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JB's Guide To Insanity

We Are All Flawed

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war

THE TEA HOUSE II

Part Two:
THE
OFFER OF LIFE


At the end of a street in one of the darkest corners of Mi Kin it sits peacefully as if the troubles of this world refuse to touch it. It’s quaint and decorated like it should be in the Empire, with gold and crimson paint that lavishes the entire store front, and a sign that reads out in black bold letters-

LADY’S
EXOTIC & SPICED
TEA HOUSE
EST. 1803

It’s quite something to behold. Inside trinkets and various tea flavours are stacked up against the walls. I doubt even Lady knows how many types of tea are in her shop. Lady herself is a small, elderly hunched woman who resembles a witch from the European fairy tales. She’s got a heart of gold though and as soon as I arrive she hobbles out from behind her desk, smiling with those big damaged teeth and gives me a hug. She smells of spices. Always of spices.

“Lady.” I nod at her and she goes in to the back to fix my usual.

I take a seat near the front window looking out in to the street. The shop is empty. I told her the night before to make sure it was cleared out by the time I got there. Once she returns she has in her hands a cup of Indian brew, with a hint of cinnamon. Delicious. The fumes calm me. My last. I motion for her to sit across from me and she does so.

“Mr Penn, how are you today?” She asks, still smiling.

“I’m fine thank you, Lady.” I take another sip. It warms me.

“So, why this meeting? Did you finally want me to send a letter to my neice, oh Mr Penn she would be so lovely for you!”

“No, my dear. As exquisite as I’m sure your niece is, I’m here on business.”

She looks confused. “Oh?”

“Yes. Final business, to be exact.”

“Are you in trouble?” She asks me, clearly concerned with my well being.

“Not yet. I will be though. And I need to ask a favour of you. The favour.”

She leans back in her chair. “Go on.” She says directly.

I don’t speak and simply take out the bag of seventy gold pieces from my belt. I slide it across the table and she slowly unravels the string on the bag. Once she looks inside her mouth drops open.

“I wish to buy this establishment from you. For a profit of course. I can imagine your family got this place for what? Twenty silver Yuan?”

She nods. I doubt she has ever seen so much money in her life.

“That much gold should buy you a new and good life some where else Lady. Take it to your niece in Hong Lin if you have to. Just leave this place. For it is to be ruin.”

She doesn’t know what to say.

“Lady, you have been ever so kind to me over these long, long years. Like a second mother you’ve cared for me, offered me a place to relax from the storm. And I owe you all the gold in this city. That however, is all I have. I would like it to be spent wisely and with good intent.”

“My dear boy.” She mutters. “What have you done to show such kindness?”

Her words strike me more than I’d care to show.

I don’t reply and shoot her a slight reassuring smile. “Just please, take this. It’s the least I can do for you.”

She gradually comes to terms with it and places the money bag in to one of her dress pockets. “Penn-” She goes to say but I hold my hand up stopping her.

“No need for good byes Lady. Be on your way now.” I order. “They will be here any minute.”

“Any minute?”

I look sternly at her. “Please.”

She smiles nervously and then stands, shuffling over to the back room. Minutes later she comes out with a sack of personal belongings and safe keeps. Lady stops as she gets to the door. I half expect her to turn to me but none the less she does not and leaves her little tea house for good. I look out the window and watch her clear the street just as representative of the Fěicuì lóng, Mao appears on the murky horizon.

Just on time.

THE TEA HOUSE I

Part One:
ONE
LAST ROUND

December 5th, 1892.


The streets of Mi Kin city, China.

This is where It will end.

You need to know this place before we proceed.

What hits you first and stays with you at all times is the Incense and factory smoke that fill the air and force you to feel their vapours getting in to every inch and pore of your skin. It’s thick and it covers the streets in a disorientating wave  that can over power the uninitiated. From the ram shackle wooden houses and shops, hang tattered and aged black and red paper lanterns dangling amongst dim orange lamp lights and luminous welcome signs. The black lanterns are in memory of the Emperor’s dead son, Zi Kun-

“Gone so young, claimed by the plague. Not just him though, half the city fell to it Penn! Half the city! Thank the Gods for the Yilao Medical Corps, without them you would have returned to a tomb.” Was what Lady told me with a heavy heart when I returned from the war. She was unaware I had lost my mother and brother in that plague but how was she to know.

