We laid down next to the door and watched how the three dragonesses tried to get their wings to work. That took quite a time and they nagged on it quite often. But they tried again and again, despite falling into the water every time. The time they were up expanded from try to try though and Monica was the first to break the barrier, which she announced with surprisingly loud roar herself. This urged the remaining two to try harder and harder, ignoring the bruises they must have had by now. Linh figured it out herself after four more tries and was followed by Jessica shortly after.
We went back into the tower and entered the room that was opposite to the door that let onto the roof. Linh and Jessica hobbled a bit, but were nonetheless eager to continue. The room was as big as the class room we were in earlier, but didn't contain anything. Marko and Jim were talking to each while looking towards us several times. They then turned around and picked pairs. Linh and Monica joint Jim, while Jessica and I stayed with Marko. Who then began to teach us the basics of flying, which took quite a while.
"Remember to stay close to me and don't try anything special. That is your first flight and we want you to return in one piece." Marko finished the explanation
"Any questions left?"
"Not really." Jessica answered
"Me neither." I replied
"Well then. Jim are you ready?" Marko asked as he looked over to the other trio
"Yes. We are as ready as we can be. Lets start before the wind turns." Jim replied and opened the door
The tenseness grew as we returned onto the roof and was at its maximum as we stood at the end of the roof and had a look downwards. The sea was way below us, but surprisingly it didn't bother me at all.
"How high are we again?" Monica asked
"Around 1400 meters." Jim answered
Still fascinated by the height I didn't notice that Marko sneaked up behind me, until I felt a sudden push which carried me over the edge. I unfolded my wings in reflex, flapped as fast as I could not to fall down and turned around to see an smiling Marko.
"Why would you do that?" I roared and looked down as Marko pointed downwards
I didn't even notice that my paws weren't on any surface until now, but hung in the air and I with them only carried by my wings. The view and the fact that I was flying on my own, without airplane, was awesome. A scream from the tower got my attention and I noticed Jessica as she sailed downwards followed by Marko. He flew next to her until she got out of the shock and used her wings to stop the fall too.
I joined them halfway upwards and got into position next to Jessica as Marko had told us earlier. We then flew a few rounds around the upper floors of the tower until Marko was sure that we could do the basic motions. He guided us downwards to the auditorium with its connections to the three towers. The next maneuvers included the flying above or below the bridges, followed by sharp turns around the towers. We encountered the other group a few times and on one occasion I had to evade a collision with Linh, who was flew a bit to low as she came over one of the bridges.
I got the hang on it after our fourth round and was enjoying the flight. How the wind was blowing around my body and the warmth of the sun on my back. The view of the outside of the towers was marvelous with their markings, which closely resembled the majority of it's inhabitants. Be it nagas, unicorns or dragons. What made me smile was the growing crowd that appeared behind the windows and in the auditorium. And I was not alone with it. The other three students had a similar smile on their faces and our teachers guided us closer and closer towards the towers with each round.
It was some times later as we flew a bit lower that I took a short glimpse into a trainings room, in which a human was fighting against, what had to be, a hippogryph. The myth was larger than the human. It had the front legs, head and wings of an eagle, while the rest of its body was that of a horse. What ever they were doing in it, the human clearly was distracted by the view of us flying past the window and was pinned as I lost sight of them.
'Hope that wasn't Stefan.' I thought with a smile
Marko guided us lower and lower until we almost were on the same level as the base of the tower. Which in closeup was way bigger as I had imagined previously. Marko increased the speed a bit, but we still needed five minutes for a whole round. We continued to fly around it a few times until Jessica began to fall back and headed upwards again afterwards.
Marco headed back to the roof after a few turns and we, more or less, landed safely on it. Well the less would describe it better. Jessica crashed and sailed into one of the pools, while I was sliding over the floor and stopped closely before the door. Which caused Marko to laugh again as he pulled Jessica out of the water and stopped besides me.
"Ha! Priceless seeing a dragon slide on his belly. Next time try to slow down a bit more Rob. Same for you Jessica." He laughed as I stood up
"Easy for you to say." hissed Jessica as Marko set her down
"Are you hurt?" Marko asked concerned
"I think I broke my leg." Jessica replied while she leaned at Markos left front leg
"That's not good. Probably the crash." Marko said and looked towards me.
