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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?
“It’s easier said than done for sure… but I’m trying. I can’t let my personal feelings get in the way?” Somehow it sounded more of a question rather than a statement. “I would love to think they owe me something but the reality is that they don’t owe me anything at all. I accepted this the moment I decided I wanted to have a second chance at life, however that may be. It’s like me trying to debate over the job when I was the one who signed the contract itself after reading every single detail.” It’s unlike her to be complaining, honestly. But she would admit she had plenty of new perspectives ever since they fell here. “Desire is… dangerous. It ruins everything I thought I knew.” It ruins her. Astraea chuckled when he said he couldn’t do it, “It takes heavy discipline for sure, I wanna say it gets easier as time goes by but it really doesn’t.” It’s why she’s curious to see the younger ones adapt to their current situation now that they have the access they normally wouldn’t have.
“Don’t get me wrong, you’re not easy to read at all. But you’re not… impossible. Just that I could only scrape what’s on the surface and how your emotions go, unlike others, I can’t seem to go further than that, are you psychic or something? Is there a secret you didn’t tell me?” she teased, a part of her actually likes this, it makes him mysterious and real. A person shouldn’t be able to read people so easily, even if they have the ability to do it. “Oh, so many… I’ve had the honor of meeting some really great people but also some really… horrible ones, both those who are not afraid of showing it or who are good at masking their intentions but that’s practically useless to me since I can see through them. Well, except you. I can’t lie to you no matter how hard I try and you… can probably lie to me and still keep those emotions in check.” If it wasn’t interesting, she would’ve found it to be annoying. The aurazin narrowed her eyes and scowled playfully when he teased her, poking into her for fun and one that she finds to be really comforting. It’s… nice.
“Hey, those lambs are cute. They were really fluffy and big… and heavy. What did you think my idea of rebellion would be? Sneak out when I shouldn’t and go to a festival when I shouldn’t?” Now that she thought about it, didn’t she often do that when she was still alive? “Actually, I did do that… a lot, when I was still alive anyhow. The square was always bustling with festivities. You’d love it, it’s not the noisy type. You just feel like you belong.” When asked if she had a favorite animal, she pondered momentarily and nodded, “It changes but the other day I was watching YouTube and got myself immersed in a compilation video of corgis… they’re so cute.” His remark did prompt a blush which made Astraea whine softly and nudged him as a gesture for him to stop teasing her, “He was really… good looking and nice. I’m easily smitten, I’ll tell you that. My former fiance was pretty nice…” It didn’t surprise her that she was supposed to live out her life the way it was predicted, though there were some she wanted to change, most were fine.
“Really? You seriously want to hear the part where I embarrassed myself and didn’t even recognize my arranged fiance at a festival I wasn’t supposed to go to? You’ll hold it against me for the next century” she protested. “You’re not making it easier for me to trust you with a car” she exclaimed when he said celestials could die just the same. She recognized this tone, it’s the same one he would use when he was talking about something he finds to be particularly endearing; something he likes. “I think I already have the power I wanted if I was a superhero. I want to help people and being an aurazin enables me to do that. If I want super strength, I can just shift into one that has it. You? And I wonder what power don’t you want if you are one?” Her eyes softened upon hearing that, “Most heroes don’t feel like one” she added gently. “Are you that good with your hands? Damn, the way you put it, you could restore a broken house or build it from the ground” she jested.
Sunmin frowned a little when she said she wasn’t allowed to let her personal feelings get in the way “So basically they want you to be an emotionless husk...quite the existence” he grumbled slightly, he couldn’t imagine how hard that must be for her, especially because she was clearly someone who enjoyed being around others and fed off their energy. “Is it really a second chance at life if you’re barely living?” he questioned out of curiosity, he didn’t know how the gods handled people after they passed but this seemed like a cruel trap they had set up for lost souls to do their dirty work “Desire is the only point...if you have nothing you want...why even be here?” he questioned under his breath, it seemed natural to want things to him but he could understand why her self preservation told her not to want it.
He laughed softly when she asked him if he was psychic “It’s more that I just don’t invest too much when it comes to others...what’s the point in letting people have so much power over you?” he murmured it softly, he always saw how heartbroken people could get when others let them down or didn’t live up to their expectations and it honestly seemed like a miserable cycle to him. “So I guess my secret is not being...receptive to others” being alone as much as he was, he probably didn’t give off the same social cues others did too. He couldn’t help but chuckle when she said she couldn’t lie to him “Does my presence intimidate you or something?” he questioned and tilted his head, he had noticed that sometimes when he caught her in a lie she would stutter and stumble over her words.
