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11 TEN

"Wang Fei, when nu prepared a night snack for wang fei in the kitchen. The kitchen servants asked nu what was happening inside the central hall after wang fei left. They were curious as wang ye still there with the rest of the senior attendants of the fu. It seems Wang Ye is taking this matter seriously."

Ru Ming cannot wait to report to Jiang Xi Yu the moment she was back inside the chamber. Her hands still held the silver tray which was full with Jiang Xi Yu's favorite snacks. After refusing to see the dinner menu that the head kitchen gave her, Jiang Xi Yu laid back on her lounge area. With a soft blanket to warm her, Jiang Xi Yu gazed at Ru Ming lazily.

"All of them still at the central hall?!" Asked Jiang Xi Yu while her hand stretched out to take a pastry from the tray.

Quickly helping Ru Ming serve the snacks on the side table, Ru Qing tactically arranged it as the mood was good enough to distract Jiang Xi Yu to eat something.

"When nu passed the central hall, they were all still there." Ru Ming answered.

"Ding mama is still there? Maybe wang ye is preparing for the funeral." Jiang Xi Yu straightened her back and then sighed. She played with the pastry in her hand.

Knew their master was still sad over Anle duolun gege, Ru Qing tried to distract her mind. "Wang fei, this pastry is Wang Ye's favorite snack. Later when wang ye arrive, wang fei can serve this pastry while nu would ask the kitchen to serve dinner. Wang Ye must be hungry after taking care of this matter the whole day."

Jiang Xi Yu threw the pastry back on the plate. "Wang Ye would not come here tonight and any other night in the future." She said in annoyance. "That cold heart person spent a night at Qing Yu Fei's place even though he knew that woman is a snake."

"This cold hearted person did not spend a night with Qing Yu Fei."

His voice shocked the entire room. Like getting struck by the lightning, Ru Ming and Ru Qing's knee touched the ground and bowed as low as they could. Jiang Xi Yu's eyes met with his with her mouth open wide.

Li Fei Long touched Jiang Xi Yu's chin. His face seemed tired but he smiled at her. Jiang Xi Yu could not say anything as her annoyance disappeared quickly. She caught sadness inside Li Fei Long's eyes even though he gave her a little smile.

"Ben wang heard Wang fei did not touch any meal today." Li Fei Long glanced at the side table and back looking at her.

Facing up, Jiang Xi Yu stunned.

Lowering his face, Li Fei Long stopped just a few inches in front of Jiang Xi Yu's face. "To ease wang fei's jealousy, ben wang did not do anything more besides listening to Qing Yu Fei's statement last night. Ben wang stayed in the study room and by the time ben wang concluded the truth, ben wang returned to this room just to find wang fei was in deep sleep with Ru Qing and Ru Ming on the other side of the room."

Jiang Xi Yu blinked a few times. "Wang ye...here? Last night?" She did not believe what she heard.

"Wang fei, nucai is the witness. Wang ye came here to rest after investigating the case but wang fei has already fallen in sleep. Therefore, wang ye returned to his own chamber." Ming He helped his master in his defense.

Since his grip on her chin was not much tight, Jiang Xi Yu easily slipped from Li Fei Long's hand. She took a good look at Ming He and Qian Chang Xin then back on Li Fei Long. Her sour face hid her relieved feelings.

Subsequently Li Fei Long fell on top of her. He snuggled on her as if he was overflowing his fatigue.

"Wang ye…" The weight that suddenly pinned her down made her complain. A weak complaint.

She ended up with her half upper body leaning on the wall while the half was crushed by Li Fei Long's weight. His head was laid comfortably on her chest. With eyes closed, Li Fei Long was enjoying his moment with her.

He had lost a daughter, he got Jiang Xi Yu's sympathy. Sighed, Jiang Xi Yu started to rub her hands slowly on his back. Slowly, her eyes got closed and they both enjoyed each other warmly without any intimacy.

***

After a close sixty days traveling around a few big cities around the empire, finally Pan Xi Yin and The Grand Chancellor returned to Chang'an. By The Grand Chancellor's order, Pan Xi Yin resided a quarter right next beside Han Yao Ying's. The yard was as big as Han Yao Ying's yard. The interior detail was grand enough to Pan Xi Yin's taste. And before The Grand Chancellor left her to report to The Emperor about his return, he granted Pan Xi Yin so she could do anything she pleased to make sure she was comfortable with her new life.

