2018-12-19 - TIMELINE 1: The Magic of Heights
|Title: TIMELINE 1: The Magic of Heights|
After the North Pole, Mikoto seeks out Homura, and shows her the wonderful world of being high up.
| OOC - IC Date:|
2018-12-19 - 2014-03-16
.******************** Yamanote High City - Ohtori Academy *********************. *+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+ Ohtori Academy +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* The ivory crown on the brow of Southern Cross Island, Ohtori Academy is separated from the world by more than just water. Outside, education can be a luxury. Within this white-walled compound, education is luxurious. Marble colonnades spring up like fountain spouts, scarlet flowers drench every free surface. The architecture is at once daringly art deco and austerely Classical, white marble lending an angelic weightlessness to pillars and fences that can seem more woven than carved. At the center of campus is the Chairman's Tower, a dizzyingly tall spire in the center of a manicured grassy field. Radiating around this field are the lecture halls, dormitories, art buildings, and other facilities by which the chosen few receive education, with small class sizes in large buildings. It's common for students to refer to a building's location as if the hour hand of a great clock extended from the central tower. At twelve o'clock, for instance, the Duel Arena looms like a jade stormcloud, a great forest forming a living pagoda of leaves that reminds even longtime students that their school keeps many secrets. The rose is the emblem of Ohtori, and campus is decorated with a profusion of them, both living and frozen in frieze. Poppies are favored as well, and thick carpets of either flower can be found wherever the loosest excuse is available. Only the most bitter of winters seems able to fully erase the faint fragrance from the air, and students who leave the island via quick, convenient bridge or ferry can often find a memory of it on their clothing. *+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+* Players +*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*+*
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
The process of kittens can be complicated, for people who have never gone through it. It can be intimidating to be responsible for a tiny little life - even if they get bigger every day. But there is a mysterious girl who has inserted herself into their circle and left no question unanswered: the remarkably feline Mikoto Minagi, who acts as apt translator between kittens and guardians. Thanks to what she's learned in Animal Care Club, she even knows about the advances Tokyo has made - like shots!
She made sure to offer plenty of assistance as the kittens were weaned, going from relying on mama Shizuka to the girls who have taken them in. An anxious, exciting time, and Mikoto remained relentlessly optimistic and encouraging. No matter the stumbling-blocks, Mikoto believed in them, and was proud as they successfully brought their kittens into the next stage of their lives.
Hers is a belief which stretched far beyond cats, though cats are certainly what brought her thundering into their lives. Whether it is innocent belief in any explanation they care to offer for some aspect of society - or belief in them when they are uncertain. Many times she has led them into some small adventure rather than feeling down - often leading to a ramen stand. Other times she has simply attached to them about the midsection and insisted grades don't matter so much, amongst other little crises.
In all her extroverted cheer, it might be possible to overlook the fact that Mikoto Minagi is one more formerly-lonely girl Madoka has collected. Just like Nori, or Eri, or Homura. But there are hints, now and then, even though Mikoto is notably silent on her origins. It's in the way she latches on physically so often - and in her sheer happiness around everyone - and in the occasional unguarded declaration of affection which says a little more than she meant.
Yet they're only hints, and Mikoto is not good at elaborating. It is easy - so easy - to think her exuberance excuses her from sadness. Easy, but... like recognises like, after all.
Maybe that's why Mikoto has any success at all drawing Homura out for daifuku. To her mind, she had plenty of company growing up - but she can't deny girls are new. And she has seen so many cats in her days, and perhaps it is the cats which tell her the signs of childhood isolation.
Perhaps it is by watching cats she has learned the dire cost of being left behind.
But she knows, she knows, and there is a reason she assured Homura they'd be back, after all. And they are - and so she seeks her out, prowling the rooftops of Ohtori. When she spies her prey, she leaps from rooftop to treebranch, and...
She does not flip down in front of Homura without warning, to surprise her as she does so often to the others. It only took one episode of panic cascading to teach Mikoto that it hurt Homura, rather than delighting or impressing her.
Instead she calls out: "Homura! Homura! Up here!"
