Horizon:Volume 6C Chapter 67
Chapter 67: Regulator of the Attack Path
Point Allocation (Jackpot)
The forest is such a dangerous place at night, thought Tenzou.
The forest surrounding Houjou’s water source was not that deep, but it contained enemies.
The Kanie Castle was on the west side of the artificial lake past the forest. That was a narrow strip of land bordering the cliffs of the western mountain range.
It was not that far away if you crossed the lake and a road had been laid out for the construction of the artificial lake.
But using a boat would only make them a target. As would descending from above. Which meant…
Uqui: “Can’t we crash a transport ship into it to end this without breaking a sweat?”
Novice: “The entrance to the ruins is located behind the Kanie Castle, so completely destroying the castle would be risky. That’s also why we aren’t using Musashi’s main cannon or Ariadust-kun’s Lype Katathlipse. But we still might use Lype Katathlipse if we need to end the Siege of Kanie Castle in a hurry.”
Hori-ko: “Ho ho? Then let’s hope it actually hits.”
Silver Wolf: “Um, Horizon? It would be best if you didn’t have to shoot it at all.”
Tachibana Wife: “Master Muneshige! Master Muneshige! You don’t need to set up an FAQ site!”
Good to hear Muneshige-dono has a new hobby.
At any rate, speed was best as a method. So…
Musashi: “As soon as all of you reach the artificial lake, I will send bamboo spear launchers loaded with spell charms to the lakeside. The charms will contain gravitational control spells. They are the same ones used on the rope pathways, so they will automatically set up a wide-range shimenawa net after launching. That will create two 2m-wide pathways over the lake, so please use those. This service is brought to you by the local Odawara god and the Asama Shrine. Over.”
Hori-ko: “Asama-sama, this is an unexpected accomplishment. You have gained 2 Horizon Points.”
Some weird new rules had just been established, but it was best to ignore such things.
At any rate, the Kanie Castle itself was about 800m long.
If there would be two routes in, the attack would be split between those two routes.
Tenzou was the attack leader for the downstream route.
Mitotsudaira was the leader for the upstream route.
She was sensitive to smell and sound, so she was perfect for traveling through the forest. Toori’s group was on that team, so she was sure to take the lead and guide the others.
Mary was also on that team. She could hear the voices of spirits, so she could learn what was happening in the forest and tell the others about most any traps. Combine her with Mitotsudaira and their senses were just about perfect. So during the planning meeting…
“Huh? So do we just not need Tenzou anymore?”
The idiot had given him a confused look, but…
…Ninjas are an indispensable part of RPGs, you know?
Anyway, his team was traveling along the downstream road. That team included Naito, Masazumi, Futayo, the Tachibana couple, and a unit of warriors mostly comprised of the former Mikawa guard unit.
There were a lot of thickets in the forest, but not much underbrush. That was likely due to the roads built and the people coming and going when constructing the artificial lake. They would likely arrive at the lake before even those unaccustomed to hiking were worn out.
Plus, Masazumi was handling it surprisingly well.
“Masazumi-dono, do you have any experience hiking?”
“Judge. There was a really nice mountain behind my home, so I would climb up there to collect mountain vegetables. Also, it probably helps that I’m not hungry.”
Tenzou had a feeling that second reason was more important, but he left it unsaid.
They occasionally came across long depressions where water had flowed long ago, so…
“Be careful along here, everyone. There is a dry creek bed along the ground.”
When it was too dangerous, he would lend a hand. Or he intended to, but Naito flew over with her wings and Masazumi was carried over in Futayo’s arms. As for the Tachibana couple…
“Gin, your hand.”
It looked an awful lot like Gin simply jumped over with Muneshige, so did it really matter that they were holding hands?
Tenzou ended up only helping the warriors behind those five, but once they were all over…
“Thank you, 1st Special Duty Officer. I’ll never forgive you.”
“Oh, thank you very much, 1st Special Duty Officer. I’ll never forgive you.”
“Thanks for the help, 1st Special Duty Officer. I’ll never forgive you.”
“Wh-why am I sensing so much personal enmity in your responses!?”
“Tenzou, did you do something to Ma-yan?” asked Naito.
“N-no, I haven’t done anything.”
He sensed the surrounding atmosphere worsen. Without a doubt, everyone was listening in.
And Naito stopped alongside him.
