Do you dream? I am curious.
For someone so bright, you must dream of amazing things.
How do you do it?
If, for a slight chance, have you ever dreamed of me?
It’s a little silly, but I’d like to see you there.
Just you and me.
“Junmyeon says this is an incense for sleep,” Joohyun says, placing the green pot on the table, wisps of mist seeping through the holes. “You’ll relax in no time.”
Jisoo, sitting on her mattress, strains a smile. “Great,” she grits through her teeth.
Impeccable really, the way Junmyeon managed to whip an incense on the same night as the full moon. That man always finds a way to disgruntle Jisoo, be it intentionally or not; most likely unintentional, but Jisoo is too stubborn to believe otherwise. Antagonizing him is much more fun. So instead of relaxed, the night is tense because as much as Jisoo wants to go to the cliffs, there’s a chance that Joohyun will make sure the incense does its job. Although slight — the woman sleeps like a rock, after all: light snores, hair fanned out on her pillow, and arms splayed above and all. The question is, is she absolutely asleep? Jisoo can’t be sure.
The incense smells nice; white peach grounded with a three-leaved posy and a hint of — perhaps — lace flower? Jisoo’s eyelids droop as it lulls her to sleep, but she is quick to pry them open before they shut completely. Another peek at Joohyun; she still sleeps.
The wind chimes jingle. It has been jingling for a while now, faint in the distance, but discernible all the same only due to the fact there’s nothing else Jisoo pays attention to. With each tune, she dithers. The breeze seems to dither too as if wondering where she is. Her foot shakes, antsy from impatience and eagerness to just go.
One sheep, two sheep, three sheep. They hop over the fence and Jisoo’s hands ball into fists.
With sudden courage, Jisoo twists around and peruses Joohyun. One snore, two snores, three. Her hand waves over the woman’s eyes. No reaction. She waves a little harder. No reaction. Again and again; nothing. Why was she so hesitant? If the incense lulls anyone to sleep, it would be Joohyun. It definitely works; she’ll make sure to tell her in the morning.
She crawls out from her bed and sneaks to the door, not before checking on Rabbit sleeping deep in his stone house. Upon touching the handle, her hand jerks back with realization.
Not only has she forgotten the compass, but also the gift she prepared for Jennie.
The tiny box of woven twigs, the size of her hand, sits underneath her pillow beside the compass. It’s a tad deformed — a few threads poking out that her clumsy fingers couldn’t weave — because Jisoo isn’t quite talented at the skill. Yet, it retains its shape and usage well, which is sufficient in her standards. Joohyun grumbles something, freezing Jisoo in place halfway through extracting the items from under the pillow, but she simply turns to her side with no further abnormalities. Jisoo puts a palm over her beating heart and steadies her breath.
With everything she needs, Jisoo skips to the cliff.
“I was beginning to think you weren’t coming,” Jennie quips when Jisoo arrives at the clearing.
“I’m sorry,” Jisoo says, taking her seat beside the latter. “My sister found out I haven’t been sleeping well the other night because of these dark spots under my eyes that don’t go away no matter how much I rub them.” With one finger, she drags her cheek down to show Jennie said eye bag. “She got this incense thing for me to sleep better and I was afraid she’d catch me sneaking out tonight. Long story short: she didn’t. I was paranoid for no reason.”
Jennie nods, amused. “My mentor too. I’ve been drowsy during training sessions and she gives me an earful.”
“Do you have siblings?”
“No, I’m an only child.”
As much as Jisoo’s curiosity leads her to be blunt and forthright, the topic at hand seems an uncomfortable one considering how Jennie looks away and shifts uneasily. Panic explodes from the possibility of ruining everything, but she remembers the box tucked inside her pocket.
“I brought you a present!” Jisoo exclaims.
Jennie’s jaw drops when Jisoo whips out the box, perched on her open palms in all its misshapen glory. Her cat-like eyes dart between the box and Jisoo, leaning away as if the gift can’t be meant for her. Jisoo carries the gift closer with a gentle smile, and a beat passes before Jennie takes it with much hesitancy.