"Well that an second flight for you today Rob. We'll glide down towards the hospital. They have a small ramp on the outside where we can land. Rob would you mind to carry Jessica down there? You're not agile enough to set her on my back and it would be a good lesson to land carefully."
"If my crest won't hurt her." I replied
"She can sit on the harness. It already pulls it down, so that should work." Marko said
"Now if you would lay down for a moment."
I laid down as he had said and Marko helped Jessica up onto my back. On which she sat down on one piece of the harness while she grasped the other part to get a safe hold.
"Everything ok up there?" I asked as I stood up
"As good as it can be. Funny I always wanted a horse and now I end up ridding a dragon." She snicked to which I rolled my eyes
"Ready you two?" Marko asked to which we both nodded
"Take it slowly and remember to slow down before you land Rob."
With that he jumped of the edge and I followed him in an instant. As Marko said, it was only necessary to glide as we steadily descended towards the floor with the hospital in it. It was under the floor which I saw the fight earlier and the ramp was big enough to fit three or four dragons next to each other. Marko landed before me and vanished into the tower. I myself flew as slow as I could to not slide again, which I managed. Still had to run a few meters until the momentum was completely gone. Jessica moaned silently as I touched the ground and felt her legs hit my sides.
"Sorry it was as soft as I could manage." I said as I followed Marko into the hospital
I was greeted by several Humans who had a wheel chair for Jessica with them in which Marko lifted her as I laid down. He then nodded towards the medics and gave me a wink to follow him.
"As we have done that. Now, what should I do with you the rest of the day? It was planned that we would spar now, but the flight took more time than we thought." Marko said
"You know what? Explore the tower until dinner and meet me in the library afterwards."
"What about the harness?" I asked
"Keep it on for now. I'll take it off later." Marko replied
"Now if you would excuse me. I have to prepare a few things before we meet again and don't even think about flying on your own by now."
With that Marko went back through the door to the ramp on the outside of the tower and left me in the lobby. I myself went out of the front door and followed a group of students, which were guided by a teacher, upwards. Seeing a dragon must still be a great thing for them, because their attention wandered from their teacher to me. A closer look revealed that they were hippogryphs and they took a beating, as several of them had bandages.
The group and I continued our ways upwards until we reached a floor with several students, who all had the hippogryph emblem on their shoulder. There I remembered that Stefan told us something about a small test their teachers were gonna do to them today. And it was relatively easy to differ between those that had their tests done and those that hadn't. Those who had been bandaged, while those who hadn't. I was about to continue my way upwards as I heard my name yelled out and looked to the source of it, which revealed to be Stefan. He came straight at me and punched me into the shoulder, which probably hurt him more than me.
"Hey. Why would you do that Stefan?" I asked
"That was for the distraction during the fight." He answered to which I mentally snickered
Stefan was bandaged on several parts on his body and was using a walker to support his plastered right leg. His shirt was shredded and his trousers looked like they could fall down every second.
"That damn hippogryph bit me in the end. And it all started with your flight past the window." Stefan growled
"Hey don't blame me. I only followed Marko and how could I've known that you would be fighting that very moment." I replied
"Did you still pass the test?"
"Barely, as the judge was saying. The hippogryph screamed at him for it and after that immediately bit me in my arm." Stefan answered
"They have a very sharp beak. I had the impression that it didn't even bit hard and still cut the flesh almost down to my bone by the looks of it."
"Sounds painful. But be glad. At least they didn't carry you back onto our room after that." I said
"Yeah. But you were fine the next day. Hope I too get this healing power you have, if they finally decide that I should change." Stefan replied
"Not in that extend." Simon said as he walked towards us
"Being a hippogryph allows you to heal a bit quicker, but you are still far away from the capabilities of werewolves or dragons."
"And when do you think, you'll grand me that?" Stefan asked
"Soon." Simon replied, while he gave me a wink to which I replied with a nod
"And for you Rob. How was your first flight?"
"Awesome. Being that free was breathtaking. Though the lesson before that was a bit rough." I replied
"I would like to fly a bit more, but Marko forbid that for the moment."
"With good reason. You only flew with a constant wind by now. Should that change, he could catch you before you hit the water. It's only a safety measure for all new myths that can fly." Simon explained
"Marko is lucky with that though. He only has to watch for two persons, while I have six or more."
