Chapter no 16

Red Queen (Red Queen, 1)

AFTER A WEEK IT FEELS like I’m glaring at my watch, waiting

As midnight came, I started to feel hopeless. Of course Farley wouldn’t be able to reach us here. In fact, he wasn’t that talented. But tonight, as the clock ticked, I felt nothing for the first time since the Queen’s Election. No cameras, no electricity, nothing . The power went out completely. I’ve experienced power outages before, too many times in fact, but this time was different. This wasn’t an accident. This was intentional for me.

I moved quickly and slipped on my boots that were now worn out after weeks of wear, and dashed for the door. I’d barely made it down the hall when I heard Walsh in my ear, speaking softly and quickly as he pulled me into the created darkness.

“We don’t have much time,” he muttered, rushing me into the servant-only staircase. The room was pitch black, but he knew where we were going, and I trusted him to take me there. “They’ll have the power back on in fifteen minutes if we’re lucky.”

“And if we’re unlucky?” I sighed in the darkness.

He carried me down the stairs quickly and pushed the door open with his shoulder. “Then I hope you don’t get too attached to your head.”

The smell of earth, dust and water immediately invaded me, stirring up all my memories of life in the forest. But although it looked like a forest, with gnarled old trees and hundreds of plants painted blue and black by the moonlight, a glass roof towered high above. Conservatory . Streaks of shadows cast across the ground, each shadow uglier than the last. I saw Security officers and Sentinels in every dark corner, waiting to catch and kill us like they did my brother. However, instead of their black uniforms or terrifying burning flames, there were only flowers blooming under the starry glass ceiling.

“Forgive me if I don’t bow respectfully.” A voice

said, appearing from behind a thicket of magnolia trees with a white twinkle. His blue eyes reflected the moonlight, shining in the darkness with cold fire. Farley had a real talent for theatrical action.

As in the broadcast, she wore a red scarf over her face, hiding her face. However, the scarf did not hide the severe scar across his neck, which disappeared beneath the collar of his shirt. The wound looked new, not completely healed. He’s been very busy since I last saw him, but so have I.

“Farley,” I said, cocking my head in greeting.

He didn’t nod back, but I didn’t expect him to either.

Without further ado. “And the other one?” he muttered. The other one?

“Holland is picking him up. Right now.” Walsh sounded out of breath, overly excited, about whoever we were waiting for. In fact, Farley’s eyes lit up.

“What is it? Who else is joining?” They didn’t answer me, instead exchanging glances. Several names flashed through my mind, the maids and kitchen workers who would join this fight.

But the people who joined us were not servants. He’s not even a Red.


I didn’t know whether I should scream or run when I saw my fiancé emerge from the shadows. He’s a prince, he’s a Silver, he’s an enemy. However, here he was, standing with one of the leaders of the Red Front. The friend who accompanied him, Holland, an old Red servant with many years of service experience, looked beaming with pride.

“I told you, you’re not alone, Mare.” Maven said, but he didn’t smile. His hands were twitching at his sides—he was so tense. Farley scared him.

And I understand why. Farley stepped toward us, gun in hand, but he was just as tense as Maven. Even so, his voice didn’t tremble. “I want to hear it from your mouth, little prince. Tell me what you told him,” Farley said, cocking his head toward Holland.

Maven cringed at the nickname “little prince,” his lips curled in distaste, but he didn’t bluff. “I want to

join the Line,” he said, his voice full of confidence.

Farley moved quickly, brandishing his gun and taking aim in one motion. My heart nearly stopped when he pressed the barrel to his forehead, but Maven didn’t flinch. “Why?” Farley hissed.

“Because the world is wrong. What my father did, what my brother will do, is wrong .” Even with a gun pointed at his head, Maven managed to speak calmly, despite a bead of sweat dripping down his neck. Farley didn’t back down, waiting for a better answer, and I found myself doing the same.

Maven’s eyes shifted, moving to me, and he swallowed nervously. “When I was twelve, my father sent me to war, to make me tough, to make me more like an older brother. Just so you know, Cal is perfect, so why can’t I be like him?”

I couldn’t help but wince at his words, recognizing the pain there. I live in Gisa’s shadow, while Maven lives in Cal’s shadow. I know life like that.

Farley snorted, almost laughing at him. “Jealous boys are of no use to me.”

