Hidden 9 mos ago 9 mos ago Post by HokumPocus
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Tarashima Forest
For the man who had just accepted the existence of magic and magical beings, the idea of a mystical threat called the Black King was too much to process. It was the same with being thrust into a land under threat of invasion. He'd lived a life too far from war or conflict of any sort to properly wrap his mind around his new reality. He was aware of his inexperience to an extent, but knew it was best to set it aside... until the conversation focused on the Black King.

With nothing of value to contribute and the looming dread that came with realizing one was in danger, he focused on replicating Ipharia's spell in silence. It felt harder this time, as if there was a resistance to it that prevented him from fully appreciating it. It was like understanding a foreign language yet knowing your tongue wasn't trained to echo the words back.

"Er-, I'm ready to learn, but I can't cast this one," he said, gazing at his outstretched hand. Did Hiroko and Honami's abilities have similar limits? Although his knowledge over games was admittedly lacking, he knew about leveling up. Kaito felt as if he’d get laughed at for saying that out loud, but then again, this world had already shown itself to be unpredictable.

He checked that his things were in order and began to follow Ipharia, picking bits of foliage that had gotten lodged between the pages. "I'm going to guess that no one in this settlement would know anything if we asked."
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Location: Tarashima Forest -- Ipharia's Camp



“If you mean what I just did with my tent, that’s probably because you aren’t attuned to any items… or know the second half of the spell.”

Ipharia tightened her traveling cloak, as she thought about Kaito’s non-magical question.

The nearest village was Kotana, though it was more of a loose collection of townsteads. She had passed through it on her way through Tarashima Forest. In a lot of ways it reminded her of where she came from, where her ancestors began their journey from farmhands to becoming principled members of the Kingdom of Alma; their journey from Tarashima to Valengard and then to Alma’s capital itself.

“Depends. No Man’s Land isn’t all that far to the north, so its not like its a whole country away. But, erm, it didn’t look like they knew anything when I passed through before, no. The Black King only targets things he deems valuable before vanishing back into the abyss. I don't see why anything out here would be useful, unless the town has something he wants.”
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Location: Ipharia's Ecampment, Tarashima Forest
Timeframe: Morning


"And let me guess: the surviving kingdoms are clueless as to what this Black King wants, despite that he already destroyed three kingdoms in search of something. Honestly, I find that harder to believe than us being summoned to this world, but since we were transported to another world, I suppose something unbelievable has a way of being reality." She replied with a sigh.

There had to be a pattern to what the Black King was searching for other than "valuable", but if there wasn't, then he couldn't have been any more than a petty warlord that had gotten lucky. Sure, he may have been skilled in blade and magic, but his armies, however well trained, couldn't possibly be as strong as him unless the kingdoms' armies were incredibly incompetent and refused to adjust to the tactics the Black King used.

"If anything is for certain, though, you probably just jinxed the nearby village. Bad guys like to make themselves known early on in these kind of stories, and while I don't have the slightest idea that might be valuable in that village, we're certainly valuable cargo if we are truly the saviors of this world."

Honami shrugged as she began to walk in the direction Ipharia previously motioned to. "But who knows? I might just be crazy, rambling about things I clearly have no knowledge of." She continued, referencing Ipharia's fifteen seconds of "hang-mouth".
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Tarashima Forest
It was no small relief to hear Ipharia's explanation for his trouble with the spell. Magic was still too new of a concept, too fleeting and mysterious in his mind. Despite knowing almost nothing about his new power he felt it would vanish and leave him defenseless at any moment. "Attunement?" he asked, eyes widening.

They continued their journey and their conversations, with an increased cohesion. Kaito couldn't recall when it had happened, but at some point their conversations had lengthened and lost their initial sense of distrust with each other and their surroundings. Even Honami had calmed down. He hesitated to call this feeling friendship, however. It felt more like an alliance, something born out of a mutual need for survival.

