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Chapter 170: Who is His Person (2)
TL: emptycube / ED: Isleidir
My vision changed.
Director Park's face changed to Song Inho. The bright office that made floating dust s.h.i.+ne disappeared, and I was once again crouching down in a corner of a dark parking lot. The damp scent of dust filled my nose.
That was it?
It just ended with a few hints about Son Chaeyoung?
Faced with the sudden sense of hopelessness, I frowned.
"… I can't?"
A nervous voice asked.
Son Inho was looking at me while biting his smooth lips. The hands holding both my arms gripped harder. I felt like I was going to get a bruise at this rate. I brushed his hands off, but he grabbed me again. He grabbed me again when I brushed him off a second time.
"Hyung. Hyungnim. Hyuuung."
"Don't do that. You're giving me chills."
"He said that your heart will become soft if I provoked your maternal instincts."
He mumbled with regret.
And here I was wondering why a guy who acted like some young master with a strict upbringing in front of others always acted like a child around me.
"Who said that?"
"Chief Lee Bongjoon."
Clicking his tongue, Song Inho let go of my arms and staggered back. The corners of his eyelashes drooped. Having received special care, his face s.h.i.+ned even in this dark parking lot. However, peeling off a single layer revealed an exhausted stifled interior.
Well, it wasn't easy.
He was a rookie who just got his feet wet in the entertainment world. If he was a tadpole in a rainbow pond, the team 2 leader was a bullfrog. To endure that man's irritation while continuing to work on the independent film, most people would have given up already.
This guy was quite stubborn.
Which was also why I wanted him.
That was why I made it so he would say, 'Hyung, please bring me to your team.'
I told Song Inho, who was looking down on the concrete floor with clear eyes,
Song Inho immediately raised his head.
I placed my hand on his flinching shoulder and continued,
"Wait a bit."
Song Inho instantly blocked off his shouting mouth. Then he looked around the parking lot and laughed quietly this time. His eyes were surging with vitality like a sprout after rain.
"I hope that I can continue acting with hyung for a long time."
I suddenly recalled the future I had seen just now.
Son Chaeyoung retired at the peak of her career.
There were many rumors, but no one knew the truth.
I brushed away the thoughts that began to spread like mold in my mind.
I would have liked to see Son Inho's future and obtained some information.
Not this useless information.
"It's completely blocked here."
-Uh, se-security and personnel are on their way!
It seemed the event agency was busy too. His voice cracked for half the words he spoke.
Hanging up, I looked out the car window. People had completely surrounded the car. They shouted, asking to lower the windows and show their faces. If these people were cast as extras for Alive, the zombie scenes would have been ten times more realistic.
We arrived thirty minutes ago, but we couldn't proceed to the waiting room. Lee Kwanwoo had long since taken his hands off the wheel. Even the Neptune members behind me looked like they were struck dumb.
I was surprised as well. We had attended company and regional events, university festivals, and the like, but never have we been surrounded like this.
Im Seoyoung rigidly turned her head like a puppet.
"O-oppa, oppa, oppa, say something."
"My body is hot. I think I'm going to spontaneously burst into flames!"
"And it's better if you hear my voice?"
"Euaah, it feels like I'm being splashed with ice water."
Although she was always like this, she was even more out of her mind today.
She rattled on so much that LJ threatened to gag her.
Calming down by a pesized amount, Im Seoyoung's eyelashes trembled as she said,
"Do-don't tell me that everyone is here to see us?"
"Yeah, they aren't."
I indicated to a streetlamp. A banner with a list of guest artists was fluttering on it.
"The finale performance is by Babel."
"I think around half the people here came to see them. Their fandom members had arrived early in the morning to get seats at the very front."
Babel. They were a 10-member boy group who was gaining popularity nationwide. They debuted around the same time as Neptune, but the size of our fandom was incomparable to theirs. This was a university festival, yet there were more middle and high schoolers wearing their school uniforms.
Im Seoyoung seemed embarra.s.sed for getting ahead of herself and coughed loudly.
"S-so that's it. The online reactions to Making Film were so heated that I thought our popularity went up just as much offline."
