After about a week of travel, John has noticed Papi not eating as much as she used to. Then one day he wakes to a feather tickling his nose. He opens his eyes and sees Papi running about flapping a shaking like crazy with feathers all around. John realizes Papi is shedding her baby down. He quickly gets up to grab a bag and settles Papi down. He starts running his hands over Papi’s feathers and collecting the loose ones in the bag. Papi relaxes and lets John help her. The others wake up to see John and Papi. Kenta says “what’s going on?” John just keeps collecting the feathers and stuffing them in the bag. John shoos the ooze away several times when it tries to get in the bag. John finally picks the ooze up and tosses it away. Nasha picks up the ooze and pets it while holding it saying “John, what are you doing?” John undoes Papi’s top to get at her back, which Papi starts using her wings to brush the feathers from her chest. John finds bare skin after being cleared of some of the feathers. Soon mostly her body is free of feathers. Only a line running down her back ending at her tailbone and her arms still have feathers on them. John holds the bag once he is done collecting the feathers in the bag saying with a smile “I wonder if I can make a Harpy down pillow out of this?” Both Kenta and Nasha laugh at John.
Papi stands after John helps get her dressed again. John sees that Papi now stands around just shy of his shoulders when she stands next to him. She holds her wings out to check them over. John can see that her inner feathers form a pattern while her outer feathers are one solid dull color. Papi then flaps her wings and fans the fire a bit. John says “I think it’s time to teach her how to fly.”
Kenta says “How?”
John has Papi walk with him for the day as they walk along a field next to the forest. He tries running and flapping his arms to try to get Papi to mimic him. But all Papi wants to do is ride on Kenta’s back much to John’s defeat. He walks up to Papi and says “Come on. You have got to learn somehow.” Papi just looks forward. John says to Kenta “I know this is going to sound odd. But may I ride you with Papi?”
Kenta gives John a very confused look. John says “I think I know a way to get Papi to fly. If you start running and I can get her to open her wings. We may be able to launch her and get her glide a little.”
Kenta says “I really haven’t had a good run for a while.”
John turns to Nasha and says “We will wait for you to catch up.”
Nasha says “Okay.”
John climbs up and sits in front of Papi and says “Okay Kenta, whenever you’re ready. But start out slowly.”
Kenta starts off slow but quickly picks up the pace. John tries to get Papi you hold her arms out once he feels Kenta has reached her top speed. But Papi just puts her arms around him as Kenta is not as smooth as he thought she would be. John calls to Kenta “whoa, Kenta, whoa.”
Kenta almost comes to a complete stop and turns her upper body towards John saying “Did you just say what I think you just said?”
John says “I’m sorry. Then how would you like me to tell you when I need you to stop?” Kenta shoots him a look and then turns back.
Papi gets off and starts to run back to Nasha. John gets off and also starts walking back. He can’t even see Nasha. He watches Papi run and sees her holding her arms out and flapping them to keep her balance while running. John looks back at Kenta still standing there and says to her “Come on Kenta let’s try to meet Nasha halfway.”
They all meet back up and after a while decides to stop for lunch near the shade of the forest. Kenta barely speaks to anyone. John is worried that she took what he said as very offensive, but he is also worried that saying something might anger her more. Nasha is the one to break the silence between them saying “Kenta how did it feel to run. I know your kind moves faster than me or John. So you must have enjoyed it.”
Kenta speaks as if she was deep in thought “Huh? Oh yes. It felt good. I have been itching to run for some time now. But I will also admit that it felt good when I was dragging you. I mean I felt like I was pushing myself and using all of my strength.”
John says “Well, while we are near an open field, why don’t you run through it. It might do you some good. You could also scout ahead for us. But I would like to try again to see if we can get Papi to fly.”
Kenta looks at John. John says “If that is alright with you?”
Kenta says “Very well we can try again.”
John says “Good, but we’re going to try something different this time.”
Papi starts to get on Kenta’s back after lunch. John is quick to pull her off and gets on. John says to Kenta “Okay start walking.” Kenta starts off slow and Papi follows trying to keep up. John keeps saying to Papi “Come on.” He then says to Kenta “Pick up the pace a little.” Kenta does and Papi tries to keep up. John keeps trying to encourage Papi to follow while having Kenta get faster and faster. Soon Papi is flapping her arms to keep her balance. John keeps an eye on her legs hoping to see them leave the ground as Papi’s wings take over. But Papi trips and falls. John says to Kenta “Whoa Kenta, I mean stop!” Kenta comes to a slow stop. John looks back to check on Papi. Papi gets up. John starts to get off of Kenta’s back.
Kenta stops him saying “Wait, John.”
John says “What?”
Kenta says without turning to face him “I want to tell you something.” She takes a breath and says “I…I respect you. Not just because you are The Traveler, but because of who you are. I have seen you be caring to others and have wisdom that few have. But I know your eyes are for another. I see it in how you act towards her and I know that I’m not suitable for you. So you may ride me whenever you want. For I will carry you with pride knowing that you are my friend and have earned such an honor.”
John slips off and walks around to stand in front of Kenta. He says to her “I appreciate the gesture and will still walk beside you. You are my friend and I will not use you as a mount to ride. I agree with you, but I don’t know if the feeling is mutual.” He then takes her by the hand and starts walking back with her.
John and Kenta approach Papi and Nasha. Papi hadn’t run very far and Nasha was quick to follow. John says to Nasha “Everything alright?”
Nasha says “Just some scrapes and maybe a bruise or two. What about you two? What took you so long to get back?”
John looks at Kenta then says to Nasha “Kenta wanted to let me know that I could ride on her back anytime I wanted. But I told her that I appreciated the gesture and I still wanted to walk beside you. I mean her!”
Soon they are walking again with Papi riding on Kenta’s back. John says to Kenta “Hey Kenta, why don’t you scout ahead for us.”
Kenta says “Really?” with a smile on her face.
John says “Well I said you could do that.”
Kenta looks forward and takes off with Papi still on her back. Nasha says “I forget how fast they can move.”
John says “Yeah, of course, I have never really seen her run before.” John walks with Nasha for a bit in silence trying to think of what to talk about. John is about to say something to her when Papi comes running back as fast as she can. Papi tries to jump into John’s arms and wrap her arms around his neck. But she is now a lot bigger and her arms are mostly large feathers now. Nasha starts laughing after a moment of John trying to calm Papi down and get her off of him. John looks at Nasha and says “I guess Kenta doesn’t know how to run with a rider.”