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    • Shark

      Donations and Recognition!   12/22/2016

      Hello everyone! We are becoming a huge community and that doesn't come cheap. All staff here are volunteers and do this because they love the site. Right now, everything is paid out of pocket, by Erroneous. We would love for you to donate in order to help out with the site costs (i.e. Forum License, Domain Name, Hosting) so that we can keep Security and Forum Software up to date and possibly add some new features. If you do decide to donate, we have some fun, snazzy gifts of appreciation for you ;) Please message me (Shark) so we can get you the gifts of appreciation! We thank you for your support! Please use this link for more info   _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ How To Donate Scroll to the bottom of the screen and click the donate button.
      _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


      NOTABLE DONORS LIST Here is where we honor the donors who go above and beyond the call of Aincrad! Top Tier Donors! Percival Row  Teayre Nezumi Zandra Alice Arc Atzo Baldur Claim Corvo Dominion Genji Ignavus_veneficus Jomei Kaya Lee Lessa Mack Macradon Nocturn Persephone Piera Ruus Sarial Hawke Shi Unyeilding Vale To express our gratitude, here is a picture of the iconic duo for all you wonderful supporters!
    • Shark

      The SAO Staff Team!   02/21/2017

      Hello members of SAO-RPG!

      I'm sure most of you (if not some) have noticed or heard changes were made to the staff team. If you are applying to staff, you may have noticed that the application process has recently changed. This has all happened because of a reformation of the staff team and the way it operates. The staff now has separate teams for development. These teams are: Floor Creation Team [Floors, Quests/Events, Bosses], Systems & Clarifications Team, and Player Support Team.

      "Who is on these teams?" Well the answer to that lies below! Floor Team Systems & Clarifications Team Player Support Team * - Denotes Team Lead

      We also have a team to work on and develop the current systems but that team will search for its members and is not allowed to be applied to.

      Now you may be asking, "Shark, how does one apply to the Staff Team?" And I have but 1 simple answer!
      Go read this thread and it may answer all your questions!

      If you have any more questions, send me a PM and I will answer your questions about staff. (Only the format of teams and/or the application process)
    • Cardinal

