Herd Life

Celestia is a growing filly within the herd, as she and many ponies struggle to just survive in their primitive times. Upheaval is soon to come, as new ideas clash with the old, when Celestia's parents join together in their struggle to move ponies into a new and unknown future, amid the dawning of the pony nation.
Contains: Stallion on Mare mating and impregnation. With lovemaking and experimentation later.
Online reading by: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9RpH3CFcO8&feature=youtu.be
I do not claim ownership of the cover art. It is publicly posted art. Artist for Celestia: alasou

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28. Chapter 28

Sky paused to sit on a cloud and rest her wings while she looked down below. She thought she saw something moving through the trees, but wasn't sure. Sitting silently, she carefully scanned the treetops with a sharp eye until she caught a flicker of light yellow moving below. A bird? Again, the flicker of color moved, but this time she caught a clear sight of a light yellow Pegasus mare flitting from one tree to another.

Curious, Sky watched her moving from tree to tree. She looked like she was searching for something. After stopping in a tree for a while, she suddenly flew out to a large rock and set something down in a cavity and went back to searching the trees.

Wondering what the strange Pegasus was doing, Sky flew down and looked into the hollow, where she saw a small pile of various overripe and shriveled fruit and berries. Some of them stank of rot and mold. Grimacing at the smell, Sky flew up to a nearby tree and waited for the mare to return.

A short time later, the light yellow mare flew back and deposited what looked like a half, worm-eaten pear. Before she could fly off, Sky dropped down from the tree.

"Hello," Sky said in greeting, trying to sound as friendly as she could.

The mare let out a frightened little scream and immediately dove into a nearby bush. Sky blinked in amazement. She didn't expect the mare to react in such a way.

"I'm sorry for startling you. I didn't mean to do that to you." Stepping closer to the bush, Sky peeked in and found the light yellow mare huddled up in a shivering ball. She felt terrible for the frightened mare, she was absolutely terrified! "Please don't be frightened! My name is Sky Twirl, I'm a friend. I won't hurt you."

The mare carefully peeked her eyes out from under her hoof. "You... you aren't one of those meanie Unicorns are you?"

"Unicorns!?" Sky said back in surprise. "No, I'm a Pegasus just like you. Look." She unfurled her wings and held them up so the yellow mare could see.

Looking like she was expecting some kind of trick, the mare carefully looked her over. Reaching out, she even poked at her held out wing to see if it was real. When she was satisfied that she really was a Pegasus, she let out a relieved sigh and climbed out of the bush. "I'm sorry. I thought you were one of those terrible Unicorns coming to take me away again."

"What!? Take you away!?" Sky asked shocked. She had never heard of Unicorns taking Pegasi before!

The mare flinched back at Sky’s sudden outburst. "The.. Unicorns have been coming around, taking Pegasi," the mare explained hesitantly. "They took us up to this really scary place." She looked over her shoulder to the northwest. "I didn't like it there. It was full of mean Unicorns that scared me."

Sky could see that she needed to be careful with her questions. The mare looked like she was ready to bolt away and hide at any moment. "It sounds like they treated you very badly. You must have been very brave to have gotten away."

The mare shook her head. "They released me. She commanded me to tell the Pegasi what she demands from us as tribute to keep the sun in the sky."

"She?" Sky asked."Who's this ‘she’ that’s demanding tribute from the Pegasi?"

The mare's eyes became distant as her face contorted in fear. "She is the one who is as dark as midnight. Her power shrouds the sun to cover the land in darkness. She is the horrible Night Mare!" The mare's eyes became wide with terror and she huddled herself up into a shivering ball, hiding her head under her hooves.

Sky was alarmed at the mare's words. The Night Mare!? Was she the one who made the long night happen? Reaching out, Sky rubbed the mare's back. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry," she said trying to comfort the distraught mare. Glancing back, Sky looked at the rock the mare had hidden the food in. "Is that why you’re gathering that half-rotten food? To bring it back to the Unicorns?"

The mare peeked out from under her hoof and nodded. "We are to bring them food every full moon, or else she will plunge the world into everlasting night."

What the mare had shared with her was extremely concerning. Sky knew that Dark needed to hear it too. "There's somepony I would like you to meet. If you come with me and talk with him, we'll give you food. Good food, not this rotten food you've been gathering."

