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city of stars

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They call him Little One, and he was born amongst the stars.

He is the result of the collision between two galaxies – Starburst, as Mother would explain years later once he had reached maturity; old enough to be discharged from the Trainee Center and fully understand his duty and obligations as a Watcher Star.

But it was during his time as a Star Trainee did Little One discover the perks of being a Watcher Star – always glowing, always alive. The downsides, though, were far too much for a young soul to understand, as those Stars were bound to Watch and be alone until their light had faded completely – only remains of stardust and nothing more than a shadow left in the Universe.

There are some rare exceptions to the rule, of course, as some would find their Destined Ones if fate was kind enough to allow them to be included in their Book of Assigned Names. A choice can also be made for those special mated souls: they can either stay in the City of Stars, forever immortal beings or follow their Destiny into the mortal world.

Little One has always wondered if he could be an exception. In the solitude of his Moon, confined in his one-bedroom but quite comfortable house, he Watches over and over again the names given to him and wishes he could somehow find his Destined One too. But as his eyes search through his golden telescope day after day and night after night – closely looking down at the humans in a planet he soon discovers to be Earth, he realizes what the dreadful feeling in his chest means.

It is the first time Little One cried, and unfortunately, it isn't the last.

His fate is loneliness. Watching, Watching, and waiting.

 

 

Little One has already lost track of his Star Life when new names are assigned to him after the mortal lives of his previous humans had finally ended.

Outside, the City of Stars feels distant as his Moon is just his and no else’s. With a yellow blanket in one hand to shelter him from the cold breeze and his Book of Names on the other, Little One finds himself sitting in his favorite spot in his backyard, full view to the planets surrounding him, and humming to a song he can't remember where he had listened to. His telescope is already positioned, ready for another round of Watching.

He has just fixed the lens to Watch the eastern side of Earth when he notices the pages being filled with black ink; the invisible hand is gone as fast as it came.

Frowning with a newfound curiosity, Little One holds the book in his tiny fingers, leafing through the pages and notes he so carefully had collected and written down over the years until his eyes are fixed at one particular name.

As expected, Mother’s handwriting is neat, the clear coordinates are just under the information about the human whom the name belongs to.

Jeon Jeongguk.

Busan, South Korea. September 1st, 1997.

His fingertips tingle, his mouth feels dry and Little One can hear the sound of his heartbeat increasing, echoing loudly in the vast quietness around him. Interesting, he thinks, how one name can change everything.

 

 

Jeongguk is a shy boy with bunny teeth and big, wide doe-eyes.

That much Little One can tell, since he has learned so much from his longtime of Watching, and studying human traits is just something Little One is very particularly fond of. He wants to know more and more about each individual so he can write their stories down with as many details as he can provide. Little One doesn’t want The Book of Life to lack information on his humans, oh no, that wouldn’t do.

But the boy is an odd soul, and Little One doesn’t understand him at all. The child is somehow different in many, many ways and he can’t recall a time or a moment where he had found himself so immersed in a human life with such intensity. Endearment is one of the several feelings sparkling through his veins, making him giggle when the infant laughs out loud in his own small room. 

Little One eventually learns everything he can about Jeongguk and, sometimes, more. He wonders as he Watches the boy’s life through his telescope if Jeongguk is the one Destined to be his.

Shaking off such absurd thoughts away from his dreamy mind, Little One huffs. Jeongguk is just a child, after all.

 

 

It’s only when Jeongguk is almost ten and his parents gift him with a kitten to celebrate the day he was born – birthdays, as humans call it – that Little One gets tired of the loneliness of his house. It’s too quiet, too empty, too... Hollow. The walls are too grey, the furniture is too dull. Lifeless.

Jeongguk’s laugh is so bright, so loud and so, so inviting when he plays with Nochu, that Little One can’t help but join the Earth boy in his laughter, even if the boy can’t hear him. Even if Jeongguk doesn’t know he exists.