The buildings are compact, have three floors and rise up high to pack in their many residents. This makes narrow alleys in every gap available, perfect for criminals and prostitutes to skulk around in and hassle visitors and foreigners.

This city is loud and alive. It roars spite and corruption. There is no escape. There is no freedom. It’s citizens are trapped until death, to slave and sweat and fuck and duplicate and repeat. No wonder the royals refuse to even acknowledge it in their decadal tour of the Empire.

Wild animals also run through the streets. From chickens, dogs and cats, to pigs, peacocks and even donkeys. Min Kin has it’s own animal kingdom. They usually stay out of our way though-

“After all, Mi Kin does belong to man… And in turn, man belongs to the Fěicuì lóng… The Emerald Dragons.”

Everything in turn, belongs to the Fěicuì lóng…

My name is Li Penn. Through these streets I walk. By it’s own nature, my stride is confident and precise. As I turn the corners and traverse the seemingly endless maze of food vendors and counterfeit goods market stalls, the commoners notice me and begin to tidy away their messes and filth. Hushed whispers begin spreading to their children to rush inside and stop their playing, to escape the gaze of the man they all fear.

And fear I suppose, they should.

To them I am a man of great stature. To them the piss and dirt filled gutters that are on almost every street corner should try to make the effort to look presentable to me.

I was born here and raised amongst these people and now I am above them. That used to fill me with pride and now it fills me with shame. I have worked for the Fěicuì lóng since I was eight, from the lowest level of petty hustler to the elite level of Left Hand. Once I wore rags now I wear a black suit blazer, vest and trousers that fit my thin body perfectly, with shoes I can afford to be polished twice a day. My white mandarin collar shirt is always fixed where it should be; to the top and my black bracers are clipped over it keeping my trousers in position. A black bowler hat sits over my slicked back jet coloured hair and never moves unless I am bowing to a lady of importance of course.

Mother always did teach me to be polite to women.

I check the golden pocket watch which is tightly tied to my belt. It’s twelve o’clock, almost time for me to go to Lady’s. I have some business to attend to first, and keep moving through the streets. I take out my box of matches and a cigarette from my breast pocket and light it up. Smoking clears my mind. Helps my nerves.

I have a right to be nervous.

By the time today is through, I predict half this district will be in flames.

“Mr Penn!” Jian-heng suddenly calls out to me from his grime coated bakery, causing me to nearly drop my cigarette and pull out my six shot revolver to blast him away. I restrain my trigger finger and notice the smell of rotten pastries lingering out the side of the building as I enter reluctantly.

“Make it quick.” I order, calming my nerves. Truth be told, the distraction is useful. Jian-heng is a small rotund man in chef’s garb. He’s dimwitted and blind as a mole but he can cook a good meal. It’s also a shame about his hygiene or lack there of especially when It comes to his business.

“Mr Penn, awfully sorry to bother you.” He stutters. “I’ve been waiting for an hour for you to come around-”

“You have?”

“Yes. I know this is the time of day on a Friday you usually do your rounds and check up on the Captain so, I was wondering if I could pass on some news to you regarding some neighbourhood disturbances.”

“Go on.” I sigh.

“Well- It is a little tricky…”

“Jian my time is incredibly valuable as of late and it does not need to be wasted on dramatics, please do get to the point.”

He goes red from embarrassment. I had to scold him otherwise he would have took all day to spit out whatever information he has.

“Ah yes, sorry sorry.” He says to me clearly upset at his behaviour. “I recently noticed some men hassling Miss Lao. Do you know of Miss Lao?”

Do I know of Miss Lao. Of course I know of Miss Lao. She is one of the most attractive bits of skirt on this whole street who might I add, has laid with me numerous times.

“The dancer at Ruby’s, yes I know of her do go on.” I reply stroking my chin and taking another drag on my cigarette.

“Well yes the men were demanding money from her. I heard something about, if she didn’t pay up by the festival of the Dragon on Monday eve then they would… Well you could imagine the threats of vagrants Mr Penn. They are the cancer of this city.”

I place a hand on the baker’s shoulder and smile half heartedly. “Thank you for bringing this to my attention Jian, it will be looked in to as soon as time permits.”