“You didn’t have to,” Jennie murmurs in a faux reproach, contrary to her twinkling eyes and curled lips. “I didn’t get you anything.”
“It’s okay. I had leftovers from berry picking, so I thought I’d make you something.” Jisoo puffs her chest.
Jennie giggles and elbows her arm playfully. “So romantic.”
Jisoo fights the burning sensation creeping up her neck and loses horrendously. Thankfully, the Air is too occupied admiring the gift to notice. When she opens the box, Jisoo bites down on her lip and winces from sheer nervousness.
“I’m not the best at crafting —”
Jennie gasps in utter astonishment, plucking the accessory from the cotton lining: a thick ring of sage fern fiber, garnished with radiate white petals of the moonglow flower. She holds it up high, the petals catching the moonlight in its dazzle.
“— it was a bit hard to get the shape, and the ring was so tiny so putting on the petals was really difficult —”
She stares at Jisoo.
“— I’ve only done crafts once or twice. The weaving could’ve been a lot better but I’m not very good at it as you might tell —”
“I love it.”
The revelation robs the rest of Jisoo’s rambles and leaves gaping and a speechless mess. Jennie doesn’t pay to heed any attention, blissfully unaware of what her simple words had caused, continuing to marvel at the creation between her two fingers, the rim as a lens perfectly framing the full moon. The lumination tints her blonde streaks stark white.
“Really?” Jisoo manages to croak out.
“Yes, it’s beautiful.” Jennie regards Jisoo’s dumbstruck expression with a gleeful smile, gums and all. She sticks the ring on her engagement finger, wiggling it high to admire it with the backing of the night sky. “You even got the size correct.”
“It was easy because sometimes we hold hands,” Jisoo says bashfully. “And your fingers are similar to mine so I used my fingers for reference.”
Jennie a brow, the corner of her lips tugging. “We’re like a married couple now.” She grabs Jisoo’s hand and holds it against her chest, crying, “I do!”
Jisoo laughs and shoves the girl by the shoulder who topples on her back dramatically. The ocean breeze isn’t enough to cool her hot face, so she turns away in hopes the red isn’t too prominent. That’d be embarrassing. “You wish,” she retorts to save face, although it isn’t very convincing.
“I would totally marry you,” Jennie says, propping herself up by the elbows. “I wish that our tribes were friends so I can do that. Do you not want me as a wife? I’ll be a good one. Can’t say the same for you though.”
Jisoo’s smile falters. In the midst of the joy every visit to this cliff brings, slipping her mind is the reason why they had to meet in secret in the first place. In this world of isolated societies, there’s no telling when they’ll ever agree to make peace and reconstruct the trust that was destroyed years ago. That begs the question, how is it possible that Jisoo and Jennie have become good friends? They are from enemy tribes, yet they click so well. If they can do it, everybody else can too. It must be possible; it must.
“What’s with the long face? I’m just pulling your leg; I’m sure you’ll make a great wife. I’ll craft a ring for you too,” Jennie insists, poking Jisoo’s arm. “So we can match.”
“I’d like that. Ah! I also have this.” Jisoo fishes out the compass and fumbles to find the right side up. To her luck, it looks the same on either side when it’s closed, discovered when she opens it upside down. “It’s a compass — the thing you were talking about the other night. My friend had one and he gave it to me.”
“Oh!” Jennie bolts upright and scoots herself closer, just so for their knees to bump. “Perfect. I couldn’t get my hands on one because they kept asking why I needed one. It isn’t in my field.”
“Why don’t you lie? I mean, I only told half the truth to my friend. I said I’m going to look for a big tree.”
“I don’t like lying. I’m not very good at it anyway,” Jennie admits with endearing honesty. “People say they can see right through my lies.”
“Oh. Now that we have this, what’s next?”
“We look for the tree.”
“Obviously not.” Jennie rolls her eyes. “We need to prepare. Supplies, food, clothes, whatnot. Next night.”
“Of course I knew that,” Jisoo huffs. “I just got excited.”
