Owari no Chronicle:Volume1 Chapter 9
Chapter 9: The Circumstances of Justice
Difficult things are generally numerous
Easy things are always few
And it is once more time to think
Sayama could tell the world had tilted to his left which was to the south. If the voice he had heard was accurate, everything would fall to the south in the Concept Space that had been created.
He grasped his own situation and the situation around him in an instant.
Ahead of him to the west, the only footing was the stones surrounding the grassy area. Behind him, there was the wall of the rest area as well as the tree-covered slope and viewing platform behind the rest area. To the south on his left, there was nothing but the walkway and the trees of the garden.
The only effective footing was the trees behind him.
Sayama immediately picked up Shinjou.
He did not have time to respond. Sayama moved to the left and leaped to the trees to the south.
His body fell in an instant.
The ground was already a wall. Sayama landed on one of the tree trunks and leaped toward the slope to the left, toward the viewing platform.
Hurry, he thought.
The reason for this thought came soon thereafter. Shinjou looked up at the rest area from his arms.
The sound of glass breaking sounded from well above their heads. The counters and tables in the rest area had slid down the tilted ground and crashed into the entrance.
With the ground now a wall, anything not solidly attached would become a falling object.
And they came. The tables that had broken through the rest area door and the benches in the grassy area all fell down.
But it went beyond that. The castle tower foundation to the north had a large stone wall. It crumbled and created a tsunami of giant rocks.
As these falling objects approached, they produced a great roar like the surging waves of the sea.
Sayama ran. Once he approached the eastern slope, he jumped. He was aiming for the trees covering that slope. That would provide somewhere to stand. The railing on the way up the observation platform would make especially good footing.
He silently apologized and threw Shinjou ahead of him into the trees.
After seeing Shinjou land backside-first on one of the trees, Sayama placed his feet on the ground which had become a wall. He lightly kicked off that wall of earth and controlled his posture. He shot up above Shinjou’s head, landed on the trunk of a pine tree, and quickly turned around.
At the same moment, the other three jumped onto trees lower than himself.
Ooshiro Itaru was carried to a nearby tree in Sf’s arms.
Ooshiro Kazuo was out of breath and he suddenly realized he still had his drink cup in his hand. Immediately afterwards, the tsunami from the crumbled northern stone wall struck the rest area. It had already made its way across the grassy area.
As Shinjou held onto a tree one level below, she visibly ducked down as the earthquake-like noise approached.
It all happened in an instant.
After the roar and cloud of dust passed them by, everything that had been around them previously was gone. The bench they had been sitting on, the trees that had been behind them, and even the rest area had been thoroughly smashed or had vanished.
The roar continued on to the south below them. When it struck the trees down below, some of it passed through and some of it was brought to a stop.
This is a dangerous situation, thought Sayama.
But he immediately denied it. They had escaped their enemy’s initial strike. It was not as dangerous as it might have been. They could handle this.
He nodded. And as he did, a dark figure stood up before him.
It was Sf. She stood on a tree trunk and looked toward the open area where most of the grass had been torn up.
“The enemy is coming.”
Sayama looked over and found the people wearing dark green cloaks were standing perpendicular to the ground and walking toward them.
“Sf-kun, why can the enemy stand and walk on the ground?”
“They have philosopher’s stones. Those are catalytic crystallizations of a concept’s string vibration. Anyone holding one can add concepts without modulating their parent string vibration. They are also used as fuel for concept weapons. The enemy must be holding philosopher’s stones made from inferior reproductions of some concept.”
Just as she finished speaking, a nearby pine tree trunk suddenly burst.
Sayama looked over, assuming it had been a bullet, but he found a few of the enemies standing still in the center of the open area were holding staff-like objects toward them.
He then heard a voice. It belonged to the man who seemed to be their leader. He wore dark green armor underneath his dark green cloak, so he looked like a knight.
“Are you coming!?” he shouted.
However, Sayama heard another shout duplicated over that one. This other shout was in a language that’s pronunciation was somehow similar to German. Sayama grasped that this was the language the man was actually speaking. Some sort of mutual understanding concept was in effect.
“That’s a convenient power.”
“As long as it is not used incorrectly,” agreed Sf.
Ooshiro Itaru then shouted from below.