He smiles back as if my courteous nature is a gift from the Gods themselves. I place a bronze Yuan in his palm as I shake his hand as payment for the information. You have to give a little to get a little.

This would actually be interesting if I didn’t know what today was going to bring. We get paid to keep rabble like vagrants where they belong; in the sewers. In this city there is a difference between the homeless and the vagrants. The homeless did not choose their situation whilst the vagrants are rabid and viscous rapists, thieves and murderers who dwell and thrive in the bowel of this place. They simply have no class. They don’t even have homes like most criminals or beds to sleep in.

For them to actually dare to come out in to the light and demand payment, probably means one of our organization is on some form of take from them and is looking the other way. Which leads to the theory that if they have enough money to put someone on the take then they probably have enough money to have built a small army under ground.

This may come in useful later. I exit the bakery and continue on my way to the Captain’s house. It creates a dead end around one of the alleyways and is crawling with young gang members. The house is guarded by Red Dog, the Captain’s chief body guard who’s greeting I ignore as I enter.

The captain’s not a nice man but he’s good at collecting pay around these streets from the lower level gang leaders, and he keeps order when it needs to be kept. My main problem with him is he likes to rough up women. That’s why today is going to be quite enjoyable for me. See, he went too far the previous night and cracked a whore’s jaw at the brothel, Rubies. Safe to say that the girl will be out of service for a long time to come.

“This reflects badly on me.” I tell him once I am sat across from him at his desk on the top floor. I have the window to my back looking out to the street below.

He is lanky and ugly, wearing a makeshift maroon suit that he thinks makes him look smart. It doesn’t.

“What does?” He says, his voice as coarse as stone as he places his hands on to the creaky wood table that separates us. This room is practically empty apart from the two chairs and the table. It’s the Captains supposed business room.

I light another cigarette and he does the same. His men are downstairs getting intoxicated whilst we conduct our dealings. I stare at him for a moment in unflinching dominance so he understands that I am not here to play any games.

“Fine.” He backs down. “I went too far with the slut-”

“Excuse me?” I say to him leaning forward, looking stern. The Captain shouldn’t have called her that.

“The slut who I beat. I shouldn’t have hit her that hard it wasn’t right-”

“Listen to me and listen good. You have lost the right to call that woman anything derogatory. Not even whore. You tell me her name. Her real name. You know it, so tell it to me. And I swear to the Gods if I hear you call her slut once more…”

He looks lost for words like a little rodent caught in the path of a predator twice it’s size.

“I don’t remember-” His pride is getting the better of him.

“Captain, If you make me repeat myself one more time I will throw you from that window.”

“Mia Xiao.” He mutters. “Her name was Mia Xiao.”

“Good.” I lean back and take another drag. “You have the weeks collection for me?”

He reaches under the table and without effort unfastens a bag strapped to it. Sliding the bag across the table towards me, I stop it with my right hand. It feels a little lighter than usual.

It doesn’t matter.

“Boss I actually wanted to talk to you about someth-”

“Bao.” I interrupt him with his birth name, calmly. He doesn’t expect it and it throws him off. No one has called him that in years, he’s thinking about what to say, how to come back at me, I can see the cogs in his mind trying to process it.

It doesn’t matter.

“I-” He stutters.

“Bao. This is the end of our professional relationship. Recently I had a… Well. The specifics will not trouble your little mind so, I’ll save you that long and I’m sure tedious explanation. You are going to be my-” I sit forward. “Kindling of sorts.”

He looks horrified. Good. “Excuse me?” He asks timidly.

“Kindling. You know what this is?” I am purposefully patronizing.

He nods and gulps at the same time. “Yes.”

“I’m going to burn you.” I tell him this calmly, leaning back again and taking a drag.

After a few tense moments he bursts from his chair and leaps to the other side of the room. He grabs a gun from beneath a crate and aims it at my head but I am quicker and already have my golden dragon decorated shooter aimed at him from my lap. One shot rings out and it splatters the Captain’s brains all over the walls. He falls back and cracks his head on the floor boards.

I don’t move yet. I can hear the Captain’s men charging up the stairs rapidly, their footsteps beating against the worn steps. They are shouting at each other aggressively.