      [Live] 2.5.0 Patch Notes   10/02/2017

      <<2.5.0 Patch Notes>> Main Guide: The main rules/tutorial section has been rewritten. Resources: A Resources section has been added. This contains reference material such as the SP/Level chart, Skills list, Enhancement list, individual profession stats, and a new FAQ. General Rule Changes: Word count requirement in Merchants & Shops section has been reduced to 100 from 150. Col logs are no longer required to include in journals. The Banker system will be used to track currency/materials going forward. New characters and Rebirth characters may choose a Starter Package containing a variety of basic equipment, col, materials, and/or potions. NK/KE tags have been removed. The table for SP gain based on the number of players in a thread has been removed. SP gain is now issued at 1 SP per 3 posts, up to the number of completed pages. (e.g. 3 SP for three pages, requires at least 9 posts) A Skill Refunding System has been added. Players may now pay a col cost to remove known skills and receive a refund of the invested SP. Rules on vanity items have been clarified. Health regeneration outside of combat has been adjusted to (10 * Tier) per post. Stealth and Stealth Detection no longer have a base rating for players. Both now use a LD roll plus a Stealth Rating/Stealth Detection modifier. NPCs and monsters still utilize a base rating (10 as a baseline for player-created mobs). 'Using cover' no longer adds to Stealth Rating. Low light or darkness conditions grant a +1 to Stealth Rating, down from +2. Switch has been added as a game mechanic (no longer a skill). Players may call for a Switch when landing a successful attack. If the Switching player also lands an attack, a Switch is performed and the two players may immediately swap hate values. Players are required to post their level, stats, equipment, skills, etc., in their first post in a thread. This should be a snapshot of your character and should not be changed after the initial post. Players are still allowed to declare their characters at a lower level or with fewer items than what they currently have, but may not claim items that have not been approved or were obtained in an unlocked thread. Turn order rules have been modified slightly to reflect the leniency of Boss Raid combat. Players may post in any order so long as each player and the enemy has gotten one action in a single round. Outside of Boss Raids, parties may have a maximum of 4 players. Combat with more than 4 players should follow a Group order similar to boss raids. When fighting multiple enemies, players must now make individual rolls for each mob. This applies to both making attacks against multiple enemies and multiple enemies making attacks. One roll no longer applies to/for all targets. The Running Away mechanic has been updated. Running away from combat now uses a LD roll with a set of situational modifiers. The col/material values and frequency in the loot table have been adjusted. Labyrinth searching rules have been adjusted. The map fragment system has been removed. Bonus rewards for scouting and defeating the field boss have been adjusted. Housing and Guild Halls have been completely revamped. PvP rules have been adjusted. Players must make an initiative roll when engaging in combat with other players. The extended Player Killing rules/restrictions have been removed. Rules on player cursor colors have been expanded. There is now a strike system for criminal infractions that would cause a player's cursor to turn orange. Killing a green player outside of a duel now results in a permanent orange cursor. An NPC Guard mechanic has been added. Orange players may now enter safe zones, but must stealth/run from guards in certain safe zones. NPC guards have a Stealth Detection rating equal to (Floor / 3), rounded down. Added more detail to character death rules. The RGQ system has been removed. Crafting Changes: Fishing as a profession has been removed. It is now a skill. The CD result chart has been adjusted across all professions (except Merchant). Good and Bad quality items have been removed from the CD result chart. Salvage chances have been adjusted. Alchemists now have a chance to salvage one or both materials when attempting to craft crystals. Crafting Die tools no longer have an effect. Consumables, familiars, housing, and some items still provide EXP and Crafting Attempt bonuses. The process of crafting Feasts has changed slightly. Cooks may now take 3 identical food items and spend two materials to combine them into a Feast. A Feast can be used in a thread to provide that enhancement to up to six players. Artisan craftable item types have been modified (Trinkets, Jewelry, Sculptures). The buffs they can provide are largely unchanged. Alchemist craftable item types have been modified (Salves, Potions, Crystals). The buffs they can provide are largely unchanged. Skill Changes: Extended Weight Limit Removed Ranks - 15 SP cost Now adds +3 Battle Ready Inventory slots Adjusted Mod: Large Pockets Now has 3 Ranks Cost set to 5/3/2 SP (10 total for Rank 3) Now increases single Battle Ready Inventory slots to 7/10/15 Removed 'Larger Pockets' and 'Largest Pockets' mods New Skill: Fishing Cost: 10 SP Effect: Use a dice roll to fish something up based on a natural CD result: Gatherer Now has a chance to yield 1-3 bonus materials based on a natural CD result Sneak & Hide Renamed to 'Hiding' Now grants +1 Stealth Rating per rank New Rank 3 Mod: Untraceable Cost: 9 SP Effect: Negates the effect of the Tracking skill against the user. New Rank 3 Mod: Blindside Cost: 9 SP Effect: Gain +2 Stealth Rating. Natural BD rolls of 9-10 reduce the target's accuracy by 1 for one turn when attacking from stealth. New Rank 5 Mod: Vanish Cost: 12 SP Cooldown: 5 Turns Effect: Allows the use of a post action to re-enter stealth while in combat. Getting a killing blow on an enemy allows Vanish to activate without using a post action. Search & Detect Renamed to 'Searching' Now also grants +1 Stealth Detection per rank Mod: Night Vision Now requires Rank 1, down from Rank 3 Cost reduced to 5 SP, from 9 Mod: Reveal Now also grants +2 LD when searching for Labyrinths and allows Labyrinth searches at 15 posts. Mod: Tracking Now requires Rank 3, down from Rank 5 Cost reduced to 12 SP, from 15 Tracking requirements for monsters, players, and NPCs have been clarified. Mod: Detect Cost reduced to 9 SP, from 15 No longer uses or affects Tracking. Now Grants +2 Stealth Detection. Grants +1 LD when searching for sub-dungeons and labyrinths Battle Healing Now recovers 1% of max HP per rank, instead of (Rank * 5 * Tier) Mod: Emergency Recovery Cost reduced to 10 SP, from 15 Now recovers 10% of max HP, down from 25% Block MIT gained is now set per rank: 5/8/12/18/25, down from 1 MIT per SP invested. New Rank 3 Mod: Shield Bash Cost: 10 SP Cooldown: 2 Turns Energy Cost: 10 Energy Effect: Make an attack with an equipped shield. On a hit, deals (Base * 10) damage, stuns the enemy for one turn, and applies paralyze/thorns/flame thorns enhancements present on the shield. Note: When calculating Base Damage for Shield Bash, Weapon Skills do not apply. Mod: Safe Guard Reworked into 'Rampart' Added a 5 turn cooldown Added energy cost of 8 Now uses a post action to reduce final damage that would be dealt to you by 25% (rounded down). Effect lasts until the beginning of your next turn. Energist Removed Ranks - 12 SP cost Now adds (5 * Tier) to total energy, instead of (Rank * 2) Howl Added energy cost of 10 Mod: Focused Howl Added energy cost of 8 Parry Increased SP cost to 12, up from 10 Added a 1 turn cooldown Energy cost has been fixed at 5, instead of (2 * enemies parried) 50% damage reduction has been specified to apply to the final damage (after mitigation). Effect applies to the next attack against the user, and cannot reduce damage from multiple enemies at once. Mod: Vengeful Riposte Increased SP cost to 12, up from 10 Added a 3 turn cooldown Damage reflected is now 50% of raw damage, up from 25% of damage taken. This damage can still be mitigated. Switch Skill has been removed. Two-Handed Weapons The +2 DMG bonus for 2H weapons has been clarified in the first rank of 2H weapon skills. All Weapons The Ferocity and Finesse mods have been condensed into a single description. You must still specify the weapon type when acquiring the mod(s). Mod: Ferocity Rank requirement set to 3, instead of ranging from 1-5 Now increases base damage of all sword arts for the chosen weapon by 1. Mod: Finesse Rank requirement set to 3, instead of ranging from 1-5 Now has 3 Ranks Cost adjusted to 5/3/2 SP (10 total for Rank 3), down from 15 at Rank 5 Now reduces energy cost of all sword arts for the chosen weapon by an amount equal to its rank. Mod: Quick Change Cooldown reduced to 3 turns, down from 5 Now allows the user to swap, equip, or unequip a weapon in their Battle Ready Inventory. Mod: Stamina Now reduces the energy cost of all attacks by 1. Heavy Armor Increased the amount of MIT gained to 8>12>18>25>35, up from 3>7>12>20>30 Mod: Athletics Bonus health increased to (15 * Tier), up from 15 Mod: Stonewall Bonus health has been adjusted to (15 * Tier), instead of equal to mitigation from other skills. Now also grants 10 MIT when wearing heavy armor Now also reduces damage taken from damage over time effects by 25% (rounded down) when wearing heavy armor. Light Armor Adjusted the amount of MIT gained to 5>8>12>18>25, down from 3>7>12>20>30 Mod: Athletics Bonus health adjusted to (10 * Tier), from 15 Familiar Mastery 'Accurate' now has 3 ranks. 'Assistant' now provides bonus EXP (crafting attempts at max profession rank) instead of CD. Meditation Removed Ranks - 8 SP cost Added a 5 turn cooldown Now recovers (3 * Tier) energy. Getting hit by an attack before the beginning of your next turn reduces the energy recovered to (2 * Tier). Survival Added 3 SP cost Increases out of combat health regeneration to (15 * Tier), instead of 20. Enhancement Changes: Life Steal has been renamed to Vampiric. The Crafting Die enhancement has been removed. Alchemist and Artisan item types for enhancements have been modified. Sword Art Changes: Multipliers have been simplified to a single number (x6) from the two-part formula (2x3). Several descriptions have been updated. Quest Changes: The 'Redemption' quest has been revamped. The level and repeatable restrictions have been adjusted to affect only the bonus SP rewards: The First Few Lessons Are Free The Second Lesson is Also Free The Third Lesson is Just As Free The Fourth Lesson is Actually Free The Venemous Warg Repeating the 'Earning a Living' quest now allows a player to change their profession. Changing professions will reset experience to 0. Repeat completions of the Earning a Living quest will only award bonus materials if the quest-taker is changing their profession. The following quests have been removed: «Witch of the West and the Three Treasures: T.M.H & S.B.» «Witch of the West and the Three Treasures: T.L.C.» «Witch of the West and the Three Treasures «The Falling of Tagas» Housing Changes: The cost and size of Player Housing is now determined by a 'plot size'. The plot size dictates how many room slots, yard slots, and stories a house can have as well as the initial cost when purchasing. Purchasing a PK-accessible home (outside of a safe zone) has an additional cost. Buffs from Guild Halls/Player Housing now comes from the type of room, rather than furniture. Certain rooms for Player Housing have upgrades. Player Housing buffs must be assigned to a player. Home owners may use the Housing Evaluation topic to re-assign a room's player(s) once every 30 days. New/Rebirth Character Changes: Players who have submitted a new or rebirth character journal for approval in the past 30 days are eligible to add one of the starting bundles. <<2.5 Update Survival Guide>> Skills: If you spent more than 15 SP on the Extended Weight Limit skill, refund any SP over 15. If you have spent less than 15 SP, the skill is inactive until a total of 15 is invested. If you spent more than 12 SP on the Energist skill, refund any SP over 12. If you have spent less than 12 SP, the skill is inactive until a total of 12 is invested. If you spent more than 8 SP on the Meditation skill, refund any SP over 8. If you have spent less than 8 SP, the skill is inactive until a total of 8 is invested. If you have the Parry skill, you must spend 2 SP to continue using it. Otherwise, it is inactive until a total of 15 is invested. If you have the Survival skill, you must spend 3 SP to continue using it. Otherwise, it is inactive until a total of 3 is invested. If you had the Switch skill, remove it and refund 10 SP. Mods: If you have the Detect mod, keep it and refund 6 SP. If you have the Tracking mod, keep it and refund 3 SP. If you have the Emergency Recovery mod, keep it and refund 5 SP. If you had Rank 1 or 2 of the Ferocity mod, lose it and receive a refund of the SP spent. If you had Rank 3 or 4 of the Ferocity mod, you must spend 6 or 3 SP to continue using it. Otherwise, it is inactive until a total of 15 is invested. If you spent more than 10 SP on the Finesse mod, refund any SP over 10. If you have the Large Pockets mod, you must spend 1 SP to continue using it. Otherwise, it is inactive until a total of 10 is invested. If you had the Larger Pockets mod, it becomes the new Large Pockets mod and you receive a refund of 2 SP. If you had the Largest Pockets mod, it becomes the new Large Pockets mod and you receive a refund of 5 SP. If you have the Night Vision mod, keep it and refund 4 SP. If you have the Vengeful Riposte mod, you must spend 2 SP to continue using it. Otherwise, it is inactive until a total of 12 is invested. Professions: If you had the Fishing profession, all EXP may be transferred to any other profession. If you had a Tool with the 'Crafting Die' enhancement, you may post it for re-evaluation with the Ambition or Crafting Attempt enhancement (item name/description may not change). If you retake the Earning a Living quest in order to change professions, your EXP resets to 0 for the new profession. Edit your existing shop thread with your new profession information. Housing: Existing Guild Halls and Player Housing have been removed. They may be repurchased through the Housing Evaluation template. Players who previously bought a home or hall have been reimbursed for the total col cost in their original housing application. If a guild had shared col lost due to the removal of a guild hall, PM the details to @Teion for review/reimbursement.
    • Aereth

