"So you are officially MC now, aren't you?" Jisoo poked me in the ribs teasingly.
"Yikes!" I raised a fork with a piece of chicken on it and it almost fell off. We were having lunch in one of our common dorm rooms, instead of choosing to visit a cafeteria on the first floor. We were too exhausted after long hours of rehearsal and practice in the studio; our managing team demanded the highest level of preparation for the upcoming end-of-the-year events. "But I still don't understand why me."
"I heard he picked almost everyone himself, so he definitely chose you too," Lisa chewed on her asparagus. She was lying on a couch like an ancient Greek goddess with a plate full of food resting on her stomach.
"Well, bad for him, cause I have never been an MC, well, only if narration in high school drama classes counts..."
Jennie chuckled, collecting her wet, just-out-of-shower hair into a ponytail and asked, "Do you know your partners?"
"Yeah... Oh, by the way, partners! Jisoo, you were an MC two years ago with V. Tell me, what is he like?"
"V from BTS? You mean, that V?" Lisa deepened her voice on the word "that", and Rosé snorted on her juice, making us laugh.
"To be honest, at that moment, I wasn't that much communicative with both of them on camera," Jisoo told, painstakingly cutting her potato. "Bong-oppa's preaches previously, you know," she rolled her eyes, and I hummed comprehending. "But, yeah, he's a fine guy... A little bit weird, to be fair; he was always singing and muttering something under his breath... Not sure," Jisoo shrugged, thoughtfully looking at the window, through which Busan's sunlight was lighting the room. "Also he's a little bit extra: remember I showed you how he was dancing in the middle of the platform when we were performing..." we all chuckled, remembering the video where he was surprisingly precise at doing 'Playing with Fire' choreography. Jisoo suddenly dropped her fork, gasping shocked, and her eyes on me.
"What? Is it potatoes? I told you they didn't look alright!" Jennie concerned grabbed Jisoo's shoulder and scowled at potatoes on her plate.
"What? What is it with my face?" Xena started touching her face because Jisoo was looking at her with such a conscious glance as if an epiphany has just occurred to her.
"He is just like you!" a cackle came out of Jisoo.
"Who?" Rosé was first to ask.
"V! He is just as crazy as you are!"
"Well, thank you," I rolled my eyes at the girls laughing at me.
"Is he, really?" wondered Jennie.
"I mean, not that crazy," Jisoo darted eyes on me and I threw a napkin at her, noticing the gesture. "But, you know what I mean, getting hyped almost on any music and stuff... Just like her."
"Well, it's weird, because the other one, Jackson, is almost exactly the same..." mused Lisa, picking cucumber piece on her fork.
"Jackson who?" Rosé questioned.
"You know, JYP one, he's in the same group with Bambam," told her Lisa and it dawned upon Rosé.
"I think I don't know him," I was busy with trying to fitting as many meat pieces as possible in my mouth.
"Remember the guy trying to pull everybody's pants down, when we were waving back to Bambam and Yugyueom?" attempted Lisa. I strained my memory hardly, but that was too far to notice anyone's face, so I grimaced and shrugged.
"Oh, come on, he's Chinese!" Jisoo impatiently slapped my back.
"You think I remember his nationality? I barely know how he looks," I drank water from Jennie's glass and Jisoo expressively rolled her eyes at me.
"Anyway, I am convinced you all will definitely get along," Lisa pointed her knife at me.
"Yeah, I think that is why, he chose the most crack-headed ones of the groups," Jisoo snorted.
"To say it more polite, the more communicative ones of the groups," reinstated Jennie. "But don't behave like you got ten injections of adrenaline before this; do not make us ashamed of you."
"Ha-ha-ha," I laughed sarcastically.
"Putting you all together will be a huge mess," Jisoo giggled along with the other girls and I was about to shot back, when the door busted open. Gia-unni, our informal personal manager, responsible for our out-of-work activities, was standing at the threshold, breathing tiredly.
"Dumb mechanics... Still didn't fix those damn elevators!" she complained instead of greeting. Gia-unni glanced at our lunch table, then Lisa promptly handed her a glass of water.
"Have a seat, Gia-unni," Jennie offered to drag a chair beside the wall.
"Thanks, Jennie-ya," she gulped some water. "But I don't have enough time... Just wanted to tell you, Xena," she wiped the sweat off her forehead. "Be ready after an hour. I'm going to pick you up and drive you there."
"Yes, mam," I saluted to her like a soldier.
"Don't forget to pack your pajamas," Gia-unni pointed her finger at me dangerously. "Or should I check your bag?"
"No!" I protested immediately, and girls silently tittered. "I'll do it myself! What am I, a five-year-old?"
"Well it looks like that, sometimes," she suppressed a smile, but girls were ready to tease me. I crossed my hands, smiling despite myself, and opened my mouth to answer wistfully.
"Alright, just be ready, okay?" she said, preventing me from arguing, and turned to address Rosé. "Chaeyoung, I don't know about you, but if tomorrow I will be free by one, I'll drive you to the rehearsal building. If not, Sunho will, though he said he will be busy... Anyway, be ready by two." Rosé nodded, wiping her fingers with a napkin before Gia-unni closed the door behind herself. I stood up slowly and stretched my hands and legs one by one.