Im Seoyoung's eyes bulged at my words.
Smiling, I added,
"If we exclude Babel, the next largest group of people probably came to see your performance. Most of the people surrounding the car are probably here for you too."
The majority of people attending Neptune's event performances had come to see Lee Songha, but it seemed it would be different today. Making Film has been a hot topic for three episodes now, and thanks to that, Neptune's fame and positive image surged sharply.
Satellite and Pisces, which were last year's. .h.i.t songs, were regaining ground and had entered the music charts again, and we received a commercial proposal for Neptune as a group rather than one for just Lee Songha. Neptune was hot right now. Enough to attract an audience.
Im Seoyoung was surprised by the shout outside the car.
-I don't expect to get your autograph! Please just let me see your face up close! I really want to see you!
"Just for a moment. Can't I just for a split second? I just to say hi!"
Im Seoyoung begged yearningly.
"Nope. It's night right now so they can't even really see their own feet. There might be an accident if people get excited."
"Ah…! That can't happen."
Im Seoyoung immediately shut her mouth when I mentioned there could be an accident.
Still, she seemed a little regretful as she touched the window every time someone called her name. Someone would think that a Romeo was serenading her outside the window.
Beside her, Lee Songha pressed her ear against the window.
Since Lee Songha's name was shouted like a chant, people a hundred meters away could hear them, so I didn't know why she was acting like that. It wasn't like it was her first time experiencing this. Why was she, who is buried by crowds of people whenever she goes to China, concentrating so much?
Just then, Lee Songha said like she fished a big one,
"Someone called out your name, oppa."
"Whoever they are, their preferences are crazy."
LJ giggled in the back seat. Her gaze was fixed out the window. It was the same for Lee Taehee next to her. She had taken off her earphones, which she always wore before a performance, and was staring out the window.
The four were looking out their own windows and pouring their concentration outside.
-Lee Taehee! If you come to our bar, I'll give you Korean pancakes and chestnut rice wine for free!
-Songha! Where are you sitting? Can you hear me?
-Unni! LJ unni! You're the best!
Every time their names were called, their faces got closer to the window.
As though they were about to go out at any moment.
Seeing this, I turned my gaze. Thousands of people packed the outdoor venue so that people couldn't take a single step. I saw the stage over there, lights brightly s.h.i.+ning down. It was the stage the girls would be going on soon.
I wanted to quickly get them up there.
So that they could feel this heated atmosphere with their entire body.
Only after the security and personnel came at full force and created a safety barrier and the host went up on the stage and calmed the people down could we move. We finally got the girls and the staff to the waiting room.
The people who had already arrived and were waiting quickly got up.
"It was really noisy outside. Are you okay?"
They were the Pretty Girls goldfish and Chief Lee Taes.h.i.+n.
Also, a few Making Film staff, including Producer Yoo Sooyoung.
Before Pretty Girls began their comeback activity, we invited them to indirectly experience Neptune's large-scale event performance. This was because the stages Pretty Girls had gone on were all small-scale besides music broadcasts.
The Making Film staff received permission from the university and event agency to be here.
It seemed they heard that we were caught up by the audience as the Pretty Girls members' gazes as they looked in our direction was filled with yearning and envy. A couple cameramen filmed their expressions.
"How about you? Did a lot of people surround you on your way in? Huh?"
Im Seoyoung asked expectantly.
Oh Yeondu blinked her large eyes and smiled.
"Uh, we came in right away in the chief's car, so there was no opportunity to meet anyone. I think there were a few people watching us from afar when we got off."
"It-it's because your outfits are normal, and you aren't wearing makeup for your performances!"
Im Seoyoung added with an embarra.s.sed expression,
"If you prepare properly and go outside, there'll be tons of people who recognize you. Don't be so disappointed."
"No, no, we're not disappointed!"
Yoon Sol waved her hands as though that was a ridiculous thought. The other Pretty Girls members seemed to think the same way. Jung Jae, who was hurriedly taking out a thermos and some paper cups, smiled with curved eyes.
"We are still surprised whenever our names appear on the internet. We might get a heart attack if people recognize us and rush at us outside."