“If only jealousy had driven me here,” Maven muttered. “I spent three years living in the barracks, following Cal, the officers, and the generals, watching soldiers fight and die for a war no one believed in. While Cal saw honor and loyalty, all I saw was stupidity. What I see is futility. Blood

poured out on both sides of the conflict, and your people sacrificed far more.”

I remember the books in Cal’s room, the tactics and maneuvers that unfolded like a game. The memory made me wince, but what Maven said next sent shivers down my spine.

“There was a young man, only seventeen years old, a Red from the frigid north. He didn’t know me right away, unlike all the others, but he treated me well. He treated me as a human being . I think he was my first real friend.” Maybe it was a trick of the moonlight, but something like tears glistened in her eyes. “His name was Thomas, and I watched him die. I could have saved him, but my guards held me back. His life wasn’t worth risking mine, they say.” Then the tears disappeared, replaced by tightly clenched hands and steely determination. “Cal calls it balance, Silver over Red. “He is a good person, and he will be a fair leader, but he doesn’t think the changes are worth the sacrifice,” he said. “I want to tell you that I am not the same as others. In my opinion, my life is as valuable as yours, and I would willingly give it up, if it meant change.”

He was a prince and, worst of all, the queen’s son.

I didn’t want to trust him before precisely for this reason, for the secret he was hiding. Or perhaps this is what he’s been hiding all this time… his own heart.

Even though he tried his best to look stern, to keep his back straight and his lips trembling, I could see the boy behind the mask. Part of me wanted to embrace him, comfort him, but Farley would stop me before I could. When he lowered the gun, slowly but surely, I released the breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding all this time.

“This kid is telling the truth.” Holland the servant said. He shifted to stand next to Maven, oddly protective of the prince. “He’s felt this way for months, ever since he returned from the battlefield.”

“Then you told him about us after several nights of tears?” Farley scoffed, turning his menacing glare on Holland. But the man didn’t budge.

“I have known the prince since his childhood. Anyone close to him could see his heart had changed.” Holland glanced at Maven, as if remembering himself as a little boy. “Think of what he could do as an ally. What a big influence it can have.”

Maven is different . I knew that straight away, but my gut feeling told me that my words would not be able to convince Farley. Only Maven can do it now.

“Swear on your colors,” Farley growled at him.

An ancient oath, according to Lady Blonos. Like swearing on your life, your family, and your future children, all at once. And Maven doesn’t hesitate to do so.

“I swear on my colors,” he said, bowing his head. “I swear allegiance to the Red Front.” It sounds like his marriage proposal vows, but this is much more important, and more deadly.

“Welcome to the Red Row.” Farley finally said, taking off her scarf.

I shuffled slowly across the tile floor until I felt Maven’s hand in mine. His touch burned with a now familiar heat. “Thanks, Maven,” I whispered. “You have no idea what this means to us.” For me.

Anyone else might have smiled at the prospect of recruiting a Silver, not to mention royalty , but Farley barely showed the slightest reaction. “What are you willing to do for us?”

“I can provide information, intelligence data, anything you might need to continue your mission. I served on the tax board with my father—”

“We don’t care about taxes,” Farley bluffed. He shot me an angry look, as if it was my fault he didn’t like what he was offering. “What we need is name, location, target . What to attack and when to do the most damage. Can you give me that?”

Maven’s body shifted, restless. “I chose a more peaceful path.” He spoke. “Your violent methods will not win you any supporters.”

Farley snorted, letting his voice echo throughout the conservatory. “Your people are thousands of times more violent and cruel

from U.S. We have spent centuries under the boots of the Silvers, and we will not be freed by being friendly .”

“I think so,” Maven muttered. I knew he thought of Thomas, of all the people he had seen die. His shoulder nudged me as he moved backwards, turning behind me for protection. Farley didn’t miss seeing it and almost laughed out loud.

“The Little Prince and the Lightning Girl.” He laughed. “You two are a match. One, a coward, and you”—he turned to me, his steely blue eyes burning—“the last time we met, you were scavenging in the mud hoping for a miracle.”

“I’ve found it,” I told him. To emphasize my point, both of my hands ignited sparks, sending purple light dancing above us.