"Alrighty-tighty, amigos," I said after finishing the glass of water. "I'm going to go and pack my pajamas, then. Wish me luck with J.Y. Park, because I have no idea what to expect."
"I feel like he's a nice person, though," Lisa yawned, extending her legs. "Weird, but seems friendly, you know."
"CEO's should never be friendly to their artists," murmured Jisoo, successfully mimicking their own boss, and the girls roared with laughter. Jisoo wondered, "Why insisting on all of you to stay a night at his cottage?"
"Well, Gia-unni doesn't approve of that at all, you know," I grimaced, "That's why she made me choose pajamas with longest sleeves! Can you believe it? They are so thick and uncomfortable! As if I'll be showing myself off before them all, before going to bed..." I huffed, and the girls chuckled sympathetically. "Okay, I'm leaving! Rosie, wish you luck with Mister Modesty! I guess I'll see you all tomorrow afternoon," I hugged them all tightly, theatrically wiping my tears, and we all laughed. "I swear, we're going to rock that stage, so be ready, girls..."
On our way to JYP's cottage, which apparently was located far away from the center of the city, almost by the sunny Busan beach, Gia-unni bombarded me with lectures and instructions on behaving politely and self-contained, while I was nodding my head non-stop, secretly increasing the volume of the headphones.
"Don't goof around too much! Don't scream or shout," she was telling me determined as if all my life ambitions were to scream and shout around J.Y. Park. "We're going to stay for dinner, but then I'll try to convince him to let us go. I know everything is already agreed, but I don't want to hang around these too much, you know..."
"Gia-unni," I sighed tiredly. "Everything was arranged with Ming-oppa long time ago, and it would be very disrespectful towards his hospitality if we leave... Why would you even want to? He's a nice man," I said, watching Gia-unni purse her lips when I mentioned him.
"Well, I don't know, Xena... To me he looks like a maniac!" exclaimed Gia-unni . "And besides, it is said that he only eats beetroot juice and fish oil ampules as breakfast, can you believe it? I hope he wouldn't make us eat beetroot juice..." I bit my inner cheek, struggling from laughing out loud.
I fell asleep in the car on the way here, so I woke up just when he was hopping merrily towards the gates, to welcome us in person. I hastily smoothed my hair and wiped the saliva off my chin, hoping that I didn't look like I was living in the forest for a week.
"Xena-sshi! Gia-sshi! How nice of you to come! I was waiting for you!" he shook my hand enthusiastically, and I shook it back, couldn't helping but smile. Gia-unni preferred just to bow, and as I noticed, forcing a smile out. JYP didn't seem affronted at all and offered readily. "Come on, now! Let's go inside! You are the first ones to arrive; I hope others will be here soon..."
End of POV
"...And then he started running after Luca! We were looking for them throughout the whole complex, you know! " JYP was enjoying the story Xena was telling him, gesticulating wildly. "But we became good friends after that case, surprisingly. Of course, I am still a dog person, but I don't mind her cats at all."
He laughed heartily and pushed the plate full of fruits towards her, from which she thankfully grabbed a slice of orange. The bell rang and JYP jumped happily from his seat, exclaiming "I guess it's our BigHit guests!" and sped towards the gates like a young boy. Gia rose immediately from her seat and started fixing Xena's skirt muttering "don't be too extra, don't laugh too loud, behave like a lady" under her breath like a mantra, so Xena rolled her eyes secretly.
JYP greeted managers enthusiastically, and the last person shook his hand happily, wreathing in his joyful "boxy" smile.
"Oh, come in, please! Closer! Our YG guests are already here!" JYP was jumping excited, glancing at everyone filling his house. Xena almost physically felt many pairs of eyes following her actions, but nevertheless smiled and bowed politely to Kim Taehyung.
"Good afternoon, V-shi! Very glad to meet you," she greeted. He greeted her with similar words, his eyes twinkling like he finally got the chance to get a closer look at a souvenir, he had been observing from far away for a long time.
Xena knew it was enough, but she still went for a friendly handshake, because such movement was more familiar to her. She could have sworn she heard Gia-unnie hissing unpleasantly at the back. V accepted handshake readily as if he was waiting for an action like this from her and smiled broadly.
They finally sat on a pretty big table, and JYP announced that dinner will be ready soon. He was jumping on his seat out of excitement and entertained both of them with talks, asking about everything, starting from origins, ending with current projects of the group. Gia periodically kept straightening Xena's spine, fixing the napkin on her lap, and hissing words like "stop eating too many fruits" or "do not talk with a full mouth" or "don't cross your legs like a man" into her ear.
"Let's just wait for our third MC," muttered JYP, frowning at his phone. He added quieter: "One day, I'll kill this boy..." Xena and Taehyung heard him; they snorted and quickly exchanged meaningful looks. Taehyung seemed not able to sit still on his chair, glancing fearfully to the Gia's side and holding himself back from.
"Xena-sshi," he half-cried half-whispered, clearing his throat. She stopped chewing on her pineapple slice, and couldn't hide her surprise, for it was the first time for this evening that he addressed her directly. Xena felt the tension from the seat to her right, where Gia-unni was sitting, but she looked at him with raised eyebrows, indicating that she was paying attention.
