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Sunderland College [2.4 – A Date with Dance]




The heavy clatter of feet upon the treadmills continues without fail.


“Yes, I suppose it is a funny word.” Xilog sighs. “Do you have to repeat it whilst we’re running?”

“Sorry.” Eiden chuckles. “I mean, I could talk about everything else in my head, but I’m not sure you want to hear it all.”

“I assume the Practise Model Competition is on your mind?”

“Yeah, actually.” Eiden says. “I didn’t think I was gonna enjoy coming to registration on Wednesday, since it just means I get up at the crack of dawn, come in, then head home again. But that was some good news! I just need to speak to Jackson.”

Xilog begins to slow the treadmill down, a little out of breath. “Yes, I suppose so.”

“What about you, will you be entering?”

“No.” Xilog replies. “It isn’t of particular interest to me.”

“I see.” Eiden says. He continues to run. “You’re gonna come watch, though, right?”

“We’re off-timetable. I may as well.” Xilog says, turning to Eiden. “I’ll be intrigued to see how you perform, too.”

“Thanks.” Eiden replies. “Right, I’m done with running. Shall we move to medicine balls?”




Form A have Combat Training first thing on Thursdays, and they file out of registration, excited to fight.

Marion Summer, teacher of Combat Training, nods as they gather in front of her, and she begins the lesson.

“Alright! Today’s lesson is going to be a bit different. You won’t just be doing one-on-one combat, you’ll often fight multiple opponents, or sometimes you’ll even be the one who outnumbers your foe. So today, we’re gonna do group fights!”

“This’ll be interesting.” Ten says. “How so?”

“Like this.” Marion says, gesturing to the group. “Cassandra, Donovan, Boo on one side; Ten, Xilog and Jackson on the other, please!”

The group split off, and Marion observes them all preparing to battle. “Alright, now go!”

Cassandra hangs back whilst Donovan and Boo charge in, with Donovan’s copies appearing beside him. She begins to charge her power.

“We can’t let Cass unleash her snowstorm,” says Ten. “Jackson, go distract her!”

“Right.” Jackson says, running off, but two of the Donovan clones go to head him off. Xilog kicks the ground, using the Steel-Capped Kickers to launch himself over the group, going for Cassandra.

Boo charges over to intercept, but Ten does the same, and their Sawblade Skirts end up slamming into one another, causing them both to be hurled backwards. Xilog goes for Cassandra, but it has been too much time; the ice begins to form around her, and she fires several shards at Xilog, which he is only just able to kick through. He lands on the ground in front of her as the cold air begins to form.

The Donovans surround Jackson, who begins to kick his legs out, using the Laser Runners to create lasers; a natural shield against the clones. He spots one of them moving a little differently to the others, and realises it may be the real one. With a flurry of foot movements, he creates several lasers and dashes towards the real Donovan, throwing a punch at his stomach.

“How dare you?” Donovan curses as he crashes to the ground. “Time to face my special move: Endgame Explosion!”

He charges at Jackson. Meanwhile, a blast of cold air from nearby surrounds the group as Cassandra summons a furious snowstorm. Boo and Ten, chilled by the cold, can do nothing but retreat, attacking one another as they do. Xilog goes for Cassandra, but she creates icicles, thrusting out of the ground, to protect herself.

Donovan reaches Jackson, unsummoning one of his clones; the minute he touches Jackson, he tries to summon his clone inside the young man. It backfires, and the ensuing explosion inside his chest launches both him and Jackson in opposite directions. Jackson lands, dazed, outside of the field, whilst Donovan is flung back, crashing into Boo and sending them both out of bounds.

Cassandra, noticing that she’s now on her own, ups the ante by directing blasts of cold air at Xilog and Ten, but Xilog launches a fierce kick at the nearest icicle, which sends chunks of ice towards her. She responds by firing a large block of ice at the pair, and Ten runs past Xilog, shearing through the block of ice using her Sawblade Skirt. Xilog uses the moment of weakness to run through and kick Cassandra squarely in the chest, launching her backwards, out of bounds.

“And end!” Marion shouts. “Very good performance, everyone! We’ll have a couple more fights over the lesson, but as for some base feedback, let’s see… Donovan, you need to bear in mind that you have to fight as a team. Friendly fire is generally not accepted, so keep an eye on all the battlefield, not just you and your opponent.”

