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The odd bunch of characters tossed together for the summer parted company for the evening. Tationy sat alone in the classroom sighing deeply. In her own little world she imaged things to be much different than they were. She had thought that she might end up with a bunch of people that would lower her already average social standing. Her hopes were picked up by the fact that some of the boys were both attractive, popular, and she was the only girl; A young school girl who was excited about what the summer might hold for her.

Now though she found herself alone and she realized quickly that it would not be as simple as her mind would like to tell her it is. She knew nothing about these boys and she was suppose too be here to help out for the summer. Being a teenage girl could be a daunting task when you are boy crazy and Tationy was no different than other girls her age.

She slid back from the desk, as she took a deep breath in and sighed again. She had worked up her courage to talk with the boys. Moving through the hallways of the home of Mr. Nakamaru she spied him in the kitchen making dinner.

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Mr. Nakamaru was gently humming as he prepared a nice Autumn Salad for dinner that evening. He had already planned out everything they would do that day from the very start of it to the very end. He was thus far impressed with the students he had picked. Certain that this was going to be an interesting summer he continued to hum.

“Is something wrong Tationy?” He asked from his spot at the counter where he was mixing a homemade dressing in a bowl.

“No, sorry I did not mean to interrupt you.”

“You are not interrupting.” He remarked though never took his eyes away from the task he was working on. He had a cool and gentle voice that was both comforting and frightening. Tationy had to wonder if this was how he was all the time. Was this the “inner” Atsuki Nakamaru? We all have a mask that we wear. The sides of us that people see and the ones that only those extremely close to us get to witness. At school Atsuki Nakamaru was a stern teacher. He often lectured and he was not kind to those that were truant.

His lectures tended to be long-winded and boring to the point that most of the class spent it doodling, passing notes, or sleeping. He rarely seemed to be passionate about any of the literature he talked about in the classroom. Tationy stared at the back of his head considering that maybe she should ask him if he needed any help when his words caused her to stiffen, “You should try and talk to them.”

Tationy relaxed the tension that traveled through her body. She wondered to herself if she was that obvious that he could tell that she was interested in getting to know the others. “Are you sure you would not like my help.”

“While I would appreciate it, I say this with no offense I will get more done without you in my kitchen.” He remarked.

Tationy simply nodded her head though it mattered none because he was not looking at her. “I will leave you to it.” She remarked. Mr. Nakamaru had not responded and Tationy walked away from the kitchen heading toward the door that would lead her outside.

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She peered around looking for Sadoo and Otoha. She spotted them working out and considered how she might approach them. Tationy felt like she had been standing there for a while watching them. She was not really into working out so it was not like she could walk over to them and join them. They would realize instantly that she was not the type of girl that exercised on a regular basis. She was certain it was a bad idea no matter how many different scenarios she came up with to approach them.

“Is she watching?” Sadoo asked Otoha.

Otoha simply grunted a reply which Sadoo knew meant yes.

“I don’t think she is like the baseball club groupies.” Sadoo added. He could read Otoha’s silence as the two of them continued to work out. “Mr. Nakamaru said that we could eat dinner wherever we want tonight, why don’t you, stick close to her. I have a feeling Abe will not be too far away and you know what he does to girls like her.”

Otoha’s reply was a moment where he stopped working out. His face had contorted slightly and he simply nodded his head to his oldest friend to let him know that he would in fact stick close to Tationy at dinner time.

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Tationy decided bothering them was going to be much too difficult so she moved toward the pool and stopped suddenly when she heard the martial arts cries of Taku. Her eyes scanned the area for him, but she caught sight of Chochi instead, relaxing near the pool.

His eyes locked onto her and she felt like a deer staring at the headlights of an approaching car. She could approach him, but he was Chochi Waichia. The rumors surrounding him alone would keep most people at arms-length. It seemed like an eternity as the two of them stared at each other.

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Tationy simply could not take it anymore and she prepared to turn to walk away, that was when she caught sight of Taku working out.

For a brief moment she let her eyes linger on the young man that usually was getting into trouble with Chochi Waichia. She had no idea that he was actually a trained fighter. She wondered how it was that someone that obviously devoted himself to the Martial Arts could become such an undisciplined ruffian. The image of that cute childlike face of his flashed into her mind and she told herself she should try to find out a little more about him. Though she decided it was much safer if she did it when Chochi was not around.

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Tationy turned on her heels and moved toward the house. She had no luck finding Abe and that just left Sohma. She told herself she should try to get to know him a bit better, but she gave up on the idea when she noticed he was reading.