"I don't know much about the stories you mention," he told Honami. Except that anything could happen in them, apparently. "But we should decide how to present ourselves to this settlement. We can't be entirely hidden since we need information yet we can't cause a scene. The most obvious thing though, is that we need to come up with our own story, some sort of explanation of who we are and what we're doing." He cast a cautious glance at Ipharia, worried of offending her. "Something like being your colleagues, maybe?"
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Location: Tarashima Forest -- Ipharia's Camp



“Uh, I don't know if you need me to make up a story for you. People just kind of keep to themselves?”

Ipharia kept her eyes forward on the road as she answered the suggestion.

Honami’s delusion that her comment was going to doom the village didn’t sit well with her and she nearly sighed and called her paranoid. This wasn’t a fairytale, or some kind of spooky story told around the campfire. She knew she was going to have to constantly remind herself that these people, as powerful as they were, were from a different world and had no actual insight to that of the one Ipharia had lived in her whole life. The purple-haired cleric supposed she was going to have to expect this kind of thing. Even people from different worlds had superstitions, if she could call what Honami was saying a superstition.

“I'm just going to get you some clothes and food, then we'll be off. What you're wearing will... cause confusion, but nobody is going to say much about it. I don't think so, anyway. If anybody does ask we can just pretend you're a foreigner from uncharted lands. It's not even a lie. Not really. Unless you guys really want a story, but I'm not sure the colleagues thing will work.”
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Tarashima Forest
Honami was right - the mere fact that the Black King was still such a big unknown despite having destroyed three kingdoms was suspicious. Surely, the kingdoms would have made countermeasures against him and tried to learn his tactics to better defend themselves, right? Were there no survivors of the capitals to tell them how the Black King attacked - aside from the well-known fact that he was both skilled in magic, bow, and sword? Was there really no available information about the troops?

She lagged a bit behind the group, wary of their surroundings. Even if they hadn't encountered anything after the goblin attack, that certainly didn't mean they were completely safe. Hiroko would rather not be caught unaware of an attack because they were too busy discussing among themselves.

"We could always just be a group of travelers from another land who asked Ipharia here to help us get to the capital after being lost." Hiroko suggested with a small shrug. It may just be because she's used to the hustle and bustle of the city that she felt like no one would really openly question the state of someone's dress no matter how weird it is. She's seen the odd foreigner, a couple of cosplayers, people of different fashion tastes, and she's never questioned them. At one point in her life, she just got used to it. So maybe it would go the same in this village. Well, hopefully, at least.
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Tarashima Forest
"That makes sense..." he told Ipharia, voice dropping to a near whisper. They were dressed oddly because they were foreigners. They asked a lot of questions because they were uncertain how life functioned in these lands. Neither statement was false, yet refusing to strengthen either with some sort of cover story felt like a bad omen on par with what Honami had mentioned. Kaito had discussed the topic of the spotlight effect with others in the past, how humans had a tendency to overstate how notable they were to others. He would have to reassure himself that some fantasy villager would be too preoccupied with farming or getting drunk to do anything milder than raising an eyebrow at them. That's what villagers did, right? Drink something like mead from an oversized wooden mug, in mobile games and television shows.

"That would be our safest option, I think."
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The trail to Kotana had been peaceful.

It was reaching near nightfall when they arrived, though fortunately the shops had still been open. There hadn’t been much crowds to sift through, though the three outsiders definitely felt the confused gaze upon them by the farmers and woodcutters they passed to get to the center of Kotana’s marketplace. Ipharia didn’t have much wealth, but she had enough to get some basic necessities and clothes for her three new acquaintances.

The town itself had a basic smith, so the selection of items were minute but Ipharia had enough to buy Honami and Hiroko a simple weapon or item of their choice. She doubted they wanted to carry on with what they had gathered from the goblins, after all. Of the options available to them she imagined they would gravitate toward a shortbow or basic weaponry. The town lacked martial prowess so the most they had were what adventurers traded passing through, what older families crafted, or what they found scavenging. Most of the weapons on display were of traditional Eian-make, though to the travelers they would recognize it as distinctly Japanese. Most of the weapons included a yari, chokuto, and a tanto.

