Cause and Effect Chapter 4
Death Spans Out
Lucca walked calmly alongside Marle, seemingly unruffled by the events that had happened lately. First, attacks by a feral animal--a Kilwala. Then, this plague. Now, both Marle and Crono were infected, and Crono had obviously reached the feral stage of the illness; such a thing indicated by the guard found dead in Lucca's house, Crono's sword lodged between his shoulder blades.
While Marle occasionally simpered, constantly holding back tears, Lucca took a cool, logical standpoint on the whole ordeal. Although the young inventor would of liked to convince herself that her behavior reflected her feelings, she knew too well it was a facade. In truth, Lucca wanted to pull on her hair and howl in frustration and fear. Such an emotional display, however, wouldn't solve a thing; that, and doing so wouldn't help Marle any either. It seemed that right now, the only thing holding the princess together was her friend's calm exterior.
They had walked through Guardia Forest without much hindrance, although Marle seemed to be physically weakening. Her skin was pale, her expression wan, and her breathing seemed to be a bit heavier. They both knew that she was showing the same symptoms Crono did before he was bedridden at Lucca's house, although neither openly said so. By the time they had walked through the fields to the east of the town of Truce, it was dark, and Marle was exhausted.
"Just one minute, Lucca..." she panted, sitting down on the worn stone of an ancient fence. They were on a road about five or six miles out of town, cutting through the farmland that provided most of the food for the country of Guardia. "I need to catch my breath again."
The inventor patiently sat down on the stone fence next to the princess, and removed her glasses to pinch at the bridge of her nose. "Yes, that's fine. I realize I've been pushing you a bit too hard, but I really wanted to make sure Crono wasn't heading towards the castle. That young man with the wheelbarrow had a pass on him indicating he was a delivery boy for the kitchens there. But it appears that he was attacked just outside the forest, and it wasn't by a blade."
"Crono doesn't seem to be around here, either." Marle added. "Nobody's seen him, and there hasn't been anybody who's seen him. Maybe we'd have better luck back in town." She extended her trembling hands, and bit her lip nervously. "Now I'm getting all shaky and clammy. I don't feel sick to my stomach or anything, but I suppose that'll come in time."
Lucca didn't say anything, but nodded, looking at the red- and gold-tinged clouds to the west. The sun had set about a half-hour ago, and it was getting dark quickly. "We should check the town in the morning. It's too late to do anything else, and I think you'll need your rest." She stood. "Come on, Marle. I know you're tired, but it's only a few more miles."
The blonde princess stood a bit wearily, and sighed. "I can manage a few more miles. I'm not gonna let this thing drag me down, not while Crono's out there. I don't want this spreading, and I don't want him..." She looked down at her shoes, shook her head and walked to the east towards the twinkling lights of Truce town. "Let's get moving."
The purple-haired woman adjusted her glasses, sighing. "I don't want him killing anybody else either," she said quietly, following a few paces behind her friend.
* * *
"What now, Ayla?" Kino asked, looking at the mutilated body of the late Gaspar. "Beasts kill old man, maybe kill more?"
"Ayla think," she replied, frowning. "Beasts go other places, all crazy, all want blood." She looked at Magus. "We stop."
Magus nodded. "They couldn't have gone far. Perhaps we should split up. Ayla, you should go with Azala and search one time period. Kino can come with me, and we'll go to another."
"What blue-hair mean, Ayla?" Kino inquired a bit worriedly. "Ayla go one way, Kino go another?"
The cavewoman sighed. While she eventually had grasped the possibility of being able to travel through time, she knew that Kino was far too simple to understand. "Kino go with Magus, help Magus when he ask. Ayla go with Azala, help reptite search for beasts." She looked at him sternly. "Kino be okay, Magus strong man. Maybe Kino learn something."
Kino looked at Magus a bit fearfully, a look which the blue-haired man ignored. "..strong?" He scratched at his wild hair, and then nodded. "Right. Kino do good, make Ayla proud. Will do what Magus ask."
Azala snorted. "Are you two apes done, or do you need me to elaborate on the situation at hand yet again?"
