Just a few homes away from the inn that our duo is staying at, a boy named Aiden eagerly awaited the rising of the sun. He pulled by the curtain of his window just for that occasion. He knew that once the sun rose, he would be thirteen years old. His father would finally let him open his late mother’s chest and look at the stuff she left for him.
As most boys his age, Aiden had an extraordinary imagination. He could transform even the smallest of sticks into a mighty sword. He pictured his mother leaving him a sword so he could finally begin pursuing his destiny as a knight. He swore up and down to his father that that is what his mother would have wanted, but Father had always disagreed.
I hope she left me a picture, Aiden thought. His mother had died only three days after he was born, so he had no memory of her. He liked to believe that his mother was a beautiful brown haired lady with soft, lavender eyes, but he knew that would impossible, seeing how he had blond hair and aqua eyes. He also pictured her with a beard, but his father always insisted that women couldn’t grow beards.
Aiden envied his father. He wished he would have been able to have a visual idea of what his mother looked like. He also wished he was able to avert getting sick like his father did. Aiden suffered from headaches, nausea, and colds on a daily basis. The kids had always made fun of him at school for having a pink nose from his overuse of tissues. He’d wanted to ask his peers how they never caught his colds, but Aiden kept to himself most of the time.
Aiden felt around his face several times during the night. Since he was growing older, he figured he would soon be able to grow a beard like his father. He disliked blond beards and crossed his fingers that his facial hair would end up being brown like his father’s natural hair. He also figured that he would be more attractive to girls once school resumed in the fall.
As Aiden’s mind raced with thoughts, the sun eventually came up. Once it peeked through his window, Aiden shot out of bed. He did this so quickly that he forgot to put on his house shoes. His feet became a victim to the wooden floors, but he didn’t care.
Technically, Aiden’s bedroom was in the attic. Aiden’s father transformed a loft into two separate bedrooms. One side was for Aiden. The other side was kept for: “Someone special,” as he would always say. His room was on the second floor right across from the bathroom.
Aiden burst through the door of his father’s room to find him sleeping in his king sized bed. His father crafted the bed himself. It was made of durable logs which were tested that day by Aiden’s jumping up and down on the mattress. His father covered his face with his blanket.
“Why Aiden?” his father asked. He was still groggy and unaware of the special date.
“It’s my birthday, Papa!” Aiden exclaimed. “It’s my thirteenth, so that means I get to open Mama’s chest.”
His father sighed as he rolled out of bed. He wasn’t too keen on opening the chest of his late wife. A lot of bad memories would be opened back up. Granted he barely had any bad memories of being with Aiden’s mother, but the good memories were always soiled by reality. The fact that his wife, the love of his life, was gone turned every good memory into terrible ones. This usually caused What Ifs to linger in his mind and make its way down to his heart. He had gotten used to it by now, of course, but that chest contained things he hadn’t looked at for almost thirteen years.
Aiden’s father walked over to his closet and put on his white shirt and put his brown jacket over it. He then put on his pants and grabbed his hat. He wanted to do this as slowly as possible to avoid the inevitable, but Aiden just pulled on his sleeve impatiently.
“Have you brushed your teeth yet, son?” his father asked.
“No, not yet,” Aiden said quietly. He knew what was next.
“Then go brush them,” his father said. He watched as Aiden rushed upstairs to the bathroom. That would at least buy him a minute or two of silence so he could prepare himself for the leak of memories he would be exposed to. He didn’t want to return to the farm that he kept with his wife long ago. He knew he wouldn’t be there physically, but having to remember it was just as painful as revisiting it himself.
And her face…
The last time he had seen her face was moments after she took her last breath. He lingered on that image for so long, but it eventually faded away. He remembered her giving him a photograph of her so that Aiden could see her face on his thirteenth birthday. Most of the photographs of her had been lost in the fire, but he burnt the rest himself. He didn’t want to keep pictures of her for fear that her image would haunt him whenever he saw them. He didn’t anticipate being haunted even without photographs.
Her very last photograph was in that chest. He wanted to forget what his wife said and burn that chest to pieces, but whenever he attempted to it felt like he was being held back by her soft, gentle touch. Something kept him from burning that chest, but what?