Jennie’s gaze, a small twinkle in the brown hue, linger on Jisoo before she falls on her back, fanning her hair out onto the grass. Her hand pats the spot beside her, inviting Jisoo to follow suit. As she lays down, Jisoo adjusts herself accordingly so there remains a mere inch between their arms. Close enough for the warmth, far enough so it isn’t weird; still, the minuscule space tingles with electricity. The grass tickles the nape of her neck, but it doesn’t bother her as much as it should.
“I wonder if we can touch the stars,” Jennie muses under her breath, reaching up to the sky. “They seem so far away.”
“Can’t you fly up there?”
“I’ve tried, but not even the most powerful Air members can reach that high. It’s impossible.”
Jisoo turns her head to study Jennie’s side profile. Long lashes, button nose, parted lips, and stars in her wistful eyes that shimmer and shine into a million constellations in under a second. Light breaths match the slow rising of her chest, a sound that is no match for the ocean waves below for it is more calming, more profound, more serene, more Jennie. Why do the adults warn against the Air tribe and label them as dangerous? They obviously never met Jennie.
Thinking about it, Jisoo doesn’t know much about history. Those naps might’ve not been worth it, the regret evermore as the thought begins nagging at her mind.
“Nothing is impossible,” Jisoo says, brushing the back of Jennie’s hand. She likes tracing the scabs and scars, especially the one at the base of her pinky. It has no particular shape as far as she can discern — a tally of four. “I think it can happen. One day we can do it and touch the stars.”
“You’re too optimistic for your own good,” Jennie chuckles bitterly. “It’s always the same cycle of disparity. No one agrees with each other and no one wants to agree with each other. They’re too blinded by their pride that they can’t see the beauty the world gives. Their animosity overcomes the possibilities they can achieve if they love. Like touching the stars.”
Jisoo grimaces from Jennie’s philosophy. Cynical, contrary to Jisoo’s optimistic faith that wavers with each passing day when she misses Jennie. But Jennie isn’t pessimistic on purpose; it is simply the truth.
Truth is hard to swallow.
“One day,” Jisoo murmurs, a last effort to convince herself.
Jennie turns her palm up to hold Jisoo’s hand. The big ring makes in-between the fingers cumbersome, but the icy warmth is all that matters.
“One day,” Jennie echoes.
It doesn’t work; it only becomes more suffocating. Laying here, it doesn’t take long for this heavy feeling to become unbearable. Thus, Jisoo does what she does best. She sits up and asks, “Have you ever touched the ocean?”
“A few times.” Jennie sits up too. “Whenever I get the chance to come down from the mountains, I’d dip my feet in. It feels nice.”
“I’ve never touched the sea,” Jisoo admits. “I’ve only touched freshwater, like lakes and rivers. There’s a really cool lake I like to visit. I dip my feet in it too, but I’d wager it feels different in the sea because the water is moving.”
“Really? I’d figured you have touched it at least once since you’re nearby.”
“I never thought about the ocean that much —”
Until I met you.
Jisoo looks away, aware of Jennie’s perusing gaze, to the horizon. Her heart knots. The words aren’t strange — far from it — yet they feel too intimate to say out loud.
“Do you want to go down there? I’ll show you.”
Jisoo’s eyes light up. “Really?”
Jennie bobs her head. “Really.”
“Yes!” Jisoo pounces onto her feet. “How do we get down there?” She inches toward the edge and peers over, the updraft speeding icicles in her face and blowing her hair wild. “Do we climb down?”
“Did you forget I can fly?”
“Ah, right,” Jisoo mumbles meekly.
Jennie chuckles and dusts off her hands once she stands up. “Hold on to me, okay? Like this.”
It’s absolutely felonious how easy it is for Jennie to wrap her arm around Jisoo’s waist and guide her arm around her shoulders, subsequently smooth. Felonious in the way that she doesn’t have a clue how flustered she makes Jisoo when the gestures pull them in closer, so close Jisoo’s breath hitches. If Jennie hasn’t seen the red in her cheeks yet, she definitely sees it now.
“Just like this. Got it?” Jennie breathes.
Nodding weakly, Jisoo opts to fixate on the mole below Jennie’s brow because her gaze is far too intense to hold and cardiac arrest might ensue if she attempts to do so. With a wicked grin, Jennie bends down and sweeps Jisoo off her feet with one swift motion, earning a yelp.