Ayla turned to the reptite queen. "Kino man, but Kino stupid. Ayla talk much, many times so Kino understand. Patience, Azala. Not all "apes" smart like you." The sarcasm overlaying her voice obviously caught the reptite by surprise. "Now...Magus." She glanced at the shimmering pillars of light. "Ayla and Azala go to time where Frog is. Magus and Kino go to time where Crono is. Maybe we see Frog, Crono, friends. We see, we tell. We see beasts, we kill." She crossed her arms in a determined manner. "We get help, Magus. This big problem."
"I understand. You'd have better luck talking to Glenn anyway; he doesn't exactly hold me in high regards. He also has a gate key that Lucca gave to him before we parted, and you'll need that to return. Besides, I would much rather talk to Lucca, Marle and Crono; they always seem to know what they're doing, more or less."
"Good. Azala, we go now."
"Who said I was taking orders from an ape?" The reptite crossed her thin arms, narrowing her slitted eyes. "I'm the intelligent one here, I should be making the decisions."
"If Azala so smart, tell Ayla: Azala know how to travel time?"
"Travel through time? I would say such a thing is impossible, except I'm standing here at some sort of chronoscientific crossroads."
"Ayla travel time, many times. Ayla know what happen to future when past disrupted."
Azala blinked at the tall cavewoman. "Did you just say "disrupted"? I didn't think any ape would even be able to pronounce that word."
"Ayla learn crude language when young, but Ayla learn new words from friends. Ayla not stupid, Azala; Azala not think for second Ayla stupid, understand?" She turned her back to the reptile and walked to what appeared to be a random pillar of light. "Follow."
"You know where you're going?" Azala asked a bit dubiously.
"Yes. Trust Ayla."
The reptite queen sighed, and shook her head. Her mother would of never consorted with apes, but the situation belied that such prejudices must be set aside for the time being. "You leave me with no choice. I don't entirely trust you, but I'll work with you." Lashing her lizardlike tail, she walked into the light that streamed down from apparently nowhere.
As the light began to swirl around them, Ayla looked down to the reptile with a serious expression. "You no like, but this truth: we the same. Ayla, Azala...both come from different places, both body and mind; but we both same person doing same thing, for same reasons." She closed her eyes so she wouldn't have to watch the dizzying lights. "It hard, knowing truth."
"Yes, but sometimes you have to accept it." Azala said quietly, as the pinpoints of light enveloped them, and made them vanish with a brilliant electric-blue flash.
* * *
Breathing had become almost a chore, but it wasn't something he could stop. He knew that dimly, somewhere in the back of his mind, he had to stay alive.
The hallucinations had become worse, Crono decided. In his delirium, he was seeing things that weren't there; demons, animals, people with guns and axes, all out to kill him. A section of his mind knew that these visions were false, that the only real threat was Crono himself. Yet, while his mind said one thing, his body wanted to do something completely different. The world was tinged with red, and he wanted to see more red, to smell more fresh, warm blood. All he wanted to do was kill, some unnatural instinct telling him that if he could kill, it would subside his pain somehow.
The red-haired young man did his best to ignore this instinct. At Lucca's house, he had seen a grotesque demonic animal come at him with an evil-looking whip. Crono had leapt up, pulled his sword from beneath the bed he was situated in, and ran the cruel-looking creature through. Even as his sword slid into the creature's back, he saw it writhe and change into an ordinary-looking man in a blue uniform. After killing the innocent guard, the man who was momentarily caring for him, he had almost gone mad with grief. Crono had never killed an innocent person, or anybody human for that matter. The impact of it had managed to seep through his feverish stupor and reduced him to an emotional baby. He had fled the scene, howling like an animal, leaving his sword behind--something he would never do if he had his wits about him.
He had spent the night in an alleyway, behind some sort of shop or another, alternating between vomiting up bile and sobbing like a lost child. He knew that he was going to die. Crono wasn't exactly afraid of death, but more of how he would die. He had always hoped that he would pass on as a hero, dying while in the act of rescuing somebody...or perhaps as an old man, having lived a full life. But this was not how he wanted to die; not as a feral animal, from some bizarre disease that caused his very insides to rot and refuse to sustain him anymore. The picture of him lying in a ditch, ribcage split open with tatters of rotten flesh spilling from his open torso almost drove him to his knees with bitter weeping.
The buildings seemed to shift as he shambled along in the early hours of morning, twisting this way and that. At times it seemed like they would form windows and doors that weren't there before. Other times, they would appear and disappear like nothing, vanishing as if they were dissolving in water. Crono numbly watched as he walked along, knowing that this was yet another hallucination, and something he should ignore.