The mare ears quickly perked up with interest. "Really!?"

Sky smiled and nodded. "I promise. Just come and talk with our Herd Father. After that, you can leave with enough food to fill your stomach for a full moon. What do you say?"

The mare nibbled her lip with uncertainty as she thought about her offer. Finally, she looked up and nodded her agreement.

Sky felt relieved, she feared for a moment that the mare might refuse. "Good. Thank you. He's with a group of Earth Ponies not far from here."

The mare quirked her head to the side in confusion. "Earth Ponies? What are Earth Ponies?"

Sky almost laughed. She had forgotten that the term would be new to her. "Oh! You’d know them as ground ponies."

The mare brightened as she nodded her understanding. "Oh! Just like those mares I saw coming out of the valley over there." She nodded her head to the southwest.

Sky ears shot up in surprise. Was she talking about Mirage and the other mares when they left the valley? "How long ago was this!?"

The mare nibbled her lip again as she thought about it, then she began to scratch lines into the ground. "About this long ago."

Thankful that Meadowlark had taught her how, Sky counted the lines she left in the dirt "Six days ago? Are you sure?"

The mare nodded again. "Yes. It was the same day those nasty Unicorns took me."

Sky felt elated. There was no need to search anymore! The mare could tell them what valley they came out of! "Oh! This is wonderful news! We have friends up there we've been searching for who need our help! This can help us so much! Let's hurry and meet up with my party. They'll want to hear this, too." She smiled at the mare. "By the way, what's your name? You haven't told me yet."

"Oh! Um... my name is Flutter Fly," she answered shyly.

“Well, Flutter Fly. I am very pleased to meet you,” Sky said with a smile.

 

 

 

 

☽☽

 

 

 

 

Mustard looked down at the radish she held perched on her hoof, eyeing it carefully. As far as she could tell, it looked completely normal. Sniffing at it told her the same. Everything told her that it was a perfectly normal radish. Taking another bite, she chewed for a moment before she spat it out with a disgusted grimace. Why did it taste so bad?

Earlier, Sky had returned, accompanied by a young Pegasus mare. After quickly talking with Dark for a short bit, he took Sky, Happy, and his sister, Mirage, to the side with the new mare to talk in private. Meanwhile, the rest of the party took the time to eat and rest while they waited.

It was strange seeing another Pegasus. They had all grown so accustomed to Sky being the only one, that seeing the new one coming back with her sent a stir through the ponies in the group. Mustard thought it was curious that Sky had looked excited when she had gone to Dark with the Pegasus. Did she learn some good news?

"What's wrong with your radish? You're glaring at it like it told you your flanks were fat," a voice asked from her side. Glancing over, she saw that it was Mirage Shimmer who had addressed her. Apparently, she was no longer part of the private meeting Dark was having.

"My flanks are fat. They jiggle when I walk," Mustard answered with a weary sigh. "The stallions can't seem to keep their eyes off of them."

"One of the hazards of having a shapely posterior," Mirage said with an amused grin. "You mind if I join you? I wanted to see how you were doing."

"You mean, how I'm doing since I was changed into a mare? Well, let me think." She tapped her hoof to her chin. "My emotions are a complete mess. I feel like laughing one moment to crying the next. I feel bloated in places I never knew about. My back hurts. All my organs have been completely rearranged and stuffed into strange places. And I need to pee all the time now. So... I guess I would say that I am doing fine," she said giving Mirage a sour smile before frowning back at her meal. "I just don't understand why my radish tastes so bad."

Mirage considered Mustard and her radish for a moment before she sat down next to her. "Perhaps with your change of gender also came a change in your tastes?"

Mustard thought about it for a moment, then felt stupid for not thinking of such a simple thing herself. Letting out a sigh, she took another bite and forced herself to chew. "So, why aren't you at Dark's meeting with the Pegasus?"

"Dark and Happy set off with Flutter Fly, that's the Pegasus’ name by the way, to scout out where the valley is," Mirage explained. "They wanted to look it over before we all went in. I decided that I didn’t want to go, so I stayed behind."

"Ah, so you saw me sitting over here and you thought to see how the latest curiosity is doing?" Mustard tossed the last bite of her radish into her mouth and chewed distastefully.

"Don't call yourself that!" Mirage rebuked.

