Love in the Land of Dragons

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 15 (v.1)

Submitted: September 07, 2015

Reads: 322

Comments: 13

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Submitted: September 07, 2015



Chapter Fifteen


Late in the evening, long after Father Polsky had retired and Pia was back in his billet for the night, Miss Chang poured herself a cup of tea and went outside to the front porch. It was her chance to finally get a few moments to herself before heading over to the small living quarters located out back of the main house she shared with her granddaughter, Mingxia.

She enjoyed the soothing sounds of the night. The hypnotic chirping of the crickets, the occasional distant hoot of an owl, or the final flicker of an evening firefly. All of which contributed to her feeling a small sense of serenity in an otherwise chaotic world. As she dexterously sipped the tea, she once again thought of the young couple upstairs and reflected upon her own life and the winding path she had traversed that eventually brought her to this sanctuary of hope.



Zhu Chang was only fourteen the first time two suspicious looking young men showed up at her family’s tailor shop to offer a business proposition to her father. Zhu immediately noticed one man had a lazy right eye that tended to peer to the left and the other had a severe scar that ran down left cheek of his face. Both had brightly colored tattoos on their fore arms, each depicting a seven headed dragon.

“You have a very nice shop,” Eye man began to address her father with a faux smile upon his face, “I bet it is very successful, no?”

“It makes ends meet,” Zhu’s father cynically replied, as he stood behind the wooden counter organizing spools of sewing thread.

“As you know, this is a time of great upheaval in China,” Scar man began, as he wandered about the shop, gently feeling the texture of some of the silk flowered blouses and repaired pea coats that awaited to be picked up by the Chang’s loyal customers.

“There is always upheaval in China,” Zhu’s father sternly replied.

“True,” Eye man agreed, “but revolutionaries are on the move and they will prey on hard working people such as yourself.”

“And you are going to protect me, my business, and my family from such people?” Zhu’s father asked rather rhetorically.

“For only a small fee,” Scar man stated, “we will assure that not one of those treacherous thugs will ever disturb you, your business, and especially your family.”

Scar man then glanced over to Zhu, who was over in the corner folding layers of fabric. She didn’t liked the way he looked at her.

“So how much does this small fee entail for our protection?” her Father smiled cryptically.

“Twenty-five Yuan a week, for starters,” Eye man noted.

Zhu’s father reached into the pocket of his shirt and took out a single coin and placed it on top of the counter.

“Here is one Yuan. Take it and get out of my shop and do not come back!!”

Eye man took the coin off the counter and put it in his pocket before he suddenly grabbed a hold of Zhu’s father’s shirt collar and tried to drag him over the counter. Zhu screamed, which brought her mother out from a side room. However, Eye man suddenly released his grip when Zhu’s father produced a double barreled derringer he kept under the counter and pressed the pistol against Eye man’s stomach.

“I told you to get out!!”

So both men cautiously backed away towards the door.

“You’ve made a big mistake, Peasant!” Eye man warned, “You and your family are as good as dead!”

Zhu’s father aimed the derringer directly at the receding couple, who uttered not another word as they hurriedly exited the shop.

“They will be back,” her mother addressed her father.

Zhu’s father acknowledged, “Yes. And if not, someone else will. Over at Wong’s laundry, old man Wong told me he is paying three different gangs protection money, so now his family has barely enough for food. I will not allow us to go down that same path.”

“But father,” Zhu interrupted, “why not report this to the constable?”

Zhu’s mother and father both smiled at her.

“Zhu, you are as naive as you are innocent,” her father stated, “the local constables are more than likely paid by these very same thugs to stay out of their way. No, we have to take a stand. It may cost us, but it will cost us either way.”

“But it may cost us our lives,” Zhu noted.

“If that is the will of the fates, then so it shall be,” her father replied.

“But Father….”

“ZHU!!!” her mother scolded, “You heard your father! You shall speak no more of this!”

“Yes,” her father added, “go back to your chores and let us deal with this matter.”

So Zhu bowed her head in respect to her parent’s wishes and went back to folding fabrics. But a sense of fear held sway within her young mind and how prophetic that fear would soon prove to be.

As the days passed, Zhu continued to help out at the shop and even though she still worried about the encounter with the two young thugs weeks prior, her mother and father did not mention the issue again.

