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Thread: A Journeymen Solstice Carol

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    Default A Journeymen Solstice Carol

    This is a holiday special of sorts from my other fics, League of Heroes and Hero's Path, which can be found in my signature. While one need not read those fics to enjoy this one, certain things will make a lot more sense if you do. Characters from those fics will be used, and they won't be fully developed here, because, as I have said, this is an extra.

    But even if you haven't read League of Heroes... it's still a nice story for this time of year, and will be told in three parts. I hope you will read on and enjoy.

    Chronoligcally, this takes place some time after the end of League of Heroes, but before the start of Hero's Path. Now, without further ado, the story opens:

    Stave 1: A Night to Remember
    In the moments of our lives
    The joyous and the tragic
    If the truth is to be told
    We are all pursuing magic

    And the magic we seek
    As I’m sure you’ve discovered
    Can be found in some places
    More surely than others

    In the arms of a lover
    In the grandest of sights
    But the surest place of all
    Is in the dark realm of night

    And of all of the nights throughout the year
    That come gently and leave
    None hold onto that strange magic
    Like the night of Solstice Eve

    And so it is on this night
    With all the promises within
    As the snow starts to fall
    Our story now begins…


    “Deck the halls with boughs of holly,” Cole sang as he fixed tinsel along the mantelpiece. “Fa la la la, la la la la! ‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la, la la la la!” He took another string from Maeve the Weavile, standing nearby, and set to work on it. “Don we now our gay apparel, fa la la la, la la la la!”

    From across the room, Nate scoffed into his mug of black coffee. “Gay apparel. You can say that again.” He pointed with his chin at Xander, who was stringing lights on the Solstice tree.

    “Hey! My fiancé gave me this sweater!”

    “It’s lame,” Nate retorted.

    Mozzeh entered the Council Room of the Tower of the Ancients, a box of ornaments in his hands. He nudged Nate’s back with his foot, knocking him off the container he was sitting on. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, shut the hell up. And start working.”

    Nate glared at the Dragon Master, and opened the box, picking out ornaments and setting them aside. “Lame. Tawdry. Gaudy. Tacky….”

    “Remind me again why we bother inviting him?” Cole asked Xander as he laid down the last bit of tinsel. Athena, Cole’s Victini, chuckled on his shoulder.

    “He’s Raj’s friend, and Raj wouldn’t want to leave anyone out,” the fighting elite four member said, rolling his eyes.

    “Got that right,” Raj quipped as he entered, holding one side of a large sofa. “Ah, let’s set it down over here.”

    Becca came in holding the other side, and the two of them set it across from the hearth and near the Solstice tree. “Remind me again why none of our manly men here were carrying such large heavy objects?” the Mountain Trainer demanded.

    “Because,” Cole replied with a grin, “when I offered, you called me a chauvinist, blasted me with a tirade, and stalked away.” He winked at Masamune the Samurott, reclining near the hearth. The blue water type raised his head from Scathatch’s mane and chuckled. The Zoroark clicked her tongue at him, and he settled back down.

    Xander left with a few of his fighting-types to go bring up a few armchairs and a table, while Cole and Mozzeh decorated the Solstice tree. Dracoburn, Becca’s blind Charizard, stood aloofly nearby, listening to Solstice carols on Cole’s iPod. Masamune raised his head again. “Maeve, do me a favor and go change it to the Trans Siberian Orchestra. I’d much prefer their arrangements to this pop music.” The Weavile nodded and darted off to comply.

    Cole sang as he worked, though no one else joined in. “I’ve grown a little leaner, grown a little colder, grown a little sadder, grown a little older. Yes I need a little Solstice, right this very minute, candles in the window, carols at the spinet. We need a little music, need a little laughter, need a little singing, ringing through the rafters. And we need a little happily ever after. We need a little Solstice now!”

    Eventually, Mozzeh called out a few of his dragon types to help but ornaments on the higher branches of the fifteen-foot tree. Shiva, Cole’s Sceptile, and Hades, his Typhlosion, lifted smaller pokemon like Athena, Maeve, Becca’s baby Gible, and Raj’s Chikorita up onto their shoulders to help.

    Kali the Luxray batted at ornaments that dangled over her head until Scathatch reprimanded her. Cole came across a ruby-red bauble whose hook had broken, and he had no way to replace it. “Oh,” he murmured. “What a pity.” He placed the ornament in the pocket of his coat. Finally, all the decorations were in place, all but the star on the top of the tree.

    Mozzeh sheepishly ducked his head and gestured to his dragon-types. “To be honest, I don’t really trust these guys with that.”

    Cole nodded, and glanced at his own Charizard, curled in a crescent behind the couch and pretending to sleep to get out of working. “Well, he’s no help at all!”

    Masamune stood up and trudged over, shaking sleep away. “Cole, stand on my shoulders.” The Firebrand did, and Thor, his Zebstrika, moved into position to spot him if he fell. Cole reached up, but still couldn’t quite get to the top. The Samurott turned. “Athena, get over here.” The Victini bounded up Masamune’s back and crawled up Cole’s arms. Shiva handed the star up to Cole, who then passed it to Athena.

    The little Victini stretched out her arms and placed the golden star atop the towering pine tree. Raj flicked a switch, and the overhead lights of the room dimmed as the tree lit up with the tiny lights Xander and Mozzeh had strung up.

    Near the fireplace, Charizard made a noise that sounded suspiciously like a sneeze, and a jet of fire shot out of his mouth to ignite the wood in the hearth. The flames crackled merrily, casting strange shadows all over the room.

    Becca flopped into an armchair. “Pretty.”

    Nate rolled his eyes. “Tacky.”

    Cole slid off his Samurott’s back and glared at Nate, but any snarky remark was cut off by the kitchen door opening with a bang. Kami, Cole’s Lucario, and Analyt, Becca’s Dragonite, hurried out with platters of food. A roast Mareep, two flayed Magikarp, a broiled Tranquil, and all manner of confections made of vegetables and berries were laid out on the table. An oven dinged, and Maeve dashed into the kitchen. With Raj’s help (namely using the oven mitts), she took a large platter of Solstice cookies out of the oven, each made to look like the head of one of the pokemon in attendance. Her dexterous claws had proved to make excellent cookie-cutters.

