Cindy tipped her head back to scrutinize the girl. It didn't seem like she asked with bad intentions. If anything, it was the ones behind the brown-eyed girl that perked up suspiciously at the mention of Iris.
"Yes, she is my cousin," replied Cindy slowly.
The girl smiled tentatively, a little intimated by the strong auras of the two sitting girls. 'I'm standing above them, but why does it feel like they're standing above me instead?'
"That is... ahem." Her eyes quaked, and she rubbed her hands as she lightly coughed. Then, she suddenly bowed deeply and quickly exclaimed, "I'm a big fan of Iris Huang on Produce 48!!" And then she darted out of the room through the wide open doors in embarrassment.
Both Cindy and Jiyeon blinked in puzzlement. "What was that about?" asked Jiyeon first. "A fan? Huh."
Cindy scratched her head. "I guess Iris popular?" The remark prompted Jiyeon to nod and reply, "Yeah, looks like. I was encouraged to join Big Hit's audition after seeing Iris in Produce 48, so I imagine that most of the girls here were too."
Instead of lingering on the topic, they went back to practicing. It was only a few days left before the evaluation. Jiyeon was a dancer and rapper, so she decided to demonstrate both since the rules didn't limit vocals to just singing.
As for Cindy, she was still struggling. Since she had the most experience in dancing, she chose to dance for now. But, she felt her performance was severely lacking. If left as is, she didn't believe she'd make the cut.
'But what can I do? I'm a mediocre singer. I can't rap. Would I be the talent hole in a group?' She bit her bottom lip and chewed in distracted thought. A slap to her back jolted her out of brooding.
"Stop thinking so deeply on it and practice until you drop. You came this far, so stop doubting already," said Jiyeon sternly but supportively.
"Sound like me with Iris." Cindy half sighed and laughed. 'Wasn't this me just a year ago? I was saying the same sort of thing to Iris, and here I am facing the same situation on the other side.' She shook her head in wry amusement. 'Yeah, it's time to snap out of this. This isn't yourself.' She gripped her fists in resolution.
For the rest of the day, Cindy sweated away in the dance practice room. She was reminded of J-Hope's lines in BTS's song, 'Dope,' about sweating and practicing away one's youth in the dance room. The thought seemed rather ironic to her, but no matter the crazy situation she put and found herself in, she would forcefully follow this path. If it took years, then so be it.
Cindy was the last one practicing that day. The other girls had left to go home. Big Hit wasn't providing dorms for temporary trainees. But she didn't care about the late time because she housed nearby.
In the middle of dancing, a man entered the room which was surprisingly still dimly lit. Seeing the backside of the girl in front of the mirrors under a single light, his heart stirred ever so slightly at her desperate efforts.
"You should go to sleep now so that you can get rest."
Cindy turned at the sound of the deep voice and tripped over her feet in the process. The startled man rushed over to help her up. But Cindy waved her hands and hastily pulled herself up. She didn't sprain any limbs thankfully in her surprise at seeing the man.
"Sorry to startle you," said Taehyung as he withdrew his hand. After a second's pause, he continued what he was going to say earlier. "Practicing is good, but it's not good to overwork yourself like this and hurt your health." He hesitated again when the girl merely blinked at him. "Iris wouldn't want to see you like this, I'm sure."
Finally, Cindy got her voice back. Since she hadn't seen any BTS members since she first entered the Big Hit building, she didn't expect one walking through the door tonight. They were busy preparing for their Love Yourself Tour. It was the last week before the week of their first LY concert in Korea.
"Thank you," she managed to utter gratefully with a little bow of the head. Taehyung smiled a little and nodded before he lightly waved his hand and left.
After he departed, Cindy released a long breath. Her mind was in a muddle. 'If I weren't in this situation, I would've jumped at the chance to talk to him. But I'm unsettled in my heart...' She clutched her chest. 'Iris, I really miss you. Tell me, what should I do?'
Cindy looked up at the dark ceiling and then traced her eyes back to the lone light still on. 'Thank you V. Thanks BTS. Iris. I'll properly see and thank you all soon.' She slowly walked over to the door and turned off the light.
The days quickly passed with endless practice and no sight of BTS again. The hour of the evaluation came. 'It's now or never,' thought Cindy. Jiyeon clasped the other girl's hand and gave it an encouraging shake. "You'll do great. Don't worry, no one's going home today."
Cindy smiled gratefully, but a snicker behind her broke the mood. Turning around, she met the eyes of two girls huddled together. They smirked haughtily upon catching Cindy's attention.
"Tch." Cindy and Jiyeon simultaneously clicked their tongues. They looked at one another in mild surprise before chuckling softly. Birds of a feather, flock together. The saying was true for them as well as the two other girls. Cindy was glad to have Jiyeon as a friend.
