Insert standard disclaimers here. Completely for non-profit. All characters except the ones I create are owned by Takahashi-sama and Co.


Chapter 2

Neither of them spoke after the kiss, but instead watched the stars come out. After it started getting chilly they went inside, noticed that their respective fathers were passed out, and walked up the stairs. Nodoka had gone home some time earlier, Nabiki was out with friends and Kasumi was in her room. The house was totally silent as the couple ascended the stairs and stopped in front of Akaneís room. Ranma faced Akane, twiddling his thumbs, trying to think of something to say, and felt that the Saotome Secret Technique would be good idea at that moment. Just then, the front door opened and they heard Nabiki make sounds of disgust as she passed the fathers.

"Meet me on the roof later," he whispered and she nodded. As she opened the door to her room, Ranma grabbed her hand and kissed her quickly then spun around and ran silently to the guest room he and Genma used to occupy. Akane stood there stunned and watched him go. She remained like that till her older sister saw her.

"Akane, what are you staring at?"

"Um. . . nothing Nabiki oneechan. Good night." Nabiki was almost blown backwards by the air rushing past that was the wake of her little sisterís departure. She shook her head at the closed door and headed off to bed.

After everyone had gone to bed, Ranma dropped down and rapped on Akaneís window. She opened her window and he helped her to the roof. They sat down next to each other and looked at the stars.

"Itís been quite a day, hasnít it?" Ranma asked, not quite sure how to begin.

"Yes, very strange," Akane agreed, equally apprehensive. She touched her lips thinking about the kisses they shared earlier that evening by the koi pond. For once no one intruded or spied upon them and she had thanked kami-sama over and over again during the past hours.

"Akane, I. . . "

"Yes Ranma?"

"Umm. . . about what happened today."

"Yes?" Akane was starting to get irritated, not to mention cold. She rubbed her arms, thinking that she should have gotten a sweater before coming on the roof.

"Are you cold?" Ranma asked. "Here," and he put his arm around her and drew her close. Like most young men, his body put out as much heat as a blast furnace. Akane burrowed into his chest getting comfortable.

"Thank you," she whispered and tilted her face upwards. She could feel his heart pound faster and his skin get warmer. Taking the initiative, she reached behind his head and pulled him down to her.

Ranma broke the kiss and gazed at her face. Sheís beautiful, he thought to himself. How could I have ever called her kawaikune? The admission caused something in him to snap and he crushed her to his chest in a fierce embrace. The events at Jusendo resurfaced and blazed brightly in his mindís eye. His vision doubled as he saw Akane in the present and Akane almost dead beside the spring. He had to hold her, to feel her heart beat, to reassure himself that this wasnít a dream. I canít lose her, I wonít lose her, his mind repeated the refrain over and over.

Akane could feel him trembling as he held her. After a while, she felt his arms loosened and she stared quizzically at her fiancť. Gone was the arrogant, self-assured young man she was accustomed to. In his place sat a scared boy on the verge of tears. "Ranma," she whispered touching his cheek. She didnít know what to expect when he asked her to meet him on the roof, but she certainly didnít expect this. Instinctively she knew that under all the bluster he was rather emotionally fragile, but she had never seen it displayed so openly. She didnít know how to react to this new Ranma so she waited till he did something.

He finally spoke after he regained his composure, his mind made up. "You are the first person Iíve kissed, did you know that?" Akane remembered all the times Shampoo and Ukyou and Kodachi had glomped him and narrowed her eyes at him, her body tensing. "I know youíre thinking about all those times I was kissed by Ukyou and Shampoo, and even Sanzenin." Here he shuddered, then continued. "But it was always them kissing me, Iíve never kissed anyone, at least not till today." He paused and looked into her eyes. Wild horses couldnít drag the secret out of him that he was a hopeless romantic; it just didnít fit his tough guy image. But since he was little, he secretly dreamed of meeting a girl and falling in love. From the few movies and television shows he watched as a child, he thought love came like a thunder bolt crashing down from the heavens. You saw a girl across a crowded room and you fell madly in love at first sight. He never thought it grew quietly in the background, from someone you knew, and that it was built upon day by day. He simply wasnít prepared for what was in front of him. Now he looked at the young woman he held in his arms and he could no longer deny how much she meant to him. He couldnít imagine life without her, and frankly didnít want to. This fact and the intense emotions scared him beyond words. But he still had a long way to go before he could admit that to her.

