My Exploding Cat

Just stories and drawings really, no actual fissile felines.

Chapter Two–Magician Girl (Edited)


Eventually, I was able to find an inn that would take in two “weary travelers” with no cash at all. I find that being poetic (i.e.: cliché) often gets you what you want. If not, start flirting with the male employees and they’ll readily rescue a damsel in distress.

After we got cleaned up and the guy I hit on found us some coats from the Lost and Found, I wheedled my way out of the date he’d asked me on and managed to get away from the creep, who was probably five years older than me.

We ran out into the rain, stopping at a local restaurant.

“What village is this?” I asked a guy sitting at a table, an older one this time.

“The Kliid, of course! Why? Don’t you know this already?”

“Oh, we got lost in the woods for a few days,” I said airily, ignoring his expression.

“Then let me buy you food! You shouldn’t be here without a drink and a meal!”

I followed him to the counter, wondering if he was practicing being all poetic. Maybe he thought I didn’t know how to use the bow that I was carrying around and making no attempt to hide. Maybe he was trying to impress us. I don’t understand people who do that, but it did mean free food.

The same person was able to give us directions to the Air Anoki’s house. Her name was Kaye, and from his description, she acted like an Air Anoki. So she was probably pretty strong.

By the time we left, it was 7:30 and the rain was letting up. We made our way to Kaye’s house, where we asked her to teach us some magic, and she said she’d meet us in the field by the school the next morning.

Ugh, I remember thinking. They have a school.

The Zephan school had nothing to teach me, seeing as there wasn’t another Earth Anoki there, yet I still had to go when I could have been doing something productive out on the battlefield.

I didn’t have very good experiences with magical schools.

But Kaye sounded promising.

I stayed with her, learning Air magic, for several months. Akana dropped out after she found that she couldn’t do Air magic at all, and went to a Light magic class. I healed a few sick people here and there to keep myself funded, and I did have to hunt since I had no desire to work in the military, for obvious reasons.

I was sitting in enemy territory. Nobody recognized me, which was a surprise. And the Kliid village was very neat and clean compared to the Zepha tribe. It was… sweet-looking. Like New York City versus… um… some mythical clean place. Er.

Kaye taught me some Water magic, too, which I picked up a little better than before. But my Earth magic kept intruding on the spells. Instead of just purifying water, I’d end up making a bronchitis potion with a simple spell.

I learned that I could fly faster than anyone else, whenever I wanted. I got faster and faster, going a million miles an hour and enjoying every minute of it. I didn’t do it too often, though, being more wrapped up in reading books from the library.

Akana liked her Light magic teacher. Moonray was about twenty-one years old and very pretty. Her appearances were like Akana’s, although much sweeter and much more naïve-looking. She always had that expression that makes you think she’d be inclined to eat vanilla cupcakes, but you know that would interfere with her diet.

Akana started showing me some really crazy spells that Moonray had taught her. Impractical crazy. Like imitating the Northern Lights and creating harmless fireworks. Spells with no purpose. Borderline dumb crazy.

One day, she came up to me and said that she’d shown Moonray the spell she’d done on me in the forest, and Moonray said that Akana must have heard it somewhere and done it wrong, because she’d never heard of the spell and there’s a very similar one. Because obviously Moonray knows everything.

Akana wanted to try the new version of the spell on me, and I let her. I told her I didn’t feel any different, and she looked kind of disappointed. I suggested that the effects might be postponed since she’d already done the spell on me, but then she looked alarmed at the thought of not knowing what the effect will be or when it would come. I told her to chill, because it’s a Light spell and the worst thing that could happen is sunburn. Which wasn’t true, but she bought it anyway.

Then, in the middle of the night, I woke up. I felt kind of odd. I was groggily half-awake and not really controlling myself consciously, not thinking about where I was going. I stepped out of my bed with grace as if I were sleepwalking, though I knew that I was doing it.

Something prompted me out into the fields. I didn’t resist. I wasn’t tired now, but the most energetic being in the universe. I took off into the night, pouring on my magical speed. It felt so natural, blending with every tree, my bow safely in the tent, and I out in the night. Alone. Without any other Anoki, no fairies or dragons or humans or upset nine-year-old girls. I spun as I shot through the sky, shot through the clouds, rolled completely over. And kept going.

