"So what are your plans after the contract exclusivity ends, Iris-shi?" inquired the interviewer and host on the recording of IZ*ONE's last variety show appearance.
The American girl who now boasted rich honey locks tapped her chin in a thinking gesture. "Hm, it's a surprise," she replied teasingly with a smile and wink at the camera behind the host.
The middle aged woman laughed. "Always keeping us on our toes, this Iris-shi. It's always a surprise with you. A pleasant one of course. We'll be watching you and all of IZ*ONE as the first Produce group to have a long contract with a non-exclusive period in the last year."
She turned toward the other members with a twinkle in her eyes. "Does anyone have plans they'd like to share with the audience?"
Kim Chaewon lightly raised her hand. After getting the okay gesture from the host, she softly relayed, "Eunbi and I were part of a team that auditioned for Produce 48. We haven't been able to talk or see our good friends since the show, so this would be a great time to finally reconnect with our friends and family."
The woman nodded slowly in sympathetic understanding. "Yes, I imagine that idols have it tough not being able to touch base with their loved ones. And especially for you all because you're an international group. Even though you have Japanese members, you really made a big splash in Japan with your outstanding sales!
"But because of how much you traveled around the globe, that success comes at a cost. This upcoming shift in promotions will definitely be a good time to rest. And you certainly deserve it all."
The host ended with a sincere smile that warmed all of the girl's hearts. Indeed, it had been a great journey and experience. But while they enjoyed and were grateful for their success, that same success made it increasingly more important to live up to expectations and stay in the spotlight.
For Iris, it had been a non-stop rollercoaster ride of which she was finally glad to get off of and enjoy the rest of the attractions. As much as she loved pursuing music and dance, and she never once regretted voluntarily jumping into the brutal physically, mentally, and emotionally draining task of being an idol, she could only take so much as a human.
MNET worked the group to the bone. After all, their Produce groups had always been money makers, and IZ*ONE had been no less, possibly more in some regards globally. Perhaps it was because the group had a trusty, fluent English speaker, but it allowed the group to break into other countries more successfully than without Iris.
Japan was almost a given with the Japanese members, but IZ*ONE became popular back in the States along with parts of Europe and South America. Iris never hesitated to translate and take on interviews with YouTubers or music organizations in the U.S. Their KCON NY show back in 2019 was a smash.
Upon this memory, Irish sighed ruefully in the team van driving back to the dorms after the variety show recording. She really was exhausted after everything that had happened in the last two years. Now, it felt like all the exertion and fatigue was finally catching up to her and wracking every part of her body inside and out.
She closed her eyes and let her mind drift off a tangent of the KCON NY show on July 6th, 2019. After their Japanese track "Buenos Aires" dropped June 12th along with promotions in that country, BTS had been in Europe for their "Speak Yourself" Tour.
When the boy group made it to Japan for their Osaka concert on July 6th, IZ*ONE had already left Japan for a concert on the same day. Iris regretted the chance at possibly reuniting with her close friends and mentors outside of South Korea.
Even if it was for a short while, she reckoned it would've have been great fun. Perhaps they could've even secretly done sightseeing and partake in the street food vendors and other mysteries of Japan. But alas, they just missed encountering one another.
And that included the short time Iris delayed leaving Japan. She personally stayed back to learn from Japanese producers. Iris got the OK from their management to directly participate in the creation of one of their next Japanese songs. And later on, she could even create a Korean piece for the group too.
This would all come a year into their contract, so naturally, Iris felt it was about time if they were to do it. She was thrilled at being allowed to flex her composing juices once again. Since creating Dionysus, she hadn't finalized any new work by that point.
Now that the exclusivity period was fast approaching, Iris had increasingly been able to compose more. She now had some relatively fleshed out tunes under her belt. And it was all in good time too, for Big Hit had big plans that April when the contract shifted to non-exclusivity.
This type of contract was a first in the K-Pop scene. However, most people presumed it entailed the girls being able to promote in the groups they were in before Produce 48. Well, that is, if any of them had debuted before.
Since no one was in non-disbanded group, the public was unsure what actions the company and IZ*ONE girls would take. If the variety show, which would air in a week after the studio recording, gave any insight, the girls would take the time to recoup their energies after a packed, relentless schedule.
"Gah, I'm so glad we'll be partially free in a few weeks. The burnout just jumped on me," announced Iris breathily as she flopped onto the bed.
"Same, so much as happened in the year and a half. I can still remember Produce 48 vividly, but at the same time, it feels like it was so far away," commented Ahn Yujin pensively.
Nako Yabuki bobbed her head in agreement. "I'm going to visit Japan as soon as April 30th comes around."
Yena, Wonyoung, Hitomi, Sakura, and Chaeyeon all nodded inside Iris's dorm room which she shared with Yena and Hitomi. That day in 2020 marked the first day of non-exclusivity, exactly one year and sixth months since their debut on October 29th, 2018.
Although Nako had spoken in Japanese, the girls had been together long enough to develop a strange form of communication. None of them could speak the other language fluently, but they were confidently conversational to the point of being able to talk in their own language and be understood by the other linguistic party.
"And maybe you could take us with you so that we can finally tour Japan properly!" chimed Yujin.
"Show us the best places to eat!" exclaimed Yena excitedly, making Iris chuckle. "You're going to eat too much!"
Yena huffed cutely, "So? I'll just exercise before we have to promote again!"
Iris winked. "I never said you'll get fat, little one."
Yena smiled like a kitten and pounced on the older girl.
"As for me, I'm just going to sleep a lot." Wonyoung stretched her arms out in anticipated contentment.
"Yes, you need sleep to grow dear maknae," agreed Chaeyeon with a teasing smile. Her "girlfriend" Sakura squeezed her eyes in a smile at the playful remark.
"Huh? I don't want to grow anymore!" protested the so-called giant baby who was taller than most of her teammates. All of the girls giggled at her response.
Just as Wonyoung opened her mouth to speak again, Jo Yuri called from the other room. She, Eunbi, Chaewon, and Minjoo were on kitchen and cooking duty for the night. The rest of the girls saved the chitchat for dinner. Their plans for the upcoming break would all come true very soon. So for now, they'd enjoy each other's company before going off on their own.
This jump from "real-time" to future and time skip is the perfect transition point from Volume 1 to 2! I settled on a loose sketch of immediate events the last few days. So look out for more updates in the coming days!
[ 03.29.20 Addition - Created a Discord server, join at:
Hangout, chat, be notified of book updates~ :) ]
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