Fiction~~Nature's Choice~~Ch. 8
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Chapter 8 - Everybody Loves Nemaro
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Curled up tight, his arms tucked against his chest, Nemaro shook
with fine tremors. It was so fucking cold! He pressed his feet as close
to his ass as he could get them in a futile attempt to warm either one.
Nothing helped. His small prison was still freezing, still dark as a
whale’s bowels, and still moving.
The bubble rammed against a protrusion along the wall and warped around it; Nemaro didn’t. His leg hit the stone hard, bruising. The film of icy water trapped inside with him splashed over his back.
“Shit! Dammit, cut it out!”
Mosumato never responded, but it made Nemaro feel better to curse at him, anyway. For the few seconds before the cold clawed back at him. He bit at his abused lips, wallowing in the pain with the hope it could overshadow the cold. It worked for a few seconds. His lips were swollen and his teeth made a sharp heat when they tore at them. The sting from his lashes had sharpened by now, painted over with abrasions and new bruises from his trip down this never-ending tunnel of water. Nemaro’s body was one throbbing, weeping ache.
And still, it wasn’t nearly enough to avoid the temperature. Every inch of exposed skin that touched the bubble was so cold that the touch of his frigid hands burned in comparison.
He slammed into another protrusion, hitting his head hard enough to see stars. “Fucking dammit!”
The words echoed oddly within his small prison. Nemaro didn’t think he could survive too much more of it. Unless this ended soon, he was pretty damn sure that this was how his life was going to end: frozen and battered to pieces.
Why was Mosumato doing this to him? The stupid bubble had cushioned him against bumps and bruises at first, like a precious vase inside a packing crate. Now it felt like no more protection than an extra set of clothes. Thinner, barely keeping Nemaro’s skin from scraping down to the bone.
With the dark, the continued exposure to the cold, and the constant physical beating against the rock walls, Nemaro had no concept of how much time had passed. And he should know; it was important. He needed to know how long Horu might have been looking for him, and how the girls were doing. Were they all safe?
Would they be able to find Nemaro before he got to Mosumato?
His teeth chattered and he tucked his chin, clamping them together. “Look, I’m sorry. I need warmth, Mosumato. Please. I’m too cold.” His voice trembled.
Nemaro didn’t know if the bastard had heard him. He’d asked for light, for freedom, for warmth, and nothing had changed except that that he was no longer as protected as he’d traveled. So now, he alternated his requests with copious swearing. If nothing else, it might piss Mosumato off enough to bring Nemaro out sooner. So the god could stomp him into a pulp.
But at least Nemaro would be out.
He grunted as his ass bounced off another rock and the world rolled for a sickening moment. More water trickled in; the rock must have torn the skin of his cell. It had happened more times than he wanted to think about, but Mosumato always repaired it within a few seconds. The water rose another inch before he realized that this time, it wasn’t sealing.
“No! Mosumato, don’t!”
Numb limbs clumsy on the warped surface of the bubble, Nemaro reached through the dark for the leak and pressed his hands against it, trying to keep the trickle from building. It still wasn’t sealing itself up. Within moments, he was lying in a few inches of icy water, his hands stinging, then numb, where he pressed them against the tear.
He hit another rock and the rip tore, up past Nemaro’s hands, water pouring in.
God, no. Nemaro didn’t want to die here, in the dark and cold. He didn’t want to drown! Thrashing, he abandoned the tear and tried to keep his head above the rising water. He’d thought he was numb before, but the water itself was so much colder than the bubble it showed him what ice was really like.
He didn’t want to die!
“Mosumato, please! Stop!” The water was rising so fast! He could feel it at his chin already. “I- Whatever you want, I’ll do it. I swear! Please sto-” Nemaro choked on a mouthful of water and his head went under. Panicked, he shoved his face higher, into the small space still left in the bubble. There was nothing to hold onto; he couldn’t keep his face up for more than a few seconds more. “Please.”
The water pushed out the last of the air and the bubble popped. Nemaro’s eyes filled with water. He scraped against the stone chute and scrabbled as he shot down it like a cannonball. He needed air! Nemaro was tumbled, blind, unable to tell which way was up or down, and then the pressure around him tightened. One hard shove, compressing his entire body.
And then he was out. He was falling!