“I’m all finished, Papa!” he heard Aiden yell from the top of the stairs. This cued him to pull out the dusty chest from his closet. He sat it down and touched the key that he kept laced around his neck. Touching it always seemed to bring back memories.
“Keep this safe, Thane,” he remembered her saying to him. The key was covered in blood at that time. He remembered nervously looking down at the spear that had gone cleanly through his wife.
“I will,” was what he said to her. He recalled touching her face and realizing how cold she was getting.
“Keep the chest safe, too. I don’t want our baby boys to miss out on their grand destinies.”
Tears had welled up in his eyes at that point. He hadn’t the heart to tell her that Arlyn had been kidnapped. Things just happened so fast and he didn’t want her last moments to be spent even more distressed.
“They won’t, Evi,” he said to her.
Though she lasted for five minutes afterwards, it all felt like seconds to Thane. Her last words were only that she loved him. He responded to her, but doubted that she heard it. He lost his wife and one of his sons that day. But, as he looked on at Aiden and his bright face, he was glad to know he still had one reason to live.
“Help me carry this into the living room, Aiden,” Thane said and Aiden eagerly ran over and grabbed the adjacent handle. They carried it in the living room and sat it down by an end table. Thane untied the key from around his neck and held it up before Aiden’s young face. “I need you to listen to me, Aiden,” he said.
“I will, Papa,” Aiden replied.
“What’s in this chest will change your life,” Than said as sternly as possible. “Your mother asked me to put these items away for you and-,” he stopped short when he remembered that Aiden didn’t know of his brother, “-asked me to make you cherish them always.” Nice save, he thought, though he knew that in moments Aiden would gain the knowledge of his brother.
“I know all this, Papa!” Aiden said. “You’ve told me all this before.”
“But I want to reconfirm it,” he said calmly. “I just want you to promise me that you will love me, even if the items in this chest are unsettling.”
“Of course I will always love you, Papa,” Aiden proclaimed. “I just really want to open that chest. I’ve been waiting thirteen years, for crying out loud.”
Thane smiled. If there was ever anyone that could make him smile, it was Aiden. He handed him the key and watched as he tried to open it.
The key was rusted and took a lot of maneuvering to fit in the lock. Thane had not taken it off since he tied it around his neck, even during showers. He was always too afraid to lose it if it left his neck.
“Got it,” Aiden said after much toil. He swung open the top of the chest and looked inside for his birthday goodies. Inside were a black box, a bound leather book, and a note. He went straight for the box, but Thane took it quickly.
“Read first, then you can have this,” he said. He remembered Evi telling him to give the boxes to the boys last, though he only had one box and one boy to look after.
Aiden decided to take the note first because the book looked huge. The note was folded and said: To Aiden and Arlyn. “Who’s Arlyn?” Aiden said aloud. He didn’t notice his father’s silence, as he was too curious to pay attention to his surroundings. He unfolded the note and his mother’s writing was revealed to him.
To my dearest twin boys,
If you are reading this, I am dead. If you are Thane, immediately put this note back in the box and don’t open it again until our sons are thirteen. Are you not Thane? Good. Let’s get on with this.
I have always been a firm believer in the Divines. After you were born, Aiden and Arlyn, I came across two stones. One contained a fire within and the other contained a ball of water. They were both on a necklace that had your names on them. This was a sign to me that you were both destined to be Divine Heroes. I placed the stones around your necks as children but I told your father to take them off and hide them away if something did happen to me. This is also why you’re reading this note, because of my death and what not.
I found these stones just moments after I have written this and watch you as you slumber in your cribs. I am so blessed to have two holy children, but you wouldn’t have been conceived without your father. I know that he has taken care of you. He’s always been a strong man like that.
If you are reading this at the age of thirteen, please follow my instructions. I have written several facts that I have gained from my extensive research into the Divines that you should know. Just wait to touch that stone until after you have read these instructions.
And please, let your father know of how much I love him. He probably feels left out in this whole mess. But, my boys, I will always love you, even after life. Live well and remember that you are destined for greatness.
Aiden put the note back down in the chest. “I have a brother?”
“You do,” Thane said. “But I don’t know if he’s alive. He was kidnapped the same day your mother died.”
“Well, what happened?” Aiden said as tears began to flow. He was shaking violently in confusion and rage.