"Akane, Iím glad you were my first kiss," he whispered.

Akane felt tears well up in her eyes but did nothing to stop them. She hugged her fiancť tightly. "You were my first kiss too, you know. Iím glad too." They snuggled in each otherís arms until she felt heard him chuckle softly. "Whatís so funny?"

"Do you remember when we first met? You threw a table at my head and knocked me out. Now look at us."

She started laughing softly. "Well, you were a pervert. Thatís how I deal with perverts. I throw tables at them."

Ranma looked at her crosswise. "Why havenít you ever thrown a table at Happosai?"

"Thereís never been one available."

They both laughed harder, trying to stifle themselves to keep from waking the household and neighbors. After they calmed down, Ranma looked intently at his fiancťe.

"Do you remember when you asked if you wanted to be friends? Do you still?"

"Oh Ranma, I thought we are friends!"

"I mean, like friends, like guys and girls are friends type thing. Oh never mind." Frustrated at being tongue tied, he hung his head. Akane looked at the young man and ran her hand through his thick black hair getting the gist of the question. She understood the trouble he had with expressing himself since she herself possessed a similar trait.

"What about Ukyou and Shampoo and Kodachi?" she asked.

"Shampoo is nice sometimes, but I hate it when she hangs on me. Ukyou is my best friend, and thatís all. I think she understands now anyway. Kodachi, well, Kodachi is just nuts."

"So that leaves me? You choose me through process of elimination?"

"No! Itís not like that. Weíre friends and we like the same stuff, like martial arts anyway. And I mean, I like you, and all, and youíre real cute when youíre not mad at me. And Iím tired of fighting all the time with you and I would rather be kissiní and stuff Ďcos itís a lot nicer than getting hit."

Akaneís heart leapt higher and higher at each word. This wasnít the declaration of love she hoped for, but it was more than she expected. She also was amused at how bad his grammar was when he got emotional. She smiled, "I like you too."

Ranma thought her smile was more beautiful than all the stars in the heavens, but he wasnít about to say that. Instead he fell back on old standbyís. "You really are cute when you smile," and he kissed her again.

* * * *

"Great grandmother, you seen airen lately?"

"No, I havenít. Why donít you go over there and see whatís going on. Itís been very quiet lately and I find that rather disturbing."

"Aiya! Good idea! Will go now."

"Shampoo! I should like to walk with you in the sun!"

"Mousse, why you talk to coat rack? Stupid duckboy."

*SPLASH*

"Be back before the dinner rush, Shampoo."

"Yes great grandmother."

A flash of purple and a bicycle bell streaked through the streets of Nerima as the Amazon made her way to the Tendo Dojo. When she arrived, she heard Akane and Ranma arguing in the dojo.

"Wait, you should take ten years worth of cooking classes! Not like it would do any good anyway."

"Oh yeah? I wouldnít talk. Why donít I see remedial Japanese in this? Oh yeah, thatís because youíre learning to walk upright."

"Baka."

"Kawaikune."

"Hentai."

"Unsexy."

Shampoo listened to the two insult each other, but there was something missing to their argument. It had somehow lost an edge. Instead of her usual crashing through walls, she crept silently up to the dojo and eavesdropped outside the door.

"What else are you taking?" Akane asked.

"Freshman comp and psychology 101."

"Why psych?"

"íCos the class description says that it covers the way people think and learn and why they do things. I figure that if I am going to be a good teacher I should know that sorta stuff."

The Amazon peeked through the sliding doors to see a look of incredulity on Akaneís face as she stared at Ranma with one eyebrow cocked . But what disturbed her was how close they were sitting. The pair were sitting so close that their legs were touching, while in front of them papers lain strewn about. There was an aura of intimacy that raised the hairs on the back of her neck as she watched them plan out their classes for university.

University? she thought to herself. Since when is Ranma going to university? And why? Thatís a better question. University was something Shampoo never considered. It was very rare for people in Joketzokou to go beyond high school for education and she didnít see the point. It was one area Shampoo thought she and Ranma had in common: neither excelled in school. A martial artist didnít need university, especially one like her "airen". Then a light bulb went off in her mind. From what she could see, they both had a list in front of them, they had identical booklets and formsÖRanma was leaving her and running off to university with that violent pervert girl!!! This had to be stopped, and stopped fast.

