• Published 19th Jan 2013
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Rise of the Elements Part II: Return of the Avatars - Radiant Dawn

Ancient beings of long since past are returning, but for good or ill?

  • ...

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Chapter 21: A Strike at Pride

Chapter 21: A Strike at Pride

Rest was a rarity for me now, in and of itself, and yet I still couldn't seem to get it when the chance presented itself.

The war and what it was building to was taking its toll on my sanity and nerves, but I knew that it was either this or annihilation. For all of my friends and family, I would put myself in this position willingly. They needed it, and I needed it all to end.

The sooner this bullshit conflict is over with, the better.

I woke up in my lone tent to the first light of day, a subtle reminder that no matter how far away I was, Celly was doing what she could to make sure I knew she was there and was thinking of me, just as Luna looked after the night that would comfort me.

It had only been maybe three days since I'd come back to the forest, but already things had picked up considerably. After my little chat with Death, he seemed to be throwing everything he had at me in an attempt to break me. Lately, he'd been sending undead fillies and colts after me, and I was honestly glad that the others weren't here. Having to strike down these once-innocent souls was heartbreaking, and I honestly wasn't sure how much damage it was doing to my psyche. As I stepped out to the bright morning though, I could already tell now wasn't the time to think about that. I could sense the corrupting magic nearby that Death employed to animate these abominations of his, which meant that yet again, my day was going to be full and busy. So once more, I donned my faithful armor and levitated my swords in front of me before dashing towards the enemy that awaited me.

May the powers that be watch over me.

Perspective change – Darkflight

"Are we there yet?"


"Are we there yet?"

"Still no..."

"Are we there yet?"

"Yet again, no."

"How about now?"






The bubbly white pegasus I'd met a few days ago was still following me, as if she didn't have any place better to go. I'd tried shooing her away, I'd tried scaring her, I'd tried ignoring her...but nothing worked. She reminds me a lot of Pinkie Pie, but a lot more annoying and a lot less fun.

I mean fuck, how does Drew put up with this shit?

I mean I guess if I really took the time to get to know her, I might like her. She's pretty in a girly sort of way, and I guess she's not really that bad. However, the fact that I was already upset it's taken me more than a day to find this Trixie bitch probably has me on edge as it is, so maybe that's why my patience is at an all-time low.

At the moment me and my unwanted companion were on our way to probably the thirtieth place I've been to on this wild goose chase of a job, but here's hoping this is the last of it. From asking around and some creative detective work, I'd tracked Trixie – or Beatrix Starshine – to a club in the red light district of Manehattan. Coming from Ponyville, this place was just like New York by comparison, hence the name I guess. It was a cosmopolitan paradise, where the buildings were big, the crime was plentiful, and things were weird. I mean, I didn't even know Terra would have something like a red light district...but apparently I was wrong.

God or Celestia-willing I'll not find what I think I will when I get there.

My companion – who I'd learned was named "Surprise" – was flitting along behind me, seemingly undeterred by the strange looks I received or even the occasional growl of annoyance and frustration I let out. Luckily for me, the many ponies and gryphons that lived in this booming city gave me a wide berth, but were confused as to why some crazy pegasus was following me while spouting off nonsense at a million miles a second. When I truly thought about it, she'd helped a bit here and there. She was great with directions and it was apparent that she did live here, but her hyperactive personality was bringing me to a boiling point. I'd tried to be nice the whole time and I'd yet to yell at her for threaten her in any way, but damn was she pushing it.

Another few minutes of this and I was going to start tearing my scales out.

After walking for about an hour in this godforsaken city, we finally arrived at the front of a decidedly seedy-looking strip club named "Pink". For a goody-two-shoes type of world, I never imagined such a place would even exist, but there it was, right in front of me.

"Hey, I've been here before!" the mare beside me squealed.

For the first time, I felt something other than loathing for this pegasus, and I whipped my head around to look at her. "You have been here?"

She looked at me with bright eyes and nodded furiously. "Yep! A friend of mine used to work here when it was just a normal club! Her name's Vinyl Scratch, and she's a DJ!"

"Wait a second, did you just say Vinyl Scratch? As in DJ P0N-3? Little white unicorn with awesome glasses and two-toned blue hair?" I asked in shock.

The mare landed in front of me and gasped. "You know her?"