"Bai Xia, do The Grand Princess and Han Hong Yuan know about our arrival?"

Leisurely fanning herself while she was enjoying the view of her yard, Pan Xi Yi could not wait to have a duel with The Grand Princess. She was too excited to see what The Grand Princess looks like. She was too eager to replace the old hag's dominance in the fu.

The maid seemed hesitant to answer. "My Lady, our existence is widely known around the fu. Young master Han Hong Yuan is still staying in the north state. No further news when he will return to the fu. The Grand Princess and Han Yao Ying gong gege are attending a gathering hosted by Shu Guì Fēi at Zhao Xiang Palace. But nubi believes both are aware of our arrival."

"A gathering inside the palace…." Pan Xi Yin pondered. Soon after she groaned. Turning back inside her chamber, Pan Xi Yin threw her fan on the tea table and then sat down. "Jiang Xi Yu must be there too."

"Duan Wang Fei, my Lady?" Bai Xia confirming.

Irritated by the title, Pan Xi Yin stared at her maid in anger. The one thing she lost from that bitch was just a title.

"Nubi thinks Duan Wang Fei might not be invited." Bai Xia shook her head.

A thin speculation that lifted Pan Xi Yin's mood. "How come?"

Bai Xia noticed the changing mood. She moved a white ceramic hand warmer closer to Pan Xi Yin. "Shu Guì Fēi is in charge of the Mid-Autumn Festival. The purpose of today's gathering is to organise the festival. Han Yao Ying gong gege will wed Ruì Qīn Wáng by the last day of Spring Festival. Knowing that Duan Qin Wang once put his heart for gong gege before the imperial edict was announced and how Jing Guì Fēi and Shu Guì Fēi compete with each other. So, nubi does not think Duan Wang Fei was invited."

"Duan Qin Wang once put his heart for Han Yao Ying gong gege?" The gossip successfully made Pan Xi Yin excited.

Bai Xia felt out of place. "But the love story about how Duan Qin Wang rescued Duan Wang Fei washed away the rumour. They seem very much in love."

Pan Xi Yin sneered at her. "It is only rumour. Nobody knows what happened inside Duan Wang Fu. Who knows after Duan Qin Wang meets Han Yao Ying at the Mid-Autumn Festival, their feelings rekindle. When will the Mid-Autumn festival take place?"

"Next week, My Lady." Answered Bai Xia.

"Hmmm… a palace festival." Humming, Pan Xi Yin's mind was all over the place. "Would Lao ye grant me a title by then? Could I be attending the festival and finally blend in with the royals?" Her daydreaming was exaggerated.

***

Jiang Xi Yu was never invited because it was not a gathering. Shu Guì Fēi only invited The Grand Princess and Han Yao Ying to prepare a special performance that they believed would steal the show.

While they prepared thoroughly, on the other hand, Jiang Xi Yu got ready with the new design for her appearance for the festival. Ignoring Ru Qing and Ru Ming's worries, Jiang Xi Yu waited for Li Fei Long to see what she was wearing before they jumped in the grand carriage and entered the palace.

The loose and transparent sleeves were as long as her dress. The collar of her dress was changed to a U shaped collar which gave her a sexier look. A short outer with short sleeves has a contrast color with her dress. The embroideries on the lower part of her dress were full of peonies. Her hairstyle was a simple bun on top of her hair with the rest of her long hair being folded short, just good enough to warm her bare neck. She replaced all the hair accessories with fresh peony and added huadian with a shape of peony between her eyebrows.

From where she got the inspiration? Of course from all the ancient movies that she watched before. Jiang Xi Yu thought every royal woman who attended the festival would dress just like her. But when Li Fei Long frowned at her, his eyes scanned her from top to bottom twice, Jiang Xi Yu confused.

"Does wang fei plan to provoke mufei or me?" With a lifted eyebrow, Li Fei Long admired the beautiful view in front of him.

She did not plan to provoke anyone. Originally just wanting to be comfortable and to gratify her own inspiration on wearing ancient costumes, Jiang Xi Yu chose to ignore Li Fei Long.

They rode the grand carriage and entered the main palace gate. Ignoring Li Fei Long's stares, Jiang Xi Yu could not help not to feel nervous.