Later, Little One discovers that cats are beautiful, marvelous creatures.

After one rushed trip to the Moon Kingdom, visiting the Shelters and greeting the Caregivers, he comes back home with seeds – a garden sounds like a good idea, to keep him busy during the minutes between his own free time and Watching – and a perky, lonely little thing like himself. Her name is Luna, her black fur soft to the touch and her eyes glowing a reddish brown into the dark night.

Despite the distance between the City of Stars and the Moon Kingdom, Luna is still able to speak, her tender voice soothing most of the time, and Little One couldn't be happier to have someone to talk to.

Watching seems bearable with someone to keep him company and, while Luna falls asleep curled in his lap in the bay window, Little One thinks being a Watcher Star isn’t so bad anymore.

 

 

The boy, then, grows into a beautiful young man. Still shy and brilliant doe-eyes, but beautiful nonetheless. Little One’s affection towards Jeongguk also grows by the tick of the human clock.

And it is with teary eyes, shaky hands and a pain in his chest that Little One does this round of Watching.

Inevitable as it may seem, Little One feels every emotion deep in bones. And Jeongguk is only seventeen when it happens. Little One knows what it means, of course, he has seen it all too many times to pretend the look in Jeongguk’s eyes or his honey-like voice when he speaks aren't signs of someone in love.

Love. It’s a funny thing, indeed. Little One’s book has innumerable pages on this specifically unique feeling. He remembers detailing how it felt for his very first human to experience the bubbly sensation in the pit of their stomach, the sweaty hands, the stuttering voice, the loud beats of their heart, the soft touch of lips against lips. He remembers it all too well to forget – as if he ever could.

Tonight he lets himself cry covered in his yellow and comforting blanket, with Luna snuggled in his arms, humming a beautiful and calming lullaby from the Moon Kingdom, assuring him the pain won’t last. But it's nowhere near painful compared to the pain Jeongguk reflects in his soul just a few earthly months later, when his world shatters, turning upside down and he is left with nothing but a broken heart.  

They both cry themselves to sleep, voidness of emotion and trying, reluctantly, to gather the pieces of their damaged hearts. Little One has never felt something like this and in some way, it’s like he can’t breathe.

When he closes his eyes and dreams, Little One sees the future. He sees Earth, a beach, and two bodies.

The future is quite clear, and it’s Little One’s fingers Jeongguk has his own intertwined.

 

 

The next time Little One sheds tears over the human boy, it happens just about a year later, and it’s from happiness other than a heartbreak.

Jeongguk has just turned eighteen and got accepted in the university he'd always dreamed about. The letter that comes through the mail is opened and read with the prettiest smile Little One has ever seen in his long, long Starlife.

It sparkles something within the walls of his heart, and Little One just knows. As a matter of fact, he has known since the day the name “Jeon Jeongguk” was written into the pages he's grown tired of seeing, marked forever in his Book of Assigned Names, by the hands of the creator of Little One himself.

He has known Jeongguk is his Destined One every time he falls asleep and Jeongguk inevitably visits him in his dreams. And as he Watches the boy fate has allowed him to find, Little One decides.

He is going after the reason he stays up all night – bunny teeth, doe-eyes and brownish strands of hair.

Earth never felt so close as it does right now. 

 

 

“Have you scheduled your audience already?” Luna asks, licking her fur and looking mindfully at Little One, whose hands are too busy with the little bucket of seeds in front of him.

“Yes, Luna.” Little One stops, wiping away a drop of sweat running through his forehead; he leans forward, ignoring the cat’s deep stare, and touches the blooming white petals of the peace lilies he’d planted.

Little One sighs. The flowers look beautiful at night.

“The Council has agreed to see me in a fortnight’s time," the Star boy shakes the dirt out of his hands, finally getting up and heading back to the house. Luna follows quietly behind, a low purr coming out of her throat. 