"That many?" I asked
"We are at an shortage at the moment. The war pulls more and more forces away from us. This is why we have to group that many together." Simon replied
"The gryphons are luckier. They have still the manpower to maintain smaller groups and you dragons are so rare, that you never need more than two or three teachers."
"Simon I need your help over here!" Shouted someone from the other side of the room
"Well, that was a very short break. Stefan your class should start in a few minutes, don't forget to be there in time." Simon said while he was walking away.
"Great. First got beaten up by one of them and now I have to take lessons." Stefan sighed
"See you." I replied and continued my way as Stefan and several students walked into a room on the opposite side of the floor
I climbed a few more floors and past several groups of werewolf students. Most of them backed up as I walked past, while a few continued with whatever they were doing. The floor that was occupied by them was mostly empty, despite three students who were talking to their teacher. A door opened and revealed yet another class that switched rooms. I caught a look on Tanja, who waved towards me as she walked with those to the next room. Nick was not among them, but they had told me that they were in different groups.
The remaining walk towards the canteen was relative eventless and I used the time to go through all that had happened until now. Starting from the flight over the kidnapping and the change in the end. I mentally jumped from luck as I thought about the flight earlier and couldn't wait for the second one. This kept me occupied until I heard a yell from one of the doors to my left, which stood open a bit and revealed three people inside.
The three were the half dragons which I encountered earlier and they seemingly sought refuge here, as the room looked barely used. It had only a few chairs in it, which mostly had cloth cover around them and the view outside was blocked by big wooden planks. They seemed to have an heavy discussion going on, as the yell I heard suggested. I was thinking about leaving them there as I heard the shatter of falling chairs and saw that the green dragoness had punched the bronze colored dragon. My problem with this was that they stood in a position in which she surely must have seen me and I could tell by her look that she had.
"Ah look, there the pet of the other dragon." She said while pointing on me
"Excuse me?" I asked, a bit baffled by what she just said
"Yeah you heard me right! You and the others are nothing more than pets or really stupid to take this offer." She replied
"And why would I be stupid to take that offer, you too did take?" I asked
"We were tricked by them, but you don't see it. You're already assimilated by their lies." She screamed
"Take him. He is as stupid as you are and a coward on top of it!"
I looked at the bronze one that was crouching away from her as she came closer, showing here claws. I saw what was coming next and jumped between them with an snarl.
"Do it and you'll have to fight me." I growled to which she looked surprised for a second
"Take him. Bring him to your master, pet. I bet he'll reward you with a big bone or something." She replied
"Now leave. You're not welcome here."
"You heard the lady. Get lost!" said the other green half dragon who still sat in his chair
The bronze half dragon was hiding behind me by now and was guided out of the room easily. He looked not that bad, mostly scared by the sudden violence and didn't show any sign of injury. But you could see that he was glad to expand the distance between him and the two others as fast as possible. Still I didn't know why he went with them in the first place.
"What's your name?" I asked
"What?" He replied
"I asked what's your name." I said
"Frank, mister." He answered
"Leave the mister. You may call me Rob." I replied
"Why did you go with them? They seemed a bit extreme to me."
"I don't know. Like them I was angry about what had happened to us. But I didn't notice how dangerous they were until they made plans to attack the teachers." Frank explained
"They want to attack Jim and Marko? Good luck." I laughed
"As for you. Still thinking that was a bad decision? I mean the hit may be surprising, but it didn't hurt you physically."
"I don't know. I found a few things that are pretty useful. But being a completely different species?" Frank answered
"Well, you still have your hands. Look at me I went from bi-pedal to quad. Still I love it, especially after the flight." I replied and as Frank looked at me with a questioning face I added
"You know. The wings aren't just decoration."
"You mean we can fly?" He asked
"Yes. Though it takes a lot of practice." I replied
"Didn't you see us as we flew around the towers?"
"No we were in that room the whole day since we left the class room." Frank replied
"They thought it would be a good idea, as we shouldn't be found that fast."
"Why did she attack you anyway?" I asked
"Because I don't liked their idea of vengeance against everyone. I told them that it would be a bad idea and you know what happened next." He replied
"Hm. Good thing you got away from them. Lets search for Jim, we have to tell him whats going on." I said to which Frank winced a bit
"Do you think he allows me to join again? After what we did this morning?" He asked
"Shouldn't be a problem I think. He told me earlier that this happens quite often and that most return after a day or two." I replied
"I hope you're right." He sighed
We walked for a while, on which I got to know Frank a bit better. He lived in Austria, was a cook like Martin and really concerned about the whole war story. Though he only knew fragments of the whole story. With the canteen in sight we met Jim, who was on his way downwards.