I knew that, from then on, walking would never feel the same, and neither would flying. I would never feel satisfied while walking. In the air, I would want to cut across the heavens like some super-aerodynamic comet or meteor or something. I didn’t want to go back to bed now. Maybe I never would.

I whizzed across the sky with no idea how much ground I was covering. I felt a major pang of magic, but not the dangerous, pyrotechnical Fire magic, or the cold twist of Storm magic. It was something not really warm, but incredibly comforting. I blended with the trees and the ground and the air and… and the sky…

The pang came again. I felt it hard. It was dangerous, but not an adversary.

The sky seemed to be the center of it all. I felt as if my home was here. I would never really belong anywhere else. By “sky” I don’t mean the air. The air was nothing to me right now, nothing important. Even the trees faded into the background as the sky took over my vision, my thoughts, and the dream that I was still halfway in, while still being alertly awake. I floated in the air, resting on my back without beating my wings. And I stayed there.

I woke up still in the sky, my only proof that this whole thing hadn’t been a dream. I went home. I was energetic in that way where you want to rip off into the night in bare feet at mach speed, which you feel like you could do if other people weren’t around or if it were actually night. But with the wet, dewy grasses and the sky’s yellow tint, I knew dawn was leaking slowly above the horizon. Giving into temptation, I shot straight up into the air and did so until about a mile off the ground, then dove into the village, running off adrenaline. I felt better, but was still not entirely satisfied. I went home.

I sat around in a cozy armchair in my new apartment. After five minutes of trying to calm down, I felt like I was gonna barf. I called in sick and stayed home reading. I wasn’t able to concentrate on the story, because all I could think about was last night, feeling the amazing rush of adrenaline, shooting into the night sky, never stopping, never feeling tired. I loved it, and I wanted to do it again. Now I felt like a fish out of water on the ground. Almost literally.

I don’t know what kind of magic that was. It definitely wasn’t Air magic, and Earth seemed more fitting but not quite right, because I was too far in the air. It wasn’t Water magic, of course, and definitely not Fire. It wasn’t Time or Storm. It might have been Dream magic, but I’d felt too awake then. And since I could already do Air magic, which was one rare talent, I wasn’t likely to get another rare magic ability like Dream magic. This was different magic. And it felt… right. Almost too right. I don’t know how that works.

I couldn’t get to sleep that night. I rolled, tossed, turned, thrashed. You’d have thought I was having a seizure. It crossed my mind that I might get some sleep if I slept outside again, but I didn’t want to do it two days in a row and since I was sick (airsick, maybe?), I really shouldn’t be out running around.

I ended up without a minute of sleep. By the time I was ready to give in to the urge to fly away, the “young Dawn with fingertips of rose” or whatever was, like, smacking me in the face and blinding me when I tried to go outside. If you ask me, the reason Dawn’s fingertips are red is because while she was ditching her job, it got so dang cold. Her frostbite, her problem.

As a night owl, it really felt strange to out that early. I felt weirdly like I should be milking goats.

Why didn’t I just heal myself? You ask. I wasn’t hurt. I’m a healer, not a psychiatrist. I knew one trick in acupressure that helps me fall asleep–rubbing the back of my neck above my hairline–but it wasn’t working tonight. Today. Whatever.

I was too exhausted to go anywhere, so I just called in sick again and stayed home. I claimed I had a cold, and nobody seemed to notice that I could have just healed myself. Except Akana.

“You don’t have a cold,” she said, pushing my door wide open and letting it shut hard behind her. “What’s up? Why are you home?”

“Just tired. I didn’t get any sleep last night.” It was the truth, but not all of it.

Akana didn’t look like she believed me, but she sent a few spells toward me as she left.

I stayed in my room again the next night as well, but forced myself to magic practice even with the minimal sleep I got. The Time magic teacher was busy with something else, so Kaye was teaching me more Water magic. Halfway through the lesson, Kaye noticed that a) I was falling asleep and b) I was doing the most advanced Water magic anyway. She pulled over a Fire Anoki called Li and asked her to try and teach me a Fire spell. I picked it up on the first try. Li taught me another, and I did that one with easily as well. Then she tried a really advanced spell, and I did that one too.

Kaye shut her gaping mouth and ended the lesson. Unaware of what I just did in my groggy state, I nodded lethargically and went home to go be comatose.

