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    Chapter 88

    The Taoists of Xin Nan Association were in a daze, but Zhang Pang was even more confused. Only Wei Xi seemed to understand something and nodded thoughtfully.

    No wonder the Black Impermanence had taken so long to meet up – he had been busy fighting corruption at the City God Office of Xin Nan.

    With the top leader from Fengdu personally tackling corruption, it was unnecessary to elaborate on the panic that ensued at the Xin Nan City God Office. The speed at which the Underworld Messengers extinguished the burning joss paper and incense clearly indicated their haste. As they watched the burning offerings being snuffed out, they mourned inwardly and couldn't help but be annoyed with Zhang Pang.

    The previous night, the Black Impermanence had suddenly appeared at the local City God Office without any prior notice, leaving the local City God so startled that he hadn't even had time to count the offerings from his followers before hastily summoning his trusted subordinates to handle the reception. However, before they could even serve the welcoming banquet, they were scolded relentlessly by the top leader. After reprimanding the City God, the leader then summoned the Land Deities from various districts of Xin Nan to receive a similar dressing down. All the Underworld Messengers in the City God Office trembled with fear, only to later learn that their fellow messenger had been caught taking unauthorized income from the City God Office in the capital! And to make matters worse, the top leader from Fengdu had arrived in the capital just in time to catch him red-handed.

    How could they endure such humiliation beyond their own province?

    After being berated by the top leader, the City God and Land Deities naturally took out their frustrations on their subordinates. Thus, these Underworld Messengers were scolded like children late into the night. With this incident, there was no hope for the Xin Nan City God Office to receive a good evaluation at the end of the year in Fengdu. A poor evaluation would affect their salaries and benefits, but more importantly, if word of this disgraceful act spread, other City God Offices might ridicule them.

    Everyone in Xin Nan, from the City God to the Underworld Messengers, felt ashamed.

    The cause of the issue wasn't difficult to trace. The messenger who was brought back by the top leader had been stripped of his position, utterly devastated after losing the job he had worked hard to obtain. Whatever he was asked, he spilled everything, and everyone knew that the trouble started with the Sect Master of the Self-Cultivation Sect! When the City God investigated, he nearly fainted with anger. The salaries at the City God Office weren't high, so accepting some extra income on the side was an unspoken perk for all. Both the Underworld Messengers and the City God himself indulged in such activities, as long as no one complained. It was a gray income! What did 'gray income' mean? It meant keeping a low profile! But the Self-Cultivation Sect had to go and make a big fuss about their dealings, making it known to everyone. Even the human cultivators in the mortal realm knew that they had connections within the City God Office. How was the City God Office supposed to maintain its credibility in the industry?

    At this point, an investigation was inevitable. A special task force was swiftly formed, plunging the entire Xin Nan City God Office into a period of strict crackdown. Not only were the caught messengers affected, but the financial prospects of their colleagues were also severed. Who wouldn't be angry?

    The Underworld Messengers, fueled with anger, carried out their task relentlessly. They treated Zhang Pang with utter impartiality, even taking out their law enforcement records to document the case, determined to expose all the other malevolent ghosts in the area who had conspired with him.

    From a distance, the Taoist priests watched as if in a dream, mesmerized by the scene of Zhang Pang being interrogated about his accomplices. They felt that this exorcism ritual was unprecedented and historical.

    One of the Messengers kept stealing glances at Wei Xi while questioning Zhang Pang. This was the Director Wei who had caused a huge commotion...

    Zhang Pang found himself in an unparalleled predicament. The betrayal of the Yin soldiers didn't bring him such despair. His anxious disciple asked, "M-Master, what should we do now? The collaboration between the Yin and Yang realms for law enforcement means we're facing a severe crackdown!"

    Zhang Pang suddenly turned his sharp gaze upon the young disciple, causing Little Fatty's hair to stand on end. "M-Master?"

    Zhang Pang suddenly smiled, looking at him gently. "Meng Xiaoming, I've raised you for so many years, and among all my disciples, haven't I always treated you the best?"

    This was undeniably true, and Little Fatty nodded in trustful agreement.

    Satisfied, Zhang Pang asked, "Are you willing to risk your life for Master today?"