*GLOMP* "Nihao Ranma!! Is beautiful day, you take Shampoo on date, yes?" The purple tressed woman purred and slithered on Ranma, wrapping her arms and legs around him so tightly that he almost fell over.

"And what do you think youíre doing, Shampoo?" Akane stood up and glared at the other woman. Shampoo merely stared at her rival as if she were some interesting bug under glass.

"Is no business of violent pervert girl what Shampoo do with airen."

"Oh, really?" Akane smirked and dumped a bucket (from where?) on Ranma. "There, you want to go on a date with a girl?"

Shampoo let go long enough to pull out a teakettle. "Akane like onna-Ranma. Shampoo prefer Ranma-kun." *SPLASH*

"UmmÖexcuse me?" Ranma piped in.

*SPLASH* "Get off of him!"

*SPLASH* "If Ranma no want Shampoo, Ranma say."

*SPLASH* "How can he say anything when youíve got your hands over his mouth?!"

*SPLASH* "Why would airen want kitchen destroyer when he can have me?"

"Goddammit! I am not some pull toy!" Ranma, somehow, extricated himself from the Amazonís arms and stepped several paces back.

"Airen?" Shampoo whispered.

"Ranma?" Akane whispered.

Ranma spoke calmly, yet he was glowing a faint red. "I am so damn sick of this. This has been going on for three years. Arenít you two sick of it yet?" The two rivals looked stricken.

"But airenÖ"

"I am NOT your AIREN! My name is Ranma!"

Tears were forming in Shampooís eyes, "But RanmaÖ"

"RANNMMMAAA!!! How dare you make my Shampoo cry! Prepare to die!"

Chains sprang out of nowhere heading towards Ranmaís head just as he jumped to the side. Mousse appeared in the doorway trying to yank the chains back, growling. "What have you done to my Shampoo?" He jumped and landed a flying split kick to Ranmaís jaw causing him to stagger back. Ranma dropped to the floor and swept Mousseís legs from under him, then leapt on top of Mousse and wound up for a fatal blow. He stopped mere millimeters from Mousseís nose.

"Aiya! Ranma, no kill Mousse!" Shampoo screamed and tried to run over and drag him off. She found herself unable to move since Akane had grabbed her arm. "Let Shampoo go, Akane!"

Ranma ignored the women and concentrated on the prostrate man. "Iím sick of you too. Iím sick of your chains and hooks and your damn potty trainers! I didnít do nuthin to Shampoo, nor would I ever. So get that through your fat, blind head, Mousse."

Ranma sprang off of Mousse, hauled him up by the collar and threw him at Shampoo. He turned his anger towards the Amazon. "I am not your airen," he growled, "or that old ghoulís son in law, or even you boyfriend! I hate it when you glomp me. You never listen to what I say. You and Akane are both like that, and Iím tired of it all! Iím not some fucking game or prize to be won. Just Ďcos I accidentally beat you doesnít mean you own me! Now go AWAY!"

All three individuals stared with their mouths on the floor, the two women with tears streaming. Then Shampoo held her head high, a dangerous light gleamed from their violet depths. "This not over," she said haughtily. "Shampoo love Ranma and Ranma will love Shampoo. Amazon law say you are husband, and you are. Come along Mousse, great grandmother waiting for us." She flipped her hair, grabbed Mousse by the sleeves and dragged him out of the dojo. Ranma heaved a sigh and shook his head.

"I canít believe you said I was like her."

Ranma snapped his head to the side to see Akane crying. "Iím nothing like her. I canít believe you said that, I just canít believe it..."

"Akane, I ..." but he never had the opportunity to finish his sentence as she ran out of the dojo crying. "didnít mean it that way...Damn." Why canít it be easy? he asked himself. Shaking his head and muttering all the while, he cleaned up the scattered papers and put them in a corner. To calm him mind, he started a slow kata.

Cologne was startled as Shampoo rushed into the Nekohanten in a purple fury of tears, curses, and shouts in Mandarin, followed closely by Mousse, who looked strangely pleased. Whatever happened, she knew it was caused by son-in-law.