“Ah!” Jisoo squeaks, inadvertently hugging Jennie tighter and burying her face into the crook of her neck for a faceful of gale and supple skin.
“Relax.” The vibrations of Jennie’s laugh tickles. “We’re still on the ground.”
“I knew that,” Jisoo acquiesced and peels her face off. Considering the situation, why is Jisoo still in Jennie’s arms? The embarrassment is too much to handle. Just let her jump off the cliff at this rate.
“Are you scared of heights, dirt girl?” Jennie continues to tease.
“W — well —” she stammers, in face of the smirk and everything else. “When you spend your whole life on the ground, it’s scary to be anywhere else…”
Jisoo squeezes her eyes shut in anticipation of another tease, but what comes is only a lighthearted laugh. She peeks through one eye to a toothless smile.
“Did I already tell you how adorable you are when you pout?” Jennie coos. “Don’t worry, I’ll take it slow.”
Although reluctant and uneasy about the idea of flight, the way Jennie cradles her offers a sense of security. The only thing she could do is to trust Jennie, so Jisoo’s eyes clamp shut as her stomach flips and churns from the sensation of leaving solid earth for the first time.
“We’re a few feet off the ground. Remember to breathe.”
At the sound of Jennie’s soothing voice, Jisoo exhales slowly, but it does little to calm her palpitating heart. The cool wind kisses her hot skin.
“Look at me, Jisoo.”
Her eyes open a crack — just enough to see Jennie’s solicitous expression and millions of stars that are a blur in the background because her vision tunnels on Jennie and Jennie alone, too scared to look anywhere else and too captivated to even consider looking anywhere else.
“It isn’t that bad, right?” Jennie says with a small smile. “Do you want to see what I see?”
Jisoo shakes her head wildly.
Jennie chuckles. “Try to take a look; just one.”
“I’d rather not.”
“Come on. Don’t worry, I have you. You’re safe with me.”
As much as Jisoo wants to refuse, they’re still in the air and Jennie doesn’t seem to want to go down anytime soon until she looks. The desire to have her feet on the ground as soon as possible gets the best of her, so she gulps and finally tears her eyes away from Jennie to overlook the entire forest.
“Wow,” Jisoo breathes.
A thick blanket of endless green, it’s an ocean of its own with the canopy swaying with the breeze and strips of moonlight traveling through in periodic waves. As far as Jisoo can see, there’s no chance to spy anything that lies beneath; not even the village can be spotted. The contour of soaring mountains looms in the distance — taller than even the tallest trees, they are the biggest things Jisoo has ever seen — rings of inky clouds shrouding the apexes. She didn’t expect them to be so close; Jennie and her are practically neighbors. Is the world that small? That means there should be no problem finding the Tree of the Universe.
“Beautiful, right?” Jennie asks, studying Jisoo’s awed expression.
“Yeah,” Jisoo sighs. Tentatively, she eases one arm off of Jennie’s shoulders to reach out to the heavens. The breeze wafts between her fingertips. They wiggle, every nerve soaking in all of the alien feelings. Incredible, so incredible that all fear of this very thing is long forgotten.
“We’re going to go down now. Hold on.”
Her stomach lurches when their elevation dips. The wind picks up as they duck below the plateau to the escarpment of sand. After a lithe landing on the cream surface sparkling like glass, Jennie crouches to lower Jisoo onto her feet. Jisoo’s feet sink in the sand, soft like soil, except damper. She stumbles from the lumpiness, but a hand swiftly catches her arm to hold her upright.
“Careful.” Jennie’s melodious laugh rings, louder than the roars of crashing waves that are a mere distance in front of them. Froth splashes and sprinkles on their skin like rain. The salt smells stronger.
Jisoo’s ears burn and she clears , hastily brushing the wild hairs out of her face that unraveled from her bows. Her linen dress can only do so much, the thin fabric no match for the winds of the sea. “I’m not used to this,” she confesses.