Then she handed everyone a cup of tea. It was a warm jujube ginger tea.
Oh Yeondu rubbed her cheeks, which were red from excitement, and added,
"It's our first time at such a big event, so just being in the waiting room is interesting."
It seemed another team had begun performing, as loud cheers shook the room.
The Pretty Girls members glanced at the door with faces that really showed they wanted to go check it out.
"I'll go say hi to the agency employee, so get ready."
I left Neptune with the staff, including their stylists, and left the waiting room. A cameraman followed after me. He filmed the noisy, bustling waiting room area.
I was looking around for the employee when I stopped in my steps.
I heard a familiar melody amidst the commotion.
The cameraman, who, like me, immediately recognized the melody, turned his camera. It was a young female student with short hair. Her friend, who also had a university staff sign and was moving stuff with her, asked,
"What song is that?"
The humming short-haired girl tilted her head.
"You've been humming the same song for the past while. I've probably memorized it as well."
"Ah, this. It's Pretty Girls' new song."
The short-haired girl licked her lips as she replied.
"Pretty Girls? The girls from Making Film? Their alb.u.m already came out?"
"No. The third episode showed them recording, and I heard bits and pieces."
"It seems the song is good? Seeing as you're constantly humming it?"
The short-haired girl made a complicated expression.
"At first, I just thought, 'It's good.' That was it, but it's catchy. Even though I only listened to it for a bit during the episode, I keep thinking about it. I'll probably be screwed if I heard it before my exams. Also, I don't feel sated because they haven't released the full song."
"You're making me curious."
Hearing their conversation, the corners of my lips rose.
The youngest members missing Jung Jae while a heavy burden rested on their shoulders. The scene with Chief Lee Taes.h.i.+n and me comforting Jung Jae after finding her. Also, the scene of the four members reuniting.
The Pretty Girls' story was executed brilliantly in Producer Yoo Sooyoung's hands.
Then, the latter half of the third episode began showing them preparing their alb.u.m.
We played their song repeatedly during scenes of them practicing their ch.o.r.eography and recording the song. Just the part of the song that was unanimously picked for being the catchiest part of the song.
To garner this sort of reaction.
We asked the female students, who were bewildered by my appearance, for an interview before proceeding to look once more. When we left the waiting room area, the song playing from the speakers and thousands of people's shouts pierced our ears.
An agency employee ran around shouting,
"Neptune has safely entered their waiting room and are standing by!"
"Babel! Did you check on Babel?"
"They said they left Busan with time to spare!"
"It'll be a huge deal if there's a delay so check again. Also, people are going to surround them more than they did Neptune! Dispatch the security guards ahead of time!"
Team Leader Yoon, the event agency employee I met a few weeks ago, shouted. At the same time, he rushed over after discovering me. After greeting each other, he made an astonished face.
"I was wondering why you said you were going to wait before scheduling any more events!"
"I told you. That the situation was going to change a lot."
I replied while laughing. Team Leader Yoon laughed,
"How could I have known things would change so much in two weeks. If I knew, then I would have spared no effort to fill Neptune's schedule!"
His voice was overflowing with regret.
Team Leader Yoon licked his lips and had just begun discussing pricing when a female agency employee rushed over with a pale face shouting,
"Team leader! Team leader! Babel got in a car accident on their way back to Seoul!"
"That's why they want us to delay the final performance."
"This is crazy. How long do we have to delay for? Ten minutes? Twenty?"
Team Leader Yoon's expression crumbled.
"How can we fill an hour?!"
"Can't we ask the other artists to do an encore?"
"Do you think that'll work? Even the team performing right now came here to perform for ten minutes because they have another event. Can't you see their manager is already waiting after starting the car? The managers repeatedly asked for no encores since it's event season!"
"Then should we ask the host to do some recreational…!"
"There are tons of fans waiting for Babel. If we get the host to do recreational activities for an hour, he's going to get stoned!"
Team Leader Yoon furiously ruffled his hair before turning his gaze.
Chapter 171: Who is His Person (3)
TL: emptycube / ED: Isleidir
After talking to the event agency employee, Team Leader Yoon rushed over to me.