"Let me tell you that Your last album was amazing," he bounced on his seat, smiling widely. She gulped her hardly chewed up pineapple, a sincere smile blossoming on her lips:
"Really?" The same smile appeared on his face.
"I loved 'History' a lot, and also your..." he started encouraged by the response, but got interrupted by banging noises from the entrance site. Everybody jumped frightened at the loud noise, and JYP pursed his lips annoyed. He made a gesture to staff to open the gates, not bothering to open it himself.
"Annyeonghaseyo!" In the bright light of the yard lamps, a guy, wearing a sports suit with a rucksack on his back, was standing, soaked in a sweat, but grinning from ear to ear. Gia and JYP seemed to be disgruntled the most, whereas Taehyung was struggling hard to contain his giggles.
"Hey!" Xena blurted involuntarily all of a sudden after a flash of memory went through her head. "You are the Papillon guy!"
The guy's smile sunk down slowly, confused look making its way on his face; he was looking for the one who said it. Everybody busted out laughing at Xena's words, with Taehyung laughing the loudest. Even Gia found her remark funny and allowed herself a dry chuckle. Xena realized what her problematic mouth just spat out and bit on her tongue, smiling excusatory to the guy, when he finally spotted her.
"Yaa, why does everybody keep calling me that until this day?" he questioned rhetorically, and JYP patted him on the shoulder, forgetting his annoyance and wiping the tears of laughter. Jackson ruffled his wet hair, while Xena stretched a hand out for him.
"Nice to meet you, I'm Xena," she said, suppressing her laughter. He wiped his sweaty hand on his pants and accepted her handshake. She didn't flinch shaking his hand, continuing to smile at him, and he looked satisfied.
"Oh, God... I'm glad we finally met, Xena-sshi. I've heard a lot about you lately, of course," his lips curved up into a smile. "I'm Jackson Wang from China. You seem to know me as Papillon guy, but I would be happier if you just called me Jackson."
"Okay, sorry for that Pa- Jackson," Jackson smiled and shook his head, understanding that she did that on purpose. Jackson and Taehyung seemed to know each other, so they high-fived and exchanged a few words enthusiastically, until JYP sent Jackson to shower, scolding him for appearance. Jackson came back after a few minutes in fresh clean clothes and joined dinner. He shook his head with a wet hair, causing Gia to purse her lips irritated, and dug into the food.
"We'll be watching some movies tonight in my room... Probably 'It 2' or something like that," JYP pointed towards the window of the second floor, Xena's supposed guest room being one floor above it. The boys threw their fists in the air encouragingly and Jackson cried out "I bet only I won't pee my pants!" before JYP smiled and looked at her. "Xena-shi, your presence is, of course, mandatory."
"'It 2'?" she asked, not being able to hold back her excitement. "I haven't watched it yet, so I'll definitely..."
"Oh, thanks a lot for an invitation, JinYoung-shi," Gia voiced over Xena confidently, "But it's already getting late, so Xena will go to sleep, she wants to have a rest..."
Xena's jaw met the floor, as she watched Gia standing from her seat and starting to collect her things.
"But unni," whispered urgently to her Xena, standing up herself, "I..."
"Oh, don't start it, Xena," whispered fretfully Gia. "Your manager told us not to overwork you too much, and as far as I am concerned, you already are tired and look terrible. You need to take a shower. And besides, it's almost eleven!"
"What are you even..." Xena started, but couldn't find words to form a single sentence; so much was going on inside her head. "Oh, come on, for God's sake, it's just a movie session... There is nothing..."
"Xena," she said resolved. "I am just following orders. I can't do anything, but it'll be better for you. Come on, now... Say goodbye to them, and I'll guide you to your room."
JYP caught the boys' attention engaging them in a conversation, and they were happy to be distracted from witnessing the awkward scene. Xena's cheeks were burning because of unfairness, and her inners curled up affronted. The rebel side of her demanded justice, and brains started spinning with a crazy speed, trying to figure out what to reply. Gia glanced back at her, raising her eyebrows anticipating, and sighed.
"Good night, JinYoung-shi, and you boys," Gia said. "It was very nice to meet you all... Xena, let's go."
Xena's lips slowly curved into a smirk, before she confidently walked after Gia, throwing, surprisingly, merry "bye, everyone!" to them. And neither Jackson, nor Taehyung was sure, but they thought they saw Xena winking at them when piteously watching her leave.
"This typical YG management, honestly..." muttered JYP, before emptying the glass of juice.
"There you go," Gia breathed exhausted, finishing fluffing the pillows. Xena looked up at her, putting her phone on a nightstand, and couldn't help but smile. Maybe I should have been more thankful, Xena thought irresolutely. Her care-taker, despite having a bad temper and constantly complaining about everything in the world, was actually a caring and considerate woman. Even though Xena was annoyed but the fact that Gia was always annoyed, she was trying to be thankful for everything she has done to her.
"Gia-unni," Xena sighed, as the care-taker was checking the composition of numerous bottles on a bathroom's shelves, and undoubtedly trying to get rid of the "low-qualified" ones. "Thank you a lot, but, now, please, leave my room and go to sleep; you look very tired."
"You're sure you can...?" she started suspiciously, and Xena interrupted her.