Nemaro couldn’t help himself. He opened his mouth to scream, yelling out until he plunged into black water again. The spill above pushed him down, slamming him into something hard. He could barely paddle, fumbling as he tried to get back to the top.
Which way was the top? He wasn’t sure, but he thought…
His head emerged into darkness and he gasped for air, treading water weakly. The rumble from the waterfall out of the mountain deafened him. He could barely feel his arms and legs. But he could breathe; he wasn’t dead!
Looking around, he could make out a few things in the dark. It was night; had he been imprisoned for such a short time? Heavy and thick, a canopy of trees shadowed the pool where he’d landed. A few stars sparkled around the edges of the leaves. He could make out the dark rim where the water met the land.
But the water was like ink. Anything could be in here with him.
A slight current pulled at him, nudging him away from the deep pool and towards the stream that led off from it. Nemaro made for the shore, arms slapping against the water, frantic to move faster. He couldn’t let himself get taken any farther away from the Keep.
Close to sobbing with the effort, Nemaro slowly, painfully, drew closer to the edge of the water. He just needed to get up on the bank and then… and then…
What was he going to do? Mosumato hadn’t shown himself yet, but he had to be somewhere nearby. But Horu and the women…
Nemaro tumbled as his feet touched bottom. With a harsh grunt, he tripped over the bank and nearly fell on his face. Thick strands of algae stuck to his skin as he pulled himself out. The stink of it curled his nose. With a panting groan, he slithered out of the water, collapsing into the soft mud. His body felt so heavy.
Rolling over, coating himself in the slime, Nemaro stared back at the peaks above him. Water poured out from a wide crack in the stone, plunging into the rocky basin of the pool before it spread out. It was a miracle Nemaro hadn’t cracked his head when he’d landed. Thousands of feet higher, he could see a few fires from the Keep, wavering twinkles against the deep black of the mountains. He’d come that far? It was going to take hours to get back up there.
Maybe he could rest, just for a few minutes, before he went back to get Horu and the girls.
No, no, he shouldn’t rest. It would take so long; Nemaro should get up and get started. After he… After he got away from Mosumato.
His fingers clenched in the mud and the cold slime squelched between them. It stank of rot. Everything nearby was barely lit palely with blue-white moonlight, but there was no movement. Nemaro didn’t see Mosumato anywhere.
Nemaro closed his eyes, trying to think. So fucking cold, still. He just wanted to rest…
“No, you stupid ass. No resting.” His lips felt numb, now.
What did he have to do first? Mosumato, that was it, he had to find out where Mosumato was. Then he could go the opposite direction. Groaning, Nemaro pushed his abused body back onto his stomach. He tried to get up to his feet and barely managed his knees. It would have to do. He could get up and run in just a second. Once Mosumato came.
“M-M-Mosumato, I kn-know you’re here.” An owl hooted back at him, barely audible over the muted roar of the falls. “M-Mosum-mato, you’re- you’re an asshole!”
The god didn’t emerge from the darkness to kick his ass. Nemaro tried to speak again but his teeth seemed stuck, chattering while quavering shivers rocked his body. A small breeze blew, sucking away even more warmth. A mouse rustled in the underbrush, but nothing moved in the water.
Nothing was coming.
Had it just been to get back at Horu, then? Nemaro didn’t think it could be aimed at himself; he didn’t matter that much to the god. And Mosumato could take him apart whenever he wanted, without resorting to this
Or maybe the god wanted the Eye for himself.
Nemaro wanted to curse at him some more, but talking was too much effort. If Mosumato wasn’t here, then Nemaro needed to get warm. And clean – he couldn’t even tell what was on his skin anymore, it was so filthy. Bathing in the pool behind him wasn’t an option. It was winter cold, and the cleanliness of it was questionable.
He had to move. With a moan, Nemaro slogged forward a few inches, slipping on hands and knees. He still couldn’t make his legs work well enough to stand. Struggling with each movement, he managed to get free of the mud, smearing it over most of his body as he collapsed more than once.
He was so damned cold.
“And you won’t get warm again if you stop here. Idiot.” He shoved himself up again, a fumbling crawl. An unseen root caught his hand and he oomphed onto his stomach. His muscles wouldn’t obey him when he tried to push back up.
