The girls followed the female staff members to a medium-large sized room which looked like a lounge of sorts. A flatscreen TV marked the front and center and was surrounded by couches on top of cozy carpets. Cindy didn't expect such a room to exist in the Big Hit building.
But what she didn't expect most of all was BTS sitting on the couches. The other trainees too were shocked beyond belief. After all, BTS had just finished their first concerts for their Love Yourself World Tour starting in Seoul, South Korea, on August 25th and 26th. They thought that with a tight schedule, BTS would already be in Los Angeles, the second location for the next concert on September 5th.
Currently, it was August 31, 2018.
'Wait...' A sudden realization crept up in Cindy's mind. 'Isn't today--?!'
Before she came to any conclusion, the staff member informed them that they'd all be watching the last episode of Produce 48. BTS always made sure to watch the show, and they came specifically back to the Big Hit building instead of flying out to LA so that they could watch it with the new potential girl trainees.
Because BTS personally and professionally knew Iris so well, based on the possible future plans of the company, Bang PD thought it would be wise to get their opinion on the girl trainees. Unless Iris didn't make the debut lineup, he wouldn't be able to get her to see, interact, and get to know the girl trainees. Her opinions were necessary for group cohesion.
However, hopefully she wouldn't be back any time soon to give that opinion. It was also better that Iris didn't know because her cousin had joined the company competition without her knowing. While Iris was professional, it would be hard to be unbiased while watching a family member work hard.
With her head spinning blankly, Cindy glided over to the empty couch for the girls. She nearly tripped as she rounded the corner to sit on the edge of the couch, but Jiyeon caught her before she embarrassed herself. Both girls didn't realize though that a stray hand had fleetingly stretched out to help Cindy before retracting itself in a hurry.
It was Taehyung. He hadn't seen Cindy since their last encounter when she had just entered the Big Hit building for the first time as a trainee. Regardless, he was just as curious about her now as he was then.
However, BTS had been informed of Big Hit's girl group endeavor and current competition. So Taehyung knew that Cindy had passed the first round of eliminations. They were also aware of the scoring manipulation that had occurred against her. Needless to say, along with Taehyung, the rest of the members were particularly concerned about Cindy. Family was important, so they felt obligated a little to monitor how Iris's cousin was doing.
"Hello, hello," greeted Jimin pleasantly with a small smile, not knowing how charming that small expression was to the girls. "Hiii!" Jin and J-Hope echoed one another and waved while grinning broadly. Namjoon and Jungkook greeted them modestly with polite smiles. Suga merely murmured the words of welcome. One side of his mouth curled up momentarily in a half smile. Taehyung inclined his head toward them slightly and grinned friendlily.
The starstruck girls promptly and respectfully returned BTS's greetings. Although each of them was burning to talk with the boys more, they felt the stares of the staff behind them keenly. They didn't want to mess up their opportunity to watch a TV show with superstar world idols. Additionally, the boys would be flying out to the States almost directly after Produce 48, so they had no time for chitchat.
For the duration of the show, each BTS member also watched the girl trainees to see their reactions and demeanors. At first, they thought it was odd for Bang PD to ask such a task for them. But they later understood that Bang Shihyuk was merely being cautious. A girl group at Big Hit was no small laughing matter. He was determined to prepare the girl group fully so that they'd have a seamless debut.
As for soon to be TXT, while they'd be thrown into the limelight too, there was less risk of a backlash. That was because they'd have a different amount of members compared to BTS along with an entirely different concept. Also, as a boy group, it directly made them safer than a girl group who would be more prone to rumors.
Currently, TXT was watching the music survival show in a different room. Since they hadn't debuted yet, and Bang PD was keeping news of the group tightly under-wraps, he didn't want them introduced to the girl trainees who might not all make it through in the competition.
While TXT was upset about not sharing the last episode with BTS, they understood the good intentions of their PD. When they debuted, all of the members would be a surprise as planned. In this way, no one would harass them before debut because of their connection to Big Hit and one of the most trending musical groups worldwide.
