Horizon:Volume 6B Chapter 24
Chapter 24: Familiar Faces on the Sanctioning Deck
It comes without warning
It has value
And it never comes again
Point Allocation (Chance Meeting)
What Masazumi saw was more like shattering light than an explosion.
The ether forming Ootani’s body broke apart and scattered through the sky. This was actually the very first time a data entity had ever been destroyed, but from a noncombatant’s perspective…
Vice President: “That was flashy.”
Asama: “But we’ll have to be fully transparent with all the information we collect here…!”
Marube-ya: “Eh!? What!? Why!? Couldn’t you sell that for a lot of money!? C’mon, Asama-chi! Give us that data! We can sell it to line our pockets!”
Worshiper: “Do you have any intention of doing honest business?”
It’s always money with them, thought Masazumi as she watched the ether light in the sky.
A few pieces were blown away and began to fall, but…
Mal-Ga: “He might have transferred himself into one of those. …Well, he shouldn’t be able to recover right away with that much damage.”
Vice President: “So we managed to incapacitate him…is that it?”
Novice: “It would be a problem if Ootani Yoshitsugu retired before Sekigahara. If he didn’t want to retire, then the Testament Union would probably get after us for it.”
…Yes, that’s a problem too.
Masazumi turned toward the sky to port.
Naito and Naruze were waving her way while using gravity to enter freefall.
I’m glad I noticed, she thought as she waved back.
She saw Horizon, Mitotsudaira, and Asama do the same. The idiot instead wiggled his hands side to side in a gesture that made use of his full body.
Mal-Ga: “It pisses me off that I get what that gesture means…”
Gold Mar: “Should we shoot him?”
Mal-Ga: “Hm… We’re too close for it to make good practice.”
Me: “Y-you think I’m a target or something, don’t you!?”
Hori-ko: “And I have determined it would be meaningless at the moment due to Asama-sama’s super defense barrier.”
Asama: “No, no. It’s not much.”
Wise Sister: “Heh heh heh. Hear that, Technohexen!? Tremble in fear of Asama’s Giant Breasts Defense that can deflect your attacks with a barrier that only qualifies as ‘not much’! Boiiiiiing!!”
Asama: “Wh-why does this idiot always have to nitpick what I say…!?”
That was just how she was. But while everyone regained their normal atmosphere, Masazumi had some other things to focus on.
“Princess, I would like to have this diplomatic ship make a temporary landing at Musashi – Tama’s diplomatic port. Is that okay? For the purposes of sightseeing, of course.”
“Testament. And while we’re at it, see if they can make any repairs that might need doing. …The maids can rest in Musashi’s diplomatic residence. Have them prepare for the quarantine.”
Then I will do the same, said Ujinao.
Her uncle, Ujiteru, looked to the sky and ground from the starboard edge.
“Musashi, hm? …It might not be a bad idea to land there for the first time. In fact, I like the sound of that!”
…The Musashi must seem strange to foreigners.
Did I find it strange? wondered Masazumi because that seemed like so long ago now.
It was two years ago. At the time, she had been nervous before arriving, but once she was there, she found a city and a daily life to live. She had quickly been swallowed up by her busy schedule. But unlike her…
…It might be an interesting place for tourists.
A sign frame appeared while she thought about that.
10ZO: “Masazumi-dono, I have made a visual estimate of where Ootani Yoshitsugu landed down below. Shall we pursue him?”
Vice President: “No, the surface is Houjou’s jurisdiction. But send me the estimated location because they should want that.”
Anyway, thought Masazumi as she took a breath.
Vice President: “Having three nations work together is a lot of work. Would it be best to have them linked through Asama to protect Musashi’s data?”
Asama: “Yes. Tenzou-kun, tell me if there is anything you’re concerned about related to the quarantine process. Once that is done, I would like Mary to look over the ether side of things. We’re playing catchup here, so I want to get as much of this done as possible.”
Scarred: “Judge. …You want us to help protect Musashi, don’t you? Master Tenzou, let’s do our very best.”
There’s so much more work to do now, thought Masazumi with a mental sigh.
Of course, it had been obvious this meeting would change some things, so she had already planned for an extra burden.
But on the other hand…
“Mouri and Houjou have shown off quite a fighting force.”
Houjou Ujiteru and Seki Masasada.