"Yes! I'll be alright! I'm not a kid, I can take care of myself," Xena assured her, pushing her out of the room. Gia glanced suspiciously around the room and at Xena's pajamas for the last time, and finally left the room, seeming pretty content with everything.
"Night, then, Xena..." said she lastly, before closing the door. "Don't do anything stupid! Don't make me lock you up in this room!"
"What do you think I'm going to do, throw myself out of the window?" she crossed her hands, frowning resentfully. Gia threateningly pointed her finger at her, before shutting the door.
Silence reigned in the room, as Xena slowly sunk on a soft bed. She was listening closely to Gia muttering in a neighboring room, and to her door locks clicking, before it all fell silent. Crickets out of the open window were ringing chirping, a very weak but steady noise was coming through the floor, and Xena allowed herself to sigh noiselessly. She felt like a young teen, whose parents forbid her to go to her friend's house for a sleep-over... But now, she wasn't an irresponsible teen, but twenty-five-year-old woman God damn it! What now, she is going to follow others' stupid rules? Is she going to withdraw from having fun and doing what she wants?
"Fuck it," she muttered lastly, rising with a spring from the bed noiselessly. She is going to have some fun tonight because it was what she wanted to do at the moment. The world will not end, if, nonetheless, she will get caught. And besides, she hasn't watched 'It 2' yet... She tried to act as quiet as possible, bending together the belts of the bathrobes that were hanging in the bathroom. Thanks to participation in a military reality show along with Lisa, she had basic martial skills and background; Xena was surprised she actually needed them in life. "Thank you, YG..." she mumbled, checking the tightness of the knots she tied, once she was sure that the hand-made rope could bear up her weight.
Stepping quietly on a windowsill, she felt like a spy from action movies, on a secret mission. She moved tree branch aside and looked below, noticing the window of the room, where JYP and the other two should be if she was not mistaken. She gathered all of her bravery and started climbing downwards, praying silently for the rope, which she fastened to the metal pipes below her window, not to tear apart. Xena didn't even want to think of what will happen if she fell from the window of the third floor. She already was right above the window, and hearing loud voices coming from inside, she thought she guessed right. She cautiously stepped on the ledge of the window frame, accidentally scratching the surface with her toenails.
When she was on the same level with the window, clinging on a rope tightly, the voices in the room suddenly stopped. Xena knocked on a window glass softly with her knuckles, noticing the translucent curtains drawn from inside. She heard a high-pitched shriek, followed by a loud thud, and then the silence fell once again. Suddenly Xena realized that she didn't even know how to explain her appearance; plus, she thought that maybe it was quite impolite of a guest to knock on a host's window at midnight. But the curtains were drawn off too quickly, and the shocked face of JYP didn't leave her a second to think of an excuse.
His eyebrows seemed to soar even higher when he figured that it was Xena hanging on a rope outside of his room window. She smiled tentatively after he finally managed to open the window.
"Xena-sshi?" he stammered loudly as if trying to convince himself that he's not having hallucinations. She wondered how stupid she might seem to others right now: a shapeless lump in a bear-like pajama, hanging like a decoration on a Christmas tree.
"Er... Good evening..." she sputtered uncertain, having no idea what to do next. While she was trying to figure out whether or not it was a real smile on JYP's face, another face popped out next to his.
"Is it...?" babbled Jackson, and then gasped at the sight of Xena. "I knew it! I knew it!" Jackson started jumping and yelling with delight. "I knew she was going to do something crazy like this!"
Taehyung's confused face appeared next on Jackson's right and lit up when he saw Xena. He started laughing and clapping his hands rapturously like a kid, who just saw a magic trick by a magician. "You scared Jackson! He was..."
"No, I wasn't!" Jackson protested in an instant, glaring at giggling Taehyung. "And who wouldn't be, when someone knocks on your window, while you are watching a thriller?!"
"Jackson!" barked at him J.Y. Park. "Be quiet, for God's sake! And never call a lady crazy, understood?"
"I didn't call her crazy!" protested louder than before Jackson, "I just meant she's cool! And she's not even offended, look!" he pointed his finger at Xena's face, which was struggling to restrain a burst of laughter. J.Y. Park rolled his eyes at Jackson and slapped his hand that was pointing at Xena.
"What did I tell you about pointing at people..." they started bickering once again, and Xena and Taehyung exchanged familiar significant looks before he cleared his throat loudly, and they stopped arguing with each other.
"I very much love hanging here and listening to You, but would you mind, please, letting me in?"
JYP abashed offered his hand to Xena, and she readily sprang from windowsill on the floor, while Taehyung was curiously pulling the rope, testing its toughness. She straightened up and smiled weakly, once again pulling her oversized pajama pants up.
"I think I made the right choice," he declared to them, smiling like a proud father, and then turned to Xena. "You just proved it."
The intense scene on the big TV was illuminating the faces sitting on the couch. Some were actively absorbing on the movie snacks; some were focused hard on the plot development of a horror movie.
"You want some, Xena-sshi?" JYP stretched out a bowl full of popcorn over Taehyung, who was fully concentrated on the movie. Xena withdrew her gaze away from the screen.
"Oh, thank you, JYP-nim," she took a handful of popcorn and smiled gratefully. "And, please, just call me Xena."
