Chapter 3

Cate Fox and the Case of the Fading Magic by Emily


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Synopsis: Sophia takes Cate on a tour of campus.

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“So, welcome to Puellae Aurora,” Sophia proclaimed as we left Cooper Hall and were standing in the quad. “This is the quad. These four buildings are the dorms. Unlike outside schools, our population is predominantly transgender. A safe space for people like you and me to not be bothered by Normie’s judgmental attitudes.”


“Whoa, whoa,” I said, holding up my hands. “I’m not transgender.”


“Oh,” Sophia retorted with a raised eyebrow. “Were you born in that body? You were born a female?”


“N... No.”


“Then you’re transgender,” she smiled and proclaimed. “Let’s walk.”


Wow, Miss Sunshine could be sassy when she wanted to. I wanted to deny her allegation, but I saw no flaw with her logic. I didn’t want to think of myself as transgender though. I’m a guy and plan to live as a guy again once I get my body back. As I walked with Sophia along the quad, I could feel and see the eyes on me from students who seemed to be congregating here.


“Look, this is a safe space. Nobody is going to make fun of you for being a TG,” she continued. “We do, however, have cliques-” She let out a deep dramatic sigh. “Which is so unfortunate and uncool.” 


Sophia’s inflection had me convinced she was always a teen girl. I sighed and crossed my arms. As much as I didnt give a shit about the social hierarchy of this school, or any school for that matter, I realized this information could at least be useful to my investigation. “What kind of cliques are you talking about? Jocks? Nerds? Skaters?”


“Nope. Students here tend to gravitate towards how they got transformed.” She pointed to a group of students sitting at a picnic table. “They are the Magics. As you can deduce by the name, they are students who were transformed by magic. Just like me. Witches, curses, angels, genies, magical items, God herself. Some supernatural entity.”


“I thought you were transformed by a cupcake,” I inquired, giving her my patented side-eye.


“A magic cupcake,” she gleefully corrected.


“Do any of you all practice magic?”


“Unfortunately, no. We are the victims of magic and avoid it, so I would steer clear of talking about it with them. I’m cool with it though, as I see my transformation as a salvation. Halloween is a triggering time for most of them. Besides, magic is illegal and thus forbidden here. That’s what got my mother fired.”


“Your mother?”


“Sorry - my benefactor. She wants me to call her Mother. I don't blame her. The woman who birthed Sophia is more of a mother than the woman who birthed Seth.”


I saw a group of boys staring at me. “What about that group of boys over there?” I said, pointing to the group of…wait… girls? “I mean girls.”


“Those are the shapeshifters. They’re fucking with you.”


I looked back and saw a girl who looked exactly like Emma waving at me. It startled me and I subconsciously took a step back as if I was reliving my dream again. I inadvertently bumped into Sophia. 


When I realized I wasn't dreaming, I cautiously waved back. 


“You OK, Cate?” Sophia asked.


“Yeah, I’m fine. That’s creepy as fuck. I thought you said magic is illegal.”


“Shapeshifting is biology, not magic. Keep up.”


“How do you know if someone is a shapeshifter?”


“Their eyes. When they are not in their original form, their eyes are orange. Not all shapeshifters can assume any form, though.”


“That’s good to know.”


“That co-ed table over there. Those are the Weres.”


“Where’s what?”


“Weres. Like werewolf.”


“They’re werewolves?”


“No, were-women and were-men.”


“What exactly does that mean?”


“Once a month during the full moon they transform. And they’re totally hot.”


I couldn’t argue that point. Each boy and girl in that group looked like Abercrombie models. “Do they bite?”


“Only if you want them to...” Sophia suddenly blushed and shrugged. “I mean… if you’re into that thing. I mean… some people are. Just saying. I’m not judging.”


It was the first time I saw Sophia flustered. She was wistfully looking at one of the Weres and a were-girl smiled back and waved to her. “Huh,” I said to myself watching that interaction between both girls. “A friend?”


“No,” Sophia abruptly answered, looking away from the Weres. “Anyway. Those are the Sciences,” Sophia gestured towards another group. “The opposite of Magics. They got transformed by some high-tech shit. Viruses, nanobots, phone apps, bioweapons.”


“They make gender-swapping bioweapons?”