She was not very familiar with the latter, but they were clearly not people you wanted as an enemy.
Ujiteru gave a nasal laugh as if in response to her thoughts.
He had an automaton body, he had just the hilt of a sword at his hip, and it was connected to a scabbard-shaped fuel tank. He looked their way and approached with a confident swagger.
“Time to liberate Kantoooooou!! Sounds great! Isn’t it great!? Hellooooooo! Houjou will be destroyed either way, but I’m delighted I can participate in such a major event! My blood is pumping at this opportunity to do something importaaaaaaant!”
Masazumi saw Ujiteru take a few steps and stop in front of them.
He relaxed his stance and rested his center of gravity on his right leg.
He looked casual, but even an amateur like her could tell that stance allowed him to move at a moment’s notice.
On top of that, he spoke. But first he slapped his cheeks to remove the loose smile there.
“Kuhahhh! …I’m just along for the ride, but I plan to enjoy this. My niece, Ujinao, is in command, but I can’t fight my own character. I’m in a brand new body, so I’ll be moving around all I waaaant!”
He raised his eyebrows in a smile on his maid automaton face.
That seemed strange, perhaps because automatons did not smile.
What a strange character, thought Masazumi as she asked a question.
“…Houjou Vice Chancellor. How long have you had that body?”
“Testament! Due to a reason I won’t get into here, I had already been automaton-izing my body. It feels fantastic! But this was the first time to completely remake my body. …It’s pretty great. Everything feels so clear and comfortable! I can just tell I’m inside a machine and it’s the most wonderful feeeeeeeeeeeeeling!”
“That isn’t what I meant,” cut in Masazumi. “Why a female automaton? …Shouldn’t you have chosen one that looks more like you?”
“Don’t be silly! I was given the perfect chance to try out a new model, so why would I choose the same thing I had before!? Also. A female one is a lot more amusing than some middle-aged man! Don’t you get that!?”
Sorry, but no I don’t.
The world was a large place. And this man was supposed to be a politician.
…I bet my dad would be furious if he saw this.
“Hey! Koni-tan! I just summarized my Masazumi’s negotiation with Houjou and Mouri!”
“Judge! There was some confusion in the middle there, but that was some incredible skill! While watching that footage, I went ahead and made Houjou Ujiteru and Seki Masasada action figurines for my brand’s golem line! I must have been inspired because it took me no time at all!”
“Ohh, you even shaped their hands for holding weapons! Middle-aged men are fine, but the female action figurines are where it’s at! Okay, Koni-tan, let’s have a battle between those ones you made and the aerial figurine warriors I brought with me! Pewwwwwwww. B-b-b-b-boooom! There, yours were sent into retreat by my aerial bombing!”
“S-surprise attacks are cheating, Nobu-tan!!”
…My dad and the rest of the council aren’t at all interested in that kind of thing.
Did Ujiteru like to play with dolls and saw his own body as the greatest doll of all?
Vice President: “A cosplayer Vice Chancellor can’t be fun to deal with.”
Me: “Whaaaat!? Seijun, why are you giving me that look!? Do you want a costume too!? I can get Bell-san to make one for you!”
Silver Wolf: “My king, you get your costumes from Suzu?”
Bell: “Eh? Oh, yes. So does…Kimi-chan.”
Asama: “I guessed as much when I saw the stitching while doing laundry.”
Bell: “But his shrine maiden…one is…from you, right?”
Asama: “W-well, I, uh, ordered that so he could, um, work part-time at the shrine.”
Hori-ko: “Now, everyone, Asama-sama is having a difficult time explaining herself.”
As everyone began bickering some more, Masazumi nodded in her heart.
…Well, I suppose they do make automatons in Houjou.
She worked to keep a smile as she spoke to Ujinao.
“Is your Vice Chancellor working to improve Houjou’s image by demonstrating your automaton technology? I can see why Houjou is known for its business acumen.”
“Huhhhhh!? What are you talking about!? This is purely a personal hobby, you foooooool!!”
Ujiteru pointed his thumb at his own chest and showed off his teeth.
Behind him, Ujinao swung a scabbard into the right side of his head.
Flat Vassal: “That was certainly something.”
Bell: “Eh? B-boke? …Tsukkomi? Which was…it?”
Righteousness: “These are the people we were fighting all this time…?”
