger. "He... he fought on the side of Darigan, Troy," she whispered, frightened and confused by what she saw.
"Impossible!" Troy screamed. "My father is no traitor to Meridell!" But his voice lacked complete conviction as he, too, could clearly see that his father wore the purple and black of Darigan soldiers on his chestplate. Turning to the Yurble, the Draik said, "Please explain, Father."
The Yurble laughed hollowly and replied in a voice made nearly unrecognisable by contempt, "I thought Darigan would win the war, and I wanted to be on the winning side."
"Enough with this 'Father' business too, I..." the Yurble stopped abruptly and clutched at his head, shaking it back and forth as though trying to loosen something from his mind.
"Troy!" Reza gasped, once more pointing at the Yurble. As the sun set at their backs, their shadows lengthened along the smoking, filthy field, but whereas her own shadow stretched out into a long and thin Aisha-shape, their father's body cast no Yurble form at all: instead he threw three shadows onto the ground, looking for all the world like a Gelert, a Skeith, and a Faerie, all twisting and grappling as though waging a war within the Yurble himself.
His voice, the loving voice they both knew so well, came as though from a great distance, "I was tricked. Troy, Reza, I was tricked and beguiled by greed and ambition and revenge. I lost control and became the one thing that I swore to never be: a traitor. It's over for me, but I want you both to promise me something."
Troy and Reza stood shocked, mute with horror as they watched their father battle the forces that had possessed him. They nodded their heads dumbly, clutching onto each other for support.
The Yurble continued, "You must promise to never give in to these same forces. It will be tempting, possibly unstoppable, but you must promise to never act out of greed or ambition. Most of all, you must swear to never give in to revenge." As the Yurble fell to his knees, he called out, "Promise it!"
Troy broke free from Reza's arms and took a step toward his father. "I promise it."
"I promise it too, Father."
The Yurble turned his head for one last look at the Aisha and, turning his gaze toward the Draik, added, "And promise to take care of your sister."
"I do, Father, I promise it. Always."
Troy took one more hesitant step forward and was forced back by the flames that erupted from inside the Yurble's armour, watching in horror as his father's body transformed into a wisp of black smoke and was gone. The Draik ran forward, picking up the effects that remained behind and cried out, "What now, Father? I promised no revenge, but what do I do now?"
Reza stepped forward and put a gentle paw on her brother's shoulder and said, "We just have to keep moving forward."
"I thought I'd find you in here," Reza said from the doorway. "I wanted to ask about this letter you left out on the table." She waved a folded sheet of paper meaningfully.
"Can you believe it's been five years, Sis?"
The Aisha moved forward thoughtfully, brushing back her long ears as she thought. "Five years today... that's... incredible." She took another step and placed a gentle paw on her brother's shoulder and said, "I know Father would be proud of who you have become."
Troy turned his gaze back to the trunk so that Reza could not see the tears that now stood in his eyes. He reached into a corner and lifted out the chestplate, emblazoned with the Darigan colours that had once belonged to their father, and let it fall again with a hollow thud. Standing up, he carefully placed a hand on the amulet that glowed with warmth beneath his tunic, not wanting his sister to see that he had put it on. I don't know if she will understand what I must do. Better to just leave her out of it. As he gained his feet, Troy grew dizzy, stumbled and fell back against the wall.
"Troy?" Reza leapt forward, catching her brother by the elbow, and searched his eyes for an explanation. The gaze he returned was momentarily cold and grey.
Blinking hard, the Draik shook his head and said, "Rez..."
Date: Sep 10th
"Take this locket." The Yurble offered the sparkling chain to his eldest child, who hesitated, transfixed by the crimson trinket that winked in his palm.
"This belonged to your mother once. It's all we have left of her, and it will keep you safe while I'm away."
The young Aisha suddenly tugged at his chainmail skirt; the links clinked hollowly against each other. "Don't go, Father! You make it sound as if..."
"My land is in need of help," the Yurble said gently. "And I am proficient with a sword. It is all they ask, and I can give it. Darigan's forces are advancing. Meridell needs all the defence it can get."
"Wow! A real sword!" His other child, a fire Draik, bounced eagerly at his feet. "Can I see it? Please?"
The Aisha only bit her lip.
The Yurble smiled at his son, then turned his gaze upon his daughter. "Troy will be counting on you while I'm away, Reza. Stay with him. He needs you."
"I will," she promised.
The Draik paused in his antics to look up, his eyes bright with fervent admiration.
"Reza may be your older sister, but you must protect her as well. Use your wings wisely -- don't use them to go where she cannot follow you."
"Does that mean I can't hide in the clouds when we play tag?" Troy whined, too young to grasp what his father meant.
The Yurble gave him a sad smile. "It's time. Wait for me. I will be back, I promise."
Reza was almost at the verge of tears, but Troy was right there. She fought down the despair, the fear, pushed it back down into a tight little box next to her heart. She had to be strong for her little brother.