    The last thick smoke from the extinguished incense in front of them rose, and while maintaining their stern demeanor, the nearby Messengers secretly took in deeper breaths. Little Fatty, overwhelmed by the fumes, paused for a moment before quickly shaking his head. "N-No, not really."

    Zhang Pang: "..."


    Zhang Pang's smile faded slightly. The Daoist masters ahead sensed something and, after coming back to their senses, couldn't believe he still refused to accept his fate. "Zhang Pang, you have nowhere left to run!"

    Despite the falling out, the law-enforcing Underworld Messengers, who had previously worked with him, felt a twinge of guilt. "I've heard that you've organized an evil cult, causing great harm. All the world under the heavens belongs to the emperor. Now that we're under scrutiny, we have to cooperate with the arrest operation. You can't escape, so it would be better for you to submit to the judgment of the mortal government."

    Zhang Pang sneered. "All the world under the heavens belongs to the emperor? What kind of joke is this? You can take care of your own territory, but how could you possibly extend your reach to America?"

    The Underworld Messengers: "…"

    The Daoist masters: "…"

    This was Wei Xi's first time dealing with such a national topic, leaving him somewhat bewildered. "Doesn't America fall under our jurisdiction?"

    Surprisingly, upon hearing this, the Daoist masters subconsciously pondered the matter. After a long while, they concluded, "Religion is indeed different. They mostly believe in God..."

    United Righteousness was shocked. "The country has been promoting globalization and overseas aid for years, and now there are embassies. Has the Underworld Bureau never established diplomatic relations with them?"

    One of the Underworld Messengers, holding the chains, stammered, "I... I don't think our leaders have ever mentioned it before."

    Zhang Pang took two steps back upon hearing this, staring coldly at the astonished opponents before him. His voice turned jovial as he said, "Did you expect this? Since I knew you were coming, I prepared a way out for myself early on. I've transferred my overseas assets and even contacted lawyers to apply for political asylum. Now that I have all the necessary passports and visas, I don't believe your group of poor Taoist priests has the power to stop me from leaving the country."

    The impoverished Taoists present admitted that they indeed hadn't expected this. Monks usually lived simple lives, rarely traveling abroad. Who would have thought that cult leaders could be so wealthy, able to migrate to America on a whim and possess overseas assets?

    Wei Xi couldn't help but show his envy. This fellow practitioner seemed to be faring much better than the Taoist priests around him, making him a role model to aspire to.

    However, the situation called for the Taoist priests to put up a fight. One of them challenged Zhang Pang, "You won't escape."

    Zhang Pang remained incredibly calm, befitting his background in multi-level marketing. Despite being surrounded, he remained unflustered, asking, "How do you know I can't escape?"

    Having said that, he bent down to take hold of the trembling Little Fatty's arm, speaking in a gentle tone, "Xiaoming, even if you're unwilling, you'll have no choice this time."

    Little Fatty stared at him blankly, tears sliding down his cheeks as he spoke cautiously, "Master, please... don't scare me..."

    A smile played on Zhang Pang's face, but his gaze was particularly cold as he looked at the boy. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, he found the strength to lift the plump figure entirely off the ground and, before anyone could react, pushed him forcefully towards the crowd.

    The Taoist priests were quite perplexed; what use could this weeping little fatty be? Zhang Pang then shouted, "Lucky! Come here!"

    Among the mourners, the slender, tall figure glanced at him, paused, seemingly aware of what was about to happen. As he saw Little Fatty stumbling while calling him "Senior Brother," uncertainty flickered across his face.

    Zhang Pang frowned upon the sight. "Lu Qing!"

    The lanky figure gritted his teeth and finally got up. Since the Taicang Sect members were not nearby, he slithered away from the Daoist priests like an eel, then crawled and rolled towards Zhang Pang. Everyone chased after him.

    However, Zhang Pang was incredibly quick. He swiftly drew a knife and slashed his own arm fiercely. Then, he grabbed the lanky man's hand and cut his middle finger. By then, the Daoist priests had reached his side and pinned him to the ground. His blood splattered uncontrollably across the floor. Wei Xi was about to approach but felt a sudden weight on his shoulder, nearly lifting him off his feet.

    Straightening up, he looked up to see his second disciple staring at him with a grave expression. "Don't go over there!"

    Wei Xi froze, his gaze turning to the crowd. He suddenly realized something.