    The bespectacled young man put all the cookies on a glass platter in the center of the table, a place of honor. “Let’s get started then.” He scratched the Weavile behind her head crest. “Everything looks delicious.”

    There was a general murmur about Analyt and Kami’s cooking ability (which far exceeded any of the humans’ present) and the six members of the Journeymen league sat down. First, they plated food for all of their pokemon in attendance. Several of Xander’s fighting types joined them at the table, as did the two chefs, and Maeve. Simply put, if it could sit at the table without any other extremities causing it difficulty, the pokemon would. Athena crept up Cole’s chair leg and helped herself to whatever happened to be on his plate.

    Becca guided Dracoburn’s first few bites until he was able to locate the plate of roasted meat all on his own. Charizard sidled over, and helped his fellow fire type when Becca moved to sit at Cole’s right hand.

    Due to his vegetarian sensibilities, Cole refrained from any of the delicious-looking meat, though he did not begrudge his friends from digging in. And besides, there were many delectable non-meat dishes. As they ate, Raj glanced up. “Cole, I didn’t know you were left-handed!”

    The Firebrand glanced down and smiled. “Well, I’m not.”

    “But your fork…”

    “I’m not a lefty, but I eat with my left hand. I guess I just started doing it back home as a kid because the fork is always on the left side.”

    Xander leaned back with a groan. “The fork goes on the left? Arceus, that’s why Christy is always looking at me funny over dinner…”

    Raj laughed, and Becca rolled her eyes. Mozzeh paused in the slicing of his Pidgeoto breast. “Ah, and how is the lovely lady, X?”

    “She’s great. We’re spending Solstice with her family. I’ll be heading out tomorrow and meet her there.”

    Cole nodded with a smile. The core members of the Journeymen were celebrating Solstice now, three days early, so they could then spend time with family (or love interests) on the day of. They would need the extra time between the Tower and the rest of the world to get where they were going.

    His sister was back in Kanto, far from the Unova region, but they hadn’t spent a Solstice together in years. As for love interests, well, he certainly didn’t have one of those. Probably, he would just kick back in his villa in Undella Town and ride with Thor down the beach. Sure, the weather would be cold, but Cole didn’t mind. In fact, he was praying for snow so he could go skiing in the days following. Maybe he would call up Lenora and Burgh and Elesa and have brunch with them on Solstice morning… Or he could call up Skyla, Becca’s cousin, and the three of them could hang out in Mistralton. Certainly, he was going to give Brycen a ring to go skiing…

    Athena poked him with her finger. “Get more of the Payapa and Magost casserole.” Cole glanced down at his plate to see the generous helping he had given himself smeared on her cheeks. “It’s good and I can’t reach it.”

    “Arceus, Fuzzball, aren’t you going to leave any for the rest of us? Or is it all just going to go on your face?”

    Raj laughed again when he saw Athena squirming away from Cole’s napkin. Finally, after wrestling with her a little, Cole managed to wipe off most of the casserole off the Victini.

    The rest of the meal continued with idle chatter like this, laughing and joking and catching up. When all the plates were cleared, Maeve reverently and solemnly bestowed each of the pokemon the cookie bearing their face, and to each of the humans, the cookie that carried their badge or symbol. Then, her face fell when she realized that in all her excitement, she had forgotten to make one for herself.

    Kali, Hades, Shiva and Kami all in unison broke off half of their own cookies and held them out to her. Maeve smiled broadly as she accepted Hades’ offer, but politely declined the others. Cole rubbed behind her ear. “See now? That’s the true spirit of Solstice.”

    “I thought the spirit of Solstice was capitalism,” Becca grumbled.

    Cole and Raj glanced at each other, while Mozzeh and Xander quickly found their cookies very interesting. Nate nudged his chair back and put his feet up on the table. “Check, and mate. Well played, Becca, well played.” He leaned back, his arms behind his head. “Couldn’t have done it better myself.”

    Raj shoved Nate, making the dark-haired man wobble and fall. “Behave yourself, or Father Solstice won’t leave you a thing.”

    “You mean the corporate icon? That a soda company came up with?” Nate laughed. “Somehow I’m not worried. And if he does come with a lump of charcoal for me, I’ll bag him for breaking and entering, then regift the thing to Dracoburn.”

    Raj shook his head. “Nate, I’m pretty sure I left the oven on in the kitchen. Why don’t you go check?” The dark trainer grumbled, knowing it was a ploy, but with a glare from Raj he complied. When he stepped over the threshold, Raj cocked his head. Kami quickly grabbed Nate’s chair, slammed the door shut and placed the chair under the knob. “Well. That takes care of his pessimism. But Becca…”

    Cole held up a hand. “I got this. Becca, Solstice is a time of year for people and pokemon to come together and enjoy each other’s presence. It’s a time of goodwill, and peace, and unity. We spend the coldest, longest, darkest night of the year with others to remind us that it doesn’t have to be so cold and dark. There’s light and hope and warmth in the world too. Solstice helps us remember that.”

    “That’s pretty naive,” Becca grumbled. “Considering what we’ve been through. I though you a smarter man than that, Cole.” She pushed her plate away and went to sit next to the fire with Dracoburn. From the way her brow kept furrowing, Cole was certain the blind Charizard was saying something to her telepathically through the link they shared. Ferocity and Scarr, her Garchomp and Salamence, quickly joined them, baby Gible in tow.

    Analyt procured a quill pen seemingly from thin air, but in truth from a ridge between his scales. He quickly wrote a fairly sloppy “sorry” on his napkin. Cole shook his head. “I’ll talk to her. But… I need a reason.”

    Xander nodded. “On it. Hey, Becca? Can you help out with the dishes? Mozzeh, Raj and I need to go grab some presents.” The three other men quickly made themselves scarce. The pokemon that remained helped the two humans gather the plates and consolidate the debris. They then stacked the platters and walked to the kitchen door.

    “I can sort of see where you’re coming from,” Cole admitted as they worked. “It does seem like the world has commercialized Solstice. But if we, the two of us, right here and now, remember the root of the holiday, the peace and love it’s supposed to represent, then… well, it’s sort of a small victory, huh?”