"Father, please..." she whispered.
The Yurble turned away, and his two children never saw the sudden change in his eyes, like dew frosting over in a winter breeze.
"It's the only way," he said.
"He's doomed," the Gelert spat, looking with distaste as the figure -- crystal-clear in their scrying stone -- danced and weaved under a growing onslaught of enemy soldiers. His swordsmanship was incredible, but he was alone -- anyone could tell his last stand was but a gesture of futility. "Two years of wasted effort. Just like the rest of them."
The faerie next to him -- dark and pale and lovely, with tresses like a starlit sky -- rolled her eyes. "He had too little ambition."
The Skeith grunted, setting down the unrecognisable object he was gnawing on momentarily so he could speak. "His greed was pathetic -- the fool wouldn't know avarice if it bit him on the neck."
"And he never wanted any revenge to begin with," the Gelert finished. "Next time, let me take point."
The Yurble faltered and failed to parry a blow, stumbling to the ground. The enemy soldiers pounced as one, and another Darigan soldier was swept away by the tides of red and blue. Not one of his so-called 'allies' spared him so much as a glance.
"War does breed hatred," Ambition mused. "Neopets are all the same, running around in circles. Give them a reason for dissatisfaction and they're putty in your hands." She cast her comrade a sly, sideways glance. "But do you even have any decent ideas, Revenge?"
"Actually," Revenge said coolly, "I do..."
"Rez, I had a dream," the Draik panted, his eyes wide and panicked in the moonlight. "A Gelert in a cloak came to me and told me that Father was in trouble and if I didn't go to help him, we might never see him again!"
"It was just a dream," Reza soothed her brother, placing a paw on his shoulder. "Go back to bed. Father wrote to us last week, remember? About how they were almost ready to fly up to the Citadel for a last assault? He'll be all right. The war's almost over."
She cast her eyes to the window, where on the horizon, the flames cast their sickly light over trampled earth and broken swords.
"It's almost over..." she murmured again, and then, "Troy!"
She whirled around as the Draik flung the door open with such violence that it almost came off its hinges. "Troy, what are you doing?"
"I always knew it," the Draik seethed, and at once the Aisha could see he was not himself. He looked halfway deranged and halfway ill. There was something wrong with his face, a nonphysical sort of menace that her gentle brother never exuded. His wings were extended, and the fire patterns on them shimmered unnaturally bright. "You're a coward. If you don't want to help him, then I will!"
But the Draik had already taken to the sky, where Reza could not follow him.
But she followed him anyway.
She had made a promise.
What was I thinking? the Draik wondered, hovering uncertainly as he scanned the ground. He didn't know where he was going; he was cold; and he wasn't even sure why he was outside in the dead of night. The dream had seemed so real... but he didn't understand that sudden rage, the defiance that had flared in his heart and caused him to lash out at his sister like that. It scared him.
And he'd disobeyed the last words his father had spoken to him, to boot. He'd gone where Reza couldn't go.
But what could he do now?
"Troy, you idiot!"
A rock hit him, and he looked down to see his sister at the edge of the woods, very much out of breath. Without thinking, he dived down to meet her. "Rez, you came all this way?"
"What were you thinking?" she ranted. "There's a war going on out there, you can't just go barging out in the middle of the night! Darigan soldiers would eat you for breakfast! When..."
The Draik sighed and tuned her out -- that strange dark clarity that had filled his mind flared up again as he ignored her scoldings. His sister was just in the way. "I was being an idiot," he grumbled. "Let's just go home."
"There's no turning back now," the Aisha panted, shocking him. "We're almost there. You fly on ahead -- I'll meet up with you there. I'm not as fast as you."
His sister's gesture of faith snuffed the darkness again, and his heart flooded with warmth.
"No. I'll stay with you."
"Troy..." Reza looked into his eyes, and saw the brother she'd always known gazing back at her.
"Let's find Father together," he vowed.
And who is he really, to you? An idol? A brave warrior? Or simply a parent who was never there for you? a small voice whispered in the back of his head.
Troy stumbled, and Reza nearly crashed into him.
What had that voice been?
For that matter, that Aisha of yours is just in the way... and anyway, just who is Reza?
What was that supposed to mean?
You just met her. She was alone on the side of a washed-over road, and you felt sorry for her.
That didn't make any sense. She was his older sister. They'd played together, laughed together, made their father smile.
He grasped for those memories, and they slipped through his fingers like fine sand, blowing away in the wind.
New, twisted versions began to coagulate in his mind. His father was a proud soldier, and he was an only child, left behind so his parent could attain glory. After enduring endless loneliness that had nipped and degraded his adoration for his father, he'd befriended an Aisha named Reza just to close that void. He'd needed his father and had been left with a useless, bossy surrogate sister because his father had never been there for him.
And he wanted revenge...
Date: Sep 10th
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