RP:The Haunting Continues

From HollowWiki

Part of the Rise of Larket Arc

Summary: Several days go by in the home of Josleen and Kelovath. A ghost seems to be lingering within the home and Kelovath fails a test or two. Josleen appears to be the one triggering the ghost, but it is unknown to the couple at this time.

Joslo Home

The first few days of living together are an adjustment. Kelovath and Josleen rushed moving in together. The bleakness and solitude of war made them crave togetherness beyond reason. And so, the relatively-new couple are thrown into the deep-end of the co-habitation pool. Luckily for Kelovath, Josleen has been groomed through romance novels and instruction on a woman's place to adapt to the needs and lifestyle of her man. "Make his interest yours", says The Guide to Being: Wives Edition (authored by society at large over millennia). "Choose your battles", is another instruction in The Guide, and so Josleen has chosen none, and any chafing is met with the taciturn maneuvering of a master chess player. A recent strategy (to address which problem is anyone's guess) includes two prongs of attack. First, Josleen has taken to wearing very short, thin silky night gowns that just barely cover the goods. Second, she has suggested as their post-dinner entertainment that she read to him so they may enjoy a book together (if this bores you, Kelovath, then maybe you should go invent Netflix). The first book the bard has chosen in a historical romance, loosely based on the real-world civil war in Cenril many centuries ago (in fact, she sold this book to Kelovath as a history book, haha, sucker). At the heart of this plot is a couple who are very much in love, and very physically active. The man is aggressive in his conquests of his ladylove, and she (and Josleen) eat it right up. She reads with Kelovath's head in her lap. Her fingers follow the grooves between the pronounced scars on his back. The valleys between the hills of scar tissue rarely touch anything at all, and she seeks to rectify that. And yes, she is wearing something skimpy as she reads. Currently she reads a scene where as the neighborhood burns outside (important rebellion in the war, a turning point for the revolutionaries, which in this book is reduced to sideplot and ambiance for a racy scene), the hero rushes into his lover's bedroom to save her, but it quickly becomes clear there is no escape. Fearing this may be their last moment together, the hero pushes his woman against a wall. The flames around them are an embarrassingly obvious metaphor for the flame burning within the lovers. Speaking of embarrassing metaphors, all body parts are named after flowers or weapons. The reader is left to deduce which is which.

Unfortunately for Josleen, Kelovath has not been groomed on living with your significant other. There were many things he would learn in just those few couple of days. The biggest thing being that when Josleen wants something, it’s usually best to give in. Not to avoid a possible argument, but because with his perspective, she deserved what she wanted. The thoughts of war lingered in the back of Kelovath’s mind, but he knew Josleen had been through much more than he has. Maybe ever will. The curse and that undead creature. The first battle at the war-camp. Being captured. And the few wars before the most recent with Frostmaw. He didn’t feel sorry for her though. He felt that was important. Supportive in her actions, but never patronizing. The short, silky night gowns appealed to him, as he is a man, but the colorful/flora dresses was how he always pictured the woman when he was away for the day. There had only been one day, since they began living together, that he was away, but it felt like much longer to him. This was the night after that day and having spent the entire day together in their home brought him peace. The events going on in Larket were not on his mind as he listened to the story and enjoyed the gentle touch that came from Josleen. He’d grown more accustomed to her fingers on his scars, which lead to his shirt being off more often than normal. Typically when they were laying together and she was reading. The book wasn’t exactly his favorite, but there was something about the male character in the book he could relate too. When the more intimate parts of the book began, Kelovath couldn’t help but to watch Josleen more closely as she read them. There was a slight change in tone, maybe, from what he could tell. He enjoyed the more action-packed scenes of the book, but his attention remained strong whenever the woman read. She had a way of telling stories, from a book or not, that came so naturally. Bard training, surely, but maybe more. Or maybe not. It could very well be Kelovath’s love-filled brain hearing things more clearly and with more emotion than if someone else was reading. One arm was resting comfortably below him, kind of tucked away, while the other(his hand) was resting at the base of Josleen’s back. Kelovath’s hand didn’t move any and his eyes continued to watch the bard as she continued to describe the well written, but strange scene going on in the book. They were about to die and this is the first thing they want to do? He didn’t get it, but this must be the romantic side that Josleen sways too. Whether this was his kind of story or not, he was happy to be lying there and listening.