"Why not?" Mustard answered back. "Up until we took that little tumble into that stupid pool, I was living life as a stallion."

"And Morning was a mare," Mirage snapped back. "During all of this, have you ever considered how she... I mean he, is feeling about what has happened?"

"Morning has been annoyingly fine about all this," Mustard answered back flatly. Morning's lack of feeling on the matter had been really getting on her nerves.

"That's... very worrying," Mirage said with concern glancing over at the stallion as he sat with a group of other stallions chatting.

"What is?" Mustard glanced over to look at Morning. Nothing seemed to be wrong with him. He looked like he was enjoying himself.

"There was once a mare I knew named Cherry Red," Mirage said. "She was always friendly, and smiling. She loved to listen to the birds sing while sitting in the afternoon shade. When she became pregnant, she was over the moon happy about it. She told everypony who would listen what names she had chosen if it was a colt or a filly. Then the day arrived when she went into labor and delivered a colt. The poor thing never drew breath."

Mustard gasped. "Stillborn?"

Mirage nodded sadly. "The next day, Cherry was completely back normal. She was smiling and happily chatting among her friends like nothing had happened. Whenever her lost foal was brought up, she would smile and say that it was just meant to be. She never wept, not once. Everypony thought she was taking it really well. This went on for a while, until another mare had her foal. When Cherry saw the new foal, alive and with his mother, she went completely wild! She screamed and attacked the mother, when others came to stop her, she snatched up the foal in her teeth, and ran. She didn't make it far when her way was blocked by some of the stallions. It took all of them to wrest the foal away from her. She screamed and bit at them the whole time. When it was all over, it was decided that she was too dangerous to have around and she was put out of the herd. After that, I never saw her again.”

"Why did she do that?" Mustard was shocked at the story she had just shared. “Why did she go wild all of a sudden?”

Mirage was silent for a moment before she finally answered. "There are those that when something tragic happens to them. They bury it deep down inside themselves and do everything they can to pretend that everything is alright again. They will seem to be like their normal selves, joking and laughing. All will be well until something happens that brings the tragedy right up into the light of day. When this happens, when they are forced to confront the event that they have done everything they could to hide away in the deepest darkest part of themselves. Their minds sometimes can’t bare it.”

Mustard felt her gut twist with sudden apprehension. Was this what Morning was doing? Pretending that nothing was wrong? Her eyes traveled over to Morning. She had known Morning their entire lives. Their mothers would tell stories of how they had often nursed them together when they were foals, and how they endlessly played under their mothers’ hooves until they both collapsed with exhaustion and curled up together to nap away the day. Later, when he had started to notice how pretty the fillies around him were, Mustard discovered that there was something wrong with his stallionhood.

When he got older, he came to understand that he was never going to be able to fulfill his duties as a stallion to any of the young mares around him, most especially Morning. It was then that he had decided to start distancing himself with her, hoping that she would find another more worthy of her.

His plan at first seemed to be working. Morning looked hurt that she was being ignored by him. He even caught her crying off by herself once. But then, things changed with her. From then on, Morning was always showing up wherever he went. He increased his efforts to push her away, but that only seemed to get her to cling to him even more. He yelled at her, called her all sorts of names, and she returned them back at him with equal, if sometimes more clever insults. It seemed that they were both stuck at an impasse. He couldn't drive her away, and she couldn't have him.

Was that what Morning had done during that time? Pretend that nothing was wrong?

"What am I to do?" Mustard asked, glancing back to Mirage.

Mirage pursed her lips in thought then shook her head. “I think the best thing you could do for Morning is to be there for him. He’ll need you to help him through this. You must be patient and caring with him, no matter what, for you are the only one that truly matters to him." She looked over and met her gaze. "You do know that Morning is in love with you, right?"

Glancing back to Morning, Mustard nodded mutely, . "I've known for a long time now. Just as I know that I’ve always been in love with her..." Letting out a sigh, Mustard shook her head. It’s going to take a while to get used to how things are now. Him. I know that I am in love with him," she corrected herself.

"How do you think the changes that happened to you both are going to affect how you feel towards each other?"

Mustard stared down at the ground as she thought about it. There was so much to get used to now. Everything’s been completely turned upside down and she was feeling completely lost and confused about a whole lot of things. But her feelings for Morning were very much still the same. Unless they find a way to change back to their normal selves, they’ll just have to get used to how their lives are now.

