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La Renaissance Sombre


Sarah Tintagyl
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[i]Paris, Former Burgundy
January 6th, 20XX
2:45 am[/i]

Claire Delacour, the former President of the Eighth French Republic and best friend to the dead Empress, Therese Zelle, was going through a mid-life crisis. She had watched in near total despair at what had become of her homeland since she had left France so many years ago. It seemed as though, since Therese's death, Germany and her allies had not only disgraced France, they had wiped it near clean off of Europe. Where had the country which was the grandeur of the world disappeared to? Well for starters, an English King and Queen who had turned themselves into some hybrid species of human sat on a pretend throne in Anjou, while vassals and weak lesser kings divided the rest of the former Zellic Empire. Things could not be worse and as for Claire personally, she drifted across the world, seemingly without purpose, from being mocked in Athens as a failure, to not being able to find peace anywhere else in Europe or the world.

Finally the disgraced President and General returned to Marseilles, which had also been taken by the dreaded Monegasque, and it felt as though Claire would simply sink down and cry. She had changed much during her journeys, the woman's hair had faded from it's brilliant gold to an off-shade of gray. Her eyes had lost their spark and her hands were no longer as firm and strong as they used to be, however, her strength and drive had never left her and Claire conducted herself always as a soldier, but a soldier to France; the France of Therese Zelle.

She was something else as well. Having left Europe after her terrible mockeries at the Athenian Court, Claire had moved south in hopes of finding a new land, a land somehow connected to her nationalist fanaticism and she found herself settling in the remote island of Haiti; then still under the rule of Holy America. Haiti was a healing experience for Claire as she continued to age, she relaxed on the beaches and even sent in enlistment papers to join the Imperial Army, after all, once a soldier, always a soldier. However, even after obtaining the rank of Lieutenant, the French Exile never left Haiti and fell in love with its people and customs, including the customs which were kept in the shadows.

There had been an old woman named Variola, who lived deep in the jungles of Hispanola and one day when she was on patrol, Claire happened to stumble onto a hut of shrunken skulls and broken bones. Put off at first and determined to take the witch into custody for possible murders, the old woman immediately played on the woman's fancies. "You want your land back? You want France back?"

"Of course, but that is no-"

"You want Tessa back?"

No one had ever called Therese by that name, but Claire and Adelaide, the three comrades along with the famed Marshals of the day. Claire was enthralled, could this woman truly give the secrets to some how bring back not only Therese from the world beyond, but furthermore, the Empire? She never spoke to anyone what happened that night and the following days the former general spent with Variola, only that Claire had changed, she was serious, her determination for an unseen ghost increased ten fold, and soon she resigned her post in the Imperial Army just as the first bombs of the civil war began to fall.

Over the years, Claire continued on her travels, discovering more about herself and her fanatical drive to restore her homeland along the way. Eventually she found her way back to France and carried on through the roads of the divided country until reaching Paris one night as the snows gently lay across the Seine. No one would recognize her now, but under her gray winter coat, her ancient blue uniform of the French Imperial Army still clung tightly to her chest. She crept slowly down abandoned streets towards the Arc de Triomphe. There were two bodies within in great sarcophaguses, the ashes of Emperor Napoleon I and the body of Empress Therese I, in history they had been the only two leaders who had brought France out of chaos and into a new age and after their deaths the nation had fallen once again on hard times. But that would all change after today, Claire thought, today would be the rebirth, not only for France, but for the world.

There was only light security as Claire reached the tombs within the monument, a security guard or two, standing for display purposes only, but at this late at night and as quietly as she moved they never saw her enter. Pushing into the marble hallways, the general walked down the stairs deeper into the tomb until she stood near the tomb of the late Empress. Napoleon, who had been reduced to ash could not be effected by the stunt that Claire was about to pull, she needed a body, a body well preserved and a body who had left the world with much unfinished business.

Throwing off her coat, Claire stood, rapier at her side in her ancient uniform, gentle lace shielding her neck and her gray ponytail swaying behind her. She had memorized the words. Approaching the casket, Claire took out her rapier and busted out the glass of the tomb looking down at Therese's still face staring up at her.

