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Plot Update 10 March 2021

A year has passed since Fire Lord Zuko ascended the throne, and it seems like trouble is brewing between the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom once more. The Fire Lord and the Avatar began the Harmony Restoration Movement to restore the Fire Nation Colonies to their pre-war state by bringing any Fire Nation nationals back home, but for many of the citizens — of mixed Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom … Read more ›

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Curiosity, Fashion and Hope [Tag: Hatsuharu]

Post by Karena on Oct 3, 2020 16:50:41 GMT -6

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Karena walked through the small village, her eyes spotting the shop up ahead. While she had been in a nearby town, she had heard rumors of a man who was supposed to be an up-and-coming name in fashion that happened to live in the next town. Though she had no room in her life for fashion – she carried only the clothes on her, and another set, both basic black. She had been quite surprised when she had she heard that this man was a Fire Nation citizien living openly. At first, she had thought it was a joke. She had been living in the Earth Kingdom for three years, and the only Fire Nation citizens she’d seen were soldiers or families of soldiers who were stationed here.

She steered clear of them. She kept moving, and never stayed in one place for too long. She didn’t want anyone to find out what she was, that she was a Firebender. She didn’t think they would care that she had been exiled from her homeland, that she no love of the Fire Lord. At least she didn’t think so… but this man, he apparently lived openly. They all knew he was Fire Nation, and didn’t care, because he had love for the Fire Lord and his homeland’s policies. He had apparently lived there for quite some time, too.

Could there be hope? Was it possible for her to live as herself, practice her bending openly? Of course, she hadn’t heard if he was a Firebender or not, but still… She had to check this out. She had to see whether or not it was true, what he was like… whether or not she could find a place to stay, as herself, and not as just… some random traveler, or a refugee. She tried to squash down the hope she was feeling, because she hadn’t checked out his shop yet, but she couldn’t help it. It was there, nonetheless.

Besides, at the very least, she could check out his clothes, and see if he was good as everyone said.

Opening the door, she entered the shop, and started to take a look around.

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Post by Hatsuharu on Oct 3, 2020 23:02:16 GMT -6

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"You look stunning, darling!" 

The young woman on the pedestal beamed into the full-length mirror. Hatsuharu tugged at the fabric, slipping in long pins here and there as he circled around her. The wedding was being done on a budget, so he had needed to get extra creative; no silks or gold threads, just cotton, wool, and whatever dyes he could get his hands on from the local market.

And, he had done an excellent job, if he could say so himself (which he did). The bride-to-be looked resplendent in a cotton hanfu: the upper robe layer was a dusky lavender that went down to her knee; below it, a cream-coloured shang embroidered with creeping, intertwined vines and budding chrysanthemums; finally, an outer layer of dark purple tied together with a woollen sash dyed with tumeric to look as if it were gold.

Hatsuharu tossed his fiery red ponytail over his shoulder and, after marking the places his pins were with chalk, helped the girl off the pedestal.

He was just making a few notes when the little bell above his shop door rang. He looked up with a broad grin.


His voice trailed off as he stared into the eyes of his newest customer—amber eyes, like his own. She was dressed inconspicuously, looking around his shop with apparent interest in his wares and not him, but Hatsuharu knew Fire Nation when he saw it.

A rustling from the dressing room caught his attention. He snapped his jaw shut and turned on the charm, his cheery voice a little too loud for his ears.

"Lovely, session, darling," he told the blushing young woman as he escorted her out. "You can come in for the final fitting in two weeks. He is going to be an absolute mess when he sees you, I guarantee it!"

When the woman was safely out of sight, he turned his attention to the amber-eyed woman.

"Can I help you?" he asked. 
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Post by Karena on Oct 4, 2020 15:38:59 GMT -6

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Karena almost jumped a bit when he spoke to her. She had been caught up in her thoughts and looking around and hadn’t noticed he was done with his customer, who was dressed for some fancy event or other, it seemed, but she hadn’t really been paying much attention to what they were saying. It took her a moment of pause to find her voice, and she shrugged her shoulders in response to his query. “No, I – I’m just looking. I heard about you,” she said. “I was passing through a nearby town, and I happened to overhear some of the local villagers talking about you.”

That was true enough. That was what had happened. “I thought I might come and check out your shop,” she said. “I don’t really have much time for fashion, but I wanted to come check it out.” That was also true – she couldn’t stay in one place, or didn’t feel like she could. For some reason, she couldn’t outright say what she was really here for – how did he do it? Was it really possible? It certainly seemed to be. His shop seemed pretty established, so he must be doing okay for himself. If it could work for him… maybe it could work for her, too.

