Editor: PervySageChuck, Nate, Skythewood
Tokyo, Shinjuku Ni-chōme
Once, this place had been holy ground, but now, it was no longer sacred. After taking the Marunouchi line to the Shinjuku-gyoemmae Station and climbing the metal staircase on the outside of a certain building, one would come to a place where one could find all sorts of rare anime posters, wallpapers, postcards, and even animation cels for sale.
Some people might say, “Aren’t these stores a dime a dozen everywhere, like in Akihabara, Ikebukuro and so on?”
The reply would be, “No, no, no. It’s convenient to you because you’re living in the present day. Back then, Akihabara was considered a simple electronics shopping street, and Ikebukuro didn’t have a place called ‘Otome Road’. It was a time when those people calling themselves ‘otaku’ could still be treated like human beings. At least, until a man kidnapped a young girl, defiled her body with his carnal lusts, and then murdered her, which made the name “otaku” synonymous with ‘disgusting pervert’.”
Yes, this incident happened about 20 years ago.
“Back then, I’d just gotten married, and I lost the election...”
The oji-san in the western suit sighed as he recalled the good old days.
In a wistful tone of voice, Itami replied, “I was just a middle schooler back then.”
Neither of them looked at each other, but instead, they looked up to the building that had once been a sanctuary for people like them.
“Although, I didn’t expect you to come without SP. Why so low-key?”
“What are you talking about, don’t I have the strongest bodyguard by my side?”
“Your Excellency, are you kidding or are you serious? Although either would be kind of disturbing…”
It was only now that the two of them turned to face each other, and their handshake marked their official meeting.
The two men headed to another place. After paying the entrance fee, they entered the gates of the Shinjuku Gyoen. It was a working day in winter, so there were few people walking around inside the national garden. One could feel the crunching of dead leaves underfoot as one walked along the footpaths.
“To think, the brat from back then grew up into a fine young man.”
“To think, the oji-san from back then became His Excellency. That’s more surprising.”
“You don’t have to call me Excellency or any of that.”
After all, they were comrades in arms, and there was no need to act like people they were not. It was a completely different thing from the jealousy of politicians or their fake, insincere smiles.
“At that time, you said ‘This manga’s pretty interesting’ or something like that, and that set me on the path I’ve been walking ever since.”
“Is that so?”
“When I was still in middle school, I was afraid of touching seinen manga, but a certain old guy recommended it to me, and he spent a whole hour selling me on it.”
“But didn’t I treat you to a meal in return? After all, since you were too scared to touch seinen manga, that means you needed someone to tell you what was inside, right?
“Speaking of which, that manga got animated.”
“Is that so?”
Kanou Taro snorted in laughter.
“And after that, you read all the manga I recommended you.”
“Yeah. Every tankoubon I borrowed from you was interesting. Especially the one where the black gunman had a showdown with the white kid in a ghost town, that was really good.”
“I told you, right? That series was awesome.”
And so, the two otaku spent their time discussing manga, but as the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun.
“Ah, it’s about time.”
Before they knew it, they had spent an hour chatting. Because of Kanou’s line of work, it looked like he would have to make a move soon.
“Oh, this is—”
Itami gave Kanou a bookstore bag. There was a catalog the size of a phone book inside.
“Thanks. I haven’t been able to visit a bookstore lately.”
Kanou waved as he left, saying “That’s it, then”. But after a few steps, he suddenly turned around. “Ah, I almost forgot. Are the guests well?”
“Yes, they are.”
“You made the right decision in fleeing from the hotel and pretending to go missing, but that gave us a lot of trouble too. It seems someone tried to reach out to you, so we slapped them down. There are a whole lot of punks who’re going to get a good beating. Anyway, after this, resume the original plan.”
“What’s the situation like?”
“I think it was your previous unit, SFGp, right? Just leave it to them. Anyway, just follow the original plan and go to that hotel. This is a direct order from the Defense Ministry’s Special Area Incident Countermeasures Minister.”