Thane sighed deeply and looked into the eyes of his weak, sickly son. “You and your brother, Arlyn, were born thirteen years ago on a farm that your mother and I cultivated. Three days later, a group of bandits raided our small farm. Seeing how we were far away from any city of town, no one noticed. They burned our home, our crops, and killed our livestock. We rushed to the barn.
“I tried to keep the bandits out of the barn, but there were too many. This man, who the bandits were calling Lord Icis, asked one of his men to dispose of me. All I had was a pitchfork, but it was no match for the quick fencer. He stabbed be in the shoulder and hit me so hard that I passed out. He left me for dead.
“When I came to, I rushed into the barn to find your mother stabbed by a spear. I heard this awful crying coming from a hay stack. That’s when your mother called out to me and let me know that she was still alive. I stayed with her as she told me to put the stones that hung around your necks in a chest. She said that there was already a note and a journal and she told me not to touch them. She then asked me to check on both of you, but you, Aiden, were the only one remaining. I couldn’t find your brother, dead or alive. She told me that Arlyn was in another hay stack, but I assume that the bandits got him before they left.”
Thane watched his son carefully after he ended the story. Aiden just looked at him blankly as tears kept falling down his face. His eyes seemed to glow that aqua color, which were the same color of Evi’s eyes.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Aiden stammered. It was hard for him to talk with the tears.
“I felt that it was best to keep this from you until you were old enough to understand,” Thane said as he felt tears weigh down his eyes. It was difficult to see his son this way.
“Is he dead?”
“I have no idea, Aiden. I looked for him for so many years, but I could never find him. I can only assume that-“ Thane was cut off by his own tears. The tears quickly soaked his greying beard as he attempted to hide his face from his son. He believed that a father should never cry in front of his own son.
Aiden turned back to the chest and took out the big book. He opened it to the front page which had a picture of his mother taped to it. It was old and in the sepia tone. She was even more beautiful than he imaged. He couldn’t quite tell what color her hair or eyes were, but her hair looked blonde. He detached the picture from the book and handed it over to his father.
Thane held the picture in the palm of his hands as he began to remember everything. The picture was taken three months before Evi had become pregnant. He often bartered with caravans that passed by looking for food. One caravan traded a camera for some cow’s meat. The camera was said to have come from the Urpae Union. The first picture he decided to take was of Evi. He took several later, but most was lost in the fire.
Aiden continued to flip pages. Contained in this book were the different temples erected for the Divines. There were also detailed biographies of each Divine. There was also a section about lore, which contained an area about stones. It was all in his mother’s handwriting. The last entry she had in her journal section stated that she was hoping to show the information to a college in Sophizma. It then went on to explain that she had met a man named Thane Odion. The pages were almost completely blank. The last page contained instructions.
The following are to be read separately by the twins:
To Aiden: Since you were born first, I believe that you have the right to have things explained to you first. As you know from my note, you are a Divine Hero. You serve the Divine Lady Sarafina, the Divine of Valiance. Her element is fire.
The stone that you have in your possession is to be taken to the Temple of Sarafina located outside the castle town of Latifundia. Once there, you will either be awakened as a Divine Hero, or you won’t. In the event that you are not, place the stone on the pedestal so it can be locked away until you may need it. After you die, the stone will be given to the new reincarnated hero in some way.
If you are awakened, something is wrong with the world as we know it. With that being said, know always that I love you and believe you can succeed in taking down whatever may be trying to destroy the planet.
Aiden stopped at his instructions and shut the book. He decided not to defy his mother’s orders, even if she was dead. He put the latch back around the book and turned to his father who held his head in his hands.
“I have to go to the Temple of Sarafina, father,” Aiden said. “Mother told me to.”
Thane looked up at his son and, for the first time, he realized that Aiden was growing up. Aiden’s whole aura had changed within minutes. Aiden had always been weak when compared to other boys his age, so Thane only assumed that his son would take the news he had just received and broken down in confusion.
But Aiden was able to except his fate and realized that he wasn’t a normal child, which didn’t bother him at all. Seeing his son accept his fate quickly, Thane came at piece with his wife’s death. He spent the last thirteen years lingering on the fact that he had lost the love of his life when, in reality, everything about her carried over to Aiden. Her aqua eyes, her blonde hair, and her fiery personality; those were her most stand out features.
And he had been pushing them out.
