Every member of BTS was smiling broadly as the final episode of Produce 48 wound down. Their Iris had done it. She had made the final lineup with flying colors. Truly, she made BTS and Big Hit proud. For sure, her solo debut would be successful. Right now, she had to focus on group IZ*ONE activities. So, the downside to this arrangement was clear.
Jin sighed. "I guess we won't be seeing her for two and a half years now."
Hooseok pursed his lips before replying, "But isn't it only exclusive for a year and a half?"
Jimin piped up in confirmation. "Yeah, she'll be free in the last year, so I wonder what Bang PD's plans for her are then."
"Do you think she'll go solo? Would that even be possible while technically still being in a promoting group?" pointed out V.
"That's a good question. Usually, group members don't go solo until they were together for a few years, or the group disbanded," remarked Jungkook.
"J-Hope!" Suga suddenly shouted while lounging on the couch. Everyone turned toward him in surprise, and the man gave a small gummy smile. "You had a solo debut in March which is five years after we debuted as a group. And Namjoon solo debuted a year before that."
The two men in question smiled at Suga's comments. "But that's still four to five years after being together as a group," said Namjoon. "However, Iris will be... twenty three? When the contract exclusivity expires. Jin was twenty one when he debuted, so Bang PD probably has something planned. By then, Tomorrow by--" He stopped short when he remembered that the girl trainees were in the room.
Seeing their leader almost spoil the name of TXT, 'Tomorrow by Together' debuting in 2019, the other BTS members inwardly chuckled while outwardly grinning at Namjoon's blunder. The man coughed lightly and smiled sheepishly before finishing. "Anyway, the timing would be right. And maybe by then too--" He gestured toward the girl trainees. "--we'll have a girl group training."
Being mentioned, the flattered girls all blushed in hopefulness. They had kept quiet the entire time, not wanting to disturb the BTS members while they watched the show. But they didn't mind because they were all listening raptly to their conversation.
Additionally, they were very curious about their relationship and opinion of Iris. Now it seemed that the two were very close and held each other in similar high respect. It sparked pricks of envy in some of the girls. They hoped that they could have a tight relationship with BTS like Iris, and since there was chance that she would debut with them, it made it more likely too.
But even then, it wasn't probable due to the special nature and circumstances of her meeting BTS and coming into Big Hit. Would she be considered the princess of Big Hit? They all wondered this in their minds when they realized her importance as the trailblazer for girl trainees in the company.
Their contemplation were broken by the BTS members arising from their seats, and they hastily got up to bow, thinking that they were leaving. Instead, the members approached them and offered their hands out in a formal greeting. The flabbergasted girls could barely keep their mouths closed in awe as they shook hands with the international super stars.
"We heard you each created a routine for Iris's instrumental. Can we watch your performances?" asked Namjoon politely.
He didn't have to repeat himself as they all furiously nodded their heads. The sight made the leader and other BTS members chuckle at their eagerness. Despite having attained global success, BTS always remained modest and respectful while supporting those who chased after their dreams.
Like how BTS flew with their new wings in a brighter era, they also gave wings to those who didn't believe in themselves previously. Iris was the paradigm of their inspirational power. And perhaps now she had reflected that inspirational determination and hard work during her time on Produce 48. Certainly for the potential girl trainees of Big Hit, she had instilled some sort of hope in them.
One by one, each girl performed their evaluation routine in front of BTS. They all tried hard not to make mistakes, and for the most part, they were all free of large blunders. BTS was glad to see them push through their nervousness as this was necessary to tackle the stage successfully.
When it came time for Cindy's turn, she hesitated coming up to the makeshift stage, the carpet-less area behind the couches and in front of the TV. She knew she was the least proficient of all the other girls and performing last didn't help her cause in standing out as such.
In addition, BTS knew her secondhand through Iris! 'What if I totally screw up?!' She shrieked inside. She couldn't afford to disappoint BTS while marring Iris's name as her cousin. But not performing would be even worse.