And then she appears, hand over branch, in an entrance downright sedate compared to her usual fare. A twig has caught in her braid; she doesn't seem terribly fussed. In cheerful greeting, she echoes her name again: "Homura!" Like everyone else, her name is yobisute on Mikoto's lips.
<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
It's not an "AHHH!!!" (that was the first time) or even an "Oh!!" thanks to perceptive thoughtfulness. Given that forewarning, Homura Akemi channels her astonishment upward with a thorough lack of cringing -- because she knows that voice, and the girl calling her name could only mean it in a friendly manner. "Minagi-san, hello!"
And thanks to that forewarning she gets to appreciate Mikoto's acrobatics, which Homura never ever gets tired of. She closes the paper-wrapped manga volume in her lap and simply clasps it to her chest with both hands instead, watching.
"You're so good at that," she marvels, and wonders what it's like to be able to feel treetop wind in your hair any time you want.
Homura chose a thick-trunked deciduous to hide behind, tucking between gnarled roots on the wallward side of the tree so it's between her and most of the milling students in the courtyard. Usually just that and a good story in her hands lets her pretend the other students don't even exist, that she's alone under a tree somewhere peaceful and free of social pressure. Today, though...
Today she keeps staring at the same panels, rereading the same word bubbles, and none of it sinks in. Homura has not turned a page in ten minutes at least. It's with relief and gladness both that she welcomes Mikoto dropping into her afternoon, and because it's Homura they both show plainly on her face. Her eyes shine right through her glasses.
"You're all back... Um, how are you?" She's torn between concern and reluctance to pry, and chooses to ask because curiosity and a growing comfort with Mikoto tip the scales. "I knew you could do it! The Covenant of Style... It's all so wonderful." You're all so wonderful, those eyes say.
Her gaze flickers upward, to Mikoto's hair and the twig entangled there. Homura pauses longer here, but it's clear she's working up the gumption to say a thing. She shifts the manga to the crook of one arm, and her freed hand flutters at her side like the fingers want to pluck at something.
"I ah, pardon me Minagi-san." A halting half-step forward, and she peers over her glasses and through that fine black fringe. "May I...?" White fingers rise to hover halfway between them, the gesture its own question mark.
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
There are many things Mikoto is not thoughtful about which the average girl does without thinking, but she's perceptive, and when she realises there's a problem she tries to make it better.
She still hasn't picked up on honourifics, though. Those things have always been for other people.
Mikoto beams as Homura marvels at her antics, face lighting up like a Christmas tree in some Hokkaido lodge. It's an expression which shifts, some, as Homura asks, and she glances away, pressing her lips together as she considers how she can describe it. But when she looks back, she's smiling again. "We did it," she says, "so I'm happy!" Perhaps it skips the details, but Mikoto always has. Besides, Homura admires them, and that if nothing else is a reason to feel pride.
For all she is a vaunted member of the COVENANT OF STYLE, rough-and-tumble Mikoto is not being terribly stylish right now, unless she's trying to break new fashion ground in natural accessories. She doesn't seem to have noticed, and at first she regards Homura with a tilt of her head and an owlish blinking of those big yellow eyes. But that tilt brushes the twig against her and she realises what Homura has seen, and she makes a wordless noise of cheerful comprehension.
"Sure!" She chirps, and to her credit does not close the space, but instead just remains still so Homura can approach. It is one of many ways she has learned how to befriend Homura from countless skittish strays. Certainly Homura has had her share of being draped on, because Mikoto approaches personal space more as a portion suggestion on the box which can be easily dismissed in favour of having all the pancakes at once, but Homura approaching Mikoto is different!
Instead she comes back to her first compliment, now she's been reminded of the tree. "I could take Homura up," she offers. "Climbing's fun!"
<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
The mahou fight terrible things, Homura knows. She's watched them fight awful youma and their awful masters, and she has cowered beneath the strange and twisting shadows of a Witch in full bloom. She sees the answer to her question in that brief press of lips that otherwise smile so readily. Indeed, there a smile is now, a cheerful blanket thrown over darkness.
Mikoto's smile is big and bright but not so much that Homura forgets the expression it covers. That, though -- that would be prying, she feels. So when Mikoto says that she's happy, Homura nods and accepts it and doesn't ask what happened; she just wonders what Mikoto and the rest experienced up there in the frozen north to cause that reaction, and chews on her bottom lip.