I aim my gun at the door with a steady hand.

Seconds later the first breaks through and he gets a bullet in his throat.
The second comes in straight after and his forehead is taken out.
The third gets it in the heart.
The fourth and fifth are too high to even have their knives out. Two more shots later and they roll back down the stairs, blood leaking from the holes in their heads.

Out of bullets now. And I hear the door man enter and begin moving heavy footed through the house. No time for reloading. I’m going to have to take Red Dog out with my hands. Now I stand, place my gun on the table and quickly analyse the situation.

Switch blade on my belt. I un-clip it and click the button so that the knife edge springs out. Holding it down by my side I do one more quick scan.

If it comes down to it I could possibly use the butt of the gun although, I know Red Dog, I grew up with him. He’s a prize fighter, the butt of a gun would be like hitting a boulder with a chop stick.

The giant of a man, bull rushes in and almost trips over the corpse pile of his friends. He looks at them and then up at me, clearly distraught.

“Mr Penn?” He grunts before his face goes red with pure rage. He screams and runs at me but I turn on my heel at the last second and slash his face. He slams in to the table and I bring the knife down on the back of his head.

It’s safe to say Red Dog’s fighting speed has improved greatly since I last watched him in the cage. He manages to send an arm flying and whack the blade out of my hand before it sticks in his skull. I instantly grab the gun with my other free hand and crack it across the man’s cheek as he rises up. It hardly affects him so I swing the gun again this time almost breaking the handle off.

Red Dog still doesn’t go down.

He punches me and almost knocks out a tooth. I quickly recover and land a fist in his throat. He splutters and stumbles back and I take advantage of this by spearing him in to a wall. He slams his head back on the wall and I place my palm over his face.

After I repeatedly bash his skull against the wall, Red Dog slumps down leaving the contents of his head all over the bricks above him.

I have some of his brain matter splashed on my hands. I wash it off in the sink before I exit the house. Other than seeing Lady, there’s no reason to really clean my hands… They are going to get plenty more bloody before the day is through. A local young gang member I don’t recognise, runs over to me and asks what happened.

“You do me a favour boy.” I tell him handing him a silver Yen. “Go inside to the top floor. Then once you have had a good look around I want you to head over to the Dragons, you know where they are?”

He nods.

“Good. Tell them exactly what and who you saw here today. You know my name?”

He nods once more.

“Of course you do. Tell them I will be at Lady’s within the hour and they can find me there.”

He doesn’t respond but heads in side apprehensively. I watch him go and then leave the area quickly, making my way to the Tea House.

Preparations need to be made.

YOU HAVE YOUR ANSWER

Hello

Facebook is important. Whether its a long post on opinions or just sharing photos of your dog, it’s important. That’s just how the world is now. You can deny it’s relevance, you can deny how many people use it and it’s reach until you are blue in the face, but it doesn’t make your denial true. People who complain about people complaining on Facebook should shut up. Because people complaining on Facebook shows you what people are thinking. What their opinions are. It is also a platform for education. See what you read on there might never change the world… but what it may do is educate someone, change someone’s mind. Show someone a fact. And that can lead to open mindedness.

In case you didn’t know, open mindedness is good. This is why Facebook is extremely powerful and we should never stop being key board warriors.

Now that that has been said I want to get on to my main point which is to do with the current major crisis of the world that’s on everyone’s lips.

Syria and Isis.

Understanding your enemy, knowing your enemy does not make you weak or a “sympathiser”. It makes you educated. In fact if you ignore what made your enemy and circle them as simply evil without cause, then it makes you sound stupid. With these situations its hard but we have to look past the black and white and go for the grey. Because the grey is more likely to be the inconvenient truth. I think it’s good to be able to see the other side of the coin then the one you see, just so that you can make sure you definitely know what your ideals are. I have been told things by people who are big on history and I have read in to it so I could have a better understanding. I think I am well informed but I may be wrong…

See, history is complicated. There are tonnes of factors that lead up to every decision. From making a cup of tea to going to war. It is impossible for an individual to know all of these factors because we don’t have the brain or the resources to store them and also some things are kept hidden so ill try and sound as educated as possible even though I don’t know all of the facts. I’m going to spew out a bit that I’ve learnt and no doubt will someone be able to poke flaws in me because there’s a chance I am completely wrong. But remember this is just my opinion from what I have been told/researched. I certainly don’t know everything nor am I trying to make out like I do. I just want to share my POV. The truth is that whatever I say in here is going to disagree with some of you and resonate with others. Because it is simply an opinion on the world and is neither right or wrong. Either way I feel it needs to be said and I have been wanting to say it for a while.

