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It had been a few months since that first night on the rooftop. What might have been a single occurrence had become something much more common after that and it wasn't limited to work time either. At some point along the way, Astraea had become someone that Sunmin could relate to. Someone he opened himself up to and began to understand on a personal level. She became his friend, someone he could talk to whenever worries were plaguing his mind. She had talked him into finally reaching out to his faction and despite his doubts, he did, and while he was right in that they couldn't help him to understand what happened to him, it did bring him a sense of community he'd never felt before.
Being a friend and a brother was something new to Sunmin but he was trying his best to not be completely terrible at both, he helped Han out at home and kept a low profile so that he wouldn't regret his decision to let Sunmin stay with him. He and Astraea hung out a few times a week after work, sometimes at a cafe, one time they even made it to a bar before deciding to bail because it was terrible. Of course, their friendship had sparked some rumors in the workplace and it wasn't like he didn't notice when they were all whispering about him but honestly he didn't care, he had something good in his life and other people weren't going to destroy that.
Right now though, all he could think about was the place he had found last night while wandering the hiking trails, he had ended up going off the path for a while until he came across a completely abandoned garden that overlooked the city. Despite the eerieness of how overgrown and derelict it had become, he saw something in the place and he couldn't let it slip his mind. He hadn't managed to get a good enough view to completely understand what he was looking at and so he had retreated for the night with the plan to return tomorrow morning. Remebering that Astraea said she wasn't working at the cafe today he pulled out his phone and opened up his chat with her, it was mostly full of memes and complaints about work. He'd gotten the phone a few months after starting at the cafe and it was honestly such a good way to while away time.
"Wanna go on adventure?" he typed on the chat before hovering his finger over the send button. He wasn't sure if Astraea was the type to wanna go hiking up the mountains, he twiddled his thumbs before hitting the send button and waiting to see if she would respond. Worst comes to worst he could go alone right?
She never knew she would find a friend in Sunmin honestly. She remembered when she first met him, it was quite some time ago, she was so close to being a victim until he intervened and quite literally saved her from being on the next day's news probably. When she thought she wouldn't see him again, she was proven wrong because the city really is a small place, enough for two strangers to meet again. That was like three months ago when he started working at Wanderlust, the same cafe she works at. Ever since the rooftop, they have been spending more and more time together. But it was hard to climb up there without warranting any suspicions from the others who would notice they were gone, not to mention it was easy to see from below if you were throwing the trash out in the back. It was too risky.
So they moved to other places to hangout at, one time they even went to a bar, even though it lasted for about five seconds before they left the place, saying it wasn't right for them. Sunmin taught her a lot of new things, and one thing that she had later picked up; people-watching. Astraea had a good time overall, until a few weeks ago she started following Lucien to go on a few patrolling duties. Ever since they came across the voidlings and finding out they have been wreaking havoc in Evermore using the same passage the aurazin would use to come here, things haven't been the same. This new knowledge was crucial to them and she has been missing a few days of work because of it.
Keeping it a secret has been increasingly hard for Astraea who was a terrible liar in general because she was sure she ran out of excuses to give when she was asked why she didn't turn up for work. It wasn't until a few days ago that she sent in a medical leave because she suffered a wound on her left torso. It's been two days and it has reopened twice because she moved too much so she had to rest at home. Sunmin didn't ask her about it because thankfully their schedules for this month were switched and overlapped with each other's. They had a different roster and shift, which was honestly a relief for her because she will never be able to lie to him. The aurazin was lying on her bed with a book in her hand when her phone suddenly buzzed, indicating a message came in. Speak of the devil, and he comes. She chuckled to herself and started typing her response, "As long as we're not going to get in trouble. Where are you suggesting we go this time?"
Honestly, he wasn’t even sure that Astraea would even answer because she had been absent from work for a few days and the manager told him that she was taking some personal time. Sunmin didn’t really know what that meant but he didn’t want to pry and Astraea wasn’t the type of person to hold back when she wanted to talk about something which told him she didn’t want to mention it. He could respect that, there were some topics that were simply off-limits and that was okay, there were things about his life he didn’t share with her too.