He got on his hands and knees and grabbed ahold of his son, which surprised Aiden. He and his father had never shared a hug or cried together. No words were said for several minutes as the father and son embraced. No words were needed.
In time, the tears dried and the two faced each other. Aiden couldn’t waste time feeling sorry for him. He was a goddamn hero. It was time for him to face the music. He stared at his father with determination, but fear lingered in his heart.
“We’ll leave for castle in a couple of hours,” Thane said to his son. “I want to be there with you.” He smiled at his boy and brushed an eyelash off his cheek. “Even though you’re a hero, you don’t have to face this alone.” He gave his son another hug, and a quicker one at that. Thane then made his way into the kitchen to compose a list of items for Aiden to fetch.
“I need you to go to the inn and ask for a couple things,” Thane said to his son as he made his way back into the living room. “I would usually send you to the grocery, but I want to keep everything on the down low. Just give this list to Helen.”
He handed the list to his son. He asked for bread and fruit for the long journey and water and wine. This was all to be put in a carriage that Thane would drive. Normally he would’ve just taken a horse, but he wanted his son to be comfortable and feel secure.
“Come back and let me know when Helen thinks this stuff will be done,” Thane said. “Then we’ll be off to Latifundia castle to visit the temple.”
Aiden took the list and left immediately. He was eager to start his adventure, but knew he had to leave the house before his father realized that he had taken his stone out of the black box and put it in his back pocket. Once outside, he took off running towards the inn.
Luxina woke up from her sleep rather early in the morning. She had slept for barely three hours. Her morning ritual usually began with a long stretch and a moment to crack her back. It sounded like firecrackers were hooked to her spine, but it felt so good. She looked over to see Raphael sleeping in an upright position. He looked so peaceful compared to every minute she had spent with him before. She decided to let him sleep.
Lux stepped lightly on the wooden floor and was careful not to wake Raphael up. Every other step or so, she would hear a creak underneath her foot, which caused he to glance back at him. She opened the door to the room slowly and looked to make sure he was still sleeping before she left. She shut the door and entered the commons.
She didn’t have a particularly comfortable sleep, seeing how she was still wearing jeans and her orange polo shirt. It had become caked with mud and blood. She decided to go to the front desk and see if they had any clothes available.
The receptionist was not present at the front counter, but Lux saw a boy standing there on his tip toes. He kept ringing a bell at the front and looked impatient. She decided he looked cute and innocent enough to converse with. He also had this weird, glowing thing in his back pocket.
“Who are you?” she asked as she approached the boy.
He turned to face her and the first thing she noticed was his eyes. They reminded her of the ocean, which she had never seen in someone’s eyes before. His hair was blond, messy, and short. He had it parted to the left. He was wearing a white shirt with a brown waistcoat and short brown pants. The dull colors certainly didn’t do his eyes justice, at least in a fashion sense.
“I’m Aiden,” the boy said with a serious tone. “Have you seen Helen?”
“The receptionist chick?” she asked him.
“Yeah,” he said and he plopped list down on the front desk. Lux looked at his back pocket to see what the glowing thing could be. This also made her look like a total creep.
She decided to take her stone out of her front pocket. She knew flaunting her stone in public wasn’t the safest thing to do, but the kid looked innocent enough. It would also be very beneficial to her and Raphael if they found an unawaken Divine Hero. They could probably get the upper hand that way.
Aiden saw the stone as soon as Lux took it out of her pocket and his eyes lit up. He turned away however. What if she was a bad guy? He decided that she looked friendly enough and took his stone out of his pocket and showed it to her.
Bingo, Lux thought and she had a little parade of happiness and rainbows in her head. She found one of the Divine Heroes.
Aiden got a little closer to her and motioned her to come down on his level. He then whispered in her ear: “Are you a Divine Hero like me?”
“Yes. Yes I am,” Lux responded with a whisper to his ear. “I’m Luxina Sunderland, the Divine Hero to Raidan, the Divine of Mischief and keeper of lightning.”
Aiden stepped back and let Lux stand up. He was thrilled to have met someone else like him. He had so many questions, but they would be barred from happening in the inn at that time. Helen walked in.
“Hey there, ‘lil Aiden,” she said. Her voice and personality caught Lux off guard. When she and Raphael met her, she was half asleep. “What do you need?”