"I need you Therese, all of France needs you again."

She took the rapier and slid it across her hand as she steady stream of blood began to run down her arm whilst a few drops fell down onto the eyes and mouth of the dead Empress. Claire lifted her head to the sky and she felt herself possessed by some strange feeling, an energy she could not explain her mouth yelled out, "Hebu nyuma yake na ulimwengu! Basi kutembea wafu! Basi! Kupumua!"

Suddenly she felt herself gripped with pain. "Ugh! What...what's going on?" Claire said as she watched as her hand began to glow purple from inside. It was unbearable and she tried to sink down to her knees as sweat began to roll off her hair and her neck. She couldn't think straight as the purple glow began to tear through her hand, rays, like plasma, running down her arm while other bits of buzzing energy began to bounce into the tomb, jumping through Therese's dead body. Outside, the Parisian air became electrified as a storm rolled in from the horizon. Lightning flashed through the sky and for those outside when it began to occur, they would report that the Eiffel Tower shook as it was blasted with electric bolts over and over again. For long seconds at a time, the entire city would light up in a flash of terrific light and then vanish once again into the darkness, while many people said they could hear the horrible screams of a woman echoing through the streets.

Down it the tomb Claire could not stop screaming, the purple glow had run down her hand, her arm, and across her chest. Her entire body felt as it was being injected with magma and she could feel her blood vessels bursting. Finally, the pain stopped and she felt her body was like a shell, was she dead? Was Therese alive? In front of her, a ball of purple energy pulsed and then slammed back into the general flinging Claire's body away from the sarcophagus and against a marble wall.

She groaned and lifted her head as she looked out at the tomb as purple smoke poured out from it. Claire raised her hand and saw her skin, which had grown tan from her years in Haiti had turned deathly pale, even her fingernails had grown white. Her hair that now messily hung over her shoulders had been bleached from the pain, but she felt lighter, more alive then she had only minutes before and perhaps it was because she too had forsaken her life force and had been rewarded with a force somewhere in between.

[url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wVG-VF9C-M"]Therese's Theme (Reprise)[/url]

Then she heard a piece of glass fall from sarcophagus and shatter on the floor. Her eyes looked at the tomb as the smoke cleared. "Therese? Tessa?"

"No! Please! France! Don't leave me!"

Claire bolted over to the tomb and looked down in as she saw the blue eyes of Therese Zelle look up at her. The Empress was still dressed in her military uniform, the one that she had worn in the duel outside of Reims. "Therese?"

"Claire? What...what happened? I was dead. What happened to you? You look so different."

"Things have changed. I...we...France, needs you back."

"But why?"

"A second chance, to set the world straight."

Therese thought for a moment then she smiled and lifted herself from rest.

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Days after the freak storm, rumors began to circulate around Paris and in the nearby cities that a visage of the Late Empress had been seen wandering the night streets with an Imperial Soldier at her side. Most shrugged the rumors off as mere gossip, but strangely enough, French flags displaying the Cross of Lorraine, Therese' adopted symbol began to appear throughout the streets and atop of buildings. With the French army essentially disbanded by the Athenian Presence, veterans began to throw on their old blue and white uniforms of the Imperial Army and a fanaticism began to grip the salons and cafes around Paris and throughout former Burgundy. There had been weirder things throughout France's history than the possibility of resurrection, though even this may trump the appearance of The Maid in 1429. But when all these men and women began filling themselves with nationalist thoughts with the idea of not just the ludicrous resurrection of the Empress, but a rebirthing of France itself. How long had it been since the nation had collapsed on itself? Years? Decades? Since the Delacour government most likely, the following regimes, the Communists, the Anarchists [i](Sal's Greater Korea thing)[/i], and then the inevitable separation of the countryside; the thought of Zelle's return was the thought of France's return to the global stage.