“We’ll be fine,” Mustard assured her. “We’ll work through this somehow.”

Her thoughts roamed to what her and Morning’s future could be like, now that they were this way. As far as she could tell, she was a perfectly healthy young mare. And Morning definitely was a normal healthy stallion. With her heart hammering in her chest, Mustard placed her hoof to her belly as she let her thoughts truly understand the total ramifications of what their changes really meant.

"Mirage... what is it like to have a foal?"

Mirage blinked in surprise at the sudden change in the topic. "I don't know. I've never had one myself."

Glancing up, Mustard looked the soft blue mare over. It didn't look like there was anything wrong with her. "If you don't mind me asking, why haven't you?"

Mirage smiled and shrugged. "My herd is small. It’s been declining for a while now, and the stallions in it are growing old. Many mares have already gone off to join other herds. I stayed to be with Mama. She's been getting sick each winter and it's getting harder for her to recover each time. I've been putting off having a foal so I can help take care of her and help guard the herd with some of the other younger mares." Glancing up, Mirage smiled when she spotted a certain mare passing by. "Ah! Just the mare to see. Sky! Come over for a moment. Mustard here was wondering what it's like to have a foal."

Sky's eyes shot over to look over at Mustard with a kind of hopeful excitement. "Are you thinking of...!?"

Mustard was quick to shake her head. "No! Nothing like that!" Mustard felt her face heating up with embarrassment. "It's just... well. When I was a stallion, I ah... can what I say just stay between us?"

"Of course!"

"You can trust us," Mirage added with a nod.

"Well... when I was a stallion," Mustard licked at her lips nervously, "I was unable to sire a foal." The two mares listening both gasped. "Now everything has changed and the possibility now exists. It's just... I never once imagined in my whole life of ever having one grow inside of me."

"I think I understand," Sky said with a soft knowing smile. "A filly grows up with the expectation that someday she'll be having a foal, and so she prepares herself. A colt never has to deal with the idea of actually growing a whole new life inside his own body. I can imagine how strange this must feel to you."

"And frightening!" Mirage added.

"I thought I was ready for it myself," Sky continued. "But I can tell you there is no way any mare can truly be prepared for such an enormous event to be happening inside her body." Sky leaned back and rubbed her hoof over her slightly distended belly with a happy smile.

Mustard let her eyes drift down to Sky's belly. Would this be happening to her too, someday? The thought of it was terrifying, but in a strange sense, it was also kind of appealing. "Would... it be okay if I felt it?" she asked, gesturing to Sky's belly.

"Of course!" Sky answered with a nod. “Go right ahead.”

Reaching out, Mustard touched her hoof over the slight bulge along Sky's stomach. She marveled at what she felt. It wasn't soft as she had expected it to be, but instead it had a kind of firmness to it that gave proof that there was indeed something precious held within. Without thinking about it, Mustard lowered her head to set it against Sky’s belly. Closing her eyes, Mustard held her breath and listened. She could hear Sky's heartbeat as well as the various gurgles of her gut. Nothing that was usual, but then she thought she noticed something. A light rhythm that she was just barely able to make out.

Mustard smiled. "I can hear it! I can hear it's heartbeat!" She couldn't believe it. Just inside Sky was a brand new life, and she was able to hear its little heartbeat.

Mirage let out a happy squeal. "Oh! I want to hear too!"

Lifting her head up, Mustard let Mirage press her ear to Sky's belly too. After a little bit, the mare let out a giggle. "Oh wow! Its so fast!"

They all giggled together. Mustard was amazed that she was laughing with such joy over such a simple thing as hearing a foal's heartbeat. She never imagined ever doing something like this when she was a stallion.

"So, is it going to have wings like you? Or be big and burly like Dusty?" Mirage asked, sitting up.

Sky looked uncertain. "I'm not sure. As far as I know, this is the first foal between a Pegasus and an Earth Pony. I asked Dove about it and she doesn't know either. She said that we'll just have to wait and see."

“Oh! I am so excited for you!” Mirage squealed happily. “I can’t wait to see the little fella! I just know that it’ll be absolutely adorable like its mother!”