In the eighties the US had a cold war with Russia. When the Soviets invaded Afghanistan the US reportedly funded a group of rebels called the Al-Qaeda. Yes. THAT Al-Qaeda.

I mean it varies what info you can find but most people agree that the CIA and a few other secretive groups gave Bin Laden and his group a shit tonne (we are talking millions and millions) of money, and in some articles also apparently arms so that they could fight the Russians. After that we all kind of know what happened. The Al-Qaeda got out of control, wanted to fight “enemies of Islam” the world over. One very long and messy war later with lots of complicated bull shit and a massive loss of life in the middle and ISIS are now the new big bad. But guess where they started?

Al-Qaeda. They were a side group of that organization. What you need to understand is that some of ISIS members were created through anger and fear from watching their loved ones be killed in bombings. Whether it was US or UK originated it is still destruction. We joined the US in their war so we are partly responsible. Anyway what happens to these youngsters who lose their family and then join a terrorist group out of revenge is called radicalization. Now obviously I am not justifying any of their actions. But that’s exactly my point. Us bombing them that’s what they want. They want more innocents caught in the crossfire. They want more young children of Syria to be radicalized and turn to them for revenge. Surely it is up to us (if we are more forward thinking then them) to break that cycle?

But apparently not. David Cameron has decided to go bomb Syria in the aftermath of the tragic Paris attacks.

As I just said the exact same thing has happened before in that long messy war we talked about where thousands upon thousands of people died. Thousands upon thousands, both civilian and armed forces…. I mean I certainly remember seeing “accidental civilian losses” from bombings reported on the news when I was a kid. I even did my research and found a few links to the results of bombings, figured I would share them.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2014/08/afghanistan-no-justice-thousands-civilians-killed-usnato-operations/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-34437106

and I also found this article on the Iraq war… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/15/iraq-death-toll_n_4102855.html

For those saying bombing places doesn’t hurt civilians because our army meticulously plans the attacks then open your eyes. In war no matter if it’s bombings/us or the enemy accidentally/purposefully shooting them, civilians ALWAYS die. Now you may say- but you don’t know that, you don’t know what will happen this time we attack somewhere…

HERE YOU GO

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-23427726

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/world-war-two/civilian-casualties-of-world-war-two/

This has all already happened.

War doesn’t change. The people do, the location does, the weapons do but do you want to know what the one constant of war is?

Death of innocent life.

And we did the same thing last time we went to war. Last time we decided to bomb somewhere. We said, there will be no innocent civilian casualties. There is ALWAYS civilian casualties. Always.

Prove me wrong. Find me a war where innocent civilians didn’t die.

We have been in the same cycle for over a hundred years now. And it is insane. It upsets me when I see people supporting violence. But it in all honesty it upsets me more that I do not have an alternative answer… Peace is preferred. I guess I am an idealist who believes that something else could have been done. There must have been something, I can’t think of it but there must be someone smarter than a twenty year old who can come up with something smarter than bombing. Something that doesn’t end with more of the same.

Violence does not cancel out violence. History has shown us time and time again that these kind of actions breed radicalism. I may be wrong and crude with my timeline here so please feel free to call me out on it. But the way I see it, it goes like this.

The West funded a terrorist group to fight a war for us.

The terrorist group grew and turned on the West.

The West then bombed said terrorist group, killing innocent civilians in the process and radicalising their families in to joining the terrorists.

The terrorists retaliate.

The West bombs them, create more terrorists.

The terrorists split up and come back in different sections.

We bomb them some more, create more terrorists.

What happens next? Do we fund ANOTHER terrorist group to fight ISIS, and let the cycle continue?

As much as I respect the troops and people who die for this country as much as I honour them I will not honour the people who command them. I will not honour the people who send them to war. I will not honour the fat old politicians in their ivory towers who send their young in to battle. No. Never. We are supposed to be better than this. Isn’t that right? Am I wrong in saying that? That we should aspire for better. That this world should united in it’s efforts. I’m an idiot I guess for thinking that.