Then late one night, long after they all had retired to their small living space above the shop, Zhu was suddenly awakened by a loud, crashing noise from somewhere downstairs. She immediately got out of bed and peeked out into the small hallway outside her room only to see that her mother and father were already awake.

“What was that noise?” Zhu sleepily asked.

“Go back to bed and close the door, … now!” her father ordered.

Zhu obeyed, but did not go back to bed. Instead, she stood with her ear pressed up against the door. Soon she heard shouting. Zhu quickly exited the room and immediately detected the odor of burning wood. Just then her mother and father, gagging and coughing, their faces covered in soot, rushed back upstairs just ahead of a large billow of dark smoke.

“Take….. Zhu… and get… out… of here… now!!” Zhu’s father ordered his wife, between gasps for air.

“What has happened?” Zhu asked, as tears began to form in her eyes from the irritation of the ever thickening smoke.

“The shop… is… on fire!” her Mother haltingly replied, “Quickly! Go back into your room….. we’ll use…. the bedroom window!”

Zhu’s room was the only room that had a window. It overlooked the back wall of the flop house next door and a narrow alley below. It was their only means to escape. Zhu’s mother took a hold of her hand to guide her back into the room and over to the window. Zhu glanced back but did not see her father.

“Where is father?” she asked, as her heart raced with anxiety.

“He has gone back to try and retrieve the cashbox.”

By now the smoke was rapidly seeping into Zhu’s room, as her Mother struggled to open the shuttered window. With Zhu’s help they finally managed to force it open.

“Listen very carefully, Zhu,” her mother calmly instructed, “step out…. onto the ledge.”

Zhu glanced out the window. She could see a dozen people had already gathered below, while several men had formed a bucket brigade, trolling water from horse troughs located along the main street in an effort to douse the flames that was swiftly consuming the Chang’s tailor shop.

“Go… on…child, hurry!” Zhu’s mother ordered, as the smoke continued to pour into the room.

Zhu cautiously stepped out onto the window ledge. She precariously balanced herself on the window's ledge. When she looked down, she saw that several people had spread a large blanket out between them creating a makeshift net.

“Jump!! Jump!!” Came the shouts from far below.

Zhu nervously glanced back to her mother, now whom she could barely see through the ever thickening smoke.

“Go on… Zhu,” her mother calmly said, “it’s your only chance.”

Zhu reached back towards her mother.

“Take a hold of my hand,” Zhu implored, “we’ll jump together.”

Her mother shook her head, “No….if we both jump, the blanket may not hold. Best if we jump separately. You go first, Zhu…. I’ll follow.”

“What about father?” Zhu asked, tears now streaming down her face; not all a result of the billowing smoke.

“He will be here soon,” her mother reassured, “In fact, I think I hear him now. So jump. We’ll be right behind you.”

Zhu smiled at her mother, who lovingly returned her smile, then she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and stepped out over the ledge.

For a second Zhu felt as if she was just going to float away into the night, but soon she felt herself impact the blanket. Someone quickly pulled her off and wrapped a much smaller blanket around her shoulders.

Then the large blanket was stretched out once more. Zhu glanced up to see the thick smoke still billowing out of the bedroom window and she could just barely see her mother’s face looking down upon them. But as her Mother started to perilously take her first step out upon the ledge, an explosion immediately engulfed what was once Zhu’s room. Zhu screamed, as she was dragged away from the chaotic scene. She was quickly taken to the local constable station, whereupon she was placed in one of the jail cells.

Zhu, still in a state of shock, could only lay down upon a ragged, flea infested matress that had been placed in the corner of the cold cell. Upon that matress, she curled up into a fetal position and thought of her parents and silently cried herself into a fitfull sleep.

After awhile, a thin man with dark, greased back hair, sporting a pencil-thin mustache, came around to speak with her. He stood just inside the cell.

“You are Zhu Chang,” he began, “is that correct?”

Zhu imediately awoke and sat up on the matress and nodded, as she wiped away the residual tears upon her face.

“I am Chief Constable Ming and I am sorry to inform you that your family did not survive the fire. Please accept my condolences for your tragic loss.”

Chief Ming bowed his head ever so slightly. However, Zhu did not shed another tear knowing that crying would not bring her parents back.