In the dim, cold light of dawn he could see a sign up ahead, and smell the sea. He knew where he was, and a small idea hit him: he had to get away. He knew what he would do. The early morning ferry to Medina was sitting at the dock, he could see it clearly. He could slip aboard silently, nobody would know. When the ship was partway out to sea, he would stumble to the rail, slip over the side, and then rid the world of a plague-ridden man that could possibly infect thousands otherwise.
He blinked away a few tears. "Marle, I'm sorry..." he mumbled in a voice that scarcely seemed his own, it was so hoarse. Then stumbling numbly along, he made his way towards the ferry, never looking back once at the town he had called home.
* * *
The building seemed to shift and writhe, as if Marle were watching them through flames. It was almost hypnotic, and yet somewhat nauseating at the same time. She had managed to keep down the soup that Lucca had brought her that morning, although she felt like throwing up until her stomach popped out of her mouth.
"It looks so funny..." she giggled, looking at the strange scene outside. "They move so weird, it looks almost like somebody's molding them out of clay."
"What's that?" Lucca asked, looking up from the medical text she was reading.
"The buildings. You probably can't see it, Lucca." She pointed out the window, holding back the curtains with one hand so her friend could see. "For you, it's just a view of the coast of Guardia. For me, it's like the buildings are dancing on the water." Marle giggled. "Silly, isn't it?" She frowned, watching as the book slid from Lucca's fingers. "Uh, isn't it?"
Lucca removed her glasses, rubbed them on her shirt to clean them, and then put them back on. Her eyes widened as she slowly made her way to the window. "Marle...you're not seeing things. That is really happening."
The princess snapped her head back to stare out the window, jaw agape. "You mean, I'm not hallucinating?" She stood up from the windowbox she was seated in. "Lucca, what does it mean?"
"I...don't know. Let me think." The inventor paced up and down, and suddenly walked into a wall that wasn't there a moment ago with a grunt.
"Are you all right?" Marle asked, even as the window behind her began to reshape itself.
"Yes, fine." Lucca replied, rubbing at her nose. "I think we had best get out of here, before one of us gets caught inside a spontaneously-appearing wall."
They made their way outside, both hastily grabbing their weapons on their way out. The outside of the building was changing just as radically as it was on the inside. The two young women stood and watched it for a few minutes, when Lucca swore and started digging at the inside pocket of her vest.
"Something hot in here..." she frowned as she pulled a bizarre-looking object from her vest. It was oblong, with a metal ball on the end of it that had strange-looking projections protruding from it.
"...I thought you destroyed the Gate Key?" Marle asked. "You said that--ow, hothothot!" She fumbled with her necklace, holding it off the bare skin of her chest. The blue pendant was glowing a white-hot color, incandescent even in the sunlight. "What's going on?"
"I think I know. Somebody is changing the past."
The princess looked at her strangely. "Uh...that's a little far out there. How'd you come by that?"
"Think about it, Marle: first we see extinct animals roaming about, then we observe the buildings around us shift and change; and now these objects, things that we know effect the flow of time, are charged with so much temporal energy that they're growing hot. How else would you explain these things happening? Somebody is changing time."
"Could it be Janus?" Marle asked. "You did give him a Key so he could look for his sister."
"It could be Janus, it could be Glenn too; both of them have Keys. What worries me, though, is what would happen if somebody took their Keys away from them. Any sort of things could of happened."
Marle watched as the buildings in the distance continued to twist and dance. "If things are changing, then why aren't we? Why are we noticing?"
"We must be protected by the Gate Key and your pendant. I think we should hold onto both, and find out what's happening."
"For all we know Crono doesn't even exist now. We have to find out what's happening in the past and stop it, so we can deal with the problem we have in the present." Lucca made an almost animalistic sound in frustration. "What the hell is going on? I hate facing things without knowing the details." She sighed. "Well or not, you're coming with me Marle. We need to get to the bottom of this."
* * *
The sun glinted off Masamune, reflecting its brilliance in the green-mossed valley that was Truce Canyon. It was a quiet spot; a wide part of the ravine where the Truce River trickled gently over blue-black stones beneath the dappled shade of a grove of aspens and willows near the riverbank. Places like this are what Glenn lived for. Even when he was young and still human, he had some sort of affinity towards water. That love of water hadn't changed when he became a demihuman frog, but had greatened even more.
