Chapter 2

Shepry and Koen more formally introduced. Their morning balloon flight.

      Shepry and Koen have a habit which proved itself especially useful on this day. Most every night, they would sleep in the clothes they'd plan to wear the next day, rather than using a special outfit only for the purpose of sleep. Of course some nights would call for such a certain outfit, if perhaps comfort was an important consideration that night, or they had a need to be especially presentable in their clothes the next day, so it was not a nightly practice. Most nights though, such as the last one, they'd just wear what they'd like for the following day. A particular eccentricity of this pair was their favor of pompommed hats, sorts of stocking caps. They both wore one of these, Koen's a reddish-orange color, and shepry's a slightly dulled green. These two also loved their boots. Be they for hiking or climbing or only giving a mighty feeling to the foot, some sturdy all-purpose boots were a love of these two.
      Today Koen wore quite a bit of green. Dark green pants, a plain green shirt (covered by a sleeveless blue one) and his buckleless belt of such a dull green as almost gray. In addition to these, Koen would wear a red scarf matching his hat on any occasion that he could find a reason, and assuredly, Koen had little trouble in finding cause to wear this scarf. Some days he needed it to keep warm. Other days it was his personal charm. Otherwise he may have insisted that for some unforseen reason it could on that day be the most useful tool he brings along with him. One never knows.
      Shepry adorned herself in a pair of ordinary purplish-blue pants and a shirt just slightly lighter. Her personal eccentricity was the sort of pink vest worn over these clothes, and the brown leather belt fastened over that, present more for an aesthetic purpose than anything. This was longer than the typical vest, extending just below waist level, and was actually made in such a way as to be even longer in the back than the front, there extending about to the backs of the knees.
      Shepry has long auburn hair kept plainly loose reaching the full way down her back. She has blue eyes, and Koen's are a brownish color, almost matching Shepry's hair, coincidentally. He keeps his hair fairly short; Just short enough to stay above his neck, but his bangs are comparatively longer, nearly able to cover his eyes. If pressed down or wet, they probably could reach so far. A little annoyance to him though, is that a bit of his hair seems always to cover his left eye. It seems to be just long enough in that one spot, but he'd rather keep it away.
      The two of them were now preparing to relax in their balloon until they felt any compulsion to land someplace. Shepry's job in flight was nearly done, and Koen's was just beginning. She had more knowledge of the workings of the balloon, how it should be piloted and responsibly used, whereas he had more of a handy innate sense of direction. As Shepry sat about in the basket looking out at the landscape, countless thoughts would run through her head, relevant or not, often just coming up with an engaging conversation with Koen. As he'd look over the same landscape, even concentrating on the current topic of conversation, he'd retain a great memory of where they'd been, where they were going, and where they could go later on. He's quite the natural navigator.
      As the balloon was reaching it's approximate peak altitude, Shepry's focus was drawn away from the mechanical workings of their flight, and could instead be spent on the open outdoors and the basket. From here the journey became a whimsical comfort for her. She could put her full trust in Koen to examine all of the surrounding landscape, and fully remember how far they'd gone, in which directions, and how the wind changed. Perhaps she could do the same thing if she put a strong conscious effort into it, but once high up in the basket, she had so much difficulty keeping her mind in one place. It was so much easier to just let any thoughts come as they would, observing her surroundings breezily with little focus, unless something in particular caught her attention. A group of birds might fly somewhere near the balloon, or there may be some exotic animal down below traversing the land, or maybe she'd see some distant sign of civilization such as lights or climbing smoke and fantasize about what sort of things might go on in that realm of the land. Maybe there's some grand bustling city where everybody has something to do, or maybe there was some joyous festival happening in some distant country.
      On this particular trip through the air, her lazily drifting gaze came to a couple of tree-covered mountains far to the north. All around them was ordinary plain land, for some reason not nearly as thickly forested as the mountains themselves. What gave them such an endearing look was that their trees were just changing color for the coming fall, when most everything else she'd seen was still green. Here were two mountains shrouded in yellowish leaves and hints of red scattered here and there. Soon everything would start to have this look, but as the season progressed, these mountains would surely be much more memorable, as they'd been the first sign of what beauty the season could hold.
      Elsewhere she could spy a small group of men gathered around a tree, one of whom had an axe. A couple of them were forming lines and tracing paths with their arms, likely discussing how to negotiate the tree's fall. Soon, the man with the axe started hacking away at the thick bottom of the trunk. It was a large tree, obviously thick enough to be as big in diameter as one of the men lying flat on the ground, and the only tool they had among them was this one axe. The chopper took no more than five swings before he slowed and started making motions to the other men. Clearly they were all inexperienced, and very new to this kind of job. It would probably take them all day to be able to figure out what in the world to do about that tree, and they might still be unclear about what to do once it's down, or when the whole job is done.