“Why did you split up with Ma-yan?”
He shuddered when he initially interpreted “split up” in a different way.
“W-well, th-that was just the way Neshinbara-dono suggested dividing up our forces.”
“Hmm… Oh, but just so you know, Tenzou.”
“What is it?”
“To you, it might look like Ma-yan is doing everything she can to avoid you, but…it’s quite the opposite.”
…Yeah, I figured as much.
He was overly aware of how seriously he doubted she no longer liked him, but he had indeed noticed her keeping her distance.
When they linked arms, she would not look him in the eye. Stuff like that. He did wish things could return to how they were before, but…
“Does it make me a coward if I think rushing things won’t help?”
When she heard that, Naito actually opened her eyes for once. “Oh,” she said with a slight smile. Then she slapped him on the back.
“Tenzou, you’ve really matured, haven’t you?”
“Y-you’re kind of creeping me out right now, Naito-dono!”
“Calm down. Since you’ve put some real effort into this, I’ll wait three days before telling Ga-chan. But do you know why Ma-yan starting acting so weird this afternoon?”
“Yeah… To be honest, I was a little too charming.”
“But you were serious about all of it, weren’t you?”
…Oh, does this mean I really am charming?
He realized it was too late to be wondering that. But Naito nodded and said more.
“Ma-yan’s fine, so don’t worry. When the two of you remember this later on, I’m sure you’ll realize it was a really important event for you.”
“Is that how it is?”
“Judge, judge. When Ga-chan and I remember our past troubles, we tend to whitewash what actually happened.”
With a “good luck”, the Schwarz Hexen slapped his back again and stepped back just in time for Futayo to ask a question.
“What was that about?”
“Hm? Sex. It’s about sex.”
Naito’s answer was far too dangerous, but there was no stopping it now.
There was a slight upward slope ahead of them. This was their destination for the time being.
Naito saw Tenzou come to a stop.
He turned back and pointed at the slope behind them.
“This is our midway point. A bit further along, it suddenly falls away by about 15 meters.”
That was strange terrain, but she recognized it.
“This terrain was eroded by a river, wasn’t it? You often see it while looking down from the Musashi.”
It was erosion terrain. It did not exist on the Musashi, but it was a common sight from the Musashi. The accumulated dirt and rain erosion around the landports at Mikawa and elsewhere were neat when viewed from above.
Now she was seeing the same thing from a horizontal vantage point. The Mikawa group was confused by the reaction, but the Musashi group could not help but look around in fascination.
…These little differences show up here and there.
While she thought that, Tenzou passed her an unlit sign frame. It displayed a simple map of the surrounding area.
“After the drop off up ahead, there is more forest down below and the lake is another 100 meters after that.”
“So if we climb this slope, we can see the Kanie Castle?”
“Judge. But poke your head out and even simple motion sensors will be able to detect us. So the safest route is to avoid the slope, descend along a detour, and use the forest below as cover while we make our charge on the lake.”
“1st Special Duty Officer. So either way, we begin a charge once we descend into the forest?”
Tenzou nodded at Gin’s question.
“Correct. I will lead the way, so I would like for the Vice Chancellor’s Aide to support me. And you support him, Gin-dono.”
“Judge,” said the Tachibana couple while Naito also nodded.
…So I take the rear this time.
The Kantou Liberation would require aerial fighters, so Neshinbara wanted to keep anything from happening to Naito or Naruze during the Siege of Kanie Castle. So even when they joined the battle, they would provide logistical support or rescue the others.
I wonder what Ga-chan is doing, she thought.
Her thoughts were interrupted by a gunshot from the right. That was upstream.
The upstream team had reached the enemy’s front line.
Asama was behind Toori and Horizon.
Her jobs on the upstream team were ether detection and defense. He and Horizon were their leaders, so it was dangerous placing them on the front line, but this allowed them to use Lype Katathlipse or his ether sharing spell if necessary. Asama was also carrying Katatsubasa at her hip just in case, but…
…I can’t shoot people.
Not that I’m disappointed with that, but I do wish I could take a more active role here.
Speaking of active roles, Mitotsudaira was in the lead.
“There is a fresh human scent up ahead. I think there is a trap there.”
