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Istanbul'da Vahiy

 
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Elijah Cristea
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 28, 2017 1:08 pm    Post subject: Istanbul'da Vahiy Reply with quote

Early morning and Istanbul seethed with a thick fog that twisted around the pointed tops of minarets and cloaked the ground. Elijah stepped off the train into Sirkeci Terminal and was immediately assaulted by the city’s strange mixture of climates. His suit coat became less like fabric and more like paper maché drying over his forearms. Humidity plastered his pants to his thighs and calves. Inside the terminal was no better, teeming as it was with bodies and vendors, loud with the echo of voices calling out greetings or hawking wares.

As soon as Elijah got beyond the station, he stopped at the first clothing shop he spotted and replaced his suit with linen trousers and a shirt in the same fabric of a darker color. He dropped his old suit into an overflowing rubbish bin in passing. Elijah intended to stay no longer than it would take to ascertain the identity of the man Mus’ad sought and the strange symbols tattooed on the cultist the Jinn and Una interrogated weeks prior. He carried no luggage.

The city was busy with its morning ablutions, shrugging off the night before, its citizens thick in the streets and the sidewalks, their strides purposeful and direct. Elijah stood on a street corner and watched for awhile, letting the rhythm of the populace sink below his skin until it found a place in the cadence of his heart. He thought he perhaps hated this city as much as he loved it. Istanbul had never been particularly welcoming to Elijah Cristea, but then he had never been a very polite guest to her, either. Scattered among its many districts were still the rubbled remains of some of his former visits. His name was a curse that traveled in whispers in certain neighborhoods and among certain echelons of its inhabitants. Elijah wasn’t the man he’d been when he’d last stepped foot in the city, but he had no plans of redemption on this visit. After passing alongside Topkapi palace, a wistful once over of its twin towers, he left the main thoroughfares in favor of narrower alleyways.

Elijah walked until he came to his first prospect: an iron gate with a painstakingly-wrought Shahmaran taking up a majority of its surface, the serpent queen’s scaly tail coiling through the railings and the serpent head at its terminus aiming its gaping mouth as if to strike those who’d seek entrance. After gripping the serpent by the neck and twisting the iron until it emitted a low hiss, Elijah stepped back and waited. The iron serpent began moving, threading itself around and through the iron bars. Its words came with a dangerous sibilance that vibrated the spokes of the gate: “Burada hoş karşılanmazsın.”

Reaching for the snake and arresting its motion with his fist, Elijah spoke into its gaping maw at the lens he could see in the back of the serpent’s throat. “Come and tell me that in person.” Wrenching from his grasp, the serpent’s head reared back in threat. Elijah ducked to narrowly avoid its strike and sidestepped the next attempt easily, starting to laugh. “Still slow, I see. Too bad, my friend. I spent hours on the train looking forward to our reunion.” After dipping a low bow, Elijah continued on his way, the serpent’s heavy head twisting to follow his egress until he vanished around a corner.

His second stop was no more productive than the first, and where the old serpent had at least the courtesy to acknowledge him, the next house he visited gave him only an empty concrete facade and the tattletale of heart beats rattling just inside its silent walls. Elijah counted four of them and eyed the top of the wall speculatively, but in the end he’d never found the elves who lodged there particularly entertaining.

The third door he arrived at was the most modest of the three, made of heavy oak inset in white-painted concrete. A small pair of shutters on the door opened before he could consider ringing the tarnished bell that hung from an old brown string. The face that filled the door’s small window forced him a step backward.

“You are the spitting image of your mother,” Elijah said, trying to recoup from his shock. The girl hadn’t the vivid green of Natalia’s eyes, instead her irises were a strange shade of iron and violet. The warm oxblood waves that fell over her shoulders, however, were exactly the same as her mother’s. He remembered the cut of Natalia’s eyes over her shoulder, that pale little hill with the soft protrusion of bone. How he’d been unable to resist brushing his lips over it once. The sting of Natalia’s hand across his face that followed. Elijah smiled.

“You’re thinking of her right now, aren’t you?” Mila said, narrowing her eyes at him from behind the iron grating. “Even though you know better.”