It was a few minutes after he sent the message that he heard his phone ping in return, considering Sunmin didn’t message many people he already knew it was her responding before he unlocked it. He chuckled as he read the message before writing out his reply “When have I ever gotten you into trouble?” dare he say he was actively protective of her reputation and made sure if any of them were caught doing something they weren’t supposed to it would be him. “Somewhere you’ve never been before” he responded and twiddled his thumbs as he thought about where to start “Meet me at the stream at the base of the mountains, the one with the flowers in the field” they’d taken a walk there once and Astraea had gotten utterly distracted by all the wildflowers.
“Oh and make sure to wear your hiking clothes” he added to the end, since he knew that girls could tend to wear things not so practical for the plan he had to travel up the mountains together. It could be fun and he was sure Astraea would be fascinated by the place he found last night, it was isolated but he definitely saw a lot of prospects. Not to mention the view of the city was honestly one of the best he had seen which was saying a lot. With that he closed his phone, changed into his boots and slung on his usual leather jacket before heading out of the house and down towards the subway so he could take it across the city to the place he agreed to meet her.
Astraea has always had a high tolerance to pain, but even she had to admit that the excessive movements from the past three days and the constant wound reopening was slowly driving her crazy. The branch she rolled over was particularly sharp by the edges and the weight of her body crashing into it was doubled. In conclusion, it really hurts and she knew she couldn't go to work in that kind of state. Besides, the last thing she would want to do is worry Sunmin if he met her, even if their schedule for the month is overlapped. They would still find reasons to go hangout with each other once they have finished their respective shifts anyway. She had a lot to worry about, from her work to her other job outside of her working hours.
The message from Sunmin became the highlight of her day, because while she may need extensive rest, she gets bored easily. "You mean why haven't you gotten me in trouble yet" she couldn't help but roll her eyes at that and chuckle to herself, "but… fair point, you haven't gotten me in trouble directly." Which she applauded him for, even when they get discovered, which was very rare, he would take the blame and she would just stand by the sidelines watching him stare at the other party with his emotionless face. "I haven't been to a lot of places though, you're gonna have to be more specific." She was going to ask more about where they would be going, especially because he asked her to meet at the stream at the base of the mountains, which was filled with a lot of hills and forests. Her fingers hovered over the keyboard when she caught the other message trailing afterwards, hiking clothes?
But as usual, she didn't question it and got up to see if she had any appropriate clothes for the occasion. Were they going hiking? Well it does seem fitting if he wants to meet at the mountains. She moved carefully and before long, the aurazin found herself dressed appropriately in track bottoms and long sleeved shirt. Thankfully she also had a spare pair of boots in case she needed to trek through the dirt and mud. She tied her hair up in a high ponytail before heading out to the subway. The train ride didn't take long because it wasn't as packed as usual, perhaps it wasn't at its peak hour. Once she reached the destination, she was greeted by the field of flowers she always seemed to be distracted by. It was really pretty there. She crouched over the stream and took a few pebbles, tossing it skillfully from a distance as she watched it bounce. It was something she learned from people-watching too.
The celestial laughed when she responded that he hadn’t managed to get her in trouble yet “Directly huh? That’s because I’m the one who takes responsibility for our crazy antics” he responded and shook his head slightly, admittedly most of the suggestions were his idea so it only seemed fair that he was the one to go down if they got caught. He grinned to himself when she said she had never been to many places “You’ll like this one but I’m keeping a secret, you have to see it to believe it” he added an emoji of zipped lips to the end and smiled slightly. She had agreed to meet him and that was enough to get the star to his feet and heading across the city.
The journey didn’t take too long, he avoided people on the train, keeping his hood up and his earphones in, scrolling through the latest updates on a comic he had been following. People didn’t tend to bother Sunmin unnecessarily, Astraea said it was because of his resting bitch face which he honestly thought was a hilarious way to describe his expression. When he got the destination he hopped off of the train onto the platform and climbed the steps out onto the streets, walking for a while longer he would find himself strolling up to the field of flowers he and Astraea had visited before.