Dammit, he had to get up. If he didn’t move, he’d freeze to death. Meeta and Sha and Kara wouldn’t even know where to find his bones for burial. And Horu…
His muscles failed again. He was shivering his way to a third try when he heard voices. Directly over him. Wait, how long had they been there? He hadn’t even heard anyone coming. Had he passed out for a minute, or were they that quiet?
Lifting his head, he could make out two pairs of bare, male feet on the ground ahead of him, one pale and one dark.
“What is it?” A masculine voice, but light and curious. Didn’t he care that Nemaro was freezing to death at his feet?
“I don’t know. Looks human. Smells…” Something growled. “…unpleasantly human.”
“Well, it came through with the human’s water. How else would it smell?” The pale feet shifted back and forth. Nemaro stared at them in a daze. Something was wrong with what they were saying, but he couldn’t pinpoint what. “I wonder why it did that? It doesn’t seem as though it would be a pleasant journey.”
“How should I know? So humans are throwing away their own kind now. What does it matter?”
Wait, humans? But if these two weren’t human, that would make them-
“Can we keep it?”
Nemaro tried to nod. Absolutely right they couldn’t keep him. He was Horu’s. Or Horu was his…he was taken, anyway. He thought he was taken… Trying to nod again, he nearly dipped his face in the dirt as his arms gave out. He fell to his elbows.
“But look at it. It’s so cute. A little drowned hummingbird.”
“It’s slime ridden and disgusting, Toru. It stinks. Not to mention it looks injured. You don’t want to take in something that’s gonna die on you just after you clean it all up. Put it back in the water. Maybe it’ll float far enough away that I don’t have to smell it anymore.”
“No…” Nemaro had to protest. He tried to move away from them and collapsed completely. His face hit the dirt.
“I could nurse it back to health.”
“Goru, it won’t hurt us.” The pale feet moved and Nemaro felt a hand rub over the back of his head. His body quivered. “See? It barely moved.”
“Don’t give me that look. This is a bad idea.”
“Just for a little while? It’s small. I bet once we’ve cleaned it up you’d hardly notice it was there at all.”
“Except for the smell.”
“Very funny. It’ll be clean.”
Nemaro couldn’t make it up to his knees again. He couldn’t move at all. His entire body stung with scratches, throbbed from welts and bruises, and his back felt swollen where he’d been lashed. All he wanted to do was sleep. A shiver hit him so strongly that he convulsed.
“Goru, how can you be so cruel! Look at the poor thing, shivering.”
“Of course it’s shivering. Humans are pathetic. They aren’t like other animals. They don’t have-”
Nemaro struggled to stay conscious; they were talking about him, but they wouldn’t help. They’d stand there talking about him until he died from the chill. He needed to get up and away and warm. And then he could sleep, and then…
Wait, no, he needed to get back to Horu.
The wheedling tone in the soft man’s voice changed to something Nemaro knew he should recognize. “We’d have someone to play with,” Toru said softly. The hand came down and ran over Nemaro’s soaked hair again. A finger trailed over his ear. “It’s been a while since either of us had a male. Not since those stone twins last decade.”
“They weren’t human.”
“But it was fun, yes? A human can be fun. Remember that one we rescued a few years ago? She was fun, wasn’t she?” The hand cupped the back of Nemaro’s head gently. “This one could be fun too.”
“She was moderately fun.” Goru’s dark foot scuffed the dirt near Nemaro’s face. “That doesn’t mean this one will be.”
“If I do all the work to polish him up, what’s the harm?”
“Irritation.” The voice was resigned, though. Nemaro could tell.
So could the hand on him; it moved down his head to the back of his neck, fiddling with the sodden curls at his nape. “Thanks, Goru,” the voice sang out. A thick arm slid under Nemaro’s stomach and picked him up, slinging him over a broad shoulder.
No. No no no! Nemaro had to get back to Horu! And Meeta and Sha and- “Nnno…”
“Shhh, hummingbird. Don’t worry. We’ll have your pretty little wings cleaned off in no time.” Toru patted his ass carefully. Nemaro barely felt it over his extra coat of mud.
Goru growled. “Just don’t name it or we’ll never be rid of the thing.”
Shivering, struggling with ineffective twitches of his limbs, Nemaro turned his head. A dark, thin face looked back at him, upside down, pale eyes staring coldly. “And you. You hurt Toru and I’ll tear you apart, hummingbird or not. Got it?”