Elijah chuckled and gave her a hapless shrug, then asked, “Will you be letting me in or will we catch up through the window? I’m more charming without a door to impede.”

“I shouldn’t. Your name isn’t favored in this city right now.”

“It hasn’t been for a long time.”

Mila shut the small window and shortly after, the wooden door swung upon. “You did my mother a great kindness once, after Una. And I also had a crush on you at one time.”

“So which can I thank for turning your hand upon the lock?” Elijah asked, ducking through the doorway into the small courtyard blanketed by vines and the gnarled branches of old olive trees. Mila’s feet were bare on the old paving stones. Water dripped into a small stone basic from a copper spout set in the wall.

“The former,” Mila said, shutting the door behind Elijah.

“What happened to the latter?” He bent over the stone basin, remembering. Two fish swam in a circle, and then the water went black and gave him the reflection of Natalia’s face, the stern line of her mouth the point through which Elijah drew his finger. The water bubbled angrily until Elijah removed his hand and wiped it across his pants, smile widening.

Mila turned a series of locks, and then a flick of two fingers sent a shower of shimmering sparks against the back of the door. Satisfied, she turned to address Elijah at the fountain, “Sense replaced it.”

They moved through the small courtyard and into the dim interior of the parlor. She’d not changed much since inheriting it from her mother, at least that Elijah could tell. Plants and vines spidered over the walls and windows like great veins and arteries comprising some larger circulatory system, choking light so that it came only in thin, dusty drafts the size of bullet holes.

Elijah stopped before a small mahogany table, fingering the edge of a velvet scarf on top of which lay a worn stack of black and gold-backed cards. He reached and Mila’s hand shot out to close around his wrist, surprisingly strong for the thinness of her fingers, her skin too warm. “She would have your hands if you touched them.”

“Even now?”

“Even now.” She released Elijah’s wrist and he ran his thumb over the impressions left behind, his study of the girl gaining a newly speculative edge.

“But I will read them for you, if you like. If your opinion has changed after so many years.” Mila looked at him steadily, her eyelashes a thick frame for the shifting violet and gray of her irises. Elijah thought he detected a challenge within them, but it was hard to say. She gestured to a sofa patched together in varying fabrics with stuffing that peeked from the join of fabric and ornate wood, then sat in a carved wooden chair, tucking her bare legs up beneath her skirt.

“It hasn’t,” Elijah said, sitting. He ran his hands over the raised stitching of the sofa, a vague memory surfacing and receding again before he could grasp it fully.

“You are seeking information then. What did you bring for me?” Mila asked.

“I was hoping you’d provide solely on the memory of your mother.”

“But I am her daughter, am I not?” Mila smiled and extended her hand, turning the empty cradle of her palm upright.

“So you are.” Elijah pulled from his pocket a baggie of pale blue pills, extracting two and laying them in her palm even as Mila wrinkled her nose.

“These aren’t party favors, love. They’re from another realm entirely,” he said.

Mila’s eyes narrowed as she held the two pills up to the light, displaying the faint shimmer coating them.

“Dissolve them in tea. They give you the ability to visit the world of dreams while awake, and they’re powerful enough to put a Jinn down. If you diluted them, imagine the possibilities.”

Mila considered the pills for another handful of seconds and then nodded, tucking them away in the folds of her skirt. Elijah leaned forward, passing his phone over to her to share the photo album loaded onto the screen.

[continued]
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Elijah Cristea
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 3:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Two lines of inquiry,” he said. “First, do you recognize that man?”

Mila inhaled, lips twisting about in thought while her gaze roved the stranger’s features. He was olive-skinned, shoulder-length dark hair, mustache, his nose misaligned and riddled with bumps as if it had been broken several times. “There’s something familiar about him, but I can’t--” she interrupted herself, lifting a finger as if to stay words Elijah had not yet spoken. His mouth quirked again in private amusement, though he remained silent as Mila rose and rambled around the trailing vines that embraced a set of bookshelves. Her fingers walked the ledge until she found the leather volume marked 1900-1910.