“Gotcha.” chuckles Donovan sheepishly, putting a thumbs-up at Boo.

Marion continues. “Cassandra, you expected your opponents to get bogged down fighting your teammates, but you failed to change your strategy once Donovan and Boo were out. You were outnumbered, so being hyper-aggressive would have helped you more there. And you shouldn’t have remained at the edge of the ring once you were the only one left.”

“OK!” Cassandra replies, getting out a little notebook and jotting the advice down, musing on how to improve.

“The rest of you did quite well – Donovan, I’ve never seen anyone use the Obfuscating Hood like that, but I think more practise is necessary. I also wouldn’t use it more than once – it could hurt.”

“But of course! A special move can only be used once per battle, to attain victory!” Donovan crows. Marion smirks.

“Sure thing, kiddo. Ten, excellent use of your Sawblade Skirt to create an opening at the end there. You and Xilog did well, and used your skills to your advantage. I also noticed how you took charge at the beginning and recognised the biggest threat on the opposing team. Really impressive.”

“Oh, uh, thanks.” Ten says, unused to such glowing reviews. She winks at Cassandra, who winks back.

“I’ll get you next time.” she murmurs.

“Finally, Jackson; I would argue that you were overly confident. You did well against Donovan, but his predictable blathering about a special move should have tipped you off that something different was coming. In those instances, it’s best to go on the defensive and take care. Never believe that you know everything your opponent can do!”

“Right.” Jackson says.

“Alright, let’s get back into formation and switch the teams around a little. Here we go!”

With a sigh, the class realise it’s going to be a tough lesson.




“You going to Dance Club?” asks Phillis whilst Cassandra spots for him. She glances down curiously.

“I wasn’t going to, no. Are you?”

“Mm.” Phillis grunts, putting the weights down and sitting up, wiping his face with a towel. “I can always get lighter and faster.”

“Oh, you’re doing it as a fitness thing? I was gonna say, for a minute I thought you were suggesting that you were intending to get a date for the Winter Ball.”

Phillis allows himself a smile. “You saying I can’t?”

“Of course not.” Cassandra replies, removing several of the weights and getting on the bench, whilst Phillis stands behind her, ready to spot. “But, you know, that involves not being antisocial.”

“Mm, suppose.” Phillis replies. “I just want to get stronger.”

“Well, you have to, really.” Cassandra says, heaving at the weights. “You need every advantage you can get.”

“Yeah.” Phillis replies, deep in thought. “Yeah, I do.”




Boo jumps in fright as a figure walks up to her and sits beside her. The library is quiet, but the figure is quieter yet. It’s Xilog, and he turns to her with a nod.

“Hey. Is that the Clothing History extended reading?”

“Um, yes.” Boo says. “Most people don’t bother to do wider reading, but… I dunno, I guess it passes the time.”

“So, you’re originally from the US?”

“Texas.” Boo replies. “If, uh, that wasn’t obvious.”

She isn’t particularly forthcoming.

“You miss it.”

Boo looks up in surprise. Xilog is observing her quietly.

“You’re perceptive.” she says.

“I see people.” Xilog replies. “You’re new here, and it’s unfamiliar, and nobody speaks your dialect. You miss home. Why did you move?”

“It’s nothing that needs discussing.” Boo replies. “…Maybe another time.”

Xilog stands up, satisfied. “I look forward to speaking with you again.”

He begins to walk through the aisles of the library, looking for something that he cannot quite find.

“Need a hand?” asks a library assistant. He nods.

“I want a book on Clothing History. Not for the course, though, I’m… confused.”


“Yeah.” he replies, shrugging. “Battle Clothing all seems very samey. The old item and Patch combo, designers churning out similar stuff and calling it new… are there different ways of doing things?”

“Ah, I see. Well, why read up on it when you can speak to a source?” the assistant says. His voice drops, and he leans in. “I’ll lend you a book on the origins of Patchworking, but here’s something the students aren’t to know yet: Lindsey Stunne is coming to Sunderland to watch the Practise Model Competition in a few weeks. You’d need to enter to get close to her, or just catch her in between matches, but she may have the answers you need.”

Xilog nods. “Thank you, for this book, and the information.”

“Keep it to yourself, yeah?”

