The elimination soon came to a close, and 30 trainees and 28 trainees had to say good bye to one another. Iris was truly heartbroken to separate from her friends. Of those she had to bid farewell, they included Kim Choyeon and Sae Murase.
But the tears wouldn't stop there. The concept song members had to be rearranged with only five members in each. That meant that some members would be kicked out in order to fill up the missing spots in other songs.
Luckily, Iris was voted by those in the Rumor group to stay, but Lee Chaeyeon in 'I Am' wasn't as lucky. When Iris heard about this, she nearly flipped. As it was, she was already concerned about Chaeyeon after she dropped in rank, but now Iris was even more worried.
"Unnie, I heard you're the leader of 1000% now…" said Iris to Chaeyeon just between the two of them in the hallway outside of the practice rooms.
Chaeyeon nodded with a half-hearted smile, knowing that Iris was upset about what had happened. "It's okay, unnie. Haha, I heard you're the leader of your group too!"
Iris smiled at the girl who was struggling to remain strong and push through her unfortunate circumstances. She too had experienced that awful feeling of being kicked out of her original team. Iris patted Chaeyeon's arm consolingly before brightening up and responding, "Yes! Eunbi decided I might as well be leader in name rather than her side kick leader!"
The younger girl chortled. "Side kick leader haha! I guess you and Eunbi have switched roles now! But you're no longer the center?"
Iris chuckled. "Yeah, it turned out that way. I don't mind though because I was a center already in the previous round. We don't have that much time before the finals, so it's would be nice if everyone could try out the center position at least once."
Chaeyeon lightly punched Iris's arm. "You."
"You." Iris winked. That single world conveyed everything left in their hearts. They understood one another to be very similar. Both were multi-talented, but both struggled with the Korean society criticizing how they looked, and their hard work often went unnoticed along with their cheerful personalities that didn't stop at helping others.
But slowly and surely, the national producers were coming to realize this somewhat hidden talents. They had recognized Iris, but now she felt that Chaeyeon would soon be recognized for hers as the leader of 'I Am.' She had a gut feeling that being kicked out but rising from the ashes of misfortune would work to Chaeyeon's benefit as it had for Iris.
The days passed by, and the hour of the stage performance had arrived. Iris looked at her group. Kwon Eunbi, Lee Sian, Han Chowon, and Kim Sihyeon. Yes, they were ready. They would take first place and the benefit votes in the last performance to be broadcasted before the third elimination.
'Mom and Dad….I wonder you're watching this? Have you been watching me since I left more than a year ago? I wonder how you would both feel seeing me… Are you both doing okay?'
Perhaps she was starting to feel sentimental again before she went out on the stage. Iris remembered her parents vividly after pushing them to the back of her mind for so long. It might've been because this next performance might startle them if they were indeed following her on Produce 48. She hoped that they were and that they would be proud.
With a determined inhale and exhale, Iris stepped onto the stage. It was time to dance again. It was time to sing again. Team Rumor would win, she would make sure of it.
The dimmed lights flashed brightly as the music began, indicating the start of their performance.
…toxic, sink into me
I'm dizzy because of you
And I fall for you again
…So say it to me again
Rumor rumor rumor
Gossip gossip gossip
…You said you love me
And with that, the song came to a close. 'These lyrics… they truly describe everything I had faced on this show so far.' Various images flashed by in Iris's head. Although she blocked most of it out when they had occurred, the remarks about her 'too tanned' skin, her sharp, angular jawline not being V-shaped enough, her Chinese-Thai ethnicity along with her American nationality and being a BTS fan previously…
All the whispers, rumors and gossip had circulated even after they initially died down when Iris proved herself on Produce 48. They laid low, hushed but still existent and critical. Yet despite it all, she loved the stage. She loved singing, dancing, and rapping. She loved music. She loved it all. Iris would let nothing stand in her way.
After they settled down onto the bench in front of the results screen, Iris sucked in her breath in anticipation again. 'Here we go again,' she thought mirthfully as the screen ticked down to zero.
Main vocal: Kwon Eunbi - 71
Sub vocal 1: Lee Sian - 48
Sub vocal 2: Iris Huang - 67
Rapper 1: Han Chowon - 45
Rapper 2: Kim Sihyeon - 39
"Eunbi-unnie!" Iris cheered and squeezed the older girl in a bear hug. She didn't care that she had lost by a few votes and placed second. Actually, in her silly mind, she added 6+7 together to form 13, her previous rank. Perhaps 13 was actually a lucky number for Iris.
Eunbi laughed and ruffled the top of Iris's head. She instantly jerked back with a horrified expression at her messed up hair. "Unnie!" The older girl winked with a playful smirk at the younger girl's outcry.
Although they didn't know how this score stood up against the other teams, everyone felt that their main vocal Eunbi had truly deserved the first place in their team. They couldn't be any more satisfied with how their performance went.
After the end of the concept evaluation, the trainees gathered together to hear which group had won the first place. Lee Seung Gi didn't announce the groups in order of placement.
1000% - 138
I Am - 89
To Reach You - 242
Somehow, Iris felt gratified that the 'I Am' team had gotten the least amount of votes. She felt it was proper that Lee Chaeyeon's new team had garnered more votes than the old team that had kicked her out.
However, these two teams had received way less votes than the 'To Reach You' team. Since the results screen previously showed their scores without adding them together, Iris had to calculate the total herself.
But the numbers hadn't been shown for long, so she wasn't sure if her total was correct. All she knew was that it was around 260-270. Iris had to wait to see how much higher the other teams' scores might be.
See You Again - 222
Rumor - 270
Rollin' Rollin' - 266
For a moment, Iris blanked. 'We did it?!?! Wait, isn't this the third time that my team won?!?! Shoot!' She gasped and placed her hands over her mouth. Later on, Iris would come to know that her shocked reaction would become a new meme. She would be dubbed the Irishook, the girl version of BTS's Jungkook's shocked Jungshook expression.
Meanwhile, the BTS members were beginning to prepare for their Love Yourself world tour. They and TXT had just finished the tenth episode of Produce 48 showing all the concept evaluation performances and the final result. Everyone felt confident that Iris was in secure hands since her team had won by a mere 4 votes to take first.
As V was exiting the Big Hit entertainment building after practice, he recognized a familiar face entering through the doors.
"Hm?" He leaned forward and peered at the brunette in front of him closer against the blinding light bouncing off the glass nearby.
The startled girl widened her hazel eyes at the sudden closeness of the handsome man.
The proportion for individual votes follows the original Produce 48 Rumor team. Although Rollin' Rollin' had won 1st, Rumor was one of the closest teams to the winning score. *cough* Let's be real, Rumor should've won the concept round. *whistles and looks away*
Iris took Sae Murase's spot in Rumor because without the 105,000 benefit votes that Sae actually won in reality, she would've never entered the top 30.
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