With a thunderous cheer behind us, we hurriedly left the stage.
As we hastily took off our durumagi, we swept our sweat-soaked hair up.
“Did it go well?”
“Yeah, really well.”
It went much, much better than during the rehearsal when we didn’t wear the durumagi robes.
Sure enough, as the camera director passed by, he gave us a thumbs-up.
“Wow, that was amazing! The fierceness in the members’ eyes was incredible!”
“Who decided to add the dance break?”
“Oh, that was me.”
“The formation was so good! I haven’t seen a performance of this quality in a long time.
It was even better than the rehearsal.”
With red ears, Kim Seonghyeon bowed his head in gratitude.
As the camera director walked away with a chuckle, we turned and headed toward the waiting room.
Maze was about to go onto the stage.
“We’ll cheer you on.”
This time, the gaze that fell upon us was a mixture of acknowledgment and admiration.
The most prominent emotions, however, were undoubtedly wariness.
Well done, Kim Seonghyeon.
It was the highest praise for a rookie who suddenly rose to the occasion.
There was a sense of accomplishment in having Kim Seonghyeon as the main focus of our performance.
Everyone seemed to share the same thought as we entered the waiting room with proud expressions.
“Yay, great job, everyone!”
As soon as we entered the waiting room, Maze’s performance started.
“They do have a good vocalist, though.”
I should have checked the stats when we passed by earlier.
Well, even if their vocalist was good, he still couldn’t quite compete with Seong Jiwon or Joo Woosung.
Destroyers of the ecosystem…
Being diligent, Seong Jiwon didn’t take his eyes off the monitor as he watched Maze’s performance intensely.
Only after the song ended did he exhale and chug down some water.
[“The next performance is by Today!”]
“It’s our sunbae, Today.”
Kang Ichae blatantly sneered.
While watching Today get onto the stage, I first studied their costumes.
It was a dead giveaway.
“There was no other choice, really.”
“Well, there are only two songs, and we already used ‘Glow.’”
We watched Today’s performance more seriously than anyone else.
Their stage was extravagant, and their outfits were covered head to toe in luxury brands.
However, there was an unmistakable anxiety on Today’s faces that they couldn’t hide.
Their anxiety became apparent after seeing our performance.
Meanwhile, a familiar beat rang out.
“Say it once more, it’s the beginning for us,
I will come back every time.”
“The concept hasn’t changed.”
“Yeah, it seems they just used the same one.”
In this competition, our team and Today chose utterly different routes.
While we modified “Make Love” into a completely different concept, maintaining only the backbone of the melody and the core lyrics, Today stuck to the original “Second Chance” concept and only slightly changed the beat.
I guess the plan was to crush the competition with their skills…
I honestly assessed the situation.
“It’s not going to work.”
Seong Jiwon gasped for breath.
Jeong Dajun was startled and said,
“The camera is rolling.”
“Should I be more diplomatic?”
Should I call up a dialogue box in the system and change it to “Not good at all♡”?
As I contemplated such a trivial matter, the other members (excluding Kang Ichae, of course) looked at me anxiously, so I kindly explained.
“We’re bound to get criticized anyway.”
I didn’t expect Kim Heeyeon to go so far.
Hearing that, everyone rolled their eyes and nodded.
“It makes sense when you think about it…?”
Jeong Dajun was convinced and returned his attention to Today’s performance.
I shook my head as I watched the part that was originally mine.
“Did they really… understand the concept? It was so cool when Hoyun sang it, but why does it seem so awkward when they do it?”
That’s only because I did it well.
Whether he was bold or perceptive, Kang Ichae, who usually didn’t pay attention to the camera, burst into laughter when one of Today’s members stumbled through the rap, cutting out an entire verse.
“What’s this? Is it a comedy show?”
As expected, Kang Ichae was a terrifying chatterbox.
“No need to worry,
I’ll lead you-!”
Even their main vocalist cracked.
He tried to hastily smooth it over with a cool demeanor, but the audience clenched their fists in embarrassment.
“I can’t watch this…”
Jeong Dajun seemed to hit the empathy max as he screamed.
I chuckled and sipped my red ginseng juice.
“Cracking must be so embarrassing….”
“Our song does have a high vocal range.”
“Still, as idols….”
“It’s a bit excessive to be unable to do that…”
That’s what they meant.
It was quite harsh.
Everyone finally let out the words they’d been thinking, and their faces looked as refreshed as if they had just come out of a bathhouse.
After Today’s performance ended, our talk continued for quite some time.
“Whew, what would we have done if we held all that in?”
“Hyung, you were the worst of all.”
I smirked and tossed the red ginseng juice wrapper into the trash bin.
“The Dawn, it’s time to go up!”
Upon the staff’s words, everyone quickly stood up from their seats.
As we stepped outside and headed toward the stage, we crossed paths with the Nightmare group.
Nightmare’s youngest member, Lee Hanseong, approached me as if he had been waiting.
“I’m not your senior.
I’ve only debuted a month ago.”