“Indubitably.” Xilog replies, staring at the book and making his way out of the library. His stomach rumbles, and he finally decides to go and get himself some lunch.




In Combat Training after lunch, Eiden and Aubree are about to fight. Aubree brings up her Killer Heels, and Eiden prepares the Spider Snood.

“Alright, scrubs! Get to it!” Marion yells.

“Hey,” Eiden says as he dodges past a fierce slashing kick and wraps his tendrils around Aubree’s leg, hurling her to the side. “Were you thinking about entering the Practise Model Competition?”

“Is this really the time?” Aubree asks, kicking up, forcing Eiden to stay away, buying herself enough time to clamber to her feet. She’s become a little more steady on her feet since earlier in the week, and her legs kick up with deadly accuracy. Eiden is hard-pressed to defend himself, as one slice from her Killer Heels would shred his tendrils to pieces.

“I was just wondering, I was thinking about entering myself.” he says, sliding two of his tendrils across the ground. Aubree jumps over them.

“Well, I was going to, but they don’t recommend you do both roles! I wanted to be model and designer, though I suppose I’m happy being a designer… just need a model.”

Eiden dashes to the side as Aubree stabs the ground where his tendrils had been moments earlier. He grabs one of her arms and tries to pull her off-balance.

“Well, if you want me to be a model for you, I can do that!” he offers. “I want to put myself on the map for designing, but it’s a little short-notice, so I’ll save that stuff for the Winter Model Competition later in the term.”

As Aubree falls, she swings her leg around and catches one of Eiden’s tendrils, tearing it in half, leaving him with seven remaining. He grunts and redoubles his assault.

“That does sound like a good idea.” Aubree says. “I’d love it if you could be my model! It’d be such a handy favour, and we’d be an awesome team!”

“Yeah, we would!” Eiden replies, ducking under Aubree’s kick and wrapping two tendrils around both of her legs and pulling back, throwing her over his head; she collides with the ground near the edge of the arena. “So, partners?”

As Eiden runs to her, Aubree swings her left leg around, forcing him to jump over it, then spears his Snood with her right leg, thrusting the blade of the heel deep into it; with a heave, she uses his momentum to fling him past herself, landing outside of the arena.

“Stop!” Marion says.

Aubree gets to her feet, walking up to Eiden and offering him her hand. “Partners.”




In the evening, as everyone goes home, a club is beginning. Just outside the hall where Dance Club will be taking place, Donovan looks up to see Cassandra looking through the glass in the door. He joins her.

“Were you gonna go?”

“I was thinking about it.” Cassandra replies. “But… there’s a lot of people there.”

“Yeah, I don’t want anyone to recognise me.” Donovan murmurs, picking out a few familiar faces. “God, I feel sorry for whoever Phillis’ dance partner is. Truly cursed by the gods above!”

Cassandra laughs. “True! Hey, did you wanna grab a coffee on the way home?”

“Yes, that sounds lovely!” Donovan replies, then catches himself. “Uh, I mean, I suppose we need to scout out the town centre to see if the coffee shop could serve as our base of, uh… dastardly operations!”

“Indeed.” Cassandra replies, shaking her head. “Come on, they do the best little cakes you’ve ever had!”

The pair walk out of the college in high spirits.

“The forces of evil have no time for cake! …Well, they have time for one or two…”




“Hello, everyone!” the woman at the front of the hall says. She’s wearing comfortable sportswear and trainers, and looks very relaxed. “My name is Chrissie Ansell – some of you will know me at Form C’s tutor, but for those in Forms A and B, nice to meet you. Shall we begin with-”

The doors at the other end of the room blast open with a huge shockwave, revealing a suave figure wearing impossibly stylish Vibe Bottoms and a wide grin. The figure begins to walk into the hall, and Eiden, Phillis, Ten, Zaphod and Aubree all sigh as they realise who it is.

“And who are you?” asks Chrissie.

“The name’s Clocksworth Clocksworth II. This is Dance Club, yeah?”

“Yeah.” Chrissie replies, shaking her head in disbelief. “As I was saying, we’ll begin by performing some stretches. Today we’re going to start learning a ballroom routine for the Winter Ball, so you’ll also need to partner up!”