Aiden pushed the list he had towards her and she opened it. The list instructed her not to read it aloud, which was a habit she definitely had. She tried her best to keep her lips seal and succeeded, only releasing the word ‘cantaloupes’ from her lips. “Fine,” she said with a sweet smile. “Tell Mr. Odion that I will have this ready for him in three hours.” She waved to Aiden and left the room again to prepare.
Aiden turned his attention back to Lux. “You should come meet my father,” Aiden said. “We both need to ask you some questions.”
“Sure,” Lux said, “but I need to wake up my partner first. Just hold on a second.” Lux rushed upstairs to her room and burst through the door shouting: “Raphael, wake up!” This caused Raphael to wake up quickly and he spontaneously reached for his rapier in fear.
“What it is,” he shouted as he unsheathed it.
“Calm down,” Lux said and she held her hands out.
“What is it?” he said with an annoyed tone.
“Put that thing away first and then we’ll talk,” she said and Raphael followed her command. She sat down on the bed and continued. “I totally just found another Divine Hero,” she said.
“You did?” This caused Raphael to stand up straight. “Already?”
“Yeah. He’s actually from this town and he wants me to follow him to meet his father.”
Raphael put on a concerned expression and said, “It could be a trap. I’d advise you not to go.”
“This kid is like eleven years old,” Lux said. “Anyway, he has a red stone with a flame inside of it. I don’t want to get too excited, but I think he’s one of our guys.”
“What in the heavens is he doing here, then?” Raphael had already begun dressing himself in his old uniform. Most of it was no longer wet as his blood had dried from the night before. This made his clothes uncomfortable and incredibly stiff. Lux’s clothes weren’t looking too good either. She looked like a hung-over hobo and he questioned the parenting of the kid she was talking about, seeing how he didn’t run away from her.
“I don’t know, actually,” Lux said. “He gave the receptionist a note and she said something about cantaloupes. Anyway, I showed him my stone and-“
“You showed him the stone!” Raphael shouted.
“I did it so he would show me the one he had in his pocket,” Lux said. “I knew there was one in his back pocket, but I think taking it from him would have had worse results.”
Raphael buckled his rapier to his side and messed around with his hair. He needed to bathe. He was usually one that obsessed over appearance, but he decided that now was not the time to mess with his hair in the mirror. In fact, he most likely wouldn’t have walked out in public if he saw his image in a mirror.
As soon as Raphael was dressed, Lux grabbed his wrist. “C’mon,” she said. He tried to pull away, but she wouldn’t let go. He followed her downstairs and saw this boy first hand. Then it happened.
Raphael saw the eyes of this boy. He had seen them before, but where? His mind threw several images forward. He then began to associate these eyes with screaming. He suddenly remembered a woman with blonde hair and the same colored eyes. She was holding a child that Lyone had later frisked from her hands. This child had only been a couple days old. Once the child was out of the way, he remembered Lord Icis yelling at her, asking where the other boy was.
“I don’t know,” the woman said and she looked at straight at Raphael with those eyes. They were screaming at him for mercy.
“Kill her,” Icis commanded.
And, without a second of delay, Raphael grabbed a spear from the man beside him and shoved it through her stomach. She fell to the ground crying as they left the scene. Though they retrieved one child, the other was never found.
That’s him, Raphael deduced. That’s the other boy.
“Uh, are you okay, Raphael?” Lux said and her words caused him to return to the present.
“Er, yeah,” Raphael said as he turned his attention away from the boy. The flashbacks he had been having as of late were really wearing him out.
“Anyway Aiden, this is Raphael,” Lux said. “Apparently he’s too tired to introduce himself, so I’ve done it for him.” She looked up at him with a playful grin and said, “You’re welcome.”
“Nice to meet you,” Raphael said with a small bow. Aiden just stared at him with a blank stare. He’d never met someone like Raphael, thanks to him being confined in a small town.
“Are you guys ready to meet my father then?” he asked.
“Yes,” Raphael and Lux said in unison.
Aiden beckoned them to follow. He lived very close to the inn so it was only a two minute walk outside. It had begun to rain slightly, though the sun was still glowing brightly. This caused the brick sidewalk to glow slightly.
The duo entered Aiden’s home through the front door which led right into the living room. There was an old looking chest sitting in the middle of the floor.