“Do you feel up to answering some further questions?”

Zhu nodded again.

“This fire was deliberately set. Are you aware of any problems your parents may have had with anyone recently?”

Zhu explained about her family’s encounter with the two thugs a few weeks prior.

“Could you describe the two who came in that day?”

Zhu described them the best she could, emphasizing the one man’s lazy eye and the other’s scar, and especially the tattoos of the seven headed dragons.

When he heard Zhu describe the tattoos, the Chief’s face suddenly took on a fearful look.

“Do you know who they are?” Zhu asked, “Do you know who murdered my parents?”

“You get some rest, Miss Chang and I will be back in contact with you if I have any more questions.”

As he exited the room, Zhu called after him.

“Please tell me! Please tell me if you know who they are!”

But the Chief Constable continued on without reply.

Zhu now clearly understood why her father had not contacted the constables. The Chief knew who those thugs were and he was not going to do a thing about it.

Zhu stayed at the station for two more days, while guards would periodically bring her stale bread and scraps of fish for dinner, along with a cup of muddy water to wash it all down. Chief Constable Ming never came back to ask her any follow up questions. On the third day, Zhu heard a conversation in progress just outside the holding room. It sounded like Chief Ming’s voice and the voice of a woman.

Soon they both entered the room. The woman was very beautiful and dressed in a long, formal beige dress that delicately flowed to the floor and her coal black hair was severely swept up into a bun with a matching beige sage hat held in place by a jeweled hair pin. The woman’s face was covered with porcelain make up that highlighted her deep brown eyes. Zhu thought the woman looked like a princess and hoped she was there to whisk her away to some castle far, far away. Suddenly, Chief Ming’s voice snapped Zhu out of her fairy tale fantasy.

“Miss Chang!”

Zhu quickly sat up from the cot.

“I have taken the liberty to contact someone who may be of help to you. May I present, Lady Liu.”

Ming then nodded toward the beautiful woman.

“Hello, Miss Chang,” the woman greeted, her voice very soft and sweet, “I am very pleased to meet you. May I call you Zhu?”

Zhu nodded.

“Chief Ming has explained to me your very unfortunate circumstances and I am so sorry for your loss, but I am here to offer you a unique opportunity.”

“What kind of opportunity?” Zhu cautiously asked.

“I understand your parents owned a tailor shop?”


“So I am certain you have some seamstress experience, yes?”

“My Mother taught me.”

“Very good,” Lady Liu smiled, revealing perfectly polished teeth, “I am here to offer you a job as a seamstress at the Lotus House.”

“What is the Lotus House?”

“It is the finest hotel in Hang Chow,” Lady Liu explained with great pride, “so will you accept my offer?”

“I don’t know,” Zhu replied, not trusting this mysterious woman.

“I strongly suggest you take Lady Liu up on her very generous offering, Miss Chang,” Chief Ming advised.

“What if I don’t?” Zhu politely challenged, “Would you throw me out onto the street?”

“Yes!” Ming bluntly replied, “A jail cell is not a place for a young girl to reside in. Besides, I cannot guarantee your safety.”

“Just like you cannot guarantee you will ever try to search for my parent’s murderers,” Zhu sarcastically asked.

“You show some respect, young miss!” Chief Ming angrily replied, only to quickly settle down when Lady Liu gently touched his arm.

“Chief Ming,” Liu began, “Miss Zhu has been through a lot in the past few days. If she does not wish to accept my offer then that is her decision. Maybe it is for the best. Some children do very well at orphanages. If they can even get accepted in, let alone adopted out.”

“An orphanage?” Zhu asked reluctantly.

“That is where you will have to go next,” Ming stated, “as I’ve explained, you cannot stay here at the station.”

Zhu realized she had no choice.

“Then in that case, I guess I am your new seamstress,” Zhu grudgingly announced to Lady Liu’s delight.

That night, Lady Liu took Zhu Chang to the Lotus House on the other side of Hang Chow. They rode in a white enclosed carriage drawn by two beautiful black horses. Zhu thought that Lady Liu may not be a real princess but she sure rode like one.

When they pulled up front, Zhu wondered if they had made a wrong turn. For they had arrived at an old building with peeling paint and deep cracks along its walls. Only a small sign above a chip wood door read: LOTUS HOUSE.