He spotted Astraea skipping rocks on the stream as he came to approach her “How did you make it here faster than me?” he questioned in a surprised tone, impressed that she managed to get herself into an appropriate outfit and across the city in such a short amount of time. Before long he was sidling up next to her and he picked up a flatter, disc-shaped rock and passed it to her “You’ll get more bounces if you use the flatter ones” he commented in his usual gruff tone watching in anticipation for her to throw it.
She couldn't help but to giggle at that answer, it was the truth. Somehow, she won't ever be on the uncomfortable end of the stick, it felt as if Sunmin was protecting her as her friend. It was a nice feeling, to know that someone has your back. Astraea has always been the one looking out for people her entire life so having someone aside from Arcadia looking after her for a change is making her happy. It felt as if she made a good enough impression to warrant that kind of behavior. "To be fair, you were the one who suggested we do those crazy antics" she shot playfully, "well… 98% of the time anyway" there were several instances where the aurazin was the one who wanted to try and Sunmin went along with it. When he said she would like this place, Astraea couldn't help but wonder where he would be taking her. He has never disappointed though, that much could be said.
Everywhere he took her, especially the clearing and fields, they were those mind-blowing picturesque places. Much to her surprise, Astraea realized she surprised herself by dressing up appropriately under a short window of time. Usually, she tends to take her time but perhaps she has grown to be quick while dressing because of her work. That could be it. The ride to the next station was mostly consisted of Astraea just humming to herself while scrolling her phone, she stopped listening to music on her way to somewhere a week ago when she kept bumping into people since she was too engrossed with the music. Ever since then, she decided to stop doing that or else god knows what else she'll hit.
The aurazin had arrived there first, which also surprised her but she was guessing the distance between her place was a lot closer compared to his. While trying to pass the time, she picked up a few pebbles and started tossing it but it didn't bounce far. Before she could use another pebble, his voice interrupted her and she almost lost her balance forward but managed to catch herself just in time. It didn't mean it didn't look funny though. "No greeting whatsoever? Gosh Sunmin what if I had a heart attack? Respect your elderly" she rolled her eyes and took his advice, switching her stone with a flatter one. "As for how I made it here faster than you, either you got slower or I got faster. Magic." She teased. "I wore my hiking clothes today, sort of. So that place better be worth it, star boy. Will it be quite the distance to get there?"
Sunmin had to stifle the urge to chuckle when Astraea almost lost her balance mid toss though his hands did hover ready to ready for her if she went tumbling towards the lake. He was biting his trembling lip when she turned around to face him and chastised him for not greeting her “I think no matter what I said to you, you’d still jump...you’re jumpy” he commented with a low chuckle under his breath “Let me guess, you’re the one who throws her popcorn everywhere when you watch a scary movie” he nudged her with his shoulder as though to challenge her to disagree. She was pretty funny he had to admit, always so open and honest with her emotions that honestly you could read her like a book just looking at her.
“And you look like 24 at most, you can’t blame me for forgetting you’re ancient” he jested shaking his head slightly, she didn’t like being called old and yet she used the elderly line whenever she wanted to make a point, it was amusing if he was honest. “Well the celestial territory is kinda off the beaten path” he admitted with a slight smile, it was where Han lived though and the star was kind enough to give him a room to stay in. “Thank god for the subway right” he pushed his hands into his pocket and started leading the way, checking over his shoulder for a moment to make sure she was following.
“Have I disappointed you before?” he questioned as he glanced over at her before jerking his chin “You’re going to eat that skepticism for breakfast rainbow girl, just you wait” he headed towards the trail and started walking through “It’s only about 20 minutes walk from here, though we need to head off the trail so it might get a little muddy” Sunmin enjoyed exploring and seeing what he could find, he’d located many natural gems in the city but this might be his best find yet.
She really thought she was going to end up either falling on her knees or into the stream itself, in which she would definitely prefer the former because god knows she could not get herself wet before they even started their adventure. That would be a total nightmare and she honestly didn't want to ruin it for him too. When he pointed out that she was still jumpy at the end of the day, the aurazin wanted to say something but knew she couldn't find anything to deflect that because she is in reality, jumpy. So she just ended up crossing her arms and huffed, "Still…" Her ears turned red when he quite literally just exposed herself single handedly like that, "I like horror movies… but I do get scared by them" it was something she never understood, but in the end she came with the conclusion that she just likes torturing herself.