She doubted that he would want to be interrupted. She spied a chair near a chess set and took a seat. She wondered if her friends had any fun today. They most certainly had gone to the beach. The first day of summer break was always the best and the beaches were always filled with visitors.

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Tationy got lost in her own thoughts a lot which allowed people to constantly sneak up on her and this evening was no different. Abe had been standing near her watching her for several minutes before she finally noticed him. It was a silent exchange and when Tationy went to speak her words were halted when Abe took a seat across from her.

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Abe pegged Tationy as a stupid girl the first moment he laid eyes on her. At school she was always hanging out with a small group of girls who were always eating candy and talking about boys. They were a loud and obnoxious bunch of girls, the type that you purposely tried to avoid because they were so irritating. The moment that he had seen her sitting near the chess table he was certain he was going to make a fool of her.

Inwardly he was already wearing a self-satisfied smirk. Abe was the type of guy that took great delight in being mean. Sadoo had often called him a sadist and he supposed that in some ways that might be true about himself, but Abe figured it was better for pathetic people to know their place. To him if you are inferior you should stay out of his way.

Abe was formulating the perfect thing to say, after all he expected her to tell him that she did not know how to play. Inside he chuckled at all the possible ways she would tell him and how he would most certainly belittle her. While he was doing that Tationy was carefully calculating all the possible opening moves he might make.

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When the chess match finally began Tationy was completely focused. Abe on the other hand had been surprised that even after he made his opening move that she had not told him she could not play. To him he could not imagine any possible scenario where a girl like her could play chess. Because of his arrogance he lost the first two matches to her.

After being defeated rather quickly in the first couple of matches Abe decided that he had made a mistake. It did not happen often. Abe was very good at reading people and because of that he was easily able to manipulate most of the people around him. This girl, Tationy Tylo, had managed to confuse his thinking. He had perceived her to be an air-headed groupie because that was the type of people she hung out with, but she had bested him, something that was not easily accomplished.

They had played four matches with Tationy winning the first two and Abe winning the second two. By the time they had finished their last match neither of them were satisfied.

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Tationy was not use to losing at chess and Abe was not use to being bested. The two were both frustrated with themselves and each other and had been about to go their separate ways when Atsuki announced that dinner was ready.

Atsuki along with Sohma, Sadoo, Taku, and Chochi disappeared to the patio. Abe had sat at the table in the dining room to eat. Tationy had been about to fallow the others to the patio, but decided she would sit with Abe. She figured it was the perfect opportunity to talk to him. She could start by telling him that she enjoyed the game of chess, though that was only partially true. She was still very much irritated with herself for losing to him twice.

She was staring deeply at her plate and turned her head to speak to Abe only to be struck speechless.

She stared at Otoha who was sitting right between her and Abe. When did he arrive and how did he go unnoticed? Otoha had been watching the situation closely as everyone gathered up their food and headed to the patio. When Tationy opted to stay in the dining room with Abe, Otoha knew that he had to make sure that the two of them were not left alone. Abe was a bad seed. He had always been trouble and Sadoo did not want to see anything happen to the somewhat awkward and ordinary girl.

Resigned that she would not get a moment to talk to Abe she decided it was just better for her to eat her meal in silence. Abe had not said anything to her during any of the chess matches and according to Sadoo’s introduction of Otoha, he was certainly not a talker. Tationy had sighed inwardly she experienced way too many losing battles when it came to talking to boys.

Abe and Otoha had disappeared from the kitchen after they finished eating leaving Tationy alone again. It was a recurring theme with her since she arrived and she was starting to feel a little left out being the only girl. She could hear a heavy discussion going on from the living room, comments such as pretentious and over-inflated ego being tossed around a lot. She was so curious to know what they were talking about she cleaned off her plate, placing it in the dishwasher, before heading to the living room.

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All of them were there, minus Taku. She wondered only briefly about him before she found the only empty seat near Abe. “The Exiled Prince was a great literary work.” Sohma argued.

“The Exiled Prince,” Tationy spoke, “Are you talking about the fairy tale?” After she asked she wished she could take it back.

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“The fairy tale is something mothers read to their children a morally ambiguous tale which is left to interpretation. We are talking about the great literary work by Jee Ishi. The one that, that bedtime story is based off of.” Sohma said. He had a snotty attitude and Tationy already did not like him.