"Ah Rob, I see you found one of our lost dragons." He said and looked at Frank
"Hallo Frank. Did you change your mind?"
"A bit. I'm still not so sure about the whole thing. But I don't want too have anything to do with the other two anymore." He replied
"Rob assured me that I could return. But I still have to ask. Is it to late to apologies?"
"For what? It was your good right to be upset about it and I would be glad if you return. Hope the other two change there mind too." Jim replied
"Yeah about them..." I said
"What about them?" Jim asked
"They were rather harsh to Frank and me. And it seems that they plan to attack you." I explained
"Frank knows more about this, because I only joined at the end of the discussion."
"Is that so? Well thanks for telling me and Frank would it bother you to join me? I want to look for one of your classmates down in the hospital and it seems that we have to talk about one or two thinks." Jim said
"Thanks for bringing him here and for the warning Rob. Enjoy the rest of your free time."
"Down again?" Frank sighed
"See it as compensation for the missed training today." Jim replied while he and Frank went back the way we came before.
"Which isn't that much anymore." I said to myself, as I looked at a clock which showed that it was already near dinnertime, as they were out of sight
It was less than a hour left until the others would return, so I decided to wait at our place in the canteen on them. What the dragoness had said to me, still spooked around in my head. How could they be so wrong? Or how could she dare to yell at me? That thought reminded me about Markos explanation and I pushed it aside as good as I could, but sadly this alone wasn't enough to calm me down. I changed the topic and thought about the flight and the fun I had. This washed the remaining rage away and kept me occupied until I received yet another hit onto my shoulder. This time by Stefans walker.
"Would you please stop that?" I asked as I saw who had hit me
"Was the last time for today." He laughed
"Sorry, the opportunity was to good to miss. Hitting a dragon in his thoughts."
"Learned enough for today?" I asked
"The learning wasn't the problem. The beating was. Still am a bit mad on you for your distraction." He replied to which I grinned a bit
He sat down and watched as the canteen slowly got crowded. The human one still was fuller than ours, but now more and more gryphons joined us. Twenty of them were there as Tanja and Nick arrived and they made quite a obstacle course for them as they tried to join Stefan and me. Mostly because they were kind of restless and couldn't sit for a moment or it simply was not the most comfortable stance. Either way they forced the two to several detours as they approached.
"Ah you made it. Did you have trouble finding your way?" Stefan laughed
"It's easier to maneuver through a jungle than here." Nick answered caught a glimpse on Stefans bandages
"What happened to you?"
"Small fight with a hippogryph. Did hold myself relatively good until Rob distracted me with his flyby." Stefan answered
"Flyby?" Tanja asked confused at first
"Ah that you mean! Rob now I must say, I'm a bit jealous."
"Don't be you wouldn't like the training for it." I replied
"Why that? You flew and that without help." Tanja said
"Is that why you have that ugly thing on you?"
"Yes. That ugly thing is for the training we had before that flight. And it contained several crashes into water until we knew how it worked." I explained
"Several?" Nick asked
"I stopped counting after the twelve. Think of it as using a kite. Only that you're the kite and have no one that controls you." I replied
"Did it hurt?" Stefan asked
"You bet. In the end two of us limped and after the flight we even had a broken leg." I replied
"We?" Stefan asked
"The half dragons and I did the training together. One of them broke her leg, as she landed to hard." I explained
"Had to fly her down to the hospital and the walked all the way back up, were I met you in between. But enough of me, how was your day?"
"Mostly medical checkups and a few history lessons. Tanja?" Nick said
"The same. Though I had to drink some strange water, which tasted really bitter." Tanja answered
"We all had to." Nick added
We chattered sometime until Stefan had a thoughtful look on his face. I used the opportunity as we got our dinner to ask.
"Stefan. Mind to tell us what you're thinking about?" I asked
"Do you hear something?" Stefan asked
"Hear what?" I asked
"Chats besides ours and that of the people in the other canteen." Stefan explained
He was right. The only persons in the whole canteen that were talking were we. Not one gryphon had said a single word since they came here, but yet they interacted with each other as they had. Their view told you with whom they should be talking, but non of them were.