However, Cindy would often catch the big, brown-eyed girl peeking at her since the first day she approached them about Iris. It turned out that her name was Heo Ahreum. But before Cindy could say anything or even approach the girl, Ahreum would run off. It thoroughly confused her, so she finally just let the girl stare as much she wanted. Jiyeon joked that Cindy had an admirer; even though, they both knew that Ahreum was a self-proclaimed fan of Iris.
But other than that strangely shy girl and the two snickering girls, the rest of the trainees didn't bother Cindy. Once in a while though, some of them would ask Jiyeon for advice on some lyrics or dance moves. It seemed that Jiyeon was well respected by the trainees for some reason. 'Probably because she's so competent.' Cindy would internally sigh when she thought about this.
The trainees performed in the arbitrary order that they first arrived to Big Hit because of their registration number. Thus, when it was Cindy's turn, she was the last one.
"Number ten, Cindy Angier."
After watching everyone's performance, Cindy couldn't deny her nervousness. All of the girls were indeed talented, the kind that any entertainment company would want. But they didn't all perform perfectly as some did have hiccups. This didn't lighten her burden any less, however.
She glanced at Jiyeon who gave her a nod. 'Flawless as usual. Give me some of your talent and composure, will ya?' Cindy laughed to herself as she stepped forward. She never thought she'd see the day when she found a no-fuss girl more laid-back than herself. But that girl came at the right time. Jiyeon was her lone support in this solitary endeavor.
As she gazed at the judges, teachers and peers alike, Cindy stilled her mind. 'This is for you. Iris, Jiyeon... and yes, BTS. I'll show the world that I can stand beside you all as an equal.' She didn't want to drag anyone down.
And so, with this determination, she began.
It was neither her best nor her worst. It was enough for Cindy to be satisfied with her performance. Whether this was enough to pass was another question. 'It's up to the judges now...' She looked at the other girls. They didn't look impressed. Well, except for Jiyeon who gave a thumbs up and Ahreum who always looked awed by Cindy.
Afterwards, the teachers and trainees filled out and submitted an assessment form for each girl. 'Kim Jiyeon, 10/10... excellent dance and rap,' thought Cindy while writing down scores and comments. 'Hm? What is your personal impression of this trainee after knowing her for one week?' She slowly deciphered the hangul of this last question. 'I wonder why they're asking this? Because of the last girl group who failed?' Cindy furtively glanced around. 'Will they write nice things just to be safe? Or will they use this opportunity to degrade others? Even honesty could backfire...' She tapped the end of her pen to her chin. 'Well, let's just be honest. I will bet that they would want a cooperative group instead of a fake nice one too.'
Once all of the forms were collected, the staff revealed that the terms of the second evaluation would be given after everyone received their final performance scores. It took the staff just about an hour or two to compile the scores and hand them out individually.
Cindy clasped the thick envelope and hugged it to her chest for a moment. Then, she carefully took it out and read the contents. Her eyes popped open when she realized that all of the papers were the forms filled out by each trainee about her. She quickly shuffled through them and saw that the last paper was the teacher evaluation with the final combined score at the bottom.
'What the heck?! My total score is three out of ten?! These other trainees bombed my score to three after the teachers gave me five! Who did this?!' Cindy aggressively searched through each of the assessment forms and mentally noted the names of all the girls who gave her a score of one.
"Haah..." breathed Cindy heavily. As expected, the only girls who gave her a decent score was Jiyeon and Ahreum. 'Did all the others collude or something? This smells fishy... Although... couldn't Jiyeon give me a higher score of 6?! Pah, that honest twat. I'll have to smack her later. At least Ahreum gave me a 10. She's so weird. Uh... I guess I should think of her more nicely since she gave me a high score...'
She looked over at Jiyeon who was engrossed in reading her papers. Sneaking around to her blind side, Cindy pounced on the girl and ruffled her hair.
"Wha--!" Jiyeon jerked in surprise and quickly saved her hair from becoming too messy.
"You traitor," Cindy danced away with a playful smile and stuck out her tongue. Jiyeon dramatically narrowed her eyes and lunged at her as if to whack Cindy with the stack of paper.
"Aish! You!" Jiyeon cursed with a grin.
"Look! Ahreum 10. You 6. Boo!" complained Cindy with a mock frown, making the other girl laugh.
"Sorry, I didn't know that the staff would give the forms out directly to everyone otherwise I would've..." Jiyeon coughed sheepishly. She felt a little bad for being bluntly honest in scoring, but Cindy merely laughed. "It's okay!"
'If anything, you were generous compared to these other girls...' Cindy's eyes darkened.
Longer chapter today. While Produce 48 is wrapping up, Cindy is going through her own set of evaluations like Iris. All of the events, along with more BTS and TXT, will be tied together in the next chapter.
I'm starting my full-time internship tomorrow, so with that and visiting my sick dog, updates won't always be daily. But I'll try my best to squeeze daily writing into my schedule.
[ 03.29.20 Addition - Created a Discord server, join at:
Hangout, chat, be notified of book updates~ :) ]
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