    Becca sighed. “I’m sorry Cole, but after the Omega War, and really, now that I think about it, all the bad stuff before that, I have a hard time believing in all that ‘peace and love’ crap. Real life isn’t like all those carols you like singing.”

    Cole nodded. “I know. But this holiday… when celebrated right, it helps me to cope. I lost just as much in the War as anyone. More, maybe. And while I have to learn from it, I can’t let it drag me down. I just have to keep going, and live all the harder for the happy things. Like Solstice with my friends.”

    “It’s not even Solstice. We’re substituting it.”

    “But the principle is the same!”

    Kami pulled the chair away from the door, and Nate tumbled out of the kitchen. “Jerks,” he muttered as he dusted himself off. Becca shooed him away.

    She glanced at the Firebrand. “So now I’m guessing you want me to go out and ‘find the true meaning of Solstice’ or some Tauros-manure like that?”

    Cole shook his head. “No. You don’t have to ‘go out and find it’. It’s inside you.”

    “Great. Next you’ll be telling me I need a bloody ‘Solstice miracle’, like this is a TV special or something.”

    Cole shrugged as he put the plates in the sink. “If that’s what it takes.”

    Becca began scrubbing. “I don’t know. I mean… I’m not like Nate. I don’t despise all this tinsel and happy and caroling and stuff. I guess it’s pretty in a way, and the pokemon all seem to like it. I just don’t get it. It’s an excuse to get presents, is what it is.”

    “Not really,” Cole replied, putting two dishes in a drying rack. “It’s about giving.”

    “That’s the same thing.”

    “No, it’s not.”

    “To give something, someone has to get it, don’t they?”

    “Well, kind of, but that’s not the point…”

    Becca put the last of the plates in the drying rack, toweled off her hands and walked away. “I appreciate the sentiment, Cole. But I just don’t think I can get into the Solstice spirit. Cole, keep Solstice in you’re way, and I’ll keep it in mine.”

    “Keep it!” he repeated. “But you don’t keep it.”

    “Let me leave it alone then,” said Becca.

    Cole sighed and followed her out of the kitchen. Kali batted at his ankle, and pointed with her nose at the wrapped packages under the tree. Cole laughed and scratched behind her ear. “No, no. We can open those tomorrow.”

    Charizard was asleep again, and Cole reclined against the dragon’s warm flank. Raj walked back into the room, laden with presents. His Beartic, Tundah, lumbered behind him, similarly burdened. Cole chuckled when he saw Tundah was wearing a Father Solstice hat, the red cap set at a rakish tilt on the bear’s large head. Raj groaned. “Come on man! I drag all this furniture up here, and you don’t even use it?”

    Cole grinned. “Well, the rug is comfortable enough.” Maeve climbed up into the couch next to him, and Athena sat on her lap. Hades, Kali, and Shiva all but collapsed over each other in a heap, lolling about on the floor like a litter of Growlithe puppies. Kami picked his way over them to sit next to Maeve, folding his legs up under him and placing his palms on his knees. A blue aura flared around him for a split second, and he smiled.

    Thor nosed at the Solstice tree, bumping several of the glittering baubles, and staring at his distorted reflection. Masamune and Scathatch lay on the other side of the hearth. Nate stared into the flames, stroking the back of a young Sandile, as his Mudkip curled up on lap.

    Mozzeh’s dragons reclined in the open space around the room, as did some of Becca’s pokemon. Xander had returned all of his pokemon but Salamence, who snored quietly in the far right corner. The fighting elite glanced up as Analyt came out of the kitchen, a steaming kettle in his hand.

    The Dragonite spoke briefly to Masamune, and the Samurott translated. “He wants to know if any of us want tea, coffee or hot chocolate.”

    Once everyone had placed an order, Cole held up a hand. “I’ll come help. You might need a set of thumbs, big guy.”

    “Drago!” the pokemon replied, raising an eye-ridge as if to say “I don’t need help!”. All the same, Cole followed him into the kitchen, and poured out the requested drinks. The Dragonite carried them out on a platter, but Cole took his own mug of hot chocolate to one of the windows that lined the room.

    He rested the cup on the sill, and pressed his forehead and the palm of his hand against the cool glass. Stars glittered in the clear night sky, and the nearly full moon shined down on the dusting of snow that covered the mesa the Tower was built on.

    Cole smiled. Even in the relatively quiet and out-of-the-way Undella Town, the glare of lights from the nearby cities still tinged the sky. Only at isolated places like the Tower or his own Flare Gym could the true majesty of the night sky be witnessed. The Milky Way stretched out across the black canvas, spiraling away into the infinite darkness.

    “Silent night, holy night…” Cole murmured. “All is calm, all is bright…” Slowly and a little reluctantly he went back to Charizard. The warmth of the fire was nice, and the glow of company pleasant, but Cole yearned to go out for a fly, soaring through the chilly air with the wind in his hair and the breath being stolen from his lungs. Well, maybe later tonight if Charizard felt up to it…

    The dragon’s chest rose and fell beneath Cole, the warm pulsing muscles expanding and contracting. Cole rested his head over the fire sac in Charizard’s ribcage, the warmest part of his body, sans the fiery tail. He felt his eyes drifting shut, too, and cushioned his head on his arms.

    Raj sipped from a mug of coffee. “This is nice, eh? I’m glad we all got together.”

    Nate begrudgingly sighed. “Well, yeah, I guess. But couldn’t it have been an ‘elites only’ thing? Why’d we have to bring the Firebrand here?”

    Mozzeh cuffed Nate’s arm. “Because then I couldn’t be here either.”

    Xander smiled. “And besides, Cole is an elite trainer. Just because he’s not in the Elite Four, doesn’t mean he couldn’t be.”

    “Right,” Cole mumbled through his half-doze. “I could kick your butt any day, Nate. Name the time and place. ‘Sides, being a gym leader is more fun. More mobility. I get to go out and have the adventures, you get the paperwork. Who’s laughing now?”

    Raj threw his legs over one side of the chair, and his head dangled over the other. His Chikorita sat on his lap, and his ever-present Accelgor stood attentively by his side. However, even the vigilant bug type’s eyes were drooping.

    Becca rocked the baby Gible to sleep. “It’s getting kind of late. I guess… I’ll go to bed now.”

    Mozzeh shook his head. “Oh, come on. Just a little longer? I was about to get the eggnog out.”