      2.5.2 New Mechanic: Thread Invasion/Protected Threads   11/08/2017

      Hello Players,
      Once again your feedback is needed, so head over to the thread and tell us what you think. LINK  
Teion

[PP-F5] Moonlit Confessions

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Two days had come and gone since Aereth showed up at the door of Teion’s shop, nestled in its corner of Fortaleza. The sun had just begun to set over the desert floor of Aincrad, and it wasn’t even an hour ago that the brunette mercenary had announced that he was taking his leave. For a reason she couldn’t begin to discern, Teion had felt her heart drop an inch in her chest when he had made the decision. On the outside, she had acknowledged it plainly, as if it were only natural that he would have to leave eventually. ’It’s not like he could have just stayed here forever.’ The violet-haired blacksmith tried to reason with herself as she stared at a blank sheet of paper laying atop her drafting table. Ever since the man’s presence had disappeared from the smithy, she had tried to occupy herself with something to distract her from her thoughts. Drawing typically did the trick--she’d been doing a lot of it over the past couple of days. But now, all of a sudden, she couldn’t find the will to drag her pencil across the empty canvas staring back at her.

"What’s wrong with me?" She breathed out, finally straightening her spine and leaning back from the table while she lay her pencil flat and released it. Her arm fell to her side, and the moment she took her attention away from the task in front of her, she found herself thinking. Reflecting. Memories of Aereth from the days past and beyond assaulted her: their heated exchange in the dungeon. Embarrassment when he discovered her sleeping in front of his door at the inn. Conversation over a campfire. A costume party. His arms wrapped tightly around her shoulders. Her hand grasping onto his.

Teion had no idea when the heat had risen to her face, her cheeks taking on a pink hue. At the realization, the woman gave a shake of her head sharp enough to have left her dizzy in the real world. What was she thinking? What was she feeling? As those two questions took her over, Teion’s cobalt blue eyes widened as a possibility presented itself. "No." She answered herself aloud in a flat and dismissive tone. "No, not possible. Not happening." As one in denial often did, the woman began to repeat herself, standing up from the wooden bench and pulling her legs over the surface to walk towards the center of her smithy. She began to pace along the width of her shop, her long hair gently swaying behind her shoulders with every step. "I am not doing this again." She could feel her jaw clench through the words. As the frustration built inside of her, Teion shifted her direction towards the door of her shop. She needed to kill something, or she was going to end up wrecking the interior of the building all over again.

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Aereth just had no luck. As much as he wanted to stay for another few days, weeks, months, the brunette had to leave. After the first couple of days went pretty smoothly in regard of his little Laughing Coffin problem, now sh*t started to hit the fan again. He got, yet another, message from one of his info brokers. He immediately took all of his stuff, thanked Teion and left her shop. But not before receiving an instant teleport crystal to her shop, in case he would quickly need a place to stay.