Nemaro stared, freezing, trying to figure out why those eyes looked so familiar.
“Hey, pay attention, human.” The man slapped Nemaro’s back to punctuate his point and landed right on a large collection of swollen bruises. It was the last straw as far as Nemaro’s body was concerned. He lost his grip on consciousness to fall into darkness again.
He woke up to a tense whispering.
“Wake up! Hummingbird, wake up. You’ve got to leave!”
Nemaro struggled to open his eyes. He was warm, surrounded by something silky that smelled of lavender and clover. He could feel the soft rub of bandages around his arms and legs, over his back, and something soothing coating his lips. The only sound was his own heartbeat and another whisper.
“Please, little one, open your eyes! Goru’s coming, and if he finds you smelling like this….”
Prying his lids open, Nemaro stared toward the voice. And stared again. He blinked, just in case he was hallucinating. It was definitely a god. A gorgeous, loincloth-clad god. His hair hung free down his back, feathery and soft, glowing in iridescent greens and blues with small flashes of goldenrod and crimson peeking out as a draft moved a few strands out of the way. His skin was a pale, shining lilac, with sky-blue eyes that radiated concern. And he was wringing his hands worriedly.
Nemaro reached up for the hair and brushed his fingers over it. “Like feather-down,” he murmured.
“Yes, yes. Very soft, very sexy. Now get up! We need to get you free and back to Horu.”
How the hell did this god know about Horu? Had Nemaro said something? He couldn’t remember.
“You could have told me, you know,” the god grumbled, yanking off a heavy blanket that was as iridescent as the man’s hair. Was it made of feathers, too?
“Told you? What do you-” Nemaro yelped as he was scooped off the bed and dumped onto his feet. Naked. “Stop. I can’t-” His knees trembled and he nearly fell over. A lilac hand grabbed his forearm and he hissed as it pressed against a bandage. The grip stung the cuts underneath.
“We have to hurry!”
Feet cooling on the polished wooden flooring, Nemaro wanted to look around, but he couldn't take his eyes off the god. All he had was an impression of wood warped around them in the shape of a cozy room.
“Hurry for what?” Nemaro couldn’t get his bearings. Where was this? And what the hell was going on? “And who are you?”
“Toru. And you need to leave!”
Toru? But he was the one who’d brought Nemaro here, wasn’t he? Talked about his being ‘fun.’
But if he’d changed his mind and Nemaro could get away, he could get back to the Keep. Or outside the Keep, because he didn’t want to go back inside the Keep ever again. If Horu could just make it outside to meet him…
“All right, I’m coming. Give me a-“
Toru glanced at the doorway and turned on him, eyes wide in his thin face. “Too late. Back in bed!”
“Wha-” Everything spun as the man pushed him onto the mattress. Nemaro tumbled back, cursing . It fucking hurt!
“Shhh! Quiet! Get into bed!” Quick hands pulled the heavy blanket up to his chin. “Pretend to be asleep!”
What the hell was going on? Nemaro clenched his fists, trembling, preparing himself for some sort of attack, but Toru walked away. The god stood uncertainly in the middle of the room. His body was tense, and he kept glancing at the open doorway and back at Nemaro, muttering to himself.
“What’s going on?”
So Toru wasn’t going to be of any use. But he wasn’t attacking Nemaro, or…or touching him. So…Nemaro needed to find a way out of here before that changed. The god had to be mad, the way he was acting.
Shaking off the fuzziness that clung to his thoughts, Nemaro examined the room. There were no windows, and only the one doorway. But there were no restraints on his body, either. Nemaro wasn’t imprisoned, exactly. Aside from the fact that if Toru was a god, he could probably spit on Nemaro and kill him, if he wanted.
What exactly was he a god of? Nemaro didn't know anything about the gods except what Horu had told him, and he'd never heard of one with this coloring. What could Toru do to Nemaro?
No, what was he going to do to Nemaro?
Nemaro swallowed as an unpleasant thought occurred to him. Should he be asking what was going to happen, or what had already happened when he was out cold? Had Toru done anything to his body other than clean and bandage it? He could feel the odd tickle of his now-short hair curling against the back of his neck, and the softness of the blanket rubbed against his naked groin. But his backside….