    Cole stood up and crossed to one last box, pulling out three large, foot shaped objects. “At least hang a stocking over the chimney.”

    Becca sighed, her shoulders visibly dropping. “Cole, I’m sorry. It just doesn’t seem like Solstice this year.” She turned and walked away, and the few pokemon she had out followed her. Analyt guided Dracoburn out of the room, and away to Becca’s chamber several floors up. The Firebrand sighed, and hung the six stockings himself.

    Nate shrugged. “Well, that kind of killed the mood for me. I’m off.”

    As soon as the dark trainer left the room, the Firebrand grabbed a handful of coal from the same box as the stockings, and dumped it in Nate’s. “Father Solstice isn’t real, indeed.”

    Raj placed a hand on Cole’s shoulder. “I think I’ll take one last drink and call it a night, too. Not much sense staying up much more, eh?”

    Xander and Mozzeh tiredly agreed, and the four remaining trainers toasted the holiday before going their separate ways. Cole didn’t stay at the Tower often, but he did have his own room when he did. It wasn’t very large, though, so he returned all of his pokemon but Athena and Maeve. The Victini and Weavile crawled onto the fluffy bed and were asleep in an instant.

    Cole strode to the large picture window at the other end of the window. Does this look impressive enough? I hope I have the gravitás… He folded his hands behind his back and stared out at the moonlit world for several heartbeats. Finally, he turned his head slightly to the left.

    “I know you’re here. You can come out now. I have a favor to ask.”
    Last edited by Firebrand; 23rd December 2011 at 5:25 PM.
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    I already love it. Great idea making it Solstice instead of Christmas, but keeping the theme the same. So will the chapters be added weekly for this?
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    Nope, there's only three parts. I'll be adding the next two today and tomorrow.
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    Default Stave 2: A Threefold Visit

    After a brief shower, Becca quickly changed into a pair of sweatpants and an old t-shirt. She slid into bed, Baby Gible and Victory, the shiny Dratini Cole had given her some time ago, slumbering peacefully beside her. For a brief moment, she envied their ability to sleep so soundly.

    Dracoburn growled softly, staring with sightless eyes into the dark recesses of the room. Becca, I hear something…

    “It’s just the wind, Draco. Go to sleep.”

    Becca, I know what I heard, and it’s not the wind.

    “Draco, I’m tired. I’m cold. I’ve got enough to think about already. I just want today to be over.” And with that, she rolled onto her side and fell asleep.

    ***

    What seemed like just a few moments later, she woke up. A brilliantly bright figure stood next to her bed. “Draco!” she cried. “Quick! Do… something…”

    The glow around the figure diminished slightly, revealing it to be Raj, if Raj dressed in a flowing white robe and had angelic wings stretching from his back. “Becca.” His voice seemed to reverberate from everywhere. “I am the Ghost of Solstice Past.”

    “You have got to be kidding me…” Becca groaned.

    “I have taken this form for it would be familiar to you. Come, we have work that must be done, and my time here is short.” He reached out one hand. “Let us go.”

    Becca glared at him. “I’m not going anywhere.”

    “We don’t have time for games, Becca.” The Ghost grabbed her wrist and spread his wings. They passed clean through the wall of the Tower, and began flying over the landscape, back towards Unova. The terrain blurred beneath them, and the wind lashed at Becca’s face.

    When they touched down, the Mountain Trainer shook her head. “Okay, what’s going on? This is New Bark Town. How the hell did we get here? And so fast!”

    The ghost that wore Raj’s face gestured to a house up the street. Her house. Becca crept towards it, and together they peered through a window. A much younger Becca sat at a table with her relatives, and a Solstice tree glittered in the background.

    “What is-? How do-? Arceus, Raj, that’s me!”

    The Ghost of Solstice Past nodded. “Indeed. I have shown you what once was. When you too were captivated by the magic of Solstice.”

    “I remember. But I’m older now. I’m not some naďve kid anymore.”

    “I see my work must continue. Come, take my hand again.”

    This time, they flew for a much shorter time, touching down in Ecruteak City. The normally vibrant boughs of the trees were bare, and a cold wind chilled Becca to the bone. She shivered and rubbed her bare arms. The Ghost showed no signs of discomfort, and led her to the Pokemon Center. They passed through the door, and saw a Becca slightly older than the previous one sitting with a group of other people around the center’s Solstice tree. A Charmeleon stood by her side, and younger Becca held up some kind of trinket for inspection.

    “That… that’s Dracoburn!” Becca gasped.

    The Ghost of Solstice Past nodded. “This is your first Solstice away from home.”

    Becca watched as her younger self mingled with other trainers. She could clearly remember this Solstice party, and how it had been equal parts exciting and unnerving to be away from her parents, and living with new friends day in and day out.

    The Ghost-Raj held out his arm. “There are still more things to see, Becca. Come along now.” She reluctantly took his arm, glancing back over her shoulder at the bright center fading away behind her.

    As they flew, she forced enough air into her lungs to ask, “What are these things supposed to teach me?”

    The Ghost smiled. “Why, that you did once feel the power of Solstice. Did you not see your face there? You were smiling, and giving freely of yourself. That is the true spirit of Solstice.”

    Becca rolled her eyes. “Bah humbug. You sound like a greeting card.”

    When they touched down again, there were no buildings in sight. The wind was colder now, and the rocky ground was strewn with large drifts of snow. The Ghost of Solstice past strode confidently to an unseen point, and Becca followed, seeing no other option.

    When he stopped, the Ghost turned to display a scene to her. “Do you remember this?”

    Becca cried out, and tried to run down the icy slope. “No! Stop! You don’t know what you’re doing!”

    Not-Raj appeared at her side. “They cannot hear you.”

    Becca’s hands clenched as she watched herself training her dragon types on the slopes of Mt. Silver. This had been just weeks before she had gone and challenged Red, and crippled Dracoburn for life with her arrogance.

    “But… If I can…”

    “My dear, I can only show you shadows of what has been. These are but memories. They cannot be changed.” He took her arm again, and lifted off into the sky. In instants, they were back at the Tower, and in Becca’s room. “Two more spirits will come to greet you this night. Heed their message, my dear. The next envoy will arrive at the second hour.”