Currently walking towards the teleport gate of the main settlement, with the hood of his black cloak cast a dark shadow over his face, he noticed somebody passing by. Somehow he had a feeling that he knew that face, but didn't let that stop him from leaving this floor as fast as he could.

Some time later on the 13th floor:

It was bugging the brunette. He recognized the face of that one player he passed as he left the fifth. For f*cks sake, he couldn't remember who that player was. When he causally went over his messages it finally came to him. "One of my brokers..." he mumbled, satisfied that he finally was able to put a name to that face... 

@Teion

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Clutching the handle of her scythe that had rested upward-facing near the smithy’s door, Teion swung the weapon over her shoulder, letting the curved blade hang down behind her back as she yanked the door open. A fresh scowl rested on her features, and she let the heavy oak door swing harshly shut behind her as she made her way towards Fortaleza’s northern gate. Night had just overtaken the city, and the winds were calm for a change, allowing Teion to reach her destination without slowing to shield her face from the sand that always whipped up with the light sandstorms. It only took her a few minutes of walking to reach well past the safe zone’s borders and into the territory of monsters. Once Teion spotted the familiar movement that indicated something lurking beneath the desert’s surface, Teion gripped Waning Crescent in both hands, swinging the hooked blade down into the uneven surface. The weapon’s tip sank deeply, and a muffled shriek reached Teion’s ears as whatever creature she had come across had been sliced through. Her opponent must have been weak, because through the sands, the familiar sound of a killed or destroyed object rang out, and Teion caught a glimpse of lighted polygons bursting up a few centimeters from the desert’s surface.

The woman continued to fight until she had worn herself out. She wasn’t sure how much time had passed when she stood bent over, panting lightly with beads of sweat slipping down her temple. And yet she wasn’t sure if she was satisfied. She thought for a moment about returning to her shop and simply trying her best to let the exhaustion bring her some much-needed sleep. But before she had made her decision, the far-off sound of an amused chuckle reached her ears. ”Is this the one? Certainly has some fire in her.” The sinister voice was foreign to her, causing every muscle and Teion’s body to tighten as she quickly gripped at her scythe. Another chuckle, this one dry and filled to the brim with condescendence. Teion’s torso spun, her head whipping around as she tried to find the source of the voice. It wasn’t until she looked back ahead of her that a figure stood before her--draped in a hooded cloak that concealed the player’s face. The blacksmith gave a start, taking a half-step backwards while she raised her weapon towards the stranger.

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Some hours had already passed since the brunette had left the fifth floor. He was still browsing through his messages and just as he was about to dismiss his menu he decided to read over the most recent message. The warning from his info broker. Looking at the name of the sender made him freeze. The info broker on the fifth floor was not the person who sent him the warning. "Sh*t." Immediately he swiped over to his friends list and searched for the broker he saw back then. "Still floor five, sh*t." And he wasn't in a settlement. That didn't fit. His info brokers were inside of cities most of the time, well... Gathering information... He immediately deleted his whole friend list. 

He had a bad feeling about the whole deal. It just seemed to be too odd to be just a coincidence. Aereth grabbed the instant teleport crystal to Teions shop and vanished from floor 13. Arriving at Teions shop he immediately started to head over to the place that stood next to the name of the player before he deleted the friend list at his at his maximum speed.  

@Teion

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”Ah, ah, ah,” A gloved hand raised beside the figure, giving a wag of his finger after her aggressive stance was directed towards him. His fingers hovered in the air a long moment before his hand turned, and the sharp sound of a snap brought more concealed players out from the shadows. Teion felt the oppressive grip of two hands wrapping around and jerking at either of her arms. The unexpected motion caused her weapon to slip from her hands while a new figure on either side of her pulled her arms to her sides. Teion was immediately rendered helpless, unable to move more than a few inches despite her struggle. Her heels dug into the sands below her while she yanked and pulled against the strangers’ holds, to no avail.

”Yes, the beautiful desert flower does have its thorns.” The man’s voice dripped with an unspoken maliciousness as he took slow strides to close the gap between them. "What the hell do you want?" Teion finally snapped at the player, pushing past the sense of fear that gripped her heart as tightly as the hands that held her in place. She glared at the shadow that hung over his face, preventing the woman from seeing the mystery man that had taken so much of an interest in her. He let out a small sigh, as if he was disappointed in her response. Coming to a stop directly in front of the woman, he hooked the knuckle of his index finger under her chin, jerking Teion’s head up so that she would be staring the man directly in the eyes, if she could only see them. Despite the fact that his face was obcured, the woman almost felt as if she could feel him staring directly back into her eyes, and a shiver ran down her spine. He pulled at her chin, guiding her to turn her face one way, and then the other, as if he were inspecting over a prize. ”Such a pity. You’re actually not half-bad.”

Teion’s brow furrowed, his comment pushing her past the edge of her patience. With a swift movement, she pulled her chin back before clamping her jaw down around the edge of the man’s gloved hand. A sharp strike to her left temple just a second afterward freed the man and caused Teion’s vision to blur for a brief moment. The hooded figure in front of her scowled, giving his hand a light shake before it reached back around his waist. ”Why are the pretty ones always such bitches?” He asked the air surrounding him while his fingers wrapped tightly around the handle of a dagger sheathed behind him at his belt.

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Aereth felt the virtual exhaustion catching up to him as he perma-sprinted to the place. But he couldn't waste any more time. So much time had already passed since he saw him in town, and if his worst fears would become reality he already found Teion. 

Some minutes of sprinting later, Aereth rounded the last corner, and was finally able to hear something. One player was talking and as he finally saw what was going on his charge skill almost activated itself on its own...

The man gripped his dagger with the one hand and gently cupped the face of the purple haired beauty. "Just because I can't kill you, doesn't mean that we can't have some fun with you." His free hand moved to the back of her head and he forcefully grabbed her beautiful purple hair.