This would be her very first time attending a palace banquet. The event will be filled with all the royal families. Her manner needed to be on point. Her confidence swung fast and she started to feel nervous.

"Do not feel nervous, my dear." Li Fei Long chuckled. He pinched her cheek as he loves seeing her changing mood so quickly. "To see so many expression changes on your face, make me flustered each time."

They looked each other in the eyes as the words that were said by Li Fei Long sounded soft and warm.

"Wang ye, Wang fei, we have arrived." Ming He's soft voice disturbed their moment.

Li Fei Long came out first from the grand carriage. Ru Ming took a stance to help Jiang Xi Yu but Li Fei Long stayed still on the spot. He turned his face and gave his hand out for Jiang Xi Yu.

"I got you."

A simple sentence that made Jiang Xi Yu feel tranquil. A grip on her hand that made Jiang Xi Yu feel secure. And a look on his face that made Jiang Xi Yu feel like she was the only one.

"Wang fei, the palanquin is ready."

Jiang Xi Yu turned her face and tried to act usual. She did not Li Fei Long to notice her face getting warm because of him. She tried to check the palanquin that she will ride to reach the main hall with Li Fei Long's hand still grop her hand. Turned out they were not alone.

Behind their grand carriage was a grand carriage belongs to The Grand Chancellor. With many servants and guards between the two grand carriage, even though the distance was not too close, Jiang Xi Yu still can see who just came out from there.

Han Xiu Wen smiled and nodded politely towards Li Fei Long. His status was well portrayed in his calm manner. On his side, Jiang Xi Yu immediately guessed that she wasThe Grand Princess Li Liang Rong. She was about the same height as her husband. Her upper body was obviously fit. Li Liang Rong has the perfect jaw for a woman but has the perfect build for a man.

And then came Han Yao Ying, gracefully came out with the help of a yahuan. Along with her finest hair accessories on her perfect updo. Dressed in a soft pink long dress, with thick makeup and a pastel color lip coloring, Han Yao Ying stepped down slowly and then turned her face to check who was being greeted by her parents.

In Jiang Xi Yu's opinion, Han Yao Ying got her father's manner and her mother's face in her genes. That made her beautiful. Just like a small fox.

Jiang Xi Yu took a glance at her husband. The latter was smiling at the family far from them. Suddenly feeling irritated, Jiang Xi Yu pulled her hand from him. She grabbed Ming He's hand instead of Ru Ming's out like a light.

With the chin lifted up high, she sat on the palanquin. Waited for a few seconds before her palanquin got lifted up and started to move behind Li Fei Long who walked along the way with Han Xiu Wen.

The magnificent view that night inside the palace distracted her irritated feelings. Ignoring The Grand Princess and Han Yao Ying who sat on the palanquins behind her, Jiang Xi Yu's eyes found amusement on the full moon in the sky which accompanied the character of the palace walls.

***

Since the banquet was held in Linde Hall which was located at the north west side of the palace, Jiang Xi Yu got to see a huge lake as the center of the palace. There were gardens that surround the lake and a man made island was created in the middle of the lake. So far, Jiang Xi Yu saw peony, chrysanthemum, plum, rose, bamboo, almond, peach and persimmon gardens around.

Linde hall consisted of three halls. A front, middle and rear hall, which all of them were adjacent to each other. From the middle hall, Jiang Xi Yu can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the lake.

While her eyes were admiring the exquisite scenery, all eyes were observing her arrival. Jiang Xi Yu knew all the buzz was about her but she went all out acting graceful and tried to enjoy the ambiance.

Shu Guì Fēi must be an extravagant character. It showed well on how she decorated the hall. It was like she just put all the finest things together in the same place. The color collided in a tacky way. But any of her decorations still cannot overcome the beauty of the full moon on top of the palace roof.

Jiang Xi Yu had her moment to enjoy admiring everything until she did not realize the whole time she stepped out from the palanquin her hand was holding Li Fei Long's hand. He led her to their seat. Her senses were back when Li Xi Shi Gulun gongzhu along with Lou Che Fuma greeted them when they reached their seating place.