Despite being able to throw the popcorn away at every jumpscare scene, Astraea still likes to watch horror movies. It became her favorite genre alongside those cheesy soap operas. She gave him an offended look when he called her ancient but understood that she tends to slip and use her age card on him even though she doesn't like being reminded she is old, "24 is at least an upgrade. Before this, I could barely pass as 21. That was a torture." But now that she knows how to put on certain lipstick colors, it brings out the look. Bolder and darker colors obviously highlight her older age. The celestial territory was pretty off the path but she knew he lived there because he lives with his brother so she didn’t comment further on that. "21st century technology never ceases to amaze me… the subway system, who would've thought this concept would exist today." Not even her, truthfully.
Following the nickname he gave her, Astraea scoffed and shook her head before laughing to herself, "No, I can't say that you have. You always find the best spots so I can't deny that. Why did you think I came running when you called? I mean, technically I would still do it because you're a friend but I'm really curious now." There are a lot of mysteries he's withholding. "Lead the way" she quipped and walked next to him, thank god for the boots because if it was muddy, she would've really tried not to scream for more than twice. "So… how was work? Our schedules overlapped and our shifts were different so I wonder if anything happened? Did you make friends?"
He laughed under his breath when she wasn’t able to refute the fact that she was jumpy, he’d noticed it when they were at work and she was busy working away at something, he would say something to him and she would completely blank him so he would touch her shoulder to get her attention and she would jump like clockwork “Well at least you didn’t fall into the stream, it wouldn’t have been fun to hike up the mountain in wet clothes” he grinned because of the way she had gotten flustered by him pointing it out “Well I suppose that is the point of them, though I seem to always be able to predict the scares, they use such common tactics.” he shrugged slightly, a movie would impress him if they actually managed to make him jump.
The little offended look she shot him made him chuckle, he raised his brows as to imply that she couldn’t have it both ways, she either wanted to be treated as older or she didn’t “24 seems like a good place to stop, mature enough to not be constantly treated like a kid but nowhere near the 30 mark” he chuckled under his breath “And then there’s me who’s gonna like 19 forever” and he didn’t have the option of makeup like Astraea did. “I guess I take that for granted but...it’s definitely amazing to be able to get places quickly and contact people...easily” it had been nice to be able to talk to a friend online using his phone, even if he didn’t have many of them.
“Well you know I don’t overhype things so” he jerked his chin as though to imply she should follow before he began to retrace the steps he had followed on his evening hike yesterday, he fell into step beside her, not paying too much attention to his steps because he was wearing his heavily worn boots which he didn’t mind getting dirty or damaged “Quiet without you” he commented and chuckled under his breath, but bit his lip slightly, he’d been meaning to ask her where she had been but he didn’t want to pret either “Miranda was being a bitch again but that’s nothing new” he rolled his eyes, you’d think she’d learn some basic human decency eventually “I don’t do people, you know that” he commented as he glanced over at her.
“Did you hurt yourself” he commented, asking bluntly why she hadn’t been in work, no one had really explained anything and she hadn’t offered the information herself but he was curious.
Despite being someone who is normally attentive to her surroundings, enough to pick up the things people usually mislook, Astraea can be quite jumpy. It could also be attributed to the fact that she wasn't used to skinship, but voices also do the same when she's not used to being called onto. "You don't say… if I did end up falling into the stream, you know I would have to get myself changed before I even hike with you, the weight of the soffy clothes will most likely pull my paper-like weight down the hill." It was an inside joke between them that the aurazin is quite light, so much that the wind could blow her and she'd fly away like a paper. "How many horror movies have you actually watched? I feel like you've watched the entire industry by the way you predicted them" to be fair, she didn't have time to watch the movies or use any of the technology until recently. She probably wouldn't have had the chance to do anything remotely mundane if they weren't stuck on earth.