I chuckled for the first time since this pegasus met me and nodded. "Yeah, she's a good friend of mine, actually. My brother's her coltfriend."

She eyed me in confusion for a moment before asking, "Vi's with a dragon? Never saw that coming..."

I shook my head with a smile. "No, he's not a dragon. His name's Frostbreaker an-"

"Prince Frostbreaker?" the mare squeaked out.

I removed my helmet and nodded. "Yeah, that's him; big-ass blue-gray alicorn that controls the winter."

"Wait a minute," she started as her face crumpled up in confusion, "if you're a dragon, how is he your brother?"

"It's a long story, and I'd rather not explain it right now." I said sternly. With that I started to walk towards the building, only to be stopped by the pegasus flying in front of me.

"Wait, you don't think you're going to get in there, do you?" she asked.

I raised an eyeridge in suspicion and sighed. "What is it now? Do I have to get a membership card or something?"

She giggled and shook her head, the bouncy yellow hair of her mane tousling softly. "No, but it's not open for another hour."

I looked at the hours posted by the door and realized she was right, so I turned away and shrugged. "Alright then, I guess I'll come back in about an hour or so."

"How about you come have lunch with me?" the white pony asked, and I turned to her with utter confusion. She then added, "My treat!"

To be honest, I was hungry, and I sure as hell wasn't going to turn down a free meal. So, I shrugged and answered, "Sure...sounds good."

To my utter surprise (and delight), the place that Surprise led me to served meat – something I'd regretfully resigned to never having again. As we walked to our seats at the outside café-style restaurant, I saw a gryphon enjoying a large steak...and the ponies not paying it any mind whatsoever. This was entirely new for me, as when I mentioned my craving for meat to Applejack, she always frowned in disgust.

But damn, I could get used to this place.

"Welcome to the Bearded Dragon." said a voice from beside me, and I looked up to see a young male gryphon setting menus before the two of us and then napkins and silverware. "My name is Benny and I'll be your waiter today. Can I start you off with some drinks?"

"Sure! I'll have a strawberry smoothie please." Surprise answered.

The waiter took out a pad and pencil from the vest he wore and quickly jotted the order down before turning to me. "And you-" he then dropped the pad and pencil in shock when he got a good look at me. For a few minutes he was completely silent before running away.

I raised my eyeridge as I stared at the doors to the building he had disappeared to. "Well, that was rude. Didn't even take my order."

A second later I heard a very familiar, "Darkflight?"

I turned my head to look at the source of the voice, only to see a good friend. "Gilda?"

The young gryphon female screeched and flew over to me, embracing me in a tight hug. "It is you!"

I returned the hug a little surprised, but otherwise happy. After a few seconds she let me go and I asked, "What are you doing here?"

She gestured to the building with a smile. "My cousin Benny works here, so I dropped by to see him while I wait for more orders from you and Frost."

I let a wide smile grace my face as I caressed the young gryphon's cheek softly. "God, it's great to see you again."

Gilda leaned into my hand and closed her eyes with a smile before stepping forward and sitting on the ground next to me. "So what are you doing here?"

I shrugged. "Well, I'm here to find someone." I noticed that Gilda was staring at Surprise, so I shook my head with a chuckle. "No, not her. Someone else." I figured since the pegasus was treating me to lunch, I might as well be nice and introduce her, so I pointed to the white mare and said, "Gilda, this is Surprise. Surprise, this is Corporal Gilda Gryphon."

The white pony smiled and stuck a hoof out, which Gilda took and shook. "Hi, it's nice to meet you!" the pegasus said with a smile.

"Likewise." the gryphon responded. She then looked towards the restaurant. "I should probably go get Benny so that you can eat. I'll be right back, okay?"

"Tell him I want a kiwi and coconut smoothie, please." I said as she walked away. Gilda just nodded as she walked back inside. I let out a sigh and smiled, then looked back to my food-buddy to notice she was staring at me with a smile. I leaned back a little defensively and said, "Okay, you're creeping me out a little, girl."

"You're Colonel Darkflight of the Fireguard, aren't you?" she asked, still holding the same slightly-creepy smile.

I nodded slowly. "Yeah, I am."