She didn’t say anything about it, yet, though she wasn’t sure why. Karena just didn’t feel like she could come right out and ask. She didn’t even know the guy, and he didn’t owe her anything just because they both hailed from the same place. Besides, she didn’t even know why he had left, and it was none of her business anyway. “You have a really nice place here,” she decided on saying. “I definitely like what I’ve seen so far.” He seemed to be very good at what he did, and she could see why they were talking about him.

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Post by Hatsuharu on Oct 4, 2020 23:14:47 GMT -6

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Hands on his hips, Haru watched the woman impatiently. She seemed to be struggling with something, hemming and hawing about hearing about him in a neighbouring village.

He tossed his head, and tilted his chin up with pride.

"Of course," he said smoothly. "You'll be hard pressed to find a tailor with as much skill as me."

Haru gave her a once-over, and wrinkled his nose. Her clothes were of Earth Kingdom style; a little careworn, but not the usual homespun linens of farmers and the ilk. She had money — or at least, did at one point — and her change in fortune was apparent by her clothes being a few seasons out of date.

"But if you don't have time for fashion, I take it you're not here about a new outfit. Why don't you tell me why you're here?"
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Post by Karena on Oct 5, 2020 14:08:36 GMT -6

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Well, that hadn’t lasted very long. Of course, he had seen right through her. She hadn’t come up with a good enough excuse. She should be better at this. She should have said made up a lie about needing some new clothes. He would have bought that most likely. Then again, Karena had never been a very good liar. She could only hope that he was actually interested in talking, and didn’t just throw her out for wasting his time and money. They didn’t know each other, and he didn’t owe her any explanation of any kind about what he was doing here, why, and how it seemed to work for him.

“Sorry. I heard you were Fire Nation, living openly,” Karena admitted. “It seemed hard to believe, but apparently, you’ve lived here for quite some time. It seemed hard to believe, so I had to come and see for myself.” It was obviously true, though she probably could use some new clothes, hers were getting a bit warn. She didn’t have enough money for two new pairs, though, so she’d have to settle down for a bit and work up the money to buy some decent pairs. She wasn’t sure she could do that, but she was getting tired of wandering around if she was honest with herself.

Of course, there was still a chance that he wouldn’t care, and would tell her it was none of her business. Hopefully, he would have something useful to tell her, though.
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Last edit by Karena: Oct 5, 2020 14:08:50 GMT -6

Post by Hatsuharu on Oct 6, 2020 23:10:43 GMT -6

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Ah, one of those. A looky-loo, come to see the weird Fire Nation guy who was apparently home amongst the dirt throwers, or whatever it was the Fire Nation was calling Earth Kingdom citizens they hadn't managed to overrun nowadays. Though, Haru allowed, this one was different. Clearly, she hadn't left the Fire Nation entirely by choice. Perhaps she told herself it was her choice, but Haru could see the haunted look in her eyes that reminded him a little too much of himself when he had first arrived on these shores.

He signed, then jerked his head to the back of the shop where a staircase leading up to the upstairs loft was.

"Come on," he said. "I'll fix you up a cup of tea."

He flipped the sign on the door to read Closed, then made his way up. He assumed the woman would follow him; after all, she was here to talk to him about his story.

The loft itself was spacious, covering about half the shop's total area. It was like a small apartment, with sectioned off areas for sleeping, working, and a hallway that led to a comfortably sized bathroom on one side and a kitchenette on the other.

He led them into the kitchenette and gestured to the pull-down table and its benches.

"Sit," he instructed.

He put on a kettle on a small brick stove, opened the iron door in the front and, in full view of his guest, summoned a flame into his palm to light the woodpile inside.

Shutting the iron door, he slipped into the bench opposite the woman.

"It doesn't take a genius to figure out that we're both not from around here," Hatsuharu said with a wry smile. "I'm Shipachi Hatsuharu, but most everyone calls me Haru for short. I moved to the Earth Kingdom about ten years ago, after my father and I had a rather large falling-out. I still keep in contact with my mother and sister, though Father remains blissfully unaware. What about you?"
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Post by Karena on Oct 8, 2020 16:56:28 GMT -6

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Karena gasped in shock as Hatsuharu told her to come up for some tea. That hadn’t been the reaction she had been expecting. He closed the shop, and she was left to follow him up to his loft. It was a nice place, but she couldn’t really see it. He was willing to talk to her. She had almost been sure he was going throw her out, but here she was in his place. She sat down at table as requested, almost fidgeting. Why she was so nervous? She was never nervous about anything. She always knew what she wanted, and went for it. Yet, she was now.