      There also came past the balloon one of those always-fascinating flocks of birds. Alongside them now flew a group of ordinary pigeons. They probably weren't headed for some particular place as a whole. They were too disarrayed and unorganized to have some distant goal in mind, so they were obviously startled by something below them, or maybe one got startled and it caused all the others to fly away because it seemed like a good enough idea. The birds constantly jostled and struggled with each other in flight, and Shepry realized this sort of oddity with birds. It seems like birds mostly ignore all the other kinds of birds in the world. The bluebirds and hummingbirds ignore each other perfectly well and stay out of each others' way to the best that they can, except under the more extreme circumstances, such as when one bird fears for its safety or the safety of its nest and must defend the territory. Things work differently when several of the same bird are in a small area, poking around for food or some such thing. One pigeon might selfishly chase away all other pigeons trying to eat food near him, or might start a petty fight with another pigeon over a place to perch. They never get into fights with other species unless it's a matter of survival, but they're always fighting with their own kind over petty things. Why are they so inconsiderate of those who are so much like them?
      It wasn't until just this moment that Shepry realized Koen had brought with him a brown book and a pen, and he was just then writing things toward the beginning of the book. She stood in the corner opposite the one he sat in and asked "What's that you have, Koen?"
      With the raise of an eyebrow he replied "Oh, this is something I managed to keep from our burglars. It was tucked away in my pillow."
      With some disbelief, Shepry said "Of all things, you saved a book?"
      "Not just any book. In this, I'm going to write the story of our journey. It'll be a masterpiece!"
      This seemed like an odd decision for Koen to make. Though he, like all people, had a creative side, Shepry knew that he was an unskilled writer. She didn't want to say this directly, so said instead, "Well Koen, you've always been a much better artist than a writer. Why don't you want to just portray the story in that way?"
      "I don't think pictures alone will do this journey justice. Not if it'll be as great a trip as I hope. I still will probably make illustrations to accompany this, but writing is definitely the way to go."
      It was clear the Koen heavily romanticized the idea of their current trip, visualizing some grand voyage full of heroism and all kinds of non-mortal danger to tell the world all about. Indeed, Shepry wanted to feel the same way, not so much because it was her honest expectation, but because it was easier. It was easier to think of far-off lands awaiting them full of mystery and magic, rather than thinking about what they'd had before, or wondering how they'd ever restore their house to anything resembling what it once was, or considering that they just left the place in a hot-air balloon, which certainly wasn't built to carry loads of bulky furniture and lent itself very poorly to steering. Their home might be forever lost with all of this in mind. Instead, it was much easier to think about wondrous foreign lands and Koen's plan to write all about them. The dark, heavy, realistic thoughts just couldn't take a full grasp on either of their minds; they refused to have any of that.
      "So this will be a fully descriptive narrative, eh? You know your audience will expect more than a simple statements of events."
      "You bet. I'm sure people will love to read a story from an artist's mind."
      It seemed at first like Koen was just looking for a vent for artistic self-expression, but now he was making it out to seem more like he intended to have many people read this story in time. Upon seeing this, Shepry said,
      "It's not going to be something easy, you know. You probably can't expect fame for your first real attempt at this," She then added a prompt postscript, "Not that you shouldn't try, it's just that... I want you to have a realistic goal."
      A realistic goal. Here were two young folks planning to furnish a house using nothing but a hot-air balloon, and all Shepry could bring up was Koen's sudden plan to be a famed author. There were such childish plans across the board, yet Shepry still found it easier to be bringing the idea that was just slightly more outlandish back to earth. A boy and girl drifting aimlessly in a balloon seeking to reestablish a proper house? No worry at all. The boy writing an account of the experience and becoming famous? Let's not get our hopes up.       "No need to be so pessimistic. If just one person is impressed by our deeds, I'll be satisfied."
      "Surely there have been heroes far greater than us in the past though." Shepry pointed out.
      "Even so, if people see that we're setting goals to be like them, they'll think us valiant as well, huh? Also, not everybody knows the deeds of past heroes. If we live our lives in such a way that we match somebody great who came before us, it's just as good as becoming a brand new legend.
      "And of course, there would be no heroes if not for the storytellers. In a way, that makes writers heroic. So we can't really be heroes unless I write it that way. What I write might not actually cause such a status, but I'll write it out, and we'll just see how much happens."
      Shepry wanted to end the conversation before much longer, lest she accidentally say something hurtful or discouraging to Koen, or something that would prompt such a feeling in herself. It was difficult to know the right thing to say at the time, so she thought it best to end on a higher note. "Sounds like a plan. Anyway, there's some kind of huge assemblage of people up ahead, so I'm going to bring the balloon down in that clearing over there, and we can see if there are some helpful people to talk to, all right?"

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