by Solo & Jo
Saturday is a blur of sun and giggling kids and the hoots and lights of rollercoasters.
He's good for his word, takes Akira and Sara and their friends to
Odaiba, a lone dad with four kids who ends up carrying a backpack full
of bentos, Akira's sweater, and two pink and purple handbags.
He strolls behind a lot, support staff. For Sara, daring Yumi-chan
on breakneck rides is more interesting than sitting on Jin's shoulders,
and Akira and Park-kun have important discussions about important
school business while eating chocolate bananas.
Jin doesn't mind. He used to hate being ignored, but with his kids,
it just means he's no longer special to have around, no big reunion
fuss after weeks of missing them. Just a proper, normal dad. Jin's
good, with the handbags.
It smells of roasted almonds where he lets them run off to a haunted
house. Jin sips coffee while he waits. He's too old for haunted houses,
He wonders if Kame gets a break this weekend, or if he works all the
time. He doesn't seem to have much else. Sad life, despite all the
He should be embarrassed and he's not, and he should hate it when he
thinks of Kame's hands holding his hips, and it runs through him head
to toe, the feeling of that in his memory.
That way it's useful to be ignored; he gets his head to himself.
Doesn't have to combine body memory of Kame kneeling behind him with
responsible parenting and questions about volcanoes and deadly
His horde relives the haunted house experience for the next twenty
minutes, because apparently Yumi screamed but so did Akira, and whether
one is a boy or a girl is a very important factor. Jin buys them candy,
and some of those almonds for himself.
Kame hasn't fucked anybody in five years. Jin wonders what he's
thinking now, if he's happy it took the edge off or mad at himself for
the loss of control.
Jin doesn't even beat off much. He kind of stopped feeling like it.
Not that that's relevant, to Kame or to the fact that Sara just skinned
her knee and has her face scrunched up hard trying not to cry.
"Ow, that looks sore, baby girl," Jin says dropping his pack to dig down into it. "You're brave."
Sara sniffles but is keeping her mouth firmly shut. Akira is looking
on very anxiously and Jin just wants to give him a hug, but you always
deal with the bleeding kid first.
"It's bleeding," Yumi points out helpfully. "You should get stitches."
"It'll stop soon," Jin says to Sara, who's keeping her eyes fixed on
him. "I'll just run some of our water over it so it gets clean, okay?
You can whack me if it stings bad."
He's careful, slow, and he doesn't get whacked. It's harder to keep
Yumi from poking her nose too close and getting in the way of water,
"Now you'll get a big..." Jin checks the box "...green band aid. Hey, that's great, you like green."
"You should hope it doesn't scar," Yumi tells Sara in a voice of
terror. "Girls shouldn't have scars. You'll have to wear make-up on
"Girl pirates can have scars," Sara says. Her frilly sock has gotten
stained, and her jaw's locked in that stubborn Sara way. "Right, Dad?"
"Absolutely," Jin nods, bagging the band aids and the rest of his
dad utensils. "All pirates have scars, even the Pirate Queen. You've
got to be brave to be a Pirate Queen."
"Yeah," Sara says to Yumi, like this is something even little kids know.
Yumi bites her lip and frowns. "What do girl pirates do?" She sounds grudgingly intrigued.
Akira, safely out of the reach of any fatherly hugs, squints at Sara
when she drags Yumi away to explain booty and the on-ship chain of
command. Jin's job would be handbag carrier and general dogsbody, he
He thinks for a moment, about pirates, and Kame, and commands. But
then they arrive at some ginormous swing and all he's got time to think
about is his queasy stomach as he watches the kids get buckled in,
hoping they don't end up killing themselves just when he's on good
terms with Meisa again.
On Sunday the phone beeps him out of leaden sleep. Jin gropes for
it, sees Kame's number, and has a freight train of adrenaline slam into
Then he realizes it's an e-mail. Fucking nightshift.
Jin rolls on his back, blinks. Sorry, it reads. Yesterday was busy.
Then there's an American number and two email addresses,
TomoTorrent@facebook.com and email@example.com. Jin can guess which
is the personal one.
So now he has those. He's also slept for three fucking hours, and
it's fucking Sunday. He rolls over, sticks his head under the covers
for the darkness. But it's too hot even for him, and his head is dumb
and full of Pi.