She wasn’t entirely surprised when he summoned fire. So, he was a Firebender. It wasn’t all that uncommon if he was from home, which he obviously was.

So, he voluntarily after having a fall out with his father? She wasn’t sure about what exactly, but she had to assume that if he still had love for the Fire Nation, there were other places he could have gone besides here. She took a deep breath before responding, her hands folded on the table in front of her. “My name is Karena. I’m from the Fire Nation Capital. A nobleman’s daughter. Let’s just say that I pissed off the Fire Lord,” she said. “I didn’t happen to like what he did to his son, and I told my parents exactly what I thought about him. He overheard me, and I was… encouraged to leave home and never come back.”

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Last edit by Karena: Oct 8, 2020 16:56:40 GMT -6

Post by Hatsuharu on Oct 8, 2020 18:21:53 GMT -6

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Haru winced in sympathy. He had never met the Fire Lord, personally, but as the son of a well respected blacksmith, he had heard no end of stories from warriors who visited his father's shop. There was always a note of fear in their voice, as well as awe, and it seemed that the Fire Lord was the kind of man to rule with cruelty rather than kindness. Of course, that was entirely evident in the fact that he banished his sixteen-year-old son. Haru didn't know the particulars of the situation, but a grown man who treated a child the same way he treated an ancient general—even if that child was the crown prince—was contemptable in his book.

"You're lucky," he mused. "I've never personally met the man, but from what I hear banishment is a light punishment."

He stood again, and walked over to a cupboard; he pulled out teacups, and a few parcels wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine. He started preparing a tray of goodies, in anticipation for the water boiling.

"My father is a blacksmith. Or, I should say, the blacksmith. You know: 'the finely honed Shipachi blade' and all that nonsense. He outfits most of the fighting nobility and high ranking officers with their weapons, a true artisan's steel."

Haru could hear the bitterness in his voice. Some wounds sting no matter how much time has passed, and this was one of them.

"If your father did any fighting, or if you have any siblings that do, chances are their weapon was forged by my father."

He rolled his eyes as he pulled a tin of loose-leaf tea from his cupboard.

"I'm sorry though," he said finally. "Being banished from the homeland is a harsh price to pay. But, for whatever it's worth, I think you're better off. The Fire Lord will run the nation into the ground trying to make his father's madness a reality. You're better off—and safer—anywhere else, as is Prince Zuko."
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Post by Karena on Oct 8, 2020 22:12:48 GMT -6

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“I figured that much out for myself,” Karena said with a shrug, “since he burnt his own son from what I heard. My father heard it from some who attended the Agni Kai. That’s how I got in trouble, as I heard about it, too, and… went off on the Fire Lord to my parents. He seemed to take pity on me and just me away.” She didn’t feel sorry for herself anymore, though there was a point in time in which she said. She had been young, naïve… and maybe she should have let her parents come with her, but she knew now that she had made the right decision in going it alone. She had survived, even if that’s about all that she had managed to do over the past three years.

“I thought your name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t be sure why. My father was a soldier before his injury.” He had mentioned that name more than once over her child, but she had never owned her weapon. “I never really had much use for them, though, being trained in Firebending by my father, and trying to be taught to be a perfect noblewoman by my mother. The latter went brilliantly, as you can imagine.” She heard the sarcasm in her voice. “And of course, I’m afraid to Firebend now and practice, even though I’m good at it, because if someone sees, I’m afraid of getting in trouble.”

She knew that Haru was right, of course. Although she missed her family, she hadn’t had any friends or anyone besides them to real tie her to her home. “Yes, I know that, and I hope he realizes that, too,” she said. “It’s just… It’s not that I don’t hate where we can from and what it stands for now, but… I haven’t been able to find a rhythm here. I’ve been wandering around for three years, afraid to stay for someone would find out what I was, so I don’t stay anywhere, I just keep going… and it’s getting exhausting, you know?” She just wanted to stop, try and find a place to make a home, and try and move on with her life…

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Post by Hatsuharu on Oct 9, 2020 0:13:04 GMT -6

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Haru nodded at her recognition of his surname. His father didn't make a lot of weapons, not anymore, but because of his reputation each weapon sold for a hefty, hefty sum. He took custom orders, and invented weaponry based on the client's specifications—something that Haru echoed in his chosen line of work, and the irony was not lost on him.