"Oh, okay," he smiled and nodded his head. Jackson leaned backward, meeting JYP's eyes, and played seductively with his eyebrows, making sure Xena wasn't watching him. JYP rolled his eyes and frowned, pointing his index finger threateningly at him. When Jackson looked back at the screen, unfortunately for him, clown started ferociously tearing apart its victim. Jackson screamed on the top of his lungs and jumped terrified, landing right on Xena. Everyone was laughing, Xena being the loudest.
"I'm sorry," he breathed out, taking his hands off her.
"It's fine," Xena snorted back. "You can hold on me if you are that scared."
"I didn't know you're such a scaredy-cat," giggled Taehyung, muttering something similar to "like Hobi-hyung" afterward.
"Oh my... Look! I almost cried!" Jackson opened up his eyes widely with his fingers. "Poor Dean... How would he even...? Oh my God, he literally ate a child! A little innocent child! How you all are not even crying?!"
"Chill, Jackson," Xena responded, chewing casually, unable to hold a smile. "I do feel pity for the kid, but mostly I cry when doggies die, like the one in that Marshmallow song... You heard it?" she glanced at Jackson and laughed out at the look on his face. "I'm just kidding, Papillon. Would you pass me that bottle, please?" Jackson rolled his eyes at giggling Taehyung and JYP and sighed.
"Would you, please, stop calling me that?" he said handing the bottle of water to her. "And besides, it's pronounced 'puh-pee-yon'," pointed out Jackson intelligently.
"No problem," she shrugged. "I will call you 'puh-pee-yon', if you want."
The eerie voice on the screen started whispering intimidatingly, causing Jackson to wince and clutch Xena's elbow fearfully. She pursed her lips, holding herself back from chuckling when she glanced at Jackson, who was trying hard not to scream. Xena's elbow throbbed away with pain right where Jackson was holding it, but she didn't say anything, reaching for popcorn in a bucket. It continued for several seconds before suspension ended with an explosion and the movie came to its end. They were discussing the ending, with Jackson hopping excitedly and ecstatically sharing his theories and thoughts on a third part.
"Jackson, stop - you'll wake up the whole house!" JYP hissed at him. "Including Gia-sshi, too," Jackson stopped talking right away and threw an apologizing look at Xena.
"Why is she so strict with you, anyway, Xena?" JYP risked asking the question that was bothering him the whole evening.
"Well," she chewed down the popcorn and shrugged. "I am a girl. I guess I need stronger protection... Everyone does that, do they not?"
"You mean sending people following them around, including closed dinners, even though they were not invited at all?" JYP raised his eyebrows, and Xena caught the sarcasm in his tone.
"Well, probably, not to this extent, but... Honestly, I'm so much used to it, already," she shrugged unknowingly, picking up the blankets on the floor with the tip of her foot. "It sucks, sometimes, of course. But I try to deal with it in many different ways..." she waved her hand towards the window, through which she got in.
"Why don't you go to JYP?" Jackson questioned rhetorically, lying on the floor, and surfing the YouTube thread on the TV with remote control, and Xena cackled ironically.
"Jackson-ah, stop making me sound like I want to steal her," angrily told JYP.
"Well, don't you?" Jackson drawled out, and a pillow hit his head.
"Well..." voiced Xena tentatively, and cleared her throat, catching everyone's attention. She thought for a moment about perspectives of telling these things tonight, to these particular people, while one of the GOT7's award show performances Jackson clicked on, was playing at the background. Meeting with all their expectant gazes, Xena sighed, realizing that as she started this whole thing, she should end this herself.
"I, actually, went auditioning for JYP once," JYP's eyebrows flew to the moon. "And for BigHit too..." Taehyung gasped, stopping eating his yogurt for a moment. "But, I haven't told anyone about this yet... So, please, keep it secret, would you?" Xena looked around at Taehyung and Jackson, whose faces were craving for some secrets; at least, JYP nodded with an intent expression on his face. Xena wondered how come she ended up telling her secrets to these three people out of anyone in the whole world but still continued talking.
"If I remember correctly, the company was going to debut TWICE, I think..." she squinted at the ceiling, recalling events of the past. "I was sitting in a waiting room for two hours, and learned from the rumors that only nine girls will most likely make it as a group in 2015."
"So you failed?" Jackson asked eagerly.
"No... The thing is, I didn't audition at all," everyone seemed confused, hearing this. "I just left. And the same goes for BigHit. Because of the GLAM scandal, at that moment, the company refused to audition any girls, so I was just going to be one of the company's in-service producers. But, in the last minute, I left it behind too and went to YG," she finished reciting her short story, and Taehyung hummed for something only he thought of. GOT7's 'Hard Carry' was playing in the background, adding irony to the room's atmosphere.
"But, why?" asked JYP confused, eager to know the reasons why would she decide against his company, and Xena felt uneasy, twisting potato chips on a big table of snacks.
"I chose YG instead, because..." she was choosing her words carefully, trying not to offend JYP in any way. "You know, at the time, mainly because of BigBang and 2ne1... And many other reasons as well, but..."
"So you chose YG, just because you wanted to meet BigBang and 2ne1?" Jackson cried out ridiculously.