Ever so slowly, the mare pushed away from the table and stood up, trotting over to me. When she stood right beside me she then leapt up and hugged me tightly, and I became the recipient of a very awkward hug. My question as to why was answered when she whispered, "Fillydelphia."

My eyes widened in realization of what she said, and I gently scooped her up in my own embrace.

Fillydelphia was one of the recent hotzones of the conflict, and even now we were having trouble cleaning it up and out. Thousands of ponies that lived there had been caught by utter surprise by the war. Most of the city's population died, and was subsequently risen for Death's twisted army. As one of the Fireguard's first assignments, we swept through the entire area and took control, saving as many as we could. Tens of thousands had died, but thousands more made it out alive. That single word Surprise spoke meant either she was there, or knew someone who was.

"Was it you?" I asked curiously.

She nodded softly as she looked up at me with a teary smile. "I lived off of 3rd and Gate, a block away from the courthouse."

I smiled down at her and nodded towards the two gryphons that were approaching us. "Corporal Gilda was there as well. She personally helped deal with the monsters that plagued that area you lived in. If not for her, we would have never gotten to you." The pegasus bolted away from me and hugged Gilda next, and the gryphon shot me a questioning gaze. I mouthed the word "Fillydelphia" to her, and she nodded in understanding. The gryphon smiled and hugged the mare back as Benny set our drinks on the table.

"You guys are famous around here, do you know that?" the waiter said with a smile. When I looked at him, he motioned to the many patrons that were now eying us. "Most of the ponies that live here had family in Fillydelphia. If not for you and your troops, they would be lost."

It appeared at this moment, all the ponies and gryphons gathered to eat finally realized who I was, as they began whispering to each other while pointing at me. Gilda and Surprise took their places beside me just before claps and hoof-stomps erupted from the crowd, along with cheers and praise. This would mark the first time in my entire life that I actually felt embarrassed by attention, as I just smiled in response and waved a few times before sitting back down.

After a few seconds, the claps and cheers stopped as everyone went back to what they were doing, and Gilda took a seat to my left. "Well...that was interesting."

I nodded with a chuckle. "That was probably the last thing I expected when I came here, right next to a rock 'n' roll clown sniffing cocaine off of this table."

"You can never be sure with this city, so keep your guard up." Gilda responded with a grin.

"So, have you all decided what you would like?" Benny finally asked.

As much as I hate to admit it, nothing quite satisfies me like a perfectly-seared bloody steak. AJ always likes to say something like "veggies make you strong", but damn...I missed meat sometimes.

"Careful. If you don't eat it fast enough, it might get away from you." Gilda cracked.

"I still find it funny how you ordered it." Surprise said as she took a bite of salad.

I chuckled as I set down the steak and cut off another piece. "Yep, rare's the best way to have it."

"No, I mean what you said." the pegasus responded as she grinned and finished her food.

I laughed. "Yeah, it's from a movie where I'm from, I just never thought I'd get to use it."

"'Cut off the horns, wipe its nasty ass, and stick it on my plate.'" Gilda elaborated as she bit into her fish sandwich.

I chuckled. "I just wanted to make sure he understood how rare I wanted it. Had I wanted to be really gross, I could have said I wanted it to still have a pulse."

"See, that would probably make one of your friends back home faint. That white one, what's her name..." the gryphon said as she pushed her empty plate away.

"Rarity." I answered, finishing off the last bite of steak. "Yeah, she's pretty prissy, even for a mare. She's pretty cool though once you get to know her, and she's downright scary if you piss her off." I then looked up in the sky and sighed. "Well, it's about six now, so we should get going, Surprise."

"You mind if I come with?" the female gryphon asked.

I shook my head with a smile. "Not really, but we're going to a strip club."

"Does AJ know you're staring at flanks when she's not around?" she asked cautiously.

"Why, are you gonna tell on me?" I asked with a grin. I then shook my head. "Nah, we're not going for that reason, I promise. Apparently the pony I'm looking for is in there, so I've gotta check it out."

"What's her name?" Gilda asked.

I took a large gulp of my drink and cleared my throat before answering with, "Trixie."

Gilda tapped a claw on her chin as she sat back and thought. "What does she look like?"

"Blue unicorn with a silver and baby-blue mane. She's also got violet eyes." I answered as I stretched my wings.

Gilda's golden eyes widened as she gasped. "I know exactly who you're talking about!"