“They do. It’s all classified of course, which is why their victims are here and not at a regular school.”


“Let me guess - they can tell me about it, but then they’d have to kill me.”


“Bingo.”


“Well, If I’m still here in a week, I may have to download that phone app.”


“Good luck, it was banned from all of the app stores.”


“That’s unfortunate. So you only hang out with the Magics?”


“I try to be friendly with everyone. Some of my best friends are Shifters or Swappers.”


“Swappers?”


“Body Swappers. When you see a boy and a girl, twinning, and like attached at the hip, they are body swapped and are in each other’s body.”


“Are they stuck… like me?”


“Yes. But they cope by never leaving their other half’s side. It’s that whole ‘attachment to their previous life’ thing.”


“So am I assigned to a clique or can I be a cool loner?”


Sophia chuckled. “When was the last time you were in school?”


“The academy… I mean the fire academy. We didn't have cliques.”


“You’re free to do what you want. There are no other Displaceds here. Although there is a rumor.”


“What rumor?”


Sophia stopped walking, looked around, and whispered for effect, “That there is a Body Hopper that goes to school here. They’ve been here since the beginning. When they’re near graduation they hop into an incoming freshman so they can stay. But that’s just a creepy story they tell freshmen.” She resumed walking.


I stood still for a moment to process what Sophia had said. “Well I hope they stay away from me, because I owe the last Slider I came in contact with a… punch to the face.”


Sophia nodded.


“You said everyone here is a victim?”


“That’s a misnomer. Some students, a few of the Weres and Shifters, were born with their condition or aged into it. Some of the Magics actually sought out their curse. In each of these cliques are unofficial sub-groups. Those who want to remain as they are and those who don’t.”


“Ms. Hathaway said everyone was accepting of their situation. That everyone is here singing Kumbaya. All Puppy Dogs and Rainbows and shit.”


“Oh don't get me wrong. Even those who dislike their situation are happy here. Where else would they go?”


“How about that girl sitting by herself?” I pointed at a lone girl on a bench.


Sophia chuckled. “That girl is the only Normie enrolled here. She’s just transgender. No magic, no science. Her parents disowned her and we took her in. She’s understandably envious of all of us.”


“That sucks. Couldn’t you get a were-girl to just bite her?”


“Big problemo, Caty-Cat. One: It’s against school rules to TG someone. Two: She wants to be a girl all month. Not just during the full moon.” She continued walking.


“It’s just Cate,” I emphasized, trying to catch up with her. “I guess that also rules out downloading that app from a malware site.”


“Uh-huh,” she hummed in acknowledgement. “The classrooms are over there. And here’s the Admin Building again.”


“Hey Sophia, what do you know about the missing students?”


“Missing students? Only rumors.”


“Did they run away?”


“I guess it’s possible. I ran away once. But some of my friends talked me into coming back. Most students come back.”


“Most?” I asked. “Ms. Hathaway made it sound like ‘all.’”


“They did. Only recently have there been ones that haven’t. I just assumed they were done and went home.”


As Sophia was about to continue on, a girl got in her way.


“Oh hi, Kayla,” Sophia said, stopping in her tracks.


“Sophia, is this the new girl?” Kayla asked.


“Kayla Robinson, Cate Fox.” Sophia motioned to us.


Kayla Robinson was a redhead with pale skin. Like every other girl I’ve met so far, she was taller than me. She lacked the adolescent look of Sophia and Emma, so if I had to guess, she was a senior. “Hi Cate Fox, there’s a rumor going around that you’re a vampire, but you sure don’t look like one.”


“A vampire?” I asked. I looked to Sophia for answers.


“We had one last year.” Sophia shrugged. “She graduated.”


Holy shit. Vampires exist too? “I’m not a vampire,” I said to Kayla. I couldn’t believe I actually had to tell someone that. 


“That’s exactly what a vampire would say,” Kayla replied. “But I believe you. You have too much of a tan for that to be true - unless you have a spray tan.” Kayla came right up and started staring into my eyes. I had to look up at her.


“Whoa, Kayla.” Sophia pushed her back. “She's new here, give her a break. Besides, if she was a vampire the sun would have turned her to dust by now.”