The darkness seemed to shift, and the members of the Red Front revealed themselves in menacing order, stepping out from behind the trees and bushes. Their faces were covered with scarves and bandanas, but they didn’t hide anything. The tallest was definitely Tristan, with his long arms and legs. I could tell by the way they stood, tense and ready to act, that they were afraid. But Farley’s face did not change. He realized the people who would be protecting him wouldn’t be able to do much against Maven, or even me, but he didn’t seem intimidated in the slightest. In fact, to my surprise, he finally smiled. His grin was terrifying, full of teeth and a ferocious hunger.

“We could bomb and burn every inch of this city,” he said, looking at us with something akin to pride, “but it wouldn’t do the damage you two can. A Silver prince who got rid of his throne, a Red girl with her abilities. What will people say when they see you standing in our ranks?”

“I thought you wanted—” Maven started to say, but Farley cut him off.

“Bombing is just a way to grab attention. Once we have it, once every Silver in this forsaken country is watching, we need something to show them our power.” His gaze turned calculating as he sized us up, weighing us against whatever was on his mind. “I think you guys have had enough.”

My voice shook, afraid of what he might say. “As a what?”

“As the face of our glorious revolution,” he said proudly, jerking his head back. Her golden hair caught the reflection of the moonlight. For a moment, she looked like she was wearing a sparkling crown. “A drop of water to break the dam.”

Maven nodded vigorously. “So where do we start?”

“Well, I think it’s time we took a leaf out of Mare’s book of mischief.”

“What does it mean?” I don’t understand, but Maven follows Farley’s train of thought easily.

“My father has been covering up other attacks by the Barisan.” Maven spoke, explaining Farley’s plan.

My mind flashed back to Colonel Macanthos and his outburst at the luncheon. “Airfield, Delphie, Bay Harbor.”

Maven nodded. “He called it an accident, a practice trial, a lie . But when you lit up at the Queen’s Election event, even my mother couldn’t cover you. We need something like that, something that no one can hide. To show the world that the Red Front is very dangerous and very real.”

“But, doesn’t that have consequences?” My mind drifted back to the riots that had happened before, to the innocent people who were tortured and killed by a bunch of crazy people. “The Silvers will fight us, things will only get worse .”

Farley averted his gaze, unable to hold my gaze. “And more and more will join us. More and more people will realize the life we ​​live is wrong and that something can be done to change it. We have been waiting too long; the time has come to make sacrifices and move forward.”

“Is my brother your sacrifice?” I snarled, feeling anger welling up inside me. “Did his death mean anything to you?”

I appreciate him not trying to lie. “Shade already knows the risks he faces.”

“And what about the others? What about the children and the elders and anyone else who is not yet ready to join your ‘glorious revolution’? What happens if the Sentinels start rounding them up for punishment when they can’t find you?”

Maven’s voice sounded warm and soft in my ears. “Think about your history, Mare. What has Julian taught you?”

He taught me about death. About earlier times. About war. However, beyond that, at a time when things could still change, there was a revolution. People rise, kingdoms fall, and circumstances change. Freedom moves in an arc, rising and falling with the flow of time.

“A revolution needs a spark,” I muttered, repeating what Julian had said in our lesson. “And even a spark will burn.”

Farley smiled. “You should know that more than anyone.”

But I’m still not convinced. The pain of losing Shade, knowing my parents had lost a child, would only multiply if we did this. How many other Shades will die?

Strangely, it was Maven, not Farley, who tried to persuade me. “Cal believes his changes are not worth it

sacrifice,” he said. His voice was shaky, shaking with both tension and determination. “And he will rule one day

—Are you willing to let him become the future leader?”

For once, my answer is easy. “No.”

Farley nodded, satisfied. “Walsh and Holland”—he cocked his head toward them—“told me there was going to be a little party here.”

“Dance party.” Maven offers.

“That’s an impossible target,” I snapped. “Everyone will have an escort. The Queen will know if something is wrong—”

“He wouldn’t know ,” Maven interjected, almost snorting at the idea. “My mother’s power is not that great, as she would have you believe. Even he has limitations.”

