"HAHA! Look at Iris's face!" Jungkook doubled over at the girl's bewildered expression on the screen as she tried to teach the choreography to the Japanese trainees.
First, the HandClap group had to distribute parts of the song and decide the center and leader. Iris was chosen as the center, and Choyeon wanted to try being a leader after seeing how Eunbi and Iris led the previous team. Of course, Iris was there to support Choyeon if necessary, just like with Eunbi.
During distribution to now teaching the choreography, the camera showed multiple clips of Iris who was struggling quite adorably with the Japanese trainees. Her blank but eager expression was rather comedic, and viewers couldn't help laughing at the communication difficulties.
Right now, all the BTS and TXT members couldn't hold back their giggles and laughter. Even stoic Suga was smiling broadly and chuckling a little. V had a hand on Jimin's shoulder for support as he snorted, but Jimin wasn't the best support as he almost fell over from laughing himself with the extra weight of V.
"I bet if she knew she was going on Produce 48, she'd have studied Japanese," remarked Jin to which Namjoon instantly nodded, replying, "That sounds like exactly like something she would do."
"That Kim Choyeon is pretty funny too in this situation," added J-Hope as the screen showed the two teammates together at odds, looking at one another with sheepish expressions.
"Iris-noona is pretty quick at learning choreography," commented Huening with admiration at her being able to quickly teach her other group mates in turn.
"You wish you could be like her huh?" teased Taehyun. "PFT," the other TXT members stifled a snort at the savage comment. That was the second fake 2002-line maknae as usual to them.
Huening elbowed Taehyun who just calmly dodged the playful attack. The BTS members grinned at their hoobaes' interaction. As they turned back to to the screen, they realized that if it wasn't for Iris, they wouldn't be getting to know TXT as well as they were now. She was truly bringing the Big Hit family even closer together as she was now with the HandClap team.
Before they went on stage, Iris grasped the hands of the two Japanese trainees near her. Holding hands, their team cheered. Iris vowed to fight against the tide of misfortune and make their team's performance better than the 'The Truth Untold' or any other teams.
And like a purple phoenix rising out the unknown ashes, Iris dared to shine. She wore a drop shoulder, flowing maroon top that was cinched with criss-crossed lace-ups at the waist and which reached the bottom of her black shorts, and short heeled black combat boots with sheer thigh-highs.
As the group dressed in neutral colors like olive green, tan, and white for the song theme, Iris stood out the most with her muted purple splash of color contrasted with her dark footwear. Not to mention, with her fierce yet lively and lovely gaze as the team center, she stole the audience's breath with her charismatic performance.
But even though she was satisfied with her performance at the end, the results room up ahead would tell her whether her hard work and determination had truly paid off.
Like in the first group battle, the HandClap team squeezed themselves closely on the cushioned bench in front of the results screen. Iris held Choyeon's hand on her right, feeling a bit of odd nostalgia. On her left, she held Sae Murase's hand.
3, 2, 1... They counted down with bated breaths.
The first result appeared.
6th place - Tomu Muto - 294
The Japanese trainee sighed but was comforted by her teammates. The next three results quickly followed before stopping at first and second.
5th place - Kim Minseo - 357
4th place - Mako Kojima - 406
3rd place- Kim Choyeon - 411
Iris instinctively tightened her grip on Choyeon's hand before side hugging her. The Korean merely smiled knowingly. She knew that she wouldn't be first. Instead, her eyes flicked back and forth between Sae and Iris. The two in question held one another as the results paused.
1st place - Iris Huang- 478
2nd place - Sae Murase - 437
Gasping, Iris covered her mouth and felt her eyes warm up with joy. A tear slipped out as her teammates pounced on their number one.
"Unnie!!" cried Choyeon excitedly with wide open arms before enveloping the girl with her tall frame. She knew how much sweat and effort Iris had put into her dance.