“Or I’d sparkle in the sun,” I chuckled. Nobody was laughing with me. And Kayla gave a disgusted look at me. I thought sparkly vampires were all the rage with the kids these days. “I’m a Displaced,” I said, when nobody laughed at my joke. I held my ground, trying to appear bigger than I was. Dammit, why did Emma have to be so short?


“How do we know you aren’t a Body Hopper yourself?” Kayla retorted.


“We should get going,” Sophia said, tugging on my arm.


I stared at Kayla. She was in my personal space and seemed to relish in my discomfort. She had blue eyes so I knew she wasn’t shapeshifted, but her intentions were clear. She was asserting her dominance. “Are we having a dick measuring contest?” I challenged her. 


Kayla glared at me with a disgusted look. I guess so.


Sophia managed to tug me away.


“I’m keeping an eye on you, Cate Fox,” Kayla announced as I was pulled along by Sophia.


“Keep your eye on this,” I muttered while giving her the finger behind my back.


“Cate, seriously,” Sophia said, dragging me along faster. “I thought you said you were an adult.”


“I’m young at heart.” That was my go-to response whenever my ex told me to “grow up.” I used to proudly say I was a 30-something with the mind of a teenager. It then occurred to me that it’s not as funny to me anymore seeing I’m actually a teenager again. As soon as we were far enough away from the quad, I stopped Sophia. “What’s up with her?”


“Kayla thinks she’s queen of the campus. She’s our star lacrosse player. She’s 18 and a senior and runs almost everything. She also has trust issues.”


“Clearly.”


“And you shouldn’t poke the bear! You’re new here. This is a delicate ecosystem.”


I shrugged. I liked poking bears. It’s my favorite pastime. “You know, the owner of this body played lacrosse.”


“Don’t tell Kayla that, she might consider you a threat.”


“Too late. What’s her deal anyway?”


“Rumor has it, her mom wished for a daughter. And when her son turned into one, she abandoned her here and hasn’t called since. So, the Admin Building. The clothing shop is through the bookstore and to your left.”


“Thanks,” I said.


“Do you want help?” Sophia sounded eager, but her sunny disposition was starting to give me a headache.


I wanted to get away and be by myself. Maybe enjoy a few minutes of quiet. “I think I got this.”


Sophia smiled and skipped away. Literally skipped.


I shook my head. Since I’m at the Administration Building I wonder if I can request a room change while I’m here. I walked into the building and to the bookstore. Like all campus bookstores, this one was stocked with school spirit swag - and books. But there was a section right where Sophia had said that was dedicated to the school uniform. All around were racks of uniform pieces.


“Good morning,” an older lady greeted me. “You must be Cate Fox.”


“That’s me.” I looked around at the racks of clothes. “Did Ms. Hathaway tell you I was coming down?”


“Oh no, dear, it’s a small campus and I hear things. I like to know what’s going on with you students.”


This was awkward. “So, I’m gonna go look around if that’s OK.”


“Go right ahead, dear,” she cheerfully replied.


I let a sigh come out as I scanned the uniforms. I had gone undercover earlier in my service. Though I never went undercover as a schoolgirl.


It appeared the academy uniform consisted of plaid navy blue pants or skirts, white shirts, solid navy blazer, and a pink and blue patterned tie. There also appeared to be various styles of socks that matched the tie.


I was never a uniform guy. Even when I worked the beat. “I don’t even know where to begin,” I mumbled to myself.


I didn’t realize the lady was still behind me. “Well, I have a checklist for boys and a checklist for girls.” Was she following me? She handed me a paper that had a list of clothing items for girls on one side and boys on the other.


I nodded as I took the list. I ignored the girls’ list and scanned the boys’ list and casually walked to the chinos. “I could use a new pair of pants seeing as my last pair don’t fit me anymore.”


“Sure,” the lady agreed from behind me.


I turned to look at her. “You’re not going to force me to get a skirt?”

“Nope. But you should get at least one. Just so you have that option and can experience it.”


“So you’re just going to let me get boys' clothes?”


“Clothes are clothes, Miss Fox. The students here are encouraged to experiment. I will, however, make sure you get the feminine cut of what you want. You do want them to fit, right?”


“I guess. I’m usually a button down shirt and blazer kinda guy. So let’s go with that.”