There were other things available like charms and trinkets, but to pass up a better stock of weapon would be unwise.

Once the two were finished deciding what to buy Ipharia would be by the food stands, mulling over what to do with the little money she had left.
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Kotana
Kaito traipsed between the shops and stands, panic gripping and crushing any serenity the picturesque village had given him. The cool dusk air, the bare ground and the stars seemed more powerful, raw even, compared to his former world. It made him feel even more withdrawn. The villagers seemed to have noticed, as they exchanged glances with him more than anyone else. It felt wrong, trying to pass himself off as one of them. Still, he knew this was the best course of action before getting anything resembling answers. It was foolish to expect an encounter or some discovery that could explain what happened, but it had also been foolish to entertain the idea of another world in the first place, so he let it fester in his mind.

His eyes fell on a pair of teenagers whispering to each other. Something about the way they stood intimidated him, as if a life of hard labor had molded them into being more mature than he was. He realized they had begun leering at him, so he quickly rejoined Ipharia.

“…So the others are going to look at weapons, I suppose but…” his eyes rested on charms being sold by a nearby stall, “Does similar equipment exist for a person who uses magic?”
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Location: Tarashima Forest -- Village of Kotana, Town Square



“Yeah, but in a town like this you shouldn't expect to find much in terms of reagents and items of power.”

Ipharia replied as she looked to the taller outsider, thinking on what he asked quickly.

“Though,” She rose a finger, “you might be able to find some charms and accessories.”

The purple-haired girl motioned toward a few of the stalls that were not stocked with vegetables and fish, nothing the various vendors in the area.

An old man had scavenged some items and had put them up in stock amongst other conventional items. A few cloverleaf charms, rings made of copper, and accessories were noted. He was no jeweler, but oftentimes in villages like Kotana items like this were a gamble. The story was often made-up and the magic in the items nonexistent or useless. Though, no formally trained spellcaster was getting fooled given their innate ability to detect magic. Much like the sphere of light, detecting magic did not require anything innate beyond the ability to use one's mana. As if to see if there was magic in the items in front of them and to teach Kaito something new she moved forward as she curled her right hand into a ball except for her middle finger and pointer finger.

The mana in her body eclipsed her hand, if for a moment, in a ethereal hue. Only those who were spellcaster's could see or notice.

Detect Magic.

Only two items on the table resembled the same ethereal hue. A talisman carved out of a sacred wood, and a ring made out of arcanite, or as the commonfolk knew it: true-silver. Ipharia figured they would be able to use her coinpurse to procure at least one of the items that piqued Kaito's interest.

She smiled, looking back at Kaito. “Which one tickles your fancy?”
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Village of Kotana
Hiroko breathed a sigh of relief when she had seen the village. Thankfully, nothing more had happened to them when they were on the road. She rolled her shoulders once they went through the gates. She hadn't realized how tense she was during the entire walk until she let herself relax even a little. As they walked through the village, she could feel the stares and the glances sent their way. Their odd clothing must have stood out immediately. In any case, Ipharia was right, it would have been better for them to get weaponry that was better suited to them than continue using what they had picked up from the goblins.

Once they had bought their respective clothes by grace of Ipharia's money, Hiroko gravitated towards the shops that sold weaponry and kept herself close to the rest of the group. She looked through her options and had tested a couple of them. All of them felt just right which frustrated her a bit. Nevertheless, she had settled on a short bow and a couple of additional arrows.

Hiroko had attempted to sell the goblin's bow but the merchant waved her off, calling it junk. He eventually relented to simply taking the bow off of her hands. With that, Hiroko gave a small bow before heading back to the group, idly fiddling with the string of her bow as they continued their walk.

She followed close behind the two, looking around at the stalls that were lined up. Hiroko pushed the thought of hunger away from her mind when she caught sight of the fresh meat that was laid down on the stalls. It would be rude to ask for more when they had already taken so much. Maybe if they returned to the road, they could hunt for something. She figured target practice wouldn't be too bad.