Therese was privy to all this information, though the once-dead Empress had much more to think about than a sudden return to politics. Just picking up a history book or newspaper would bring shock, fear, and often tears to her eyes as she held a trembling hand over her mouth. Locally, France was an absolute mess, ruled between English Pretenders in the Southwest, whilst the Athenians, her ancient allies controlled the east. Across Europe the theme was that political life was rotting away and this seemed to be the theme across much of the world. Holy America had fallen because of its decadence, but instead of peacefully, it imploded upon itself in a wall of flame and death. Other nations across the globe seemed to be reaching that same point. The Rebel Army was still the same rotting corpse it had always been, whilst small regimes throughout North America, Africa, and Oceania came and went with the changing of the tide. Claire had brought her back for this? This world that seemed to be collapsing on itself. And then her mind toyed with the thoughts that surely there was some mystical device behind her return, how had God or Christ even allowed such a thing to come to pass?

Funny enough, for the life of her, Therese could not remember anything of the time between when Martens had run her through with his sword and when she had woken up in the glass case. It was if she had been sleeping and that she could not remember the dream. The secrets that lay beyond the grave, kept away from humanity for another eon. The Empress chuckled at the thought, then perhaps if the universe was arranged in such a way, God and Christ did have something to do with what had happened.

She was kept in the Chateau Villette, an abandoned castle a few miles outside of Paris. There Claire could hide her from the masses until the right time came when Therese could finally display herself. Everything had to happen at the right moment, the people had believe, in their desperation that such a thing as their Empress returning was possible. In truth, for decades, perhaps even centuries, Therese had given the most life to France since Napoleon, if that kind of power could return, people would believe anything.

The sound of boots against the stone floors of the chateau brought Therese out of her trance. She could hear voices in the rooms below and quickly organized the various newspapers and history books scattered across her study. The voices were familiar, one was Claire's but the others were harder to pinpoint. They were male, speaking very loudly and rather angrily.

"You've just gone mad, Delacour. I can see it in your eyes. You haven't slept in days and now you're telling me that those rumors are true. About Her Majesty? You should be shot for even talking about such things. Hell, I bet you're the one spreading the rumors throughout Ile-de-France." It was the voice of General Joseph Blondel, the Corp Commander who had led the Imperial Army during their successful attack on Strasbourg during the Franco-German War. He was now extremely aged, but still respected among the military community in the splintered French Territory. Blondel was also a fervent supporter of the Parti National, which sought to unify France again until a central leadership in Paris. "You toy with people's minds."

"I assure you, Joseph, I am not lying to any of you. Why would I do such a thing?"

"You left us once because of madness, Claire." said Admiral Cyprien Le Van. "Don't be surprised that we doubt you now. You've been gone for how many years? Partying your life away in Athens."

Claire's voice took an aggressive turn, "Don't try to blame me for all of France's failures. I lived in shame for fifteen years Cyprien! I'm come to repent for my mistakes."

"By lying to use that the impossible has happened, that Therese Zelle is-"

"Back from the dead?" Therese said opening the door and stared at the two commanders. They turned their heads and for a moment their mouths opened wide with nothing to say or even think about. The resemblance was uncanny, the same brilliant eyes, the same tanned face, the same fair hair and it seemed as she hadn't aged since that fateful night outside of Reims.

"This...this is a rouse. Claire, who is this? Who is dishonoring the Empress with such a show of mockery."

"I assure you, Joseph, there isn't any mockery to be found her." Therese said and grabbed his hand and pushed it against her stomach. The scar from Martens' sword ran up her stomach and the General jumped back in horror, holding his hand in fear.

"What kind of madness is this? How is this even possible? You cannot be. Empress?"

She smiled and took his shoulder in her soft and dainty hand. "I can hardly believe it myself, but I was called back, called back to restore the nation that has been plagued by decadence. I see too that the world has suffered the same fate."

"These are bad times, for everyone, Your...Majesty."

Therese nodded and turned around walking back into her study, as Claire, Blondel and Le Van followed her inside. "I've been brushing up these past few days and there is a lot that has changed and yet, nothing has changed at all in a way. The same decadence that plagued the world when our Empire was growing has only gotten worse. Europe, Asia, North America, and so on." She picked up a news paper and crunched it in her hands. "I've been gone for too long if that is the case, to see English dogs on parading as kings and queens of France in Anjou. To see Marseilles and our Spanish Domains in the hands of the Monegasque." She smiled and closed her eyes. "There's a new strength we have here, that I have, that all of France has. When I first came to power, this was the make up of the land. We had Brittany, Burgundy, Aquitaine, and Monaco. Now we find the map flipped, but strength and victory will always be on the side of the righteous and tell me, what is more righteous than what you see in front of you?"