Therefore, she began her routine with as much confidence as she could muster. Halfway through, she relaxed. Oddly enough, while performing in front of BTS was nerve-wracking, it was also somehow comforting. 'Is it because I've seen them so much that it feels like I'm meeting old friends? Or because I met them through Iris?'
Although she didn't know why, Cindy was glad for the unexpected effect. When she finished, she ended the routine with a charming expression that flushed in joy at her success. Throughout her performance, however, her expressions were well done. This point was noted by BTS, especially Jimin and V who focused on expressions the most while dancing.
Unbeknownst to her, her expressivity was the main reason why she scored higher with the teachers than what her abilities would rightly allow. It was due to this natural appeal that the Big Hit staff didn't cut her in the last round, disregarding the scoring manipulation. If decisions were based on proficiency alone, then Cindy would've placed dead last.
But thankfully, she emitted a gravity about her persona which allowed her to be more eye-catching. And because her moves were clean while simple, her dancing didn't detract from this aura either. Thus, when considering the 'whole package,' Cindy emitted more of a star vibe.
"Thank you for showing us your routines. Good job everyone!" BTS clapped and tipped their heads in acknowledgement at the trainees who nearly jumped in delight at the encouragement.
The girls continuously bowed as BTS left the room. Once the door closed and they were a good distance away in the hallway, BTS began sharing their opinions of the girls to the staff.
"Jiyeon? Was it? She's really good."
Jimin nodded at Jungkook's beginning comment. "Yes, she was the group's all-star."
"Hm, I was rather surprised by her fierce aura and powerful dancing. She must've trained for a long time to get to that degree of skillfulness," agreed J-Hope.
"How about the last one? Cindy. Do you remember her?" asked V suddenly.
"Oh, Iris's cousin?" J-Hope asked. "She wasn't bad, but she's definitely a beginner." He smiled pensively before adding, "However, she has a certain quality that makes you want to focus on her."
"Ah! That's exactly what I was thinking!" exclaimed V.
"I guess that star aura runs in the family," chuckled Namjoon with a bright eye smile.
"Then, who would you pick to become a girl group?" asked Suga, getting directly to the bottom of their discussion.
The members quieted while thinking deeply. Jungkook made up his mind first and spoke up. "Jiyeon. Hm. Rinah? And Ahreum?"
"Ahreum?" repeated Jimin questioningly with a side smile.
Jungkook narrowed his eyes slightly at his hyung as he knew what Jimin was suggested. He was correct too. "She reminds me of IU-sunbaenim a little."
"Haha, I knew it. They don't really look that much alike, but their aura is kind of similar," agreed Jimin. Since Jungkook was a fan of IU, he suspected that the maknae would pick up on Ahreum's similarity on stage.
"Then anyone else?" Jungkook looked at his hyungs.
"Minhyun wasn't bad either," offered Namjoon casually.
"They all were pretty good!" voiced Jin pleasantly.
"Hyung, you're supposed to pick a few out of the group who were best," laughed Jungkook.
"I don't know. They really were all good! But if I had to chose who stood out the most, then Jiyeon, Rinah, and Cindy. But I think Cindy because we knew her from Iris. To be honest, I expected a little more from her, but not everyone is as talented as Iris I guess."
"Woah! So blunt!" blurted V in surprise while smiling at his straightforward hyung. "It's true though, Iris really is talented. For sure compared to all these trainees, she's the best." He gave thumbs up with a quirk of a grin.
"Well yeah, that's our Iris after all," giggled Jimin as he elbowed Taehyung.
"Then in order, Jiyeon, Rinah, Ahreum, Minhyun, Cindy, and Haebin?" Jungkook listed off on his fingers.
The BTS members looked at one another and nodded in agreement. The staff wrote this down before asking the next question.
"Then who do you think Iris would like or work best with?"
Korean age is one year older than universal age, so Iris would be respectively 23 or 22 when 2020 rolls around, the end of the 1.5 years exclusivity period. For reference, Jin is 1992 with a birthday in December. Since they debuted June 2013, he was 21 or 20.
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