She said things like that and helped them avoid dangerous routes as they traversed the forest. But at the same time…
“This has gone so smoothly I’m worried we are being guided along the trapless path. I think there is a trap buried over there, so let’s remove it and take that route.”
And when they had asked her why she could do all this…
“When my mother kidnapped my king at IZUMO, I learned a lot pursuing her through the forest. And afterwards, I thought back to the problems I encountered and researched how to deal with them.”
That’s Mito for you, thought Asama, but she was also surprised to learn such a close friend was going to such efforts while she was not looking.
Of course, Asama was probably doing the same and Mitotsudaira had to be surprised by her at times.
…Come to think of it, Horizon and Kimi always surprise us, just for a different reason…
The more she thought about it, the less she knew what was good and what was bad, so she stopped thinking.
However, she was worried about Mary who was taking up the rear. She and Tenzou had crossed Hexagone Française just like Mitotsudaira, but…
…Will she be okay?
Whenever Asama glanced back at Mary, the girl did not seem to be paying attention.
She hung her head and occasionally held a hand to her cheek while ether water lilies scattered from her hair. Whenever those fell on Naruze’s wings ahead of her, she would frantically apologize. It was cute how Excalibur would float worriedly around when that happened.
She did not know how to control her emotions after Tenzou’s charming display that afternoon.
Mary usually seemed quite calm, but that was likely why she did not know what to do when something did get to her.
As someone who placed a lid over everything, Asama was honestly quite jeal-…
“No, no, no, no.”
“What is the matter, Asama-sama? You are acting crazy again.”
“Huh? Why would you say ‘again’ there?”
Kimi would probably have an answer to that if she was here, thought Asama, but that crazy person was currently monitoring them from atop the hill.
Suzu, Adele, Heidi, and some others were with her. Suzu was receiving sensory data on everything from Musashi’s sensors, although it was not as detailed as when she was on the bridge. She was providing them with real-time updates:
Bell: “Trees…there are a bunch of…trees. And they’re all…different shapes.”
She must have been enjoying all the data on natural objects because she sounded unusually excited.
Bell: “And? And you know what? That one tree…um…uh…Mitotsudaira-san?”
Silver Wolf: “Eh? Yes, there is one in front of me. What about it?”
Bell: “Yes. That is…I’m not sure how to explain…but it’s not a tree. It’s a person.”
Everyone but Mary came to a stop and Mary bumped into Naruze.
“Ah, s-sorry. You stopped so suddenly. Did something happen?”
Mitotsudaira immediately gave a shout.
“We’ve found the enemy!”
Taki: “Eh!? What!? Did they notice our front line!?”
Shared: “Um, I’m not sure how, but they noticed me! Ah, there’s a crossdresser! That’s probably the crossdressing Chancellor who was on top of the Ariake! He’s wiggling side to side, so can I target him first!?”
Ka-K: “Hey, Takigawa-san. It sounds like this wasn’t according to plan, so are we okay out here?”
Taki: “If you can handle this, then do so! Upstream covert unit, get moving!”
Mitotsudaira ejected her silver chains while sending an instruction to Suzu.
Silver Wolf: “Suzu! Please do a search to see if the forest below is safe!”
A gunshot was fired while everyone was still confused and it was blocked by an automatic defense barrier.
She was most worried about…
She turned back and saw the crossdresser striking a Y-pose, so she decided he was probably fine. They had Asama with them, so Horizon and the other would be well defended.
Then Suzu’s response arrived.
Bell: “Below is…okay! There’s…someone there…but just one? That’s all.”
That would be someone from Sanada. Only they would lie in wait on their own.
So if they went down there, someone would have to fight that person. And if they could stop them, it would clear the way to the lake. So…
…Time for a detour.
If they jumped straight down, a few of them would be hit during the fall. Only one person was needed to fire on them with a homing spell. However, if they took a detour, there might be traps, but Mitotsudaira only had to take control of the ground and air with her silver chains. The time for covert action had ended. So…
Mitotsudaira moved forward. In order to secure a detour path, she wrapped the chains around the upstream trees and crushed them.
She threw the crushed and felled trees into the downstream space.
…This is a real pain.
Naruze held Weiss Fräulein in an upright position while moving behind the trees.
She was on a downward detour in the northern upstream area.
The enemy was coming from downstream. They primarily attacked with gunfire and were quite aggressive, but they made no attempt to approach.
They were ninjas.