Three meters below where Shinjou sat one trunk below them, Ooshiro Kazuo sat on a tree trunk. Next to the old man, his son lay in his black suit on the railing heading up the observation platform. His legs were crossed and his arms were folded behind his head.
“Hurry it up. I’m gonna hold you to those 3 minutes.”
“Tes. Then take this, Sayama-sama.”
Sf pulled a black metal object out of her pocket. It was a handgun.
“That looks like a perfectly normal handgun to me.”
“The bullets are anti-1st-Gear weapons. They possess the power of writing that 1st-Gear’s parent concept provides. Objects defined by writing possess a stronger existence and are given power. As was stated previously…”
Sf pulled a handkerchief and fountain pen from her pocket and wrote a word on the handkerchief. Specifically, “fire”.
The area written on grew brown, then black, and finally burned away.
“The more expressive the handwritten words, the more the words’ power will be embodied in the object. Any phenomenon possible under that world’s concept can be made a reality. However, invincibility, immortality, and resurrection are not possible in any Gear. …When fighting under their concepts, your armaments will not have their proper power unless they have writing engraved into them.”
“What do this gun’s bullets say?”
“Every bullet has “bullet, one more hit” written on it. If you hit once, the next shot will automatically home in on the target. Try to use that effectively. I must retrieve the equipment I left at the café. They had a String Watch with them, so they will have been brought into the Concept Space.”
“Wouldn’t they have fallen with the rocks earlier?”
“No, I did not observe them among the fallen debris. I believe they were swept among the remaining garden trees on the northern slope. …I will have them in three minutes.”
“So you want me to hold the enemies’ attention until then?”
“Tes. You are not currently my top priority, Sayama-sama. I must ask you to take this job. By the way, my order of precedence runs Itaru-sama, Shinjou-sama, Sayama-sama, and in a very distant last place, Kazuo-sama.”
“Wait. Why are you treating me so differently?” asked Ooshiro.
“Family comes last, you damn old man. Get going, Sf. If I die, it’s your fault,” said Itaru.
“Tes. If that is your desire, I will grant it later.”
Sf circled around behind Sayama and began moving upwards. She worked her way up by grabbing onto the tree trunks growing from the earth wall, pulling herself up onto them, and swinging her body to balance herself. The tree-covered slope had originally grown from a low hill, so it looked like an overhang when looking up at it. Sf chose to remain in the shadow of the hill to hide her ascent from the enemies.
Sayama was filled with wonder over how precisely and quickly Sf moved, but he suddenly noticed the weight of the gun in his hand. He shrugged and looked down to find Shinjou blushing as she followed Sf’s movements above.
“What is it? Why are you blushing?”
“Eh? Oh, um, she was standing on the tree directly above me, remember? And, well, sh-she’s surprisingly adult?”
“What do you mean by adult?”
Sayama grinned bitterly as he looked down. Shinjou did not have a weapon, Ooshiro Itaru showed absolutely zero intention of fighting, and Ooshiro Kazuo was too old to count on in a fight.
Shinjou looked toward the open area and shouted, “Ah, here they come!”
So they’re here, thought Sayama as he placed the hand holding the gun against the wall next to him. He nodded and decided he needed some kind of plan. He needed a way of fighting despite the poor footing.
He suddenly looked to his right. He was holding his right arm out straight against the wall made from the ground.
He then looked down at his feet. His was standing atop a root next to the wall.
“So down is determined by the planet’s south.”
“…Eh? What about it? Doesn’t that just mean the ground is a cliff like this?”
“There is a hole in the theory,” said Sayama with a grin.
He looked down and both Itaru and Ooshiro were grinning as well.
“I see. It looks like the crueler of us have caught on. But our enemy has not. And even you are viewing it wrong. If we can draw in the enemy and take advantage of this, we might be able to pull something off here.”
The group from 1st-Gear’s Royal Palace faction was made up of eleven people. They were spread out in a fan shape around the woods their target was hiding in. The knight who was their leader was at the front. He was flanked on either side by two attendants who were over three meters tall. They were members of some large race of beings. Beyond the attendants were two woman hidden below a cloak and holding a wooden staff. Behind each of them were two men wearing square bonnets for a total of four.