    Ghost Raj vanished in a brilliant flash, and Becca awoke with a start, clutching a hand to her chest. She grabbed the clock from her nightstand. 1:38 am, the red numbers reported, blazing red against the darkness. Becca sank against her pillows. Just a dream. Just a crazy dream… She let herself drift back to sleep, her pulse going down slowly.

    ***

    When she awoke again, it was to the music drums and flutes. A figure danced into her room, a wreath with six flaming candles set on his head. It wore a red and green plaid kilt, and a tunic that bared its masculine breastbone. It slumped over this strange figure’s left shoulder, making him look like a warrior from the Old Stories in celebratory garb.

    “We wish you a merry Solstice, we wish you a merry Solstice! We wish you a merry Solstice... and a hap-py... new... year!” he sang as he danced into the room. A pleasant smell clung to him, like freshly-baked apple pie, pine trees, and the sharp, clean scent of new-fallen snow.

    “Who the hell are you?” Becca demanded “And what is going on?”

    The figure danced to Becca’s bed, and the Mountain Trainer saw his face in the halo of light cast by the candle-wreath. It was Cole, in the same way the previous specter was Raj. ‘Cole’ bowed. “My lady, I am the Ghost of Solstice Present.”

    “You look… familiar.”

    “Huh? Maybe you’ve met one of my many brothers or sisters. What year is it?”

    “2011.”

    “Ah, yes, well, I’ve got 2010 of them, don’t I? Yes, odds are you’ve met at least one.”

    “I didn’t mean quite like that…”

    “Oh, yes, I took the form you would be most familiar… blah, blah, blah. Past was supposed to explain all that nonsense.” He held out a hand. “Well, come on then. Lots to see and I’m not around too long. You know the drill. Let’s go.”

    Becca felt her hand moving of it’s own volition to take the grip of this charismatic, bizarre figure. Instead of flying through the air this time, the world seemed to… drop away. Almost before Becca knew it, she was standing in the middle of Lacunosa Town.

    The Cole that wasn’t quite Cole led her to a window. She peered in, and saw a large family seated down for dinner. A man walked in, a small boy seated on his shoulder. In one hand, the man held a small crutch. He set the boy down, and handed the length of wood to him. The boy limped to his place at the table, and spoke a blessing, invoking the power of the Lake Trio of Sinnoh. “…And Arceus bless us, every one.”

    “What is this supposed to teach me?” Becca finally asked. “Or are you guilt-tripping me into appreciating Solstice?”

    “Huh?” the Ghost of Solstice Present said. He looked genuinely startled. When he turned to her, his face was set in a sad smile. “Oh. Right. Yes, this was just a pit stop. I do love stopping by the Cratchit home. Such lovely folk, truly, truly. Here, my arm, of course. Time’s short and all…” He glanced over his shoulder at the frail young boy one last time. “Goodbye, Tiny Tim. I’ll try and come back before it’s…” He turned away, trying to hide a tear. “Before time is all out.”

    They were once again whisked away, this time to Mistralton City. Skyla, Becca’s cousin, was decorating her gym for Solstice. Tinsel hung from the cannons and the rafters. A tree was set up in the center, and her flying types were stringing up lights.

    One of her gym trainers came up with a pile of invitations for her annual Solstice party. “Skyla, these are all set. But I didn’t see one for Becca.”

    “Oh, right,” Skyla replied a little absently. “Must have slipped my mind. Well, she wouldn’t have come anyway. She hates Solstice.”

    Becca gasped, and tried to swing a punch at Skyla. The Ghost of Solstice Present laughed uproariously as her arm passed clear through the flying leader. “You see? Your doom-and-gloom is getting to other people too.”

    “Spirit, don’t you have a lesson to teach?”

    “Oh, yeah, of course.” He took her arm again, and this time they appeared in the ruins of Driftveil City, which had been leveled in the Omega War. Brycen, Elesa and Lenora were all working under a tent to serve soup to those who came up to them with empty bowls. Clay stood nearby, passing coats to those who didn’t have any. The citizens of the still-destroyed city huddled together for warmth in the skeletons of their half-rebuilt houses.

    “Why don’t they just go somewhere else?” Becca asked. “There’s plenty of room elsewhere. They could have houses until Driftveil is rebuilt.”

    The Ghost’s eyes flashed. “Because these people lost everything. All they have is each other. There are things more important than houses.” Two children crept out of the darkness, and the spirit opened his cloak. They slipped inside the warmth, and the light from the candle wreath atop his head seemed to take on a malevolent light. His face was cast in bizarre shadows, and Becca retreated a few steps.

    “These children are Hunger and Ignorance. They follow the true Solstice everywhere, always. Beware both of them, but beware Ignorance most of all! Until their problems are addressed, they will not go away. Becca, there are things more important than houses. And that is homes. These people may have nothing, but they have each other. And there is their home.”

    He threw his cloak wide, and the scene slipped away. They stood in the large chamber of the Tower where Becca and her friends had sat mere hours before. The fire still smoldered in its last ashes. The Ghost stared at them, the fury slowly draining. “Becca… I will die the day after Solstice. It is the way of things. But perhaps… if but one keeps my spirit alive, maybe I will not.”

    He snapped his fingers, and the fire flared up brightly, roaring out of the hearth. It consumed him, devouring every last trace that ever identified his presence. The Ghost of Solstice Present was gone.

    Becca awoke again, this time with ragged breath. She could still smell the smoke of the fire. But she was unmarked. Shaken, yes, but unmarked. She glanced at the clock. Nearly half-past two. She shuddered, remembering the charge that three spirits would be coming this night. She grabbed a bottle of sleeping pills from her beside table and took three.

    ***

    She didn’t remember opening a window. In fact, she was sure she hadn’t. But all the same, when she opened her eyes, she saw that the curtains were billowing in the icy breeze let in by the open portal. Knuckling sleep from her eyes, she slammed it shut.

    When she turned back to her bed, she saw a figure in a long dark cowl standing before her, as close to her as I am to you now, and I am standing in spirit at your elbow. Becca peered under the hood, and recoiled as she recognized Nate’s impassive face.

    “Let me guess,” she sighed. “Ghost of Solstice Future?”