He swung the blue-white blade in a wide arc, stepping into the swing, doing his best to condition both his arm and his leg muscles. While Glenn wasn't overly large, he was fairly strong, and his sword whistled through the air with a blow that would fell even a large enemy. Masamune seemed to leave a bluish trail behind it, something it always did because of its strange magical properties. Every day the warrior was glad that he had obtained the most coveted weapon in the world, not only for its power but also for the fact the he never wanted it to fall in the wrong hands. Frog had the feeling that since Mystics didn't age much, and since he was now in essence a Mystic, he would lay claim to the blade for many years to come.
Sitting down on a rock, he wiped at his green-striped brow and lowered his sword. He had been training here for nearly two hours with no rest, and his shoulders ached. Glancing at the cool water, he contemplated getting a long drink, if not a swim in the deeper areas of the river. Sliding Masamune into its scabbard, the demihuman frog made his way to the water's edge and stooped to drink.
A movement to his left caused him to glance over to the branch of an ancient willow tree that hung over the swirling waters. While the area was full of birds and various wildlife, nothing large enough to shake the massive branch lived in the area. Suspicion growing within him, Frog straightened and put his hand on his sword hilt. "I can hear thee. Show thyself."
The rustling continued in the tree, and a somewhat rotund shape flitted amongst the branches, although what it was exactly was being hidden by the long, hanging leaves. Glenn made a disapproving sound in the back of his throat, his throat pouch vibrating. "Once again, I shall say this: show thyself, lest I become testy."
A gurgled moan came from the tree, and a large animal with piglike eyes and white furlike feathers clambered down to stand in the shallow water. It swayed a bit dangerously on its feet, and blood flowed freely from its nose, ears and gaping mouth.
It was a kilwala.
"What manner of beast is this?" Frog exclaimed in an almost astonished tone. Kilwalas were extremely rare, and even then only indigenous to the Denadaro mountain range of eastern Dorino. Those kilwalas, however, were small and had fur, not feathers. The only time the knight had seen such an animal was many months ago, when he traveled with Crono and his companions through time, to a time that pre-dated the ice age. Frog's lipless mouth turned down in a frown. "Away with ye, beast. Thou art foul in some odd way, and I do think to kill thee if thou dost not flee." He drew Masamune with a steely rustle as if to emphasize his point.
The creature responded by giving an animalistic squeal and leaping upon the still-astonished knight. Even as it neatly impaled itself on his blade, the kilwala wildly slashed at him with its claws, squealing and grunting with rage almost as if it couldn't feel the pain of a sword in its belly. Frog made a startled sound and tried to kick the animal off his sword, but only managed to enrage it more. Howling, it bit into his left arm with its blood-smeared teeth. Glenn grimaced in pain, but responded with a water spell, filling the creature's lungs with fizzling water. It scrabbled wildly at him for a moment, and then with an almost unnatural shudder, arched backwards as its chest split open like an overripe melon. The stench of rotten flesh was evident as the animal toppled backwards and slid off Frog's sword, landing in the water with a splash.
"...disgusting..." was the only thing he could say as he looked at the remains of the large animal. Its internal organs were clearly evident, the ribcage open to expose the rot-blackened remains of its heart, lungs and entrails. Tatters of its flesh and dark blood oozed into the water of the Truce River, tainting the clear waters an unwholesome red color.
Looking down at himself, Frog saw that he was covered in the animal's gore as well, although he was sure that some of the blood was his own, guessing from the wounds the animal gave him in its frenzy. Both his arms were scratched by the Kilwala's frantic scratching, along with his left leg, the white fabric of his leggings torn by the animal's claws. The scratch beneath was definitely bleeding, as was the large bite on his left bicep. Frog felt lucky that he was wearing his breastplate at the time, knowing that he would be in worse shape if it wasn't for the layer of bronze and steel protecting his chest. He removed the breastplate and looked at it critically; it was definitely scratched by the animal's attacks.
Shaking his head, he removed his cloak, boots and gloves, and stepped waist-deep into the waters of the Truce, rubbing his green-white skin and white leggings clean. Satisfied that he had gotten most of the gore off, he cast a curative spell on his wounds, watching as they closed up with a slightly itching sensation. Glenn then removed the blood from his breastplate, gloves and cloak the best he could, and then put them back on.