He clenched the muscles of his ass and felt nothing other then the tight sting where he’s scraped a portion of his skin against the rock. Nothing slippery. No aching in intimate places.
The relief over that was enough to make him shake. So he hadn’t been violated. Nemaro blew out his breath. He clutched the shimmering blanket tighter to his chin and tucked his face into it, rubbing it against his cheeks. Thank the lucky face of the god. Not raped, not dying, not imprisoned.
He owed more thanks than he could repay in a year of offerings.
But just because nothing had happened didn’t mean Nemaro was safe. He still needed to get out. Although the god had mentioned Horu….
Nemaro peeked out of the blanket, still rubbing it against his face. It felt like the soft brush of feathers against his skin. He forced air through his tight throat. “How do you know Horu?”
Toru turned to stare at him, waving his hands frantically. “Shhh! Don’t say his name! Do you want Goru to hear?”
Nemaro was getting a headache trying to figure this out. He wanted out of here! “Why are you-”
“Quiet! I’ll tell you later! Just lie down and-” Toru cut himself off and whipped back to the doorway. A moment later a man filled the space.
“Lie down and what?” That voice; it was the other one from last night, the angry one.
Nemaro lay very still on the bed. He didn’t want to piss this one off or he didn’t think he’d make it out of this place in one piece. Wherever the hell this place was.
The new male was the same height and build as Toru, with hair falling in a similar wave around his body. And he was just as clearly not human. The locks flowing down his back were filled with every color of brown Nemaro had ever seen, from russet to a bitter chocolate so dark it was nearly black. His skin was a deep, succulent brown that shimmered as though it were fine fur instead of flesh, with a woven loincloth to match. His eyes such a vivid blue that they glowed compared to his skin. They looked exactly like Toru’s, actually.
Brothers who ‘played’ together? Nemaro shivered. He looked from one to the other and tried to keep his mind from envisioning that scenario. Which didn’t work at all, the rebellious moronic thing that his mind was. He had a moment imagining dark chocolate hands running over pale skin and he screwed his eyes closed to shut it out.
Incest is not sexy, especially when it might involve you.
The new god snorted. “Not going to tell me what you and the little human were whispering about?”
Nemaro opened his eyes in time to see Toru smile a shade too cheerfully. “Nothing much to it. You were right after all, Goru. The human’s not that interesting, now that I’ve cleaned him up. More like a little brown wren than a hummingbird. I was going to take him out and leave him on the outskirts of the forest. We can find something more fun to play with.”
“Told you it’d be more effort than it was worth,” Goru grunted. Nemaro hunched down in the blankets as sharp blue eyes stared at him. He knew only his own eyes showed over the edge of the cloth. Nothing to interest someone in his body. Not a damn thing. If he just stayed under the blanket, maybe he could stay safe.
He didn’t know what was going on, but if Toru was really going to let him go, he didn’t care. Toru knew Horu; maybe he was going to take him back? As long as this Goru didn’t screw things up like Toru was obviously afraid he would.
Goru’s head tilted to the side and he stepped fully into the room, still staring at Nemaro. “It’s a shame the rest of him doesn’t match his eyes. Those are actually quite pretty. Like a doe’s.”
First a hummingbird, now a doe. Why couldn’t Nemaro remind people of something dangerous, like a rabid badger? Then maybe they’d leave him the hell alone!
Toru smiled again, stepping around Goru to stand between them. “I know. Pity that he’s so plain underneath.”
They stood facing each other and after a moment, Toru started to fidget. Nemaro could see Goru’s suspicions the moment they coalesced into a cohesive shape. “Toru, what’s going on?”
“Going on? Nothing!”
“You hiding something?” Toru shook his head quickly and Goru growled. “Toru…did he try to hurt you?”
Nemaro pressed himself deep into the bed at the fury directed his way and squeaked, just once, before he could stop himself. Goru took a step his way.
Toru grabbed his arm. “Goru! It’s nothing like that! Don’t assume!”
“If not that, then what? You’re hiding something. What?”
“Can’t I simply want to do my good deed and not be-”
“No, you can’t.” Goru pushed him aside and nipped over to Nemaro’s bed. Before anyone could say a word, the blanket was yanked off and Nemaro yelped. He rose onto his knees defensively, hands up and reaching for knives that weren’t there.