He gives up after half an hour or so. There goes his beauty sleep, but it's Kame's own fault.
Did he just think that? Oh, fuck it, who cares. He staggers to the bathroom.
When he comes out again he feels cleaner but no more awake. Before
he can even think about how this might go down, he'll need another two
hours and at least two coffees.
What time is is there anyway? It's funny, used to be he knew PDT
like a second internal clock, and Texas was a bit East. It'll be eight
Coffee. He makes it; drinks it; sits down with his phone. God he's nervous.
He could write an e-mail, of course. That doesn't depend on
timezones. His head is blank, but he could explain, he'd have room to
think this through.
Who is he kidding, he can't even think now. And he'd wait for an answer and if there's no answer...
He checks to make sure of the time, and why does staring at fucking Google Maps make him depressed?
Eight was right. That means calling's okay for another three hours,
for normal people in this job. Unless he waits till tomorrow. Tonight
he's in his box.
Eight years, give or take. What's another day?
He drinks his coffee. His stomach hates it.
He needs to think. A walk through the June heat makes him sweaty,
endless pavement and pounding beats, and he thought he'd have better
ideas without his four walls closing in on him but his brain isn't
playing. Broken record, stuck on 'Hi…'.
Three hours of sleep, and a Bakanishi brain.
When he gets home he has another coffee, and his stomach really hates it and his hands hate it, but all the waiting in the world's not going to change that.
The American dial tone makes him feel old, so many years since he
heard it all the time, years since he heard it at all. He almost hangs
up because that, on top of how he doesn't even know if Pi—
"Hello?" a voice says in English on the other end, and it's all just gone, his head stuttering on empty.
"Hi. It's Akanishi. Jin. Hi."
There's silence, stretching. But that, he had expected. "Jin. Hi. Are you—"
At least Pi knew where to place this Akanishi guy calling him after
eight years of nothing. He waits, but next Pi says distantly, "Guys,
can you finish with unloading? I'll be outside, I need a moment."
His English is so good.
He hears shuffling and noise and his own hammering heart. Then Pi, in Japanese again, "I have a gig in one hour."
A gay gig in Texas. Jin wishes he was there. "Yeah," he says.
It sounds better than I have five minutes or What do you want? or Fuck off and die.
"How are you?" he tries.
"I'm good," Pi says. "Working, keeping busy. You?"
"I'm good too." If the line was any better, Pi would know he's a liar. "Doing stuff, you know."
"How are your kids?"
His kids. Pi's never even met Sara. "They're fine. They're great."
Silence during which Jin wonders what on earth he could ask about, or say. The weather in Texas?
"And how's Meisa?" Pi says.
"Well, it's... she's fine too."
More silence. You could write a song about that silence.
"I'm sorry I— this feels so weird," Jin says. "I should have called sooner."
"Really," Pi says. "How about you should have not stopped in the
first place, you asshole? What the fuck was that about, why'd you stop
answering my messages?" It sounds pissed off and hurt and for the first
time Jin wants to laugh.
"You haven't paid your phone bill in eight years? What the fuck, Jin?"
"I'm sorry, it just…" Okay, to hell with pride. "I was afraid, okay?"
"A… what? When? Before you started ignoring me?"
"Not of you, I was afraid I'd ruin things for you."
"By talking to me." Pi sounds like this is the greatest load of bullshit anybody's ever tried to sell him and he's not pleased.
"By... if you were associated with me," Jin says. "Everyone was hating me and I knew
people were getting shit just for talking to me, and then you went to
America and it was bad enough that I'd gone there first and I didn't
want to create any more problems for you. And also I'm a
loser." There it is, in a nutshell. He's breathing hard. "I missed you.
But you didn't need to go around with losers."
"I can hang around losers if I want to," Pi says furiously. "Or dumbfucks."
Jin's bones feel suddenly wobbly, but he can breathe again. And
smile. "Yeah," he says, "you can, but you've got to allow the dumbfuck
to feel kind of responsible."
"Huh," Pi says. And then, "Dumbfuck."
"I'm really sorry."
"You could at least have told me why." Petulant Pi tone, taking him back fifteen years and more.
He rolls his eyes towards the cracked plaster on his ceiling. "And
watch you make statements about how dumbfucks are friends too on
"Yes, you would've." Listening to him now, Jin's just as sure of it as he was then.