“I know what you are thinking,” he says, his eyes anywhere but on the black cat next to him.

“Then you know I do not agree with your decision,” Luna jumps on his lap when he sits, lifting her head to allow Little One’s fingers to thread through her fur, gently petting her neck.

“I am aware of that, Luna.”

“A fortnight might make you reconsider this,” she scratches the Star’s left palm with little to no strength, and he giggles, the sound reverberating loudly in the room.

“My decision is final, Luna,” he lets out a deep breath, pulling the cat closer to him. Luna’s swinging tail tickles his skin.

“So is mine. I am coming with you.”

“You know you do not have to. You can always go back to the Moon Kingdom.”

“There is nothing for me go back for. This is my home now. You are," she squeezes herself into his chest and Little One’s smile widens. “If that boy is your future and Earth is your destiny, then I will follow you if you want me to.”

Little One looks at the City of Stars through the window; the flashing lights sparkle in his eyes and the harmony of the songs sung by the Elders whisper in his ears. A wonderful view, he thinks, one of which he is sure he will miss, but not as much as his garden of fresh lilies, his golden telescope or his favorite spot outside, where he'd spent his overall life sitting at, Watching and writing.

He would miss Luna the most, though. His one and only friend. And now, he doesn't have to. Little One kisses her head, the fur smooth against his lips.

“Thank you.”

 

 

Little One is surprisingly calm for someone who is just about to ask permission to leave the City of Stars to the creator of Life herself. But it’s with certainty burning inside of him that he walks through the gates into the Room of Judgement.

The Elders are already gathered in their big chairs around Mother’s roundtable, the latter sitting peacefully at the edge, her throne above the others. The Council has all different kinds of Stars. Some Little One recognizes, such as the Leader of the Trainee Center, his greyish hair too long to keep inside his small crown.

Mother looks at him with an endearing smile. The Starlight coming through her body is blinding, but Little One manages to keep eye contact for as long as he can. Her full-length white dress is embroidered with just as shining gemstones, a nice contrast to the blondness of her cotton-like hair.

Little One gulps, swallowing down the knot forming in his throat. While he may be calm, the table full of the most important creatures in the City of Stars is, nevertheless, an intimidating sight for just a Watcher Star like him.

“Little One, come closer,” Mother asks tenderly. “I was informed by the Elders you have come to a final decision. You have chosen to live a mortal life. Is that correct, Little One?”

“Yes, Mother,” the Star boy replies, voice firm. He bounces at the balls of his feet nervously.  

“May I ask you why? Why would you prefer to live amongst greedy and selfish beings, who choose every day to destroy the land in which they have built their home? Why would you decide, so suddenly, if I may say, to live in a foreign world full of sadness, anger, and regret?”

Her brows are furrowed and her tone is almost accusing, but her lips continue to curve into a comfortable smile.

“Why not stay here, at the City of Stars, helping to bring light to the galaxies around us along with your brothers and sisters? Isn’t writing the Book of Life enough? Why, Little One, may I ask?”

She finishes, tapping her fingertips on the table, the sound almost too loud in the oddly silent room.

“If I may be honest, Mother,” Little One begins as he lets out a deep breath and takes one step further. “I have seen far too much in my years of Watching to understand that within all the darkness, there is also light. The same light we, Stars, provide. It is true that humans have an ugliness hidden inside their souls, ready to be unleashed when needed. But there is kindness, too, Mother. Happiness, selflessness. I have seen the good despite the bad... I have seen the wonders of love.”

Little Ones sighs before his voice is heard again.

“And I choose love, above all else.”

With his speech now finished, the eyes of the Elders hang above him and Little One trembles, suddenly feeling too small in the great room.

“You speak of love, Little One, as if you had found it. Have you?”

“Yes, Mother. I have.”

She pauses, the Elders just as silent as before.

“And is your Destined One the reason why you are leaving us?”

“It is, Mother.”

Mother sighs. “I see.”