"Um, Chief Jung. You said that Neptune has to film Making Film after, right?"
"They are filming it right now to be exact. We plan on having an interview after the event."
I replied while nodding.
Team Leader Yoon licked his lips. His eyes s.h.i.+fted quickly within his plump frame.
"Could we perhaps extend Neptune's performance?"
I thought about it.
How could I make the best use of this sudden situation? My mind wandered to the people I left behind in the waiting room, the cameraman filming this current situation, and the screaming fans outside.
Just as I began to draw an outline of my plan, Team Leader Yoon couldn't wait and said in a desperate manner,
"I'll be forever grateful if you could help me this once. You probably overhead, but, sigh, it looks like Babel will be a little late. It just happened that they were our finale…! The crowd is full of people who came to see them. On top of that, their fans are famously hardcore."
It was rare for a boy group fandom to not be hardcore.
As girls who came early in the morning to see 'their oppas', they would grow more dissatisfied the longer Babel delayed. While they might not throw stones, they might throw trash.
Team Leader Yoon stopped and glanced at the cameraman. The cameraman turned his camera off and took a step back. As he gestured as if to tell Team Leader Yoon not to worry, Team Leader Yoon continued,
"While they might complain less if they hear Babel got in an accident, it seems Babel's company wants to ensure the reporters don't hear about this until the situation is settled and they send out a press release."
Seeing as they said they would still make an appearance, it didn't seem like they were at fault, and the members seemed to be fine. However, if they let thousands of fans know about the accident, it would immediately spread online.
Then reporters would swarm in and write even more provocative articles.
It was difficult for the event agency to ignore a request from a group like Babel in order to maintain a good relations.h.i.+p for future events.
"Please, please help us, Chief Jung."
Team Leader Yoon begged.
"If Neptune's on stage, then the crowd shouldn't be too dissatisfied by the delay..!"
"How much time do you need?"
I asked while glancing at my watch. Team Leader Yoon held my hand like it was a lifeline. I asked again to the man profusely expressing his grat.i.tude,
"You'll have to keep the delay to a minimum. They don't have a wide repertoire so it's impossible to extend their performance for long."
"H-how long can you extend it?"
Normally, we would have four songs - Satellite and Pisces from their mini-alb.u.m, their other hit track from their other alb.u.m, and Lee Taehee's solo OST. With greetings and some light talk, we could hold on for 30 minutes.
"If we want to add more, it would have to be their missing track from Next K-Star, but I'll have to check with the girls since these songs weren't planned for today. We can't let them make a flawed performance since tons of fancams will be posted after the event."
"Yes, that's true. Pl-please take care of us."
I smiled and turned around.
The cameraman had started filming at some point.
"The team leader asked me to give this to you…"
One of the event agency's employees handed me a box. It was full of sandwiches, salads, chips, and drinks. Lee Songha jumped to her feet and accepted the box. Having seen Lee Songha up close, the employee left the room with a red face.
Our meeting continued.
The always reliable Lee Taehee calmly said,
"The two mission songs we frequently performed at events. We can do those since we've been practicing them for events. What do you think, Songha?"
Lee Songha nodded
"I practiced them yesterday."
"I think we can do an encore on top of that."
Im Seoyoung counted on her fingers.
"If we talk with the audience a bit longer. Oppa, what if we talk with the host longer?"
I immediately shook my head.
"We don't have any comments prepared. You're in the public's eye. It'll be big trouble if you say something bad because you're excited."
Also, the host, who was a comedian, was the frivolous type. The type who made provocative comments to drag out the audience's reaction and cause controversy. How could I send them out there with no idea about what he might ask? No matter how much we plead the host to be moderate, there was no guarantee on what would happen on stage.
Im Seoyoung smacked her lips in regret.
"Then if we just introduce our songs and do an extra performance, I think we can extend it by 15 minutes."
"If we add it with our original performance, it'll be almost 30 minutes long. That's like a concert."
LJ said after licking her lips. Having calculated the length of their performance, Im Seoyoung flinched.
"Though, Babel fans will probably be glaring at us at the front."
Im Seoyoung, who was jumping up and down at the thought of a concert, stiffened.