There's a pause at the other end, Pi giving in without admitting it.
Just like he always did. His voice when he talks again doesn't sound
quarrelsome at all. "But god, Jin… eight fucking years…"
"Yeah, I… that wasn't the plan. I thought until things had settled,
you'd got established, just… time just went by and nothing ever got
better and suddenly it was all so far away."
The silence doesn't scare him now. That's just them sorting their
brains. Which is always good, when they usually manage about one and a
half between them.
"So how are you, really?" Pi asks.
Jin draws a breath and suddenly his filters are off, the sun shining
in on him with a sting. "I haven't been doing so well," he says.
"Better right now, actually. But it's been…" Lonely. He can't even say
how much. "I'm not really seeing many people. Most of the old troop is
gone, I got nothing to do with the company anymore..." He takes a
breath. "I see my kids when I can."
"Meisa and I split," he says. "Five years ago."
"I read about that," Pi admits, and sure, yeah, Jin's last great
tour through the gossip columns, his victory lap. "But Meisa, she's
not... I mean, you two don't—"
"No! We're still friendly, she's great, just..." And then it all
tumbles out, the hunt for jobs, the lack of money, the stress, his kids
and his shitty apartment and the death of his marriage. "Loser," he
says, and figures Pi can hear the shrug through the line.
"You should come out here," Pi says, so forceful that it doesn't even hurt that it's impossible.
"I can't," Jin says.
"No, I meant— Oh, of course. Your kids. I'm sorry. I just meant..."
He hears an annoyed, familiar sigh. "I'm so glad you called."
Jin nods at the phone and has a lump in his throat, and Pi is silent too. They're a pair of mope-heads.
"How did you get this number, though?" Pi says at last.
"I asked Kame. Keeper of all useful information."
Pi whistles softly through his teeth. "I didn't think he still had time for dumbfucks."
Jin can't help a little laugh. "It's not like that, it's…" How is
it? Complicated. Unexpected. "I don't think he's got time for anybody
who isn't a problem or the solution to one."
Pi laughs, too. It's got a sharpness to it. "That sounds about right."
"You see him much?" Jin asks. He's got no idea. Doesn't know what he
would prefer, for these two to be friends without him or just
colleagues, and if it's different from what he'd have preferred an hour
"Not really," Pi says. "He's trying to keep me out of Japan, I've only been back for the mini-tours in the last two years."
"Oh," Jin says. He's safe over there. "I didn't know it was that bad."
There's a pause. Jin can hear cars in the background. "It's not bad.
I mean, not like with you. I'm okay. But there's a lot of weird shit
going down at the company and we figured it was best for me to stay out
of it if I can. Kame's been helpful. He's just..."
It hangs there. Jin doesn't even try to finish it.
"Cold," Pi says. "He's changed. I barely see him when I'm there and
then he's got managers on me every minute, like I'm some Junior who
can't manage to pee by himself. Like I'll go on stage naked or get some
It still makes his heart skip a beat, even as a figure of speech.
Jin stares and thinks it fits, Kame being determined that nobody's
going to pull an Akanishi on his watch.
"God, sorry," Pi says. "I didn't mean it like that."
"I know," Jin says. "But he should trust you."
"He trusts nobody." It's sobering when Pi sounds cold, too.
"But your stuff is going well," Jin says, "right? Having fun with cowboys?"
"You know about the cowboys?" Pi asks, sounding nervous and much warmer.
"I heard," Jin grins back.
"They're... mostly gay," Pi says, and Jin thinks he can hear him blushing and he's snickering like he's twelve.
"Heard that, too."
"Ha ha ha ha." Pi is rolling his eyes, Jin just knows it.
"I think you were smart," Jin says. "I'm happy it worked out for you."
A door slams, and Pi calls, "Yes, guys, in a minute!" To Jin he
says, "Well, it's not baseball stadiums, but yeah. I like it. They
don't even mind when I'm dating. It's kind of relaxing."
Jin laughs again. And he wants to hear everything, every little thing.
"Do you need to go back?" he asks.
"I should," Pi says slowly. "Yeah."
"That's fine," Jin says, though the lump in his throat hasn't got that message and probably makes him sound weird.