"Three years," he whistled. "That's impressive. You're what, seventeen? Somewhere around there? Congratulations on making it without dying."

His tone was light, but there was nothing jovial about the subject matter. Most soldiers didn't care if they took the lives of children, especially not when those children were banished from the Fire Nation. As far as most soldiers were concerned, being banished meant that it was open season on your life.

The kettle began to whistle, and Haru quickly pulled it of the fire. He poured it over a smaller teapot, allowing some loose leaves to steep. As they did, he crouched down and opened the iron door on the stove; with a wave of his hand, he extinguished the flames. The tea needed about two minutes to steep before they were ready, so he loaded everything up on a tray (snacks included) and set it down in front of Karena before sliding back into the booth opposite her.

"I take it you don't have any savings."

It was an easy guess. His keen tailor's eye could see shad worn her clothes to the point of being nearly threadbare; someone of noble birth—banished or not—would not allow their clothes to become so worn if they had the ability to change it before they reached that stage.

"I understand the feeling, though. The first few years out here were rough, especially with how suspicious people were of me at first. Maybe this town in particular is special, I don't know. But I just stayed true to myself and eventually I made a friend, and another, and another. It probably didn't hurt that I have a trade skill, and people were able to come to me to get their clothes mended expertly. That was... oh, nearly ten years ago...?"

He smiled, and helped himself to one of the snack cakes on the tray.

"Not that it will take you ten years, but if you keep moving around you'll never put down roots and people will never trust you. They're afraid of the Fire Nation because of the army, so the only way to prove that you're worthy of their trust is to make sure to keep your temper—" here, Haru laughed; keeping one's temper wasn't easy when fire coursed through your blood, "—and make sure that you stay long enough for people to form an opinion of you."
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Last edit by Hatsuharu: Oct 9, 2020 0:18:08 GMT -6

Post by Karena on Oct 10, 2020 22:15:12 GMT -6

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“Sixteen, actually,” Karena corrected. “I have steered clear of Fire Nation towns, and only have gone into Earth Kingdom ones when I need to.” Of course, she had already explained why. “I am a good Firebender, though I don’t use it unless I have to. I can fight hand-to-hand if I need to. I’ve tried to stay away from trouble.” The tea was hot, and the warmth felt good on her hands. “Thank you.” She took a whiff of it, and it felt it calm her down a bit. She didn’t have tea very often, because she’d have to either buy it or carry around a tea kettle with her, and that was more weight that she didn’t need.

“No. I took money from my parents when I left, but I’ve used that up by now,” she told him, taking a sip of her tea. “I do odd jobs here and there when I need to, and I’ve tried to not spend where I don’t need to.” That much was obvious by the state of her clothes. “I carry only what I need to.” Looking at what he had, she almost wondered if she could do something like that, find a place to stop and stay for good. Maybe make some connections for once, instead of just brief interactions with the locals before she moved on to the next won.

She had missed the snack cakes, and when she saw him take one, she reached and grabbed one herself. “Keeping my temper has never been one of my strong suits,” she said, “but I’ve managed to so far. Of course, I’ve never stayed long enough for anyone to get to know me.” Karena hesitated, eating the cake and sipping on her before speaking again. “So, you just… randomly pick a place and settle down there? I mean… how are you supposed to know?” She had always been positive that no matter which town she picked, if they ever found out she was a Firebender, it was game over. Now, she was seeing that true at all.

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Post by Hatsuharu on Nov 22, 2020 14:19:12 GMT -6

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Hatsuharu laughed good-naturedly. Ah, the impulsiveness of youth; though, it did Karena credit that she managed to survive for a few years on nothing but her wits.

"You never know, not really," he replied honestly, "but you just have to risk it. No one is going to lock you up just because you're a Fire Nation citizen—it's not a crime to be one, and there are plenty of people living in the Earth Kingdom of Fire Nation descent. You know, from before the war. It's only been a hundred years, which if you think about it in terms of families is just one grandma. Someone's grandparents or great-grandparents could have come here before the War; what, are they going to lock up ever firebender just because they happen to have lived here before the War started? It's not practical."

He munched on some cakes before continuing.

"Of course, advertising that you're nobility or making it a point to firebend at every opportunity and whatnot won't earn you any favours. You don't have to tell all of your business, but being honest about who you are is fine. For example, the folks around here don't know — and quite frankly, wouldn't care — that my father is some renowned blacksmith. I'm not a blacksmith, and it's not like his wares are making their way into Earth Kingdom hands. They know I left home years ago, that I'm a firebender, and that the only thing I want is to design and make clothes."