"Mousse, where have you been? I did not allow you to leave. Get to work!" She waited in the restaurant long enough to see that Mousse was attending to the customers before she left to check on Shampoo. She hopped up to her great granddaughterís room to find her crying on her bed. "Shampoo, what happened?"

The young Amazon sniffled, sat up and tried to compose herself. "Airen told Shampoo to go away."

Cologne raised her eyebrow. "Son-in-law tells you that all the time, why should it make any difference today?"

Shampoo switched to Mandarin. "It wasnít that he said it, it was how. Then Mousse interrupted and Ranma almost killed him after he stupidly attacked."

"Great Granddaughter, tell the whole story from the beginning." So, she did, and all the while Cologneís face was inscrutable. So, son-in-law has finally taken steps to becoming a man, she thought to herself. Hrmph, about time. And yet Shampoo has not. This country is hindering the childís growth; she is not even close to being prepared to lead the Tribe. The only thing that impressed her was Shampooís statement when she left. An Amazon could never show defeat, especially to a male outsider. But, critically examining the young woman, Cologne felt that she was no where close to making her ultimatum come true.

"Shampoo, have you not realized yet that your tactics do not work? After three years of trying the same thing ought to have shown you that! Blind, stupid Mousse could even see that." Cologne felt she had to be stern, and may be even a little cruel to get he point across; but that didnít keep her from hurting when she saw Shampooís demeanor change from proud Amazon to heartbroken young woman.. But the older woman plunged on. "Stupid girl! What kind of Amazon are you? You, who are my heir, should show better judgment than that, should have shown more maturity. Even that boy, that Ranma, has shown more presence of mind and maturity than you, and heís an outsider male! I am ashamed of you, Great Granddaughter, very ashamed." Here she stopped and put her arms around Shampoo when the young womanís head hung almost to her stomach and a pool of tears were gathering in her lap. Yet Cologne was proud that her great granddaughter had made no noise and took the criticism without complaint. This was a sign of a true warrior.

The matriarch softened her tone, "My child, it is time to grow up and take the path that has been destined for you. You are to lead the Tribe into the next millennium. Tomorrow, we start training."

"But Great Granddmother..."

"There is more to being a leader of the Amazons than just being a warrior. That is merely a small part."

"Like what?"

"Like understanding your friends as well as your enemies, having empathy for those around you, being educated enough to understand your environment, and having enough wisdom to know when to ask for help. Sit here, I will be right back." Cologne hopped out of the room and returned shortly with a small book. The title was written in Mandarin. "Read this, Great Granddaughter," and she handed Shampoo the small book. "Why I did not have you read this before we came to Japan, I do not know. It might have helped you with son-in-law sooner," she mumbled to herself.

"Now, I want you to think about what Iíve told you, and tomorrow you will start the most arduous training in your life." The old woman patted the young womanís cheek fondly and gave her a smile. "You read that book. I must get back to the restaurant."

Shampoo set the book down after Cologne left and washed her face clear of the tears. She returned and stared at the cover. "The Art of War?" she read the title aloud. At least it sounds interesting, she thought, and settled herself in for the evening to read.

The next morning, Shampoo came bounding down the stairs with her apron on ready to start the morning cleaning in preparation for opening the restaurant. She stopped in her tracks suddenly for a second. "Father!" she cried and ran into his waiting arms. "Daughter," he said warmly and wrapped his arms around her.

"Father, why are you here?" she asked.

"What, daughter, I have not seen you in years. Are you not happy to see me?"

"Of course, father, itís just that Iím surprised."

"Your father is here because I sent for him." Cologne appeared suddenly in view with Mousse trailing behind her. He quickly stepped ahead of the old woman and from the sleeves of his robe he placed two stacks of books, both about three feet high, on the table closest to Shampoo.

"What this?" Shampoo asked, switching to Japanese. She looked at the titles of the books and realized they were in several other languages besides Japanese and Mandarin.

"That is the start of your training. Did you read that book I gave you last night?"

"Hai. But Shampoo no understand everything."

"That is fine, so long as you read it." Cologne hopped around, took her cane and whapped the top book which sent it flying. The young Amazon snatched it out of the air. "Japanese grammar book?" she asked after she read the spine.

"Hai. Know thy enemy, know thy self."

"Huh?"

"Shampoo, we are outsiders here, and we will always be treated as" here she spat out the word, "gaijin. How do you expect to win son-in-law when you do not understand your enemy?"