"And what shall I do with thee, beast?" he asked the carcass, which continued to ooze blood and worse into the river. While there were scavengers around that could possibly clean up a dead animal's body, he knew that he perhaps shouldn't leave it out. The kilwala hadn't died from Masamune as much as it did from some strange ailment, no doubt something that could be passed on to other animals if they ate its flesh. Dragging the body up on the riverbank, he decided to burn it lest some vulture or raven become infected by the strange rotting illness.
It took a while to gather wood, and even longer for the fire to grow large enough to consume the sodden remains of the animal. Even though he stood downwind from the fire, Glenn could clearly smell the diseased flesh burning. The smell nearly turned his stomach, but he remained until there was little left of the Kilwala but blackened bones and ash. Worriedly, he wondered if the animal's illness could be transferred to humans, or even whatever Frog was currently. Granted, he had not once gotten sick in the fifteen-odd years since his transformation, but the fear was still there.
"It matters not," he said to himself, dousing the remains of the fire. "Methinks this incident 'twas very strange...and mine king should know of it." Squinting up at the afternoon sun, he figured that if he hurried, he could make it to the castle not long after nightfall. Then slipping into that froglike leaping gait of his, he bounded his way south, following the river towards the village of Truce.
* * *
Perhaps he was dead. It was warm and dark, and Crono felt very comfortable as he lay languidly on his back. On top of that, it definitely felt as if his fever was gone, and his stomach had settled. If this is how it was, perhaps being dead wasn't all that bad. He didn't distinctly remember hurling himself off the side of the ferry and drowning, but Crono figured that part was probably unpleasant and didn't need to be remembered anyway. He sighed and opened his eyes to look around, which suddenly caused it to not be dark anymore. Everything around him seemed a bit blurry for a moment, and then slid into focus.
He was in what appeared to be a blue-walled bedroom, the ceiling painted white. To his right a tall yet narrow window was open, the dark blue curtains waving gently in the breeze. The sounds of birdsong and somebody's laughter drifted in through the window, along with the salty tang smell of the sea. Crono began to surmise that he may not in fact be dead.
"You're awake? Good." came a male voice to his left. Crono shifted his head towards the sound. The speaker was seated in a chair near the bed, and while he was definitely a young man, he was definitely not human. His face was human for the most part, except for the fact that his eyes were golden and slitted like a cat's, and his skin was covered by a pale blue, velvetlike fur. His ears were pointed and furry like a cat's, and his wild hair was a darker blue accented by leopard-like spots.
Not knowing what to say, Crono blinked. "Uh, am I dead?"
"Far from it, although you were in pretty rough shape when I found you. I work on the Truce-Medina ferry, and I found you passed out on board. You looked really bad, so I brought you here. I know that not many Medina doctors would deal with a human anyway." He flicked his black-tipped ears. "Uh, sorry. They feel that way, I don't. Personally I don't see much difference between you and me."
Crono sat up, and noted that he was still somewhat weak. "You're a Mystic, I get it."
"Not exactly. Demihuman." The blue-furred man grinned, showing sharp teeth. "Y'know, descendants of humans turned into odd creatures by Ozzie and Magus for their army. My great-great granddaddy served in the war, that is after he was turned into some sorta weirdo by Ozzie." He waved a white-furred hand, dismissing the subject. "But that's old history, nothing important now. What's important is that you're awake, and doing pretty well. By the looks of it, it seems like your fever's broke."
"Fever?" Crono suddenly jumped from the bed, away from the demihuman. "The plague! Oh no...you didn't get any of my blood or anything on you, did you mister?"
The cat-eyed man laughed. "No, you weren't bleeding, and I wouldn't worry about it: demihumans are immune to most diseases. Something to do with the magic in all of us. Hey, if it wasn't for the puny amount of healing magic I have, you might of died." He looked shrewdly at Crono. "Or maybe, the magic in you."
The red-haired young man continued to stand near the window, although he seemed less apt to jump out of it. "How'd you know about that?"
"Instinct. I can pick a magical person out of a crowd like that." He snapped his fingers. "Looking at you, I'd say you're either a fire or a lightning."