Waving a snack cake in Karena's general direction, Haru gave her his assessment.

"You'd do fine. You can simply tell the truth without divulging too many details. You're young, and you're clearly not a soldier. Just tell people the truth: you ran away from home, aren't welcome back into the Fire Nation, and don't give an ostrich-horse's ass for the Fire Lord."
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Post by Karena on Nov 26, 2020 17:51:07 GMT -6

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Karena had to admit that Hatsuharu had a point - if she wasn't a threat to them, they had no reason to worry about her. She would have to be careful about practicing her bending, but she already was. With a sigh, she took another snack cake, munching on it as she chewed over her thoughts. He had given her some good advice, and she knew he was right. She still felt nervous about the idea of stopping somewhere, and just... hoping for the best, that they wouldn't hold a grudge against her for being Fire Nation. Some people here in the Earth Kingdom had people killed and take by her Nation - former Nation. She had nothing to do with that, though, and he was right - if she didn't advertise that she was nobility, then she should be okay. All she would need to do then was find a place to stop and just... stop. Make a life. She wasn't sure how to do that, but she supposed getting a job and finding a place to live would be high on that list.

She drank a bit more of her tea, looking up again at Hatsuharu. "You're right. Thanks," she said. "I guess I'm nervous, and was never sure that it would work out for me, you know?" She shrugged her shoulders. "I'm tired, though. I want to stop. I'm tired of my clothes wearing out because I'm travelling all the time. I want to get new clothes, not that I can afford them right now, of course, and... just stop." She finished off the cake she had taken. "How do you know when to stop, when is the right place? Or do you just... stop, and hope for the best that it's the right place." She supposed she could always leave later if that place ended up not working out. She had no plans to go to Ba Sing Se after being from the Capitol... she had heard about the walls, and had no wish to live inside walls once again.
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Post by Hatsuharu on Dec 4, 2020 18:47:38 GMT -6

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Haru made a tsk noise through his teeth.

"Of course you're tired," he replied matter-of-factly, "if you've been on the move non-stop for the last few years. What did you expect? We Fire Nation weren't meant for the nomadic lifestyle. Fire that runs unchecked eventually burns out."

He moved to clear up his empty dishes when Karena wondered aloud where she should stay. Hatsuharu shrugged, and put his dishes in the sink.

"You just have to pick a place," he answered. "Think about what it is you want, and find a place that mostly fits that. I want to be a tailor and make beautiful clothes. I don't want to live in a big city again, but I don't want to be so rural that fashion is pointless. And, I want to be far enough inland that sentiments against the Fire Nation aren't as volatile as near the colonies."

He turned and spread his hands to gesture to the room — and town — as a whole.

"So I found this place. Close enough to Ba Sing Se that travel isn't impossible and there are more than farmers and stuff that care about looking beautiful; far enough away from the colonies they don't unilaterally hate anyone with a smidge of Fire Nation blood."

Grinning at his guest, Haru put his hands on his hips.

"So, little miss. What do you want? I'm guessing that's the first time you've been asked that and expected to give an honest reply."
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Post by Karena on Dec 6, 2020 15:22:42 GMT -6

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Karena leaned back in her chair, her mind a swirling mess. Her head snapped up when she heard him call her "little miss". She wasn't sure she had ever been called that before, not even by her father. Haru was right about another thing, too - she had never been asked that. She gave him a small smile. "No, you're right, I've never been expected to give an honest reply to that question," she said. She was a nobleman's daughter, after all. No one asked her what she wanted. Even with it came to her Firebending training, where she was actually very good, her father had controlled all of it. He was the Master, he knew better after all. Her mother had never asked her what she wanted to do, she had just tried to teach her how to be the perfect nobleman's wife one day. No one else had cared much about she thought or felt. That was the nature of the world she had grown up in.

"To be honest," she said, the smile falling from her face a bit as she sought to answer the question he had asked, "I have no idea what I want. I just... want to stop, that's all I know." She took a deep breath, seeking to stop the mess of thoughts her mind was at the moment. "I want to find a place where I can find some sort of job and build some sort of life. I want to find a place that's kind of quiet, but not a place where I'm going to be bothered by people who will hate me for where I come from." Beyond that, she wasn't sure what she wanted. She wasn't sure what she could for a permanent career, though she didn't want to be miserable doing it. She just wanted to find something she could stand doing for the rest of her a life in a place that she liked to live in, and with people who would not hate her - maybe even like her. "Beyond that, I don't know, but right now - I think that's what I want."
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