    Zhang Pang's blood had splashed onto the ground behind the incense table where he stood, revealing an engraved pattern! The blood swiftly spread into several streams, causing a momentary blur before stirring an inexplicable agitation within him.

    It was as if the scent of blood had suddenly hit his nostrils, igniting an insatiable appetite and a subtle surge of killing intent deep within him. With so many living humans around... He involuntarily opened his mouth. Noticing his change, Unity Yi exclaimed in shock, "Master, why are your eyes red?!"

    But this voice sounded distant to Wei Xi, almost inaudible.

    Fortunately, just then, a warm sensation covered his face, blocking his wide-eyed gaze.

    The second disciple's arm trembled slightly, seemingly suppressing something, the veins bulging on his arm. Yet, the soothing scent and steady voice remained the same, "Close your eyes. Don't look."

    That voice echoed in Wei Xi's ears. In the darkness, he reached out to grasp his thin but sturdy disciple's wrist. The touch of a few distinct scars made him instinctively comply without much thought. After closing his eyes, the boiling killing intent within him gradually subsided. At that moment, the Taoist priests in the distance suddenly cried out in alarm, followed by Little Fatty's shrill wails—

    "My master! It hurts! It hurts!"

    His mind instantly cleared. Turning towards the source of the sound, he saw Little Fatty, who had been discarded, stubbornly return to Zhang Pang's side. Now, he seemed to be enduring unbearable torment, clutching at his chest as he rolled on the ground.

    As his cries continued, they unexpectedly transformed, becoming short and sharp like the mournful howl of a wild beast.

    In the next instant, a loud crash echoed throughout the area. The incense table that Zhang Pang had placed earlier was swept away, filling the air with dust. Amidst the haze, what replaced the rolling Little Fatty was a colossal creature.

    This massive entity was sprawled over Zhang Pang's blood, desperately wriggling and crawling. It bore a turtle-like appearance with its long limbs and head protruding from a tortoise shell. However, its head and tail were serpentine, elongated and winding.

    It was so enormous that it was astonishing, its piercing screams deafening. Its thrashing movements were overwhelming, a sweep of its tail effortlessly snapping a thick tree trunk in two. Despite its immense destructive power, its existence was even more incredulous. The Taoist priests on site recognized its distinctive form, exclaiming in disbelief, "Xuanwu?!"

    Tuanyi, an outsider, was somewhat stunned, "Xuanwu? As in the Xuanwu of Azure Dragon and Vermilion Bird? Isn't this a divine beast worshiped by Taoists? Wait, aren't these divine beasts just mythical creatures? They actually exist?!"

    Wei Xi, unable to see the blood, had regained clarity in his mind. He looked at the chaos ahead with some confusion. He wasn't well-versed in such matters, but his second disciple, who had been protecting him, seemed to know something. His tone was terse, "They've always existed. They just vanished over a hundred years ago."

    Over a hundred years? Wei Xi was unexpectedly sensitive to this number, and Unity also felt curious. "Over a hundred years ago? Why did it disappear back then?"

    Wei Xi turned to look at his second disciple, who was also gazing at him with a calm and profound expression. "You want to know?"

    Wei Xi nodded, but his second disciple seemed reluctant to answer. Instead, he brushed the hair from Wei Xi's forehead, as he had done before, and murmured thoughtfully, "I thought that this group of spirit beasts should have gone extinct long ago. I didn't expect that one would survive, likely due to the Great Barren Sealing Array on Jade Succession Mountain."

    Over a hundred years, the simplified sealing array was clearly set up in haste. It was more like a protective measure than an actual seal. Exposed to the elements and with an unstable foundation, its effectiveness had waned significantly over time.

    Yet, this very evasion allowed it to survive but also resulted in the loss of its inherited memories. No wonder a dilettante like Zhang Pang had managed to take it under his wing.

    Almost as if he could see through time, he envisioned the scene from the past - the moment before Heaven's Dao collapsed, when countless believers transported a dying Black Tortoise to this location and hastily concealed its presence from the Heavenly Dao.

    Given the case with Black Tortoise, what about Wei Xi?