“Ah? Really? Then Seo Hoyun? Or should I call you hyung?”
“You were so cool earlier!”
What’s this about?
Hanseong made fists with both hands, said what he wanted to say, and then walked away with a flushed face.
The Nightmare members patted his back with a pleased expression.
“What was that?”
As I mumbled in surprise, Kang Ichae sneaked up to me and whispered.
“Hyung is popular~.”
“Last time, you could have chosen among Nightmare, Maze, and Refined, but you purposely picked the biggest challenge among them.
They think you generously gave them a chance with a selfless heart.”
I laughed bitterly.
I swore that wasn’t my intention.
“Kids are so sweet.
They only think positively.”
“What? Hyung is indeed cool.”
Ichae grinned and moved away.
I slightly furrowed my brows, shrugged my shoulders, and cleared my thoughts.
As we went up on stage, a loud cheer filled the hall.
“Now, it’s time for the long-awaited announcement, isn’t it?”
Yu Jia smiled brightly.
She was really something.
“We’ll start by announcing the 4th place.
They captured the judges’ hearts with a fresh concept different from their usual style.”
Her commentary was lengthy.
It was a typical tactic of survival programs, deliberately dragging things out to build tension.
Cameras were focused on us during that time.
Jeong Dajun showed a tense, frozen expression.
“In 4th place! Refined!”
Although the Refined members looked slightly disappointed, they quickly composed themselves.
Their leader waved with a bright smile to the fans.
Not too bad.
It seems the on-site votes had a significant impact.
The competition had now become a head-to-head battle.
Until the first round, The Dawn’s fans had been dominant, possibly due to the various controversies involved.
However, after what appeared with Today, public opinion completely changed.
The already numerous Today fans flocked to the competition and fiercely supported them against The Dawn.
Is this going the way I wanted?
I couldn’t help but smile, even though I knew I shouldn’t.
Yu Jia proceeded to announce the 3rd place.
“In 3rd place, it’s Nightmare!”
The youngest Nightmare member, who had greeted me earlier, jumped up in surprise.
Climbing from the 5th to the 3rd place was a remarkable improvement, especially considering they had the least experience among the program participants.
Nightmare members bowed and greeted everyone.
Now, only the 1st, 2nd, and 5th places were left to be announced.
Just as they were about to announce the 5th place, Jeong Dajun grabbed my sleeve.
Dajun’s head hung low, his fingertips trembling slightly, seemingly a mix of nervousness and anxiety.
Since he was a minor, he looked especially young.
I called out to him.
“Lift your head.”
He didn’t do anything wrong.
Yu Jia glanced at us with a sympathetic smile and opened her mouth.
“In 5th place, with 1,500 points, it’s The Dawn!”
Kim Seonghyeon’s face turned pale.
I playfully hit him and then tried to give him a reassuring smile.
Without any reaction, Kim Seonghyeon tightly closed his mouth.
His face seemed to say, “I’m terribly sorry.” He must have thought he had ruined everything because of the bullying controversy.
I bowed to Yu Jia and the fans.
The judges’ faces clearly showed mixed emotions: Impressive, Pitiful, and Sorry.
The apologetic faces were undoubtedly from our fans.
I waved and smiled brightly at them.
“First place goes to Today! Congratulations to Maze for coming in second place!”
Today smiled brightly and waved at the cameras and fans.
I didn’t want to watch it anymore.
I hurriedly greeted people and went backstage to change out of my costume.
“Guys! Great job!”
The manager tried to lift our spirits with a cheerful expression.
However, it didn’t affect Kim Seonghyeon at all.
Seonghyeon pressed his fingers against his forehead and let out a small sigh.
“Guys, I’m sor….”
“Do you guys want to eat tteokbokki on the way back?”
“Tteokbokki! And sundae!”
“Ah, can I also order some fish cakes then?”
There’s a food stand on the way.”
“Manager, can we buy tteokbokki on the way back?!”
The moment Kim Seonghyeon tried to apologize, all the members pretended not to hear him.
Seonghyeon hesitated and was about to speak again.
“Guys, it’s all my fault that we ranked 5th….”
I put my arm around Seonghyeon’s shoulder.
He frowned deeply.
“Seonghyeon, what am I then? I’m the main contributor to this situation.”
“What? No way…”
“If it’s not me, then it’s not you either.”
“Hyung, don’t look so down.
It doesn’t suit you.”
Kang Ichae playfully poked the flustered Seonghyeon, whose eyes were shaking.
Kim Seonghyeon, you’re too soft.
“Seonghyeon, do you know what’s most important in a survival show?”
“It’s the narrative.”
It’s been a long time since everything went according to my plan.
Everything was in my hands.
“Think about it.
We ranked 5th here and then win 1st place.
How would that be, Kang Ichae?”
“It would be a huge hit, hyung.”
Kang Ichae smirked cleverly beside me.
I proudly patted Ichae’s back.
“That’s right, a huge hit.”
Ichae excitedly rattled off various memes.
[“From last place to awakening and rising to 1st place.”]