And at the very back of each row was an archer. The two of them had removed their cloaks to reveal four wings on their backs. Their wings vibrated, drawing in air from the front and blowing it behind them. Both of them tilted their bodies backwards at almost the exact same moment. It was as if they were throwing themselves to the ground or lying down. And as soon as their four wings were level with the ground…
The sound of wind burst from their backs.
Their four wings gave a single strike. And that sent them flying up into the blue sky above their heads.
Once they reached a height of 15 meters, they took a position of leaning back only slightly. They tilted their wings behind them to hover in place, aimed their bows toward the woods, and pulled back the string without nocking an arrow.
The knight at the head of the group below the archers threw open the front of his cloak to show his arms.
He held a long rifle in his right hand and a shield in his left. The rifle was made of wood and metal. Instead of a magazine, a black hardcover book was sticking into the top of the rifle. The book was made of canvas material instead of paper.
A white beard moved underneath the knight’s helm as he spoke.
“If you give no response, we will continue to advance on you!”
He began to take a step with his long boots.
But then two figures appeared, standing perpendicular to the side of a tree trunk at the front of the woods.
In the front was an elderly man in a brown suit. Behind him was a boy in a gray suit.
The boy gently pushed the old man forward.
The man’s lean figure was forced to jump down from the woods and into the open.
The knight froze in place for an instant. That open area was a sheer cliff to his enemies.
For a moment, the knight almost looked up to the archers in the sky. However, he stopped himself.
The old man stood as if clinging to the ground.
He was on the very edge of the lawn area. A slight curb stuck up there.
The old man was standing tiptoe on that narrow curb while clinging to the ground.
Next, the boy in the suit jumped down. He held a paper cup with a straw.
As they both clung to the ground, they moved around three meters closer along the stone curb.
At a distance of approximately five meters, the two of them stopped.
The elderly man lightly raised his hands. He looked up at the knight and the others while in a position similar to lying on the asphalt ground. He had a troubled smile on his face.
“Hi there. Sorry about this, but could you leave for a bit?”
“No, we cannot,” immediately replied the knight quietly.
The boy standing next to the elderly man spoke in response.
“Oh, I think you can.”
Sayama looked up at the knight standing on the wall to his left. He could not see his eyes through the face of his helm, but he could see his mouth. While focusing on trying to pick up on his expression, Sayama inwardly sighed.
…So he is at least reasonable enough to speak with.
From the speed of the knight’s reply and the calm in his voice, Sayama concluded the man was relatively experienced.
With some tension in his expression, Sayama said, “If you did not intend for us to discuss something, you would not have prepared a concept that allows us to understand each other. It seems to me you have some objective other than killing us.”
In response, the knight aimed his long rifle at him.
“What if that objective is having you beg for your life?”
“Then I would be amazed at how little difference there is between knights and bandits these days.”
“We are fighting for revenge. …We simply want those who must be punished to realize the value of life. Do you think bandits would be so merciful?”
“Are you the one that gets to determine what is merciful? If not, who do you think does?”
The knight’s mouth stiffened at that. Sayama noticed, but he continued speaking with the same expression as before.
“Do you understand where it is you stand here? Is it a scene of revenge or is it the stage of a turning point in history? If it is the latter, what do you think decides everything here? If you think it is you, you should go burn every single history book you can find. There would be no point in anyone reading them.”
The knight kept his rifle aimed at Sayama and did not move.
Sayama could see his finger on a button that was likely the trigger.
Sayama asked, “What exactly is a merciful knight? I thought it was someone who actually carried out merciful actions rather than someone who simply understood what was generally considered to be merciful. Am I wrong?”
With a bitter smile, the knight removed his finger from the rifle’s trigger. Sayama bowed.
“I thank you for your mercy.”
“It is only natural. However, what do you hope for in a situation such as this?”
Sayama moved his aching left arm and placed the paper cup in his left hand on Ooshiro’s shoulder.
“Are you listening?” he said to the knight. “Ooshiro Kazuo here is the head of Japanese UCAT. His brain is filled with all sorts of valuable information. And as he has aged, his endurance has weakened, making it easier to get information out of him.”
“Hmph,” muttered Ooshiro as he glanced over at Sayama.
Sayama only ignored him.
“Ooshiro Kazuo here has not shown himself in public much recently, but today he is here in person at the Imperial Palace and even wearing normal clothes. As a special service, I will now-…”
“Are you trying to use him as a hostage?” asked the knight.