It was rare for Kanou to use the word “order”. Hearing that filled him with relief, because he could feel Kanou’s determination in using that word. Since he was giving that order as a minister, it meant that he was willing to take up the responsibility that came with it. If he was not willing to do so, then he would not have given an order, but instead said something like, “I’ve got something to ask of you” or “I’d like to discuss something with you”. Then, if anything went wrong, he could just blame it on the situation going bad and get away scot-free. In that sense, hearing an order like this was something that put Itami’s mind at ease, because from his position as a front-liner, he would be receiving the best possible backup. Granted, the word “order” sounded cold-blooded, because it was a command from a superior to an inferior, but when you took a step back and looked at it, that was a realistic thing to say.
As Kanou walked away, Itami bowed at a precise 45 degrees, which was probably the highest form of respect he could show.
The meeting time came, and standing at the meeting point, Itami looked at everyone else and sighed. That was because they were all carrying lots of stuff.
“Ara~ it’s been a long time since I went shopping~” Risa said that, but could a simple “Ara” encompass it? Just looking at the clothes, accessories, women’s products and so on, Risa alone had pretty much finished spending all the money Itami had lent her, but she insisted, “No problem, there’s still the money from the winter Comiket!”
Tuka was also carrying a bag that came from an outdoor product shop, as well as a compound bow wrapped up in paper from a sports product shop. As expected of a Forest Elf, everything she bought was related to the outdoors. “This bow is awesome!” she enthusiastically proclaimed.
Predictably enough, Lelei had bought about a dozen sets of books. “Books are important,” she quietly said.
Apart from that, she was gingerly carrying a box with a notebook computer. Itami was worried, not because she bought a computer, but he was wondering where she would get a power supply in the Special Region.
Rory had her huge halberd to carry around, so she bought correspondingly fewer things. She was carrying a paper bag stuffed with black-frilled ribbons, earrings, assorted clothing and other accessories. She proudly declared “picking out these things was difficult.”
In contrast, Piña and Bozes, who had spent their time in the library in search of art, were very jealous of Rory and the others, who had gone shopping. Piña and Bozes could not bring any distinctive souvenirs home with them. Tomita said, “They seemed to be looking for something, but they did not find it. They seemed interested in Greek and Roman carvings, but it seemed like it was different from their expectations.”
There was a command center under the Rocky Mountains in the United States of America, built to direct the US Army in case of a nuclear war.
In novels and movies, this place would have a darkened interior, lit by the main screen and dozens of smaller points of light, with constellations of target icons and travel paths all over the liquid crystal displays.
In truth, the interior of the JASDF’s Air Defense Command did look like that.
However, unlike the above two examples, the underground regional command center at Ichinotani — the room that was sometimes called the Situation Room — looked more like a film studio for political discourse. There was a video editing room in one corner of the brightly-lit room, and the rest of it was filled with display monitors. In addition, the room was filled with uniformed officers who constantly manipulated the unit display icons on the large LCD monitors in response to the second-by-second changes in the situation. Currently, the main display was showing a Chinese plane flying toward the Ishigaki Islands off the southwest coast of Kyushu, as well as the positions of two F-15s that had been scrambled to intercept it. In addition, the location of a nearby unidentified submarine was shown in red, while not far away from the red submarine was a blue icon representing a friendly submarine in pursuit.
There was a line in a certain detective movie about how things would not happen in the meeting room, but modern meeting rooms were now linked to the scene of the action in real-time. In order to help improve the decision-making ability of the active personnel — who were immersed in the action and had a limited field of vision as well as intel — the rear echelon would employ cool-headed operators who had access and view to the big picture to provide command and support.
The Special Area Incident Countermeasures Minister, Kanou Tarou, stepped into this room. He was followed by suited councillors, uniformed officers, and his other support staff.
“Good morning, Minister.”
This location was active 24 hours a day, with people working in it around the clock, but regardless of what the clock said, the standard practice was to greet people with “Good morning”. It seemed like something out of a TV talent show, but it lightened the serious military mood in the air and allowed people to relax.
Kanou raised his hand and replied “Morning”, before he was led to the temporary place in the command center that had been prepared for him, and sat down.
“I am the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Ryuuzaki. Pleased to meet you.”
The uniformed JSDF officer who had appeared in front of Kanou introduced himself.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect modern wars to be fought like this.”
As he told Ryuuzaki about his thoughts, he removed his jacket and handed it to a JSDF servicewoman for her to put it up on a rack.