"Nothing, Your Majesty, nothing at all." Claire smiled and took Therese's hand as she knelt to the floor. "I sacrificed everything so that France might have a new life. It is up to you now, to deliver that to us and your people." With Claire, Blondel and Le Van slowly knelt down to the floor.

"France is ready?"

"France is always ready, Your Majesty. They only wait for you."

"Then we should depart, there is no better time than now."

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It took two more weeks for all of Claire and Therese's planning to come together. In addition, Claire had gone to an old friend, Elisabeth Courtois, who had been Prime Minister of the Republic before the regime had collapsed. She was introduced to Therese and after fainting after sticking her hand into the Empress' wound, in a display of dramatics on a rather biblical scale, Madame Courtois swore her allegiance to the Empress in the grim hope that somehow the nation could be restored. In truth, Elisabeth had one of the most important roles to play. It would be hard for anyone in the modern age to believe that resurrection was possible and at times the generals and politicians who Claire had allowed in the loop found it hard to believe even when it was in front of them. Foreign leaders and perhaps even the people of France would definitely think this was a rouse and while the rumors had stirred support and talk of finally declaring independence from Athens; Therese and her followers need to be cautious. Elisabeth was to be the diplomatic face, but in time, the could and most likely would change, the world would come to accept Therese's resurrection or they would be crushed beneath her stilettoed heels.

Finally, it was time to make good on the boasts and free France from foreign oppression. On a bright day in Late January when the sun was out and the sky was warm, a contingent of Imperial Soldiers and commandeered tanks took to the Champs-Elysees and the entirety of Paris came out to the streets with flags waving and people cheering. Out from the loud speakers across Paris, the Chant du Depart, the Anthem of the First Empire blasted out and the people let their voices cry to the sky in the hopes that their liberation was imminent. Could it be? Could the woman on the white horse leading the contingent, could it truly be Therese Zelle back to lead France to a second age of glory?

Roses fell at the Empress' feet as she raised her rapier into the air and with a voice as clear as crystal shouted to the heavens, "La France! Venir! C'est le temps pour se réveiller! C'est le temps pour se souvenir de qui nous sommes et que nous pouvons devenir! La France! Me suivre de nouveau! Nous trouverons les gloires des dieux ensemble!"

And as shocking as it was, the people's voices rang out with a response. "Vive l'Impératrice! Vive Zelle! Vive la France!"

In droves they poured out from the streets, some in white and blue uniforms marched along with the contingent whilst others reached out their hands and touched the Empress' body. Was it real? Was she real? She couldn't be, but her smile, the way her eyes looked down at them, her people. It filled men's eyes with tears and children bowed as her horse passed them. If this was an impostor, surely she had the same convictions as the past Empress, though the rumors persisted; Zelle's body had been stolen from the Arc de Triomphe so the questions persisted.

The shouts changed as the contingent marched deeper into Paris. "Liberté! Liberté pour France! Vive l'Empire!"

It seemed as though that Paris would explode upon itself, but it was not only in Paris but across Eastern France. In the cities of Lille, Reims, Calais and others the same kind of demonstrations were happening. Spurred on by the fervor of Paris, the entirety of the Athenian Protectorate desired a new chance to write their destinies. Done were they with the failures of fascism, of communism, and other terrible philosophies. A Spectre! Nay! An Angel! Would show the way once again and in desperation, with the only desire but to see France free again, the people would follow such a phantom to the ends of the earth and as her support, whomever it was, were the commanders from decades ago and the new commanders of the present to stand firm against the enemies who would eventually arise.