I threw up my hands and yelled, "Finally!" I then looked to the shocked gryphon and asked, "How do you know her?"

"Well I don't know her." she responded, a soft pink dusting her cheeks. "I've just...seen her a few times."

I raised an eyeridge and asked, "Do I even want to know what that means?"

Gilda grinned. "Oh, you'll 'see' her as well, soon enough."

"I suddenly feel really bad about this." I said softly.

The three of us – me, Surprise, and Gilda – entered the club just as a show was starting, so we quickly took a seat and waited for the performer to arrive. I'd been to a strip club with friends back on Earth, and I have to say that the similarities between this one and the previous were uncanny. Both had that one patron who actually ate food there, both had that one guy that had probably been coming there for as long as the place had been in business, and both had the cheesy pleather booths that you were supposed to sit in.

Luckily for me, I didn't have to wait too long in this dump, as I heard the microphone of the joint turn on. A voice then announced, "Mares and gentlecolts: Pink is proud to present, the great, the powerful, Trrrrrrixie!"

I leaned over to Gilda and whispered, "She didn't think to change her name?"

I heard her laugh and she replied, "Cutie marks are unique. It's not like they wouldn't know it's her."

I nodded and stood up. "Guess you got a point there." I then set my helmet down on the table and turned to my two companions. "Alright, I'm going to go up there and see if I can get her attention. You two stay here."

I then turned away and made my way through the growing crowd of ponies and gryphons to the stage, lucky that most of them moved out of my way. As I arrived at the perfect vantage point right up against some bars that blocked me from getting any closer, some cheesy music began playing as the curtains parted to reveal...nothing. My momentary confusion changed to surprise when a burst of smoke and sparks exploded in front of me, revealing a unicorn in a skintight black bodysuit. The crowd erupted into cheers and wolf-whistles, while I just stood there with a relieved grin. Finally, I found her...

Now I just had to find a way to get her to come back to Ponyville with me.

I figured that the best way to get her attention was to be a big spender, and I thought that this would be pretty easy considering that each patron was throwing maybe one or two bits on stage at a time. With that in mind, I pulled out a fifty-bit coin and held it out to her. Contrary to the normal coins, this specific coin was nearly solid platinum – easily recognizable, even in dim light.

Trixie's eyes widened as a sultry smile was plastered on her face, and she sauntered over to me with a seductive gait. "That earns you a private show, handsome." She then took the bit in her teeth and swished her tail gently across my face. "Meet me in room three. The bouncer will let you in."

I nodded and walked back to the booth my two partners were waiting at. I sat down and said, "Well, that was easy."

"What?" Surprise asked curiously.

"I got her to give me a private dance in one of the back rooms. From there, I'll be able to explain what's going on." I responded with a grin.

"Ooh, a private show from her..." Gilda remarked as she stared at the dancing mare.

I rolled my eyes and elbowed her gently. "Stay focused, Gilda. You can ogle her all you want once we get back to Ponyville."

"Can I come with you?" Surprise asked softly, just barely loud enough to be heard over the music.

Since the mare and I had found out who each other was, she had calmed down quite a bit and actually become pretty...nice to be around. So, I nodded with a smile. "If you want to, you can." I then stood again and made my way out of the booth. "Well, her show's almost over, so I better head back there. I'll meet you two out here in a little bit, okay?" I then threw down a hundred bits and said, "Get yourselves something to drink and I'll be back as soon as I can." I then walked away towards the private rooms.

"Alright sir, take a seat and Miss Trixie will be with you shortly." the burly gryphon male ordered as he gestured to a room with a curtain and a large sofa. He then looked to my sword and said, "I'm not sure how you got that inside, but I'm going to need to keep that until you leave."

I sighed as I unstrapped Yamato and handed it to him. "If I get that back any different than I gave it, I'm taking it out of your hide, understand?"

The bouncer didn't flinch at all, but nodded as he assured, "It'll be in good hands, just don't cause any trouble. You can pick it up at the door after you're done." He then began to leave but stopped at the doorway. "If Miss Trixie turns up with any marks on her, I'll personally tear your throat out."

"Fair enough." I responded. The bouncer then nodded curtly and walked out the doorway and closed the curtain.