"You're all so brave and, and... I wish more people knew what you do. For everyone, for the city, for the world. They just have no idea." All Homura did was wait. She's no help at all.
It makes her all the more eager, given the go-ahead by Mikoto, to get that braid-interfering twig out. Homura keeps chewing her bottom lip, this time in concentration. The manga goes down on the grass; she takes a single stride forward, leaving her other leg extended behind, up on her tippy-toes...
For a single transitive second Homura Akemi moves with unthinking coordination, too focused on taking good care of Mikoto's hair to worry about herself. It's almost balletic.
Then she overbalances, having bounced too far onto the forward foot, and the skinny-armed windmills come out before all's said and done. It's a small miracle Homura doesn't crash right into Mikoto but she manages, red-faced, having perhaps dispelled any illusions of grace. Even a broken clock is right twice a day...
The hue sticks around as she reaches up again. She's got fluttery, hesitant fingers, and thus it takes a while but the process of untangling goes gently overall, with nary a tug. In the end she presents a twisty little bit of tree to Mikoto, laid across both palms like it's a sword instead of a stick.
"Up? Like... with you?" Homura's head tilts back: a treeful of branches interrupt the sky, and beyond them the artful spires of Ohtori challenge it. "I wouldn't want to, I mean if it's any trouble..."
Homura hasn't looked back down yet, though. "How would it work, Minagi-san?"
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed. <SoundTracker> Aquaria - Heart of the Forest (Arboreal) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFIOuQjgMYY
They have no idea, Homura says, and Mikoto hums consideration for a moment as she turns it over in her mind. "Not always brave," she points out, after a moment. "I was really scared 'til I remembered daifuku." The image of fearless Mikoto being frightened might just make everything worse. "So it's okay if no one knows, 'cause Homura's here!"
Well, she's trying, in her infinite cheer, to smooth over Homura's worries.
Perhaps that clumsy attempt must be karmically balanced by clumsiness in turn. Mikoto stays quite still as Homura makes her attempt to disentangle her braid. At least - until Homura overbalances. At that point Mikoto makes a wordless 'whup!' sort of noise as she reaches out with a hand to steady her shoulder, so immediately it might as well have been automatic. She steadies her without thinking as she reaches up to try and get at the twig atop her head, heedless of the fact that Homura's face is more and more resembling one of Madoka's tomatos.
"There!" She chirps, happily, as Homura presents THE STICK in dextrous pale fingers. She does not remark on the skill, but there's admiration in her voice. She takes the stick and holds it up, turning to tuck it back into a curve of the bark. Good as... new?
Homura looks up as Mikoto turns back, and she grins. Homura in one fashion says no, and in another says she'd very much like to, and Mikoto considers the wording of her protest for a moment as she tries to figure out the incongruity. Oh - there it is. She doesn't want to if it's troubling. "No trouble!" Mikoto insists. "I'll carry Homura up!"
And at first the fact that she's already carrying something might seem like a perfectly cromulent complaint, except that she's already taking off the black case slung over her shoulder and turning it about so it's slung over her front instead. She leans down and reaches back and insists: "Up!" As if she'll suffer no complaint.
Perhaps she does not have her vestments about her - but Mikoto is strong for a girl regardless, more than strong enough to support Homura's scrawny weight without wobbling. She straightens and gives Homura time to make sure she has a tight enough grip before she plants a foot at a curve in the trunk and begins hoisting herself up.
Were she alone - well, Homura's seen her parkouring through the branches, she knows just how artful she can get. But Mikoto is not alone, and so she makes sure to go slowly enough that Homura won't be frightened off. It helps that she only really has one hand free - the other is hooked about Homura's leg to support her and keep her steady. Perhaps it's remarkable that she manages steady upward movement regardless; she doesn't remark on it.
She does, however, keep an ear out for Homura making noises of protest about being too high up. If she hears none, Homura is going right to the top of this tree, to the point where the branches spread out in a loose green blanket to soak up the rays of the sun. Mikoto stops at a sturdy branch and perches upon it; she won't stop Homura from continuing to latch onto her back if she needs to.
