“I’m sorry. I can’t do it.”
As soon as I said those words, sharp gazes from all around like a swarm of knives flew towards me as if trying to kill me.
My head was dizzy and aching because of the awful smell of alcohol. Still, it wasn’t hard to see that the agency president who spoke and my fellow debut group members silently resented me.
Sitting right beside me, the president of my agency grabbed my shoulder and asked with a forced smile as if to give me another chance.
“You can’t do it?”
“Yes, I can’t.”
I forcibly shook off his hand and stood up to prove my point. The murky eyes followed my every move.
“Think about it carefully.”
“What else do I need to think about?”
“Just give in this once, and you can live as you please afterward. Doing things you don’t want to do is a part of social life. I told you to think of the company like family. Can’t you do this for your family? You better know that if you go on like this, you’ll never be able to set foot in this industry again. You said you wanted to be a singer.”
Whether it was a threat or persuasion, he just needed to do one, damn it.
While listening to the drunken president’s babbling, I scoffed.
“Yeah, I wanted to do it, but I don’t want to sell my body for it.”
My blunt words made the woman, sitting in the higher seat and said to be the director of a large corporation, slightly change her facial color.
The leader, who had been watching the woman’s complexion, pleaded with me in a desperate tone.
“You know I’ve been a trainee for ten years. Please, just bow down this once. I can’t debut if I lose this chance.”
“Is this something that can be done by bowing? Get a grip, hyung.”
“You… were you always this selfish? You should at least think of your brothers who worked so hard in your place when you got into the debut group with your good looks.”
My face was faintly reflected in the soju bottle in front of me. Even with this vague image, I could confirm that I was extremely good-looking.
What’s the use of being handsome?
Looking at the distinctly cool expression of a fool, I felt momentarily choked up.
It’s hard to live as pathetically as I do with a face like this.
But my self-reproach didn’t last long.
It was only right that my anger should be greater towards the company that used and consumed naïve minors as they pleased.
“That’s right. I got in because I’m handsome. In this industry, appearance is also considered a skill. When I said I wanted to learn something other than dancing, you were the one who forced me to practice my lousy basics over and over again. Hyung, it’s not right to say that when you know all that.”
The more I thought about it, the more absurd it was.
“Who are you calling selfish? I thought you were a good hyung, but it turns out you were just a decoration. If you’re so envious of the sponsor, you do it.”
My head felt cold like ice water had been poured over it.
Sharp and fierce words I would never have dared to say under normal circumstances were easily said now that I was pushed into this situation.
This is why they say life is a real test.
The feeling of finally being able to speak my mind, which had been bottled up all my life, was refreshing. But before anything else happened, I needed to get out of here.
I put on the coat I had taken off earlier and nodded.
“If you have nothing more to say, I’ll be going.”
“Stop right there!”
I stopped halfway while opening the door and turned around. Their loosening facial muscles seemed to think that I might change my mind.
That superficial reaction only made me laugh.
“Just as a sincere piece of advice, because I’ve been with you for so long, you should take care of your appearance if you want to be an idol. Especially you, hyung, your face looks like it’s been chewed up and spit out by a squid. You’re so full of inferiority complex that I’m worried you’ll have a mental breakdown from malicious comments.”
“I’m genuinely grateful that you didn’t pretend to be a good person until the end. I think I won’t feel guilty for ruining everything because you’re all such trash.”
“President, everything you do will surely fail. And you too, Director. Ah, don’t worry, I will be the only one who knows about this. That director sitting over there seems like our president wouldn’t even dare to look at her, so why would I go around talking and get stabbed?”
I left the high-end bar briskly, ignoring the president’s shout to catch me and the desperate plea from my (former) colleagues.
When I felt I was far enough away from the VIP bar, my legs, which had been holding out, suddenly gave way, trembling.
It was 4:30 in the morning.
There was no one nearby.
I sat down comfortably in the empty space.
“I thought I was going to die from fear…”
It wasn’t very pleasant to sever ties with the people I thought I had been getting along with in such a horrible way.
…Well, we didn’t get along.
Looking back, there have been countless moments when I felt like something was wrong while living as a trainee in that company.
I could easily say hundreds of times when they pretended to care for me but couldn’t hide their frustration for not being able to break my self-esteem.
I just turned a blind eye.
I wanted to believe they were thinking of me, even though they were like that.
What could I do about the past now?
I was grateful that I had come to my senses before stamping my seal on the contract.
Like the president said, I might never be able to step foot in the entertainment industry again.
But it didn’t matter.
I didn’t even want to see that dirty place anyway.
I experienced such things before even debuting, and I couldn’t imagine how filthier it would be once I became a celebrity.
“That guy’s expression earlier was really funny…”
Did they think I would be a naïve fool till the end?
Since that day, five years have already passed.
I, along with the other trainees of the debut group, had quit high school early because of our company’s insistence that focusing on idol activities would be for the best.
There wasn’t much regret in that hasty decision since I didn’t think receiving a high school diploma would drastically change my life.
After giving up on my only dream and goal in life of becoming an idol, I was…
Living quite well.
During the summer, I enjoyed the cool air-conditioning, and during the winter, the warm heat of the boiler in my comfortable room. I diligently lived the life of a jobless person, eating three meals a day prepared by the housemaid ajumma, immersing myself in games, and sporadically uploading videos on YouTube.
The only hardship I could think of was the military service I had to complete as soon as I turned twenty.
That place was really… let’s not talk about it.
Even now, I didn’t even stretch my legs toward the direction of the military base and my former agency. However, on the day I “accidentally” heard the news that the male idol group that debuted there had poor sales, I opened my parents’ cherished alcohol.
Anyway, my rich parents didn’t care much about what I did, and since I didn’t seem to get tired of gaming, my life would remain the same.
…That’s what I thought.
Until my dream unimaginably reappeared before my eyes.
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