It was a thorough long-rage attack, so when Naruze’s group of warriors moved forward…
The enemy fell back. They did so by quite a bit without a moment’s hesitation.
Naruze wanted to poetically describe their movement as “like a flowing river”, but that was nothing but trouble for her.
…This is not going according to plan!
Nothing ever seemed to go according to plan. The data on the final page might crash just before submitting the doujin, the printing press might malfunction, and a group opposed to idol worship might protest the sexual content. Those things happened all the time.
So she responded with the same irritation she did at those times.
She stuffed 120 10-yen coins into Weiss Fräulein, held it under her arm, and side stepped out from behind the tree she was using as a shield.
With that gloomy greeting, several presences moved in the distance. It was impressive how they tried to move away without even turning around. However…
…Don’t underestimate an artist’s visual perception!
She had the skill to instantly draw up the perfect shot she saw. And even without drawing out a guide line, her accuracy was far higher with her feet solidly on the ground than when in the air.
The light of firing spells scattered at a rate of 20-per-second to the right of Weiss Fräulein.
10-yen coins were fired at the same rate. Each of those shots could punch through light armor, so they tore through the forest’s trees and shook everything.
She ran out of ammo in 4 seconds. So she reloaded. And she activated another spell. While she did that, the enemy poked their heads out.
She had attached a heating spell to a glass water bottle at her hip, so she launched that with Weiss Fräulein.
She finished reloading the coin bullets while watching the explosion of scalding steam. She slowly moved right to follow the others while resuming her rapid-fire. She also occasionally threw one of the water bottles at her hip.
“Mitotsudaira! They’re pinned in place!”
Mitotsudaira responded to Naruze’s signal by throwing something into the downstream forest.
…These tall trees I secured with the silver chains!!
There were 12 in all. She used the silver chains to launch those lengthy objects one at a time.
Instead of bending the chain to grab them, she placed them atop the chains like a catapult to launch them. Thanks to the swinging of the chains, the tree spears flew with artillery-like speed.
She had not removed the branches. That way those leafy branches would snag on the other trees and hit the people hidden behind them.
Mitotsudaira raised her voice while swinging her arms to perform the high-speed launch.
The Takigawa ninjas saw the rush of trees coming.
They had had a tree or two thrown at them earlier, but they had been thrown slowly, giving them a chance to react.
But this was very different. Summer-leafed conifer trees measuring more than 20m were thrown with enough force to break through the surrounding forest. At first glance, it looked a lot like having a small transport ship ramming them.
The ninja in the lead swung a spread hand backwards.
“Scatter and retreat!”
Just as he shouted in a voice only his fellow ninjas could hear, a tree hit him.
They all saw the leaves surround him and lift him from the ground.
He was instantly engulfed by the leaves and branches.
Then the tree bounced off the ground.
There was no path in the forest, so whenever the speedy tree hit another tree, it would change direction somewhat.
That high-speed charge swept across the forest.
And it did not end with just the one. Before the first one had ended, a second, third, and fourth joined it.
The roar was of snapping and cracking trees. The leaves and dirt accumulated on the ground were all blown away.
Those who moved away from the lake were the lucky ones.
Those who reflexively fled downstream were pursued by the roaring wave of trees and swallowed up. The high-speed trees tore a path in the dirt as they weaved between the standing trees and their great weight and the pressure of their leafy branches caught the Takigawa ninjas who failed to escape.
They did not even have time to scream.
A fifth, sixth, and seventh were launched. And those pursued the ninjas who had escaped toward the city road.
But those who had escaped and sprinted through the dark forest heard a certain sound from the lake.
“Ship artillery fire. Finally!”
The Kanie Castle fired a physical shell along a tall parabolic arc.
It fell beyond the slope of the upstream hill.
But it did not stop there. In response to Takigawa’s barked orders, the main cannon and secondary cannons on Kanie Castle’s bow continued to fire.
“Fire like you’re trying to bring down the entire hill!”
“Takigawa-sama, they’re returning fire!”
“From the Musashi, right!?”
She looked up into the sky and saw light coming from atop the Musashi’s long bow.
The enemy’s god of war sniper unit had fired.
“Here it comes! Open defense barriers!”
Just as she said that, explosions of light erupted in the sky off the Kanie Castle’s lake-facing starboard side.