There is, indeed, a light breeze up here, ruffling the leaves like ocean waves; below, the students who might insult them to their faces in the kindest of ways seem so incredibly small. "See?" She grins, looking back. "Being up high's the best!"
<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
"Thanks, Minagi-san..." The wobble of a girl steadies thanks to Mikoto's hand. "You're so quick, too." Homura doesn't want to think about what would frighten such a competent magical girl. Curiosity tilts her head as she watches Mikoto take care of the wayward stick.
"Oh, you're... giving it back its branch," she muses aloud, then immediately feels the urge to apologize for being a weirdo. Except... altogether the moment reminds her of another very like it, back at Hokkaido, and instead Homura says, "It's um, it's just, nice. Like you're thinking about the trees. It makes me think of Shimanouchi-san," and a winter-coated forest her classmate seemed to know like a friend.
Mikoto makes her offer and that brings the skyward chin back down so Homura can stare at her, instead. "Really?" Doubt and hope crowd for space in the single word. Then Mikoto makes it happen, and makes it happen so quickly that Homura's head feels all spinny.
Oh wait, that's probably just ascent dizziness.
Let's be fair here: Mikoto Minagi exercises such gentle caution that a sleeping kitten wouldn't even be jostled to yawn, and indeed perhaps she has transported fuzzy bundles in similar fashion before. A more dedicated shepherd, Homura Akemi could not ask for.
The girl is just a bundle of nerves atop a weak heart, is all. She clings to Mikoto's back with those scrawny limbs of hers, hands clasped tight over the other's shoulders and legs hiked up -- Homura is an Ohtori-uniformed backpack, and so light she might as well be an empty one. Of necessity, her head tucks cheek-to-cheek and braid-to-braid with Mikoto's. "S-sorry..." Considering all those times draping has occurred, the slight coolness of Homura's skin will be no surprise -- all thanks to poor circulation.
No noises of protest. Small high pitched sounds sneak away from Homura through her nose, she can't help it. And there's no denying her fright, it's just mixed with something else, too. "Oh my gosh... It's, eeep, how did we get so high up so quickly? Wow..." Awe and excitement. Homura is not quite the scaredy cat she was, even now. She's spent few months in the care of warm and loving and heroic friends, people who see her and seem to want to have her around for unfathomable reasons... A few months watching her heroes fight monsters, and occasionally being rescued from said monsters by said heroes.
She'd never recognize it in herself; such a deep lack of self esteem makes for thick blinders. But Homura Akemi has changed. Homura Akemi has grown.
It means that now she gets to be frightened and thrilled at this wonderful experience Mikoto gifts her. "You're so good at this..." She indeed stays firmly latched at the top, terrified of trusting her own clumsy feet -- Homura happily trusts Mikoto's deft strength instead. "And you get to see this all the time?"
It's in her voice, and it's in her eyes too if Mikoto tilts to catch the way her cheek-neighbor looks around. Homura overflows with wonder. "Just like being a bird, or something... I've always wondered what it was like for them. To see it all from up here, I mean, from so far away. And they can just fly away whenever they want..." Er. She didn't mean to say that last part aloud.
But it's clear that Homura Akemi agrees with the whole of her fast-beating heart: being up high is the best.
"Do... do you run into birds, much? I bet there are all kinds of things people usually never get to see, that you do..."
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed.
"Yup!" Mikoto grins, because unlike Homura she is entirely shameless in espousing her talents. She is quick. She has very practiced reflexes!
The efforts she makes to return twig to tree don't go unnoticed, and Mikoto bobs her head in a nod, thin black braids bouncing in the motion. "Mm-hmm!" She hums agreement, not seeing at all how it's strange. "Eri's better at trees," she remarks, "but this's where it goes!" As if that explains perfectly why she's putting it back, even though she can't make it part of the tree again.
If she left it on the ground, the groundskeepers would get rid of it, and Homura spent so much effort untangling the thing that Mikoto doesn't like the idea of it just being thrown in the bin. If it's in its proper place, no one can complain about it.