 

When Little One comes back to the Room of Judgement, there’s chatting around the table. The Elders seem uneased, but Mother remains with the same confident and calming expression she had always possessed, even when Little One was just a tiny baby Star, leaving stardust everywhere he touched.

He stops, anxious, and waits for the Elders to stop whispering, accommodating themselves in their chairs. After what it seems forever for Little One’s desperate mind, Mother stands up, her golden hair falling through her shoulders and the crown majestically sitting on her head.

“The Council agrees the verdict is clear. You are now released from your duty as a Watcher Star and you are allowed to go to Earth. However remember, Little One, as you choose wisely, for this is official. Once you leave the City of Stars, you can never return. As of this day and on, you are no longer a part of this constellation. Do you understand the implications this decision behold?”

Her voice is soft as if it waiting for Little One to change his mind. He doesn’t.

“I do, Mother.”

“Well, then. Go now. You have a long journey to Earth to prepare if you wish to be there soon.”

 

 

“Are you ready?” Little One asks, holding Luna closely to his chest and walking further to the edge of the portal.

“No,” she answers truthfully and Little One laughs, letting go of the tension for a few seconds.

“Don’t let go, okay?” he says, taking a deep breath. Her tiny paws scratch his flesh, but he doesn’t seem to mind.

“Okay,” and that’s the last thing he hears before falling.

It’s breathtaking seeing the world like this, and for a moment, Little One can see the stars one more time before it’s all a grand mixture of colors, shapes, and sizes. The fall is too dense and the air is too thick and both of them can feel the chill of the high in their bones.

Then, it’s gone and there’s warmness instead of the wintry breeze he is so familiar with. His bare feet touch something cold, maybe wet, yet soft and ticklish. Little One opens his eyes and the light is almost unbearable.

After a while, his eyes grow used to the weird brightness above, and he can finally take in his surroundings. His heart beats faster by the minute because the view is the same one he has seen a million of times in many of his Dreams.

The beach is empty, but the sky is a crystal blue, barely any clouds at all to hide the extremely warm rays of sunshine that spread through his skin. Little One chuckles because the feeling is just too good to be true, but the sand under his toes is rough and soft at the same time, but the best part of it all, it’s that it is real.

Luna jumps out of his arms and lands on the fluffy ground, walking around him and leaving a funny trail of paws behind.

They enjoy the day out in the sun as long as they can, until the words he tried to forget ring into his head.

“There is one more thing you should know, Little One,” Mother says, her expression almost worried. “Fate might have allowed you to find your Destined One, but they must find you too. If they do not, I am afraid your light will fade.”

“Oh,” it’s all he can say.

“I am sorry for keeping this information away from you, but it is forbidden knowledge until the choice is made. Anyhow, I wish you the best of luck. May you find your Destined One, and they find you.” 

And so after wandering along the shore, letting the sea waves mingle between his feet and make him startle – because the water is cold as ice and it’s an incredible feeling – they spot the perfect place to rest, and Little One buries his feet into the wet sand while Luna naps loudly beside him.

As he feels the sunlight heating up his skin, he watches the horizon upon him and waits. This time, the wait is worth it.

 

 

“Hey, mom!” Jeongguk yells by the door, already half-way through. “I’m going out!”

He only hears a mumbling “yes” in reply before he steps outside. It’s a very nice day, with the blue sky and the shining sun and cool breeze. Jeongguk has missed this. He had spent most of his life anticipating the moment he would pack his bags and move out to Seoul without ever looking back, but he has found himself countless of times missing his hometown and the salty smell of tide, sand and just… Home.

College is great; his friends are amazing – in fact, he would kill to hear Jin’s stupid jokes right now – and his grades are fine. His apartment isn’t that big, but it is a perfect fit. Everything is great, honestly.