It was pretty easy for him to joke around with her because she wasn’t easily offended and she could handle his joking “Do I want to know how you know they’re heavy?” he questioned in an exasperated tone because he was imagining her trying to lift some poor baby sheep.”I mean a festival is slightly more scandalous but...only if you’re smoking weed at one or something...otherwise it’s pretty standard human stuff” he gave her a quirk of his brow because he was teasing her for being so straight laced and challenging her to name anything she had done that wasn’t easily spun as well-behaved. He licked his lips and grinned when she said corgis were her current favorite “Why does that make so much sense” he commented and chuckled, she definitely had puppy-like energy to her so it fit her pretty well.
He was so amused by her whimsical nature and all the stories she had to tell, they were so different but that’s what made her so intriguing, it made him curious to know how her mind worked in different situations “Sounds like the bar wasn’t all that high if all you’re checking off is good-looking and nice” he shook his head slightly, she did seem like the type who could work with just about anyone though so it kinda made sense somehow. He shrugged “I mean I probably will but it’s not like there’s anyone for me to tell about it” he commented and grinned, this was him showing an interest in someone he now called a friend. One of his only friends, one that was honestly unexpected.
He nodded slightly when she said she already had the power she’d want as a superhero “So rainbow girl it is” he teased softly thinking what a comic version of her would look like if he was to sketch it, one of the prettier designs he would have done for sure. “I mean I feel like being able to shrink would be an interesting power until you realize you’re tiny, weak and people could step on you” he chuckled softly. “Well not to the point of bragging but all the work I’ve done in my life has pretty much been manual so…” he shrugged “I want to see this place looking beautiful” he expressed in a soft voice.
She couldn’t help but to chuckle when he said they expected her to be an emotionless husk, “I mean when you put it that way, it sounds horrible.” She didn’t remember it to be something that bad but it could be because Astraea left all desires when she decided to be an aurazin, well… almost. “Do I really have the right to be asking for more when they are the ones who even decided I was worth something to be given a second chance?” It could’ve been anyone, she was sure a lot of people died wrongly too but she didn’t see too many back in the Veil. Though she did take the voidlings coming to prey on them in the Void into account too. Not everyone makes it. “But if it’s between staying to wait for those things to feed off my souls and to become an aurazin, I would choose the latter any day. It’s scary… it’s the coldest place I’ve ever known and it’s not just the temperature.”
That’s a good question, why is she here? “I want to help people… I want to make the world a better place even if it’s only for a few people. I can’t change it, but if I can make someone’s day better then… why wouldn’t I want to do that?” She couldn’t be selfish and just think about what she wanted, to her fate already answered her when she died. It wasn’t as if she could change that. Sunmin seemed so unbothered by everything, it was almost fascinating because she wondered if that’s really what he felt or it’s just the self-preservation option of taking the kick. “Is it because you’re afraid?” To let someone in and care for them only to be disappointed? That always seemed to be the case. The aurazin blushed profusely when he asked if he intimidated her, she was quick to shake her head before ending up biting her lip, “I… that’s not it. I get flustered when I can't read you because I don’t know what to expect. You’re mysterious, and that’s an understatement. And you can catch me lying so easily so that’s frustrating when I can’t catch you.”
Astraea scowled playfully and nudged him, “I lifted them, of course. They’re baby sheep, very cute and very fluffy so that even when you fall because they’re heavy, you get greeted by cotton… you should try it sometimes, maybe it’ll lift up your mood.” Who wouldn’t like baby sheeps, right? It wasn’t the first time he has mentioned things like that, but today her curiosity peaked, “I thought cannabis isn’t good for you? It looked like regular herbs though…” Did she want to try? God knows, but he wasn’t doing a good job at not indulging her. “I’ve been told I resembled one” she grinned sheepishly. It shouldn’t be so sad but why did she feel a pang to her chest when he said that? No, she wasn’t offended, that wasn’t the feeling or else she would’ve recognized it. All she knew was that it made her sad.