"No! Not because I just wanted to meet them! Of course, I was a huge fan and all, but, you know, I thought YG style fitted me better than any other company," Xena was wildly gesticulating. "No offense to TWICE or any other girl groups, but I'm not too much into cute concepts if you didn't know," Taehyung smiled crooked, nodding as if he knew it already, and Jackson hummed amused.
"But in JYP we have many other concepts, besides cute ones," JYP contradicted. Jackson snorted and was about to rise up from the floor and say something, but Xena interrupted him.
"No, I know! I have nothing against JYP! Your company is amazing at many things," assured him Xena. "Especially when it comes to the mental health of idols," she added, while Jackson was trying to blow bubbles with his saliva.
"Anyway, it's just that about YG style... I was amazed at. I mean, YG was recognized as an expert of Korean hip-hop and all that swag ever since the 90s, wasn't it?" Taehyung and Jackson hummed in agreement, without a second thought, and JYP nodded his head reluctantly. "And I love YG music; I love music that is being produced for BLACKPINK. Even though the managing is poor most of the time, in my view, the quality of the product always remains excellent. And when I met BigBang myself and made music with Jiyoung-oppa, I haven't regretted the choice I made at all, especially when ten years ago I was only gaping at them from the crowd among thousands of people," her eyes twinkled quite excitedly. They all sat in silence, analyzing everything Xena said.
"Of course, you don't regret it, now that you gape at them from nearer," Jackson grinned at Xena's eye-roll, switching various Korean music videos.
JYP was analyzing her words, thinking about place YG owned in BIG3 entertainment companies – this manufacturing monster made literally every group, debuting under its label, successful. The success of many YG groups was undeniable; even JYP's own attempts to create something with an iconic girl crush, couldn't be compared to the ability YG had in working with such things – Itzy didn't have that aura and vibe. But the bitter truth was that company still frequently suffered from numerous scandals, involving drugs, money, and sexual harassment; JYP felt bad for many artists under that label, which had to go through troubles like these. Fortunately for Xena and BLACKPINK as a whole, there weren't any big scandals involved with drugs or money yet, but JYP was sure that it's just a matter of time before something happens to them as well.
"Lucky you!" cried out abruptly Taehyung, meeting Xena's confused gaze. "You've got to work with BigBang itself! I and, especially, Jungkook-ah would have given many things to have an opportunity to talk to them for more than five minutes!"
"Believe me, if you would have met them in person, you wouldn't have wanted to talk to them for more than five minutes," Xena laughed at Taehyung's surprised face, and added quickly. "Just kidding... If you'd like, I'll introduce you in person some time."
"Are you serious?!" Taehyung sprang from the couch, with a yogurt plastic box in his hand and cried out happily. "Oh, thank you, Xena! This is so cool! I know we can just go and say 'hi' to them, but, you know, we're a hell of scared when we see them on the horizon! And you all seemed to have so much fun during award shows with them..."
"Ha! Got it! You know what?!" called out Jackson, springing up from the floor excitedly, "You are just like Amber! She's not into aegyo at all!" Xena raised her eyebrows puzzled at him. "You know, Amber from f(x)..."
"I know her, Jackson," she sneered. "I am pretty good friends with her."
"Really?" was surprised Taehyung. "Me too. Well, others..."
"What? How did you..." interrupted him Jackson indignantly and looked at her calculatingly. "Oh, I see! I should have known... You both are so American! You were from the US too, weren't you?"
"No, Jackson, I'm not," Xena sat back on the couch beside them, grabbing yogurt the same as Taehyung's. "I just have been there for almost seven years. Do I really resemble an American?" she asked rhetorically and snorted when boys started rapidly bringing examples and evidence.
"You got that typical accent on English that we and the boys make fun of with "wow, man" and "oh my goodness!"..."
"When you were jamming wildly to the Wiz Khalifa, I knew instantly that something here is unclear..."
"All those times you did crazy things..."
"So 'doing crazy things' is now purely an American thing then?" Xena chortled.
"Well, not really, but your actions are just..." Teahyung made a mind-blowing gesture near his head.
"Some just think that you are nuts," Jackson laughed and Xena joined him, agreeing.
"Yeah, I thought that you were just having fun, without holding yourself back," Taehyung giggled, remembering many times when the only ones who were trying to be hype about recent boring award shows were Xena and BLACKPINK members. She made them roll on the floor with laughter by her extra actions. "And Jin-hyung stated matter-of-factly that you were just insane! But Namjoon-hyung said that it all, probably, was a western culture's influence," Xena's laugh faded away at the word "insane", and she smiled mirthlessly.
"Well, he isn't the first one to think so, but your Namjoon-hyung is right about western culture..." she responded, having a spoonful of yogurt, just to make her mouth busy with something. Taehyung fidgeted awkwardly, thinking that maybe he let out way too much. Jackson coughed, trying to lighten up the atmosphere, and Xena flinched withdrawing from her thoughts.
"No, I think, the thing is..." she seated herself comfortably, "Most people are more conservative in Korea, especially in this industry..." Xena shared her thoughts with guys, staring at the screen, where MAMA performances were going on one after another. She grabbed a remote control unexpectedly and searched up Nicki Minaj's 'Anaconda' music video, cracking up as the boys inhaled sharply. "For example, explicit things like this are seen as very rare here. Well, Nicki might be too much for a simple example..."