Their joy could also be felt and shared by the viewers at home. Despite her grand surprise entrance, Iris was seen as the dark horse of the competition who could challenge the top twelve. Witnessing her diligent work ethic and genuine care for her teammates, national producers fawned over her brilliant performance.
"Wah, Iris has outdone herself," praised J-Hope.
"For sure there couldn't have been a better center than Iris." Jimin nodded.
"478 votes seems like a lot, do you think she'll take first in the dance position?" asked Jin who hoped she would.
"Ugh, we won't know until next week..." sighed V.
"Next week, July 27th... we're getting closer to our tour date..." thought Jin out loud.
"We might miss the last episode due to the Seoul concert," observed Namjoon.
"Even so we have to watch the finale if Iris makes it to the last round!" said V firmly.
"Of course, of course," laughed Namjoon.
For the TXT trainees though, the dates weren't an issue as they debuted in 2019.
The following week when they gathered again, Lee Seung Gi revealed the rankings of each team. Han Chowon won first place overall for the vocal/rap position. As for the dance position first place...
She plunged to her feet and squatted down in disbelief mixed with overwhelming jubilation. Iris had gained 105,000 bonus votes.
It was a tight race. Miru Shiroma had placed second at 469 while Iris's close friend Eunbi was third with 450.
In the follow-up interview, Iris tearfully yet joyfully explained why the first place win meant so much to her.
"This is my dream. I came to South Korea because I love and was inspired by the music here. I was worried about not being able to ever debut, but with this, it feels like the hope is coming back. I'm truly so grateful."
The TXT members frowned slightly at their noona's words. They knew she was referring to her unknown debut date because they would be debuting in 2019 followed by BTS's comeback.
And with all the new girl groups rumored to debut that year or those making comebacks, it was tough for Iris to debut the same year as everything else was happening.
But the longer her debut was dragged out, the older she would be. And especially for girls, age was a big factor for both initial and lasting success. Even with the Big Hit label, she wouldn't be guaranteed success, especially as their first girl idol in a long time.
"Now Iris-noona has to go through another song selection and team building. I hope this one goes as smoothly as the first one..." said Soobin with concern on the eighth episode following the end of the position battle round.
Currently, the girls faced the concept evaluation. Six songs were available, and only one group could win 20,000 bonus votes for each member of the winning team. Also, the first place in the team would win 50,000 instead. This was truly a group competition where every member would benefit.
Beomgyu and Yeonjun patted their TXT leader. "No worries, this time the producers voted for what concept they wanted for trainees," assured Yeonjun.
Soobin looked at Yeonjun and replied, "Rumor, right?"
The older boy nodded, saying, "Yes, we voted for that one because we thought Iris suited it and would like it best."
"Oh, you thought so too?" J-Hope smiled. He also knew she'd like it best. Compared to the other songs which were too cutesy or bright, Iris preferred easygoing songs with groove, or upbeat ones that hit hard. Only 'Rumor' and 'I Am' fit.
However, while she loved BTS who were considered hip-hop, at least in the beginning, Iris's favored dance style wasn't hip-hop. But Rumor didn't completely work either. Yet the producers wanted to see her in this role after she had to perform songs she wasn't so keen on.
"I'm curious how she will pull it off. Iris does like those types of songs, but for dancing to it, she might be shy." A corner of Taehyung's mouth quirked up at the idea.
If Iris heard this conversation now, she'd likely smack all of them for the future embarrassment of convincingly dancing to Rumor that she'd have to face next.
Saw Murase actually won the dance competition, but in fiction, Iris outshone her. :P Aoi Motomura who ranked much lower than 13th was also the true center who got second place in the group, so for Iris to beat Sae isn’t too unrealistic. XD
Also her outfit is based on Aoi’s, and the group individual rankings are based off of the original and lowered to adjust to realistic voter volume.
Lastly, the previous 50,000 bonus was supposed to be 5000. So Iris got 105,000 bonus votes.
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