    The spirit didn’t make any move. But all the same, the color in the world around Becca seemed to recede, and she saw herself standing before a large house on a wind-tossed cliff. The spirit silently pointed at the door, and opened it for her.

    She walked through the silent, empty halls, and spotted a slight orange glow coming from a distant room. She ran towards it. When she stepped over the threshold, she saw a large armchair facing a fireplace. Becca carefully stepped around the perimeter, and beheld… Raj.

    The man had visibly aged, and he stared blankly into the fire. “Got to move on. Over. It’s over. Just need to move on. Keep going. Keep going. It’s over. Gone. All we worked for…”

    Becca knelt at his side. “Raj, don’t talk like that. Raj…” She whirled on the cloaked spirit. “What’s wrong with him?”

    But the spirit said nothing. The color again drained away, and she saw herself in a long, dark room. At a desk near her, the bluish glow of a computer screen made her wince. Xander was bent over it, his eyes rimmed with black circles. She watched as his head drooped, then as he sat bolt upright to stay awake. “Got to… keep trying. Sinnoh… needs me…”

    She walked over, and saw a logistics report. Xander was carrying on all of the Journeymen’s crusading by himself? But… where was Cole? And Mozzeh? Where was she? “Xander… just go to sleep.”

    The color left him, and the scene changed. Mozzeh stood on the outskirts of Blackthorn City, his Hydreigon beside him. “We can never go back,” the Dragon Master was saying. “That’s over and done. We have to make our own way now. We have to get rid of all the memories. It’s all over now. From now on, it’s just you and me.”

    Mozzeh jumped onto the dragon’s back, and soared away into the falling snow, disappearing into the clouds. The Ghost of Solstice Yet to Come followed his path with smoldering eyes, and then slowly blinked. The color of the mountains and trees faded away.

    She and the hooded spirit stood on one end of a circular expanse. Another three figures stood on the other edge. Becca realized that this was the top of the Tower of the Ancients. She ran to the other three, recognizing one immediately as Cole’s Charizard.

    The Firebrand was standing with an unfamiliar woman whose dark wavy hair was escaping from under the knit hat she wore. He shook his head. “I don’t know, Joan. It just doesn’t feel like home anymore.” He pulled a photograph out from under his duster, and looked at it forlornly.

    Becca peered at it, and realized that it was from the Journeymen’s beach party several months ago. Or at least, several months for her. This Cole looked… not too much older, but there was a certain quality to his face. His eyes had lost that sparkle that always lurked below the surface, and the laugh lines had faded away from lack of use. On his shoulder, Athena sniffed sadly.

    “I know,” Cole said to her. “They’re gone. All gone. We were supposed to live out our dreams. But we all retreated to our own private hells.” He pulled a lighter from his pocket, and flicked it to life. He held the photograph over the flame until it caught. Cole waited as it was slowly consumed, and when there was just a scrap left unburned, he let it go. The picture was caught by the wind and spiraled away into the sky.

    Charizard wiped a tear away and the woman wrapped an arm around Cole’s waist, leaning her cheek against his shoulder. The Firebrand sighed, his shoulders visibly slumping. “That’s it then. It’s over. Here ends the story of the Journeymen.”

    Becca whirled on the cloaked spirit that wore Nate’s face. “I can’t see anymore. Take me back!”

    The spirit held up one finger, and once again Becca was whisked away. She found herself on the summit of a mountain. Twist Mountain. Her home. A single gravestone was the only change in the vista Becca knew so well.

    “Wait. Is that… my grave? Spirit, is that me?”

    The cloaked figure waved a hand, as if to say, “see for yourself.”

    Becca waded through the snow, and used her palm to brush the snow off so she could read the name. It was freezing, but the blood was pumping in her ears, and she didn’t care about the discomfort. She knelt in the snow, and strained her eyes against the darkness to read the carved letters, so impersonal and unfeeling.

    Here lies Dracoburn

    That was it. No dates, no sentiments, no flowers, nothing to set the grave apart but a slab of granite. Becca whirled and grabbed the spirit’s shoulders. “Tell me. Tell me right now. Is this the future, unavoidable and certain? Or is this a possible future? Can I change things? Spirit, you need to tell me!”

    The Spirit held up a hand, as if to stop her. But Becca noted that the hand shook, and not from the cold. “Your better nature yearns to tell me! Please, please, just one answer! That’s all I want to know!” She grabbed the pale hand and clutched it, as if it was her last hope for life. And perhaps… it was.

    The cloaked man wrenched his hand from her grasp back away, his arms thrown up in surrender. The mountain dropped away. Becca found herself standing alone on a street in Castelia City. She stood next to a girl of perhaps nine, who wore a tattered, patched coat. She shivered with the cold, and looked up and down the street, as if expecting something.

    Becca sat up in bed with a start. “Spirit! What does that mean? Who was that girl? What’s she got to do with anything? Answer me, damn it! Don’t leave now!”

    Becca did not fall back asleep again.

    ***

    When Cole walked into the Council Room the next morning, he saw Becca already sitting at one of the couches, staring into the empty ashes of the fireplace. He crossed to one of the boxes and pulled out several small items. As he placed them in his friends’ stockings, he glanced at the Mountain Trainer.

    “What’s with you?”

    “Didn’t sleep well.”

    “Oh. Sorry.”

    “Whatever.” Becca lay down on her side and pulled her legs up underneath her. Then, she turned her face into the couch, abjectly refusing to look at Cole. Victory slithered down beside her, and the baby Gible perched near her arm.

    Cole’s ear could faintly make out Analyt bustling around in the kitchen, and Dracoburn shuffled around the room, trying to get his bearings. The Firebrand got up and began putting small presents in the stockings by the hearth. Once they were filled, Cole called out his own pokemon, and Athena and Maeve padded into the room, rubbing sleep from their eyes.

    Soon, the other members of the Journeymen came downstairs, and everyone opened their presents. Raj gave Cole a journal bound in moleskin, and an Unfezant-quill pen. Cole fixed Thor with a new harness, one that had several jingling bells all down its length. Charizard gave Dracoburn a sheet of scratch-and-sniff stickers, and an audio recording of Cole reading several ancient legends, with sound effects provided by Charizard himself.