"Hey! She's my favorite," Jackson stood up, his eyes stuck at the glowing screen.
"Really?" Xena questioned amusedly looking at hypnotized Jackson.
"Oh, now I get why..." Taehyung chuckled looking first at Jackson and then at girls twerking freely in the music video. Jackson caught them both giggling at him.
"Alright, enough, that was too hard," Xena sniggered, shutting the music video off, and started searching for another one, ignoring Jackson's "hey! Put it back, I was just readying myself for twerking!"
"Well, you can twerk to this too," Xena muttered pushing a button, and the screen displayed Rihanna with Drake on the MTV Awards stage, performing the song 'Work', which was basically all about sexuality and passion. "Here, look," she said to them, but they were already fixedly staring with open mouths at Rihanna rubbing her bum on Drake's groin. "For instance, could you do the same thing in front of a thousand people watching you?"
"With you?" Jackson asked her piquantly.
"No! Not with me, dumbass," he got hit with another pillow once again. "I mean, in general?"
"Well, I rather prefer cute over sexy..." Taehyung mumbled, looking as if he was struggling to take his eyes off the screen. "Anyway, not the national Korean broadcasting, at least..."
"And that's what I'm talking about... We're not used fully to this stuff, yet. Whereas in the U.S., and I mean, pretty much the rest of the worlds' media and artists' fan-bases react like it's nothing..." she explained, but they already knew it themselves. Xena shook her head amazed. "I love Rihanna; I don't think you can find someone here, who would have agreed to do this..."
"Well, I have no doubts JYP will be happy to do this on any of the award shows," blurted Jackson, and three of them started roaring with laughter, 'Elevator' performance and pretty much his every other performance on their minds.
JYP sitting on a far corner of the couch looked like he just woke up and did not understand what was happening around him.
"Oh my God, stop thinking about YG, sajangnim!" Jackson howled with laughter, while Xena and Taehyung were rolling on the floor. "Xena will not go to your company, anyway."
"What? No! I wasn't even..." JYP started, and Xena made a gesture at Jackson.
"Jackson, stop!" she shushed at him, and he innocently shrugged. "Anyway, let's finish this serious talk, and have some fun, finally... By the way, I saw some hidden boxes under the cupboard... You hid away the stars of this party and were going to drink them in my absence, am I right?" she smiled sneakily, and Taehyung choked on his saliva.
"You want to drink?" he stuttered dumbfound.
"Were you not allowed to drink?..." JYP was taken aback, his eyes widening.
"Well, basically, yeah, but I mean who doesn't break the rules? So, time to time..." she smiled anticipating and Jackson clapped his hands, enthusiastic at the idea of drinking.
"She just disobeyed her manager, entering the party through the window, and you're still surprised?" Jackson giggled.
Empty bottles of low-alcohol beers were lying across the floor. Dance battle of random k-pop hits and karaoke contest, at last, came to an end, once limbs were too exhausted to move and throats hurt of vociferating famous songs. Despite the conditions, a competition of singing the lowest they can (as was expected, Taehyung won, leaving the other two with no chances) and going the highest they are capable of (Xena was first, because of being a girl and having girl's throat) were conducted, after which they were all lying dead on the couch, with music videos going on at the TV screen. JYP was sitting on the sofa, shaking both his head and glass of orange juice. He drank only half a bottle of beer under their pressure, and then immediately tried to get rid of the toxins by drinking grapefruit juice, brought from the kitchen.
"Maybe it wasn't such a good idea," muttered he quietly, staring at three of them lying on the couch, almost hugging each other, like they have known each other for years. He chuckled at this sight. "But wasn't it what was I trying to achieve?"
"You know what, Papillon," Xena babbled, regarding a lump curled on her legs with a hazy look. "Maybe I shouldn't call you Papillon anymore... I am going to call you Michael Jackson from now on!" she started laughing hysterically at her silly joke.
"Oh, no..." Jackson mumbled slowly, remembering being teased because of his stage name by basically everyone he met. "Not Michael Jackson, please, Papillon is enough,"
"Okay, Michael! Gotcha!" she started laughing again and Taehyung's lying next to her wrinkled his face at the loud sound and hissed.
"Oh, and you too," Xena turned her head sleepily at Taehyung lying nearby, who was hugging a bottle of beer. "Tahy... Teyhu... Huyu... ah, screw it, I'll just call you Tae."
"Whatever," he muttered. "Just let me sleep..."
"Okay!" exclaimed JYP, rising up from his sofa. "You all listen to me," he clapped his hands several times, but none of the figures moved. "Alright... I better bring you some grapefruit juice, to clear your drunken heads!" he spat, losing his temper.
"Oh... Would you mind bringing some more potato chips?" asked naively Jackson, opening his one eyes. JYP frowned angrily and opened his mouth to scold him when someone knocked on the door.
"JinYoung-shi!" voice similar to Gia's called demandingly, and lumps on the couch finally showed signs of being alive. Xena sprang up instantly with eyes wide open, her hair a mess, and Taehyung's cellphone stuck to her cheek. Gia's voice triggered self-saving instincts in Xena, her blood was rushing fast in her veins. Jackson let go of her legs at once, his face red like a tomato, his face concentrated. Taehyung froze on the couch, clutching blanket in his hands, looking scared for his life.