The only daughter that The Emperor has with The Empress might be the plainest person Jiang Xi Yu met that night. Li Xi Shi did not put any thick makeup on her face. Her dress was plain simple without any embroidery and only wore one bu yao to accessories her hair do. Even though Lou Che was as simple as his wife, Jiang Xi Yu found him unusually strange. His round face was splendidly smooth. To compare between the husband and wife, Lou Che has the better skin but both have the same delicate manner.

"Duan Wang Fei is really something." It seemed like Lou Che was fascinated by her as he scanned her appearance thoroughly. "A healthy skin, a simple but yet spotless makeup, combined with a tasteful attire. I believed after this, the women behind the imperial city would follow Duan Wang Fei's approach."

Jiang Xi Yu did not know whether that compliment was honest or just sarcasm but a hint of jealousy that Li Xi Shi gave her made Jiang Xi Yu frown. The couple seemed like a newlywed couple. Lou Che gently let Li Xi Shi back on her seat after they were done with their courtesy.

"I heard mèi mei creates her own beauty products. Seeing her tonight, I would like to try some of it if mèi mei does not mind sharing the beauty secret." Li Xi Shi was gracious at her while Lou Che was beaming.

Laughed in delight, Li Fei Long made sure Jiang Xi Yu seated on her seat comfortably first before answering on her behalf. "Certainly Xi Yu needs to prepare some for jiějiě. Even some products that Xi Yu presented to mufei, that too become most favorite items for mufei."

Everyone must have known how much Jing Guì Fēi hated her but yet this man over here bragged about her too much over the line. Most possibly Jing Guì Fēi had her gifts thrown away the minute she came out from her quarter. If only this lovely princess knew that Jing Guì Fēi even planned to slowly poison her.

"Jiě jie, I am sure jiě jie does not need any of my products as yourself is a natural beauty. But, for certain, I will send over some products for jiě jie to try." Tilted her head in a cheeky way, Jiang Xi Yu tried her best to gain Li Xi Shi's favor.

Finally gave her a wholehearted smile, Li Xi Shi replied towards Li Fei Long. "Look at your wife, di. No wonder the folks outside the palace saying Duan Qin Wang fell in love at first sight. The heroic action on how you saved Duan Wang Fei is a piece of romantic feature."

Jiang Xi Yu almost rolled her eyes while the three others were laughing. If only people knew that the magic drink that made her surrender inside Li Fei Long's bed, they would not adore that romantic tale that much.

"Jiejie, fuma, da ge, săo sao…"

In harmony, the three other qinwang greeted them. Ruì Qīn Wáng, Ning Qin Wang, Chen Qin Wang, the trio seated in order next to Jiang Xi Yu. This was the first time Jiang Xi Yu met the third and fourth princes.

The five siblings did not share much similarity physically. Born by different wives, Jiang Xi Yu thought the only thing they share in common might be only their eagerness on power.

Li Jin Sheng, who was born by Qu Huáng Fēi and granted the title of Ning Qin Wang, was the tallest and the thinnest out of the siblings. From the way he talked, Jiang Xi Yu got the feeling that he has a cheerful trait. He lighted up the atmosphere by being funny towards his other brothers and sister.

The youngest of the qinwang was Li Jin Qiu who was granted the title of Chen Qin Wang. His mother was Yan Huáng Fēi, formerly known as a daughter of a royal prisoner family from the previous dynasty. Jiang Xi Yu looked at the seating area in front of her where the table seating for the consorts was placed, to find which one was Yan Huáng Fēi.

Sat at the very first seat was Jing Guì Fēi, then that must be Shu Guì Fēi, the one who was loud and dressed up too much. Next beside Shu Guì Fēi, Jiang Xi Yu assured she was Qu Huáng Fēi. She got the same wide natural smile on her face just like her son. Next to her was Yan Huáng Fēi.

Jiang Xi Yu took turns scanning Yan Huáng Fēi and Li Jin Qiu. Both mother and son were quietly enjoying each other's conversation. Both have calm faces which made Jiang Xi Yu wonder if both of them actually cherish their lives as a royal family.

"Ge, I think your wang fei mesmerized by all the rumpus tonight. Shu Guì Fēi never miscarried her passion for organizing an event. Săo sao must be astonished as this is her first banquet inside the palace." Li Jin Sheng found her quietly observed as she just kept silent while the brothers and sister conversed around her.