"Listen, man. You call me again. You hear that? You fucking call
me. If you don't, I'll run away from Kamenashi's watchdogs and kill you
and stab you. And send me a damn picture of your kids. My e-mail is
"I've got your e-mail," Jin says. "I'll call." And he's got a
hundred things going through his head at once, Pi being busy and weird
time zones and not wanting to be a pest, but he'll sort it, somehow. "I
promise. And I'm sorry."
"Yeah," Pi huffs. "You take care of yourself. Dumbfuck. Send me e-mail."
"I will," Jin says, and knows they could go around for
another ten minutes, so he decides to be a grown-up. "Now go be gay and
badass. I have to go to work."
Five more minutes after all, because now Pi wants to know about the work. It's just so hard to let go.
But eventually Jin manages to hang up. A click, and it's quiet. He
stares at his hand which is tight around his phone, and it takes him a
moment to remember that he's not a convict who's allowed one call a
He can even e-mail straight away. He sorts through his phone until
he finds the picture he took of Sara and Akira outside the haunted
house and attaches it to a quick mail, subject line: My kids, braver than me.
Inside, he writes, "Jin's kids, post 00001 of 75000, please stay
tuned," and when he hits send, he's already grinning when he thinks of
The box is long but uneventful, uneventful and long. He cycles home
into the Monday dawn and then he just sleeps and sleeps, and sleeps
some more. He wakes up around noon when he's sweaty but he just tosses
the blanket off and fades back into a warm haze, whispers of air
tickling him and his own weight holding him down and safe.
His evening passes with talking to the kids, e-mailing Pi. Not much
to do around the apartment. It's Tuesday morning when he starts on
minor things, tidying the table, wiping down the bathroom.
The phone rings at quarter to three. By now Jin's assigned Kame a
ringtone. Makes life so much easier, to know it's not the boss or the
"I can be there in an hour," Kame says.
"I'll be in," Jin says.
There's a short pause, like Kame might be wondering too whether he
should say something about songs, or beds, or other useful things. But
he doesn't and neither does Jin. "I'll see you then."
Jin puts the phone down. So, later. Today.
He can probably assume the bed is a yes.
And it feels weirder than last week, when he didn't think anything,
didn't do anything. Not like opening the wardrobe; pulling out the
futon; thinking about getting ready. Actually setting everything up for
Kame to fuck him.
The futon falls out heavy and unwieldy, but that's familiar. He
rolls it out and smooths the corners and feels nothing, until he
imagines Kame coming in and seeing the bed ready.
He could just say no.
Of course he could, that's just a fact.
He stands up and looks down, and there's the bed, lying there, harmless.
Jin's spine tingles, but his stomach feels like he swallowed a rock, and damn. What was that about complicated?
Jin doesn't like complicated anymore. Bed's there, Kame will be, and he knows what's what when he doesn't think about it, so maybe he'll just, oh, play Avenger Pigs in Outer Space while he waits.
He's setting some new personal records in the first half hour. Then
it gets harder, there's more of that tingle and Jin listening out for
the sounds outside changing.
He won't hear the car. But he likes being prepared.
At quarter to four, he puts the game down, just sits there. It's weird, but no one will ever know.
At four he gets up and makes tea because really, should be any second now. Surely it can't take that long to park.
Tea made, he drinks it. Rinses the cup. He eyes the bed and feels more stupid by the ticking clicking second.
Kame is never late. If Kame is late, can't he send a fucking e-mail?
Should he worry?
But, really, chances of traffic accident versus chance of rising
company overlord getting pulled into an extra meeting, even Jin can do
that math. Still, did they take his phone away?
Fifteen minutes later he has a sudden braincell collision and
realizes that if rising company overlords die in gruesome car wrecks,
it's going to be on the news. So, he turns on the TV. His low-tech,
low-function, doesn't-bring-the-beer TV.
Kame is retarded.
Also, from checking several channels and the info texts, probably not dead. Just late, the jerk. And Jin should not be waiting for jerks.
Only he didn't exactly have plans. Great, so now he's watching TV like every other bum with nothing to do.
Entertainment news. Jin always switched that off faster than you can
say KAT-TUN. It's why he's never had a clue about Pi or the company.
He leaves it on for the moment. Doesn't recognize the chick in black
or her raps. Doesn't recognize— oh god, wait, is that Chinen? New drama
contract, first time playing a family father, and Jin feels old. An old
bum watching TV. Maybe just as well he doesn't have beer.