"Lightning..." Crono said, albeit a bit warily. He cleared his throat, and glanced at his surroundings. "How long have I been here?"
"A day." Blue-fur replied. "I found you yesterday morning, and it's morning right now. I had to take a day off to take care of you." He snorted. "I hope my supervisor isn't angry."
"Oh." Crono sat back down on the bed, looking out the window. "So I'm in Medina, you're a demihuman, you found my sorry, sick ass on the ferry, and then cured me of the plague I thought I was gonna die from?"
"That's about right, yeah."
"Then I owe you a drink, or maybe a steak dinner. You like steak, mister?"
He laughed, flicking his ears. "Call me Lantis. And you don't owe me a damn thing. Although I do owe you something to eat...I can't have you in my house without feeding you once. You strong enough to walk down the hall to the kitchen?"
Crono's answering grin was as bright as the sun rising. "Hell yeah. I feel like I haven't eaten in days. That's because well...plague and all, I really haven't." He stood and walked over to the demihuman, extending a hand. "I know your name, but you don't know mine. My name's Crono."
Lantis grinned and shook the pre-offered hand and shook it. "Great to meet a human that's on the level with demihumans. You don't seem the prejudiced type." He stood and indicated for the redhead to follow.
"That's because I'm not." Crono said, following Lantis out of the room. "I've seen and done enough to not judge people by appearances." He then frowned. "Lantis, do you know if a man named Melchior still has a shop to the west of here?"
"Old man Melchior? Sure does. I actually ordered a set of knives--er, combat ones--from him a month ago."
"Well, in that case I think I should go see him. He's a weird guy, but he's really intelligent, and I need his advice on something."
"What's that?" Lantis asked, heading over to the fridge.
"About that plague I had. The way I got it wasn't natural, not to mention the symptoms of it." He looked out the window gravely. "There's a big problem out there, Lantis. I don't know if I can stop it, but I have to try. Demihumans might be immune to plagues and illnesses, but normal humans aren't. The last thing I want to see is half the world's humans wiped out by a disease."
"Then we eat first, and then take a trip to Melchior."
"Look Crono, I barely know you, but I can see you're a good guy. I know humans don't like me much, but that's no reason for a large amount of them to die. If this will really turn into an epidemic, then everybody who can should try to put a stop to it. Nobody wants genocide." He set a basket of eggs on the countertop and pulled out a pan. "While I cook, why don't you tell me what happened? From the start."
Crono pulled out a kitchen chair and turned it backwards to straddle it, leaning his arms thoughtfully on the back of it. "Let's see...a few days ago, me and my girlfriend were walking through Guardia Forest..."
Cause and Effect Chapter 4 Notes
These are for future authors of Cause and Effect. They're more suggestions than anything else...I'm not trying to tell people how to write. Still, I think it's fair to let people know the sort of things I had in mind, and to let me try to help out as well. I know I would of liked to know what the previous authors had in mind for future chapters. ^^
1. Lantis said demihumans were immune, and made some mention about magic. Maybe this is the key to a cure? Frog probably wouldn't be infected because he's a demihuman and has magic too. Just an idea there.
2. Marle probably would recover because she has magic, just like Crono did. Magic could effect the immune system or something like that. The kilwalas from Ayla's time existed before magic existed (since Spekkio said that Ayla lived before magic was around).
3. I was thinking that because of all the blood and gore from Frog's fight with the kilwala, that the water supply of Truce would be tainted by the plague. I don't know if it could be spread that way, but it's a suggestion.
4. Time is changing buildings and things in Truce 1000 AD because of people dying in the past from the plague. Demihumans and Mystics are immune but humans aren't, and Truce is a human town. I don't think you're an idiot or anything but I'm just explaining why I did that. ^^;
5. Use Lantis? Water magic user, fights with knives, handy guy to have around. Well you don't HAVE to use him but I stuck him in there because I figure he'd be useful and sort of fun. And demihumans are sweeeeeet. I figure it explains why they have demihumans in Chrono Cross and not exactly in Chrono Trigger (unless Mystics are the same thing, who knows).
6. Does anybody else think that Zorbe is really dead? I don't, but I never got around to that. Had to be under 5,000 words after all. @_@
Er, so that's it. Thanks to IcyBrian for letting me get in on this fun project. Collabs are groovy. XD
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