Goru’s eyes ran over him once, quickly, and then again for a more thorough inspection. His face changed. Nemaro immediately covered his groin, backing up on the bed until his back hit the wall.
“He’s no wren at all.” Goru glanced back and smirked at Toru’s worried face. “Toru, you greedy little tramp. You wanted to keep him all to yourself.” Goru leaned towards Nemaro and inhaled, his eyes flowing down Nemaro’s body and resting on his hands. And his groin. He smiled; Nemaro saw fangs.
Oh shit. Nemaro looked around the room for some kind of weapon, or another way out. Still just the damn door! And now he’d have to get past two gods to get to it. Two gods with powers he didn’t even know, yet. Goru put one knee on the bed. “D-don’t come any closer.”
“But you find us attractive, doe-eyes. I can smell it.” Goru inhaled again, grinning. “Toru, I can’t believe you figured out this little gem was hiding under all that filth. Remind me never to doubt you again. This is gonna be a wonderful few weeks.”
“W-weeks!” He had to get out of here, now! Before either of these two decided to…
Goru shrugged, both knees on the bed now. “Or longer, depending on how it goes. It’s been a while since Toru and I enjoyed ourselves. And your body definitely looks…fun.”
“My body is not fun! It’s… It’s skinny and bruised and far too pale. Ugly.” And he just went through this! This couldn’t be happening again! “I could find a wonderful courtesan for you if you’d just let me go and-”
Goru laughed. “We have you. Why would we need someone else?”
Why did this always happen to him?! What, did Nemaro have a ‘sodomy welcomed’ tattoo across his chest?
“Leave me alone!”
Yeah, that would work. Good job, Nemaro, very terrifying.
Goru inhaled again, and suddenly frowned. “You’re not aroused anymore. We’ll have to change that. And what is that smell…?” He came in close, shrugging off the arm Toru tried to wrap around his shoulders from behind.
“It’s his medicine,” Toru said quickly. “Very unpleasant. You don’t want to get too close.”
“No, that’s not it.” Goru shrugged off another attempted grab. He leaned forward, looming. Nemaro hadn’t realized how damn big he was, but he took up as much space as Mosumato. And he was reaching for Nemaro’s face.
With a breathless yell, Nemaro swung out at him. Goru barely registered, dark hands pinning Nemaro’s wrists against the wall. “What is this smell?” he murmured.
Nemaro turned his head to the side, holding back a whimper as Goru’s face came in far too close. He started to shake. He didn’t want this. Not again. He didn’t want to be hurt all over again…
Goru inhaled over Nemaro’s hair and suddenly growled harshly. His grip tightened over Nemaro’s wrists and he snarled against his skin. Nemaro kept his face turned away, feeling the polished wood behind his back and against one cheek. Cool, and smooth, and soothing and not scary. Wood. Old wood. If he could just feel the wood and nothing else...
Nemaro jerked, turning and staring at him.
“I smell Horu.”
“D-Don’t be silly, Goru.” Toru laughed lightly and tried to pry him away from Nemaro. “How could you smell Horu?”
Nemaro yelled out as Goru yanked him away from the wall and flipped him onto his face on the bed. A hand pushed one of the bandages off his shoulder and prodded his shoulder blade. “Here, see! I knew it! He’s Horu’s.”
Another flip and Nemaro landed on his back, panting, staring up into the angry, growling face of Goru. Toru stood behind him, looking frustrated.
“Now you’re definitely staying here, human.” His eyes held a different type of gleam as they gazed at his face.
“Why?” Nemaro barely managed the whisper, but it was enough.
“Why? Because I want Horu. And Horu will definitely want you.” Goru bared his fangs. “And if he wants you, he’s going to have to deal with me, first.”
Nemaro swallowed heavily, pulling once at his wrists with no noticeable effect.
“Goru, Horu will be really upset. You don’t really want to do this.” Toru’s voice was soft, wheedling.
Goru shook his head. “Are you kidding? Of course I want to do this.” He looked down at Nemaro underneath him on the bed and smiled. “ I really, really want to do this.”
Nemaro cringed at the length of fang revealed behind Goru’s lips, and flinched as the god nuzzled his cheek. “Let’s have some ‘fun,’ shall we?”
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