Josleen's tone definitely changes a little in the racier scenes, and her cheeks flush slightly. She's excited. The chapter ends and Josleen decides she'd like some tea. She sets down the book. Cover illustration: An armored man charging down an alleyway in Cenril, swinging a sword, while behind him in a window a buxom brunette shouts, her face creased with worry. In Xalious, having a second fireplace is a luxury afforded only to the wealthy. Traditionally second fireplaces are in sitting rooms and outfitted to brew tea as well. In this Larketian estate, the sitting room does have a second fireplace, but it isn't quite the right design for accommodating over-hanging pots. Nonetheless, Josleen, eager to feel wealthy in her native sensibilities, fashioned a quick fix (that also presents a fire hazard). It's a hot summer night so the fireplace is not lit. She builds one now, bending forward with her back to Kelovath in that skimpy nightgown. "Would you be wanting tea?" she says as she glances over her shoulder at him.

Kelovath remained silent as Josleen finished the chapter. He moved when she got up, eyes first moving to the cover of the book. He’d seen it before, but always noticed a new detail with each passing glance. Usually there wasn’t anything new and it was merely a reflecting light or a stray hair. Hair, this time as well. He sits up, end of the bed now, and stretches his arms into the air. He noticed Josleen’s glance and nodded with a smile. “I’d love a cup.” The words were followed by a sudden yawn, the man covering his mouth and shaking his head with a laugh. Obviously, Kelovath took a notice of how short that nightgown really is, but he knew how to look, without it being overly obvious. Although, with it being Josleen, he didn’t often hide his gaze. This time, he did not hide it. Romance novels may not be his first choice of reading material, but regardless of that, they still had an effect on the paladin. Tea sounded nice, but…t.

Josleen can see the effect she has on him, but it isn't enough. She turns back to the fire. A memory of Eliason flickers across her mind like lightning. The wood catches flame, literally; and so does she, figuratively. Suddenly a wind howls down the chimney and snuffs the fire out. Hair rising on the back of her neck, Josleen backpedals away from the fireplace in a panic, her hand reaching to clutch Kelovath's tightly. Her knuckles and face blanch. "Did you see that?" she whispers. Through the window she sees that outside the tree branches are still. There is no wind. Her little heart races. She looks to Kelovath for answers.

Kelovath was in mid-stretch when the wind came shooting down the chimney. Right away, shortly after Josleen started to move backward, the paladin is up from the bed and moving her farther away from the fireplace. The connection of the wind coming down the chimney and the branches outside not moving doesn’t quite click with Kelo, but he could feel that something was off. Not because he’s a paladin or anything, but just the mood in the room has changed drastically. It felt colder, even with Josleen now pressed against him. “I felt it…” He whispered in return. The man glanced over his shoulder, at the fireplace, while his hand moved up and down Josleen’s back in comfort. “Weird…” He whispered again, then shifted his attention back to Jos. “You okay?”

Josleen holds her breath as if waiting for something else to happen. Nothing does. She exhales at last, laughs at herself slightly. Nodding at his question, she adds, "I'm jumpy. I'm sure it was nothing. Maybe the wind." But she doesn't feel brave enough to return to the fireplace and light it again. Instead she says, "On second thought, I'm pretty sleepy. Maybe I don't need tea." She nudges her chin upwards to indicate their bedroom."Bed?"

Kelovath kept his eyes on Josleen, nodding as well when she replied to his question. “Yeah. I’m sure it was the wind.” He said with a small smile, kind of believing his words, but his instincts were screaming that it was something more. Dismissing the thought of tea, the paladin agreed with Josleen. “Sure, Jos.” Softly spoken, followed by a quick kiss to her forehead. He’d wait though for the woman to make the first move toward the stairs. His way of being polite, but in this situation, he probably should have taken the lead.

Josleen sleeps snugly against him that night and the nights that follow. Two days pass without incident, aside from the occasional clashes as their routines as individuals and clash with the routine as a couple here and there. Growing pains. On the third day, Josleen knows the hour when Kelovath will return from training at the fort, covered in sweat and eager to bathe. Despite this fact, she is in the bathroom, freshly bathed herself. The bathroom door is ajar so that Kelovath will see her in passing. She wears a sheer, powder pink wrap-around robe which is also short. Where is she getting these from? They didn't come to Larket with her from Xalious, that's for sure. From the hallway he can see the reflection of the deep plunge neckline. When she bends forward to rub lotion into her exposed thigh, the neckline falls away to reveal more beneath. She pretends not to hear when he is home, not to notice as he passes the hallway although it's impossible in his clinking armor and heavy boots. The voyeur set-up. The next test.