After the exercises are over, the group begin to partner up. Clocksworth forcibly partners herself with a nervous Aubree, whilst Eiden and Ten decide to make a pair. Despite looking around everywhere for another partner, Zaphod soon realises that Phillis is his only option, and awkwardly stands beside him.

“Excellent. Now then – we can’t start a ballroom routine until we know the correct position. Lots of people think they know, but it’s the details that are important. So, let’s take a look at what those details are. You two, we’ll use you as an example.”

Aubree blanches as the entire dance group turn to face her, whilst Clocksworth welcomes the attention. “Alright, sure.”

Over the next hour, the group learn the basics of ballroom dancing, and actually have a surprising amount of fun. Even Phillis begins warming up to the irrepressible Zaphod. Clocksworth is the star of the show, and his new Vibe Bottoms are as flashy as his outward personality; Dance Club is evidently his bread and butter.




Xilog and Eiden’s morning exercise routine is a lot more talkative than usual. Xilog has been reading his new book on Patchmaking, and they discuss it as they perform crunches and sit-ups on mats.

“So, what did you find?” asks Eiden.

“Apparently, all clothes come with something called a ‘core type’. So, for example, two different designers could make two drastically different trench coats, but they would still both be treated as trench coats when a patch is applied.” Xilog explains. “The flair of such a design affects the outcome. So, you’ll have noticed that Simon’s Phantom Overcoat is larger and more dark than Clocksworth’s, because his coat is designed by someone different.”

“Ah,” Eiden says with interest. “So slight changes in the design of a piece of clothing affects the Battle Clothing?”

“Yes. Your Shadow Palm won’t be the exact same as other people’s. It all depends on what the designer does. And of course, you already know about Dampened Patches producing less powerful clothing for the general public. There’s many nuances to Battle Clothing that we haven’t learnt. I suppose it’s not important for us.”

“Not important, but it’s very interesting. Besides, for those who want to… design clothing, it sure is helpful.”




“Leaving your homework to the last minute again, Jackson?” Ten says. Jackson nods.

“Hey, I’ve been busy. Besides, I still get good grades!”

“I guess so.” Cassandra says, looking around the classroom. “Where’s Simon? Registration started a couple of minutes ago.”

“Must be running late.” Ten replies.

“Acceptable.” Xilog replies. “Judging by his lateness on Fridays, I’d hazard a guess that he sets his alarm a little later on Friday mornings.”

Simon walks in, yawning, holding a coffee, as Xilog speaks. He nods. “Morning, students. There’s not much to go through today, so I won’t keep you long.”

“Oh, don’t say thaaaat…” sighs Jackson, scribbling at his homework. “I still need another twenty minutes to finish this.”




In Social Relations, Zaphod sighs as he sees Anastasia doodling once again. Xilog is attentively studying the information on the board.

“Drawing again?” Zaphod whispers.

“Yup.” Anastasia replies.


Anastasia continues doodling for a moment, then stops and turns to Zaphod.


Zaphod shifts awkwardly in his seat. “I’ll tell you in a sec.”

Jessica Fir, Social Relations teacher, points to the slide on the board. “Alright, I’d like to take 5 minutes to have a quick discussion in twos. I want everybody to feed back with an answer afterwards, and I mean everybody!”

As the class devolve into discussion, Zaphod turns back to Anastasia. “So, yeah, I was wondering… you’re such a good designer.”

“Uh, thanks.” Anastasia replies, unused to praise.

“So… did you maybe wanna be my designer for the Practice Model Competition? I was gonna enter, and I’d prefer to work with a friend than a randomly assigned designer.”

Anastasia swells up with excitement. “You really mean that? Yes! I’d love to help you out! When can we get started?”

“Next week?” Zaphod suggests. “We can meet at lunches or free periods to work on a good design.”

“Sounds good.” Anastasia replies, grinning widely. “I’m really looking forward to this!”

Xilog leans over to the pair. “Jessica’s got her eyes on you two. I’d recommend you actually come up with an answer to give her, because I can guarantee she’s going to ask you first.”

“Right, yeah…” Zaphod says. “OK, here are my notes on Peacekeeper laws…”




Jackson looks up as a figure swings into the lunchroom, suspended by eight long ropey scarf tendrils. Eiden lands beside him and nods.


“That was sure an entrance.” Jackson replies. “Hi. Did you have anything this morning?”

“Nah,” Eiden says. “I only came in for Reg, been to the gym this morning whilst they repaired my scarf. You?”