"Airen not enemy."

"This is a battle, Great Granddaughter. Everyone here is an enemy. Do you understand?" It was apparent to everyone in the room that she did not understand, but for Cologne, understanding was not required, only obedience*.

"Great Grandmother, this very strange training."

"There is more to being a warrior than just knowing how to fight."

"But Great Grandmother, Shampoo..."

"No Ďbutsí Shampoo. An elder has given you an order. By the end of this week, I want you to have read one half of these books. You are excused from your duties in the restaurant; Mousse will take over your chores. You may consult whomever you wish to help you in your training EXCPET son-in-law, but I must approve first. And from now on only Japanese will be spoken." Cologne leveled her eyes at Mousse. "Languages are one of the few skills you have. I am counting on you to teach Shampoo, understand?"

Mousse couldnít believe his luck! The old ghoul was commanding him to spend time with his love! Oh the gods were looking down on him with smiles and favor, and how knows what else might happ...

*THWUNK*

"This is serious, Mousse. If I hear you are trying to romance Shampoo instead of tutoring her, I will find my recipe for crispy duck." The old woman smirked when she saw him tremble slightly. "That means, boy, no gifts, no dates, no ĎOh Shampoo I love youí or any of that nonsense. You are an Amazon too, and I expect the same warrior discipline from you that I do Great Granddaughter."

Mousse straightened his posture, obviously pleased the honored elder called him an Amazon warrior. It was the highest compliment a woman could give a man, but it carried with it much responsibility.

"I expect weekly reports from the both of you. Do NOT disappoint me." With a look, Shampoo grabbed one third of the books and bounded up the stairs while Mousse grabbed a rag and started wiping down the tables.

Cologne turned to Shampooís father and addressed him in Mandarin, "Did you bring the documents we need?"

"Yes, honored elder, but I donít see how this will help." He handed the old woman a vanilla folder stuffed with papers.

"It is not your concern, but mine. Thank you for bringing these." Her mask of the elder dropped and she was once again a grandmother. "Go upstairs and visit your daughter. Her training need not start immediately."

The older man nodded and ascended the steps. After he left, Cologne sighed softly and opened the folder. She riffled through the papers scanning quickly at their contents while her mind shifted into high gear. I will have to call in some favors for this, she thought to herself, but it will hopefully be worth it. Even if Shampoo does not succeed in bringing back son-in-law, I will ensure she will not be dishonored. The old woman was not oblivious to the fact Shampoo was truly in love with Ranma, and so she supported the young woman in her endeavors. But the elder faced the facts long ago that Shampoo would not succeed in winning his heart; that already belonged to someone else. Well, a young womanís heart matters little, what matters is the continuation of strong leadership for the tribe. Cologne sighed again, and reached for the telephone.

His heart swelled with pride when he entered her room and found her already immersed in the books Cologne ordered her to read. He looked at her a minute longer, thinking how much she looked like her mother and how proud he was when she was first born. His little girl.

"Father." Shampoo smiled and drew him into the room.

"What are you reading, Daughter?"

"Umm...Is called "The Prince", by Maki-something. Canít pronounce family name."

"What is it about?"

"Shampoo no understand. Talking about ruling people through fear." She cocked her head and stared intently at her father. "Why you come? Great-grandmother send you. Why?"

The older man shuffled. "It is not for me to tell you what the elder has planned. But she is planning something."

Her eyes lit up, "Something for airen?"

"No, I do not believe so. I think it is something for the tribe." Shampooís eyes glazed over in thought. Her father sat down next to her and stroked her hair fondly.

"Daughter, I am very proud of you. You have grown into a fine woman and warrior. You remind me so much of your mother."

"Father, tell Shampoo about Mother. Great-grandmother never told Shampoo how Mother died."

"Cologne was heart broken when your mother died. She was grooming her, like she is you, to become a leader of the tribe. When Mai Chi, your mother, passed on to the ancestors, your great-grandmother decreed that no one would speak her name nor speak of how she died. She then took you in and declared you as her heir."

This was the first time Shampoo had heard her motherís name. She smiled, "Motherís name mean ĎInner Strength Sisterí. Is good name for warrior." Her father smiled. "She was the strongest warrior of her generation, but she did not die a warriorís death."