Jennie snickers, kicking off her shoes before gently tugging Jisoo along by the wrist. The sand transitions from its creamy shade to a caramel brown, from soft to muddy, as they near the water. The icy water crawls up the coastline and basks their feet in its foam before ceasing away, tickling their soles as it recedes. Jisoo sharply inhales from the cold, then giggles from the sensation, her toes squirming, until the hand holding her wrist slips away. At the same instance she looks up to find where Jennie had gone, a splash of water barrages her from head to toe.
“Jennie!” Jisoo screams, palms out to protect herself from the next splash.
Jennie laughs and skips away deeper into the water, her trousers rolled up to her thighs. She taunts with a shake of her finger. She succeeds because Jisoo’s competitiveness flares. Jisoo recovers from her shock and exclaims, “You’re asking for it!”
Mellow giggles of the two youths resonate within the rocks as they chase one another around the small beach. Jennie dodges all of Jisoo’s attacks in a nimble dance, whereas Jisoo stumbles clumsily from the water’s weight and ever-changing sand. With only the wall of the cliff and the vast ocean before them, there’s no one to tell them otherwise; to tell them they can’t be; to tell them that they, at this very moment, are impossible. Because it is possible, and Jennie and Jisoo are living proof of it. All they have to do is believe.
“Come back here —!” Jisoo’s voice cuts short when something slimy wraps around her ankle and trips her. “Ah! Something is touching me —!”
Before Jisoo can receive a faceful of saltwater, the wind rushes, and Jennie appears before her in a flurry of black and blonde hair and everything beautiful, catching her by the waist, and they spin from the momentum. Jisoo is breathless when they come to a stop, finally managing to stand on her own two feet. She holds onto Jennie by the shoulders as Jennie looks equally as nonplussed. They stare at each other, uneven breaths and all, while the tides lap against their legs and drench the hems of their clothes.
“You’re so clumsy,” Jennie chides with a click of her tongue and an amused twinkle in her eyes. She releases Jisoo. Yet, the space between them is still small. Neither of them step back or shows any indication they want to step back.
“I couldn’t see,” Jisoo pouts, raising the foot that was touched by the slime. “Something touched me and it was icky.”
“Icky?” Jennie frowns and wades around the water. “This?” she asks, fishing out a clump of dark leaves.
“Is it slimy?”
“It is that.” Jisoo crosses to Jennie and pokes the perpetrator, rubbing the slime between her fingertips. She scrunches her nose. “This definitely touched me. What is it?”
“I don’t know,” Jennie says truthfully, holding the plant high and rotating it in deep wonder. “Maybe a tree?”
“In the ocean?”
Jennie shrugs and tosses the clump back into the water. It floats for a moment, then is carried away by the waves and sinks under the foam. “Who knows; maybe there’s a sea forest under all that. Be more careful, alright? I don’t want you hurting yourself.”
“Uh, okay,” Jisoo replies dumbly, too ashamed to say anything else.
Jennie offers a reassuring smile and looks out toward the ocean. Jisoo follows her gaze. Is there really a forest underneath there? How can a forest survive underwater? Does it look like a forest on land? Perhaps a Water member will know; she’ll make sure to ask if she ever meets one.
“I wish it was daytime,” Jisoo says. “I want to show you around the forest.”
Jennie smiles — a sad one that doesn’t entirely reach her eyes — and regards Jisoo. “It’s okay. This is enough.”
“But I want to show you it, like how you showed me the sea.”
From Jisoo’s determination, Jennie is struck silent. Her eyes search Jisoo, a hint of dubiety in them. “One day.”
Better than nothing. “One day,” Jisoo repeats with a firm nod. “I’ll give you the moon.”
A promise that should bring hope only brings an odd pang to Jisoo’s chest. She frowns and shakes it off; she isn’t ready for the fun to die out just yet. Her lips tug into a mischievous smirk and she kicks with all her might, sending a huge splash of water all over Jennie. She sticks out her tongue before dashing away from the dumbfounded Air.
Is it really better than nothing? Jisoo wants to believe it is so, but even empty promises would’ve been better.
Because when the time comes, it would’ve made this hurt less.
One day, one day, one day.
Maybe if I say it a thousand times more
It’ll come a little faster.