Limitations? The Queen? The thought was enough to make my mind spin wildly. “How can you say that? You know what it can do—”

“I knew that in the middle of the party, with so many voices and thoughts going around him, he wouldn’t be able to do anything . And as long as we stay out of his way, don’t give him a reason to pry, he won’t know a thing. The same was true for the fortune tellers of the Eagrie Clan. They won’t look for problems, so they won’t see them.” Maven turned back to Farley, his back as straight as an arrow. “The Silvers may be strong, but we are not immune to anything. This can be done.”

Farley nodded slowly, smiling baring his teeth. “We will contact again, once everything is ready to go.”

“May I ask something in return?” I exclaimed, reaching out to tug on his arm. “My friend, who I previously asked you to help me with, wants to join in

Line up. But you can’t let it go. Just make sure he doesn’t get involved in this.”

Slowly, he released my fingers from his arm, while regret swept across his eyes.

“I hope you don’t mean me.”

To my surprise, one of his shadow guards stepped forward. The tattered red cloth covering his face did nothing to hide his broad shoulders or the ratty shirt I’d seen a thousand times. But the steely look in his eyes, his determination twice that of a man his age, was something I didn’t recognize at all. Kilorn looked years older than before. The Red Army down to the bones, willing to fight and die for him. His figure was as red as dawn.

“No,” I whispered, moving away from Farley. Now I just…

could see Kilorn running at full speed towards his doom. “You already know what happened to Shade. You can’t do this.”

Kilorn took off the cloth covering his face and reached out to touch me, but I moved away. His touch felt like betrayal. “Mare, you don’t need to always try to save me.”

“I’ll do it as long as you don’t want to.” How could he expect himself to be anything more than a living shield? How could he possibly do this? From a distance, something buzzed towards me, getting louder by the moment, but I barely noticed. I focused more on keeping my tears from spilling in front of Farley, and Barisan, and Maven.

“Kilorn, please.”

Her expression darkened at my words, as if they were an insult rather than a request from a girl.

“You have made your choice. So let me make my own choice.”

“I made my choice for you , to keep you safe,” I snapped. It was amazing how easily we slipped back into our old rhythms, bickering as usual. But there is so much at stake right now. I can’t push him until he sinks into the mud, then just walk away. “I already bargained for you.”

“You did what you thought would protect me, Mare,” Kilorn said, his voice a low growl. “So let me do what I can to protect you.”

My eyes closed tightly, letting my broken heart take over. I have protected Kilorn every day since his mother left him, since he almost starved to death on my doorstep. And now he won’t let me help him, no matter how dangerous the situation becomes in the future.

Slowly I opened my eyes again.

“Just do what you want, Kilorn.” My voice was cold and mechanical, like wires and electrical circuits trying to restart. “Power will return soon. We have to go.”

The others immediately moved, disappearing into the conservatory, while Walsh grabbed my arm. Kilorn moved back, following the others into the shadows but his eyes remained on me.

“Mare,” he called me. “At least say goodbye.”

But I was already walking, with Maven at my side, Walsh guiding us both. I won’t look back. Not now, when he had betrayed everything I had done for him.

Time moves slowly when we are waiting for something pleasant. So, naturally the days sped by as the dreaded party drew ever closer. A week passed without the slightest contact, leaving Maven and I in the dark, as the hours crept forward. More Training, more Protocols, more stupid lunches that almost made me cry. Every time I had to lie, I had to praise the Silvers and insult my own people. Only the Red Front can strengthen me.

Lady Blonos reprimanded me for being distracted during the Protocol lesson session. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that attention or not, I would never be able to master the dance steps he was trying to teach me for the upcoming Farewell Dance. No matter how good I am at sneaking around, I’m terrible at rhythmic movements. Meanwhile, the Training I once dreaded now became an outlet for my anger and stress, giving me the opportunity to run or burn everything I tried to keep inside.

But just when I finally started to get used to dealing with it, the Training atmosphere changed drastically. Evangeline and her lickers didn’t taunt me, instead focusing intensely on their foreplay. Even Maven does

He stretched more carefully, as if he was preparing something.

“What’s wrong, anyway?” I asked him, nodding towards the rest of the class. My eyes were glued to Cal, who was currently doing push ups in perfect motion.

“You’ll see in a moment,” Maven answered, his voice actually sounding bored.

When Arven stepped in with the Provos, even he had a strange bounce in his step. He did not issue an order to run and instead approached his students.

“Tirana.” Instructor Arven called.