“And here we are, Miss Zhu,” Lady Liu announced, as they departed the carriage and entered the house. Inside, it was another story. The lobby was very lavish; covered in deep red plush carpets with Victorian era chairs and tables placed about. Golden curtains covered the entry ways to a variety of side rooms. On the wall behind the guest desk were two Chinese symbols prominently on display representing Love and Prosperity.

Zhu noticed there were many girls wandering about the lobby dressed as lovely and as beautiful as Lady Liu. Meanwhile, off to the side sat two young Chinese soldiers on a bamboo woven couch.

Zhu was quickly ushered into a wash room, where she was allowed to clean up, then Lady Liu escorted her to the back where she was taken into a small and sparsely furnished bedroom.

“This will be your room, Miss Zhu,” Lady Liu announced, “I will have one of the servants bring you some food and will personally see that you be outfitted with some new clothes.”

“When do I start my seamstress duties?”

“Very soon,” Lady Liu assured, “but first I wish for you to become comfortable in your new surroundings. Then we will talk.”

Soon Zhu was issued a black Nehru shirt, pale blue satin short pants, and soft black velvet slippers. Meanwhile, Lady Liu personally taught her how to apply makeup and braid her long hair and tie it up using a silk cord.

And as it turned out, Zhu never performed any seamstress duties. Instead, she was taught the art of becoming a Sing Song Girl. A very young girl who brought drinks and meals to the male guests of the house, while the slightly older Flower Girls served the special needs of those same guests.

Zhu may have been naïve, she was not stupid. She quickly realized the Lotus House wasn’t a hotel in the traditional sense, but  a house of ill repute. But Zhu Chang had no choice, for it was either this or escape and try to survive out on the streets. So she accepted her fate, such as it was.

The years passed by. At eighteen, Zhu became a full fledged Flower Girl. Learning how to please the many requirements of the Lotus House’s male (and occasionally female) guests.

Zhu always performed her duties loyally, becoming a good actress in the process, as she feigned interest in her client’s requirements. She taught herself to mentally and emotionally separate who she really was from who she was supposed to be. And in the morning, Zhu always looked forward to a hot bath to wash away all of the sins from the night before.

Meanwhile, Lady Liu was very pleased with Zhu’s overall attitude and performance to the point where she considered Zhu one of her favorites.

One night, while Zhu and some of the other Flower Girls waited in the lobby, two Chinese sailors came in. Lady Liu greeted them and after some conversation that Zhu couldn’t hear, it appeared that one sailor wished to partake in an evening of entertainment with a Flower Girl, while the other sailor would just wait at the bar in the lobby.

Lady Liu quickly arranged for one of the Flower Girls to escort the young sailor to the guest room. So as the other Flower Girls chatted away amongst themselves, Zhu watched the young sailor left behind. She thought he was very handsome.

Meanwhile, one of the Sing Song Girls had brought over a shot glass of whiskey to this sailor, who slowly sipped the drink while he nervously glanced around. He noticed Zhu staring at him. She smiled coyly and he returned her smile. And though it was against house rules to approach a guest without first being invited, Zhu walked over anyway to introduce herself.

“Welcome to Lotus House,” she began, “May I please be invited to sit with you?”

“Uh, yes, please,” the sailor nervously replied, as Zhu quickly sat down beside him.

“First time in a place like this, huh?” Zhu giggled, surprising herself at how relaxed she was around this young stranger.

“Now, how’d you guess?” the young sailor laughed.

Zhu joined him in his laughter, “My name is Zhu.”

“Very pleased to meet you, Zhu. I am Kai Twon.”

So began a special friendship. Zhu learned that Kai was born in Chew Ton province and had just joined the Chinese Navy. He was assigned to the frigates that escorted the Yankee Clipper ships that carried goods from America as they entered Chinese waters.

When Kai’s fellow sailor finally returned from his date, Kai promised Zhu he would return the next time he was in port. And he did, many times. Always asking for Zhu.

Even though their first meetings were conducted in a very business-like manner to keep Lady Liu happy, emotionally there was a bond of love that began to grow between them that went way beyond any ‘pay for pleasure’ arrangements.