Unturning: “There are always so many wonderful memories of the past.”
Righteousness: “Let’s not lie to ourselves!”
Scarred: “Anyway, who are Master Houjou Ujiteru and Lady Seki Masasada?”
“That’s a good question.” Tenzou crossed his arms. “Houjou Ujiteru is – for better or for worse – said to be the strongest Houjou commander in this age. It was Ujinao-dono’s father, Houjou Ujimasa, who inherited the Houjou clan, but Ujimasa-dono was more the civil leader type. Ujiteru-dono, on the other hand, is the combat type. Ujiteru-dono has greater influence in the Warring States period and he occasionally plots to take over Houjou.”
“That is how things tend to be done in this age.” Mary placed a hand on her cheek and smiled bitterly in her shirt and blue tights. “If I could fight, would I have been like that?”
“If you had that kind of power, I think you would have used it to assist Elizabeth-dono.”
Mary’s mouth fell open when he said that.
It was a look of surprise.
Specifically, it was the look of being caught off guard by something.
“Oh, um, I, uh, meant based on who you are now. The Testament descriptions are a different matter…”
“I’m glad that didn’t happen.” Mary smiled. “Because if I had helped my sister, it might have been even more difficult for you to steal me away. And if I, um, had the power to back it up, I probably would have tried negotiating with you to get you to stop. I would have said…”
Mary made a grand gesture and used a tone to match.
“Let us see just how long you can endure my oral technique!”
Gold Mar: “Oral technique…!?”
Mal-Ga: “Okay! Okay! Keep things the way they are! Just like that! I’ll be right there, so wait for me!”
10ZO: “Stay awayyy!!”
Tenzou made sure Mary had not noticed the exchange on their sign frames.
Then he looked around.
He saw everyone feigning ignorance while turning their ears toward him and Mary.
…They’re going to try something after the fact again, aren’t they?
But he had something to tell Mary.
“It is true stealing you away would have been difficult if you were helping Elizabeth-dono.”
Silver Wolf: “In that case, he would have had to fight the Fairy Queen immediately after Walter.”
Uqui: “Now that would have been an impossible challenge.”
Smoking Girl: “More importantly, she would have just cut him down during their date in London.”
We might as well end the conversation right there, Naomasa-dono.
However, these were two different things.
“But no matter the situation…”
Tenzou recalled what he had said during his confession.
…Back then, I said, um…
“Even if you refused and resisted, I would have stolen you away.”
Heidi gave a quiet whistle while calculating out her credit sales.
…I-I don’t like the sound of that whistle!
But someone moved beyond her. Narumi faced Urquiaga.
“Should I have resisted more?”
“Ho ho? It is too late to claim you weren’t really trying.”
“You don’t seem to understand this was no more than the girl recognizing the boy’s effort.”
I can never tell how serious they are with their threats.
Next to them, Muneshige smiled bitterly.
“There was nothing like that for us.”
“Judge. That’s right, Master Muneshige. Because we had an official battle.”
The couple that readily accepts that is quite something too.
Meanwhile, Mary’s cheeks flushed and she cleared her throat.
“We are getting off topic, Master Tenzou.”
“Oh, no, no. That was just to make sure you understood. …Isn’t that right, Neshinbara-dono?”
“…Oh, are you done?”
“N-not the reaction I wanted!!”
“Calm down,” said Neshinbara. “Crossunite-kun more or less summed up Houjou Ujiteru. But to add a bit, you remember Mayoress Marfa who was in charge of Sviet Rus’s Novgorod, right?”
“I do, but what about her?”
“Do you remember that she inherited the name of Uesugi Kagetora before inheriting a Shibata name? Kagetora was a heroic figure who was expected to inherit the Uesugi clan after Uesugi Kenshin passed away. But Kagetsuna got the better of him in the fight over succession, so he fled Houjou, was cornered, and committed suicide.”
Four Eyes: “That suicide happened on the way to ask for assistance from his homeland of Houjou. In other words, Uesugi Kagetora was originally from Houjou and was later adopted into the Uesugi clan. And he was Houjou Ujiteru’s younger brother.”
Novice: “Wh-why would you just come out and say it! I still had a long way to go before getting there!”
Silver Wolf: “Didn’t she do that because it was taking so long?”