Joining Elijah on the couch, Mila spread open the book upon her lap. “One of my mother’s scrapbooks,” she explained, flipping gingerly through brittle pages. Dust motes filled with chips of mica rose from the pages as Mila’s finger ran across them. Holding Elijah’s phone in one hand and turning pages with the other, Mila compared photographs until she found what she was searching for. Her fingertip tapped an old black and white. The shot was candid, a rarity in the time, and clearly taken in the midst of a party. Elijah searched the crowd in the photograph and shook his head, somewhat disoriented by the woman next to him, how her smell differed from her mother’s and managed to be both cloying and fresh at the same time. There was something extraordinary in it he couldn’t put his finger on. Mila glanced at him, then directed his focus to a man caught in profile. He stood near the edge of the crowd as if he wasn’t quite a part of the festivities. Elijah followed his line of sight to a pair of girls mid-twirl. The hems of their dresses and their faces were blurred, but Elijah could tell by the hair exactly which was his sister and which was Natalia. “Strange,” he murmured, both for Mila’s scent and the man in the photograph. With effort, he shifted his focus back to the man. “Do you know his name?”

“I don’t. Only his face. It appears in several of my mother’s old photographs and I remember she and Una referencing him once: ‘the nameless face’, fața fără nume. But I can’t remember the context of the story. I’m sorry.”

“Could I take this, please?” Elijah asked, sliding his finger gently beneath one corner of the photograph to release the old glue. “I promise to return it.”

Mila nodded, and Elijah flipped the photograph over to see if there might be a description on the back, but there was nothing. Turning the photograph back over, a bit of ink peeking from the man’s shirt sleeve caught his attention. Elijah could just make out what looked to be a pair of wings. “Do you know what this symbol is on his arm?”

Mila leaned over the photograph. “It looks like a double-headed eagle,” she said, a frown settling over her features. “That’s an interesting turn.”

Elijah was already skipping ahead of her, though, finger sliding over the screen of his phone to pull up another image. “Like this?” He turned the screen to Mila to share one of the tattoos that had marked Anubis.

“Exactly like, yes.” Mila closed the leather volume and let is slide from her lap to the cushion next to her.

“And what is it?”

“An old symbol of the Solomonari, but my understanding was that they were mostly defunct now.” She skimmed the rest of the photographs. “Most of these other markings are signifiers of the Cult of Anubis, one of our city’s more powerful mages, though completely mad.” She zoomed in on the screen. “But some of these others are references to the Solomonari, as well. This stylized ankh, for instance, this is one of their own creations, a twist on the traditional ankh. It maintains the eternal life aspect, but there’s also a suggestion of ownership or belonging to it that’s particular to the Solomonari.” Mila handed the phone back to Elijah. “My knowledge of the symbols is very surface, though. Are these photographs recent? All of them?” She turned a troubled expression up to Elijah.

“Very much so.”

“Then I would tread carefully, Elijah.” Mila said, “The Solomonari were supposed to be eradicated many, many years ago during the Revolutions.”

“Mmm,” a noncommittal hum sounded as Elijah scrolled back through the photos to the man Mus’ad had picked out. Zooming in on the screen, he could make out the same dark lines on the man’s forearm before it was interrupted by another body. “Can you think of anyone who might be able to identify this man?” he asked, then added, “And will bargain with me?” Two houses were already out, and once Elijah considered the sort of information he was now seeking, he decided he’d prefer to keep his other contacts as last resorts.

Mila picked up the leather volume and returned it to the shelf on her way to a roll-top desk, where she bent over the worn mahogany surface and scrawled something on a piece of paper. She handed it off to Elijah, who studied it with a frown. It was no one he recognized, which was a start. “Who is this Nes--”

Mila cut him off with a finger to his lips. He smelled cardamom and some sort of flower he couldn’t identify and smiled against the pad of skin as Mila rolled her eyes.

“Better not to speak his name aloud and alert him. Just go to that address and speak with him. You’ll need something better than a handful of pills,” she said and turned to exit the lounge, crossing through the courtyard to stand at the entryway before turning a look back over her shoulder at Elijah.

He thought she might have done it on purpose, but how could she know? His smile remained all the same as he rose from the couch and took his time leaving the parlor behind, one last drag of his fingers over the card table, and though he was careful not to touch the cards, one shot from the deck anyway, landing face up on the floor before him. “Prost,” he said quietly to the upturned card. “Of course. I miss you, as well.”