I only stayed in bed for five minutes that night. Then I declared surrender to the universe at large and went outside. With a running start, I beat my wings until I got into the air. It didn’t take much.

I had what I’d always wanted, and it confused me. How did I cope with nothing to strive for, nothing to really want? I realized I was bored.

But at least I was being bored at night. I like night.

I tried for only five minutes to get some sleep that night. Then I went outside and leapt into the air, gliding across the sky like I’d never been able to do until that day with Akana. Like I’d wanted all my life. Like I could do, now that I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get any sleep anyway and that I was feeling slightly better with nightfall.

My wings seemed more supportive. Flying wasn’t hard now. I was stretching the muscles that hadn’t been used for so long. I was missing the fight, feeling the need to defend the Zephans again. The pangs of magic came again, and I let them, not fighting the new… thing. There was no way to describe this, except that I loved it.

I was wondering whether the magic was with me or if it stayed right here all the time. Or maybe it was waiting. That sounded right. It crossed my mind that I was making up a story that I would believe, but the place seemed to agree with me. Yes, waiting… for who? What kind of person? Did I fit or something, since I’d found it?


That one word.

I felt amazing the next morning. I was back to my, well, not exactly bouncy, but at least not lethargic, self. I felt like I’d had fourteen hours’ sleep. Kaye had set me up with Fire and Time teachers (she couldn’t come because she had a dentist appointment), and I entertained their requests and copied their spells, giving them only half my attention. I was thinking about the Zephans and about last night.

I’d always thought that magic in general was a force that had a mind of its own. I’d always known that it had motives for doing stuff–it wasn’t like a person or an animal, just a force with sort of an instinct and kind of… raw emotions. I knew I would be going back again tonight. This magic was mine.

Akana looked surprised when she saw me again, out by a hot dog stand.

“What?” I asked.

“Have you looked in a mirror recently?”

I thought. “Not really.”

“Well, you should.”

I thought Akana was making fun of my unbrushed, windblown hair, but when I looked in the mirror, I saw what she was talking about.

My wings were a misty green, like my ring, with dark blue flecks around the edges. I realized that my clothes didn’t go with them at all anymore and went out to buy new ones. I found some turquoise shirts and blue jeans that worked, and I went home to put them on.

I ran into Kaye, who gave me a questioning look and then walked a little faster. I went home and changed.

Akana was waiting at my house. She said she liked the new clothes. She also gave me an update on her classes: She could do Light magic, some of the simplest Earth spells, some simple Fire magic, and a good deal of Water magic. She couldn’t do anything outside the natural elements except for the Light magic. And she couldn’t do Air magic at all, something that I was still puzzled over. She could fly, but didn’t have Air talent. Maybe other Anoki can fly. I asked Li over to have Akana do her spell.

Akana did the newer version of the spell that she learned in magic lessons first. Li tried to fly, but it didn’t work.  I asked Akana to try the spell she’d used in the forest. She did so halfheartedly, but Li was airborne before long.

“It’s not the same spell,” I said. “It’s a flying spell.”

Akana was happily surprised. She’d discovered her own spell, which was extremely rare. I don’t think she realized the full extent of its power, though; she could make anyone fly. Including our enemies. I immediately realized both the potential and the danger here. I made both of them agree not to tell anyone about the spell before I left.

I decided to replace my finished book at the library. I ran into Kaye, who was sitting in the nonfiction section, surrounded by open encyclopedias.

“What are you looking up?” I asked.


I frowned. “I wouldn’t be in an encyclopedia. I didn’t do anything spectacular in the past or anything.” Well, I had, but nothing I was going to let her know.

“No,” Kaye said. “You’re still doing it.”

“What?” I asked. “Beating the record for Most Tacos Eaten in a Week?”

“I didn’t think you knew. Some Anoki have blends of magic talent, but all of them have one thing that they’re the best at, and everything else is kind of minor. But you–you’re good at everything. And, um… the other Anoki don’t change appearance. I mean, your wings are bigger and a different color. And it looks like you sandblasted them with glitter when you do magic. Frankly, that’s just weird.

“So now,” Kaye said, “I’m trying to figure out who you are. You might be just an Earth Anoki, but I really don’t think so, not after what I’ve seen.”