    Maeve turned away from her new jigsaw puzzle only reluctantly when Analyt and Kami emerged from the kitchen, carrying two large, steaming plates of pancakes. They settled down to eat, and Becca nearly fell asleep in her food.

    Raj raised a concerned eyebrow. “You’re sure you’re okay?”

    “I just had some strange dreams last night.”

    “And…?”

    “Well, they sorta got to me. They weren’t like my normal dreams, you know?”

    Xander leaned in. “How so?”

    “Well, they were a lot more straightforward. And at least the first one, and most of the second weren’t overly disturbing. But the third…”

    “Well, I’m glad the first ghost wasn’t too scary,” Raj said with a sigh. “Probably more angelic than ghostly, anyway.”

    Becca sat up ramrod straight. “I never mentioned anything about a ghost. Angelic or otherwise. How did you know that? What’s going on here?” Her lip curled, and if someone didn’t act soon, a full-out catastrophe was immanent.

    Cole looked over his shoulder. “You can come out now Noir.”

    A shadow detached itself from the wall, and flowed over the ground to come stand behind Cole. As you wish, oh master. The Darkrai that sort of stalked Cole bowed, holding out the old-fashioned oil lamp in his left hand. What is your command?

    “Noir, I’m not your master. And you’re not a djinn. Put the lamp down.”

    Your wish is my command.

    Becca stood up. “Wait a minute. You used Noir to mess with my dreams? You were inside my head?!”

    Mozzeh shook his head. “Not as I understand it. Noir did all the work. And all the meddling.”

    Cole nodded. “Noir linked us all up telepathically once we fell asleep. We all figured you could use a little Solstice cheer, and I remembered a story I read once. We all figured out what to show you, and Noir took care of the rest. None of us went into your head except Noir. The ghosts and figures you saw were just projections.”

    “You guys are sick,” Becca spat. “Showing me that grave.”

    “What grave?”

    “With the Ghost of Solstice Future.”

    “Yet to Come,” Cole corrected.

    “Whatever. You showed my Draco’s grave!”

    Raj folded his arms and glared at Cole. “That wasn’t in the script.”

    Mozzeh nodded. “It was supposed to end with me flying away. Pretty cool image, if I must say so myself.”

    “Noir,” Cole growled. “Were you ad-libbing?”

    No, master. I swear it.

    “So you’re saying the parts with you, Cole, the grave and the girl weren’t your fault?” Becca jabbed her finger into Cole’s chest.

    “M-Me? No, I wasn’t supposed to be in it at all, not after the Ghost of Solstice Present!”

    Becca pushed away from the table, returning all her pokemon in a blast of red light. “Don’t give me that crap. I’m leaving.” She stormed out of the Council Room, and minutes later the Journeymen glimpsed her flying away on Ferocity. The Garchomp soon vanished to a speck on the horizon.

    Raj’s hand moved to his Hydreigon’s pokéball. “If we hurry, we can catch her.”

    Xander shook his head. “No. We’ve given her a lot to think about. Let her figure it out on her own.”

    Cole excused himself from the table, and noticed one of Thor’s jingle bells had fallen off. He pocketed it, and went back up to his chamber. He stared out the window a long time, trying to piece things together.

    Becca dreamt about the future? How did I fit in? And what was this about a girl? He placed his palm against the chilly glass, and watched as his breath steamed it up. Damn, now I’m curious too…




    If there are any passages in here that don't feel quite like my writing style, there's a reason for that. If something seems a little awkward, it's probably a direct quote from Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol.
    Prepare for something quite different tomorrow to wrap all this up.
    Last edited by Firebrand; 23rd December 2011 at 5:40 PM.
    3DS FC: 0748-3041-6462

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  5. #5
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    Default Stave 3: The End of it All

    I must recommend you listen to this song when you begin reading it, as the first part is taken from it. There will be another point in the text where a second song starts, and I will link it there. It will be the only thing in the whole passage that is underlined. And now, we begin:

    In an old city bar
    That’s never too far
    From the places that gather
    The dreams that have been

    In the safety of night
    With its old neon light
    It beckons to strangers
    And they always come in

    The snow it was falling
    Neon was calling
    The music was low
    And the night Solstice Eve

    And here was the danger
    That even with strangers
    Inside of this night
    It’s easier to believe

    Then the door opened wide
    And a child came inside
    That no one in the bar
    Had seen there before

    And he asked did we know
    That outside in the snow
    That someone was lost
    Standing outside our door

    And Becca gazed
    Through the smoke and the haze
    Through the window and ice
    To that corner streetlight

    Where standing alone
    By a broken payphone
    Was a girl, the child said
    Could no longer get home

    And the snow it was falling
    Neon was calling
    Becca turned and said, “Not that I care
    But how would you know this?”
    The child said, “I’ve noticed
    If one could be home, they’d be
    Already there.”

    Then Becca came out,
    Away from the bar
    And she did something else
    That she thought no one saw
    When she took all the cash from
    The bag by her side

    And she followed the child to
    The girl ‘cross the street
    And we watched from the bar as
    They started to speak
    Then she called for a cab and said
    “Take her home.”
    Put the girl in the cab and the
    Cab drove away
    And we saw in her hand, that the
    Cash was all gone
    From the light that she had wished upon…

    If you want to arrange it
    This world, you can change it
    If we could somehow make this
    Solstice thing last

    By helping a neighbor
    Or even a stranger
    To know who needs help,
    You need only just ask…

    Then she looked for the child
    But the child wasn’t there
    Just the wind and the snow
    Waltzing dreams through the air

    So she walked back inside
    Somehow different I think
    For the rest of the night
    She didn’t pay for a drink

    At a little past four
    A man in the corner
    Shrugged his duster on closer
    As he walked out into the night

    And then he said with a smile
    “Looks like she got her miracle
    After all.”

    Now the cynics will say
    That some neighborhood kid
    Wandered in on some bums
    In a world where they hid

    But they weren’t there
    So they couldn’t see
    By an old neon star
    On that night, Solstice Eve

    When the snow it was falling
    And neon was calling…
    In case you should wonder
    In case you should care

    Why we on our own
    Never went home?
    On that night of all nights…
    We were already there.

