Inside the office, Iris lightly sweated. The atmosphere was somehow off. It looked like Bang PD had something really consequential to say. In other words, it wasn't just about leaving if that was one of the topics to cover.
After a few more seconds of deliberation, Bang Shihyuk slowly began speaking. "(Iris-ssi, we've gotten to see how you operate first hand, and we're all honestly impressed by your work ethic and talent. Have you ever thought of pursuing the Korean music industry and becoming an idol?)"
Iris froze as she translated his words in her head. She didn't quite catch the correct order of everything, but she understood that gist to know that he was asking if she wanted to become an k-pop idol. This realization further paralyzed her. She and Cindy had always joked about it, especially when Iris began dancing k-pop covers. But it was never a realistic idea.
Then or now, she never expected to be offered to become a k-pop idol by the CEO of an entertainment company. However, Bang PD never actually said that they would be recruiting her specifically into Big Hit. He simply insinuated that she had the attitude and skills to become an idol.
"(That..)" she began, "Are you saying that I could somewhat successfully pursue becoming an idol, or do you mean that here…" Iris couldn't continue, nervous to jump to conclusions that Bang PD was interested in her becoming a Big Hit trainee.
At her silence, the interpreter translated her unfinished words. Bang PD could guess what Iris was leading to but couldn't bring up.
"(If you're wondering if we want you at Big Hit, then yes. We're very much interested in the possibility.)" Bang PD paused briefly and peered at Iris with pensive, slightly narrowed eyes.
"(You remind me a lot of Namjoon. I can see you make waves in the k-pop industry with your talent and mentality on life. But we weren't thinking of making a girl group anytime soon because of what happened last time. In fact, we've been training a new boy group to debut in 2019. However.)"
His second pause made Iris sit up straighter and stiffer. She really couldn't believe that this conversation was happening. Big Hit actually DID want her as its idol! The unimaginable idea made her almost not breathe as she listened to Bang Shihyuk.
"(Since we don't have any female trainees, you could be a solo act. This might be safer than a girl group. I also trust you with BTS as you've built a good, professional relationship with them.)"
Iris nodded, fully understanding Bang PD's concern about a girl group. Ever since GLAM broke up due to scandals and disharmony among the members, Big Hit had been leery of another girl group venture.
Of course, she didn't know that Big Hit was actually creating a second boy group either. Based on BTS's success, they were likely taking that route because they found a successful formula. But knowing their artistry, the groups would definitely be different. She wondered if they would follow the budding trend of fresh, bubbly boy groups.
"(So what do you say? Are you interested? I know this is sudden for you and I both since we thought this would only be a temporary composer job. We still have time, so please think on it.)"
Bang PD's words were final. He wanted her to think deeply about it without making a rash decision. It might've also been a test to see the extent of her eagerness and desire. Ambition was good, but self-awareness and limitations were also important to surviving in this ruthless industry. Everyone's eyes would be on her. And due to BTS's rising international fame, Iris would be judged more harshly, critically, and closely.
Iris understood his underlying message and the precarious position she would be put in under the limelight. The Korean entertainment industry was highly competitive with unspoken rules and expectancies besides the policies held by each company. The high standards and superficialities of the public meant that everyone and everything could be criticized as well as praised.
This was the world she would have to navigate. Thus, Iris left the office with both a hopeful and heavy heart. Above all that she would to face, the biggest hurdle was the one closest to home. She needed to convince her parents should she decide to take the jump. And she just knew they wouldn't approve one bit.
"Cindy…" Iris immediately called her cousin upon returning to her room.
"Iris? What's up cuz!"
Her cheery voice had the ambivalent effect of brightening Iris's mood while making her teary. Her unusual silence, no matter how transitory, was instantly picked up be her cousin. After many years together, these were the subtle instincts developed by each others' mannerisms.
"What's wrong, Iris? Is everything okay over there?" Cindy frowned on the other side of the phone. She could tell that something serious must have happened.
"I…" Iris lightly gulped. "I got scouted by Big Hit. Bang PD is interested in me making a solo career.."
"IRIS HUANG! You're kidding! You've got to be kidding me! This is AMAZING~!! But wait—!!" Cindy suddenly cut off her own exclamations as the realization that this wasn't what was making Iris upset. It must be… "Your parents. You're thinking that they wouldn't approve right?"
"Yes…" Iris stifled a sniffle, holding her cell phone close to her ear with both hands.
"Iris…" Cindy's voice was firm yet gentle. "You made this decision to do something for yourself once. Another opportunity is opening up. You need to live your life."
"That—" Iris choked. "I don't know if I'm strong enough for this. A part of me is jumping for joy, but another part of me is scared, Cindy. Scared of how my parents will react, how my life will change, what I'll experience. Remember Amalie? She was the one who pushed me to join the Korean Culture Club and dance cover team. I would've never made the leap otherwise. It was also her that convinced my parents, saying it was a form of cultural exercise!"
Iris laughed at this funny, warm memory. And with that memory came many more. The overwhelming emotion and sudden awareness that she wouldn't be able to create any more of these memories should she embark on an idol life in South Korea, it hit her like a truck of hormones like on some day of the month. She started bawling hot tears.
"Cindy—! I don't know what I want! I should be happy but—! I miss you. I miss my family and friends, everyone at home. This was a lot of fun, but it's lonely here. Not perfectly knowing the language and customs, trying to be polite and fit in… How will I even be able to train for years like this? I can just get by these last weeks because I know you're here…"
The honest pouring out of Iris's heart resulted in thick tears forming in Cindy's eyes. She lifted her head up to stop them from falling down, but they fell nevertheless. Her cousin Iris was one of the most gentle and down to earth souls she's ever known. Back when she got bullied for her asian looks, Cindy nearly got detention for fighting back at the bully. And it was Iris who held her back, saying it was okay.
Cindy shook her head, not sure why she was remembering all of this. Perhaps it was because she knew that the kind of bullying she could face in becoming a k-pop could be far worse and more frequent. She herself wasn't sure if Iris could face that all alone. She was sure she'd be all stoic about it as usual, but deep inside, Cindy knew they could create indelible scars.
"Iris… I'm coming over right now. I don't care if they security holds me back, I'll roundhouse kick my way in."
"Uh. Cindy? Cindy! Damn it that girl, she really—!" Iris cursed under her breath and knocked a chair on the way to exit her room. She knew that Cindy was one hundred percent serious about barging in here to comfort her. That cousin of hers was so obstinately affectionate. But to be completely honest, Iris really needed someone to lean on right now.
On the way over to the building entrance after exiting the elevator, Iris knocked into a firm chest while turning the hallway. But before she fell, the tall figure reached an arm out to hook around her waist and straighten her back up. She gripped onto the shirt in reflex before getting a speedy handle on the situation and releasing her hold.
Backing away, she looked up, and her eyes nearly popped out.
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