“True, a lot of people think wars are like in the movies, where two huge forces clash with each other for days. But warfare in this day and age can be divided into two main types. The first is police actions mixed with guerilla combat. The second is like the Gulf War, where you prepare before the battle and scout out the enemies’ weaknesses, then once the fighting starts, you take down the enemy’s weaknesses in one blow and destroy his ability to fight. I think the only places you can find the old style of warfare are in movies and in developing countries.”
Ryuuzaki cited the American forces in the Middle East as an example.
In the past, guerilla warfare took place in the jungle, where both sides could barely see their hands stretched out in front of them through the dense brush. In this heavily wooded environment, they concealed themselves and mounted hit and run attacks or ambushed the enemy. However, war was no longer like this. The enemy would hide among innocent civilians and wear suits or normal clothing to hide themselves before opening fire, or they would blow up cars, and sometimes they would even plant bombs on children’s backs and turn them into suicide bombers. Sometimes these were called kamikaze attacks, but unlike actual kamikaze attacks, the suicide bombers did not strike at military targets. They were nothing but common terrorists.
In order to deal with situations like this, there had to be a way to tell the enemy from innocent civilians. Then, they would need to destroy the enemy thoroughly. A comparison could be drawn to treating cancer. Among the masses of healthy cells, there were a few cancer cells, but leaving them alone was not an option.
The aim of the police activity was to find where each and every cancer cell was hiding.
The military, on the other hand, would remove these cancerous portions with surgical precision. For instance, if one had cancer of the knee, amputating the entire leg was an option, but such madness was no longer allowed in this day and age. In order to avoid harming the healthy portions of the body, extreme precision would be required. The American military had gone all-in in the Middle East, but the security situation there showed no sign of recovery. Simply put, they had done too little police work in the region. If one began an operation without knowing what was going on and simply flailed around with the knife, the Middle East would not be cured, much like a patient with metastatic cancer. And if excessive force was used to cut chunks off here and there, they would be censured for involving innocent civilians in military operations.
“And so, in that sense, what we are doing now can be considered to be the first type of modern war — ah, forgive me, I was so caught up in talking that I forgot to put the situation on screen.”
The WAC manning the operations console nodded, and clicked her mouse a few times.
A map of Hakone and its surroundings, along the Izu Peninsula, appeared on the main screen. It started at 100’000:1 scale, but then it zoomed in, from 50’000:1 to 10’000:1 and so on, and at the same time the details on the map grew larger. Eventually, the entire EL display was dominated by the image of a certain hot spring among the mountains.
“This Sankai Hot Spring Resort, famous for its delicious food, beautiful scenery and its open-air hot springs. This seemingly-normal inn will soon become the stage for tonight’s events. The rules are very simple: safeguard the guests staying here and prevent enemy forces from attacking. Our men are already in place.”
Spinning icons appeared in the mountains, rivers and other terrain features surrounding the resort, each representing a trooper’s position. The ♀ icons represented the enlisted men, while a second spinning circle within one of the ♀ icons represented an officer.
Kanou exclaimed, “Ah, so it’s just like Ghost in the Shell”, and upon hearing this, Ltc. Ryuuzaki nodded to the operator.
“Then, what are the guests doing? Are they bathing in the hot springs now?! Oi, can any of you get me a view of the hot springs? Cheh, none of you, huh?”
The uniformed officer’s joke made everyone snort in laughter, but it had the effect of dispersing the tension in the air. However, after a service woman mentioned, “This is sexual harassment, you know” everyone regained their composure and tightened back up. The hitherto relaxed Kanou hurriedly rearranged his tie.
“Then, surrounding the Sankai Resort are our country’s top men, the Special Forces Group.”
“Oh, that was Itami’s former unit.”
“Dare I ask how Your Excellency came to know such a man?” However, as Ryuuzaki turned and saw the thick Comiket catalogue on his desk, he nodded and said, “Well, I guessed as much.”
“Although, I would like to clear up a possible misconception with you. The men of the Special Forces Group are not all SEALs, modern-day ninjas or supermen or other such combat experts. Of course, most of them are combat specialists, but some of them were chosen for their other special skills. For instance, some of them are computer experts, locksmiths, drivers or riders. Some are medically trained or familiar with poisons, or they might be skilled in psychological ops and winning hearts and minds.”
“Was Itami such an expert?”