Hori-ko: “Really, Mitotsudaira-sama? When fighting your morning battle, don’t you want to give a thumb’s up and say ‘I did it…!’ when you finish an unexpectedly long one?”
Flat Vassal: “That’s tru-…why is everyone looking away!?”
Smoking Girl: “Adele, you sometimes shout ‘yes!’ and ‘all right!’ in the stall. You probably don’t realize you’re doing it, but you really need to be more careful.”
Mal-Ga: “Now I need to redo my storyboard… Well, I wasn’t too satisfied with how I’d drawn the dog, so that’s perfect.”
Flat Vassal: “What are you drawing!? Stop making things up and only draw what’s true!”
Isn’t that why she’s redoing it?
But Mary was tilting her head.
“Is there a direct connection between Novgorod’s Mayoress Marfa and Master Ujiteru?”
“Since they are inherited names, there doesn’t have to be.”
“Judge,” said Mary, but Tenzou had a question.
“Does something bother you about that?”
“Judge. If they had a direct connection, it would mean Master Ujiteru is also a demon on Lady Marfa’s level.”
“Yes, that part is true, I think.”
Someone answered her.
It was Narumi and she looked up at the diplomatic ship.
“There is no direct connection, but since one of them was a demon, I believe there was a general idea that it would work out as long as the other one was too. …Houjou Ujinao is from a demonic long-lived family and Ujiteru is from an Indian demon family.”
“The Asura fighter god type. I believe another one was their Vice President. Or am I misremembering?”
I see, thought Masazumi as she watched the automaton crouch down and hold his right cheek.
Behind her, Ujinao sighed.
“Do not worry, uncle. …I used the back of my blade.”
“D-don’t get so cocky just because you’re my niece.”
“So you want me to chop off your head again.”
That was not a question.
Ujiteru silently stood up, removed his own head, and lifted it up.
After a few seconds, he returned it to his neck.
“Heh hehhhh! Chopping off my head is useless! You iiiiiiiiiiiidiot!”
“Then I will slice it in two.”
“Waaaaait! Do that and I’ll die! You’d think you have devil horns saying things like that! Oh, wait! You do! Never mind then! I’m going to live my life the way I want! Hey, don’t chase meeee!”
Masazumi saw a blade grow out of Ujiteru’s back.
And Ujinao nodded once.
“Please be quiet.”
“W-wait, that was my sp-sp-sp-spinal c-c-c-cor-arrrrgh!? Watch it!”
…I’m not sure which one is more impressive.
Meanwhile, a glasses maid walked by.
It was Seki Masasada. She ran over toward Terumoto.
She was in such a rush that she entirely ignored her surroundings. That told Masazumi something:
…Oh, she’s worried about her master.
Some might see it as the beautiful love between a master and a servant. There’s a similarity to Mitotsudaira there, thought Masazumi. And then…
“Princess! I can’t! I-I just can’t do it!!”
“No, you were really cool. Just keep it up like that.”
Huh? thought Masazumi as she saw Seki quickly hide behind Terumoto.
She must have used some kind of special technique because the large maid uniform was entirely hidden behind Terumoto’s slender form.
Silver Wolf: “That’s impressive. I can’t see her at all. I suppose I should expect that from the head of the Seki clan.”
Mitotsudaira commented on the situation while removing her silver chain from the table.
Wise Sister: “You know who she is, Mitotsudaira!?”
Silver Wolf: “…I’m not sure why you’re so excited, but she’s fairly well known in Mouri. According to the Testament, Seki Masasada is the representative of the Seki clan, a ninja group that serves Mouri. The Seki clan began doing spy work during Motonari’s era and guided a number of operations to success.”
Novice: “It was the Seki clan that supported the destruction of the Amako clan and the Battle of Itsukushima from behind the scenes. They also assisted the fierce Mouri commander Sugihara Morishige when he hunted down Yamanaka Yukimori who we know better as England’s Walter Raleigh. Masasada is the Seki Representative who served during Terumoto’s era.”
I see, thought Masazumi.
She made occasional checks of the Chancellor’s Officers Almanac, but…
Vice President: “I need to go back over the people who only recently inherited names and made their debut. I need to keep up on that boring sort of work too.”
Sticky King: “Wouldn’t there have been a notice on the Testament Union’s divine transmission site?”