“The bedtime story is a far more accurate representation.” Mr. Nakamaru remarked. “Jee Ishi is a distant relative of the adviser of the Emperor in that story. His entire view of the legend of the Exiled Prince is bias because his family was closely tied to it, thousands of years earlier.” Tationy had to keep from smirking she liked the fact that Mr. Nakamaru had gotten Sohma to stop talking.

Sadoo looked around at everyone several times before finally speaking up, “I have never read this book or heard the fairy tale, what is it about?”

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Tationy could not believe it. “Seriously you have never heard the tale of the Exiled Prince?” She asked with disbelief in her tone.

“I do not think it is a matter of him having not heard it. I think he has taken too many line drives to the head from batters wanting to take out the pitcher that he simply cannot remember.” Abe said and to everyone there they could practically see his devil horns and wings as he smiled innocently.

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“You’re a sick and twisted freak of nature Abe. You can sit there and pretend to be all innocent, but I have not taken one line drive to any part of my body since you left the team. Personally, you take much too much enjoyment out of making other people suffer you twisted nut.” Sadoo responded.

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Sadoo was ready for the conversation to continue, but silence befell the room as Abe locked eyes with Chochi who was practically glaring at him. It was a test of wills which ultimately Chochi would win after all even the most popular kids in school were afraid of him. Those that did not know the situation between Abe and Sadoo became more curious about what had transpired between them.

The silence had seemed to linger for a while before Sadoo asked, “So what is the story about?”

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Atsuki smiled ever so slightly, “It’s about a Prince named Tatsuya.” He remarked.

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“As the fairy tale goes, the seventeen year old prince of the great nation of the New Aslann Empire led his father’s army on a mission to kill the prince of another nation. During the siege of the castle, the foreign nation’s prince was discovered to be a child of no more than six years old. Prince Tatsuya knew that if he killed the prince the war would not end and it would only ignite more hatred between the two kingdoms.”

“Adviser Jin informed the young prince of the will of the Emperor, despite that Prince Tatsuya could not bring himself to kill the child prince. The young prince was relieved of his command and ordered to remain in their castle until it was decided what they would do with him.”

“The prince expected the worst. After all he had committed treason going against the word of the Divine Emperor.”

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“While the prince waited for what he ultimately believed would be his execution his most loyal guardians pledged their loyalty to him once again. They had been at his side since he was, but a new born infant. Their fates were all tied together, so no matter what happened to the prince they would also suffer.”

“The Emperor loved the prince greatly. So much so that he was unwilling to kill him despite his adviser’s warnings. So the prince was exiled and forced to leave his homeland behind. He and his guardians had only departed the kingdom a few months prior when they soon realized that they were being pursued.”

“The Adviser Jin, who had the ear of the Emperor, convinced him that exiling the prince could do more harm to the New Aslann Empire. If their enemies were to get their hands on Prince Tatsuya they could easily use him against the Emperor. It was a weakness they could not afford. Logically, it was probably the right decision, but as far as the Emperor goes, he did not want to kill his son so he left it in the hands of his Adviser Jin.”

“One thousand men were sent after the seven guardians and the prince. Prince Tatsuya felt that it was best to turn themselves over to the army. That it was his father will.”

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“The leader of the guardians argued that his fathers will was to exile him and that he could not see the Divine Emperor going against his word. He was certain that this had to do with the Adviser Jin. He argued that this was not the will of the Emperor and that they could not obey this order from the Prince. Their sole purpose was to protect him, from the moment he was born from all enemies that wished to do him harm. When they were exiled they were cast out of their homeland, no longer the prince and guardians of the New Aslann Empire. They were just men and as men they were not going to allow the person they pledged their allegiance to be killed.”

“The prince told them it was not up for discussion unfortunately for him his guardians had other things in mind.”

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“The most brutal warrior of the seven guardians spoke to the young prince. He did not pledge to protect him. He said his only desire was to go on a rampage so great that the aftermath would scar the lands for an eternity. This was the type of man he was. He loved battle and he took the position of a guardian simply because he knew that this prince would be surrounded by war.”

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“The once legendary general of the Emperor’s army became one of the seven guardians when war and battle became too much for him. He could not see being a part of a war and not having anything to protect. He was disheartened as a General and promised the Emperor that he would protect the prince with his last breath. No matter where it took him. No matter what hardships he suffered. He would gladly pull his sword to protect the life of the young prince. He was not an elegant talker. He did not flower his words unnecessarily. You are my prince. My life means nothing if you die were the only words he spoke.”