That’s not the only problem though. It’s just the one every one is focused on right now… because it is so hard to keep track these days of what to be angry about. There is so much wrong with the world. So much. As a twenty year old I cant know everything. I can tell you what I see in the news on a day to day basis though.

I see parts of Africa. Where women are mutilated, raped, tortured bound in to slavery. Where children are soldiers. Where children are slaves. Where genocide is committed. Where corrupt rulers get rich whilst severe poverty sweeps a continent and diseases are rife. Where AIDS is spread like wild fire. Where Ebola outbreaks happen. Where death is at everyone’s door.

I see refugees fleeing mad men in the East and I see us abusing the refugees and blaming them for the mad men’s actions. This happened before with Jews in WWII. It happened before.

I see gender inequality across the west and the rest of Europe too. It might not compare to the horrors of the above. But it is still important and still relevant.

I see global warming being fought on a day to day basis by people with answers yet we are too set in our ways to change. Too far gone. I see beautiful animals hunted to the brink of extinction for products we can create alternatives to through minerals and plants. Not only hunted but tortured for entertainment too. I see the Earth and all it’s creatures sick from pollution and our constant need for more of its resources.

I see mass shootings almost weekly in America because they cant get their shit together. In the good ol’ US of A, I also see racism still inherent, bubbling under the surface like a vile poison. I see them forget their horrific past and leave the uneducated to be uneducated. I see a president who wants his country to be secure and I see an opposing party who want nothing more than to stop him, without cause or justification. What’s worst is I see half of that power house siding with the wrong people. Stunting it’s growth.

In my own country I see thugs attacking mosques and innocent Muslims. This is because the thugs are mindless apes with no one to tell them any different other than Britain First; another group of thugs, liars and idiots causing harm under the guise of free speech when they don’t realise that by causing harm to the general population of Islam then they are helping ISIS win. I see my FREE healthcare programme being destroyed by a man who doesn’t seem to have any reason to do it. I see the Western media spurning and egging on discrimination as if it were a sick game to them. I see fear being mongered and spread, and the fear turning us in to cowards who won’t look out for others in need. Who will post and share bull shit , made up FB status’ about the danger of Muslims when in reality ISIS and Islam are too completely different things.

The world over I see the following:

I see violence

I see racism

I see homophobia

I see sexism

I see rape

I see murder

I see poverty

I see violation of human rights

I see lies

I see corruption that we cant do anything about.

If I missed anything off that list please do let me know.

It is all I see. Anger and bitterness and hatred. I see hell. This is the world I have been given. The world I cannot change. I voted for a different party. I try and sign petitions where I can. I try and donate as much as possible to charity. It hasn’t changed my parents tell me… It hasn’t changed since they were younger. What can I do? I’m just one young person with no power to change anything. So I make a blog about the world. I make a blog and share it to my friends and acquaintances so we can feel the same thing all at once. So we small few can be unified in the knowledge that there may be too much to fix. But at least we are together on this. At least we have each other I guess and at least we can try.

But then the anger sinks in. And the inevitable question arises. Who do I and the people who think like me get mad at hmm? Who do we blame for this? This madness. This world we live in where people suffer daily and the rich get fatter and fatter and the world burns and people scream in agony. Where children drown whilst trying to flee their own country. Where people in my own country are blind and selfish to other plights and the plight of their own

Who do I get mad at?

I don’t know… It’s hard to see who’s to blame here. Maybe we all are. Maybe we were damned from the beginning.

Shall I tell you what the news has taught me? It’s taught me that this world is fucked. I am twenty and have to care for so much. There is so much wrong. So much for me to be told to handle and process and not be upset by. People wonder why I am suicidal hahaha. People wonder why I want to die.

You have your answer.

All that’s left to do is hope. Hope it gets better. Hope the world becomes a better place. There’s that lyric by the Manic Street Preachers.

If you tolerate this then your children will be next.

I find comfort in knowing deep down that the majority of this species are good and think straight. I know the good are greater in number than the bad. I know the media makes the world seem far worst than it is. But it worries me that the straight thinking people aren’t the ones who will win in the end.

It worries me.

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