"Three targets. Plan: Hitting the assumed leader hard and free Teion." his calculative side told him, but his emotional side was only seeing red at this point. Within the blink of an eye he had covered the distance between him and the group and buried his glowing fist into the side of the info brokers face. His body got carried away by the force behind Aereth's attack.

Immediately he continued and hit the player to Teions left into the stomach before turning around and kicking the other into the side, effectively freeing the purple haired blacksmith. "Shop. Now! You don't wanna see what is going to happen now." Aereth said with a voice full of fire and hatred.

@Teion

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Teion's eyes wrenched themselves shut as the tingling sensation on her left temple had put the world out of focus. She wasn't sure what had hit her--whether it was the mouthy one's fist, or one of his lackeys. Either way, her resilience had been swiftly punished, and the woman's eyes only flew back open when she felt another, more firm grip pressing against her jaw. The man had directed her face again, but her gaze quickly dropped to the glinting dagger he brandished beside her cheek. A sinister sneer that she couldn't see took over the man's face as his sick threats permeated the air. Teion's eyes didn't widen because of the blade next to her face, or the tight grip of the stronger figures holding her against her will, or even the strike that had made contact with the side of her face moments ago. Her eyes grew wide because there was no doubt in her mind that this man was going to do something horrible to her.

Before she could desperately fight against the hold of her captors, his gloved hand slid to the back of her head, his fingers weaving between strands of violet hair before he closed his fist in a tight grip, causing the girl to wince as her head was jerked a few centimeters higher. Teion's heart beat rapidly in her chest, and she fought against the sting of hot tears that threatened to form at the corners of her eyes. She squeezed her eyes shut yet again, as if removing her vision of the man would somehow release his grip on her.

And then his hold vanished. Teion's eyes fluttered open just as the figure on her left doubled over and clutched their stomach, releasing her from their grasp. A second later, the player on her other side crumpled to the ground all the same. Teion stumbled backwards after the newfound freedom, her knees buckling beneath her while her legs felt weak. She was already tired out from her earlier rampage, and the adrenaline that had pumped through her had already been replaced with a paralyzing fear. When was the last time that she had truly feared for her own life?

Her shaky eyes found the boots of the man who was still standing--the one who had saved her--planted in the desert sands. Her vision trailed up the length of the brunette's frame just before Aereth's voice that seethed with rage reached her ears. But Teion froze. Her heart felt as though it was about to burst from her chest, and she still fought against the lump in her throat. The assault had felt all-too real. Familiar, even. And despite the sight of her savior bringing a twinge of relief to her heart, the blacksmith simply sat with her heels and palms pushed into the sand, her frame beginning to tremble.

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"Damn it Teion, stay with me." he mentally cursed. She was withdrawing. Paralyzed by fear and terror. He was outnumbered by 3:1 and if this wasn't enough of an uphill battle already he would also need to protect the purple haired blacksmith. 

The flames on his armor flicked to life and he took a defensive position in front of Teion. The two players that held Teion were fast to recover and charged at him. He dodged the first attack, let the second hit him, and retaliated with a stun sword art, to temporarily disable at least one of his foes. Now Aereth started to focus on the other one. He was wielding an assault spear, high damage and high energy consumption.... The two engaged in a heavy fight trading blows, dodging attacks and somewhere in between the second one also joined the fray again. 

In the meantime the info broker also managed to get over the initial shock from Aereth's first attack. He wasn't weraring stury armor and after Aereth's first hit, already 50% of his health points were missing. He thought about his possibilities. Join them and try to take Aereth? Oh hell no. He got up and started to flee...

"PURPLE! SNAP OUT OF IT! YOU NEED TO LEAVE!" The brunette screamed as he panted heavily. One of his opponents was already dead, and the other was also on his way to hell. Unfortunately he also was down to 30% at this point. 

Two attacks later and Aereth was alone with Teion. "I need to get the other one as well, before he reaches the safe zone. Please, Teion. Go. I promise you to come when I'm done." He said and charged after his backstabbing info broker.

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A battle broke out as the assailants stumbled back to their feet. With weapons now drawn, they tried in vain to take down the brunette. One of the hooded figures crashed into the ground, and the health bar hovering beside his body rapidly depleted to zero. With a burst of light, he was gone. Dead, and shattered. How long had Teion remained in her trance, unable to break free from the suffocating terror?

Then Aereth's voice called out to her. Teion flinched, her eyes darting back to the brunette that faced away from her. Every muscle in her body tensed up as her gaze shifted to the figure that charged at him, but before a sound could leave her throat Aereth met the player with two powerful strikes. The player's body seemed to crack at the final strike, and just as they had slumped over from the force of the counter-attack, they too shattered into pieces.

Teion's eyes went wide, but Aereth's weary plea still managed to reach her. 'Wait...' The word couldn't even begin to form in her throat. 'Don't go.' She felt her heart drop for the second time that night when Aereth broke out into a run. She wasn't sure how much time passed--minutes, maybe only seconds? The woman pulled her knees towards her chest and tried to push her open palms against the desert floor to get to her feet. She lifted herself up, but after half a step forward her weak knees buckled again and crashed into the sand. Teion turned her palms to face her, watching as her hands shook. The woman then grit her teeth and slowly curled her fingers. She took in a sharp breath, opening her right hand while her arm extended out to the side, wrenching her eyes shut before she brought her palm across her own cheek in a single swift motion.

The sudden jolt did well for Teion to pull the pieces of herself that had scattered into the sand back together. She rose to her feet again, grasping at the handle of her scythe that had lay across from her, half-buried in the shifting sands, before she started back to Fortaleza.

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The safe zone was already in sight as he finally caught up to his broker. Once again the charge skill activated, and Aereth crashed into the mans frame, effectively tackling him to the ground. 

"Tell me who you are working for and I'm gonna spare you life." Aereth spat at the man under him as he pinned him to the ground with his right and prepared the <<All Might>> sword art on his left. The player was frightened beyond everything, and his smug and cocky attitude from when he was playing with Teion. He told Aereth everything. That the Laughing Coffin offered him a good amount of money and equipment if he would give them information about Aereth. 