I took off my cloak and hung it over the nearby chair before unstrapping and removing the rest of my armor. In all honesty I felt safer with it on, but until I could get Trixie to come with me, I had to play the part of a regular patron. So, for the time being at least, I would lay low and fake it.

I leaned back and closed my eyes for a moment to relax and wait for my performer, while my mind drifted to AJ. God, if she knew what I was doing, she'd kill me. Still, I knew this was for the greater good, so what she don't know, won't hurt her.

"Commander Darkflight." stated a very high-class sounding voice.

I opened my eyes and tilted my head down to see the blue unicorn looking at me expectantly. I pointed a claw at my chest and asked, "You know me?"

She smirked and nodded. "Everyone knows who you are."

"So I've seen." I responded with a roll of my eyes.

She nodded before raising her eyebrow skeptically. "So what is it you want exactly? I've done private shows for far less than fifty bits, so that means you're here for something else." She then glared at me. "Just so you know this is a gentlecolt's club, not a brothel."

I chuckled and sat up straight. "I'm not here for that. I can assure you."

"Then what?" she asked, becoming more suspicious.

I sighed and rested my arms on my knees. "Well, do you want the short version or the long version?"

"Short please, as I don't know exactly how long the long version is." she responded impatiently.

I nodded. "Fair enough. Basically, I've been asked by a friend to find you and bring you back to Ponyville."

The unicorn frowned and hopped up onto the sofa beside me so that she could look me in the eye. "Why on Terra would anyone want me to go there?"

"Well," I started, scratching the back of my head, "it was a favor from a friend of mine. Long story short, a lot of ponies realize how unfair they were to you." I then gestured to the building around us. "I mean, look what you've had to do since that."

"Since Twilight Sparkle..." she spat in anger.

I rolled my eyes and sighed. "Twilight Sparkle didn't make you be a bragging bitch...that was all you. She just revealed it to everyone else."

The unicorn glared at me for a moment before saying, "If you're honestly trying to convince me to return to that town, you're not doing very well by calling me a bitch."

I shrugged. "I'm not good at this negotiating stuff, what can I say?" I then smiled at her. "What if I told you that Twilight wants to not only apologize to you, but also wants to welcome you back there as a citizen?"

"You act as if she has the powers of a princess." Trixie grumbled defiantly.

I chuckled and shook my head. "She's not a princess yet, but-"

"What do you mean 'yet'?" the mare asked in confusion.

"She's getting married to my brother, Prince Frostbreaker." I answered with a large smile.

"P-P-Prince..." she stuttered out in shock.

"Frostbreaker." I finished for her. "And yes, he's really my brother. To explain quickly, the two of us are from a different dimension. He's a pony, and I'm a dragon...go figure." I then stood up and smiled. "Anyway, I was tasked with bringing you back, and I never fail a mission. So please make it easy and just come of your own free will so I don't have to drag you back...don't think for a second that I won't."

It took a few seconds to compose herself, but Trixie finally gulped and looked at me. "Does Twilight Sparkle really want to apologize to me?"

"So long as you're not still a pompous bitch, I'm pretty sure they'd all apologize to you. Running you out of town I can see. Ruining your career though...that's just wrong." I responded as I began to strap my armor back on.

"I don't need your pity." she retorted angrily.

"No...it's clear you don't. You're doing so well here." I responded with a smirk.

"I did what I had to in order to survive!" she growled out.

I nodded as I pulled the straps for my armor snug around me. "I understand completely, believe me. I know what it's like to spend your whole life working towards one thing, only for it to be taken away from you. I've been there, Trixie." I finished strapping the armor up before turning back to the mare. "As a matter of fact, I'm probably the only one of my friends that knows what that's like. You want to know what kept me from fixing things for five years because of that?"

"What?" she asked sourly.

I leaned in close to her with a grin. "My pride." I then clipped my cloak around my neck and said, "It was because of how proud of myself I was that I wouldn't let anyone help me, because I believed that if I couldn't do it myself, it was meaningless...that I was meaningless. Well I had to learn the hard way that pride can be your worst enemy. For me, it took away my home, my career, my girlfriend, and even my health. I spent almost two years homeless, sleeping on a friend's couch and bumming a ride wherever I needed to go to find work." I then backed away and walked towards the doorway. "So the choice is yours, Trixie. You can either swallow your pride and accept forgiveness and help, or I can drag you back to Ponyville by your hooves and you can figure out what to do when you get there. Choose."