Kelovath was exhausted. The training today focused more on magic than the actual physical training he was accustomed too. It was needed, of course, the magical training, but he preferred the running and swinging of the sword. More his style of fighting. As usual, he arrived home around the same time and wanted to get out of his armor. It was an important part of his life, the armor, but the removal of it always came with relief. “Jos?” He called out, announcing his return home. No answer. He shrugged and headed for the bedroom. Armor clicking and clanking, the man walked by the bathroom, entered the bedroom, paused, and stood still. “Um.” A few blinks and the man turned around and walked back to the bathroom. He could see what was revealed beneath as she leaned forward, but instead of gawking like a teenaged boy, Kelovath pushed the door open slightly more, “Hey Jos, could you help me with this?” A casual motion was given to his leg armor, the man wincing slightly as he tried to reach down and unhook the strap holding it in place.

Josleen grins to herself as she hears Kelovath's footsteps back tracking to the bathroom. The door opens, and she rubs the lotion more sensually into her flesh. Victory, she's sure she can smell it. Then he speaks and his casual tone robs her of her grin and the sweet taste of victory. She falters slightly, leg dropping away, lotion set down. "Uh, sure," she says as she crosses to him. She kneels down before him to help him unbuckle the greaves and once again a flash-in-the-pan memory of Eliason arrests her attention. She compares the men in her private mind. Suddenly behind Josleen the glass jar of the lotion begins to rattle and shake, as if there is an earthquake, until it falls off the sink and crashes onto the tile floor. Shards of glass outnumber the expectations. The glass shatters and spreads by a power of its own. The lotion spills. Josleen jerks upward to stand with a gasp and flees the bathroom, her hand grabbing Kelovath's hand in her flight.

Kelovath smiled as the request for help was accepted. The day had been long and getting out of this armor needed to happen quickly. In hindsight, having Josleen assist probably wasn’t the best call, as his armor was dirty and she had just finished getting herself clean. Not very thoughtful, but he really wanted her close, more than anything. But, before he could take advantage of the situation, he saw the glass jar fall from the sink. The rattling was missed, as was the shaking, but the fall itself was rather clear. Glass exploded throughout the bathroom floor, making Kelovath close his eyes out of instinct. Another strange feeling came over him, but he was unable to dwell on it for too long, as Josleen was now pulling him out of the bathroom and into the hallway. Again, out of his natural and trained reflexes, Kelovath is able to keep his balance and wrap the woman up in his arms. Unfortunately for Josleen, those arms were still covered in armor. Not the most comfortable thing to drive your momentum in to, but realizing this, the paladin did his best to retrain himself and accept the woman carefully, before tripping over his own feet and bringing them both into the hallway wall. Armor is not the best cushion.

Kelovath in armor weighs enough to break her bones if he were to crash down on top of her at just the right angle. Thankfully the sidelong collision against the wall spares her the worst of it. But as his arm hooks around her reflexively, the plates over his forearm and bicep come together at the elbow and pinch her skin, leaving behind welt that purples and inflames instantly. She yelps loudly, likely enough for him to release her. She slumps down to crouch against the wall, her hand covering the ballooning skin. Her forehead leans against the wall, hair falling like a curtain to hide her expression from him. She hisses through gritted teeth, in and out, in and out. Although he can't see her face, her closed-off posture suggests she is wincing against the pain and unable to stop the tears. She doesn't look at him because she doesn't want her tears to embarrass them both, or guilt him. It was an accident, but gods damn it hurts. She stays very still like a wounded animal.

Kelovath didn’t know that his armor had caught the skin of Josleen until the yelp. And even then, he was unsure what happened, but did let go of her. The hissing confused him some, but seeing where she was holding onto herself at, he had a slightly better understanding of what caused the yelp and weird noises. He hesitated for a moment, unable to decide if he should go to her or give her room. He kept his gaze on her, eyes lingering on her covered face, but Kelo is a man. And she is wearing barely anything. A very fast once over was given to the bard, but the very prominent good guy in him snapped him out of his lusting gaze and thoughts. All of it was shifted to caring and worry. “Oh, Jos. Are you okay?” The gauntlets that normally would have surrounded his hands were gone, so he felt safe reaching out to Josleen and placing a hand on her back, the other slowly sliding to the pinched skin. He wouldn’t touch it, afraid of hurting her more.