Stepping over the card, Elijah left the room behind and leaned at the courtyard door to brush a kiss over Mila’s cheek. “Take care, pui.” Mila caught him by the elbow and kept him still a few moments longer, tip of her nose running along the ridge of his shirt collar just before she released him and stepped back as she opened the door. “You smell exactly the same, like a freshly doused campfire and key lime and ruin. Don’t stay long in the city. Word travels fast,” she warned, and then shut the door behind him.

Elijah leaned up against the outer wall, removing the photograph and address from his pocket and studying each in turn before he set off down the street in search of one Nesim Aksoy.
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Elijah Cristea
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 22, 2017 2:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

(Thank you, Unfettered)

Elijah waited on the couch, a glass of brandy nestled next to a glass of vodka on the coffee table in front of him. He wore a pair of driving mocassins and navy trousers, a pale pink button down and a lightly patterned tie whose knot had been loosened a half hour before and now hung about his neck rather sloppily.

A draft of cool air poured in from a cracked window, though there was a fire blazing in a small, modern-styled firebox set in the wall adjacent to the couch that counteracted much of the chill.

Picking up his glass, Elijah tossed the vodka back and set about for an immediate refill from the bottle nearby. As he swiped the back of his hand across his mouth, he thought of Mila and her mother, their similarities and differences.

Mus'ad could not travel inside the apartment as it was cloaked by heavy magics; he was forced to resort to mundane means, such as texting Elijah when he was downstairs, waiting in his car for the word that it was safe to be let up.

Wearing one of his usual suits, dressed impeccably with nary a hair out of place, Mus'ad pushed open the door and headed inside once his phone buzzed that it was alright to come up. He didn't mind the wait, the process - everyone had their peccadillos, everyone was trying to cover their own asses because things had a way of going sideways in this place faster than the Jinn could travel from one side of the city to the other. Because it wasn't aimed at him personally, Mus'ad respected the lengths Elijah took to protect himself.

The silent elevator carried him up and up, faint whirrings of the cables sliding and grinding softly riding with him like ghosts of every passenger that had gone before him. The doors opened and Mus'ad murmured his goodbyes to the silent passengers before knocking on Elijah's door.

The door opened at the first brush of Mus'ad's knuckles, having been left slightly ajar in anticipation of the Jinn's arrival. Elijah rose from the couch, glass in hand, an open roving of his eyes over olive skin where it was exposed, the neat lines of clothing. He tipped his head back without interrupting his own stare to swallow down the rest of the vodka, then picked up the glass of brandy as he approached Mus'ad. "Masa' alkhayr," he said, the language smoother on his tongue, as if the layer of rust had been sanded off. Istanbul tended to do that to him.

He extended the glass to Mus'ad and inclined his chin toward the couch. "I have much to tell you."

A brow arched for the door that was ajar but he stepped through and shut it behind him. When Mus'ad glanced up, Elijah was there, eyeing him with a predator's stare. Lips twitched as he stepped forward, bending his head to skim his nose along the side of Elijah's jaw, inhaling deeply as he did so. "Shammamat rayihat hulwa." Fingers grasped the glass of brandy, appreciating the gesture with an incline of his head before breezing past the other man to take a seat on the couch. One ankle rested on the other knee, taking a cursory sip before gesturing for Elijah to continue. "Please, share with me what you learned."

Mus'ad would likely feel the smile that curved in the wake of his skimming nose. "Much better than I did yesterday, I can assure you," he said in reply to Mus’ad’s first comment. That particular city had a way of clinging to the skin tenaciously, the scent pleasant at first and then gradually more cloying like a decaying bouquet. Scrubbing it away left Elijah's usual peppery scent and the subtle suggestion of smoke.

When the Jinn brushed past him to the couch, Elijah didn't follow immediately but crossed over to a table upon which lay a thick folder. He rejoined Mus'ad, dropping the heavy file upon the table before refilling his glass and settling back. "Take a look. His name is Sergiu Balan."