After the demonstrations in Paris and across the East, the Phantom, as Zelle was being called had disappeared and the rumors of her origin and being began to surface again. However, Elisabeth and Claire had appeared in the limelight to begin to construct a government. It would be transitional body of politicians, all with history involving the Fifth Empire, whilst all men and women part of the old Communist, Fascist, and Anarchist Regimes were immediately pushed out of influence and power. If the shadow government was in any way going to work, there had to be a fanatic loyalty to the Empress and to the restoration of the Empire. When this was achieved, a letter was sent to Rome, the capital of the Western Athenian Federation, asking for a meeting.

[quote]

[b]To: His Imperial Majesty, Valerio I Bourbon
From: Elisabeth Courtois, Interim Prime Minister of the Sixth French Empire
Subject: Independence[/b]
[i]
Your Majesty,

I write you as always a loyal citizen to Athens and eternally grateful of the love and conviction your nation has given France in her time of need. But I must also write you, in the primacy of a French citizen who desires nothing more than her eventual liberty and the right to call her home in France and not a protectorate of a foreign nation. As you are no doubt aware, demonstrations have erupted around Paris and throughout Eastern France, demanding the right for independence from your great nation. These cries, Your Majesty, cannot be vanquished until the flame of liberty once again burns brightly on top of our cities and our fields.

With the recent balkanization of the French territory between the Angevins and the Monegasque, Eastern France, I believe stands as the last bulwark to preserve and defend French culture. We have assembled ministers, politicians, generals, and advisors from across the territory, loyal to an idea which was installed in us during the reign of Therese Zelle, who was a dedicated ally of Athens. In days past, Athens and France stood as friends and loyal allies in the face of aggression from Central Europe. In our demise, Athens became strong and is one of the greatest powers in the world at the present time. Now we ask for your help as our Empress did so long ago, allow the rebirth of France and we will be forever grateful for your help.

As such, I would like to invite you, Your Majesty, to discuss independence personally with me in Paris or if you would rather in Athens or Rome at a time of your choosing. I only ask that this meeting happen soon, for we thrust for the waters of liberty and desire nothing more than for our suffering to be quenched.

Yours in Good Faith,

Elisabeth Courtois[/i]
[/quote]

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[b]Imperial Palace
Caserta[/b]

Valerio was reading an intelligence report on recent events in the French protectorate as he heard footsteps against the marble floors of the palace. A bit later the doors to his office opened and one of his assistants walked in flanked by the Director of the Committee for State Security Arcturus Mengsk.

"Your highness, a resident of the French protectorate has requested a meeting to discuss the independence of France" The assistant said as he handed over the letter.

"Thank you, please leave me and the director alone. We have a lot to discuss." The assistant nodded and left the office closing the doors on his way out.

"So they finally came with the request." Valerio sighed "Have your agents been able to obtain any new information on this Empress risen from death?"

Arcturus walked to one of the windows. "The evidence seems to point that way. The body of Empress Zelle was stolen from Paris and our operatives have made visual confirmation of someone resembling Empress Zelle. That said, our own surgeons can already make people look equal to someone else. Cloning perhaps even? These days nothing is impossible."

Valerio knew the letter and this so called rise of the dead empress had to be related. The sender had a high office in one of the recent French republics.

"What do you recommend?" He asked.

You could clearly see Arcturus had to think deeply about the question. "The official threat assessment puts them at dangerous but not respecting the request could be even worse. You should meet them on Athenian ground, this palace would be great for it. At the same time you should increase the amount of peacekeepers to make sure protests remain orderly."

"I agree, arrange some Razors to reinforce the High Guard at the palace. I will order the deployments and call back Picard from Paris to join the meeting.

---

A messenger would send a reply back to France

[quote]Miss Courtois,

I have received and am open to your request. However due to various reasons I do believe it would be better for you to come to Rome rather than myself going to Paris.

I have to admit from both my generals and my intelligence agencies I have heard very disturbing rumors coming from Eastern France. From strange weather incidents to long dead monarchs so I hope you can provide me with answers to many of these rumors so we can make sure a new France will be run on a solid base.