Josleen nods several times. The butts of palms wipe at her wet eyes. She sniffs loudly, nods again. Without looking at him she says, "I'm alright. Just stung." Face still partially obscured by her hair, she inspects the purple welt. A mere flesh wound, nothing to worry about, but sharply painful. The bard remains oblivious to his lusty gaze, which is for the best in the current situation. Her hand reaches out for his, so that he may help her stand. "I don't know what's going on in this house," she says weakly. She looks up at him, her face drying already and robe askew. "Maybe I just knocked the jar, but..." She doesn't believe herself. Her palm covers her welt again. Her own body heat is soothing. "Come. Let's get you out of that and cleaned up. And a salve for me." She lifts an elbow to indicate her arm. "I'll pick up the glass. You must be exhausted."

Kelovath waited patiently as Josleen looked at the wound. He attempted to smile, but still felt bad about what happened. His eyes shifted back to the bathroom, and the glass, also not believing the idea of Jos knocking the lotion from the sink. He wouldn’t mention the house and the possibility of something being wrong with it. It had everything they both wanted. It was perfect. There was no way a…His thoughts stopped there and at the mention of Jos picking up the glass, he shook his head. “I’ll get the glass, Jos.” A quick smile, followed by a quick kiss to her cheek. His hand cupped her face for a brief moment before he turned and went back into the bathroom. The strange feeling he had during the fireplace incident was felt, but it wasn’t nearly as strong. Maybe there was something going on with the house…A slight shake of his head and he was bending down, sliding the broken pieces of glass into a neat little pile. When he assumed it was all gathered together, it’d be thrown away and the lotion is annoyingly wiped up as best as he could. With that being done, the armor would be removed next. Arms first, a slightly mismatching breastplate next, and then he’d attempt the leg armor. He didn’t try the leg armor right away though. Standing near the sink, the paladin tried to remember what happened. What he saw. Or thought he saw. It was hard to picture, but he was sure Josleen was nowhere near the jar of lotion when it fell. A soft sigh pushed by his lips and he turned the sink on. He forgot about the leg armor and began washing his face.

"Thanks, darling." She returns the kiss on the cheek and leaves him to it. As he cleans the glass she applies salve to the pinched welt, then sprawls across their bed to relax after that fright. Is the house haunted? If so, by who? Andurla? Could it be the undead creature again? Having only just lied down to rest, she's already back up on her feet. Anxiety makes her jittery, as it does most people. In the armoire she opens a small chest and inside finds the blue rose that 'Tyler' had given her during the creature's last attack. Still there, still safe. She slowly returns to the bed, this time carrying the blue rose with her. Kelovath doesn't come to her. The bath isn't running either. Odd. "Kelo?" She gets up again and crosses to the bathroom doorway, but doesn't dare enter the haunted room. "Is everything alright? How are your legs? Moving alright in the armor?" She beckons him exit the bathroom with one hand, the other still clutches the rose. "Come, let me help you out of that." She won't go to him, however, not just yet, not while he is in there.

Standing at the sink, his head was down and cupped hands were bringing water to his face. Droplets from the water landed all around him as the majority of the liquid splashed against his skin. A sigh followed and the thought of getting the bath ready came to mind. The rest of the armor first, but before that next task could happen, he heard Josleen call out. In no rush, the already removed armor was pushed to the side of the bathroom. It felt nice already, having most of the armor off. Another quick splash of water to his face, faucet turned off, and the paladin turned toward the woman. He nodded, a few drops of water falling from his face as he did this. Stepping out of the bathroom, he motioned toward his legs and the armor that covered them. “Harder to move than expected. Can’t reach the strap.” It was embarrassing, really, but the man was still in a state of recovery. Maybe another week or so and he’d be back to 100%. It took a moment, but he did finally see the rose held in her hand and a curious look was given to it. “Beautiful.” He whispered, eyes shifting from the flower to Jos.