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“A mute master of the duel sword technique, who was a former assassin and bodyguard for the Emperor, became one of the seven guardians when the legendary general stepped down from his position. Before that moment he had never considered being anything, but a killer. He had never wanted to protect anything. He simply did as he was told. Unable to speak he simply bowed his head to the prince. It was all he could do to say that he would protect his master with all of the power that he had.”

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“A brilliant military mind who had become a guardian when he was about the prince’s age. He was genius at all things war. Trained in both sword and spear he was a formidable opponent mostly because he usually had the enemy beaten long before the battle had even begun. Our survival is unlikely, but my spear will hold back all enemies in our path were his only words to the prince.”

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“One of the seven guardians carried no weapons because his fist, were far more dangerous than any sword or spear. He had smiled briefly, it was both friendly and innocent and it brought great comfort to those around him. His words were simple, when we finish this battle I expect zagyga. It was a dessert much favored in the New Aslann Empire at the time.”

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“The last of the seven guardians was the greatest swordsmen in all of the New Aslann Empire. He was a man that had a good sense of humor yet kept everything about himself a secret even from his allies. He was a sadist that took great delight in torturing his enemies. It did not matter how he did it or with what he looked forward to the taste and smell of fear. His gaze upon the young prince was stern as he spoke, my prince would not lay down his sword and be taken.

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“The thin, pale prince with two different color eyes bowed his head to his guardians briefly before raising it and speaking to them. Forgive my weakness. I simply do not wish to see the people I care about suffer because of me. My words mean nothing at this moment because you are men that are capable of making your own decisions and I thank you for being my guardians.”

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“With the decision made they moved through the bamboo forest. Praying they made it out in time before the pursuing army caught up to them. Unfortunately for them, they would not make it to the sea before the army surrounded them.”

“The seven guardians and the prince readied their weapons to face the army that was sent to kill them. The greatest warriors, that the New Aslann Empire had ever seen, slayed enemy after enemy. Their prince however suffered a wound to the back and fell before them. Prince Tatsuya was struggling to live and they continued to fight and protect their prince.”

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“As the fairy tale goes, they escaped managing to make it to the sea were they stowed away aboard a ship destined for a foreign land.”

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Mr. Nakamaru had finished telling the story of the Exiled Prince. “There are many versions of it, but that is the most common one, usually told to young children as a bedtime story. It is considerably different then the historical books on the matter, but I believe it is the one that most closely resembles what actually transpired.”

“That was amazing.” Sadoo remarked. “What happened to them after they stowed away? Is there more to the story?” He questioned.

“Certainly, but it is getting late and we have an early day tomorrow.” Mr. Nakamaru remarked as he stood up and stretched. “Perhaps tomorrow I will tell you more if you like, but for now, you should all head off to bed.”

Universal groans, but eventually everyone departed to their rooms to get some sleep for the night.

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Mr. Nakamaru had checked in on all of the students except for Tationy, he asked Abe to do so before he headed off to bed. Abe was to share a room with Chochi and Mr. Nakamaru and once Abe had departed the room Mr. Nakamaru laid himself down upon his bed and closed his eyes for, but a moment. He knew he could not sleep yet, he still needed to remove his glasses and wished to wait until he knew all the kids were in bed.

“You went all out this time Atsuki. I have not heard you tell the story that passionately in many years.”

Atsuki opened his eyes as he slid one of his hands underneath his pillow. The man who was a teacher at Aslann High School smiled ever so slightly before allowing it to fade his mind remembering a different time. “I think this time is different Chochi. I have a good feeling we have truly found the other guardians and the prince.”

“You have been wrong before and I do not think I can continue doing this for another thousand years. Each time we get close we die before we unite them. You know the Ishi Clan will not allow the prince and his guardians to unite. How many times must we be reborn only to die again?”

“I am sorry for that, but this time it will be different Chochi. I know you felt it too that day when she ran into you in the hallway. That feeling so strong that you knew that you had to protect her. Taku feels it as well. I have never seen him train as hard as he is now It has been almost two years since she has come to Aslann….” His voice trailed off.

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Chochi closed his eyes for, but a moment, “If we are going to protect her we need the others to remember. It is not enough for just the three of us to know. Our strength is not limitless and we are still mortal no matter how many times we are reborn.”

“I understand.”

“I don’t think pushing Abe and Tationy together is a wise decision. You know what happened last time.”

“It was an unfortunate event, there was no way I could have known that the previous Abe enjoyed torturing and killing women.”