“I was in the gym this morning, then Combat Training. Got my ass kicked.” Jackson says. “I like the Laser Runners, but they’re hard to use.”

“Well, if they’re anything like the Spider Snood, you just have to get used to them. Practise makes perfect – and hey, they’re pretty amazing in Performing Arts. Looking forward to the lesson today?”

“Yeah!” Jackson replies, putting down his lunchbox and engaging with the conversation more directly. “I love that we only have one PA lesson a week, since we get a full two hours to practise our performing. Last week’s lesson was super fun!”

“Yeah, definitely.” Eiden says, using one of his tendrils to prevent Jackson’s apple rolling off the table. “Oh, that reminds me, I wanted to ask you a favour.”

“Sure.” Jackson replies, taking the apple and biting into it.

“I want you to design me a mask.”

Jackson tilts his head. “A mask?”

“You know how to design Battle Clothing. I’ve no idea where you got so good, but I’ve seen your designs, and I think you’re the right person to make my mask into a piece of Battle Clothing.”

Jackson lets a small smile creep across his face, and Eiden knows he’s got him.

“You’re talking about designing a never-before-seen piece of Battle Clothing. Not even pro designers do that every day, since it’s immensely difficult.” Jackson says.

Eiden’s face falls.

“…But I’d relish the challenge. Original Cloth is my paint, and your mask is my canvas – I’ll do it.”

“Awesome!” Eiden says. “So, uh… how do we start?”

With a triumphant grin, Jackson begins to get out a notebook and a well-worn graphic pencil.

“First, we need to figure out a way to weave Original Cloth into your mask. I’ll need blueprints of exactly how it works – it’s medical, right?”

“Yeah, and I have a pamphlet on it. That should be more than enough.”

“Excellent.” Jackson murmurs, scribbling away with the pencil, putting together the basics of a mask transformed into Battle Clothing, keeping notes on the side that are barely legible to Eiden. “This… this is gonna be interesting.”

“Where did you learn to design like this?” Eiden asks.

“Uh…” Jackson says. “Good schooling. I always loved designing, since I’ve been a kid.”

“That’s nice.” Eiden says, watching the pencil at work. “You’re really good at it.”

“I’m glad.” Jackson replies. “One day, I want to make clothing that can change the world.”

In silence, Eiden watches as Jackson’s pencil begins to bring his vision to life.

“…Can you teach me to design?”

Jackson looks up at Eiden and nods. “Of course! I’ll go a little bit slower, and explain what I’m doing. So, these shaded bits are where I’m thinking we’d put in Original Cloth, like so…”




Simon smirks as he sees the students gather on the field outside. Lauren Valleja, one of the combat referees, is stood beside him.

“Well, it’s time for another term of Knock ‘Em Dead Club.” she murmurs.

“Yup.” Simon says. “It’s a good way to relax; you should try it sometime.”

Cassandra, Eiden, Donovan, Ten, Anastasia, and Xilog are all there, with their Battle Clothing, ready for battle. Simon observes them, then shrugs.

“Alright. This is pretty simple; I’ll stand in the ring, and you’ll enter the field one at a time. Either I go down, or you go down. And if you get knocked out of the ring, the next person can enter. Form a line, kiddies, and let’s begin.”

The first to fight is Cassandra, who steps confidently onto the field as a chill begins to surround her. She summons the frost, but with one impossibly fast swipe from Simon’s Phantom Overcoat, she is knocked out of the field. She lies on the ground for a few moments, completely shocked.

“What the hell?” says Donovan. “What arcane powers does this man possess?”

“You know what the scariest part is?” Eiden replies. “He’s only using his Phantom Overcoat.”

“What do you mean?” Ten asks.

“He’s an adult. He’s capable of wearing two, we don’t know what the second one is and he doesn’t even need it to beat us.” Eiden says.

A silence falls over the students as they realise how ineffectual they are going to be against Simon. Donovan summons his four clones and runs onto the field.

“Alright, monsieur Simon! Face me now!” he yells. Simon smirks to himself.

Without even moving, Simon dodges past three punches from three of the clones, then punches the real Donovan with his huge, shadowy fist. The impact confuses Donovan enough that he can’t direct the clones, and Simon spins around, swinging his fist and dissipating all three of the clones. Before Donovan can recover, a second punch launches him out of the ring.