With that in mind, she continued to follow the two. "I assume most magical equipment can be found in major cities?" She questioned once they had reached a stall filled with odds and ends. Probably just a scavenger trying to make a living.
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Location: Kotana Village
Timeframe: Night


Finally! Back on the road. Learning more about the new world they were in and figuring out what to do was all swell and dandy, but there was only so much sitting around and talking Honami could take. Just thinking of dilly dallying in the forest any longer made Honami miss texting. At least then Honami could speed things up with her high WPM and use of abbreviations and slang, but Kaito, Hiroko and Ipharia probably wouldn't have a clue what she was saying, so it likely wouldn't be a good idea in the end regardless if it was possible. God, technologically illiterate people were the worst.

"So, a weapon, huh?" Honami commented as the group eventually arrived to the village. "Should be easy to get in a place that has a smith." She continued, noting the rising black plume of smoke from a nearby building.

Taking her share of coin from Ipharia, Honami followed Hiroko into the village, and to the nearest tailor. Making a point to look the part, she went out of her way to pick up a light blue haori, a sleeveless, knee-high kimono and some equally Japanese platform shoes for herself. It was as close as she was going to get to LARPing—live action roleplaying she learned of by stalking Western message boards—and what better way was there to LARP than to pretend that you're a badass Shinsengumi?

Making her way to the blacksmith next, clothes in hand, Honami spent the remaining money she had on a chokutō. It wasn't a katana, as she wished the smith had, but it was the best option. The smith's yaris were simply too lengthy for someone of her stature, and a tanto was hardly a warrior's weapon.

"I'd imagine so." Honami spoke up as returned to the group not long after Hiroko did. "At least in games large, major cities like the capital tend to have a mage district with enchanters, artificers and the like."
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Kotana
An ethereal light flickered across Kaito's vision as he once again found himself learning a spell. Or at least, learning it in such a way that it felt like recalling something that had been on the tip of his tongue. He was quicker to adjust to the newfound information this time around, accepting its presence with none of the bewilderment as before. There was still a sense of hesitation to him however, as he mimicked the movements of his impromptu mentor with a notable stiltedness.

Among the patchwork assortment of charms only a pair stood out to him. Fearful he wasn't concentrating hard enough to detect others, his eyes roamed the stall multiple times in search of outliers.

Only those two had true magic to them, it seemed.

"You know in my former job, I learned a lot about the importance of possessions and what they can mean," he half-mumbled, "the way they can ground us emotionally." It was hard to flesh out the details with someone unfamiliar with psychology and seemingly disinterested in it, but he knew particularly of victims of post-traumatic stress disorder being prescribed things like stuffed animals to calm down. It was an extreme example, but this was an extreme world, where the idea of facing off against something more monstrous than a band of goblins was entirely possible. The ever fearful Kaito wasn't just taking combat potential into consideration, but what something could do to help him recover afterwards as well.

He approached the stall and wrapped his slender fingers around the talisman rather than the ring. "This... object is beautiful."
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Location: Tarashima Forest -- Village of Kotana, Town Square



“A fine choice.” The seller responded as Ipharia handed over the coin she had set aside for it.

The price hadn't been too steep, but in a village in the middle of the expanse of forest and rough surrounding hills things tended to be a little more coin than they would be in common places. Not as steep as in large cities where they tried to fleece you for everything an item was worth, but it was what it was.

“What's the story behind this item, my friend?”

“This was carved by a shrine maiden from a fallen branch of our sacred tree.” He motioned to the large tree at the center of the village that towered above the rest of the forest around them. At the base was the village's local shrine, where their clerics operated in earnest.

He cleared his voice, subduing a weak cough before continuing. “Our local shrine maiden told me it is enchanted with the aspect of life, much like the great tree. When attuned to that of a pure soul it is said to protect them from poison and disease, to make their stomach like an iron pot. I thank you for supporting our village by purchasing it.”