    ***

    Cole sat on one of the benches in the central park in Castelia City, staring at the giant Solstice tree in the middle of the plaza. Even at this late (or perhaps early?) hour, it was still lit up. A few people wandered in and out of the park, bundled tightly in coats. Cole leaned back, flicking the collar of his duster up to keep out the chill.

    Next to him, Charizard grumbled softly and drew his wings around him. The fire type obviously didn’t like the cold, but Cole felt the need to stay here just a little longer. The scenery was conducive to thought. He would never know what Becca had seen in her dreams last night, or how the parts that had so obviously distressed her were induced. And he would never know what she said to that girl outside the Shooting Star Bar.

    But obviously, those things had changed her, and for the better. Athena squirmed out of Cole’s jacket, and looked up at the stars. “Is Father Solstice coming? I thought I saw his sleigh.”

    Cole gently pushed her back in. “Maybe. But he only comes when you’re asleep, remember?”

    “Oh, yeah.”

    The Victini went back inside, and Cole felt her curl up in one of the inside pockets. Cole glanced at Charizard. “Ready to go?” The dragon growled in assent.

    “Then let’s go home.”

    He stood up from the bench, and began walking. “So tell me Solstice, are we wise? To believe in things we never see? Are prayers just wishes in disguise? And are these wishes being granted to me? For now I see, the answering to every prayer I’ve prayed!

    “We’re going home, this Solstice day.”

    He continued down the meandering streets, staring up at the faint, glittering stars that refused to be blotted out by the city light. “So tell me Solstice, are we kind more on this day than any other day? Or is it only in our minds, and must it leave when you’ve gone away? It’s different now! It’s changed somehow, and now you’re here to stay!

    “We’re going home, home today.”

    He leapt onto Charizard’s back, and the dragon shot off, high above the world. They wheeled in the night sky, and Cole went on, addressing Solstice Itself. “All at once the world, it doesn’t seem the same. And in a single night, I think it all has changed. Everything is now as it should be.

    “I’ve got the ornament, I’ve the bell, indeed, I’ve seen a wish come true, I’ve got the chance to see everything that my heart thought it could be. For all the dreams, you were the first I knew, and every other one was just a shade of you. You stayed close, but I was far away!”

    Charizard drifted above the building-tops, and a light dusting of snow began to fall. Cole spread his arms wide and held out his tongue, hoping to catch a flake. The dragon dove low, sweeping in between the towering buildings to soar just above the street. Even at this late (early?) hour, people were already bustling about, and many looked up to cry out or wave.

    As Charizard pulled up, Cole started to sing again. “In darkest night, you always were the star. You always took us in, no matter who we are. And so…” He thought back to the lonely girl outside the bar.

    “She’s coming home, this Solstice day!”

    They passed by a group of carolers standing in front of the Pokemon Center. “Happy Solstice!” Cole shouted.

    “Happy Solstice!” they chorused back, and took it up like a mantra. “Happy Solstice, happy, happy Solstice! Happy Solstice, happy, happy Solstice!”

    ***

    And so, as the bar closed, the girl returned home. Her cab drove away, vanishing to a small dart of light. She glanced out at a glimmering star, far up above. “Happy Solstice.”

    ***

    Mr. Cratchit stepped out onto his doorstep, and nearly stumbled over a strange, glowing object. A small card was attached to it. He picked up the slip of paper. “For Tiny Tim.” His brow furrowed as he pulled his old coat tighter around his shoulders. “Well, what a strange gift.”

    He placed the wreath with its glowing candles on the kitchen table, so that his son would see it when he awoke. The card flipped over in the draft as the door shut, revealing more words in that close, sloppy script. “Happy Solstice.”

    ***

    A young man flew over the land, soaring through the night sky, the most perfect gifts of all in his hands, small golden jingle bell in his left hand and a ruby red ornament in his left.

    In those, there was the glow of a light

    There was a heart a heart of song
    It was in the tears of a child where they never belonged
    It was the wish of a soul on an old neon light
    That impossible dream on whose wings we take flight
    And the stars and the moon smiled down on him in plainest sight
    On the coldest winter night.

    The young man patted his dragon’s side, and whispered “Listen to the bells as they ring, listen to the choirs, they sing. Listen to the message they bring, listen to the sound as they sing as one voice in the night.

    “They hope someday we’ll understand every dream we have in our hands. And for every bell, may they ring on and on through the night.”

    They soared above the dark waters of the bay for a long while, until finally the young man raised his voice loud. “Peace to all nations! Joy to all the world! Happy Solstice!” The dragon roared in echo.

    Cole spread his arms wide, to the beast gave a whistle,
    And away they all flew like the down of a thistle
    But some swear he exclaimed, ‘ere he flew out of sight:
    “Happy Solstice to all, and to all a good night!”
    Last edited by Firebrand; 24th December 2011 at 7:35 PM.
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  6. #6
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    Default Author's Note

    I do hope you have enjoyed this story, as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Perhaps this year, you did not quite feel the same magic you did in this strangest of seasons. Perhaps you feel you have outgrown the foolish belief in magic.

    My friends, that is a fallacy. There is always magic. One only needs to look for it.

    So, in this most mysterious of seasons, from my writing desk to your home, I wish all of you and yours a very, very happy holiday, whatever you celebrate. And may 2012 be a prosperous, happy year of much success! Cheers!
    Sincerely Yours,
    ~Feralninja
    3DS FC: 0748-3041-6462

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  7. #7
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    Default

    Props for using TSO, though I'm more ofnd of "Christmas Lights in Electirc Blue" than I am "Old City Bar", though its a good song. I'm just not sure it all fit into here. I feel like Becca's plot hasn't resolved (later chapter of Path?) and that the final threads weren't quite as woven into pt3 as they should have been, but they wereenjoyable nonetheless, and I love how for such a rare Pokemon, Athena is so muvch like a wide-eyed child at everything Chris- ah, Solstice.
        Spoiler:- Breeding stuff:

  8. #8
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    Default

    You are a marvelous writer. How do you write so well!? Though as Glover said I think Becca needed a bit more resolution. It seems like most of the story was on her and finally her character had all of this potential for a great closer where she changed her ways and she was barely even mentioned, though it'll be cool if this is alluded to in Hero's Path.
    I've gotten into IV Breeding. I'll breed any Pokemon that can, just ask and I'll see what I can do!


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