Anastasia enters next, wielding her Garrote Garter and swinging around a knife with precision. Simon throws a punch, but misses, and Anastasia stabs the knife into the huge, pulsating arm of shadow. Simon winces, then smacks Anastasia. She falls to the floor, still in the ring, but her knife is hurled out of her hand. She goes to draw her second whilst she clambers to her feet, but Simon picks her up and throws her into the wall of the college on the other side of the arena, where she lands, dazed.

Xilog, Ten and Eiden realise they’re next. Xilog shrugs and goes into the field, kicking the ground to launch himself skywards. Simon’s swinging fist misses him, and he lands on the ground again, kicking hard and angling himself towards Simon’s body. He flies forward, and Simon steps out of the way, issuing a heavy punch at the same time that sends Xilog crashing out of bounds.

Preparing his Spider Snood, Eiden moves onto the field, suspended on his tendrils and moving very quickly, almost like he was a spider.

“This is how I deal with spiders, kid.” Simon says, lifting his hand and turning it into a gigantic shadowy fist. “I squash them.”

His hand thunders downward, slamming into the ground hard enough to cause it to crack. The group watches in surprise as Eiden’s tendrils appear around the wrist of the Phantom Overcoat’s arm, having narrowly avoided being crushed. Eiden begins to pull Simon towards him, but suddenly, the arm fades into nothingness. Simon turns his coat back into a normal trench coat, throws it into the air, and puts his arm into the rightmost arm this time. His right arm then transforms into the shadowy hand and punches Eiden squarely, hurling him backwards.

“I’d lose control if I wore both arms at the same time.” Simon explains, walking towards Eiden. “But I’ve come up with ways of switching between the arms so seamlessly that I may as well have both of them active at once.”

Eiden’s tendrils move into a defensive position, but Simon grabs the tendrils and throws them further backwards, out of the ring.

“Jesus.” Eiden groans. “This guy isn’t messing around.”

Ten steps into the ring with a sigh. “You’re a tough one. What’s your second piece of clothing, anyway?”

“I’d reveal it if I needed to use it. Against you lot? I don’t need it.” Simon explains. He goes to punch Ten, who doesn’t make an attempt to dodge.

“Ten!” Cassandra yelps.

The Sawblade Skirt activates, and Ten grabs the fist as it strikes her, burying the spinning buzzsaw deep into the hand. Simon howls in pain and retracts his fist warily. Ten takes the advantage and charges, heading right for Simon.

The older man prepares a fist above her and launches it downwards, but Ten leaps in midair, pushing her stomach out and making the spinning blade that is her midriff the first thing the fist touches. Again, Simon is forced to recoil with the pain of the blade, and Ten lands on the ground to continue her run. Simon tries to fake her out with a false punch, but she calls his bluff and gets towards him, preparing to punch him in the face.

In his fury, Simon suddenly disappears from the space he was standing in. Ten stops in surprise, looking around, to see him on the other side of the battlefield. Gleaming with light, the group finally see his second piece of Battle Clothing: the Speed Sneakers. Running at impossible speeds, Simon becomes a wall of pain, hurling blow after blow – several of them hit Ten’s spinning blade, but many more hit Ten herself, forcing her to try and block. Eventually, a solid punch beats her out of the arena, where she collapses to her knees.

Simon is breathing heavily, worn out. “Haah… alright, kid, you impressed me. You have the makings of an excellent Bombardier.”

He begins to walk away, slowly, conserving his breath.

“Nobody won this week, but it’s OK, you’ll start to learn my tactics and get stronger. See you next week.”

Ten stares at the ground, worn out. “Fucking dickhead.”

“You can say that again.” Cassandra replies. “Next week, I’m gonna hit him with everything I’ve got.”

The group, injured and dazed, head home to spend a relaxing weekend recovering and catching up on their homework. Many of them also have their minds on week 5 of college, when the Practise Model Competition will be taking place.


New Clothing Discovered:


[No. 072] Speed Sneakers

Formation: Trainers + Augment Patch

Effect: Massively increases user’s speed

Drawback: Slowing down is incredibly difficult

Sunderland College [2.A - The Broken Curse: A History of Sunderland College]
Sunderland College [2.5 - The Spider's Web]

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