Josleen smiles at the compliment. She presses the rose gently against his still-sweaty chest and rubs her nose against his. His strong scent, interpreted by her subconscious to mean 'safety', calms her nerves. "Mmm." Her hand gently squeezes his large pec through the shirt. It's his strength; she loves his strength. She jiggles the rose for him to take as she kneels down to help his legs out of the armor. Had she told him about the rose? She can't recall. Probably not. "Do you think these strange happenings could be the creature again? Perhaps he is still hunting me?" Removing the straps and plates comes as second nature to her. She could do it blind. "But the blue rose is meant to represent that I am free from the curse. The creature... last time it attacked me it took me someplace else, and... I've told you about my friend Skylei, right? She was once engaged. His name was Tyler. He died." Actually, he was killed, but that's neither here nor there. It's not exactly a secret, but Josleen is trying to make it one. "During the last attack I saw Tyler there. He wasn't harming me, but quite the opposite. I believe he saved me." She rests the greaves against the wall and stands again. "He gave me the blue rose and said it would protect me from the creature, and that I can no longer be cursed by it so long as I have the rose. Or do you think that was another trick? Of course, it could it be true, and these occurrences are happening for another reason. It is a very old house, after all." She looks to the bathroom apprehensively. Is it safe? If Kelovath enters to bathe, she'll will cross the threshold with him. He will protect her, come what may, though it would be better if nothing came at all.

Kelovath slid his hand to Josleen’s back as she rubbed her nose against his. Her own scent was intoxicating. The fact that she had just bathed increased the smell by a great deal and it made the man happy. The rose was accepted carefully, his eyes on it as the woman undid the straps to his armor. Even as simple as the story sounded, Josleen had that…Skill of telling. It made him interested. Of course, he was already interested as it pertained to the woman and her well being. Keeping his eyes on the blue rose, to him it was clear that there was something special about it. Not like the white rose he had received what seemed like a lifetime ago. The white rose was special, but the blue one…Something different. Not evil. When his leg armor is removed, a hand is offered to Josleen to help her up and shortly after, his arms are around her yet again. “I’m not sure, to be honest with you. I mean, if there was something evil going on around here, I’d feel it. I admit that there is something, but evil? No. I don’t think it’s that creature or an evil…Thing.” He wasn’t sure what to call it exactly. A ghost? That sounded crazy. But, in the land of Hollow, crazy was typically accurate. Still, he felt there wasn’t enough evidence to figure this mystery out. His head turned some and he looked to the bathroom. “I need a bath.” A soft laugh, then he made his way back to the bathroom, pulling Josleen along behind him. “C’mon, love.” Hopefully Kelo was able to get all the glass.

Josleen tucks in close to Kelovath as they enter the bathroom. She involuntary flinches as if she expects something else to happen, but nothing does. "I'm being silly," she admits with a breathy laugh. "Maybe we should ask a witch or psychic to come appraise the house. They may have the answers we need." Her fingers dance on his abs once he removes his shirt. She draws the bath and adds salts which are meant to help his muscles recover, especially his legs. Anything that promises faster musco-skeletal healing has been invested in by the nurse-bard, even healing crystals. There is no proof they work, but they hang on the headboard above Kelovath's side of the bed all the same, just in case. She looks up at him when he approaches the tub and purrs playfully. "If it is a ghost, surely she was just impatient to see you out of that armor."

Kelovath squeezed the delicate hand of Josleen as she admitted to acting silly. “Couldn’t hurt, I suppose.” His shirt was removed, arms aching slightly as they were lifted up. He did sink though. A bath was definitely needed. Strange, considering less physical activity was done earlier that day than normal. He helped Josleen with the bath, handing her the salts before getting undressed the rest of the way. He wasn’t sure if the salts actually helped, but at this point, anything was better than nothing. Except those crystals above the bed. Those were weird. They always appeared to be moving too, which could be distracting at times. Regardless, his legs were feeling better, so he would assume out of everything, the salts were probably doing the best to help. A smirk is given to Jos as she is freely eyeing him during his approach. Before entering, he turned and freely sat on the edge of the tub, reaching out a hand to the woman. “Maybe we should…attempt to scare the ghost a little?” A sly remark, followed by a wink and a slow once over of the woman.