Vice President: “It leaves a record when you browse it, so I can’t do so carelessly. This was a lot easier before K.P.A. Italia fell to Hashiba.”
In central Musashino, largescale repair work was underway from the surface to the underground.
Two people sat below the eaves of a small rest area on the stern end of the ship.
It was short-sleeved Ookubo and Kanou.
The banging of construction hammers rang through the air as Kanou viewed a sign frame and looked below the shadows. She tilted her head toward Ookubo whose face was covered in the shadow of the eaves.
“Milady, if the Vice President needs that done, I could check on it or monitor the divine transmissions for that sort of information. I should be able to put together a report for her.”
“No. We don’t need to do anything until she asks.”
Ookubo glared into the distance while bringing something to her mouth.
It was shaved ice. The rest area behind them doubled as a snack bar and people were at work inside. They were all in high spirits and wearing the uniform that had been chosen by survey.
They wore automaton maid uniforms.
“Yes, but they forgot to mention on the survey that all of them are men.”
“Why did everyone just assume that snack bar workers would be women?”
Stubbly and muscular maids served shaved ice or yakisoba to the customers. They all spoke far too rapidly and loudly while rolling their r’s.
“Wellllllc’me! Strawb’rrrrry flav’r!? Comin’ rrright up! …Master.”
“Okayyyy, got it! Thrrrrree ik’yaki! …Master.”
“Heyyyy, mist’rrrr! Sorrrry ‘bout the wait! That’ll be 100 yen! Come agaaaaain! …Master.”
Kanou faced forward and looked up at the diplomatic ship with smoke and ether light mist rising from its port side.
“Milady, isn’t the ‘master’ part entirely unnecessary?”
“If they stopped that, the costumes would be too confusing.”
“Anyway.” Kanou took a bite of shaved ice dyed red by strawberry syrup. “I should find a way to check the Testament Union site without leaving a trace.”
Just then, some text appeared on her sign frame.
Asama: “What should we do, Tenzou-kun? IZUMO will be monitoring the Testament Union site in order to gather information, so should we have them send that our way?”
10ZO: “No, gathering intelligence is my job. I’ll ask a member of my Special Duty Unit who is familiar with that sort of thing. They should be able to check what the site says in a day or two.”
Ookubo and Kanou watched that arrangement in silence for a few seconds.
Finally, Kanou turned around with eyebrows raised.
“Milady! Now! Now is the time! Say we will do it! Otherwise, they will get there ahead of us!”
“Why would we accept defeat instead of waiting for the request to come in, Kanou-kun!?”
“You need to think of defeat as a form of victory! You do them a favor so they are indebted to you!” Kanou placed a hand on Ookubo’s shoulder. “Milady, I will bring a second and third bowl, so you take it easy and work out a method on your own!”
Asama saw Masazumi raise her eyebrows after checking her sign frame.
“Ah. …Hey, Crossunite, Asama? It looks like you don’t need to bother. Kanou sent me a divine mail saying Ookubo will handle it.”
“Committee Head Kanou? …Ookubo-san must be so busy.”
“Yes, she was more or less in charge of Musashi during our study camp… Anyway, it does help if I don’t need to use any of my people for this,” said Tenzou on the sign frame. “Now, if you all have managed to catch your breath, can I ask Asama-dono to perform the purification? I am going to work with the port to set up an emergency quarantine on Tama.”
“Understood. If this ship is landing on the Musashi, we will be given a lot of authority over it. Their diplomatic privileges will prevent us from doing much inside the ship though, so what should we do about that?”
“After what happened with Ootani, I imagine Mouri will want the ship purified. …Hey, Mouri Terumoto.”
Terumoto turned around when Masazumi called out to her.
She had likely heard the conversation.
“Yeah, take care of that. Just make sure you do my room and their rooms from the hallway control system. And while you’re at it, can you change our shrine birthplace setting?”
Asama reflexively voiced her surprise.
Masazumi and Horizon turned toward her.
“Is something the matter, Asama-sama?”
“No, it’s just that…well, she wants me to redo their birthplace setting…and change it even…”
“Huh? I don’t really get it,” said Toori. “What does that mean?”
“Well.” Asama nodded toward him. “It means to change Mouri’s primary shrine.”
It seemed to take a second for the meaning to sink in.