“I’ll just be happy if it’s healthy,” Sky said, rubbing her belly with a warm smile.

They all continued chatting for quite some time after that. Mustard had no idea it would be so fun to be involved in such mare-ish conversations. Sky and Mirage both helped explain some things about being a mare. Cleaning and general care of a mare’s body was apparently very important. Then they moved onto rumors of who liked who. Mustard was shocked to discover that Grass Stem was apparently interested in her very own sister, Dandelion Fluff! Eventually, their conversation came to the subject of the making of foals, and Mustard felt her ears burning from what she heard from them. Especially from Sky. She didn’t hold anything back. In the end, Mustard knew things about Dusty she never wanted to.

When Dark returned, he called all the ponies together. "As you all may already know, this is Flutter Fly." He nodded back to the shy mare hiding behind him. "She has shown Happy and myself to the valley Mirage came out of when she and the mares with her left. There are only a few hoof-lengths of sun still remaining, so I would like to camp here for the night and head up tomorrow. Flutter Fly has warned us that Rocs live in the mountains, so, Sky, I don't want you flying around while we’re up there."

Sky ruffled her wings in sudden agitation and stepped up close to Dusty's side. Rocs were giant raptors that lived high up in mountain ranges. Normally they never bothered with anything as small as a pony, but some of the younger ones would certainly be happy enough to snatch up a hapless Pegasus if it happened across one who was not paying attention.

"Another thing. There is a small lake near the mouth of the valley," Dark continued. "Flutter Fly says that the animals seem scared of it and they seem to keep their distance. I want us to do the same. I don't know if there is anything dangerous there, but I want to stay on the safe side, so we'll give it a wide berth when we pass by tomorrow.”

After that, he broke up the meeting and ponies got to work setting up camp. A pack was given to Flutter Fly, and filled with fresh food for her to take. At first she was dubious of the dried fruit, but after trying one, she fluttered several lengths up into the air in happy surprise, and munched down several more in quick order.

That night, when the campfire was lit and burning, ponies sat themselves around it to quietly talk among themselves in small groups, while Flutter Fly spied down in frightened awe, on the strange actions of the Earth Ponies from the branches of a nearby tree. Dusty had his mother laid out near the fire so she could enjoy the warmth. She had awoken during the day, allowing Dusty and Sky to talk together with her and work some things out with each other.

Mustard sought out Morning and found him lying alone, staring sightlessly into the fire. Without asking, Mustard laid down next to him and leaned against his side. She was surprised at how nice his body felt against hers

Morning glanced down at her, obviously confused by her actions. "What are you doing?"

"I don't know what you mean," Mustard said.

"This," Morning said, gesturing her head down at her. "What are you doing snuggling against me like this?"

"If you don't like it, I can always find somewhere else to lay," Mustard retorted. "Perhaps with Grass Stem."

Mustard felt Morning suddenly stiffen against her side, apparently affected by what she had said. "No!... it's fine. You can snuggle up against me all you want. I don't care."

Mustard nearly smiled. "Fine, I will."

Sitting quietly together they both stared off into the fire. They were sitting so closely, Mustard couldn't help but smell Morning's scent. It was different now, but still the same. Before, Morning had a soft, sweet scent. Now, it was stronger and more earthy in some way. Leaning in, Mustard lightly touched her nose against Morning's neck and sniffed at him.

Morning glanced back with a curious look. "What are you doing?"

Mustard drew in more of his scent. "I'm smelling you," she answered simply.

"Why are you smelling me?"

"Because I like your smell, that's why," Mustard said, drawing in one last sniff before looking back to the fire with a pleased sigh. There was something about feeling Morning's body against hers with his strong scent fuzzing up her head that made her feel... secure. It was an oddly pleasant feeling. Morning seemed befuddled at her strange behavior, but didn't voice any further complaints about it.

A few moments later, Mustard felt a light touch just behind her ears as she heard Morning sniffing back at her. With deep even breaths, he took in her scent, and Morning noticed that his body was beginning to tense up with a kind of eagerness. Giving her a little nip, Morning let out a light knicker into her ear.

"Control yourself," Mustard warned the stallion. "We're having a moment, now, so don't ruin it."