I’d known Kaye for months now, months of magic lessons. I knew what magic she could do, of course, and that her favorite color was blue and she liked to read romance novels, especially Jane Austen ones. And more importantly, I knew that she was trustworthy. I started a fake mattress advertisement in a sarcastic code that only teenagers really get, just to be sure that nobody else would really understand us. It was enough to tell her where I was at night.

Kaye looked sort of like a deer in the headlights. I wondered if I had been right to mention anything, or if my reluctant side should have won out.

“That’ll help,” she said, and I left, wondering why the heck I’d just done that.

I returned to the library later, realizing that I had yet to find another book. On a whim, I went back to the encyclopedias to see if Kaye was still there. Her page was still open, and she’d left a bookmark, but Kaye had gone home. I saw one word and something made me check out the book I’d selected and run for my life.

I went home and tried to read. I could only think of the one word I’d seen, though I had forgotten what word it was. I both wanted to go back and read more of the encyclopedia and to stay home, huddle up, and forget I had even walked into that area of the library. I decided to go visit Kaye, which was kind of a compromise with myself.

I was hesitant to visit Kaye, almost as much as I would be to go back to the library. But curiosity won out, and I went ahead and dropped by to ask her what she’d found.

Apprehensively, Kaye started an explanation. “I don’t want to disappoint you with your result unless I’m sure that my theory is true. I want you to take several different types of magic lessons tomorrow. If you can do them, I’ll tell you.”

Typical. Why can’t anyone give me this stuff straight?

That night I went higher than I normally did, maybe five thousand feet in the air. Way above the trees, I felt oddly separated from anything below. I slept soundly and came down when I felt like it.

I read my book for a while. Kaye’s teachers hadn’t come to the practice grounds yet. I finished a couple chapters of the novel, which wasn’t very well written, but not like I cared that much, and went out again to check if anyone was there. The place was bare, but that was to be expected at 4:30 in the morning. So I flew up again, trying to see how high I could go. I bolted much farther past where I had slept and up into ten thousand feet. The air was thinner, but I didn’t mind and I didn’t have breathing problems. It was a little easier to fly in, even. I went faster.

The village looked tiny from here. I wondered what it would be like to sleep here. I dove straight down, and gave my wings a huge beat. I was blind and watery-eyed from wind, but I was flying and I didn’t care. All of a sudden, I was in the village, braking fast, wings catching me like a parachute. Several weirded out faces watched as I almost bent double upon attempting to stand and, gasp, walk. I realized that the first teacher was just arriving. I hurried to the grounds and tried to smooth down my super-windblown hair.

The first teacher was one who had mastered the four natural elements. I was to learn the most complicated spell for each. I did every one of them the first time, except the Fire spell, which I had to do twice. I was starting to weird myself out.

The next teacher was a Dream Anoki. I did every spell that she showed me. I could put her to sleep, wake her up, make her hallucinate, and read her mind. I wondered how I could do all that to her but couldn’t cure my own insomnia last week.

The Time teacher was easy. I even sent her off looking ten years younger.

I did all the Storm magic. I could create hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, lightning storms, straight-line winds, and probably a bunch more. But the teacher gave up trying to find something I couldn’t do as well. I considered helping her appearance as well to make up for it, but decided against it.

The Darkness spells were saved for last. I had major trouble with these. I had to do the simplest ones three to four times to get them right, and the strongest one took me ten times to finish. It was still half the time of the more advanced students, but doing the Darkness spells made me not only uncomfortable like anyone else who could do Light magic, but also kind of queasy. I didn’t like this much, and I was glad when the lesson ended. Kaye, who was sitting around watching all this, shook her head in the dust that my last spell had created.

“I advise,” she said, “that we go somewhere less public before I tell you more.”

“I think so too,” I said.

Half an hour later, I was bewildered, shocked, weirded out, and inanely happy.

“You are a Star Anoki. You have the rarest talent known to any of us. You can do all the kinds of magic, except a weakness in Dark magic. But I expected that.” Kaye gathered the notes she’d taken. “The only other small weakness is in Fire magic. But then, that kid trying to roast marshmallows might have been a small distraction.”

“There was a kid trying to roast marshmallows?”