"I know what makes sao sao stunned." The low tone from Li Qing Feng who sat next to her made Jiang Xi Yu realize how they were seated close to each other. "It seems mufei has the opposite taste from sao sao."

Li Qing Feng lifted up his cup and gave Jiang Xi Yu a grin before sipping his cup. Since they were seated by order, apparently Jiang Xi Yu needed to bear Li Qing Feng's satire that night.

"Beyond a doubt." Jiang Xi Yu followed by lifting her own cup of wine then gave him her fake smile. "It is beneficial that apparently Han Yao Ying has the same taste as Shu Guì Fēi." Then she glanced at Han Yao Ying who seated with The Grand Chancellor and The Grand Princess right next beside the consort's table on their opposite. That excessive face matched perfectly with this excessive decoration.

Satisfied that she can reply that fast to shut that prince up, Jiang Xi Yu closed the act by sipping her own wine. But that was a wrong move. The wine was too strong. For her who has been avoiding drinking alcohol as much as she could, Jiang Xi Yu could not help but choke.

Li Fei Long took away her cup right away then gently tapped her back. "You have a sensitive throat, you should drink slowly."

Jiang Xi Yu intended to pinch Li Fei Long's thigh but she was too embarrassed. If she really did it, both would be even more embarrassed. Tried to be as natural as she could, Jiang Xi Yu laughed at herself.

"Chenqie begs a pardon." Gently tapped dry her chin, Jiang Xi Yu straightened her back more and lifted her chin up high.

"No need to be too formal, săo sao. It is common for women not to be good at handling wine." Li Jin Sheng tried to comfort her. He himself raised his cup up. "The night just started. Why don't us men handle the wine?!"

His sudden challenge covered the situation. Li Fei Long shouted, agreed and raised his cup up. Jiang Xi Yu just smiled and watched all the men on her table tossing for the beautiful night while her own cheek got warm. She knew in any moment her face would turn embarrassing reddish just like a crab. Then she knew the reason behind a thick makeup that passed between centuries was to cover the reddish drunk face.

She pouted a bit when she touched her own cheek. Her eyes moved left and right while doing that to make sure no one was looking at her action. The single cup of wine made her blush and felt warm but the night was still long. Sighed in despair, Jiang Xi Yu stopped touching her own cheek and accidentally glanced on her right side.

Li Qing Feng was drinking his cup but his eyes glared at her in a mysterious way. A glare that scared her heart away. The darker tone of his skin and the face looked arrogantly scary made Jiang Xi Yu quickly turn her face toward Li Fei Long.

***

Han Yao Ying tried so hard not to take a peek on the prince's table. That night Jiang Xi Yu made a brave move by her unique attire and look. Plain simple but yet still shined an exquisite aura from the combination of her appearance and her attitude. Han Yao Ying had planned thoroughly for the special night to show off both her beauty and skill but it seemed like she had looked down Jiang Xi Yu's cunning plan to steal the night away.

The banquet started right after The Emperor entered the hall along with The Empress and The Empress Dowager walked behind him. What made Han Yao Ying even more irritated was Jiang Xi Yu's reaction the moment that fox saw The Emperor for the first time.

The bumpkin acted innocently amused by the glorious of The Royal Couple. With her wide-eyed, Jiang Xi Yu cheerfully kneeled down with everyone else. After The Emperor pardoned them to be back on their seat, Han Yao Ying got angrier as The Emperor, The Empress and The Empress Dowager took a special look at Jiang Xi Yu.

"Seems like Duan Wang Fu is getting more spirited these days." The Empress Dowager looked pleased at the young couple. "What a beautiful wang fei. Fei Long, aijia heard about your loss. Do not dwell so much in mourning. You both are still young. After the new year celebration, aijia expects to hear good news from Duan Wang Fu."

"Taihou, erchen will surely bring good news as soon as possible." Li Fei Long bowed for the second time. Jiang Xi Yu troubled to follow his fast movements, her legs lost balance as her feet back in pain if she moved too fast.

Li Qing Feng single handedly helped her stance. A quick move that not only shocked Jiang Xi Yu, but also Han Yao Ying who watched them from the opposite view. After Jiang Xi Yu stabled on her feet, Li Qing Feng let his hand off her. Even though Li Qing Feng casually grabbed his own cup of wine and acted like his usual manner, Han Yao Ying felt the awkwardness in his attitude.