Kai wished to take Zhu away from all this and Zhu was receptive, but she implored him to be patient. For Lady Liu wouldn’t be too keen on loosing one of her “favorite” employees.

But Zhu realized they both were young, foolish, and in love, so they continued to meet whenever Kai’s ship was in port. She always looked forward to his arrival. Then one night, Zhu had some news for Kai. She was pregnant with his child. Kai was ecstatic, for now Lady Liu would have to release Zhu. But when Zhu nervously informed Liu of her pregnancy, Lady Liu refused. Normally, Lady Liu would have released any of her girls who became pregnant but since she was her favorite, Zhu had to stay.

“I will find some other way to get you out of here,” Kai had promised, after she had informed him of Lady Liu’s denial. However, it turned out to be the last night they were ever together, for on his way back to his ship, Kai Twon was attacked by a gang of street thugs, robbed, and beaten to death.

So Zhu and Kai’s dream of starting a new life together were shattered. Zhu once again accepted her fate and continued to work for Lady Liu at the Lotus House. For she needed this job now more than ever to take care of herself and her coming baby. She continued to work until she was four months along, then Lady Liu had her return to just serving drinks and meals.

Five months later, during a monsoon rain, she was born. A beautiful baby girl whom Zhu named Kailin, in honor of her father.

And time rolled on. Kailin grew up to be a beautiful girl herself and worked her way up through the ranks, as her mother had. Meanwhile, Lady Liu promoted Zhu to House Mistress, who oversaw all the Sing Song and Flower Girls, while Lady Liu dedicated herself totally to the business side of the Lotus House.

But like mother- like daughter, Kailin also met a sailor who had come into the Lotus House. But unlike her own father, this sailor was from the Portuguese Navy. He also had promised Kailin he would take her away from all this by bringing her back with him to Portugal to start life anew.

However when he visited Kailin, he would always bring along an opium pipe and would make Kailin smoke with him. Thus she quickly became an addict. Then she too became pregnant with the Portuguese’s sailor’s baby, but when the sailor learned of her pregnancy, he quickly left never to return.

Nine months later, Kailin gave birth to a Chinese/Portuguese girl whom she named Mingxia, which meant ‘soft cloud’. Chinese culture considered Mingxia a saltwater baby; a derogatory term for the dozens of babies born each year whose fathers were foreign sailors.

And as Lady Liu had welcomed Kailin when she was born, she did the same with Mingxia. However, Liu had ordered Kailin to stop smoking opium if she was to remain at the Lotus House, saying it would hurt business. For many of the locals wouldn’t want to be with drug addicted girls, who had been with foreign sailors for fear of catching some disease.

Zhu also tried to get Kailin to kick her opium addiction but to no avail. Late one evening, while everyone had retired for the night Kailin, her addiction just too overwhelming and her emotions damaged beyond repair, snuck out of the Lotus House and effectively disappeared into the night, leaving Mingxia behind to be raised by her grandmother.

But with Lady Liu’s permission, every week Zhu would go into the seedier side of Hang Chow to visit all the opium dens in search of her daughter in hopes of finding her and bringing her back. For the next several years, Zhu continued her search but without success. Zhu promised herself she would never give up in trying to locate her daughter.

Then one evening the fates stepped in once again to set the future for Zhu Chang and her grand daughter, as two older Chinese men walked into the Lotus House.

Zhu, being the House Mistress, greeted them and arranged a ‘date’ with two Flower Girls. Both men were wearing pea coats and fedora hats, and Zhu paid them little attention until they removed their hats and coats. Then she noticed the one man had a lazy right eye and the other a deep scar across the left cheek of his face. Both sported seven headed dragoon tattoos on their forearms.

Zhu immediately realized they were the ones who had murdered her parents all those years ago. But Zhu remained calm and acted professionally. She escorted the two men and the Flower Girls they had chosen to a back room. The men ordered some drinks and Zhu promised she would quickly return with their orders.

As Zhu had the bartender make the drinks, she slipped into the kitchen and over to the supply cabinet where upon she grabbed a pack of rat poison. When she returned to the bar to pick up the drinks, Zhu covertly poured a bit of the poison into both glasses.

“If there is anything else I can do for you two gentlemen, please do not hesitate to ask,” she cheerfully said, as she delivered the drinks.