Within the folder was the original snapshot Elijah had shown him previously printed out, as well as the black and white photo he borrowed from Mila. Along with that were a slew of other photographs ranging in date, each featuring the man in question. The final photographs appeared to be more recent and featured Sergiu engaged in conversation with another man in an outdoor cafe.

"He finances hotels and other real estate developments. Reinvents himself every fifty years or so. But his real investments are made elsewhere, with a group of powerful wizards called the Solomonari. Have you heard this term before?"

Green eyes followed the lithe, prowling movements of the other man, allowing himself a brief reverie before the folder dropped with a slap onto the table. Uncrossing his legs, Mus'ad slid forward to retrieve it, leafing through slowly. He lingered over the pictures, holding some side by side, eyes narrowed in focus. Fingertips traced the shape of the man's face as if he could absorb knowledge by the touch alone.

Finally, he closed the folder and set it next to him on the cushion. He downed the entire glass of brandy without stopping, his breathing deep after swallowing. "I...had hoped to never hear that word again. When I was a young boy, they were at the height of their power. It is said they serve the Devil himself, although I cannot say if that is true. They are...similar to my people, such as distant cousins, separated by many degrees. After the war, I thought their dark light extinguished forever. I am sad to say that I was wrong."

Elijah was prompt in refilling Mus'ad's glass, a courteous gesture to follow the speed with which the Jinn had consumed it. Elijah assumed it was a reaction to the photographs initially, not the mention of the Solomonari. In regards to the latter, Elijah had received a considerable debriefing by his contact following the visit to Mila. One that had cost him a great deal.

One brow perked and then dropped as a frown settled into place. Elijah picked up his phone, flipping through the pictures again until he arrived at the one featuring the marks on Anubis's skin. "This is one of their marks, the Solomonari," he said, pointing out the double-headed eagle. "You are unfamiliar with it?" He then indicated the same mark on Sergiu's forearm.

One hand scrubbed over his face and then raked through his curls, leaving them askew. Gratitude for the refill was murmured absently as thoughts raced ahead, different horses vying for the winner's circle. Frowning, he lifted his eyes to meet Elijah's, green glass and bright blue skies. "Again, I have not seen it in so long, I thought they were all dead. I should have known better than that. I am...without my normal resources here." He could have checked with his parents or maybe even his grandmother but there was a schism between Mus'ad and his home, his mother the only Benedict Arnold that would still communicate with him.

"This is helpful information to you, then?" Elijah's eyes burned fiercely, more flame's center than cool blue sky. The intensity of them was as unintentional as it was eternal and often had the effect of making their target feel as if they were the only being in existence.

He reached for the folder, taking it back to sort through the images, waiting to see if anything else jumped out at him. An upward glance at the Jinn had a hand passing absently across the man's temple, sliding over a wayward curl before dropping back to the photos.

A slight smile haunted the corners of his mouth, the slant of it rueful without any embarrassment for it. "Yes, it has been very helpful. I thank you for all of your efforts in this matter, Elijah. The nature of the information was unexpected and I feel I should have realized sooner, perhaps saved some trouble for myself. But it was not to be, it seemed." The refill of brandy lapped against his lips as he inhaled the heady aromas before lips parted to take a sip. The fumes were strong, made him feel dizzy when he closed his eyes, but it was a welcome distraction.

An errant touch to his temple turned his face toward the vampire, some of the tension brushed away in the wake of a wider smile. "Are you weary from your journey?"

Elijah set the folder back upon the table, picked up his glass and sprawled comfortably, plenty of room left, of course, for the Jinn. "What will you do with this information?" he asked, two fingers straightening from their coil around the glass to indicate the folder upon the table.

Mus'ad's inquiry about weariness elicited a cheshire smile and a simple "No," in spite of it only being a half-truth.

Fingers curled around Elijah's knee, slouching in that direction, leaning an elbow on the cushion. Quiet for a few moments longer, his chin tipped in the vampire's direction. "Do you know of my involvement with the Mordant family, the reasons that I am speaking to them?"

Elijah's glass paused en route to his mouth and was settled just his sternum instead while he regarded the Jinn. "Una has mentioned it, but otherwise I don't typically involve myself in her business or she in mine unless they happen to intersect."