Then Nino's face flashes on screen, surrounded by pink and yellow
question marks. The presenter girls who were just discussing Justin
Bieber's second marriage are covering their mouths and reporting a dead
secret rumor about Arashi's Ninomiya being offended by a Junior he was
trying to help.
One of the girls is half, pretty. Both of them are more direct than
Jin remembers girls on TV. Showbiz moves on, too. "Apparently he said
Ninomiya-san is 'just too much' and 'gets on his nerves," the Japanese
one breathes in an excited whisper, but unfortunately they don't have
statements from anyone yet. Statements. About two guys not totally
loving each other. Yeah, such a scandal.
So some things don't move on.
There comes an actual Arashi montage. Maybe they paid the guy to
insult Nino, just for the exposure; Jin's almost tempted to see if they
have a single coming out this week.
But no, when it's over, the hushed Japanese girl reports how
saddened Arashi's management is that some young people in the business
are no longer being adequately trained and taught.
That's when it clicks.
Gossip, scandal, exposure, fine. But this is vicious and it goes
beyond some kid from FUNky5, Jin suddenly gets what this is about, and
where Kame is likely to be.
"We'll inform you at once of any developments," promises the other
one, and then there's a newspaper article about a mother and daughter
starring in the same movie, very heartwarming. The little girl is cute.
Jin checks his phone for the time.
Almost an hour late now. This thing doesn't look over.
He tries to find it on NuCC, but that's just showing an outdoorsy
adventure with KITTY-KISS-ME. Fair enough, a channel that's practically
founded on Johnny's Entertainment exclusives won't air their dirty
laundry. He's just zapping back to one of the traditional channels when
his phone buzzes.
Won't make it today. Work came up.
Yeah, no kidding.
Jin looks at the e-mail, wondering briefly if Kame typed that in
some bathroom stall at the company. It weirds him out to have Kame
images in his head and how clear they are.
The bed's right there. Fresh sheet, neat.
Not happening today.
But Jin's still good for his rent, this week and even next.
He bites his lip. He should probably put the futon away again.
Something like resentment is churning in him, as if he could have
been doing stuff. Folding towels, counting his toes. Whole rounds of
Pig Avenging he missed out on.
He kicks at the futon vaguely. He's had entire days when he didn't put it away from morning.
Maybe he just wants to take a walk.
Pi's latest album takes him once through his neighborhood. When he
comes back, FujiTV is still going on about Arashi, and FUNky5, and he
watches with one eye while he starts making his dinner, and while he's
eating he finds out it's grown big on other channels too, and that he
can expect a formal apology in a couple of hours.
He checks his phone for the time. It's eight now.
He really wishes he could just think that this bullshit is bullshit
and doesn't matter. But Jin knows all about how bullshit matters if
you're living in that bubble.
The guys from FUNky5 look about eighteen in the clips that pop up
here and there. Though who knows, maybe Jin's wrong, maybe they're old
clips. He's got no idea why he feels so on edge.
It's a very edgy edge after another hour of the 'scandal', and then
there's a press conference, something live. Five young guys, in suits.
Taking it seriously then. They look nervous.
Jin recognizes two of them now, they did ads for the new cell phone
he couldn't afford last year. One with hair dyed a light shade of
auburn, the other dark. It's the auburn guy who apologizes, smooth and
professional, on behalf of the entire band for causing a disturbance
and for not sitting on the member who's known to have trouble
expressing himself properly.
That's the introduction for Mr Dark, who seems very sheepish indeed.
But Jin can tell he's well-briefed, and at the back of his mind he's
thinking that they probably spent the last two hours rehearsing this.
Of course he didn't mean to insult his admired senpai Ninomiya-san, he
was just expressing his frustration because he knows he'll never be as
good at anything. And that, well, that came across wrong, because he's
not good with words. And he's so sorry.
His list of people to apologize to reads like other people's Oscar
acceptance speeches and Jin wants to roll his eyes, but part of him
admires the thoroughness, too. He pictures Kame sitting the boy down
and going 'right, who else, what about your parents?' Terrifying the
living daylights out of him.