"The banquet has not even started but Duan Wang Fei has already become drunk." Loudly criticized Jiang Xi Yu, Shu Guì Fēi did not want to miss a chance to pick on a mistake Jiang Xi Yu could make that night. "Or perhaps Duan Wang Fei never gets ethics lessons properly?!"

Han Yao Ying covered her smile by pretending to sip her cup. She was originally aimed to be wed to Li Fei Long. As she technically grew up along with the royal families, Han Yao Ying preferred Li Fei Long over Li Qing Feng. As the first born prince of the empire, Li Fei Long has the greater chance to be the crown prince.

Everything changed after Li Qing Feng requested her to secretly meet at the Small Wild Goose Pagoda. A secret information about Li Fei Long launched a secret investigation on Duke of Jiang and his family changed Han Yao Ying's dream to become Li Fei Long's wife.

"Shu Guì Fēi, please be easy on Xi Yu." Jing Guì Fēi sighed in pity. "When both of them visited Zhong Jing Palace the other day, the imperial taiyi had examined Xi Yu's health. Apparently, after being kidnapped, that affected Xi Yu's health."

Listening to the explanation, Han Yao Ying studied Jiang Xi Yu's face in silence. Everyone inside the hall put their focus on Jiang Xi Yu who was stunned at that moment. The woman Han Yao Ying never even knew before now became the center attention of the night. Han Yao Ying kept hearing the pity murmur from left and right but she tried hard to keep her face straight.

"It is unacceptable." The Empress raised her concern. "Did the imperial taiyi provide the medicine or treatment in order for Duan Wang Fei to recuperate?"

"Answering muhou.." This time Li Fei Long stepped out and kneeled down in the center of the hall, facing The Emperor who sat with The Empress and The Empress Dowager on his side. "According to the imperial taiyi there is no cure but there might be some treatment to reduce the pain. Her feet would remind weak and could anytime lose balance therefore Xi Yu would need special assistance from time to time. In the cold season, it may bring pain on her. For this, the imperial taiyi prepared some ointment to smear on and some compound to boil and be soak. "

"This matter needs further examination. Assigned the imperial taiyi to supervise and treat thoroughly. As long the body is healthy, can bear many sons, and live a long life ahead, for this zhen gives a pardon for Duan Wang Fei to not give formal courtesy in the future."

The buzzing inside the hall getting louder as The Emperor sounded very much concerned about the matter and even let Jiang Xi Yu to behave more casually than any other people. The greater luck seemed like on Jiang Xi Yu's side and Han Yao Ying got more irritated by it.

"Long live The Emperor!" Jiang Xi Yu joined Li Fei Long and kneeled with Ru Ming's help. "Fuhuang, muhaou, taiho, and mufei, all are considerate towards erxi. Erxi is very fortunate and grateful."

The Emperor laughed in delight. "Fei Long, help your wang fei back to her seat. Enjoy the beauty of the full moon comfortably. Du Yun gonggong will send a rare thousand years ginseng for Duan Wang Fu by tomorrow morning. This type of ginseng is believed to have a thousand benefits for the body. A valuable tribute from the southern country."

Han Yao Ying was watching in annoyance at how the lovely dovey couple gave their gratitude once again before returning back to their seat. To add more fuel inside her heart, the buzzing around her sound praising how beautiful and fortunate Jiang Xi Yu was. As her eyes were moved away from the couple, her sight landed on Li Qing Feng.

Her soon to be husband who usually tried to flirt with her, for the first time, his eyes stunned on someone else. With no alluring smile that she used to see on his face, Li Qing Feng's eyes were on Jiang Xi Yu the whole time.

If the cup on her hands was made from paper, it might turn into trash. Han Yao Ying squeezed her hands around her cup until it hurted her fingernails.

"Keep your mind on your performance." The whisper made Han Yao Ying realize what she was doing and she put down her cup. She turned her head cutely and looked nicely to her mother.

"Do not think too much on a useless fly. Misguided recognition will soon be gone. The spotlight will return on you." The Grand Princess did not even need to turn her eyes on her. The saying was as cold as Li Liang Rong's face. There were times when Han Yao Ying even wondered how her mother looked on the battlefield before. Did she kill so many men in a cold hearted way?!

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