"I-it'll be fine though, right? There are people who came to see us! Right?"
"That's right. Uh, we'll join them too! We even bought glowstick bracelets!"
Oh Yeondu, who particularly followed Im Seoyoung after confessing she was her role model, took out a bracelet. Each of the other goldfish took one out as well and shook them like tambourines. They mentioned how Oh Yeondu paid for them out of her own pocket.
I calmly looked at Pretty Girls.
At the three goldfish waving their hands and Jung Jae, who was clapping.
Team Leader Yoon entered after knocking hurriedly.
"Um, I asked about other teams' situations and barely managed to get one team to do an encore."
"We probably can't fill the gap with just that though."
"That's why we decided to do a giveaway event with the host. It seems we'll be able to hold on for another twenty minutes with the encore performance. Then we have forty minutes remaining…"
Team Leader Yoon trailed off, knowing this was far-fetched.
Then Neptune's performance would be an hour long in total. As LJ said, this was a concert. Maybe it would be different if they were experienced artists with lots of hit songs, but Neptune didn't have the repertoire or experience to pull off an hour long on-the-spot concert.
I went over to Team Leader Yoon and said,
"That'll be difficult."
"Is there nothing you can do?"
"There is nothing else we can do. At most, we can hold on for twenty minutes. I think you have to look elsewhere for the remaining twenty minutes."
I said while staring at Team Leader Yoon. He also looked at me.
Then, as though he had a sudden thought, his shoulders jumped.
"What if you came on stage…!"
"What will I do up there? Should I sing a lullaby?"
The waiting room was filled with suppressed laughs and coughs.
There were only two people who didn't laugh, Lee Songha and Team Leader Yoon. Rather, Lee Songha seemed more into the idea than Team Leader Yoon. It felt like she would give me the mic as soon as I agreed. I waved at her, indicating to not have any thoughts, and looked back at Team Leader Yoon.
He looked elsewhere with anxious eyes. At Pretty Girls.
"Chief, it'll be more difficult for Pretty Girls, right?"
The goldfish and Chief Lee Taes.h.i.+n were shocked.
Even the Making Film staff, who were laughing about me singing a lullaby, quickly focused on filming.
"Of course, we'll definitely make it worth your while if they do perform. If we introduce them at a leisurely pace, even if they only do one song…!"
Team Leader Yoon mumbled before sighing as though he had already been refused.
That was because Pretty Girls currently didn't have their stage outfits, makeup, or music.
It wouldn't be a stretch to say that their preparations were non-existent.
I glanced at the girls before saying,
"I guess we need to talk with them this time."
The aquarium froze.
The goldfish stiffed like frozen fish and simply looked at me.
Multiple cameras focused on them. Producer Yoo Sooyoung had a short discussion with me before immediately gathering the production staff and writers. Then she started an on-the-spot meeting with a bright smile.
After Neptune went to a different waiting room to practice, I spoke,
"While it would be good if you did it, you don't have to if you think you can't."
The girls' eyes shook like there was an earthquake.
Yoon Sol cautiously raised her hand and asked,
"It's good if we do it?"
"It's a sudden situation, and normally, I would refuse since there are a lot of variables. However, we are filming right now,"
I gestured to the cameras.
"It's a bit of a waste to throw away such a dramatic situation like this when it came so naturally. You were already preparing for your showcase performance anyways. If you can perform well, there's no showcase that'll be better than this."
The girls' faces turned more serious.
They talked amongst each other for a while before Jung Jae said,
"We'll do it. Please let us perform."
The other goldfish gathered around and blinked.
"We practiced every day like it was our showcase performance."
"I'm confident that I won't make a mistake!"
"The audience might not react favorably. More than Neptune's performance."
The mood chilled at my words. The goldfish simply blinked.
I observed their reactions while continuing,
"Although your popularity has been rising at a sharp rate these past few weeks, the people outside aren't here to see you. You'll be part of an unexpected event, and there will be many people who won't welcome you. Babel fans will be particularly unhappy."
They gulped and mumbled,
"Wo-would they boo and jeer, saying stuff like they've never heard of us?"