A girl in a blue pinstripe suit, a nymph from the Osanos Clan, sprang into action. He walked towards the center of the floor, waiting for something. He looked both excited and scared.

Arven turned, searching our midst. For a moment, his eyes lingered on me, but fortunately then turned to Maven. “Prince Maven, I will.” He pointed to a place

Tirana awaits.

Maven nodded and moved to stand beside him. Both looked tense, fingers twitching as they waited for whatever was to come.

Suddenly, the training floor moved around them, pushing the walls up to form something. Returning, the Provost raised both arms, using his ability to transform the training hall. As soon as the structure started to take shape, my heart pounded, realizing what exactly it was.

An arena.

Cal took Maven’s previous position at my side, his movements quick and silent. “They won’t hurt each other.” Cal explained. “Arven will stop us before anyone can do any real damage, and the healers are always on hand.”

“It’s so reassuring,” I blurted out.

In the middle of the rapidly forming arena, Maven and Tirana prepare for their battle. Maven’s bracelet sparked flames, and flames ignited on both hands, running up both arms. Meanwhile drops of dew fell from the air to swirl around Tirana, making her look like a ghost. Both of them looked ready to fight.

My anxiety somehow made Cal embarrassed. “Is Maven the only thing you’re worried about?”

Absolutely not . “Protocol lessons are not so easy nowadays.” I’m not going to lie, but on my list of problems, learning to dance is at the bottom. “It seems I’m even worse at dancing than memorizing court etiquette.”

To my surprise, Cal actually laughed loudly. “You must be really bad.”

“Well, it’s hard to learn to dance without a partner,” I snapped, angry at him.

“Of course.”

The final two wall sections are locked, completing the training arena and enclosing Maven and his opponents. Now they were separated from the rest of us by thick glass, trapped together in a

a miniature version of a battle arena. The last time I watched the Silvers fight, someone almost died.

“Who is superior?” Arven exclaimed, asking the whole class.

Every hand except mine was raised high. “Elane?”

The girl from the Haven Clan raised her chin, speaking with great pride. “Tirana is superior. He is older and more experienced.” Elane said it as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. Maven’s cheeks turned white, even though he tried to hide it. “And water will defeat fire.” “Very good.” Arven shifted his gaze back to Maven, daring him to argue. However, Maven held his tongue, letting the growing flames speak for themselves.

“Impress me.”

They clashed, spewing fire and rain in a duel of elements. Tirana uses her water like a shield, and against Maven’s fiery attacks, the shield is impenetrable. Every time Maven moved closer to him, swinging a fist with his flames, the flames only turned to water vapor. The battle seemed even, but somehow Maven seemed to have the upper hand. He was always on the attack, constantly pushing his opponents against the wall.

All around us, the class cheered, cheering on the fighters. Normally I’d be sick of watching these kinds of shows, but right now I’m having a hard time restraining myself. Every time Maven attacked, getting closer to defeating Tirana, I almost cheered along with the others.

“It’s a trap, Mavey.” Cal whispered, more to himself. “What trap? What will he do?”

Cal shook his head. “We will see. He managed to outwit him.”

But Tirana looked far from winning. His body pressed against the wall, fighting desperately behind his water shield, while he repelled attack after attack.

I didn’t miss the lightning-fast moment when Tirana literally turned her tide against Maven. He grabbed Maven’s arm and tugged, turning her body so they switched places in the blink of an eye. Now it was Maven who was behind his shield, locked between the water and the wall. But he couldn’t control the water, and the current squeezed him, holding his body even as he tried to burn it. The water was boiling, the hot foam burning his skin.

Tirana moved back, watching Maven struggle with a smile on her face. “Give up?”

A stream of bubbles escapes from Maven’s lips . Give up.

Water spilled from his body, evaporating back into the air accompanied by loud applause. The Provos swung his hand again, and one of the walls of the arena slid back. Tirana gave a small bow while Maven stepped out of the circle unsteadily, soaking wet, and pouting.

“I challenge Elane Haven.” Sonya Iral spoke sharply, trying to get her words out before our instructor could pair her with someone else. Arven nodded, allowing the challenge, then turned his gaze to Elane. To my surprise, Elane smiled and walked casually towards the arena. Her long red hair swayed with her movements.

“I accept your challenge.” Elane answered, taking her place in the middle of the arena. “I hope you’ve learned some new tricks.”