Masazumi eventually frowned, Horizon tilted her head, and the idiot…
“So that’s it! I’m impressed!”
“You understand, Toori-kun?”
“Huhh!? Course I do! What’s that skeptical look for!? I-it means, um, uhh, well…can you please read between the lines already?”
“Yes, yes.” Asama lowered her shoulders and then turned toward Terumoto. “Mouri’s current main shrine is on Hexagone Française land. I believe it is the Suga Shrine. It was built where Susanoo is said to have defeated Yamata no Orochi.”
“Testament. I want to change that main shrine to one Mouri holds here.”
“I assume this is a temporary thing because a nearby one will give you an advantage during the Kantou Liberation…but this will reduce your rights a fair bit, you know?”
“I don’t mind,” said Terumoto. “I’ve already discussed it with them. And it’s a long way from here to Mouri’s Suga Shrine. Hashiba has some high level ley line divine transmission technology, so we would be in serious trouble if they cut the Suga Shrine off from the network.”
Asama understood what she was saying.
No matter how largescale the backup, it could be unstable at a distance. And even smaller scale backup could be quite stable from nearby. When comparing the two, the latter would be the safer option.
But even so…
“Why ask the Asama Shrine?”
“I just wanted the help of a major Far Eastern shrine. You can communicate with the Suga Shrine over divine transmission and you can handle the process with the local shrine. Also, intermediaries are important in Shinto, right?”
That is true, thought Asama.
In both marriage and employment, intermediaries like matchmakers and referrals were important. Going between two different sides and ensuring no impurities formed between them was an important Shinto job.
…Oh, so Houjou was an intermediary that brought Mouri here.
That directed Asama’s focus back toward Terumoto. She’s stricter than I thought she would be.
She did not say “surprisingly”, but did that mean she had been observing her properly? Or had she already felt that during the previous battle? Either way…
“Understood. I will be your intermediary and arrange for the change of shrines.”
“Oh? You can do that, Asama?”
“After Mikawa was lost, the large shrines like Atsuta and Ootsubaki were moved to the Musashi, so I have some experience in it. The method itself has been the same since ancient times, so I’ll be fine. There will be just one difficult part.”
“Trying to keep Mouri’s privileges from being reduced any more than absolutely necessary.”
“Asama-sama, isn’t there anything you can do about that? Make it simple.”
Asama placed a hand on her chin and thought about Horizon’s question.
The change of shrine process had been the same since ancient times. That made it very difficult to find any way of intervening in it. But Horizon…
“Understood.” Sweat poured down her expressionless face. “I will provide you with snacks while you work. I have determined that something with gold in it would be best. Now, the real challenge will be figuring out how to make gold…”
“Wait, you’re headed in a very strange direction there, Horizon!”
“Hmm,” said Toori. “Then I think I’ll make something and bring it to you.”
The fire had spread in an unexpected direction. Her thought had been to find a way to fulfill the request, not to ask for anything like this.
“Um, no, you don’t have to…”
“Great idea! We need to keep Tomo motivated, so please do, my king.”
Mitotsudaira said that as soon as she walked over after putting away her silver chain.
Asama sent a message to just the silver wolf who gave her a smiling sidelong glance. And…
Silver Wolf: “I saw you looking at me yesterday. The look on your face said you wanted a present. …I don’t always like having everything for myself and Horizon seems all for it, so why not just go with it?”
She’s unstoppable when her mom isn’t around… thought Asama.
“I’m not telling you to do it here and now,” said Terumoto with a smile. “You can figure it out down there. Once we land, I would appreciate it if you made this a priority.”
Once she said that, the sky slowly began to move.
The diplomatic ship was descending.
Asama had more work to do, but she also felt like she had more reasons to be in a good mood.
Then Masazumi clapped her hands together and spoke.
“Okay, we managed to confirm our situation and objective here. But even if we do handle the Siege of Odawara with duels, we still have to figure out what to do about the Tensho Jingo Conflict and the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle.”
“In that case,” said Ujinao. “How about we hold a meeting on the Musashi this evening to discuss the number of duels for the Siege of Odawara and how to handle our various interests in this war? Also…”
“I suggest we include the Siege of Bitchu Takamatsu Castle in the Siege of Odawara’s duels. This is all a pain, so it seems best to use the same rules for everything.”
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