“No,” replied Sayama.
Sayama held up the drink cup with his hurting left arm. He held it next to Ooshiro’s face. The cup had the word “poison” written on it with a fountain pen and the straw was already sticking into Ooshiro’s right ear.
The knight clenched his teeth when he saw it. Sayama looked directly at the face of the knight’s helm and spoke.
“I will now give this valuable item a public execution. Perhaps.”
Sayama saw the knight take a step toward him without thinking.
But the knight stopped there.
After glancing back toward his comrades behind him, he spoke.
“Such foolishness.” He gave a bitter smile. “Kill him if you wish. That simply saves us the effort.”
“Even if Ooshiro Kazuo here rethinks his pitiful character and seeks asylum with 1st-Gear?”
“Enough nonsense!” shouted the knight and Ooshiro gave a start.
He shouted out, “Help meeeeee! I don’t want to diiiiie! What am I supposed to do!? Ow ow ow ow ow!”
Sayama lifted up the foot he had used to stomp on Ooshiro’s foot.
He then whispered, “Old man, you’re giving this too much effort.”
The knight was bending over to stare at them more closely.
Not good. I chose the wrong person, thought Sayama. Shinjou probably would have been better.
He wondered what kind of scream she would have let out. What would it have sounded like? He regretted missing out on that.
…Is it too late to turn back now!? Well, I can save that for some other time.
With that last thought, Sayama quickly refocused his attention.
He made sure the knight could see he was giving the cup in his left hand a light squeeze.
“What will you do? I am ready to go ahead with this,” he said so as not to give the knight any longer to think.
Sayama had determined the knight was not actually after a battle.
It was likely because they had learned the leader of UCAT would be here that they had come to the Imperial Palace. That meant they were after Ooshiro Kazuo. Sayama decided they had intentionally created a situation where Ooshiro could not move so they could speak with him and have him take a certain action.
…Most likely, they either want to abduct him or force him to sign some sort of agreement.
As Sayama nodded in his heart, he spoke to the knight.
“Listen carefully. If you try to harm any of us, I will put an end to this old man. That means it is your responsibility if his pitiable life is taken.”
“…But you are the one trying to kill him.”
“Yet you are not trying to stop me from doing so, Sir Knight.” Sayama spoke that last word with enough force to make the knight grit his teeth. He went on to say, “You announced you were merciful, so are you really going to do nothing as poison is poured into a poor old man’s ear, as he dances around in pain, and as he finally dies? If that happens, UCAT will start by punishing me. However, they will blame you as well. And that blame will spread until it affects all of the survivors of 1st-Gear.” He took a breath. “How is that merciful? You are a knight in name only. …You can lose all trust and live a life of being scorned if you wish. And it will all be for your victory here, Sir Knight.”
“Mh,” groaned the knight. “Is that poison real?”
“Do you not trust in the power of your own Gear? It even has pieces of the main ingredient inside to ensure the contents are 100% effective.”
“100% effective, you say?”
“Yes,” nodded Sayama.
He pulled a fountain pen out of his pocket and wrote another word on the cup. Above “poison” he wrote “amazing”.
“What do you think of this amazing poison? It has plenty of iron, so it’s perfect for when you finish exercising. What will you do?”
But after drawing back from Sayama’s words for an instant, the knight said, “Wait.”
He lowered his stance, took a breath, and spoke.
“I was just about to be deceived with my own Gear’s laws. Think about this.” He held up his long rifle once more. After aiming it at Sayama, he proclaimed, “You are writing on the container. I highly doubt Low-Gear has constructed a means of transferring the effects of the words to the liquid inside. The contents are nothing but a normal liquid.”
“Do you want to test that?”
Sayama smiled and the knight stopped moving once more.
After allowing a short silence, Sayama asked a further question.
“Can you take responsibility if you test this and white smoke begins spilling from this old man’s ear? Dissolve the brain, and any human will die. The same goes for any dog or monkey too, of course.”
The knight lightly bent his body back when he heard that. His bearded mouth formed a smile.
“Heh,” laughed the knight from his nose. “Hmph. Go right ahead. And as soon your threat has proven empty, I will shoot you.”
The smile the knight formed along with his words told Sayama something.
Their acting had been too over the top. And so he took action.
“Then I shall.”