But, somehow, there is just something missing. There is this ache inside of his heart waiting to finally be full, but never ever is, no matter what Jeongguk does or tries. And he tries so hard. He used to believe that maybe it was just his teenage self, the hopeless romantic who was waiting for his soulmate to finally show up that made him unable to fill the void.

Yet even though Jeongguk has stopped caring about this whole people-are-meant-to-be thing, the feeling just won't go away.

He is almost nineteen now, and there is still no sign of his soulmate whatsoever. Maybe he is just one of those unlucky bastards that never find their loved ones, the kind of stories his mother would tell him about when he was younger. He shrugs; imagining such a sad life can wait until he is back in his room, under the covers and all alone. Right now, enjoying the sun is the only reasonable thing to do.

Coming back to Busan to spend his vacations wasn’t exactly what he had planned for the summer, but apparently, Taehyung had other, better things to do than to spend some quality time with his best friend (as in staying in Seoul with a certain grumpy Min Yoongi, his soulmate). Choosing between a summer of watching a grossly cute and in love Taehyung all over an also grossly cute and in love Yoongi or going back to visit his family was really too easy.

Jeongguk roams around town with no clear destination in mind, his feet just dragging him along. Thinking of soulmates always has him black out a little bit, enough to make him walk all the way down to the beach without him noticing where he was going.

He lifts his head, confusingly realizing the sea in front of him, and it is as if gravity pulls him in, forcing his body to go further and further into the shore. He doesn’t stop, even when the grains of sand enter his worn out Timberlands and the sun is too bright to let him see properly. He doesn’t stop until he sees him.

At first, Jeongguk can’t believe his eyes, because the boy is glowing. He thinks it’s just the sunlight playing tricks with his head, one of those optical illusions he used to spend hours looking at, but the boy’s skin glows brighter and brighter as he comes closer. It’s not a hurtful sight as if he was looking directly into the sun; it’s so pleasantly beautiful Jeongguk wants to bathe himself into the – his – light.

His glow isn’t the only thing that makes Jeongguk’s heart jump inside his chest, pumping faster with each step he takes towards the boy. He’s wearing what it seems to be sweatpants and an oversized sweater, both of them white as snow, which makes the boy shine twice as bright. On his head, messy golden blonde hair falls perfectly above his forehead, slightly covering his eyes.

None of that matters, not until the boy suddenly turns around with an odd black cat on his lap, as if sensing his presence, and Jeongguk just knows. Their eyes meet and time stops. The world is mute; there are no birds singing, no buzzing of cars, not even the sound of the waves crashing.

And he doesn’t care, because he can see the boy’s soul and he can feel that ache – the same ache he so desperately wanted to fill – disappearing slowly, replaced with a beating heart, whole.

The boy’s mouth is moving but Jeongguk can’t understand him.

“W–what?” he asks, once he manages to swallow the knot in this throat.

“You found me,” softly – so softly – the boy answers. Is it possible to fall in love with someone else’s voice? Jeongguk doesn't know, but maybe he just did.

“What?” Jeongguk repeats. His mind is dizzy and he’s still not sure what is going on. The pull is too strong and his head is spinning.

The boy stands up, the cat never leaving his side, and takes a step forward, closer to Jeongguk.

“I knew you would find me.” He smiles then, and not even the sun above them could shine this brightly.

“It’s you, then? My soulmate?”

Focusing gets harder whenever the boy curves his lips and the smile widens.

“Where I come from, we call it Destined One.”

“What do you mean, "where I come from’"?” Jeongguk asks, curiously.

The boy giggles and Jeongguk swears it’s the most beautiful sound he has ever heard in his entire life.

“Come,” he says, offering his hand. “We have a lot to talk about.”

Jeongguk was never one to believe in coincidences. Maybe the Universe really did have something planned out for him when he left his house not only one hour ago. Maybe this is where he is supposed to be.

The boy waits, and Jeongguk sees in his eyes everything he is looking for.

He takes his hand, their fingers intertwining, and it’s like flowers blooming in the spring. It never felt better.