The warm knee was squeezed gently and then he straightened, settling himself in the opposite corner of the couch. Slouching, the Jinn wedged himself until his head rested comfortably against the back. "I think it concerns both of you. Should it continue, it is only a matter of time before they turn their sights onto you. They have tried to implicate your kind, your family, in a local dispute due to some old slight that occurred when you were a small child. Una has vague memories of it but she does not understand the nature of it."

"I don't believe I was alive then," he said, watching the Jinn get comfortable with a slow-spreading smile. His glass finally made it to his lips, half of the vodka within consumed in a single swallow, and then the base was rested atop his knee. "And now you are made a pawn by the family, too?"

Lips thinned, pressed in a thin line - a token of his discomfort with the situation as a whole. "Yes. As a result of both Una and Owen causing trouble there. However, that was merely a lucky opportunity. They were on the estate on my invitation so I have been involved." His upper lip curled, a heavy sigh loosed. "I hate the Fae."

"It is a unique position," and one Elijah seemed to have no qualms with whatsoever. His posture remained relaxed and easy. In fact, there was an additional spark ignited in his eyes, a certain amusement. "Mordants," he repeated the name, "I imagine I've slept with a couple. At least one that I can call to mind, though not his name." He shrugged. "I find the Fae far more interesting than most. You hate them as a whole? What is their crime?" Perhaps Elijah knew more than he spoke, but it was hard to say; his interest in the topic seemed both earnest and benign.

Mus'ad snuck a glance at Elijah, then looked away sheepishly. A smile bloomed slowly and then, in a quiet voice, he confessed, "I did, as well. Sleep with one. It was very long ago, a beautiful young man named Tamlin." The Jinn allowed himself just two heartbeats worth of memory before the smile dimmed. "It did not end well. Odaline's memory is as deep as the wrinkles she glamours away." Smirk. "But she cannot use that against me."

"Tamlin," Elijah echoed, tasting the name to see if it struck a chord. The resulting shake of his head said it didn't. "Not the same one, I suppose. The one I'm remembering was not classically beautiful. He was more what I'd call architecturally striking." Elijah smiled even as the curve of Mus'ad's declined. "You were lovers or it was a brief affair? What happened?" he asked, a subtle nod in acknowledgment of Odaline's memory.

It was hard not to return Elijah's smile, his imagination taking a whimsical turn. It was Cheshire, the confident amusement in the vampire's eyes. There was an urge to crawl across the couch and smother it with his mouth. He didn't. "Striking, yes," allowing green eyes to rove over the other man. "We were lovers for some years but his family did not approve. Nor did mine. Call it the rebellion of youth."

"Star-crossed, then. Which of you was the Juliet?" he teased, warmth in the drawl of his voice. "I believe my experience was shorter. A night, maybe two. You can call it convenience." Elijah laughed, a sharp and short burst of sound that filled the air between them. After finishing off the rest of his vodka, he stood, extending a hand to the Jinn. "I have tension to work off." He arched a brow, a request in the same manner the extension of his hand was.

His laugh was softer, quieter but just as warm. "He was much prettier than myself. He will be the Juliet in this story." Watching as Elijah moved, the extended hand raised his brows. For the first time since hearing of the Solomonari, a grin split his mouth, showing bright white teeth. His hand slid into the warm palm of the other man, using that leverage to rise to his feet. "I look forward to being the rock against which you seek to break." Closing the distance between them, the Jinn nuzzled against his neck, squeezing the hand still in his grasp once and then releasing it to slide past Elijah.

Elijah's head tipped to the side, accommodating the Jinn as he had times before, tension loosening in his jaw as Mus'ad's warmth moved across his neck, a desert breeze from a forgotten time.

His head remained slightly tilted even as Mus'ad passed him by; Elijah was slow to follow, fingers sliding the buttons of his shirt absently through the holes while he appreciated the view of the Jinn from behind. It was a vantage point he intended to exploit in no shortage of obscene ways, but for now his smile was rather chaste.

Tugging the knot of his tie free, Elijah prepared to send the whole thing over his shoulder toward the couch and then, upon second thought and a glance at the ball of it in his hand, he closed his fingers over it and followed after the Jinn.
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