“Yes. He is extraordinarily proficient in running away from danger or things he didn’t like. His skill in that field was so outstanding that even with a full security perimeter and Special Forces Group trackers, we still could not capture him. In truth, we once ran a fox-hunting exercise with him as the target, but it was a failure because it was too difficult.”
“...How is it that the reports I’ve read are so different from what you’ve said?”
Upon hearing this, the servicewoman present couldn’t help but laugh, while some of the officers standing by the side held their bellies and tried their best not to join her.
“Your Excellency, was this information given to you by someone from the “suits”? If it was obtained by less than legal means, please destroy it, and then tell us how you obtained this information so we can plug the leaks in our security.”
“What’s this all about?”
“Personal information on the members of SFGp is only available via illegal means, for instance, by professional hackers or hijacking experts, but typically, we will add false information to the profiles in case the enemy gets a hold of them. For instance, the standard deception profile will paint an individual as a close combat expert, a psychological warfare expert, an expert marksman, a HALO and HAHO-trained parachutist, a world-class diver, a demolitions specialist, and other details that resemble the ita-settings a middle-schooler would come up with. Am I wrong?”
“Ah, indeed, that was what I saw. But why would you do this?”
“The following is a national secret, but because you are the defense minister, I will tell you. Please listen carefully. It is a joke.”
“Yes, a joke. Well, it is also a form of revenge on a lazy bum as him, but on the surface, it is part of the scheme to confuse our enemies’ intelligence gathering.”
“Oi oi, is he really so bad?”
“Yes, he is that bad. As a member of SFGp, all troopers are expected to not only hone their own skills, but exchange techniques with their comrades of their own accord, with the hope that through cross-training, they will each refine their individual style of battle. But that fellow is different. Not only did he not absorb skills from other people, he assumed that he was supposed to be the lazy ant in the colony and ended up spreading his cult of anime and manga within the unit.”
As the defense minister heard this, he could not help but grab his head.
“Oi oi, is this really all right? If the Special Forces couldn’t catch him, should I say that they’re too weak, or he’s too good?”
“That was why we could not flunk him out of the course,” Ryuuzaki said.
If they fired him because he was useless and lazy, then it was a tacit admission that the whole of SFGp, who could not even catch a guy like that, was even worse than him.
“Ahhhh, it hurts...”
The uniformed officers merely shrugged their shoulders and sighed.
Elsewhere, at the Sankai Resort
After soaking in the hot springs and washing off several days of fatigue, Itami’s group went on a wild drinking binge after a sumptuous dinner. Just as they felt they had done enough and should turn in, Kuribayashi and Risa went to get more alcohol and snacks. As the other people squinted at them and said, “Let’s sleep” the two of them had already arrayed sake, beer, wine and whisky bottles on the table, along with potato chips, fruits and other finger foods which filled the table. After that, Kuribayashi and Risa began drinking cheerfully, and Piña and Bozes eagerly joined in. “I know this is wine, but what is sake?” they said, and they showed a lot of interest in the whisky. Then, Tuka and Rory took part as well. Lelei, who was reading, said “Drinking too much is bad for your health,” but she ended up being dragged in and forced to drink beer as well. As the room got rowdier and rowdier, Kuribayashi and Rory decided to raid the men’s room. “Oi, you men, get your asses in here!” they said, as they literally dragged Itami and Tomita into their room.
The scene which greeted Itami and Tomita was like some kind of Black Sabbath, or perhaps the word “orgy” might be a better way of describing it. Everyone was stinking drunk, their yukatas were barely hanging in place, displaying their underwear for all the world to see. When one thought about this, was it not very shameful? In the end, everyone was made to kneel on the ground and they were lectured for close to an hour.
As Tomita scolded Bozes about her state of undress, Bozes mumbled, “But, what’s wrong with that?” The other girls muttered, “You’re a pervert in denial.” “You wanted to see it, didn’t you?” “You should reflect on yourself before scolding others.” “You wanted to do lewd things with her in the futon storage cabinet, right?” among other things. In the end they chased Tomita into the corner of the room amidst a flurry of thrown pillows, where he had no choice but to stay quiet. Itami, on the other hand, realised that it was better to shut up and decided to focus on the food and drinks, trying his best not to stare too openly at the lovely displays all around him. However—
“Oi! Itami! I’ve got something to tell you!”