"I've met actual ghoulish entities that would resemble what you people call ghosts… I mean you can classify me as a spirit anyway, but a good one." Voidlings could very well pass off as those evil entities she watched in behind the screen. "I only look 24 because of the lipstick color I wear sometimes. I know nothing about makeup and if I wear softer colors, I may as well look like 19 anyway. To be fair, people mature faster back then but I don't see the difference in today's generation." Astraea remembered they were able to marry as soon as they had bled, which could come as early or late for a girl. "I assume you don't like looking young forever huh?" She could understand where he comes from, it was extremely frustrating that you couldn't change your physical appearance because of your immortality. She would agree that technology has made things easier for a lot of people. It has its flaws but nothing could ever be perfected anyway.
"You don't hype anything, Sunmin" she exclaimed bluntly and chuckled, "Well except milkshakes and a few other things like these." The brunette grinned softly upon hearing his answer, "I missed you too. It feels boring without you" it truly was, but not because she actually attended those days at work. She misses him either way when she couldn't attend work. "She's complicated, isn't she?" She wonders how people could deal with her. "You can't only have me as your friend forever, Sunmin." The question came, the one she dreaded the most. Because Astraea knew there was no way she could lie without making it look obvious. "Sort of? I got injured doing something…" Something that also took her time. "It's nothing serious, of course. Doctor said I should just rest at home for a few days and not… move much."
He laughed softly under his breath when she mentioned how her paper-like weight would get dragged down the hill if she had soggy clothes “Now I can’t help but imagine a paper ball rolling down the hill wearing your clothes” he commented and snickered under his breath, now that would be an entertaining thing to see he had to admit. “I’ve watched most of the staples, the ones they tell you that you have to see” he laughed under his breath “They all follow the same patterns really, once you’ve seen those, you don’t really need to see the rest to know they all rely on tropes” if he ever gave one kudos it was because they were actually able to surprise him.
“So real ghosts I can respect are actually scary….or the evil ones anyway, because who knows what damage they might try to do” it was the movies that made it laughable because they always went after some new unwitting family that had moved into a new place where something bad happened before. “Well then you can thank your lipstick for not needing to be carded every time you try and buy anything” he commented in a grumbling tone, he often got asked for ID for R rated games “I just wish I could have fallen looking just a few years older, is that too much to ask” he looked up at the sky as though they were able to listen and comprehend what he was saying. He let out a dramatic sigh “When you think of a fallen star, don’t you think like old and wise...not a delinquent looking teenager” he laughed dryly.
“Exactly, so you know when I do hype it that it must be milkshake level exciting” he did love milkshakes a whole lot, he had even convinced the cafe owners to put one on the menu after practicing making one after work and presenting it for them to try. Mostly so that he could claim it as his free shift drink and improve his overall working experience. He bit his lip when she said she missed him too but didn’t say a word about it “Actually I can do exactly that, there’s nothing in the rules of life that says I need friends” he grumbled, friends were hard to upkeep, one was more than enough for him. Her response when he asked if she got hurt had that slightly high pitched tone she used when she was trying to avoid something “And you being you, didn’t rest in the slightest and even agreed to come on a hike?” he questioned with an unimpressed look over his shoulder.
“Are you better now?” he questioned wanting to ensure that she wasn’t going to keel over in pain halfway up the mountain because that definitely wasn’t a good idea and as much as he wanted to explore, he did care about her safety.
Sunmin rarely laughs, if there was one thing Astraea noticed throughout the entire time of having the pleasure to know the celestial, it's that. She knew he didn't really give out his trust to people so easily and it took her awhile to even gain a sliver of it, but he had a really nice smile and an equally pretty laugh. It's a shame others couldn't bear witness to it. "Yeah exactly, a paper ball wearing boots and track bottoms" that would be a hilarious picture. "They have a list for that?" She loves the movies, though she still has yet to get a chance to see one herself at the cinema because of her packed schedule. "Do you have a favorite horror movie then? You must have at least one." If he has seen the staple ones, perhaps one caught his eye. "Yeah… evil entities are… pretty much withholding their reputation of being extremely malevolent" she muttered under her breath, voidlings reminded her a lot of that. Just creatures who were waiting to prey on innocent souls. It makes her blood boil and gives her the shivers.