Still driven by the adrenaline and hate that ran through his veins, Aereth spat. "You made one mistake. One little mistake that cost you. If it would have only been about me I might have spared you, but you stupid piece of trash had to drag her into it. I'm not going to let anything happen to her. Ever... In this world you can only trust yourself." with that Aereth brought back his fist, ignoring the pleas and insults his prey was throwing at him. "This is a cruel world..." the brunette added and his fist shot down...

Some minutes later in front of Teions shop:
"Purple, are you there? Let me in, its me." Aereth said as he knocked against the front door of her shop. And as soon as she would let him in, Aereth closed the door immediately. "Change the privacy settings of the shop so that nobody can enter, then switch off the light. Nobody needs to know we're here." the brunette ordered as he started to help her do so.

After they were done, Aereth sank to the ground and finally started to catch his breath. His wounds were slowly healing and he closed his eyes... "Seventeen..."

@Teion

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Teion sat at the bench, facing away from her drafting table with her elbows planted on her knees. Her fingers had weaved through the violet strands of hair as she held her head in her hands, just staring at the floor in front of her as she was overloaded. The strangers' grip hadn't left a lingering soreness or bruised her skin like she had experienced a couple of years ago. But the memories were so strong, burning into her mind, that she practically felt the vice grip still on her. Eventually though, those thoughts began to slowly subside. It was over, and she was inside of her shop in the safe zone of the city. But Aereth wasn't. He had disappeared into the night while he chased after the man that had acted as ringleader.

She wasn't keeping track of time. Whenever she glanced at the clock in the corner of her vision, she couldn't remember how much time had passed since the last time she had looked, or if the number had even changed at all. When a knock finally sounded at her door, Teion jumped to her feet, and the sound of the man's voice on the other side of the heavy oak door had her hurry to open it. Nothing compared to the wave of relief that washed over her when she saw Aereth's frame standing in front of her. The expression on his face, and the urgency of his next words, however, stifled her feelings and she wordlessly followed his instruction.

As the lights overhead went out, the inside of the smithy lingered in darkness before the soft glow of moonlight gently spilled in through the high windows. In the silence, Teion only heard the sound of her heart beating quickly in her chest. Her eyes fell upon Aereth. His avatar held onto the damage he had sustained during the fight, but the expression behind his closed eyes was even more pained, and the blacksmith felt a tightness in her chest as a result. She stood there for a few long moments, doubt filling her mind. The relief that she had felt minutes ago seemed as though it was trying to resurface. But it was drowning under a sea of other emotions as she stared at the man's face. There was something she wanted to do since he had returned--from the moment her eyes landed on him and she knew he was still alive. But once again, the walls around her heart protested yet again.

After several long seconds that felt as though they had dragged into minutes, Teion's jaw clenched. She was tired of the arguing. She was so tired of the battles that raged between her heart and mind. F*ck it. If she had any hope of getting out of this place, at least she could give herself something to fight for. Teion's legs carried her to where the brunette sat, drained and exhausted. She knelt down in front of him and leaned her body forward, slipping her hands past his shoulders. One of her hands slid across the nape of his neck and pressed its open palm just above his opposite shoulderblade, while the other ran its fingers through the hair at the back of his head. She pulled their bodies together, silently holding Aereth in a tight embrace while her heart pounded in her chest.

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Still having his eyes closed, he thought about how much he f*cked Purple over. Laughing Coffin knew that she has connections with him. Damn it. He pulled her into his war. And what for? Because it was giving him at least some piece while he was with her? Selfish... 

Suddenly he heard Teions steps drawing closer to him, and before he could open his eyes he felt her body pressing against his. He felt her palm against his shoulder and her fingers caressing the hair on the back of his head. Instinctively the brunette also wrapped his arms around her.

How good that felt. It was like all of his problems were just washed away with one touch. The tension in his body started to vanish and their hearts were beating as one. They just stayed like this for some long minutes. No words spoken, no movements done. For these few moments it was just Thea and Max, no problems no anything.

"You know.... I like you, Thea. I like you very very much, more than anybody else in this or the other world... And therefor you can't imagine how endlessly sorry I am for what happened to you. Because I came to you, they wanted to harm you. I can never forgive myself for that..." Aereth said as he gently buried his face into the crook of Teions neck. God why did it feel so good when she ran her fingers through his hair...

@Teion

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For a split second, Teion's heart felt like it had stopped beating. What would she do if he didn't have this same weird feeling? If he pushed her away? If he left again? As if in response, to quell all of Teion's doubts, she felt Aereth's arms wrap around her waist. She felt his hands against her back, returning her hold. They simply enjoyed the embrace in tandem, the rest of Aincrad seemingly nothing more than a blur for a short while. In that moment, Thea didn't want to trade that feeling for anything else in the world. The soft sound of Aereth's voice, sounding so close to her, eventually brought the woman back to reality. She didn't yet feel the heat that had formed in her cheeks at his confession, but the sad words that followed brought Teion to bite down on her bottom lip.

Guilt. Between the both of them, they probably had enough of it to drown in several times over. But something about his words stung her harder than she would have expected. Her hold on him tightened just slightly, her eyes slowly opening as she corner of her mouth turned up into a small, wry smirk. "If you regret even a single thing I swear I'll slap you harder than ever." Her voice was soft with their closeness, and unlike the other times she had teased and taunted the brunette, the words carried a gentler tone that diluted the threat. "...I was stupid, and reckless. Like I always am. I forgot for a minute that there are people in this world who just want to watch it burn." Almost subconciously, Teion's thumb ran itself over Aereth's hair, gently stroking the back of his head while she spoke. She froze up for a moment, however, when she came to the next stop on her train of thought. An answer. The light pink hue that had colored her cheeks returned, and the woman found her own chin lowering slightly, gently pressing against Aereth's neck in return. "And I...really like you too, Max." She mumbled out shyly.

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It was magical. The small joke about her hitting him even harder than usually managed to wash his sadness away and a small smirk formed on the brunettes face. "Then I really should shut up, since such a strong hit would surely finish me of in my current state." Aereth... No. Max said and also tightened the hold on the purple haired female. There was no Aereth and no Teion anymore just two young people, Thea and Max, appreciating the moment they had with each other. And Max was almost going crazy.