With a pomf, Kuribayashi plopped herself down in front of Itami. Given that she was wearing a barely-on yukata and she was sitting with her legs spread, he wondered if he should mention that her goods were on display before deciding to shut up.
“El-tee~ Itami~ Lieutenant Itami, I‘ve got something to ask you… well, I need a favor~”
Being terribly drunk, she pounded his shoulders with her fists as she spoke. It must have hurt.
“I said, introduce me!”
“Introduce you to…”
“Introduce me to someone in Special Forces Group!”
Itami knew her ambition, so surely Kuribayashi wanted his recommendation to get into SFGp, right? However, one had to be Ranger-trained to join, and for now, the Ranger course was not open to women, so he was prepared to tell her to give up on that dream. However, the words that fell from her mouth were far from what he had imagined.
“Introduce me so I can marry them!”
“Hey, hey, wait a minute! You’re not so easy that you’d go with anyone, right?”
“‘Course not. They have to be Special Forces, and they have to be single!”
“But the way you’re talking about it, you aren’t taking the guy’s feelings into consideration, right? Although more than half of the guys are single…”
“Isn’t that OK then? When you think about it, a normal woman can’t handle the duties of being a proper wife to people who go on dangerous missions and spend almost every day outside. But I’m perfect for that! I’ve got a small body and I’m a powerhouse. I’m pretty and I’m lively and I have a cheerful personality. I have a close combat badge, so they don’t have to hold back in domestic squabbles. And I’m a battle-tested, combat proven veteran! And then there’s these boobs! Even if they have to come back with wounded hearts from missions that nobody knows of and which they won’t be praised for, my boobs will heal their bodies and minds!’
“You call them boobs, but those are just lumps of muscle.”
“Hell no! My girls are 40% muscle, 60% fat, and they’re 92 cm across. They won’t sag even if I lie down, they’re firm and fill the hand, and they’re as bouncy as rubber!”
A cat-like expression crept across Kuribayashi’s face as she ranted, and she proudly thrust her pert pectorals forward. “How about them?” she shouted, as though she were about to fire her oppai missiles. Although Itami was transfixed for by them for a moment, he quickly recovered and looked up and to the right at the ceiling before muttering a reply.
“Well, er, the members’ love lives are a pretty serious matter, I’ll let the people on top know about it. Rather than marry a foreigner of dubious origin, marrying a local would cause fewer problems and it would help out their prospects. I mean, you’re earnest, pretty, curvy, and you’ve got the right way of thinking. If I can, I’ll try and hook you up.”
“Awesome!” Kuribayashi shouted joyfully as she threw her hands up in a “banzai” pose. Suddenly, an intense pain shot through Itami’s head.
With a dong sound, a smell of metal spread bitterly through his nose, and his vision went dark. How strong had that punch been?
“Ah, I accidentally hit the el-tee.”
As his consciousness faded, Itami thought he heard “Well, it’s okay for him to sleep like this, right?” as he gave up his struggling and let his consciousness drift away.
After they detected the unidentified armed men nearing Sankai Resort, the silent battle began.
The Situation Room’s central display showed the progress of the battle around Sankai Resort. Several analysts were huddled around the terminals facing the commander as they sorted through the information from spy satellites and disguised aerial drones while they muttered softly to themselves.
“Three heat sources, north-north east, on the upland. Archer, they’re on your 10 to 11.”
“This is Archer, target sighted.”
“Procedure 03. Got it?”
The Special Forces Group’s history was short, and they were in the dark regarding how they should handle these low-intensity, unconventional operations. After trial and practice, followed by revisions and refinements, they settled on the Master-Servant system. In other words, they would pair a rear echelon operator (the Masters) with frontline combatants (the Servants).
Currently, there were seven of these pairs, codenamed Saber, Archer and so on. The naming scheme was influenced by the fervent preaching of a certain person.
“Lancer, shift to Point Three.”
“This is Lancer, understood.”
“Caster, Procedure 02. Rider is moving from your 3 to 4. Hold fire.”
“This is Lancer, we’ve been mired in mud. Will be late to Point 3 by 1 second.”
The tide of battle was swiftly turning in the Special Forces’ favor.
They used the latest equipment, which revealed their enemy’s positions to them, so they did not have to worry about the enemy’s numbers.