“You don’t want to experiment?”


“I don’t see the point. I don’t plan on being here very long.”


“OK, dear. Let me measure you for your size and then we’ll pick out your uniform.”


* * *


I confidently walked back into Cooper Hall and to my new room carrying a bag of clothes. I felt like I just pulled one over on the school by rejecting a feminine uniform.


“Oh, what did you get?” Sophia asked, sitting up.


“She let me get whatever I wanted,” I bragged as I opened the bag. “Chinos and shirts.”


“You mean blouses,” Sophia corrected.


“Shirts,” I repeated. “Button down shirts. Polo shirts, A blazer. A tie. A pair of shoes.” There was one last item in the bag and when I saw it my bravado deflated. A plaid skirt. “How did that get in there? I didn’t ask for that.”


“Sure you didn’t.” Sophia winked at me.


“I didn’t. That lady must’ve done it. That witch.”


“Hey, remember to be careful who you call a witch around here,” Sophia cautioned. “You’ll get less offense from calling someone a ‘bitch.’ Besides, You’ll look cute in a skirt.”


That triggered my memory of when I first saw Emma a few days ago. Sitting there in the train station wearing her school uniform. Sophia’s words made me focus on the uniform. The words “Yeah, I do,” came out of my mouth. The moment I said it I regretted saying it out loud. “I mean…” I turned red from embarrassment and tried to take back what I said. “Emma did.”


“Emma? Is that whose body you have?”


“Yes.”


“What happen-”


“I don’t want to talk about it,” cutting her off.


She raised her eyebrows and pantomimed zippering her lips.


I brought my bags over to the bed that was designated mine. I draped down the uniform parts and a backpack I got from the bookstore on the footboard. I had to prop myself up onto the bed so I could sit down. My feet barely touched the floor. I grunted and turned to the suitcase I had left earlier, pulled out Emma’s cell phone, and laid down to look at it.


I powered up the phone and waited for it to finish booting up. Before I was taken back to the Kincade’s yesterday I made sure to give it to the department as evidence. I was surprised when Max gave it back to me in the evening. They copied everything they needed and Max put his cell number in there for me to contact him. 


It’s only been 24 hours. I bet Max already misses me. I texted him. “Any updates?” I set the phone down on the bed and stared at the textured ceiling.


The phone chimed with a new message. Wow, Max is fast.


I swiped the phone open. It was not Max. It was from that boy Jacob that Emma was messaging.


“Emma, why did you ghost me?” the text read.


I guess he realized she wasn’t coming. I wonder how long he waited at the train station for her to show up the other day. What do I say? His girlfriend is not coming. Unless she is. In which case he won’t recognize her in the Slider’s former body.


“Do you need stuff for class?” Sophia interrupted.


“I guess.” I shrugged. I haven’t even looked at my schedule yet.


Sophia opened a closet door and I saw tons of school supplies. Paper, notebooks, boxes of pens, binders.


“Why do you have all of those school supplies?” I asked.


“When my mother got fired, she bequeathed all of this to me. Help yourself. The bookstore is overpriced. You’ll likely need notebooks and pens for your first day.”


“Thanks.”


“Hey Caty, are you hungry?” 


“It’s Cate.” 


“I can’t give you a cute nickname like besties do?”


“We’re not besties.”


“Well, not yet anyway,” she said, disappointed and twirling her hair with her finger. “Well, we can head down to the dining hall and grab a bite to eat.”


I laid there and mulled over that. I was kinda hungry. I could go for a beer and a burger. “What do they have?”


“Today is meatloaf day!” She said with an authentic smile. 


Her enthusiasm over meatloaf makes me believe she might actually be a sociopath. And she’s my roommate. But she’s kinda my only friend at the moment, lest Max comes to rescue me. 


So I guess I’m going to dinner with her.


* * *


I followed Sophia into the dining hall, where we both had to scan our student IDs. The dining hall was a grand hall with various styles of tables. Private booths, long tables, and single-seat tables. It had the same decor as the rest of campus. Gothic, but this had some school spirit flair as the school logo and banner were hanging from the rafters, and posts of student organizations were taped to the walls. 


Students were waving at Sophia as she smiled and waved back.


As we were standing in line for food, I asked, “How do we pay for this?”