“A trinket that resists disease and poison. Much needed by our long travels, thank you.” Ipharia responded with a polite bow.

Ipharia moved to look to Hiroko and Honami, who had returned to her and Kaito after their respective purchases. Ipharia didn’t want to admit it but she only barely had enough coin to purchase food and water for the four of them for part of the journey to the capital. She most certainly couldn’t afford a carriage. Not that Kotana had any, but the next town over the border beyond the forest would certainly have one. She discarded the thought as soon as it came, however, choosing to instead address the two women.

“Honami's right in her assumption. The bigger the town the better their reagents and items. We can probably get you guys some decent gear once we're on the grand highway. I guess all that's left for now is visiting the food stalls. You three must be starving.”
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Kotana
"Honami's game logic is right?" exclaimed Kaito, doing nothing to hide the dismay in his voice or the widening of his eyes and eyebrows. As if agreeing with him, his stomach gently protested at the mention of food. During a typical day of work it wasn´t uncommon for him to forget to eat. This wasn't a typical day of work.

His worries continued, focusing on the talisman of sacred wood that was now under his possession.

"I'm not sure what being a pure soul means in this context.", he mumbled.

Pure as in good? He liked to think of himself as a good person. Following the rules, never upsetting the status quo, obeying authority. Unless it meant purity in the context of being a virginal maiden, in which case he doubtlessly qualified. Women didn't like men who were more afraid of the spider in the bathroom than they were.

He had reached civilization at last and even got invited to eat, but for Kaito it felt like his troubles were only just beginning.
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Village of Kotana
Hiroko slowly nodded at Honami's explanation which was then confirmed by Ipharia. It was definitely useful to have Honami around, considering her knowledge of such games were numerous compared to herself and Kaito. This came to the shock of Kaito but Hiroko did remember when everything started out. Everything checked out with Honami's game logic so they could likely reliably guess from her experiences.

Her eyebrows were raised at the abilities of the magical item that Kaito had chosen. "Well Kaito, looks like you can eat anything and be fine. We'll give you the questionable ones, yeah?" She said with a light chuckle, patting his shoulder. "Attunement means only Kaito can use it, right?" Hiroko questioned Ipharia with a curious look. It would have been convenient if magical items like the one Kaito had could be shared among people, just so they didn't have to worry about eating the wrong things.

Speaking of eating, Ipharia suggested grabbing some food. Hiroko had to admit that she really was starving. She wasn't sure if she had eaten something properly before she had even come home and now they were in some other world.

"If it isn't a bother to you... you already bought us these." Hiroko gestured towards their clothes, weapons and talisman. She wasn't sure how much money Ipharia had but considering she was on a pilgrimage alone, she likely didn't have much on hand. She idly wondered if she could figure out how to cook things on the road here. Surely, edible plants or animals couldn't be that hard to find... right?
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Location: Kotana Village
Timeframe: Night


"Well, yeah. Why else wouldn't it be?" Honami asked Kaito. Everything else she had mentioned had been right so far, so her intuition that larger cities had better and more goods. Even in their own world bigger cities often had a bigger, higher quality selection of items to buy than that of small town Japan such as Makino. It shouldn't have been a surprise to him, but, Honami figured, it was probably why Kaito was a "pure soul" or something.

As the conversation shifted to food, Honami was quick to agree. She had been so preoccupied with the whole "in another world" trope that she had completely forgotten to eat. Not that Honami had anything to eat in her school bag to begin with, having forgotten to put her snacks in her bag the night before.

"It'd be nice to have a decent meal for once." She replied, glancing at Hiroko. She had a point—Ipharia had already spent much on clothing them. There had to be alternatives to save the girl some money.