She nods again, with a wordless noise of encouragement, as Homura asks a single-worded question so laden with meaning that Mikoto herself would be proud. She takes great care not to startle Homura, because she has seen what happens when Homura is startled, but even so she can't keep all the nervousness from the air.
There's the high-pitched sounds, and the ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-bum of a fluttering heart against her back; perhaps there are a few frightening points where Mikoto seems perfectly content to balance on her feet as she reaches for the next branch, but she reassures Homura: "it's okay!" And it is, it is, it's like she's on solid ground instead of climbing higher every moment.
Higher and higher - until they reach the top. "'Cause I'm good climber," Mikoto gives the obvious answer to Homura's question, without a single care for humility. Homura affirms that she is good at it, and Mikoto turns her head so perhaps Homura can see a shade of the beaming grin on her face. "Yup!" She does not elaborate on what precisely she sees, because it's obvious to Homura, now.
The breeze ruffles a new leaf, nearby on the branch. Mikoto blinks as Homura starts pontificating on birds, but it doesn't seem so strange that Homura would want to fly. Flying with Mai is the most fun Mikoto has, after all.
"Yup," Mikoto affirms, instead, when Homura asks about birds. "But Mai said I'm not allowed to bring birds home any more. Too many feathers..?" She wrinkles her nose, as if she thinks the entire thing is a little bit nonsensical. "City people are weird."
Instead of leaving any room to think about the incongruities of that statement and the alarming implications, she launches right into talking more. It's strange, perhaps, given how taciturn Mikoto usually is. "There's lots!" She grins, enthusiastic. "On top of city buildings there's signs which make buzzy noises, real warm, good nap spot. On top of greenhouse here there's glass panes which get nice and warm and there's birds to watch, good nap spot too. In Nishitama there's lots trees and it's easy to run through them, just like home," perhaps she does not realise what she's said because she doesn't miss a beat, "and squirrels but Mai says I'm not allowed to bring them home no more neither. Big building's not done yet, steel beams are nice and warm, that's good for naps too. There's spot by river with nice big tree where I can watch for fish," how does she see them from that high up?, "that's best 'cause Mai said I can bring fish still. Lots cherry tree here's got good branches for naps too! Cherry trees are best for naps 'cause all branches go together." Mikoto nods, firmly, as she imparts this very important knowledge.
Apparently there are a lot of good places in Tokyo to take a nap.
<Pose Tracker> Homura Akemi [Ohtori Academy (9)] has posed.
Homura's bangs tickle her forehead, caught in the same breeze that rattles through the boughs. With her fingers interlocked round Mikoto for dear life, she has no way of dealing with it aside from scrunching her small nose up over and over like she could forcibly brow-wrinkle the hair away. It doesn't help one bit, and instead her glasses slip down a few centimeters for her troubles.
Too many feathers? Wait, what? ... And then a very small "oh" escapes her.
Happily, Mikoto keeps on going, which lets Homura swallow a few times and gives her plenty of other things to respond to that have nothing to do with birds. Or squirrels. Homura really likes squirrels! The very cutest thing about Kyuubey-san is his big fluffy squirrel tail, after all.
"Wow. You can just go... um, nap, way up high and nobody even knows you're there... I've never even thought of the tops of signs before, what they're like." Homura Akemi just might be wishing she could escape to these lofty locales to read her shoujo manga. How amazing would that be?
"Oh, you grew up around trees. No wonder you're so good at climbing them." I'd be great at showing Mikoto how to operate the buttons on a hospital bed, she thinks, feeling envious and a bit sorry for herself. It never occurs that the bit about home Mikoto let slip might lead to darker forests than Homura could imagine.
"The greenhouse is full of roses, isn't it..." She likes roses, though she would feel self-conscious saying so. They're in all the romance stories. "I've, um, I've seen it, but I've never gone inside." It's so rarely unoccupied. At minimum, there's usually at least one other girl in there... Homura hasn't felt up to checking it out on her own.