And it wasn't just the touch of the female that did this to him. The smell, the closeness, the connection they shared. It was everything so overwhelming. All those feelings he wasn't allowed to feel for so long. And when Thea finally told him that she also liked him, the small smirk from before transformed into a genuine smile. 

Max moved his head and upper body up into a straight position, also helping Thea to do the same. Once again, cobalt met brown and the two of the just looked into each others eyes. His left hand slowly wandered up from her back, gently over her neck before he carefully cupped her face with it. The time of lonely suffering was over. He too had earned some happiness in this virtual hell.

He closed his eyes and gently brought his and her forehead to meet each other. "If this is really so, then I will protect you with everything I have. If you are my princess then I shall become your knight.  I will make sure you make it out of here alive. And when this nightmare finally ends, I will look for you until I find you again." With that Max slowly opened his eyes. "So, Thea. Will you accept becoming my princess or will you decline." Their foreheads were still touching each other and their faces were just a couple of centimeters apart while Max asked her this question.

God damn it. He shouldn't have read so many romance novels in his free time.

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Thea felt the brunette gently pull away from the embrace, though his arms still lingered comfortably around her. Her own hands carefully slid with the short distance that was created between them, her right hand slipping down from his head to rest at the back of his neck while her arm lay across his shoulder. As the man's fingers trailed up the length of her back, she felt a chill that ran down her spine when his touch grazed the skin of her neck and settled around her cheek. With only the soft, pale moonlight spilling into the shop to illuminate her features, the woman's skin still held onto a soft pink tint at his closeness. She felt her heart skip a beat when she stared back into Max's eyes. Had she ever seen such an expression on his face? An aura of peace and serenity seemed to pair itself with the warm smile that decorated his lips.

He pulled her head forward, and Thea felt the warmth of his skin gently pressing up against hers as their foreheads met. His eyes were closed, but the woman couldn't stop herself from continuing to stare. Her cobalt blue eyes trailed over his features, lingering on the brunette's lips before he began to speak. His words took her aback: his promises, his vows encircling her just the same as his strong arms held her close. They filled her heart with a warmth that she wasn't sure she would ever feel again. Her breath nearly caught in her throat when Max's lids raised to lock his gaze with hers again. Her heart fluttered when he said her name, presenting her with a single question. But amongst the bliss that she found in this moment, why did she feel so...scared?

They were fighting again. Another man was pledging himself to her as he sat across from her in the stillness of her smithy, and her mind was trying to tell her not to make the same mistakes a second time. It was as if her mind was taunting her: 'Did you really think I would let someone in after what happened last time? Something bad will happen again.' Thea stared back into the man's deep brown eyes as the battle raged inside of her. 'Do you really think you can handle this? It won't be fair to him, you know.' Gods, how she just wanted it to stop. The bickering, the noise, screaming at her to fear this that she so badly wanted.

She tilted her chin forward, pulling Max's face closer with the hand against the man's neck, allowing the short distance between them to vanish. Her own eyes closed this time, and her lips slightly parted before they crashed into his. The voices finally stopped. All she was left with was this moment--this kiss that she held onto. Her hand slid upwards on its own, her fingers meeting the ends of his messy brown hair again as she rested her palm against the back of his head once more. Her lips lingered against his, simply taking in the overwhelming rush that surged through her for a few long moments until she slowly allowed them to part. The woman's cheeks were dusted with a deeper shade of pink, but she pulled her eyes open to look back into his. The corner of her mouth pulled up into a small smirk, as if she was working past the shyness. "I don't think I make a very good princess," She started, feeling her heart pounding in her chest. "but...yeah, I guess I could give it a shot." She forced her acceptance into the air between them.

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Peace. That was the word that would describe Max's current state of mind the best. He could just close his eyes and forget everything around him. It was as if Aincrad shrinkend down to just the one room of the smithy. Everything outside of hit didn't matter. They were safe, protected. Nobody could touch them at this moment. Nobody could take it away. It felt so good.

Especially when he suddenly felt the unmistakable sensation from the soft lips of Thea making contact with his own. It felt so f*cking amazing. His heart was starting to pick up in speed, his brain felt numb and he felt like he would explode. Aereth shifted his body and allowed them gently lie down flat on the floor, Thea on top, and as Thea broke the kiss, telling he she would give it at least a try, it was over. He simply made them switch positions in one swift movement catching her head with his left so it wouldn't hit the floor, and answered. "You are already the perfect princess. You are MY princess." And with that it was his turn to return the favor. His eyes closed and his head slowly closed the still short distance between them. Again their lips touched and the two of them shared their second kiss.

@Teion

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With a gentle pull, Teion's frame carefully fell forward. Her violet hair cascaded over her shoulders as she was lost in the moment. The unexpected movement as Aereth flipped their positions, however, caught her off-guard, and the woman's eyes went wide as she stared up at the man hovering inches above her face. She felt his hand gently holding the back of her head, her back pressed against the smooth stone floor of the smithy, her own arms resting across the backs of his shoulders. Her hair spilled out onto the ground beneath her, and Teion simply met Aereth's gaze in stunned silence.

If there was anything that would convince her that this wasn't all just some kind of bad dream, it was this moment. The feeling of Aereth's breath against her skin. The sound of his hushed voice as it reached her ears. The man before her was real, and so were these feelings that burned inside of her chest. Suddenly the space between them disappeared and another rush of excitement ran through her when their lips met again. Her lids slid closed and the woman eagerly returned the kiss, pressing back against his gentle lips while her right hand once again trailed up to the nape of his neck. Her heart raced, her cheeks felt hot, and she wished that this moment would last forever.

As their lips would inevitably part again, Teion's eyes fluttered open to meet Aereth's face hovering just above hers. Her breath caught in her throat as she tried to process the flood of emotion that rocked her core. And then, all at once, the reality of situation seemed to crash down around her. A sharp, unwelcome tightness suddenly gripped at her chest, and it felt as though every muscle in her body grew tense. Her figure froze up completely underneath the brunette, her wide eyes staring up at him with a new, conflicting emotion mixed into her gaze. With a deep shade of crimson stretching across the bridge of her nose, Teion's hands suddenly retreated, releasing her hold on Aereth as her arms pulled themselves in close to her chest, almost acting as a small new barrier between the two players. The breaths that slipped out from the space between her lips were shaking now, and the anxiety built until it was almost too much to bear. Teion simply lay there, shrinking beneath the man she had just confessed to. "S-sorry... I... I can't--" She managed to force out fractions of her thoughts in a strained whisper.