Turning her attention to the merchant, Honami decided it was worth a shot to ask him. "Do you have any recommendations for one to get a meal around here? Preferably cheap, if you please." She inquired, hoping he had any ideas in mind. A small village like this one likely had some kind of a special recipe or food item that wasn't sold anywhere else, and in the case that they didn't, a cheap meal regardless would at least save Ipharia some coin for their travels to come.
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Location: Tarashima Forest -- Village of Kotana, Town Square



If Honami was expecting a restaurant, she would shortly be disappointed. The merchant shrugged, telling her of the other food stands while Ipharia shuffled her feet forward, considering the well-being of her three “charges”, or at least that’s how she felt about their relationship even though they were far more important than her in the grand scheme of things. A more opportunistic person would’ve done differently than her in the same position.

Maybe that was why the gods chose her?

“Uh, well,” She began to respond to Hiroko, “Don’t worry about it.”

A few plates of rice and shokupan were not the ideal dinner, but it would be enough and not too costly as she soon learned at one of the food stalls. She had to remember to be more conservative moving forward.

Though, she wondered if they would need to find other avenues for coin before they got to the capital. With their skills, she could easily apply for grunt work if they needed to—questing was work for busybodies and with their latent talents they needed to learn more abilities to be of any use to the Princess and the Kingdoms they had been summoned to protect. It was a basic idea, though Ipharia knew it would be when they were a long way from Kotana. Honami's prediction about hell reigning upon the village because she had led them there appeared to still be false, though Ipharia returned to the thought every few minutes with dread.

When they received their food and had placed themselves down at a proper seating area, Ipharia looked to the setting sun that peered through the leaves above wondering what she would do if Honami were to be correct.

“It will take a day to get out of the forest and toward civilization.” She mused, “I doubt I'll have enough money to get us to the capital quickly. We might have to do some odd jobs on the way.”
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Kotana
Kaito chuckled with a stiff edge to his voice. Hiroko was obviously joking, but having to eat strange things was a thought that encroached his mind and stayed there, as it just made too much sense. On the bright side, eating something foul would potentially be the simplest way of testing the talisman's power. Not that he was enthusiastic about it.

"I just didn't think it would've been helpful to think of this as a video game," he answered. The adult in him wanted to scold her over treating a life or death situation like something comparable to video games, but she was right. He'd never considered himself to be a stubborn man, yet it took a surprising amount of difficulty to speak. "Though I guess common sense would have led one to the same conclusion." He averted her eyes.

Their meal was delightfully simple. What would've no doubt been a miserable dining experience just twenty-four hours ago was now unmatched in terms of taste and nourishment.

"Odd jobs, something like hard labor?" he asked in between bites. None of them looked suited to that line of work, and he failed to think of anything else such an underdeveloped world would want. Unless...

"Or fighting. With our new abilites." The words hung in the air.

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Village of Kotana
Hiroko didn't complain with the food that was given to them. It wasn't her first time to have a meal that was on a tight budget. That was the norm for quite a while before she managed to get her life kind of together. Nights of eating just instant ramen rose up from the back of her head and this meal was more nutritious and delicious than those miserable days. She thanked the man behind the stall and then Ipharia before they proceeded to the table.

Maybe it was hunger that made it more delicious. Or maybe the village had something special in their shokupan and rice. Nevertheless, Hiroko found herself enjoying the meal much more than she had originally expected.

"Well, beggars can't be choosers when it comes to jobs." Her life banked on that saying for a long time. There was no place for morality when you had nothing to eat and your rent was looming over your head. Still, she supposed that isn't necessarily the case right now. If Honami was right, then they were supposedly heroes. But in a world like this, grunt work looked like it would pay well and would be enough to keep their heads above the water for a while.

But... fighting. The case with the goblins had been exhilarating, if not confusing at the same time. "Fighting might get us more experience. I'm not sure how exactly... ah, unlocking our skills work, but if we start training now, we might discover other things about this world's gifts." She did wonder if there were other skills they can pick up from not fighting. They had managed to understand goblin speak automatically before, and she imagined the same could go for any language.

"Is there a quest board for these?" Though, she eyed Honami. That was something that games had if she remembered correctly. After all, she doubted that there would be exclamation points hanging above townsfolk's heads whenever they needed help in the form of a quest.
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