Sonya followed, her eyes dancing. He even laughed. “Do you think I would tell you if I had a new trick?”

Somehow they ended up laughing and smiling until Elane Haven disappeared completely and grabbed Sonya by the neck. He gagged, gasping for air, before twisting in the invisible girl’s grasp and slipping away. Their match quickly turns into a violent and deadly game of invisible cat and mouse.

Maven didn’t bother watching, angry at himself for his performance. “Yes?” he said to Cal, and his brother immediately started a private lecture. I feel like it’s a normal thing to happen between them.

“Don’t corner someone who is superior to you, it makes them even more dangerous,” he said, putting his arm around his younger brother’s shoulder. “You can’t beat him with ability, so beat him with your head.”

“I’ll take that to heart,” Maven muttered, taking the advice with annoyance, but taking it anyway.

“But your skills are getting better,” said Cal, patting Maven on the shoulder. The intentions are good, but instead it seems patronizing. I’m surprised Maven didn’t snap at him—but he’s used to dealing with it, just like I’m used to dealing with Gisa.

“Thank you, Cal. I think he understands,” I said, speaking for Maven.

His brother wasn’t stupid and took the hint with a frown. With just a glance behind me, Cal left us to stand at Evangeline’s side. I hope he doesn’t, so that I don’t have to watch Evangeline grin and brag. Not to mention my stomach twists every time Cal looks at him.

As soon as Cal moved out of earshot, I nudged Maven with my shoulder. “You know, he’s right. You have to outsmart people like that.”

In front of us, Sonya drew something that resembled air and smashed it against the wall. Silver liquid spurted out, while Elane’s figure came back into view, drops of blood dripping from her nose.

“He’s always right when it comes to the arena,” Maven growled, looking disappointed. “Let’s see later.”

Across the arena, Evangeline smiled at the deadly show taking place in our midst. I don’t understand how he could watch his friend bleeding on the floor. The Silvers are different, I remind myself. Their injuries soon recovered. They don’t remember the pain . With skin healers waiting in the wings of the building, violence has taken on a new meaning for them. Broken spine, torn stomach, it doesn’t matter. Someone will always come to fix you. They do not understand the meaning of danger, fear, or pain. Only their pride can be truly hurt.

You’re a Silver. You are Mareena Titanos. You enjoy


Cal’s eyes darted between the two girls, studying them like a book or painting, rather than a moving mass of blood and bones. Beneath his black cut-out training suit, his muscles tensed, ready for his turn.

And when his turn came, I understood what Maven meant.

Instructor Arven tasks Cal against two other people, Oliver the wind weaver and Cyrine Macanthos, a girl who turns her skin into stone. It was a fight in name only. Despite being outnumbered, Cal toyed with both fighters. He incapacitates them one by one, trapping Oliver in a vortex of fire while trading blows with Cyrine. Cyrine looked like a living statue, made of solid stone instead of flesh, but Cal was stronger. His attacks cracked his stone skin, creating spider web-like cracks all over his body with each fist. This was just practice for him; he even looked bored. Cal ended the match when the arena exploded into flames that even made Maven move backwards to avoid it. Once the smoke and fire subsided, both Oliver and Cyrine had given up. Their skin was cracked with patches of burnt flesh, but none of them cried out in pain.

Cal left the two of them behind, not bothering to watch as a skin healer appeared to repair them. He saved me, he took me home, he broke the rules for me. And he was a soldier without compassion, heir to a bloody throne.

Cal’s blood may be silver, but his heart is as black as burnt skin.

When his eyes met mine, I forced myself to look away. Rather than let his odd warmth and kindness confuse me, I seared the fire in my memory. Cal is more dangerous than all of them combined. I can’t forget that.

“Evangeline, Andros,” Arven called out, nodding at the two of them. Andros looked unenthusiastic, almost annoyed at the prospect of fighting—and losing—to Evangeline, but meekly walked languidly towards the arena. To my surprise, Evangeline didn’t move.

“No,” he said boldly, strengthening his footing.

When Arven turned to face him, his voice rose above its usual whisper and it cut like a razor. “Excuse me, Lady Samos?”

Evangeline turned her black eyes towards me, and her gaze was as sharp as any dagger.

“I challenge Mareena Titanos.”[]

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