 

 

“So, it’s all true? Stars, soulmates, little man on the moon?” Jeongguk asks after a while.

The blonde boy had just gone on and on about a life Jeongguk could only imagine in his dreams. City of Stars, Watcher Star, a Book of Life, Mother and all things Jeongguk is still trying to memorize. It feels unreal, but then the feeling he is certain keeps growing inside his own chest somehow feels unreal too.

The boy tells him about the Book of Assigned Names and how his name was written there, how his life job was to watch over him. As creepy as it sounds, Jeongguk finds himself more intrigued than anything else.

“Yes, Jeongguk,” at this point, Jeongguk considers himself an addict. The boy’s voice is just so reassuring, he can’t seem to get tired of it. Maybe that’s why the fact he’s spent his life being watched isn’t all that shocking.

“Cool,” he says and rubs his neck nervously. The boy’s eyes are slightly brown, almost hazel in the sunlight. Jeongguk fakes a cough when he notices he’s staring. “Anyway, who are you again?”

The boy sitting in front of him furrows his brows, confused. The cat strangely does the same. “I am you. As you are me.”

“No,” Jeongguk laughs, really laughs. “I mean, your name.”

“Oh. They call me Little One.”

Jeongguk’s lips soon turn into a smile. He eyes the tiny figure, head to toe, and the name just sounds abnormally accurate.

“I don’t think Little One is a very appropriate name here on Earth. It’s actually kinda weird.”

“That’s the only name I have,” the boy – Little One – shrugs.

“We should give you a new one!” Jeongguk says, pressing his temples. “Jihoon? Jihyun? Jung-Hee?"

Little One frowns, shaking his head.

"No? Let’s see… What about Jimin? It’s sort of a common name, but…”

“I like the sound of Jimin.” There’s the giggle again and Jeongguk melts.

“It’s pretty. Like you,” Jeongguk says out loud, and he would have regretted if not for the fact that the new gained flush in Jimin’s cheeks is a delightful sight to see.

There’s a moment of silence, neither of them wanting to break it. But the sun is too hot against Jeongguk’s back and he’s just too curious to stop himself.

“So, Jimin, you gave up on being a star for me?”

The boy, Jimin now, bites his lower lip and pets the cat’s head gently, nodding.

"Why? I mean, you were a star! You were immortal. Why throw all of that away for a simple human like me?”

Jimin hesitates, but the words come out strongly anyway.

"Because I love you."

It rings like a song and Jeongguk believes him.

"I... I don’t know what to say to that."

"You don't have to, just…” Jimin sighs, reaching for Jeongguk’s hand. The touch sparkles electricity through Jeongguk’s bones, and it burns. “Let me love you."

Jimin plays with Jeongguk's hands, the latter too distracted with the way Jimin's skin is warm against his. It's rejoicing and softening under Jimin’s touch that he remembers, then, a word he hasn't heard in a long time.

“Serendipity,” he whispers, connecting their fingers.

“What does it mean?”

“It means finding something good without looking for it.”

Jimin’s smile spreads across his face, his eyes turning into little moon crescents. The vision is something Jeongguk finds himself wishing to wake up to every morning.

“You found me,” Jimin simply answers; his voice just a whisper into the wind.

When the Universe was created, everything was decided. City of Stars and Earth. Stars and humans. Soulmates and Destined Ones. And there’s no doubt that Jeongguk was meant to be his and Jimin was meant to be Jeongguk’s.

Jeongguk’s heart flutters. He has lived his whole life waiting, waiting and all he ever wanted is now right in front of him, plump pink lips smiling shyly, golden hair being gracefully blessed by the sun, and eyes, beautiful, beautiful brown eyes hopelessly looking deep into his own. And he is scared of what it all means, but as long as the Star boy is by his side, he might just not be so afraid anymore.

“I found you,” he says.

Jeongguk thinks – no, he knows – he can love Jimin too. He already does.