The barriers were shattered by the shots from the Musashi.
The light loudly scattered and sprayed into the night while the bullet fragments bounced off the water of the artificial lake.
Water sprayed out like rain and Takigawa raised her voice even as it fell on her.
“Gunners, stick to physical shells! If we send all power to the defense barriers, we can survive this!”
The physical shells fired from behind the barriers took nearly vertical trajectories. The targeting was less precise, but physical shells could be fired without using much ether fuel. However…
“Takigawa-sama! I’m detecting ether light at the target location!”
“That is an anti-ship defense barrier!”
Mitotsudaira looked up at the light where the ship artillery was hitting in the forest.
That was a defense barrier. The one that took the hit would shatter, but several more immediately opened up below it. Asama was activating them, but her Blessings alone were not enough to cover it. It was only possible thanks to…
“Yeah, that was a close one.”
Her king had activated his ether supply spell. It had several lines attached to the waist hard points of Asama’s shrine maiden outfit.
The noise of the shells being fired and hitting was quite loud, but Asama’s dignified voice carried through it all.
“If you can raise barriers, please do so! I can give you three!”
Three shields floated into the sky below the falling metallic noise.
Immediately, an even more concentrated attack hit the sky.
The barrage was testing the barriers. The several layers were instantly blown away, but…
“I’m adding in a strengthening spell!”
Just as Asama clapped her hands, the light grew much brighter. The number of layers being shattered was in equilibrium with the number being created, so it felt like the cacophony from the sky had grown more distant.
Just as Mitotsudaira thought that, she heard a shout from Mary.
Mitotsudaira sensed danger.
She realized why Mary had called her name.
Mary was not saying that Mitotsudaira herself was in danger. Mary knew her very well thanks to their trek across Hexagone Française after descending from IZUMO to pursue her mother.
So Mary knew what she cared about most.
The enemy’s attack arrived just as she looked back.
It was a flying projectile.
She could not see it, but she sensed its pressure. It was a powerful presence she could only describe as killer or destructive intent and it flew past her and toward her king’s group.
Her hand or silver chains would not reach it in time, so…
She kicked it from the side as it passed her by.
With a deafening sound, she felt the hit in her leg and its course was changed enough to crash into a nearby tree.
It was a shell.
…It was fired horizontally!?
While listening to the bursting and creaking of the giant tree, Mitotsudaira wondered why the shell had flown in along a horizontal course.
They were behind a slope, so the Kanie Castle could not directly target them.
In that case, she thought.
“So you can use bursts of strength rivalling your mom’s, can you?”
She heard a sudden voice behind her on the left. She recognized it.
The sound of an artillery shot rang by her ear before she could dodge.
Mitotsudaira realized she had dodged in time.
The shot was made at nearly point-blank range. She only managed to avoid it thanks to seeing Kakei and Futayo’s battle and her bestial reflexes.
She had dodged it. The flying shell had shot through the gaps between the trees behind her.
…That was a close one!
She knew Kakei’s ninja technique. Anything he fired from his hidden hands would be fired from the target’s blind spot. And out of the corner of her vision, she saw a pair of sign frames in his hands.
<Kanie Castle: 3rd Bow Secondary Cannon: Firing Control>
If his ninja technique was functioning properly, then it meant he was using one of the Kanie Castle’s secondary cannons.
…Is that how the one was fired horizontally!?
This was the answer to her question: he had effectively carried a ship’s cannon onto the battlefield.
An attack from the side would be devastating to the others who had their defense barriers positioned overhead.
Mitotsudaira knew she had to do something about this. Especially because this enemy could move quickly. That meant only she could handle him. However…
Asama’s shout sounded both worried and surprised.
…What does that mean?
Just then, Mitotsudaira realized she was lying on the ground.
She had tripped.
Naruze swung Weiss Fräulein around below the protective umbrella of defense barriers.
The silver wolf had tripped due to the previous cannon blast. It had been fired close to her ear. While it was true she had dodged it, the vibration of the sound had shaken her inner ear.
Naruze hurriedly targeted Kakei to assist Mitotsudaira. She did not know if she would be fast enough, but something had to be done about the ninja circling behind Mitotsudaira’s back.
Honestly, ninjas are so much trouble whether they’re on your side or not.