The unicorn sat for a moment with her eyes on the floor, pondering her best options. For a moment, I thought she might turn me down, but then she looked up at me and said, "If I do this, I will not grovel for forgiveness."

"You are going to apologize for the way you acted." I responded sternly. "But no, you won't be expected to 'grovel'. Even someone in the wrong is allowed to keep their dignity in Ponyville."

Trixie nodded a few times before saying, "Alright fine, you've convinced me. Let me finish work here and I'll meet you outside at around three in the morning. That's when my shift ends."

I shrugged. "I understand. Gotta have some money for yourself. I haven't got much else to do, so it's likely I'll just chill out inside."

She nodded and strutted away, but then stopped and looked back at me. "Whoever your friend is...tell them 'thank you'." She then trotted down the hallway to the dressing rooms.

I arrived back at my table to see Surprise passed out next to two tall glasses that smelled strongly of alcohol. I looked to Gilda questioningly and she just said, "Kickin' Peach Tea."

I chuckled and patted the gryphon on the back softly. "Glad you found her 'off' button for me. You're a lifesaver, Gilda."

She smiled and nudged me before asking, "So how did it go?"

I picked up Gilda's drink and took a swig before setting it back down and leaning against the seat. "It took some doing, but she's coming willingly."

The young female slammed her fist down on the table and said, "Damn...I was really hoping she'd fight it. I was looking forward to a good brawl."

"She's a braggart, not a street-fighter." I responded with a sigh. "Anyway, she said she'd meet us after her shift here is done, so we've just got to wait it out." I then waved to a server mare and said, "Can I get a bottle of hard cider and shot glasses?"

I stared at the clock as time ticked away, noticing that thankfully, it was already 02:34. I wasn't sure how places like this worked in Equestria, but if they were anything like Earth, this one would be closing soon.

Surprise was still passed out, but had moved to lean up against me, while Gilda was also asleep after helping me polish off the bottle of Apple's Hard Cider (AJ's gonna shit herself when she finds out they drink it here). As the three of us waited for Trixie's last performance to finish, I sat with Gilda's head in my lap and stroked her head and neck feathers as she snoozed, just trying to pass the time until it ended.

Thankfully, I didn't have to wait too long, as I heard the music from her show end and then the lights went dim as the next dancer took the stage.

I nudged the gryphon awake and picked up the pony before putting on my helmet and heading to the door with the two inebriated females. The bouncer near the door passed me my sword as we exited, and I stepped outside to see Trixie waiting patiently with only a single bag with her.

"Packing light, I see." I quipped.

She shrugged. "When you live alone and in the city, you can't afford a lot of possessions. Besides, it's not as if I wear clothes when I'm not at work."

"True." I responded with a grin. I then turned to Gilda. "Think you can carry Surprise on our way back?"

Gilda looked a little groggy, but nodded. "Yeah, I'll be fine. The sooner we get back and I can sleep, the better."

I grinned and looked to Trixie. "Guess that means you're riding me, Trixie."

The mare grinned seductively at this and said, "In any other context, I might think you meant something else by that."

"Maybe if you weren't actually going to ride me, it might mean something else...but in this case, you're actually going to have to ride on me to keep from falling." I said before dropping to all fours. "Climb on."

She walked over to me and hoofed the suitcase to me before asking, "Is this a saddle built into your armor?"

I chuckled and nodded. "Yeah. One of my positions in the military is carrying around a soldier with me that can't fly. Usually it's an Earth pony. I figured it would be useful."

"Well I'm impressed. Very intuitive." she remarked. I felt as the small pony hopped onto my back and settled herself.

"There's straps that you can buckle around your thighs to make sure you don't fall out. They're in-between the two flaps of the cloak." I said, and I waited until I felt both clasps pulled tight. "Alright then, hang on as best you can. I'm going to try and make this fast and comfortable, but Celestia help us if we hit any bad weather." I then looked to Gilda. "Alright corporal, let's fly."

Gilda's eyes opened wide at attention and she nodded, now in soldier-mode. "Understood sir."

The four of us then took to the skies before the first light of dawn even arrived, heading home to our loved ones, and for one of us, forgiveness.

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