"Or maybe throw water bottles…?"
"They won't all be like that. Nor will they all leave."
Jung Jae said in a quiet yet firm voice.
"There were times when the spectators all left when it was our turn to perform. Saying that there'll be nothing to see. We also performed a lot in front of people pa.s.sing us on the street. "
Oh Yeondu fiddled with her glow-stick bracelet before holding it tight.
"There were people that asked us to wear more racy outfits to gain people's attention. That we needed to at least show them that much since we were unknown."
"That's why Jae unni alone wore short skirts. Ones that revealed her thighs."
"They weren't that short. It only looked that way because my legs are long."
Jung Jae joked awkwardly before saying,
"Now is different from then. There will be people outside who will be happy about our surprise performance."
"That's right. There will. At least a few."
"There could even be a few dozens of people since there are thousands outside!"
The goldfish chatted amongst each other as they became livelier.
Chief Lee Taes.h.i.+n, who was thinking about joining their conversation when the mood was down, was relieved. Then he exchanged a happy glance with Jung Jae. Soon, Jung Jae turned to look at me.
Maybe it was because of the past incident, but she always looked hesitant.
But she was resolute right now.
Enough that I could trust her.
I got up and said to Chief Lee Taes.h.i.+n,
"Chief Lee, I already reported the situation to our superiors, so please call the stylist team for their outfits. As well as the instrumentals. Whether you get them to deliver or you go get them yourself, go with the quickest method."
I left Pretty Girls under the makeup artists' care and left the waiting room.
Then I told Lee Kwanwoo, who followed me out after seeing my gesture,
"Find out Babel's chief."
I looked at the crowd of people outside and said,
"Their fans are gathered here. We have to hope that some of them will listen to reason."
Even as he made an odd expression, Lee Kwanwoo quickly took out his phone.
When I returned after confirming Pretty Girls' performance with Team Leader Yoon and receiving his thanks and promise of some compensation, Lee Kwanwoo already had the number of Babel's chief in his hand.
I found an empty waiting room and called.
The voice was very hoa.r.s.e. He sounded nervous and irritated.
"This is Babel's chief, correct? My name is Jung Sunwoo, the one in charge of Neptune."
"I heard that you got in an accident on your way here. Are you alright?"
-Ah, we-we're fine. But why did you…
His fl.u.s.tered voice questioned.
It was the same for Lee Kwanwoo, who was watching me.
"About today's university event. We decided to fill the empty time slot under the agency's request. It will be Neptune and Pretty Girls' special performance. But because we are currently filming Making Film, there will be cameras filming them."
-Pr-Pretty Girls? Pardon? Cameras?
"It seems like there are a lot of hardcore Babel fans in the crowd. I think things may get ugly if they learn that Babel's performance will be delayed. I'm also worried that something bad might happen when Pretty Girls go up on stage. The broadcast is one thing, but there are a lot of people here filming fancams."
-Ah, d.a.m.n it. This is driving me crazy.
Don't go crazy.
His voice became quiet before he came back.
-Our fan manager will figure out who went to the event and explain the situation. We can't control the young ones either, so I don't know if telling them that they could be banned from the next event will be effective…"
I exchanged a few more words with the groaning chief before hanging up.
In front of me, Lee Kwanwoo looked at me with fervor.
"I just thought that you always act with insurance."
He replied, shrugging lightly.
"This is just insurance. It's not a perfect countermeasure. Do you think hardcore fans are hardcore for nothing?"
"Then, after all this, what if they really throw water bottles…"
"Then we need to spin that in a positive way."
The moment Lee Kwanwoo's eyes widened, the ground suddenly collapsed.
"… Married into a Chinese conglomerate. That the person was being treated for anxiety. That the person was pregnant. That the person retired in Korea and went on to do theater in the States. There were all sorts of rumors."
What the heck?
I was in the office again. The office of my future self.
Like always in this future, Director Park and Reporter Song were in front of me.
However, there was something else same about this.
"She started when she was a child, so she was great at acting."
Director Park looked in my direction and added,
"I wonder what Son Chaeyoung's doing now."
Why was I seeing this again?
This had never happened before.