“Is that you, Aiden?” the voice of a man said.
“Yes, Papa,” Aiden replied and he grabbed Lux’s wrist and walked her towards the couch. “I met some people while I was out. One was a girl who has a stone just like me!”
There was a sound of glass breaking that came from the kitchen and Aiden’s father rushed in. Lux was sitting down on the couch with Raphael beside her. Raphael couldn’t help back look at a picture of a woman that sat at the end table. He immediately recognized her and was overcome with sadness.
“You have a stone like Aiden?” the man asked.
“I do, yes,” Lux said and she took her stone out of her pocket. Raphael took it away from her instantly.
“You really need to quit doing that,” he snapped at her, but she responded with a shrug.
“So you’re a Divine Hero as well, then?” the man said.
“Yep,” Lux said with a smile. “My name is Luxina Sunderland, the Divine Hero of Raidan.” She really liked saying that for some reason.
“Why are our Divines employing young children to protect this planet?” the man said and he sat down in a chair with a look of disappointment.
“Well, I am twenty years old so-“
“You’re twenty?” the three others said in unison. It would have been the ultimate spit take if they had drinks.
Lux looked around nervously. Even back at home she had been mistaken as a young teenager. Hell, even when she looked in the mirror to berate herself that was one thing she recognized. Between her random breakouts and her wide eyes, she did look fairly young.
“Yes,” she said after a moment of silence.
There was another moment of silence as Lux looked around the room. Raphael looked puzzled as he sat back beside her. Lux nudged him with her elbow as hard as she could to regain some attention to the matter at hand.
“Yes, well anyway,” Raphael said, “my name is Raphael and I travel with Lux as a sort of…protector.” He really wasn’t sure what he was in relation with Lux. She just smiled at him, so he assumed that he picked the right word.
“And I am Thane Odion,” the man said. “I’m Aiden’s father.”
Raphael studied him thoroughly. He didn’t remember a ragged looking male, but there was a young man who tried to keep the horde out of the barn the day Lord Icis raided a farm. He looked closely at Thane’s eyes, which were an amber color. He had even seen those eyes somewhere, but he couldn’t remember who else had them.
“Nice to meet you,” Lux said and she held out her hand for a handshake. Thane just stared at her hand like she was handing him the plague.
“Luxina,” Raphael whispered, “here in Antiquus, it is considered unladylike for a woman to shake hands with a man.”
“So?” she said and she kept her hand stretched out. This caused Thane to smile, so he accepted the handshake.
“You’re an interesting lady,” Thane said. “Your Divine, Raidan, suits you very well. And speaking of which, I have a couple of questions for you. I expect that Aiden does as well.”
“Ask away,” Lux said and she leaned back to get comfortable. It was pretty awesome being a celebrity of sorts.
Thane looked at Lux’s rapier with unease and said, “I take it that you were awakened, then?”
“I was.” And then it occurred to Lux that Aiden’s calling was to be awakened. He was born to fight the evils of the era. Lux had lived a relatively normal childhood, but Aiden wouldn’t get that chance.
“I see,” Thane said with a depressed tone. “That means that, when Aiden takes his stone to the Temple of Sarafina, he too will be awakened.”
Lux was caught up in her thoughts, so Raphael answered for her. “Yes, he will. It seems that one of the Divine Heroes were able to break into the realm of their Divine. Rather than serve them, the man took the element straight from the source; killing the Divine in the process. He just conquered the Kingdom of Exercitus.”
Thane was taken aback. “Why haven’t we heard of this?”
“No one is permitted to enter or leave the kingdom,” Raphael explained. “Lux and I were lucky to get out.”
“Who would dare to attack the Kingdom of Exercitus?” Thane said and he held his head in his hands.
“I don’t know,” Raphael lied. He didn’t want to answer. He held onto the fabric of the couch with anxiety as he prepared for Lux to answer for him.
“The guy’s name is Neville Wittlebottom,” Lux said. “He’s best known as Lord Icis, however.”
“Lord Icis?” Thane said aloud. “He’s the man that killed my wife Evi and my son Arlyn.”
There was silence. Lux figured she would let Thane buffer the information, but Raphael threw more at him.
“Arlyn’s not dead,” Raphael said. “Arlyn is very much alive, in fact. And he’s a pawn of Lord Icis’s scheme.”
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