Her smile fell and the aurazin pressed them into a thin line, “It’s not that I have low standards, just that I mostly don’t think I’m worth anything much? Does that make sense? I mean I met a good guy and he probably has a nice background too, but then there’s me, who admittedly had a pretty messy background. To start with, on paper I’m legitimate but in reality, everyone knows I’m my mother’s child; the baby that was born out of wedlock, over one night’s mistake. Not exactly a good courting material. The only reason why people even flocked by was because they want to be the husband to the eldest daughter of the megas domestikos’, nothing more.” To say that she wasn’t teased about that when she was younger would be false. “It means… Grand Domestic, my stepfather was the commander of the army back then. Who wouldn't want to be his son-in-law? And Agatha was barely 4 years old so...” That was why she could settle with less.
“I do like the idea of still being friends with you for another century though” she beamed, he was the first person she didn’t have to tamper with, and hoped she could get away with leaving his memories intact. “You’ve been calling me rainbow girl ever since we met, it may as well be my superhero codename. Admittedly, calling you starboy is just… tacky. You’re most probably an anti-hero too.” When he said being able to shrink would be a useful one, she chuckled, “I think it’s better to shapeshift then, that way you won’t be able to just shrink, you know? I can be anyone and anything, that’s useful. But as powerful as that power could be, it sucks that my weakness is something you can find in every decent household, sugar.” She let out a resigned sigh because it was hard to avoid them and it didn’t help that she likes them. “Then we’ll make it so. This place… by the time we’re done with it, it’ll be very beautiful.”
Sunmin pressed his lips together and shrugged slightly “I don’t think the world is fair so why should the rest of us play along” he commented in a soft voice, if you left the ways of the world to unfold as they wanted then you almost always end up behind, sometimes you had to push to get the things you wanted and maybe that was selfish but he’d rather be selfish than sitting and wondering why he felt so empty. “It does sound...empty” he commented, the insight of what was waiting the other side didn’t seem all that bright, he’d hoped for something more...peaceful.
She was a good person, he knew that much through and through by now, it just made sense to her to day she would protect and help others but he didn’t think she realized how many other people would have chosen a more selfish option. “You’d be surprised how many people, don’t, want to do that” even if they acted like they were selfless, very few would actually commit themselves to that life. He blinked when she asked him if it was because he was afraid, he hadn’t really thought about it like that “Maybe” he answered and shrugged “It’s not like I haven’t given people the chance to not disappoint me in the past” and each of them had inevitably let him know in one way or another than he couldn’t rely on them. A small smile crossed his lips when she said that not being able to read her caught her off guard “Ah, so it’s you can’t cheat” he teased slightly.
He laughed because the image of her lifting a lamb was somehow funny to him because she was so small that even a baby sheep would probably look big in her arms “Can’t say I’ve ever had the compulsion to pick up a baby sheep” he teased and bit his lip slightly, maybe it would be pretty cute though. Sunmin scoffed when she said cannabis wasn’t good for you “Neither is alcohol but that doesn’t stop most of the population drinking it” he explained and shrugged “Cannabis has actually been linked to pain relief in many studies, though people can take it too far and make it dangerous if they don’t control their own environment” like people who decided to drive after drinking, for example.
Sunmin was quiet as he let her ramble about her past and how she was born out of wedlock and that she had been chased when she was younger “Well...I’m pretty sure your safe on the wedlock thing, no one cares much for legitimacy anymore...or whether you’re a virgin” he chuckled gently as he watched her with a curious expression “But you’re worth more than you think” he assured her with a more stern voice, he noticed that pattern with her a lot, she always doubted herself of downplayed her own worth in the eyes of others. “You’re probably the best friend I’ve ever had” he pointed out as though to exemplify his point “And I’m sure there are plenty of other people out there who...care for you too” he disliked how offput she seemed by it all.
He chuckled slightly, sometimes it felt hard for him to imagine an entire century passing and him still being the same way he is now, he wondered if he would find some kind of happiness...would he find peace with his identity. 100 years was a long time after all. “Well if you can’t read me then almost certainly no one else can” he teased and grinned slightly. “True” he snickered, the nickname had just kinda stuck since day one and now it was never going to be shaken. “This place is going to be unrecognizable” he teased and nodded his head in agreement, before getting to his feet. “We should probably head back down, I’ll walk you home” he commented as he placed his hands into his pockets.
Aurazin are creatures of light, they are inherently good, much like the celestials. The guy in front of her is one too. "Because… we believe there is something bigger at play? Don't you believe in destiny, Sunmin?" Her tone was soft, almost as if she too, was trying to tell herself it's real. Was her faith crumbling? Perhaps. "I think everyone has their role… a purpose they have to fulfill. So the world can… go on." That's what she was taught. "It's a constant battle honestly, you're never really safe when you get there either… Remember when I told you about the voidlings? They're just waiting to prey on their next victim, who knows how long one can actually remain there without any shepherds to come…" It was why she took her duties seriously. "Sorry if you were hoping for something more peaceful… I totally just ruined the picture, right?"