Kaye sighed. “The point is that you’re not really an Earth Anoki. You’re a Star Anoki whose strongest power is in Earth magic. I think your wings changed color that night you went out and claimed the magic as yours. Or it claimed you. Magic works that way. I’ve never been able to explain it. It’s just, Amanda…”

I gave Kaye a “go on” look.

“…that Star magic tends to take over anyone who accepts it and can’t handle it. I don’t know. I think you’re good enough to handle it. Star magic is usually pretty good at Dark magic, but I could see your reluctance to do it. And you controlled yourself enough to not do it except to get on with the test. You didn’t want to. It had nothing to do with your inability. But there’s one thing that confuses me.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“I’m one too.”

“I thought,” I huffed as I tried to keep up with Kaye, “that you couldn’t do Time or Dream magic. You told me once.”

“I can do any element!” Kaye hissed. “I just keep it secret. I’ll explain why later.”

We were shopping for magic stuff. I was looking for a decent cloak when Kaye popped her head around the corner and dragged me over.

“Wands,” she said. I was puzzled.

“But we’re Anoki. Why would we need wands?”

“Because we’ll be doing a lot of traveling, and if we’re seen, then all we have to do is shove our wings under a jacket and wave it around, and people will think we’re human wielders. Besides, they sometimes help amplify a spell, especially healing spells. The wood just seems to make Earth magic a lot more effective.” She leaned over and whispered, “And they look totally awesome!”

“Can’t argue with that,” I said. I bought one for myself, but Kaye skipped it after all that. I went back and picked up the thick green cloak I’d been eyeing. I might not be an Earth Anoki, but I was still an Amanda.

I was wondering what Kaye thought she was doing. I mean, pulling me to the shops to get all this stuff. Was she planning something? The fact that I didn’t know Kaye as well as I thought I did screamed “YES” even louder.

I bought a backpack that held much more than it implied from the outside. Useful. We stocked up on seeds and lots and lots of candy and other junk food. Most of it was Kaye’s idea. She bought a huge tent that she stuck in the backpack and said that we’d be gone a while, so we might as well make it comfortable. We bought tons of blankets, a teensy heater (which could be powered with Storm magic or batteries) and other stuff that somehow all fit in the pack without being heavy.

We went Kaye’s house. As she packed, she questioned my past, and I relinquished it to the first non-Zephan. Then it was my turn.

“Why did you hide your talent from the rest of the village?”

Kaye was silent for a minute. Then she said, “The village elders have been planning another attack in the war with the Zepha tribe for almost a year. And if they realize that they have a Star Anoki, they will attack as soon as possible because that Anoki will win the war for them. I mean, Star Anoki can fly, and Darkness cloaks make it incredibly easy to spy. Flying makes stealing plans and stuff easier–a lot easier. And of course, the ability to do any kind of magic allows certain advantages. Plus, if they had a Star Anoki, they’d have a healer as well. The Zepha tribe’s healer disappeared a while ago.” Kaye shot a pointed glance at me. “And, of course, you’re FROM the Zepha tribe and would know everything about it.

“So anyway, Elder Fienne was watching at the edge of the training grounds while you were taking your test, and you can bet your life that she saw that you could do every single kind of magic. Now she knows that she has a Star Anoki and that it’s incredibly likely that the Zepha tribe doesn’t. They searched your apartment last night. I heard there was a whole crowd of them snooping around.”

I frowned and said, “Wouldn’t it benefit the Zephans to merge with the Kliid and end the war anyway? This whole thing is kind of counterproductive. The Kliid have a more stable government and everything.”

“There’s no good outcome if they kill everyone there,” Kaye hissed. “And the people in the war get killed also. My mother was an amazing healer, and my father was a talented Storm Anoki. Both were killed in a war we had with the Zephans.”

“Weird,” I said. “My parents were killed in the same war. But they were traitors to the Zepha tribe. I used to be angry about it, but now…”

“Maybe I knew them. What were their names?”

“Alicia Errea was my mother’s maiden name…”

“…and Jared Unger was your father… right?”

I frowned. “Yeah. How’d you know?”

“Because they’re my parents.”

I stared. I frowned. “But you’re older than me.”