Josleen gives Kelovath her hand when he gestures for it. She sways against him dreamily. "Oh, you have an idea?" Her shoulders shrug out of her robe a little. Normally she'd kiss him here, but this time she doesn't. That test returns. The windowpane rattles just barely audibly. Josleen is too distracted to notice that the 'ghost' is at it again. The rattling intensifies as the bard recalls her own game, visions of her past.

Kelovath ignored the window, subconsciously deciding that it was the wind. There something much more interesting going on right in front of him. He leans forward slightly and kissed the top of Josleen’s hand several times, eyes looking up at her. “I’ve got a couple ideas.” Another sly smirk and the kisses travel up from her hand, to her forearm. The man has to stand now to go any further, so he does, which allowed his other arm to pull Josleen against him. His lips are at her neck now, pressing softly against her clean, smooth skin. He begins to whisper to the woman now, soft words of love and caring. Depending on her body language, or verbal noises, the whispers would continue, but in a more lustful way. His lips would leave her neck and brush against her ear, ensuring Josleen could hear exactly what one or two of his ideas were. Definitely not something to share outside of the bathroom. When an idea or two had been told, the man placed yet another kiss to her neck before motioning back toward the bathtub. “Well?” He asked, oozing with confidence now.

Kelovath's kisses and unrepeatable, outright dirty suggestions make Josleen shiver. She rubs up on him and joins his fantasy in the tub. Everything he dreamed becomes reality. The more forceful he is, the more excited she becomes. If he hesitates or asks for permission too much, she plays coy and hard to get. Masterful chess player, taciturn sharper of men. Do this, do that, yield her excitement. She thinks of no one but him throughout until eventually they exhaust themselves and collapse against the side of the tub. She sits in his lap and rests her head against his chest as she tries to catch her breath. They've been in the tub so long the water has made their fingers pruney. She's silent at first, enjoying his presence as her mind takes stock of how perfect her life is in this moment, with this man, in this home. Once her body cools from passionate heat to post coital lethargy, she whispers that she loves him. Eliason crosses her mind again, but this time Kelovath wins out in the comparison. Despite his win, in the hallway, a painting crashes to the floor. The entity seems unable to discern who wins out in Josleen's mental comparisons. The bard sits up with a start, eyes widen with alarm. Out of the tub, into her robe, she takes Kelovath with her as human shield. He leads the way (at her prodding). She tucks in behind him. The painting is a large one of Xalious's famous park. The frame broke in the crash and part of the canvas tore along the edge. It's one of Josleen's favorites, as it reminds her of home. "Babe, that's it. We need to call a medium."

The fantasy was exactly what was expected and then some. The man knew what he wanted although not crazy forceful, it was surely enough, based on Josleen’s reactions. After it was all said-and-done, they laid together and enjoyed the moment. His scarred fingers looked strange as pruney. More damaged, but easier to look at, in a way. He did look at them too, but the usual feeling of disgust wasn’t there. He was content. Happy, even. The scars didn’t bother Josleen, so they didn’t bother him. They did, really, but much less. The whispered words of love were repeated, the man kissing the top of her head after speaking. It was about the time when his lips pulled away that the crash from the hallway echoed into the bathroom. Josleen definitely jumped first, as the man was –almost- too exhausted to do so. When she left the tub, he followed, grabbing a towel and wrapping it around his waist, for some reason, before being pulled/pushed into the hallway. He approached the downed painting, lifting one edge of it and sighed. “I think you’re right…” That was the last thing he wanted to do, but it needed to happen. Something not right was happening here and it was now getting in the way of moments that should be remembers for much different reasons. “First thing in the morning, I’ll try to find someone.” The paladin lowered the painting back down to the ground carefully, trying to not make the damage any worse. “Let’s get something to lay this on. Don’t want to rip it any more than it already has.” His gaze shifted to Jos, looking over his shoulder at her.

Josleen shakes her head at Kelovath's suggestion that he should find a medium. "No, no. I should do it. I can be discreet. You're on the council. Don't get your hands too dirty in this, love. You know how superstitious minds can spin things." Her fingers drag across his exposed lower back as she pass him in the hall to stand opposite the painting. She lifts one end, waits for him to adjust his grip on the other, then together they move the large painting to a spare room. She'll find someone to fix it later, too. In her mind, this sort of thing is her responsibility. She doesn't even ask. It's assumed. "Snack?" Food always tastes better after.