“Abe has not changed no matter how many times he is reincarnated. He is and will always be a sick and twisted creep. I may enjoy beating people within an inch of their lives, but that man gets off on it.”

“Abe was the teacher of our prince. Their connection was strong. It needs to be strong again or neither of them will ever remember who they are. Your unhappiness with this is not because he is how he is. You are upset because of how you feel for her. Those feelings do not go away no matter how many times you are reborn, Chochi. It is the price you pay for having a mind so strong that you do not lose your memories. You are lucky being able to retain them. The others, each time they die they are reborn with no memories of who they were. They lose the friendships, the connections, the stories, and they have to rebuild it all over again.”

Chochi rolled over to his side facing away from Atsuki. It was his way of saying that the conversation was pretty much finished, “If he hurts her, I will kill him. You will not stop me this time.” Chochi remarked.

Atsuki sighed, “I understand.” It was the end of their conversation. Atsuki knew there was nothing more to say on the matter after all he knew Chochi well enough to know that he meant exactly what he said. There was no force in the world, no army strong enough to stop Chochi if he so desired to kill someone.

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Tationy was ready for bed though not entirely tired. She was primping in the mirror as she considered the events of the day, but her mind kept focusing in on Mr. Nakamaru and how passionately he told the tale of the Exiled Prince. Her mother had never told the story with such emotion. She smiled thinking that if Mr. Nakamaru had spoken like that in class she may have paid attention a lot more.

Tationy closed her eyes. It was something she did every night as she thought about all the wonderful things that had happened to her that day. Considering how the day went she was not expecting to have any, but her mind flashed with images of all the moments from talking with Mr. Nakamaru near the kitchen to the silent stare down with Chochi. Every little thing her mind registered as being a wonderful moment and she could not help, but smile.

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When she opened her eyes to look at herself in the mirror again there was another face looking back at her and a hand reaching out to grab her on the shoulder. She practically jumped out of her own skin as her hands went up in the air in a display of surprise as a small scream left her mouth.

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Her heart was pounding so hard and fast as she whipped around. Her scared expression had quickly changed to a tightened jaw and a look that would tell anyone that she was not happy at all. “Don’t you knock?” She asked, but did not give him a chance to respond, “Who do you think you are scaring a person like that, not to mention just barging in without being invited. You nearly got your head knocked off your shoulders.” She was obviously angry and Abe stared at her as his heart pounded wildly. No girl had ever yelled at him before.

He did not understand it as she continued to lecture him on scaring her and how he was in the wrong. He had knocked. He did not even try to defend himself by telling her he had indeed knocked on the door several times before entering. Mr. Nakamaru wanted him to check on her so he had originally only intended on peeking slightly just to make sure she was okay, but then he seen her standing there with her eyes closed. She was in front of the mirror and he could not help, but try to figure out what she was doing.

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As he stared at her she continued to yell at him. He did not know her. He had always seen her around with those annoying girls, but it was not like he had ever talked to her. Her reaction amazed him and her words about nearly knocking his head off kept repeating over and over in his mind. She had stopped talking and simply stared at him. He knew she was waiting for a response, some sort of explanation. The defiant part of him told him that he did not need to give her one, but his mouth opened before he could stop himself.

“I am sorry. Mr. Nakamura wanted me to check on you to make sure you were alright. I knocked, but you did not answer so I had only intended on opening the door, but…” His voice trailed off. He could not believe it he had just apologized to her. Abe had never apologized to anyone ever in his life. That was not something he did and he was confused as to why he would start now.

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Tationy took in his explanation and it dawned on her much too late that she just laid into the most popular guy at school. She suddenly felt sick to her stomach. She bowed her head, “I am sorry.”

Again she surprised him. She had surprised him earlier that day when she beat him twice at chess, then again when she laid into him after he had scared her. The third time as she bowed her head to him he stared at her in wonderment trying to figure her out. It was the first time he had ever wanted to ask someone a question, but he kept himself from doing so. “I should go to bed. Goodnight.” He said as he slipped out of the room as quickly as he could.

He leaned against the wall after the door closed unable to comprehend what had just happened. He had never been so frustrated, irritated, and confused by one person before and it was the first time in a long time that he felt challenged. Abe pushed away from the wall and took several steps toward the stairs that would lead him up to the room he was sharing with Mr. Nakamaru and Chochi. This day for him had been unexpectedly a surprise and for the first time ever in his life he was curious about what tomorrow would bring.

To Be Continued

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