"That's a bit spooky." Tanja said to which Stefan nodded
"Well try to talk which such a beak." Nick replied calmly
"What do you mean?" Tanja said
"I said that it should be difficult to talk with a beak." He replied
"I hope that's not the reason." Stefan said with a pale expression on his face
"But it sounds logical. Why are you so pale Stefan?" Tanja asked
"Because he's a hippogryph. Guess what they have in common with gryphons." I said with a smile
"Oh." Tanja said and Stefan threw an evil glance at me
"So we can say anything and he has no way of saying no?" Nick laughed
"Other than biting and clawing? No not really." I replied
"Not if I can stop this from happening. They didn't do anything to me yet." Stefan said
"Remember the soon, Simon said?" I replied
"Yeah, but I don't get your point." Stefan asked
"My change started as Marko pierced me with one of his claws. And if the other changes are similar." I left rest of the sentence open
"You mean the bit could be what could change me?" Stefan asked in disbelieve
"You said that. I only suggested." I replied
"Well that's just great." Stefan grumbled
"See it that way. You switch your talking against the ability to fly." Tanja said
"It's more than that we as werewolves get."
"Yeah but lose the ability to talk?" Stefan replied
"It doesn't seem to bother the gryphons that much." Nick said
"Perhaps they can talk to each other."
"But to no one else. What if I can talk to them and Hippogryphs but not to you?" Stefan complained
"You still can nod or shake your head." I said
"Cheer up Stefan we'll find a way. You won't be the first that has this problem. This goes on since the medieval times, there must be a way around."
"I hope so. Two weeks without saying a word. It's just not my thing." Stefan replied with a slim smile
"That's better. I could hug you if that would cheer you up." Tanja suggested to which Nick and I laughed
"If you want." Was all Stefan said to it
"We'll see." Said Tanja with a smile
This broke the ice and boosted the mood of Stefan, who immediately began to tease me with several topics. It went on until we all were finished with our meal. I noticed Jim who was entering with Jessica on his side, with her leg bandaged and a similar walker Stefan had. He looked to me and pointed on his wrist, which reminded me of Marko who was waiting for me.
"Well guys. I have to go. Marko is awaiting me and I again forgot the time." I said as I looked to the clock
"Which is not that difficult without clocks." Nick replied
"Oh, I now how the clocks here work. I'll explain it later, just wait in our room if you like." I said and started to walk in the direction of the dragon floor.
I rushed a bit, so it didn't take that long until I reached it. Still had to evade a few people that were on their way to the canteen. Including Monica and Linh. Marko was already waiting for me in human form, but was accompanied by the same old man I saw after the fight against him.
"Ah Rob, finally." Marko said
"May I introduce you to Jason? He is the rector of this tower and a council member of the dragon city. He wants to know how you're doing."
"Yes. As I do with every half and full dragon. I heard you already experienced our rage?" Jason said
"Yes, I have. Twice." I answered
"Twice?" Marko asked
"I was angered by how two half dragons acted against me and another student. But I followed your advice to get rid of it." I said
"Ah Rachel and Samuel I guess. So you found them." Marko replied
"Yes on my way up from the hospital. I noticed yelling while I was walking and found them in an abandon room." I replied
"Who?" Jason asked
"Rachel and Samuel. Two half dragons who resist against teaching and blaming us for their decision. It were three in the beginning but one found his way back to us." Marko explained
"Every circle." Jason muttered and shook is head
"At least one time, I wanted to have a peaceful one. But no. Young ones, nothing but trouble. But that is a topic for later. Marko told me about your rage earlier and I decided to bring forward another lesson. If you would get rid of the harness, please."
With that Marko began to take the harness of of me and put it back into the chest he got it out. We then switched from the library to the room I fought Marko two days ago. The room was as it was before, the things we broke were replaced by now, with the only difference being a solid granite wall, which was placed at the far end of the room.
"As you may remember, Marko scorched the room as you were fighting" Jason said to which Marko flinched
"This is another thing every dragon has in common and could show itself unwanted. This lesson is to teach you how to control it. Would you give him a short overview Marko?"