    Despite having lost a substantial amount of blood, Zhang Pang showed no signs of distress; instead, he was bizarrely pleased with the chaos unfolding around him. Ignoring the giant tortoise-snake writhing in agony within his summoning circle, he swiftly bandaged his wounds and rose to make his escape. Spotting his lanky apprentice frozen in place, he grumbled impatiently, "Lu Qing!"

    The lanky figure snapped out of his trance, fell silent for a moment, then still clutching his aching hand, followed the other man.

    The Taoist masters present, upon seeing him attempt to flee, all panicked and shouted, "Stop right there!"

    However, chaos reigned on the scene. The crazed Black Tortoise, appearing out of nowhere, had disrupted everyone's plans. No one could get past it to subdue Zhang Pang. Zhang Pang was well aware of his advantage. Before he left, his pale face broke into a smile. "Come find me when you can control it."

    The tide of battle immediately turned. The Taoist masters' faces showed despair. Not only was this a divine beast revered in their system, but they dared not act rashly against it. Even if they did, the massive, irrational turtle's swishing tail was a weapon of great destructive power. What magic could they possibly use against it? !

    Seeing their predicament, Zhang Pang's smile widened. Amidst the shrill cries, a faint rustling sound suddenly reached his ears.

    Thud, thud, thud.

    The dull sounds of something piercing flesh echoed. After a few repetitions, the Black Tortoise's gut-wrenching screams began to fade, and the frequency of its tail swishing grew sluggish and slow.

    Both sides of the conflict were stunned. Everyone, including Zhang Pang, sensed that something was amiss. Gradually, their gazes shifted towards the Taicang Sect.

    Wei Xi looked down and asked, "What are you doing?"

    Doggie, crouching at his feet, held a strange tube in one hand and what resembled a syringe in the other. He lifted his head, looking dazed. "Boss, this is the dog tranquilizer I got from the dog thief the other day. I wanted to see if it works."

    As he spoke, he loaded another syringe into the tube and held it up to his eye, pulling the trigger.

    The syringe shot out of the tube, piercing the Black Tortoise's tail, which had swept too close. Everyone focused their eyes and realized that the tail was already embedded with a row of dense tranquilizer needles.

    Everyone: "…"

    This dosage was enough to knock out an entire herd of elephants. Eventually, the frenzied Black Tortoise couldn't hold on any longer and succumbed to the final injection. It closed its eyes, its limbs, head, and tail all limp and unconscious.

    The scene fell silent.

    Dog Egg: "It really works! No wonder none of those brothers who were targeted managed to escape. Those dog thieves really deserve divine retribution!"

    Everyone: "…………………………"

    Zhang Pang, who was just about to make a run for it: "…………………………"


    The Daoist priests felt perplexed. Yes, why did their minds keep going back to Daoist spells when they should be thinking about modern technology? Anesthetic was far more effective than lightning talismans in this day and age.

    Reacting swiftly, the crowd pinned Zhang Pang and his disciple to the ground as they grappled with their newfound doubts. With no way out, Zhang Pang yelled in disbelief, "How is this possible?! How could this be?!"

    He had stumbled upon this Black Tortoise by chance in the mountains. It carried a auspicious aura that brought him increasing fortune day by day. After taking it under his wing, it had become his secret weapon – an ace up his sleeve that he had never revealed. How could it have been taken down so easily?!!

    The Daoist community's revered mystical beasts being felled by a thief's tranquilizer gun had left the scene's Daoists in a sour mood. However, they all quickly accepted this reality when faced with Zhang Pang. An injured young Daoist, filled with rage, punched and kicked him while cursing, "Despite your background in pyramid schemes, I never expected you to be so stubborn. You could have migrated to America, yet you still haven't grasped the concept that technology changes the world!"

    Zhang Pang: "............"

    Wei Xi, upon hearing this, seemed to gain some insight. He patted Dog Egg, who was gazing up at him with teary eyes, and praised, "Well done."

    He hadn't expected technology to be so useful. It seemed that his sect's methods needed to evolve in the future.

    Enviously eyeing the massive Black Tortoise, he took a step closer.

    Suddenly, his arm was tugged, and he turned to see that his second disciple, who had been silent since Dog Egg produced the tranquilizer gun, now wore a rapidly shifting expression. The disciple glanced alternately between the wild dog demon, the Black Tortoise, and finally, Wei Xi, with veins throbbing on his forehead.