With a quick movement of the fountain pen in his right hand, Sayama added “container for” above “amazing poison”. When Ooshiro saw that, his eyes truly opened wide.
“Ah,” he started. “Ahhhhh! Stop that!! This wasn’t part of the plan!!”
“Shut up. Quiet down. It is all over for you. Just do as you are told and scream. Oh, and cry too.”
Just as Sayama pushed the cup with his left hand to pour the liquid, someone reacted to the last thing Ooshiro had said.
It was the knight.
The smile from before had completely disappeared from the knight’s lips.
“Stop!” he shouted.
He covered the distance between them in an instant.
It only took him two steps. After covering five meters that quickly, he skidded to a halt along the dirt ground.
His shoes could be heard digging into the ground, his cloak flipped up, and he sent out a blast of wind.
His dark green cloak shook and the armor and equipment below created repeated metallic noises. But he came to stop there.
He was already directly in front of Sayama. He held his long rifle out toward the boy.
Sayama raised his head and looked up from his position clinging to the ground that was a wall.
The knight aimed his rifle from so close Sayama could reach out and grab it. He aimed at Sayama, not Ooshiro.
That told him that the knight’s target was definitely Ooshiro.
He could see writing on the cover of the book loaded into the top of the gun. The writing resembled the alphabet, but was a different language. He could not read it, but he could understand what it meant. It said “Investigation Report on the Destruction of the Wotan Kingdom”.
Is that a report on the destruction of 1st-Gear? asked Sayama silently. I remember reading a story involving a king with that name.
The title of the story was on the tip of his tongue, but this was not the situation to try to remember it in.
He could see a bluish-white light leaking from between the book’s pages. The light seemed to be pulsating.
As he watched that light, Sayama asked, “What is the matter, Sir Knight? I thought I was saving you the effort of killing him?”
“…What do you want?”
“Currently, I want to pour this amazing poison into this old man’s ear. Is that a problem?”
“I am telling you to stop.”
“And I am telling you I do not want to.”
Ooshiro nodded in agreement with the knight’s question.
“Y-yes, why do you want to do this, Mikoto-kun?”
“Shut up, old man. …Sir Knight, let me ask you instead: what do you want?”
After a pause, the knight replied, “Revenge.”
Sayama nodded in his heart and thought.
…That may be the truth, but he knows it will never actually happen.
As he thought, Sayama looked at the people behind the knight. Including the knight, there were eleven in total. They were all surrounded by a tense atmosphere, but they were also all quite old.
They clearly had no younger options to choose from.
Even if they fought here and won, they did not have the strength of an organization that was needed for an ultimate victory. That was why they planned to take a hostage in this battle before moving to their true stage: the negotiating table.
Sayama looked at the knight’s white beard. 1st-Gear’s destruction had apparently been around the same time as World War Two. That was 60 years ago.
Their desire at the time had been revenge. But what was it now?
The word “remnant” flashed through Sayama’s mind.
But that caused him to brace himself. Those with nothing to lose could be quite frightening.
And so he chose his words carefully as he spoke next.
“We will be holding preliminary negotiations with 1st-Gear’s peaceful faction tomorrow. Your actions here will be taken into account then, so could you perhaps fall back for now?”
“You want us to retreat?”
“Can a knight’s sword not be sheathed? If you do not sheathe your sword, a grudge will be held against all the people of 1st-Gear in any negotiations held afterwards. And that includes everyone you stand for.”
“There are times when one cannot sheathe his sword for reasons of pride. Am I wrong?”
After hearing that calm request for confirmation, Sayama let out a breath.
…This is the crucial moment.
He thought and finally said, “Does your pride only exist for your own sake? Or is it for the sake of all those waiting for you?”
The knight pursed his lips at Sayama’s question.
He did not speak, but the sound of his teeth grinding leaked from his jaw. However…
The knight’s rifle barrel shook slightly. His white beard moved as he opened his mouth to speak.
“What does a boy from this lowly Gear know of the pride of a 1st-Gear knight?”
Without even a smile, Sayama shook his head.
“I only asked you a question concerning your pride. I am asking you to make up for my lack of knowledge on the subject.” He took a breath. “Now tell me. What is your pride? Tell me as calmly as you can.”
The knight’s moustache formed a small smile at that.
And he began to lower his rifle.
Just as he did, he suddenly looked up and tension filled his entire body.