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And suddenly he woke up. Teion stirred and stiffened under him, breaking the kiss and retreating her hands to put it between them. Her beautiful cobalt colored eyes stared in shock at him and he suddenly felt the weight that had been lifted from his shoulders for just those couple of moments, crushing down on him again.

Teion was afraid. She didn't know what to do, how to act. And what was he doing anyways? Confessing to a girl that just lost her boyfriend over a month ago, kissing and telling her that he would keep her save and that he would get her out of this hell? Of course she was confused, frightened or whatever. 

"No... It's not your fault. I... I shouldn't." he stopped and began rise to his feet again. To be honest, now he was also afraid. And maybe hurt by the sudden rejection. She was the one to confess to him first. She kissed him first... He didn't understand...

Well. He did understand but.... But why did it hurt so much. "Aaaaargh." His head was about to explode when he just gave up. "I'm sorry. You should go to bed.... It's been a long day. Much happened." The brunette said as he slowly walked through the moonlit house to pick up the coat he had thrown away while turning off the light and closing the door...

@Teion

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The distance between them steadily increased as Aereth picked himself up and took a few steps away. Her left hand lifted itself to her lips, hovering over the surface of her skin as the feeling of their kiss still managed to linger. Her other arm moved to push herself up into a sitting position, her feet flat on the floor in front of her with her knees slightly bent. She was still struggling to recover, and even understand what had just happened. Her eyes trailed up along Aereth's form, and she could instantly see that he was troubled, frustrated, and confused. Her eyes widened again as she realized the consequences of her actions, and a suffocating wave of regret washed over her. He moved farther away, retrieving the cloak he had earlier discarded to the floor, and Teion felt a twinge of pain in her heart.

"Wait!" This time, she managed to force the word from her throat, though it left her more desperately than she had expected. The hand that had held itself over her chin dropped to her chest, her fingers loosely curled. While the panicked feeling that had overtaken her minutes ago had slowly begun to drain, a new anxiety rose up inside of her when Aereth would turn back to face her again. She met his eyes, and the mixture of emotions swirling behind them caused the blacksmith's heart to fall. Her mouth opened, but the words that she wanted to speak fought with each other, and she didn't know where to start. A long second passed, and only a breath of air had left her before her jaw closed, tightening as she grit her teeth in frustration. The woman's legs bent further, and her body leaned itself forward until her forehead collided with her knees. Her hands traveled up to either side of her head and she weaved her fingers through violet locks while she muttered a short string of curses under her breath.

After a few more seconds of silence had hung in the air between them, she opened her mouth again. "Can we talk?" She raised her voice enough that the brunette would be able to hear the muffled question. She pulled a breath of air into her lungs, holding it still for a moment before letting out a steady sigh. Her arms fell, crossing themselves over her knees while she picked her head up. Half of her face still hid away, her cobalt eyes staring over her forearms towards the door of her smithy. At least once, her gaze flickered back up towards Aereth, and after a long moment of hesitation the woman pulled her right arm to the side and gave the floor beside her a small pat. Even if her head was practically spinning, she still wanted the man near her. So, whether he accepted her invitation and took a seat beside her or not, she returned her arm to its previous position and wrapped it around her legs before she started to speak.

"I meant it. All of it." She said in a quiet voice, referring to both her confession and their passionate exchange afterwards. "I don't mean to give you mixed signals. I just--" She faltered for a second, as if she wasn't sure how to convey her thoughts. "If you hadn't noticed, I'm not great with people." If she didn't still have a heavy aura of uncertainty clouding her mind, she might have offered a smirk alongside the words. "It's...it's not about Beatbox. It's about me." She felt some kind of need to confirm that her confusing, unaffirmed feelings for the blonde swordsman weren't the source of her hesitation or fear. The grip on her legs tightened slightly, and she pulled her knees a couple of centimeters closer to her.

'It's not fair to him.' Her earlier thoughts, filled with doubt, echoed in her mind. 'You can't handle being close to someone. Even if you try, it will just end up the same.' It was scolding her now, kicking the girl while she was down for thinking she could get away with giving in to her selfish desires. As if it was so easy to suddenly tear down the walls that had been so meticulously built up over the past two years. 'You're broken. Do you honestly think he could accept that? Nobody wants your emotional baggage.' Her thoughts continued to torment her until she drew in a shaky breath and tried to speak over them. "If...that changes things, I get it." She couldn't mask the sullen tone that her words carried.

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He didn't know what to do. Should he leave? Should he stay? He was so confused. But suddenly Purple told him to wait. Her voice sounded desperate and conflicted. Aereth turned around and looked at her. He could clearly see how she was struggling to come up with something to say. Aereth had some good ears so he was able to hear some of the curses that came out of the mouth of Teion, which caused an almost non existent smile to grow on his face. Somehow he was relieved. She didn't want him to go, she wants him to stay. This caused some of the fear and bad feelings to leave his mind, and he simply replied with a nod as she asked him if they could talk. The brunette stored away the cloak and unequipped his armor, leaving him in only his casual clothes. He wasn't going anywhere today. So he walked over to her and took the seat to her right, she offered him some moments ago.

"I'm glad." he simply answered as she told him that she meant everything she said and did earlier. "But are you really sure that it doesn't have something to do with Beat... I mean it's only been a month since he passed away...." he heard himself say. "And I don't care if you're not great with people. I meant everything I said and did regardless of you being great with people or not. And I can understand you. We only know each other for like... A week and some days? I know that isn't much time to get to know each other. But that changes nothing. I WANT to know everything about you. Every little detail. And if it takes me months or years to get you to tell me, I can wait. I just don't want to be alone anymore..."

"You make me want to live..." he then added in a low voice.

@Teion

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