With the enemy unable to sense their presence, they swiftly picked the enemy off one by one.
The only way to effectively do battle with the SFGp would be with a skilfully deployed combination attack. However, while there were three enemy groups in the area, all three of them were acting independently. It was almost as though they were from different organizations.
Even an amateur to warfare like Kanou could tell from the screen that the enemy’s movements were extremely confused, and he turned to Ryuuzaki to discuss the enemy’s motivations.
“What the hell are they thinking? They’re a complete mess. They should know how tight our security here is.”
The lead enemy group turned tail after being beaten badly, and then the next group made their run. The way they were advancing was as though they didn’t know the first group had just been beaten up.
“Logically speaking, it is possible that the enemy did not expect us to have such heavy defenses, and thus they took heavy losses. The other possibility is that they now understand our combat strength and they wish to complete their objective regardless of losses.”
“Enemy Group A has taken over 10 casualties, they are falling back.”
“Group B just fell back to reorganize, the real attack will be coming soon.”
“Group C is not moving, they must be preparing themselves.”
“Could it be that the three enemy groups are opposed to each other?”
While they were discussing this, Kanou was wondering if the enemies’ actions were political in nature. War was a form of politics, and there was no form of warfare on earth that was unrelated to politics. Victory in battle was determined on the political level. There were times when even a lost battle could lead to political victory. However, even with that in mind, the enemies’ actions seemed utterly pointless. After all, the enemy knew they were fully prepared for them, and yet they were mounting such a daring attack. It was like trying to break a rock with a thrown egg.
Kanou clicked his tongue, because he did not have enough information to come to a decision.
The best historical example of this dissonance was how skilled generals who knew nothing about politics blindly tried to achieve victory without heed for the political landscape, which eventually led to the downfall of Japan. These people hated politics and were in love with the aura of all things military. They believed strategy and tactics were despicable and longed to show their martial spirit in direct combat. However, the truth was that this was just stubborn valor. The government could not be divorced from the military, because in truth, politics and military matters were two sides of the same coin, and blindly cleaving to either of them was a bad thing. However, Japan was now filled with overly-diplomatic politicians who knew nothing about military matters, and Kanou felt this would someday lead to the end of Japan. That was how it was when you had people who stubbornly looked down on the military and pursued peace at any cost while being guided by emotions as opposed to logic.
“Could you help me investigate the identities of the enemy? I have a bad feeling about this.”
Kanou’s request made Ltc. Ryuuzaki frown.
“If the enemy has retreated, that would be fine, but hostilities have not fully ceased yet.”
“But there should be a way, right? For example, you can’t disguise one’s race.”
For instance, countries like China or Russia were intensely nationalistic. In order to ensure the absolutely loyalty of their operatives, they would not use men from another country. Even on the rare occasion that they did otherwise, they would not let them become part of such a sensitive operation.
If they were Chinese, then it would be easier for them to blend in, since they were Asians like the Chinese.
“Colonel, Saber is near two of the enemy bodies. Please allow us to advance and verify.”
After receiving his subordinate’s suggestion, he ordered Saber to inspect the corpses.
While waiting for a reply, Ryuuzaki turned to Kanou.
“What are you thinking about?”
“Ah? Political problems, of course. I am a politician, after all.”
“But, what does that have to do with investigating enemy bodies?”
“This is Saber. I’ve just inspected the enemy corpses. Something’s strange here. Permission to use a light.”
“Denied, it will reveal your location to the enemy. In this terrain, any light from you can be seen out to two klicks away.”
“What did you say was strange?”
Kanou practically snatched the mike away to speak.
“Judging by the shape of the enemy’s faces, they don’t seem like Asians.”
As Kanou heard this, a chill ran down his spine.
“Sorry, but please verify their identities. It is crucial that we know where the enemy came from.”
Ryuuzaki angrily snatched the mike away from Kanou, but after a brief silence, he shook his head and spoke hoarsely.
“Saber, permission granted to use light. But work fast. After you’re finished, immediately fall back.”
“This is Saber, the enemies are a black man and a white man!!”
If the enemy were Chinese or Russian, there was no way they would mix black and white people in a combat unit. As he heard the report, Kanou made a call to the Prime Minister’s office.
- Shinjuku 2-chome: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinjuku_Ni-ch%C5%8Dme
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