The knight took a step back and turned an intense look in Sayama’s direction.
However, the eyes below the helm were not looking at Sayama’s face. They were looking beyond him, to the south of the large open space.
Sayama turned to look in the same direction.
Amid the trees to the south that had taken a lot of damage from the falling stone wall, a single small black form was visible.
It was a black cat.
The cat sat on a pine tree trunk just as the UCAT group had done. It was staring up at them. However, Sayama was certain that the knight had reacted to that black cat.
Sayama felt he had seen the cat somewhere before, but he shook his head.
…This is not the time for that.
He turned back toward the knight to find everything wrapped in tension. All eleven of the people spread out in front of him were starting at the black cat and holding their breath.
Their silence felt as if it could burst at any time. And it was finally broken by a word from the knight.
He spoke with his eyes cast down, but he had not been speaking to Sayama.
Nevertheless, he quickly raised the long rifle, aimed, and pulled the trigger.
At the same instant, Sayama took action.
Shinjou clearly saw tension run through the group from where she was amid the trees.
She looked in the direction the 1st-Gear group was looking and spotted a black cat.
“What is that?”
Itaru spoke from below where he sat on the railing leading up to the viewing platform.
“A familiar used by a 1st-Gear sorcerer. They’re used to contact people. In other words, these idiots were being observed and they only now realized it. That means they can no longer run away.” He smiled bitterly. “After the destruction of 1st-Gear, its residents split into three factions in Low-Gear. Fasolt’s peaceful faction, the Royal Palace faction that split off with Concept Space technology, and the City faction that has the mechanical dragon named Fafnir Custom. This is the Royal Palace faction that has no real distinguishing characteristics. …Almost makes me feel bad for my old man. He’s being forced to act so desperately against these small fries.”
“Why does everyone around me say such horrible things about their parents…?”
Shinjou frowned and sighed where Itaru could not see her. She held the handgun Sayama had left with her. The weight and coldness of the black metal did not warm up even in her tight grip. She simply could not get used to the feel of it. However…
“He left this with me.”
Sayama had asked her to let the knights walk toward him. And if the negotiations failed, he had said he would raise his right hand. Then she was to fire.
Currently, the knight stood at the head of the enemy’s fan-shaped formation and he was facing Sayama. If the negotiations failed, Sayama’s plan was for her to fire at him.
From where Shinjou was, Sayama was about 15 meters forward and 5 meters down. That was at about the limit of what an amateur could hope to hit with a handgun.
The ballistic trajectory would drop. With a handgun’s weak rotation, a slight margin of error would definitely exist.
And the knight held a shield on his left arm. That shield was in her way. However…
“If the negotiations fail, he will have the knight move his shield to leave him open in this direction.”
Could she do it? Shinjou tilted her head, but abandoned the question.
The situation was desperate. The knight took a step back and lowered his head slightly.
He said something she could not hear and held up his long rifle.
At the same moment, Sayama moved.
He waved his left arm toward the knight. The paper cup in that hand flew toward the knight while scattering its contents. The knight held his shield up to knock away the cup.
Shinjou stared at the half of the knight’s body that was now wide open.
Sayama raised his right hand. That was the signal.
Shinjou aimed and squeezed the trigger. She aimed for his body. That was her limit.
But a sudden voice came from below.
“Why aren’t you aiming for the head? …You always have been soft.”
It was Itaru. And he did not stop speaking there.
“If you shoot at his body, his armor will deflect it. If you do not kill the knight, he might die.”
Her hands holding the grip began trembling at the word “he”.
Shinjou suddenly recalled what had happened the previous night. She recalled the instant in which she had been unable to do anything.
And so she tightened her grip on the trigger. She tried to fire as soon as possible.
She squeezed it. And at the same moment, Itaru shouted at her. His powerful tone of voice lacked any hint of a smile.
Shinjou’s shoulders shook and she squeezed the trigger. But that action did nothing.
There was no gunshot, no recoil, and no bullet flying out. There was nothing.
As she had tried to pull the trigger, the grip had fallen from her hands. Her grip had no strength. The handgun hung down from her fingertips by the trigger guard as her opened hands trembled.
She could not fire. And as soon as she realized that…
The trembling of her hands spread to her shoulders.
In the next moment, she heard a gunshot that had not come from her gun.
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