Mitotsudaira was moving, but her sense of equilibrium was shot. The lines of her butt made a nice silhouette when she struggled to get up on her knees, so Naruze made sure to memorize the visual. Unfortunately, Kakei was circling behind her.
He blocked her view of Mitotsudaira’s butt. A guy’s butt was not what she needed right now. You’re in the way. No, that’s not the point. She raised Weiss Fräulein and, once Mitotsudaira rolled a bit out from Kakei’s sights…
A shot got in Naruze’s way. It came from the road to the left.
One of the Takigawa ninjas had escaped Mitotsudaira’s tree onslaught and circled around to target them.
Naruze quickly raised Weiss Fräulein to protect herself. She caught the enemy bullets on the device and Mary did the same on Excalibur.
…Ahh, this pisses me off!
She felt like nothing was going right. If their goal was to anger her, Takigawa’s unit was doing an amazing job. Disembowel yourselves, all of you. I’m going to miss my deadline, so bow down to the printing office and commit seppuku.
But she heard another cannon blast. Kakei had fired on Mitotsudaira.
Mitotsudaira saw it.
A definite cannon blast sounded to her right while she still could not stand back up.
It was quite close by and she was certain it would hit.
But then she heard a metallic noise and an explosion.
It was the loud sound of everything being blown away, but she was still alive.
…What is this?
She opened her eyes to see.
Something floated in the air amid the smoke and shrapnel to her right.
Tenzou had swung his hand toward the air upstream, but he now pulled it back and took a breath.
The rumbling of cannon fire continued. Some of it was supporting fire from the Musashi, but that was a bit sporadic.
Smoking Girl: “We got two units aboard a transport ship so we can aim from above. They have to place their defense barriers vertically and it restricts the angle of fire, so this should be a little easier now.”
“Thank you,” he said while looking at his hand. Excalibur had been there a moment before, but it had appeared worried about things on the other side. He had thrown it there thinking it was for Mary, but…
Silver Wolf: “You saved me, 1st Special Duty Officer!”
10ZO: “Eh? Mitotsudaira-dono? Not Mary-dono?”
<Scarred-sama has left the chat.>
“Oh, c’mon, Tenzou. That was too careless of you.”
“Why?” he asked as the group monitoring the upstream area turned back toward him.
“Tch. …Oh, 1st Special Duty Officer, the upstream bombardment has lightened up!”
“Tch. …Um, 1st Special Duty Officer, what detour should we take?”
“Tch. …The Kanie Castle seems to be aiming all its cannons upstream.”
“Wh-why did you all preface your reports like that!?”
This is hardly new, but I really don’t get girls, he thought. But then Gin raised her head.
“Judge. …1st Special Duty Officer, have you noticed?”
He had. They were surrounded.
The enemy was still a good distance away, but they were closing in and making no attempt to hide their footsteps.
“A group of automatons!?”
Gin sensed something odd in the enemy’s footsteps.
This was not her first time fighting automatons, but there was still something strange about how they were stepping.
…They are not measuring the distance.
She could see the enemy in the forest, in the night, and in the darkness.
They used wooden parts, but there were so many of them. A quick estimate told her their numbers broke a thousand. And they formed several ranks.
The Musashi warriors stepped back in shock and Gin gestured for them to fall back further. And…
She only pulled the right one from the dual pitch space because the other had not been repaired since the Sanada battle. But she fired as soon as it was spatially ejected.
At a distance of 20 meters, she tore through the dolls straight ahead of her.
A moment later, flames rose from the broken dolls. With a roar, something was scattered throughout the wind.
Just as she shouted that, the enemy took unified action. They thrust their hands forward and raced toward the Musashi group as if to grab at them.
They would not miss at this range, so Gin exchanged a glance with Muneshige. And…
“Vice Chancellor! Take care of the Vice President and the others!”
After saying that, Gin saw someone jumping overhead.
It was the Vice Chancellor she had just spoken to and the girl was charging toward the approaching enemy.
Gin was enraged, but she restrained herself by only aiming Arcabuz Cruz at the center of Futayo’s back and pulling the spell-control trigger 5 times with the safety still on. Muneshige laughed next to her.
“Gin, that was the adult thing to do.”
“Master Muneshige, this is not the kind of adult I want to be!”
“The enemy!” shouted Futayo. “The enemy is coming!!”
Gin hurriedly responded to the enemy.
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