"As Jason said. We can breath fire and its very potent. It easily incinerates anything it touches and is strong enough to melt metal if you keep focus for a short time." He explains
"First the basics. You breath holds as long as you can keep your air in you lungs. The fire itself is generated in you snout. The air mixes with a chemical that is produced in the fire organ of your body. It's always full with it and the organ recreates it fast enough to allow long periods of breathing. And it's not uncommon to be very hungry after fire breathing, because the glad converts fat to the needed chemical. Your body will signal you when you should stop to breath fire."
"Ok. Basically the organ converts fat and I need to eat after a battle." I said to which Marko nodded
"Next the safeties. As said. The fire is very hot and the breath is difficult to control at first. If you should succeed in starting it later. Don't stop breathing until you're out of air! If you breath aim at the wall, nowhere else. Jason and I aren't in dragon form so we would die, if you breath at us."
"Got it." I replied
"Now for the breathing itself. It's difficult to explain. How should I say it." Marko thought out loud
"Throw up, but don't throw up." Jason said in riddles which didn't really help me
"You'll figure it out. Now look at the wall and only look back when we tell you."
I faced the wall, while the other two stepped behind me and sat on two chairs and watched me as I thought about what he said. I tried it with chocking a few times, but that didn't really work. Next I tried to spit but that didn't work either. It only caused me to hiccup a few times, which strangely forced a small smoke trail out of my nose, which didn't smell that good. But it brought me on an idea, which involved faking a hiccup while breathing at the same time. This showed some results as I was able to create a small flame. Encouraged I gave it another try, this time with more power. The results were, well, surprising. The wall was dosed in flames and I could keep the breath going for almost five seconds until I ran out of air.
"Good. Nice steady stream. Now give it another shot." Jason said
I repeated the lesson a few times and increased the time from try to try until I reached full ten seconds. We stopped after this and both Marko and Jason went forth to inspect the wall. Marko gave me a wink to join them and continued to examine the wall.
"Yes excellent. Burned a nice little hole in it with that last flame. Could be a bit deeper but that is good enough for the first time." Jason explained
"Marko can give you a few advises for the next time and keep up the good work. I hope the half dragons will be similar in skill. Now there are two half dragons that need my attention. We'll see us later Marko."
"Good you didn't screw up. I heard he would keep you doing that, until you got it. Which can be until the next morning." Marko said as Jason had left the room
"Now I bet you're hungry again?"
"A bit yes." I replied noticing my stomachs growl
"It'll get better after you paid your dept. Come, lets look if Martin has some food to spare for you and me." Marko said
We went back down to the canteen, which was quite empty by now. Only a few griffins and the half dragons were there. Frank was cornered between the dragonesses and bombarded with questions and explanations as it seems. The griffins once again sat there and looked at each other, while saying not a single word.
"How comes the griffins don't talk?" I asked as we took got to the usual place and ordered some food
"Because speaking with beaks is hardly possible." Marko replied and confirmed Nicks suspicion
"They communicate telepathically. One thing we can learn, but it's difficult to do. I'm trying to learn it since I changed, but still am not capable of doing so. Your friend, Stefan was his name, was it, will have difficulties to talk with you. No way around that for the time being and I would not pick on him for that. First it's not fair and second the beak of him is really sharp, if he decides to bit you."
"I see." I replied
"You said Jason is council member of the dragon city. May I ask where it is?"
"On Cyprus as far as I know. Never been there before though." Marko replied
"And his arm?" I asked
"He lost it in the french revolution." Marko said and added, after I spat a piece of meat on the floor in surprise
"Rob. We aren't humans anymore. Our normal lifespan is much longer than theirs. Our oldest dragon had his 596th birthday two weeks ago. And to add to this. We'll continue to grow after three years. The spell that changed you stalls it until you pass the gift to the next circle."
"We grow?" I asked still stunned
"Yeah. Faster after the three years and slower after eighteen. But that you should ask Jason. He naturally has a bit more experience in that topic than I have." Marko replied
The topic after that changed to a more easy conversation until we were done with our food. We were the last two in the canteen as we left and it was past ten as I arrived in Stefans and my room. Nick and Tanja had left by now and Stefan was already in bed as I entered. It seemed as it was an exhausting day for him. He didn't even wake up as I closed the door a bit louder as I wanted. I curled up on my bed and too fell asleep shortly after.