“You can get lost!” the Scar man replied, as he took a big gulp of his drink, while Eye man followed suit.

Zhu just smiled, “Before I go, may I ask you two gentlemen a question?”

“What is it?” Eye man replied.

“Please pardon my inquisitiveness, but I couldn’t help but not notice your two beautiful tattoos.”

“What about them?” Scar man impatiently inquired.

“I just wondered what they represent?”

“Well, you best not know what they represent!” Scar man sarcastically replied.

“Aw, I’ll let you know what they are,” Eye man evilly smiled, “they are the symbol for the Hydra gang. Most who learn that do not live to tell others. So consider yourself lucky, Peasant, that we are going to let you live. Now get out and let us deflower these girls or we will kill you and everyone else here.”

“It is just I have seen those tattoos once before,” Zhu teased.

“Oh? Where?” Scar man’s curiosity was becoming aroused.

“It was when I was a young girl. My parents owned a tailor shop and two young men came in with identical tattoos. They wanted money from my father for protection and when he wouldn’t give it to them, they later came back in the middle of the night and set fire to our shop. I was the only one who survived.”

Both men glanced at each other then gave Zhu a curious look.

“Who are you?” Scar man asked.

“My name is Zhu Chang and you are the ones who murdered my parents.”

“And we will be the ones who murder you!” Eye man threatened, but as he got up, he suddenly clutched his stomach and fell to the floor. Scar man also began to grab his stomach as well.

Zhu immediately turned to the two Flower Girls standing by and sternly ordered, “Both of you get out!! I will deal with these two. And remember, you have seen nothing and these two were never here! Understand?!”

The Flower Girls nervously nodded and quickly left the room.

“What have you done to us, you Peasant Bitch?!” Scar man desperately asked, as he tried to get up but also tumbled down to the floor.

Meanwhile, Eye man was already going into convulsions, as the poison coursed through his body.

“I just provided you with one of our special drinks,” Zhu evilly smiled, as she turned away to let them die in turmoil.

“Whore!” was the last word Scar man uttered before following Eye man into death.

Zhu immediately went to Lady Liu to confess what she had done.

“In our business I cannot discriminate as to who or what out clients do for a living,” was Lady Liu's reaction to Zhu’s confession, “but I understand your actions. The world is a better place without those two thugs. I will arrange for the disposal of their bodies, but you must get out of here. I cannot guarantee your safety or that of your granddaughter once it is learned of their disappearance.”

Zhu understood.

“The safest way is to contact the Moral Welfare League,” Lady Liu strongly suggested.

Zhu knew that the Moral Welfare League was an organization in China that was trying to clean up all the surrounding provincial towns by registering and licensing houses of ill repute, as well as helping any girl who wished to escape her life of sin.

“Tell them who you are and where you work. Not what you just did. Then say you have had a crisis of morality and wish to repent your sins and seek refuge. They will direct you to some Sanctuary House far from here. Then you will be under the jurisdiction and protection of the church and effectively disappear. But we must hurry, so pack just what you and Mingxia need.”

“Thank you, Milady,” Zhu bowed her head, “for your understanding and for all that you’ve done for me. I can never re-pay you for all your kindness.”

“I am so sorry you were forced into this life,” Lady Liu sadly replied, “but I believe in fate. Fate brought you to me, now it is taking you away. Best of luck, Zhu Chang. May the fates be kinder to you this time around.”

Then in the dead of night, with a small parcel of clothing in tow, a wagon from the Moral Welfare League took Zhu Chang and her grand daughter out of Hang Chow and headed south. Taking them far, far away to a Sanctuary overseen by a kindly old priest by the name of John Polsky.



Miss Chang finished the last of her tea and deeply inhaled the sweet fresh air of the late night.

She amusingly thought of the irony that the fates had bestowed upon her. For she had gone from being a Mistress for a House of Sin to a Mastress for a House of Hope. Now she would head over to her quarters and see that her grand-daughter Mingxia was comfortably tucked in.

Her life had indeed traveled a crooked path. Fate, however, was always a mysterious guide, as Miss Chang felt the two young people upstairs would soon discover. After all, like them, she too was once young, foolish, and in love.

© Copyright 2018 Nikki Evans. All rights reserved.


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