Yours sincerely,
Valerio Moretti of Bourbon[/quote]

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A week after the letter was sent, Elisabeth left from Paris to reach Rome for her audience with the Western Emperor. Behind her she watched at the protests throughout the countryside became louder and stronger, leading to a larger enforcement of Athenian patrols in certain cities. The upstart volunteer army of France had been disbanded on account of maintaining discipline, but Therese did not fully remove them from the picture. If Athens refused to allow France to surface or the negotiations with the Angevins would go south, it would be necessary for France to have a standing army that could take the field as soon as possible. Elisabeth's job was to prevent military problems until France was ready.

She arrived in Rome on a cloudy February morning and from the capital was escorted by Roman guards to the Imperial Palace in Caserta.

Upon actually meeting with Valerio, Elisabeth maintained her friendly disposition as she had always done in times past. She would bow, smile, and be seated when asked to, dressed conservatively in a black blazer, white blouse, and business skirt. "I appreciate you taking the time to meet with me, Highness, I wish we could have had this audience under better circumstances, but as you know my people have asked me to represent France in talks for full independence. In your letter you seemed accepting of this path, but had questions about what is currently going on in Paris. If answering these questions will help my people achieve independence, then I would be happy to answer them to the best of my abilities."

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The throne room had been mostly empty for this specific meeting. Inside were only Valerio, Renée and an average amount of guards and other personnel part of the household.

Valerio listened closely, as Elisabeth finished he nodded.

"I appreciate you coming here, I'll be frank with you. What the hell is going on? I hear reports about Zelle returning but I've personally seen her corpse in Paris only months ago. Do you know anything about what is behind this?"

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Elisabeth closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath before continuing. "If I may be honest with you, Highness, I can barely believe it myself. I will not try to force what seems as unbelievable on you or your people and while I have seen Zelle face to face and I can confirm that somehow she is living in the flesh, I will be happy to treat this as a rumor if it easier for independence to be granted. Delacour, supposedly after she left the Court in Athens, developed some kind of power. I don't know what it is, but she has changed. She looks younger, her hair turned white and her eyes are dull gray, she's a rather daunting figure if I do say so myself."

Clearing her throat and brushing the blonde strands of hair from her face, the Prime Minister continued. "However, the Interim Government has prepared for something like this and as Prime Minister, I am the face and voice of the Sixth Empire and am prepared to deal with those who under no circumstances will believe that these rumors might be true. But the story about Claire and Therese, without sounding insane, is all very true and even if it a rouse, it has captured the hearts of the people of Paris and Eastern France and I would be honestly surprised if Aquitaine and the rest of the 'nation' didn't feel the same way. Either way, it has changed the make up of French society and that, Majesty, is not a rumor at all."

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"Okay, I can live with that explanation for now however that leaves another issue. In recent history we have granted France independence many times, all but one have fallen. What guarantees can you give me that the Hellenic Army won't have to move in within a couple of years again?"

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Elisabeth chuckled and stared down at her hands for a moment before returning a smile at the Western Emperor. "You want what every person wants, Majesty, that if our state would collapse it will return to Athens because I am sure, Athens will have no qualms in returning a portion of Europe to order. It saves the West from falling to Germany, or Ireland, or any other rival power in the region. I cannot make any guarantees that France will be eternal, I'm a realist. There are states in our world that have not moved and enjoy eternity, others seem to change with the wind. What I can assure you, Highness, is if your Hellenic Armies much march north again to restore order. It will not be for a long time, so long as I can prevent it."

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Valerio nods at one of the aides who brings a paper to him. On it was the Imperial Decree granting the Eastern French protectorate their independence under the Pax Atheniensium. After signing it the aide gave a copy to Elisabeth.

"With this decree the French protectorate is officially granted its independence. I fear however we can not withdraw all our forces immediately, the equipment and manpower is simply too large. I would hope it is acceptable our forces withdraw at a steady and stable pace. Is there anything else you wish to discuss with the Athenian Federation as an official envoy from your state?"

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"Nothing at all, Majesty. I appreciate the timely order you've shown to me to get France up on it's feet." She said and took the writ. "Hopefully this will be the continuation of a friendship." Bowing, she smiled and turned from the audience. "A good day to you Majesty and thank you. We will be glad to show your people the courtesy that you showed us."

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