“It gets charged to our accounts.”


“And who pays our accounts?”


“Whoever enrolled you, silly.”


I wondered if the Kincades or the department were paying. Either way, I was gonna get my money’s worth. I grabbed a tray. “I’m not silly.”


“You know, Cate, you can drop the ‘too-cool-for-school’ grumpy exterior and lighten up.”


“Yeah, you can drop the ‘everything-is-awesome unicorn circle-jerk’ and come back to the real world.”


Sophia stood there in silence for a long few seconds. “Wow,” she said, looking at me. “Who hurt you?”


I grimaced. “Nobody. I just live in the real world.”


“Suit yourself, Miss Real World.” Sophia became quiet. I wondered if I went too far with her. She’s not used to my unique brand of humor. After all, she’s my roommate and I have to spend who-knows-how-many days with her.


“Sophia,” I whispered. “I’m sorry. That was harsh.”


“Totes,” she agreed. She looked at me with concerned eyes. She then grabbed one of my hands and held it for a few seconds. Without saying another word she continued in the food line.


I don’t know why that was comforting, but it was. Maybe I was too quick to judge Sophia. There’s something going on under that sunny exterior.


I grabbed a plate of meatloaf and a side of mashed potatoes and okra and placed them on my tray. It’s no Kincade meal, but it certainly smells better than anything I’ve made in a long time.


We sat down and before I could even take a bite, we were joined by another girl.


“Hey Soph,” she said, then looked at me. “Is this Cat Foxy?”


“Fox. Cate Fox,” I corrected.


“I’m Julia,” she said, offering her hand. “Sophia’s friend. Junior. Thompson Hall.”


I shook it.


“Hey, girl,” Sophia greeted her friend. “Where were you all last week?”


“The flu,” she said. “It was awful. What are you in for, Cate?” Julia asked.


“I’m Displaced.”


“Ooo. That’s different,” she replied.


“How about you? What are you in for, Julia?”


“My ex-boyfriend - I mean ex-best friend - changed me into his girlfriend.”


I made a weird face because I’m increasingly unable to find the right words for the absurd place I’ve found myself in. “You said ex, so I imagine it didn’t work out.”


“Oh, it worked alright - for him. I turned into a girl, lost all memory of my previous life, and I started finding him attractive. I still love him, even though logically I know what he did was wrong and inappropriate.” She forced a smile.


“That sounds… awful.”


“If you say so. My previous life seems like someone else’s life. This is my life now.”


“This,” Sophia added, “is why we avoid talking about magic.”


“I… I umm… am sorry I brought it up,” I said to Julia.


“It’s OK,” she said. “My therapist said I need to accept it to move on. To break the hold he has on my affection. But I was literally made for him. So it’s hard.”


Julia and Sophia started talking about classwork and the conversation took off at a breakneck speed. I couldn’t keep up. For former guys, they certainly talk like teenage girls.


“So, I heard a rumor about runaways,” I chimed in, trying to continue my investigation.


Both girls stopped talking and looked at me like I had two heads.


“I was just concerned,” I added, picking up my fork.


“Are you,” Julia whispered, “thinking of running away?”


“No.”


“Don’t,” she implored. “There’s nothing out there for you.”


“What do you mean, there’s plenty out there,” I replied. “Why else would students just up and leave?”


“Are you talking about Ashley Tart?”


Am I? “Yes.”


“How’d you hear about that anyway?” Sophia asked.


“The uniform lady gossips a lot.”


“Yes, she does!” Sophia added.


“What can you tell me about Ashley Tart?” I asked both of them.


“She was kinda like me,” Sophia explained. “She was a Magic. Was a middle-aged divorced man. Wished for a second chance at youth.”


“He got youth, all right,” Julia added. “But instead of a do-over he found himself a 10-year-old girl. Much younger than he wanted… and a girl, obviously.”


“He had kids too,” Sophia added. “The new Ashley was younger than his oldest. Another reason magic is outlawed - too unpredictable.”


“When she was old enough, she enrolled here. Went missing last month,” Julia finished.


“How old is she now?” I asked.


“15, like Sophia,” Julia replied. “She had a party in her dorm for her birthday.”


“Why are you so eager to hear about a runaway?” Sophia looked at me with a puzzled expression.