The young woman gasped, her eyes as round as saucers. "She die without honor?" she asked in a tremulous voice. It was the logical conclusion if Cologne had made her motherís memory an outcast to the tribe.

He shook his head and patted her knee. "No Daughter." He sighed heavily and his eyes filled with tears. "It is time you know. Cologne issued the edict to never speak your motherís name and of how she died to protect you. Your mother died giving birth to you."

Shampoo sat on the edge of her bed stunned. She had heard of women dying in childbirth, but never dreamed it would happen in this day and age. People often thought the Amazons were a backward, almost primitive society. But the reality was, despite their adhearrances to tradition and the old ways, they were very modern. And dying in childbirth! Granted, it was not a dishonorable death, especially since a daughter was born, but it was not as nearly glorious as dying battle. She had always assumed her mother died in battle when she was still a baby. She envisioned her mother, protecting the tribe, struggling to get out of bed right after giving birth, and valiantly facing the enemies of the Amazons. The truth stung now, and destroyed a few romantic illusions she carried.

The older man stood up and started pacing. "Your great-grandmother has something planned for you. I know not what it is, but I can guess. Cologne was also very angry at your mother because she disgraced herself. Your mother chose love over the responsibilities of leadership." He sat down again while his daughter looked up with hurt eyes. "We were very much in love. You were conceived before we married. Cologne was very angry. She wanted your mother to go to university, and your mother refused, saying that she did not need school, that she just wanted to be a warrior and have a husband and a family. Cologne was so disappointed and hurt. I think she felt betrayed by your mother. But your great-grandmother is wise. She understands that it takes more than just brute strength to lead. It takes knowledge, intelligence and wisdom. Your mother had none of those, and she did not care to acquire any of them either. Cologne may not have had any formal schooling, but she understands the value of it. I believe she wants you to pick up where your mother failed."

"Shampoo not want to go to university! What does warrior need university for? Is stupid idea. Why Great-Grandmother have such stupid idea? Why must Shampoo do this? Shampoo here in Japan to get airen, not go to stupid school. Just because Ranma stupid enough to go to university...OHHHHH! AIYA!" Her father bore the brunt of her tirade with equanimity, then looked curiously at her when she stopped. He did not favor the young martial artist, whom his his beloved daughter had set her eyes upon. And, like Cologne, he was not blind to the fact her "airen" loved another.

"No, Shampoo, I do not think..." her father started, but she cut him off as she grabbed a book off the bedside table.

"Shampoo have no time for talk. Must study so can go to university like Ranma!"

Her father sighed heavily, looked wearily at his daughter and patted her on the head. He knew better than to try to dissuade her once she got an idea in her head. She was so like her mother that way. "You study, I will go help your great-grandmother and Mousse." Shampoo didnít even look up when he left her room.

* * * *

Ukyou swept the front walk of her store and set out her sign. She washed the door window and polished the handle. To the other proprietors on the block, her actions seemed excessive, but Ukyou was proud of what she achieved. How many eighteen year olds in the entire world had their own restaurant? She hummed a morning song, her back warmed by the early morning sun. It promised to be a warm day, and she made a mental note to keep plenty of soft drinks and iced tea on hand. Then she wondered if she was running out of cabbage, then she worried if she was running out of wasabi sauce, then she remembered the shipment of soy sauce was short two crates, and the....

*BONK*

"Sorry, can you tell me where I am? I am trying to find Tokyo."

"Honey, do you get lost going to the bathroom? Donít answer that, I think I already know."

"Oh! Iím in Nerima. Heh." Ryouga stood with his arm behind his head and smiled sheepishly. "Ukyou. Ohayo."

"Where you been, Ryouga? Havenít seen you in almost a year." Ukyou turned her back on him to finish straightening out her sign and wipe the window ledge clean.

"I went back home to visit my parents. But they werenít there. There was a message on the answering machine that they were in some city called Brussels. I tried to find them, but I got lost. Did you know that Europe was that large? Itís even bigger than Japan!"

Ukyou laughed, "Of course it is! Itís a continent; Japanís only a country. I suppose being bad a geography goes hand in hand with having no sense of direction?" She smiled at Ryouga and didnít let him answer. "Hey sugar, you had breakfast yet? Come on in, Iíll make you something, on the house."


Comments and Criticism welcome! Contact me at elee@student.law.du.edu

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