It took a while for the girl trainees to settle into watching Produce 48 alongside the shining presence of BTS, but due to the dramatic last episode and their personal interest in how Iris would fare, they all were soon caught up in the show's events.
"WAHAHA!!" Eunbi's cackles ricocheted off the walls as she tried to curb her laughter. "Unnie, why're you--!" Another peal of laughter burst forth from the girl as she watched Iris on the projector screen.
"I'm not sure if this is allowed. Did Big Hit pull some strings to allow me to audition this late? Oh wait, I'm still recording. Haha, I'll just end this here and make another audition video. Haah, I hope my voice doesn't crack..." Iris's voice on screen trailed off as she stopped the recording.
Meanwhile, the live Iris was currently hiding behind her hands. She didn't think that Big Hit and Produce 48 would actually include that blooper footage. 'I knew I should've deleted it!' But since everyone was laughing it off, she couldn't help smiling sheepishly.
Right now, the Produce trainees were viewing their audition videos. Iris, however, didn't get the chance to properly record her audition. So instead, Big Hit had sent a montage of various clips of her practicing.
Of course, since she was in her most relaxed state at her company rather than in a competition, the clips often included her being rather silly. Thus, many of the girls got a kick out of her funny quirks and occasional playfulness while dancing or singing. The last video segment that made Eunbi laugh yet again was the short self-recording Iris had made on the car ride over to the Produce building.
Those entertained included the BTS members and potential Big Hit girl trainees. In particular, Cindy was watching her intensely. 'Cuz... You've done so well.' She felt both a mixture of pride and longing while seeing Iris flourish among her peers.
The Produce trainees then read the letters they had written to themselves at the start of their journey on the show. MNET had chosen Iris's letter as one of the handful to be read and aired in the episode.
"...Even if you don't make the debut lineup, I'm proud of you for reaching the last episode. You've worked hard Iris. It's okay to take a rest sometimes. But if you do make the lineup, then-- PFT--" Iris had been on the verge of tears while reading, but she now snorted when she saw the upcoming line. "--make your hyungs and Bang Bang-nim proud. Go Big and Hit home."
Iris smiled and stopped to bow apologetically to the screen. "If Bang PD-nim gets to see this, I'm sorry for calling you Bang Bang-nim. I was feeling pretty sentimental while writing this letter, so I wrote that to make myself feel better." She laughed and made a heart with her fingers and pretended to aim for Bang Shihyuk. "Love you~" She giggled while cutely shaking the heart emphatically. "Thank you for taking a chance on me and giving me this opportunity." She paused a moment before adding, "And thank you hyungs for bumping into random things."
At this playful remark, the BTS members visibly brightened with wide grins spreading across all of their faces. They knew she was referring to how they had bumped into her first during American Hustle and then again during their Wings World Tour.
Both times had been in her home city of LA, and that was the same city they were about to fly off to in a few hours. Somehow, BTS felt a little nostalgic at the thought. It was almost like they were flying out to meet her again. But if she debuted with IZ*ONE, the name of the Produce 48 girl group, then they rarely would see her until her two and a half years contract ended.
"Iris... I hope she debuts, but then we won't see her for a long time," mumbled Jin ambivalently.
"What? So you can flirt with her more?" joked Jungkook with playful edginess. Jin spun his head at the younger boy in mock alarm and pretended to scold him. As the maknae, though, Jungkook could get away with this kind of teasing.
Except for BTS who knew the inside joke about Jin acted like a real princely flirt with Iris, everyone in the room didn't think much of this comment. Jin was 'Worldwide Handsome' after all, and he was known for his flying kisses to the screen and fans.
But even for BTS, the comment was nothing out of the ordinary for them either. They all treated and thought of Iris as their dear 'hyung' or hoobae. She was definitely attractive, even almost briefly romantically to a shade for some of the members, but that was simply because they were men and women. Both sides treaded a fine line of close friendship and professionalism. It was probably best for Iris to debut with IZ*ONE for maintaining this boundary too.
While BTS thought about her possible debut, the last episode had finally moved onto its last stage: the final rankings announcement.
More to come soon today!
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