Morning let out a snort, and shiver ran through his body as he struggled with himself. "Sometimes... it's just so hard," he said with a sigh. "I had no idea that stallions had such strong desires. It's almost a constant thing. I'm a bit surprised that stallions can get anything done."

"It can be a bit distracting, but you learn to put your mind onto other things," Mustard explained.

Falling silent, the two stayed that way for a time. Mustard noticed that Sky and Mirage were off to the side, talking closely with each other. They were giggling and glancing over toward them with amused interest. Mustard felt her face begin to heat up. Shaking her head, Mustard returned her attention back to Morning and what she really came to him for.

"Morning?" she said, suddenly breaking the silence between them. "I've been meaning to tell you something."

"Oh?"

"I want you to know that I’m sorry for pushing you away. I thought I was doing the right thing." Mustard said. "When I discovered that I was incapable of ever fathering a foal with you, I wanted you to find another to give you the happiness I couldn’t." Mustard took a breath and let it out. "I know that what I did hurt you. And I am sorry for that."

Morning was silent for a long time. So much so, that Mustard was growing concerned.

“I hated you for what you did to me," he finally said, breaking the silence between the two.

Mustard felt a twist of pain in her chest. She expected to hear something like that from him, but it still hurt.

"You broke my heart," Morning continued. "We were best friends and you treated me like I meant nothing to you."

Mustard felt the ach in her chest tighten as tears came to her eyes. "If you hated me, then why did you stay with me?"

"Because, you hollow-headed idiot! I was in love with you!" Morning snapped at her. "Despite how angry I was with you, I couldn't stop loving you."

"I'm sorry," Mustard apologized again, wiping tears from her eyes. "I'm so sorry for what I did to you. It’s okay to hate me. I deserve it."

Morning let out a long sigh. "It's okay... I know now why you did it. I just wish you came to me sooner. I would have understood. I'm sure we could have figured out a way. I heard that there’s a little blue flower that can help with something like that."

"It didn't work. I tried," Mustard said with a tired sigh. It was strange. Why did it take a gender-swapping enchanted pool to finally get them to start working out their personal problems with each other? "I guess this explains why you never accepted any of the other stallions’ advances during your seasons."

"Well... that's not the entire reason why,” Morning added. “There was something else."

Mustard glanced up with sudden curiosity. "Something else?"

Morning nibbled at his lip. "It was stupid, really. I knew it was, but I couldn't stop feeling that it would happen."

"What?" Mustard perked her ears forward.

Morning gazed forward into the fire. "It started during my first heat. It woke me up screaming in the night and left me shivering. My mama told me in the morning that it was just a dream, that it wasn't real. But I couldn't stop feeling that it would come true! Every time I went into heat, I would have the exact same nightmare. Over and over again, every night until my heat passed."

"What was the nightmare?"

“The nightmare was always the same. It would start with me being happily pregnant with our foal. You were always there with me in the dream. We were both happy and joyous at our coming foal. Then the pain comes as I go into labor. I don’t know how long I would writhe on the ground, but it seemed like days. You would be standing there over me, helpless to do anything but wait.” Morning paused to stare down at the ground. “And as you watch over me, my heart finally gives out from the strain of my lengthy labor, and both I and our unborn foal, perish together. You, in your grief, take my lifeless body onto your back and walk down to a lake where you then sink yourself into its dark depths to follow us into death.”  

Mustard felt a chill run down her spine. She could imagine doing something like that if she ever lost Morning.  Against her side she could feel Morning start to shiver from the memory of the terrible nightmare.

"I knew it was just a bad dream, but it just kept returning," Morning continued. "It terrified me. I felt a strange certainty that the dream would come true! That it would actually happen to us someday!”

Mustard reached out and nuzzled Morning's neck. "Shh...shh... it's okay," she murmured softly, trying to calm him.

After a while, Morning’s breathing evened out again, and his shivering stopped. Bending his head around, Morning surprised Mustard when he pressed his lips to hers and kissed her. Mustard felt a flash of heat run through her body as their lips meshed together. A kiss filled with tenderness and love for one another.

Sitting together on the other side of the fire, Sky and Dusty smiled and turned from the scene to speak quietly with one another. Off to the other side, Mirage let out a big sigh as she leaned her head onto her upraised hoof and smiled a goofy smile. Dark only glanced down at her and then up to see what she was looking at, and rolled his eyes.

 

 

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