Kaye shrugged. “So? Our parents weren’t traitors to the Zepha tribe; they were spies for the Kliid tribe that came back with secrets about the Zephans. They weren’t traitors, not really. They were on a secret mission to get inside information about the Zephans. They pretended to be traitors while they were in the Zepha area, and tried to look like they were here to stay. They set up a house and fed the war leaders chicken feed–that’s useless information that made them look good–and ended up with a second daughter. When they had to escape with the secrets, they got out in the nick of time and had to leave you here. I guess you saw Mom doing Earth magic a lot while she was there and picked it up yourself.”

“She taught me,” I said. “She tried to teach me a lot of kinds of magic, but back then, Earth was the one that stuck. That was the only one I was able to do then, and that was all the school trained me in, even though I could do Light and Water magic when my friends taught me later. I can remember my mother doing every kind of magic except Darkness. She told me that she could, but said that she didn’t want to. I never did see her do it. From the time she disappeared, I decided that I didn’t want to do that kind of magic either.”

“She was a Star Anoki too? Maybe magical talent is hereditary.”

“It’s a mystery. But it deserves to be our mystery. It’s nobody else’s business. And we need to leave before the elders discover us further. If they so much as see either of us again, it’ll be easier for them to track us down. Unfortunately, anyone in the village who can fly will be the ones tracking us.”

“Then we need to bring Akana too,” Kaye said. “Nobody else in the village can fly.”

“Wait,” I said. “Li.”

“Oh, yeah,” Kaye said, sighing. “I really don’t want to take another person along with us, but we can’t afford to let anyone who can fly stay in the village.” Kaye finished packing up. “I’ll get Li. You find Akana. She’ll believe you better than she’ll believe me. We need to get out of here. Make sure you’re not seen.” She examined me critically. “Bring your old green clothes too. You stick out like an sparkly green thumb.”

I left to find Akana. Kaye disappeared down an alley. One of the elders almost spotted me, but I darted behind a building. Kaye was right; my turquoise clothes would blend better with the sky than the trees.

Wait a sec.

I slipped into the forest and shot up far enough that nobody could see me. Nobody who could fly was looking for me, so I figured I was pretty safe up here.

And apparently Akana was thinking the same thing. Because she was up here also.

“Akana,” I said. She jumped in midair, then realized it was me and flew over.


“We’re running away for the second time before the elders can use us in the war. I’m a Star Anoki and they’re going to use Kaye and me to attack the Zepha tribe, so we’re getting our butts out of here before they can attack.” My explanation was admittedly shorter than Kaye’s, and also minus the emo weep-fest about our parents.

“Sounds good,” Akana said. “Why do you need me?”

“Because they’ll use you to track us. Kaye’s bringing Li. Oh, by the way, Kaye and I found out we’re sisters.”

“Really?”Akana asked. “She doesn’t look anything like you. Oh well. Let’s get going.”

Akana was right. Kaye looked more like Akana than she did me. “Your parents didn’t die in a war, did they?”

“No,” Akana said. “Why?”

“Never mind. Let’s get going.” Akana only kept a backpack anyway, and she conveniently had it with her. Minus Kaye’s contagious wordiness, we were out of the sky and out of the village in no time flat. But Kaye and Li weren’t.

“What do you say we go back and get them?” Akana asked. “I say if we don’t, then they’re never going to show up.”

I was about to agree when Kaye and Li crashed through the trees above us. “Li was spotted!” Kaye said.

“Somehow I’m not surprised,” I said, eyeing Li’s orange countenance. I dropped back into the village and got her normal, non-fiery clothes in dark green and sky blue, to blend in. I fireproofed them and Li put them on, but her wings still blazed bright red. She looked sort of like a trigger-happy Christmas ornament.

“If we fly high enough, none of us will be seen. Including Li’s pyrotechnic persona,” I said.

“Oooh… I hate alliteration!” Kaye giggled. “It reminds me of the guy on the candy show!”

All of us started giggling. Sure, the fairies tapped into the humans’ satellite signals, but we tapped into the fairies’.

When the giggling subsided, we had could only hope that we hadn’t been heard. I glanced from Li’s bright orange wings to Akana’s vibrant yellow to my own, which were the color of my ring and very pale. There was no way any of us would blend with the forest–

As soon as I thought this, my wings turned the very same green as the forest around us. With my green clothes and auburn hair, I blended pretty well. Kaye saw me and tried the same thing, but it didn’t work for her. I wondered why. Maybe she was just weaker at Star magic than I was, for some reason. Weird.

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