"I pray that you'll never meet those voidlings… they're terrible" she wasn't sure if they could manifest themselves on earth until recently, by possessing other people's bodies and controlling their minds. Now, she's on high alert. And it's not the kind where you can just defeat easily, because as far as they know, only aurazin can take them down. She chuckled when he looked up at the sky as if he was telling them that he dislikes the fact that he looks younger than expected. "I kinda like the delinquent looking teenager though. And when you hear guardians, do you expect a girl like me? To be fair, I am the youngest looking in the bunch, most are in their mid twenties and some were even mothers and fathers." It reflects on the age they passed and Astraea generally looks youthful even when she was near adult.
"Your love for milkshakes is τρελός (crazy)" she shook her head in amusement, but it was cute. There were times when the aurazin would often mix English with Greek simply because code-switching was still fresh in her head when she picked up more languages to pass her time. "I'm your friend" she pointed out wryly, "What if I'm not here one day? I can help you determine if they genuinely want to befriend you if you want" she suggested, really she just wants to help. She just doesn't want to see him alone because he has a good personality, albeit a strong one, but is the kind of person that's a shame to just pass by. She was just teasing of course, she knew better than to push him.Astraea hated how she could barely control her voice volume when talking to him and a lie comes in place, he knows that's the telling trait of her starting to lie and how could she proceed with that when she knows he knows too? Her conscience wouldn't allow her.
"I rested" she mumbled defensively and sighed, "I'm better now, I promise I won't be a burden to you" she reassured and patted her spot just to show it to him she's fine, which she probably shouldn't do because the moment she patted against her left torso, she winced slightly. "I agreed to come on a hike because I want to. I can't just… stay on my bed all the time, if I do that for another day I'll go crazy." She is not used to staying still.
He scrunched his nose and laughed softly “Well at least you managed to meet the outfit criteria” he praised because honestly, he wasn’t actually sure he had seen her wear pants to any occasion before and he got to see her pretty often. “The critics like to guide people on what’s the best but honestly it’s probably whoever pays them the most to be featured” he shrugged slightly, though he’d found a few YouTube channels that were able to meet his expectations when it came to their ranking on movies so he just relied on those. Sunmin pulled a face when she asked for his favorite “Real life? There’s nothing scarier than that Astraea” he pointed out and shook his head “I think I prefer thrillers to horror movies, get out was pretty good” he nodded remembering enjoying it.
He looked back at her noticing the way she had a personal connection to these ‘voidlings’ and that they really scared her. He remembered her telling him about her role as an aurazin and how she needed to protect innocent souls from them “Must be scary to think about what happens if you don’t make it in time” it was people’s entire being they were protecting after all. He scoffed when she said she liked the delinquent teenager look “Why doesn’t it surprise me that you’d have a thing for bad boys” he commented bluntly because she was basically the manifestation of what a good girl should be. “Well at least you go to grow in your body, mine just came cookie-cutter” he grumbled under his breath.
She spoke a lot of random words in greek and he had come to learn some of them because she used them so much, he chuckled “Well you told me I needed to be bothered about something, I choose milkshakes” seemed like a worthy cause in his mind because they were absolutely delicious and he would fight anyone who disagreed. “Then I had a friend” he responded bluntly and shrugged, she acted like if she went away someone could just fill her spot that easily but things didn’t work like that and it wasn’t easy to make the celestial trust you. “If I’m meant to have another friend I’m sure they’ll come running at some point” he responded dismissively, he wasn’t going to look for one like some deranged needy person.
“You better have” he warned her, giving the aurazin a stern look because he could sense a bit of guilt in her tone which made him unsure he actually believed her. When she patted her side and then winced her narrowed his gaze “You’re so reckless” he dismissed but since she went to the effort of ‘proving’ she was okay he didn’t push it any further “Just don’t push yourself too much okay, we get few enough sick days as it is” he continued to lead the way through the trail, pushing leaves and branches out the way with his hands so they wouldn’t hit him in the head.