"Mai, um, that's Tokiha-san, right? She's your senpai... she makes the ramen I've heard so much about." Of course Mai's name has fallen plenty from Mikoto's lips before. Homura leans more heavily into Mikoto's shoulder with her pointy chin; her arms are going leaden from the constant flexing of noodly muscles. It's a lot of excitement for her, however gently shared, but she doesn't want to let on how tired she's already getting. It would be embarrassing, but worse, then Mikoto might decide it's time to bring Homura back down to the ground... she's not ready for that yet.
It's too magical up here, up high.
"This is so... it's so cool." Homura feels wincingly uncool the moment she tries to employ the word herself. Its power lies beyond her grasp... except... except Madoka thinks she can be cool. Homura doesn't believe it but she also feels like if she doesn't try, it'd be letting Madoka down. She'll probably let her down anyway, but...
So Homura tries again. "You're so cool, Minagi-san. Thank you so much! I um..." What can she give Mikoto back that could ever equal this gift of new perspective?
In the end she decides that since her arms are already around the other girl, she'll just... squeeze a bit, because she can't cook ramen for the other girl, but another thing she's sure Mikoto likes is hugs. "Thank you!"
<Pose Tracker> Mikoto Minagi [Ohtori Academy (10)] has posed. <SoundTracker> Shuntaro Okino - Cloud Age Symphony https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qBr8S7CgC8c
Mikoto doesn't realise in the slightest that eating animals might upset Homura, because Homura eats animals all the time. 'Buki has long since taught her that prey can be pets and pets aren't for eating - that's why she just watches the greenhouse birds, like a cat at the window - but surely no one minds wild animals disappearing now and then. City people wouldn't go so far as to only want to eat animals who were stuck in cages, right?
Hunting things is perfectly natural, so there's no reason why Homura would be upset, and surely she was just making a noise of confirmation instead of anything else.
"Warm!" Mikoto chirps, in response to the signage. "Just don't sit right on top of light bits. That's too hot." Like a lamp switched on a little too long. Then Homura remarks on where she grew up, and Mikoto blinks as she realises she's mentioned it, surprise registering on her face, or...
It's gone in a second, because Homura mentions how good she is at climbing, and Mikoto grins again.
She doesn't know about Homura's own prowess. If she did, she might be able to tell her that would actually be a valuable skill she'd love to figure out. Between visiting Yumi and occasionally dropping in on Takumi, Mikoto is getting awfully acquainted with hospitals, and very little about them makes sense to her. Too many bleepy-bloopy machines, and she's always accidentally pulling on some cord or another as she tries to hug Yumi which makes too-loud alarms go off and nurses glare at her and usher her out.
Instead, she nods, with an affirmative noise, as Homura moves on to the greenhouse. "Go in!" She encourages her, earnest. "Birds there too, but they're pets." She states this as if it is the obvious solution to some question. "It's nice!"
And then she is talking about Mai, and Mikoto's eyes light up. "Yup!" She chirps, with plain enthusiasm. "Mai's ramen is the best!", in all the tone and timbre of saying Mai is the best. But then, Mikoto has only recently learned she can say she likes people, rather than liking the things they do.
Perhaps another girl would notice the clumsiness of Homura's slang, or how distinctly ill-fitting Homura is to the word. Mikoto, ever a cheerful outsider, hears none of it, and instead nods firmly, hair brushing up against her. "Homura's good too! And Homura's happy, so I'm happy!" She grins, as the other girl fumbles for her gratitude, and for all the world it seems she's entirely happy to take that at face value.
Mikoto doesn't expect anything in return, for all she has a firm understanding of her worth, no reaction or gesture at all, and that is what sets her confidence apart from the smug superiority of the Ohtori elite.
But Homura settles on affection and Mikoto soaks it up like a sponge, contentment settling over her features like a kitten in a sunbeam. "Let's stay here some," she encourages her, because perhaps Homura is still a little scared. "Clouds are good up here!"
Perhaps, at first, it seems ridiculous to say the clouds look any different here than on the ground - clouds are so far away that the distance of a tree is a gnat's span to giants, after all. But as Mikoto settles into a silence which might help poor Homura's fatigue more than endless conversation, looking up at the sky, it's impossible to deny...
... up here, with no one to criticise them for doing unseemly things, it does feel a little different to watch the clouds go by. Perhaps time moves a little slower - or life feels a little brighter.