[“A true underdog hiding their strength.”]
[“An idol group with real talent that was unfairly oppressed.”]
I like all the titles.
“Let’s see how far we can go.”
How well would this story be received in Korea, where people are accustomed to spicy flavors?
[Title: Today’s N-Tube rankings are already up, 1st place: TDY, 2nd place: MZ, 3rd place: NYTM, 4th place: RFND, and 5th place: TD
└ ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ Is there any meaning in concealing the names with initials?
└ What?!????? TD is 5th place????
└ Weren’t they 1st place last time? What happened?
└ This competition was so well done ;;;; Year-end stage level
└└ Don’t exaggerate too much
└└ Go watch the preview…]
[Title: After manipulating the rankings, The Dawn’s ranking is confirmed at 5th place
└ ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ LMAO, the real biggest victim of the show
└ Proven through evil editing ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ So innovative
└ The production team should compensate them
└└ What compensation? TD’s fandom has grown so much this time ㅋㅋㅋ
└ Really, when I think about it, these fuckers, they were all over the place claiming The Dawn was rigged, but now they’re quiet, huh??]
[Title: Today’s blooper has already become a meme and is spreading around ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ
└ But they won 1st place
└ TD paved the way, but they burned it dow
└└ TD: ???
└└ Seo Hoyun: You can’t take advantage of this..? (Confused)
└ Today’s fans must be really embarrassed
└ Today: I’ll find my own path, ↗↘evil↗
└└ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ Voice support ㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋㅋ]
The online community was on fire.
[Preview/Shining Star 2nd Round Competition: The Dawn’s “Make Love”
└ Totally cool (Likes 3241)
└ Honestly, this should have been 1st place… Were the people on-site blind…? (Likes 10453)
└└ Half of them were Today’s fans ㅋㅋㅋ They must know… Today doesn’t deserve 1st place…
└ Let’s not criticize Kim Seonghyeon’s skills even if we criticize his character (Likes 241)
└└ Please remove this comment ㅡㅡ
└└ Yeah, Kim Seonghyeon school bully Kim Seonghyeon school bully Kim Seonghyeon school bully
└ What’s the original song? I can’t listen to the original key anymore because it’s so boring (Likes 3152)]
N-Tube was on fire.
[Let’s try starting over, sliding click… Let’s try starting over, sliding click… Let’s try starting over, sliding click… Let’s try starting over, sliding click….]
[Seo Hoyun is a godly genius rabbit idol, and I’ll accept any objections with the most expensive Seo Hoyun photocards]
[Seong Jiwon, I love you: There’s only one sun in the world (a picture of aiming a gun at the sun)]
[Ichae’s noona: Mom, why is my friend’s name Kang Ichae?
Because her mom loves Kang Ichae.
What about my name?
Good question, Shining Star 2nd round competition “Make Love” Kang Ichae]
SNS was on fire.
All the memes came out one after another.
However, there was only one quiet place.
Kim Seonghyeon’s fans’ accounts.
Most of them went private after the school bullying scandal, and they quietly lamented.
[ㅠㅠㅠㅠ Honestly ㅠㅠㅠㅠ Kim Seonghyeon killed it this time ㅠㅠㅠㅠㅠㅠㅠ He was the center ㅠㅠㅠ But why can’t I brag about it because I’m being considerate… My heart aches…]
[I cry every time I think about Seonghyeon]
[Graduation photo proof? There are tons of people who buy those and fake it ㅋㅋㅋ If that photo is proof, then I’m best friends with Yu Jia and private friends with Joo Woosung, huh??? Getting beaten everywhere with just that one graduation photo proof, shit… It’s so pathetic, really]
[When they got 5th place, Seonghyeon’s face looked like he was so sorry, even though he did so well… Why does he have to look sorry when he did well…]
[Today, I sent another PDF of hate comments to the agency.
I hope Seonghyeon isn’t having a hard time…]
With the 3rd and final live competition approaching, all sorts of controversy gathered.
From manipulation controversies, school bullying, various hardships, evil editing, and new stages.
With unprecedented moves, Shining Star‘s ratings soared, and were on the verge of breaking through to the universe.
I’ve been waiting and waiting.
After the 4th episode of Shining Star aired, and a record-breaking 5.7% rating for a cable competition program was achieved, I picked up the phone.
“Yes, Kim Jaeyeon.”
In other words, to put it another way.
“Did you get the photos?”
Now was the time when some refreshing cider was needed.
 A durumagi is a traditional Korean overcoat that is worn over hanboks.
 In Hangul, each syllable must have at least one consonant and one vowel.
The consonant comes first, followed by the vowel.
The original Korean text only contained the consonant, hence the reply about the initials.
So, Today / 투데이 / ㅌㄷㅇ, Maze / 마즈 / ㅁㅈ, Nightmare / 나이트메어 / ㄴㅇㅌㅁㅇ, Refined / 리파인드 / ㄹㅍㅇㄷ, and The Dawn / 더던 / ㄷㄷ.
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