Jackson and Xena both were glancing hastily around and their eyes landed on the blanket in Tehyung's hands. Momentarily, Xena dived under the blanket and shrank herself as much as possible. Jackson and Taehyung leaned towards each other, in an attempt to hide Xena in-between.
"JinYoung-shi, I heard you were here! Open the door, please!" JYP approved at their fast actions, despite being immensely drunk. He turned the doorknob, revealing Gia in a night gown-dress. Her eagle eyes immediately scanned every centimeter of the room, landing on the boys. Taehyung put all of his acting skills to seem as sleepy as possible, while Jackson decidedly didn't look at her at all, preferring to stare intently at the cosmetics advertisement on the screen.
"You wanted something, Gia-shi?" asked JYP with a slight note of urgency in his voice, yet smiling politely.
"Yes, I did, indeed, JYP-nim..." she answered finally, looking distrustfully at him. "I wanted to ask if you had any more pillows... You know, my back hurts, so I needed something soft."
Xena was listening to muffled voices, trying not to breathe at all. Jackson's butt was lying almost on her head and Taehyung was pressing hard on her pinky toe, so she found it difficult to restrain herself from cursing on them aloud. Additionally, her eyes were tearing up, because of the bright light of the phone screen that landed exactly in front of her face. And she couldn't move a bit, praying hard that Gia will not decide to investigate the room for her traces. Someone was talking to Gia, and Jackson pressed on her harder. Xena suppressed a hiss, and her nose bumped into a phone's screen, messing around with something there. She couldn't help but gasp at the display of the phone, squeaking silently afterward, when the load above increased.
"What was that?" Gia shot suspicious looks at both of the boys. Taehyung pursed his lips nervously, but Jackson oriented, switching onto his charm mode.
"Nothing, nuna," he smiled fetchingly. "It was me," he made an attempt of imitating Xena's squeak. Gia was unconvinced, narrowing her eyes at nervously giggling Jackson, and Taehyung eating his nails. She was about to step into the room, as she stopped dead, scrunching her nose with disgust.
"Were you drinking? It smells like someone died here," she couldn't help but pinch her nose, looking at the messy floor of the room.
"Er..." JYP mumbled quite embarrassed.
"Oh yeah, we were!" agreed enthusiastically Jackson, lifting up a bottle of beer cheerfully. "Having manly talk, and everything, you know..."
"Right," nodded convincingly Taehyung, stretching his legs with socks on them. "We, men, love this kind of stuff! You can join us for sure if you want..." Gia regarded Taehyung's socks with a nasty look and moved back a little bit.
"Alright... So what did you say?" she addressed the question to JYP. "Upper shelf, at the right side?"
"Exactly," he smiled. "Good night, Gia-shi!"
Her eagle-eyes traveled around the room in a second for the last time and muttering something under breath, she closed the door. They anxiously waited until her steps trailed away, for Xena jumped from under the blanket, rushing towards the window. Jackson groaned, theatrically throwing a hand on his chest:
"It was even more stressing than auditioning..."
"Quickly! She might go and check you right now!" JYP whispered worriedly to Xena, who was already on the windowsill.
"I know," she whispered back, checking the strength of the hanging rope. Taehyung got near, watching her fast hand movements. He and JYP helped to hoist her up, while Jackson was still complaining, lying dramatically on the floor. Xena started to climb, thinking that never was she so quick in her life, her heart beating against her chest.
She finally reached her window. Acting fast and quick, she hid the rope behind the tree's branch and got into bed. Xena made herself to calm down and breathe slowly when she heard footsteps coming nearer. Gia stopped beside her door, listening attentively, trying to catch every little sound. The door creaked, and Gia was peeking inside the room.
"Xena, are you asleep?" she whispered, and Xena held back a snort.
Finally, when Gia left, Xena exhaled in relief, and slowly sat on the bed, glancing at the full moon through the branches of the tree. She thought that tomorrow they all will be having a serious hangover because her head was already aching badly. Xena chuckled, flashbacks of the party one floor down in her head when the branch of the tree seemed to be shaken by someone. She bent over the window and saw Taehyung, who was carefully pulling the rope.
"Xena!" he whispered into the night air, looking upwards.
"What? Stop pulling it - I'm here," she whispered back.
"Oh, just wanted to say good-night, Jackson seems to be scolded by his boss again," he said, and they both burst out into silent laughter.
"Alright, good night, Tae," she waved.
"Oh, and Xena!.."
He was silent for a moment, with an open mouth, trying to think of the right words.
"I don't think you're insane at all."
She chuckled and saluted him.
Here I am again with another chapter! It took me so long because many things depended on this one. I tried my best to describe the characters' behavior and make them as close to their real-life versions as possible. BTW how you like 'How You Like That'? Whatever anyone says, I am content, because finally, we got a comeback, and tons of stuff is waiting for us in the near future!
To any multistans following my work, I very much hope you will get most of the references.
P.S. It is not unheard that J.Y. Park is a strong supporter of a healthy lifestyle and his weird habits are known widely in k-pop lol
P. S. S. Still keep in mind that everything is not what it seems...