    After a long moment, he spoke, "...You can't eat this. It's been tranquilized."


    Taking advantage of the opportunity when no one was looking, Wei Xi stealthily took a bite. However, as soon as he bit the tip of the tail, his tongue began to tingle, making him realize that his disciple was right. Reluctantly, he gave up his craving.

    Perhaps due to the loss of consciousness, the massive snake-turtle's form gradually blurred until it returned to its original human shape, collapsing onto the bloodied mess it had caused during its struggle.

    In the midst of the chaotic scene, no one noticed Wei Xi's indulgence. After spitting out the blood that had numbed his tongue, he approached the group of fellow daoists, only to discover that they had already retrieved the artifact containing Xu Xiaofeng's soul from the dazed Zhang Pang.

    It was then that he remembered, "Ah, yes! We're here to rescue Fellow Daoist Xu!"

    Kuang Zhiming: "..."

    The other daoist masters also: "..."

    Indeed, they were originally on a mission to save Xu Xiaofeng. Yet, along the way, they had unintentionally witnessed so many extraordinary historical events.

    Looking back, they saw Little Fatty's clothes torn, his plump figure lying on the ground in a white blur, seemingly fast asleep. Perhaps feeling cold, he curled up, with a cluster of dog-thief needles piercing his upturned bottom.

    The thought of his true form and the reason for his defeat overwhelmed the Taoists, forcing them to avert their eyes. "Fellow Daoist Kuang, please check on the condition of your wife first."

    Kuang Zhiming nodded hastily and began performing a ritual to summon Xu Xiaofeng's soul. After a long while, a faint apparition of Xu Xiaofeng started to materialize before their eyes, still indistinct and hazy.

    The crowd grew anxious. "Her soul has been separated from her body for too long and confined within a magical artifact. It might be in a daze now. Fellow Daoist Kuang, you must find a way to rouse her!"

    Seeing this, Kuang Zhiming gritted his teeth, stood up solemnly, and began reaching for something on his person.

    The atmosphere among the crowd became serious, expecting him to pull out some talisman or magical artifact. Some even stepped back to avoid any potential fallout.

    To everyone's surprise, Kuang Zhiming withdrew his hand from his pocket, revealing a smartphone clasped between his fingers!

    "Xiaofeng!" He scrolled through a page and held it directly in front of his wife, shouting, "Look at this!"

    Someone focused on the screen and saw that it was a promotional message from a brand: In celebration of Spring Festival, all winter clothing, including new arrivals, were now starting at 20% off.

    The surrounding Daoist priests: "...."


    While descending the mountain, they received a call from Beijing, informing them that Xu Xiaofeng, who had been in a coma, had awoken. Kuang Zhiming shed tears on the spot and gestured that he wanted to speak to his wife.

    Xu Xiaofeng's voice was weak but filled with urgency. "...Zhiming, my XX brand coat... It really only cost one thousand, I bought it during a sale..."

    The Daoist priests: "...."

    It seemed that her body still had some consciousness while her soul was detached, and she had overheard their discussion about her spending habits that night. At this moment, Kuang Zhiming didn't think about anything else. If his wife could wake up, what more could he ask for? To a practitioner of Daoism, wealth was ultimately just an extrinsic possession.

    The couple wept bitterly over the phone, while Xin Nan's local police had already arrived and were dispersing the crowd of tourists who had gathered on the mountain road out of curiosity. Even the quicker media outlets had rushed to the scene.

    Upon seeing a group of Taoist priests emerge, the tourists stirred and whispered among themselves:

    "Did they cause that huge commotion in the mountains just now?"

    "Maybe they were poaching wildlife?"

    The journalists also observed the Taoist masters with intrigued expressions, noting the bloodstains on many of their clothes, suggesting they had just been through a fierce battle. They suspected that a gunfight might have taken place within Yucheng Mountain.

    A police officer approached and asked, "Venerable Masters, that howling sound that came from deep in the mountains earlier was...?"

    Silence fell among the group as their gazes involuntarily landed on the little fatty, now clothed, who was lying on the back of one of the Taoist priests. "It was nothing much, just an unexpected incident during the apprehension of a cult leader."

    They had accidentally captured their own sect's divine beast.

    The Taoist priest carrying the little fatty was particularly excited at this moment, despite the awkwardness of the situation. He couldn't believe that he was actually carrying their sacred beast on his back!