“I’m just skeptical of this place.”


“Cate,” Sophia held my hand across the table. “If you’re having difficulties being here, please let us help.”


“I’m fine.” I smiled at Sophia to get her to drop her concern. “If I have problems, I know just the roommate to run to.”


“Thank you,” Sophia smiled.


Sophia was cute. Not my type. And certainly too young. Maybe if I was Emma’s age, I'd see about dating her. Or Julia. Of course, then I reminded myself both of these girls are actually guys. Or were guys. But since they’re 100% female now, did that even matter? Hell, I’m 100% female even though I have the mind of a male.


Sophia and Julia dropped the conversation and started talking about hairstyles and nail colors. I noticed a few tables down there was a group of boys I recognized from the quad. Sophia called them Weres.


I caught one boy staring at me. When he realized I caught him, he confidently smiled.


I didn’t forget I was in the body of a teenage girl, but this is the first time I caught the gaze of a boy. I knew that look. I’ve given that look to many girls in my day. I ignored him and focused back on my food.


Seconds later that boy sat right beside me, interrupting the nice meal I was enjoying with Sophia and her friend.


“Hey pal,” I said, scooting over. “You’re in my personal space.”


Sophia and Julia stopped chatting to look at us.


“Oh, sorry,” he apologized. “Where are my manners? Hi, I’m Brett.” He held out his hand.


I ignored his hand because I didn’t want him here and I didn’t want him to get any ideas. “Hi Brett. Can I help you?”


“I wanted to introduce myself to the new girl.”


“Great,” I sarcastically nodded. “Consider yourself introduced. If you’ll excuse me, this meatloaf isn’t going to eat itself.” I stabbed the food with my fork, then looked over. He’s still here?


“What’s your name?” Brett persisted.


“Cate Fox,” I replied.


“Foxy,” he replied with a confident smile.


Fox,” I firmly corrected.


“Kayla told everyone your name is Cat Foxy.” Julia added.


“Of course she did. It’s just Cate,” I emphasized to all three of them. “Cate Fox.”


“Are you a kitsune?” he asked. “I haven’t encountered one since my trip to Japan.”


“A… what? I don’t know what that is. I’m just a guy. I mean girl - temporarily.”


“That's a shame. Listen, if you’d like a tour of campus or town, I’m your guy.”


Is this guy serious? I’m getting hit on by a guy. If I wasn’t already having actual nightmares, I’d call this a nightmare. “I’m good. Sophia’s my tour guide.”


“Sup?” Sophia smiled with a nod.


“Shame,” Brett said, getting up from the table. “If you change your mind, Cate, let me know.” He winked at me. “See you around, New Girl.”


I rolled my eyes and looked at Sophia and Julia.


“OMG,” Julia gushed. “Brett is totally cute.”


“Take him,” I insisted. “He’s not my type.”


* * *


When Sophia and I got back to our room I instantly went to the cell phone I left on the bed. I was hoping for a message from Max.


Nothing.


Stacked neatly on my side of the room were the school supplies I got from Sophia. I picked up a notepad and pen and started jotting down my notes. 


I included what I knew about Ashley Tart. Her background wasn’t enough, so I was going to have to figure out where she went and hung out. She was a Magic, which means it’s a good thing I have a Magic as roommate.


It’s a shame what happened to her. Middle-aged guy just wanted to relieve his youth. I’m not sure how he got transformed into a little girl, but it would’ve been safer if he had just bought a sports car and got a younger mistress like other men with midlife crises.


When I was done with my notes, I checked the cell phone again.


Nothing.


That means Max isn’t coming to save me tonight. Tomorrow I’m going to have to actually go to school here.


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Emily

Hi, I'm Emily and I'm writing Gender Transformation Fiction! This site is a place for me to keep all of my stories in one place. I'm also a software developer in the daytime, so this site will also be a proving ground of cool new features that pop into my head. Feel free to message me on Twitter or at my Discord Server! You can also find me on TGStorytime.com and FictionMania.tv.

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itinerantpedant

Nice!  Your stuff almost always has a layer of mystery. I’m interested in how someone who’s profession is “solve mysteries” handles the situation. 

Looking forward…
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Emily

Thanks for reading!
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