She pressed her lips into a thin line, Astraea understood what he went through, it's not easy to trust things will turn out well when people have given you nothing but doubts, continuously disappointing you with every chance they get. "I've never been able not to read someone, you know. I mean, even the nicest or the much worse ones, you'd at least be able to scrape off the surface but you, all I see is your color. I mean not that I'm complaining, it's a beautiful color, pleasant to look at." He had a point, everyone likes to indulge in their pleasure, alcohol is one of them. "Pain relief huh? I might have to study that one, I've always had a thing for herbs, so you… Cannabis or alcohol? Which guy are you?" When he told her that nobody cares about those things anymore, the aurazin found herself biting her lip, "They don't? People don't even care if you're a virgin? Then how would parents choose their children's bride? How would you choose yours?"
Can people sleep around with no consequences now? She was genuinely curious, the last time she was on earth, people were still conservative, though not so much as it used to be in the past, which was ironic because mankind and civilization has come a long way ever since. You're worth more than you think, he said. "I am?" It doesn't take a lot to make Astraea Wu feel touched. "Oh you're the only friend I actually divulge my personal life to… the others before you in the early centuries don't count considering they don't last longer than a few moons- months… I mean months, since I'll end up wiping their memories. And I've never really… gone too personal with them." By too personal, she meant talking about what she was and the likes. With him? She didn't feel like there's a restriction at all. It was getting late, she had fun, even if it was just them scouring the abandoned place; one that would later be their own.
She got up from her seat and brushed herself, "Walk me home? Look at you, being all gentlemanly" she teased and beckoned for him to lead the way, "after you, sir." Being immortal meant she didn't need to worry about time but they're not expendable and Sunmin… isn't he a Celestial? "You won't leave Evermore, right?" He didn't have to worry about being hunted here, no? She sounded hopeful that he wouldn't up and leave this place.
He shrugged slightly when she asked him if he believed in destiny “Isn’t that essentially resigning yourself to the fact you can’t control your own life?” he raised his brows as though to question her on whether she saw it differently but he preferred to believe there was autonomy to his own life and it was under his own thumb. He pressed his lips together as he listened to her talking about the void and how people could get attacked if they were stuck there for too long “But that’s not the..default right?” she mentioned before that the void was for people who couldn’t realize they were dead, which meant there must be some other place to go otherwise.
“Never?” he questioned with surprise, well that made him wonder why he was the one she couldn’t read, he never saw himself as especially different from others, but he was distant from other people and rarely went out of his way to be around people “Doesn’t my...color tell you something?” he questioned, he wasn’t really sure how it all worked for her but she talked about colors almost like they were personality traits. He chuckled and shrugged when she asked him whether he preferred cannabis or alcohol “Cannabis, more of the good feeling and less of the puking your guts up” he commented and grinned slightly.
Sunmin had to hold himself back from chuckling at her surprise about how things had changed in modern times, he pressed his lips together and shook his head slightly when she asked how he would choose his bride “Well I can’t say I’m that interested in marriage, seems like a piece of paper and little else to me but…” he shrugged “Someone I could feel comfortable with and make me laugh would be a good start” he murmured softly, whether someone was a virgin or not didn’t matter to him at all “No one keeps themselves until marriage anymore” he assured her and grinned slightly.
She seemed so surprised when he assured her of her worth which made him bite his lip a little sadly “You seem like the type of person who would….struggle without anyone to talk to” he pointed out, noting that she shared a lot and was generally expressive, though he supposed she could talk with other aurazin more freely than she could someone like him. He rolled his eyes playfully when she called him sir and a gentleman “Alright princess, I’m not some tea sipping duke” he commented and shook his head slightly as he fell into step beside her as they walked back down the way they came until they were out in the flats that surrounded the mountains once more. Her words seemed to come out of nowhere but he could already tell she was holding a lot to them, he glanced at her over his shoulder.
He paused for a moment as he thought about it before shrugging “Can’t say I’m in a rush to leave the first place that’s ever felt like home to me” he commented thoughtfully as they continued walking “Maybe a trip to the Bahamas once I make my millions though” he teased playfully.