    However, his joy lasted only a few minutes before he heard the police officer's eyes gleam as he stared at the creature on his back. "Isn't this one of the Cult of Self-Cultivation's evil followers?! Master, please hand him over to us. We'll immediately take him to the station for interrogation and ensure strict punishment according to the law!"

    As the anesthesia wore off, Little Fatty had started to regain consciousness. Hearing this, he blinked back tears, seemingly unsure if he remembered what had just happened. Regardless, he returned to his harmless state and confessed, "I... I admit my guilt..."

    The Taoist masters: "...."

    They watched in silence as their law-breaking divine beast was carried away on a stretcher by the police. They didn't know how to react. After a while, one of them wept, "Heretics harm people!"

    A perfectly innocent Black Tortoise had been arrested and would now have a criminal record, unable to obtain a clean slate.

    The master-disciple pair faced even more hostility. Zhang Pang appeared indifferent, his face pale as he sneered coldly until the little fatty on the stretcher turned to look at him.

    Tears streaming down his face, Little Fatty opened his mouth, trying to speak. After a long moment, he whimpered softly, "Master, it hurts so much..."

    Zhang Pang's expression changed, turning grim. Their eyes met, but after a few seconds, he looked away as if burned.

    The thin, tall disciple kept his head bowed in silence, never looking at his master. Just before the stretcher carrying Little Fatty disappeared, he hurriedly glanced at his junior, as if wanting to speak but ultimately remaining silent.

    Their fate seemed sealed. The police examined the evidence seized from the Taoist masters' mountain residence, astonished by the amount of illegal profits Zhang Pang had made over the years. "I didn't expect him to have prepared for an escape overseas. This sum is larger than we imagined – he's in deep trouble."

    As for the thin, tall disciple, his involvement in the cult and intentional harm would also land him in legal trouble.

    The Daoist masters present didn't expect that their mission to rescue their fellow Daoists' souls would achieve such remarkable success. Not only had they accomplished their goal, but they had also eradicated an evil cult deeply rooted in Xin Nan and even sent their own divine beast along with it.

    Feeling a bit at a loss under the gratified gazes of the police, everyone was unsure how to react. Only Unity Yi from Taicang Sect stepped forward with a cheerful smile, facing the police and the media cameras. "Fighting against misconduct is every citizen's duty. Our Taicang Sect and the Daoist masters from various temples have always been steadfast in upholding the rule of law. This was merely a small matter, nothing to boast about."

    The police were pleasantly surprised. "I never expected religious figures to have such awareness!"

    The Daoist masters initially found the conversation somewhat hard to comprehend, but upon further reflection, they couldn't find any fault in Unity Yi's words.

    The Daoist masters from Xin Nan truly bowed in admiration, saying with an odd expression, "Fellow Daoists from the Capital Daoist Association, your political awareness in handling matters is indeed commendable. Our Xin Nan Daoist Association must learn more from you in the future."

    The Taoist masters from the capital fell silent for a moment, ready to explain themselves when they heard the Xin Nan Taoist Association members speak up again. "After this incident, our Xin Nan Taoist Association was deeply moved. With the support of Fellow Daoist Tai Cang from the Grand Granary Sect, we're considering holding a symposium. Would any of you fellow Daoists be interested in participating?"

    The Taoist masters from the capital were taken aback. "What symposium?"

    Xin Nan's Taoist master replied, "It's about the integration of Taoist culture and modern technology, East meets West, if you will. It's still in its early stages, but we plan to propose including anesthesia needles as part of our regular ritual tools."

    The capital's Taoist masters were speechless.

    The Xin Nan Taoist master continued, "Our fellow Daoists from the capital are so progressive and at the forefront of innovation in religious rituals. As pioneers in blending Eastern and Western ideas, I'm sure you'd vote in favor, wouldn't you?"

    The capital's Daoist priests: "..."

    "But our immediate concern," Daoist Xin Nan's expression turned sorrowful as they continued, sobbing heavily, "With the appearance of the Daoist sect's divine beast, I believe we should organize fellow Daoists from various temples to visit... visit Black Tortoise in the detention center."

    In the midst of silence and covert gazes, Wei Xi adjusted his robe, concealing his achievements and identity.


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