After they've all been apologizing for like ten minutes and Jin
thinks they must really be done now, Mr Dark produces a shy smile, the
first of this whole presentation, and the other one produces a guitar
"I was so sorry, I really thought about it a lot," Mr Dark says,
"and somehow it turned into a song, so I wrote it down and Mori-chan
helped me with some tricky bits, and I wanted to dedicate it to
Ninomiya-san, and hope for his forgiveness."
The journalists are lapping it up.
It's not a bad song, either. Basic, and the press con acoustics
weren't meant for this, but that just makes it sound more real. And the
guy can sing. Someone's tracked down Nino and they're streaming in his
reaction, and this circus is going to continue forever.
Nice save, though. The fans are going to love it. Only a real asshole's going to hold a grudge.
It's weird when he remembers his life when it was like that; out in
public. Even for Kame it's different, pulling strings, nowhere to be
seen there except in his fingerprints all over it.
Maybe even the song. Kame had a thing for simple, sometimes. It doesn't fit with the whole looming overlord persona.
Jin wants a beer. Beerless bastard Kame, leaving him dry again.
Everyone on screen is very aflutter. Next time these guys go on
Music Japan, they can tell the story of how Ninomiya-san met them at
the company and they went for a meal together and he gave Mr Dark an
old pair of jeans. Jin's tired.
The main act's clearly over now, the screen switching back to
commentators, bits of the performance being replayed and picked apart.
Jin watches it make its way through some other channels, Nino being
pressed about his reaction, everyone pretending to be friends again.
Once it's clear that there's nothing but repetition, he turns the TV
off. Sucks it up and has tea instead of non-existing beer and spreads
out on his futon, not even caring anymore. He stares at the ceiling.
The grubby white's not very inspirational.
His phone rings. With the Kame ringtone. It actually rings twice before Jin remembers to move.
"Yeah?" he says, half-lying on his stomach from the scramble. Well, nobody here to see.
There's quiet at the other end. What? "Good evening. It's me."
"Yeah, I know," Jin says. "Still at the circus?"
Another pause. And this guy always claims he's got no time to waste. "You caught that, did you," Kame says eventually.
"You know me, always up with the latest gossip." There's a thing
that could be another pause, and Jin says, "Nice touch with the song."
"Thank you," Kame says. "I thought so, too."
"Did you write it?"
"What? No. We just threw it together and made sure it had the right
words in it," Kame says, sounding distant and like it's the last thing
on his mind. Jin's weirdly disappointed.
"Anyway, good move," he says.
"We're recording it tonight, it'll sell like hot cakes after this."
That's true. Even smarter then. The silence next is mutual.
"Anyway," Kame says. "I called to say that I am sorry if I
inconvenienced you. I don't like that I couldn't let you know earlier."
Kame's priorities: reliability and keeping time.
"Whatever," Jin says. He doesn't really know how to respond. "I'm just missing the beer." He doesn't even know what he thinks. Or why Kame is calling him when... "Where are you?"
"In the office. It's calmed down now. I'm going down to the studio in an hour when they're ready, keep an eye on things."
Jin wonders what Kame's office might look like, how Kame's sitting
there. He'll be alone, because he's talking to Jin, and it's night and
no, Jin is not thinking of Lex Luthor in some dark chrome and steel
tower, looking out over... Tokyo.
"Can't let the little children go unsupervised," he says instead.
"It would seem necessary." Kame sounds chilly. "As proven today."
"Shame you can't put them all on a leash, huh?"
"Shame I can't gag them," Kame says roughly.
Yeah, that would be Kame. Leash and leather, everyone's boss, and
Jin's hips move just a little on the futon because Kame threatened him
with underpants and...
"You'd like that, wouldn't you," he says, liking the way it rolls off his tongue.
"I'd like for people to be less fucking dumb," Kame says. "That would make my life easier."
Since when does Kame call him to talk about how easy or not his life is?
"Anyway," Kame says, and somehow Jin doesn't like the sound of that,
it sounds final. "I don't know when I'll next have time. Things are
what they are over here. I'll call you."
"Work work work," Jin says, trying to feel mocking rather than discarded, but Kame has already hung up.
What the hell? Asshole can't even say good night?
He drops the phone somewhere out of reach and lies back, because whatever.
Well, they'll see. Didn't stay away that long last time, Jin doesn't think it took much to get Kame to find a gap in his sacred schedule.
He stares up blankly, and now he's got that song in his head driving him crazy, and feels offended by the crummy white ceiling.
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