1 Chapter 1: Encounter

8><3

"My love will be the greatest in each sunrise, always shining brighter than yesterday. Yet, would you agree that the prettiest rainbow comes after the heaviest rain?"

8><3

"I don't understand. Why do you want to help me?"

How could a foreign trainee like me suddenly turn into a global star? I was picked by an idol known to have good instincts and incredibly good at everything with passion. Yet, did he make a mistake of picking me? Did I put his trust into waste?

He's the golden maknae who gave me the opportunity to be globally known, but I cannot avoid the problems I've caused which affected both of our reputations. How could I save them if time always collides with my plans? Why couldn't I still save them despite every effort?

I could not understand, their future depends on me now and all I felt was doubt. I couldn't even save myself from their alternate universe.

The echoing silence pierced my ears. Will he ever see how much I'm trying? He still stood by my side despite my countless mistakes since entering this industry. I can't promise him something that I couldn't do.

I bit my lip and resisted the urge of breaking down in front of him. He did so much, yet why can't I give him back the kindness he never hesitated to offer?

He looked at me straight into my eyes. "You're a lady of a different race who became the toughest competition to beat. Remember that the girls are a part of you from my alternative reality. You are Lee Mi Ra, Seong Sang Mi, Nam Ri Na. All of them are a part of you."

I couldn't respond. I still couldn't understand this at all. Why are there parts of Why do I have to carry this responsibility?

He went closer and whispered softly, "You've seen a part of me, Min Shi, Gil, and you know that we are not the same person in front of the camera. Please tell me, despite everything, will you still choose me in the end?"

*2019*

Suddenly I felt a push on my shoulder as I shifted my gaze from my phone. I realized that I accidentally bumped into a stranger. He hurriedly picked up his groceries and sunglasses which fell across the floor.

As our eyes met, I felt a strange feeling within. No, it wasn't just infatuation. It's like there was a string connecting us. Like time suddenly slowing down but I didn't understand. I didn't know him.

He was wearing a mask, a black beanie, a black shirt, and denim pants that accentuated his shoulders and fit body. As I looked at his face one more time, I noticed a pair of eyes that looked at my uneven skin tone on my arm. He changed my gaze onto mine as I stood up.

Our fingers touched as we both grabbed onto his groceries. I quickly took my hand away and apologized to him. Assuming he was Korean based on his protruding eyes since Koreans often shop in malls like these, I said, "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean it. Mianhamnida." I bowed at a 90-degree angle just like every usual Korean would do in the K-Dramas which my classmates imitate.

"It's okay," he replied with warm sincerity

He gathered his things and quickly went into a different direction. I reached into my pocket as my cell phone vibrated. There were 3 messages from earlier.

"Mia where are you?! We're waiting for you here. Don't let us wait under an empty stomach"

I texted back. "I'm sorry, I was distracted a while ago. I'm already on my way."

I felt stuck on the ground. "Why do I feel lightheaded?" I asked myself.

I took a step back as I noticed a familiar figure amongst the crowd. It was the same set of eyes that lurked in my childhood daydreams. Was it random dreams? Or hidden nightmares? However, I've noticed something peculiar. He had the same eyes as the stranger I've bumped into. For the first time, I heard his faint sweet voice. "I miss you."

I blinked my eyes hastily. It was just my crazy imagination. Yet all of my daydreams were all about this person who I have never met. Was it a soul? An illusion? Or some made-up character in my mind? Fatigue made me lose my mind once again.

*Flashback: Three hours ago*

I heard a piano playing as I entered the school's storage room. Taking silent strides at the back of the room, I picked up the journal that was lying on the floor. This journal was special to me. It was bits of my memories and dreams I set for myself.

I didn't want to interrupt the pianist playing his piece. In fact, it made me tear up. The music was calm and serene yet as it comes to an end, I couldn't help but feel that something was missing. Did it have to end in a sad tune?

The floor creaked as I took another step to the door. The pianist looks at me with shock. The clock stopped ticking, realizing that everything around me stopped.

The volume of my alarm woke me up after it went off. I drew the facial features the moment I rose up. It was that faceless man again.

"Why do you always appear in my dream?," I asked as I looked at my drawing. I didn't know why but he looked someone familiar. My friend, Brianne, told me the person fits the description of Dong-Yul from 7AD.

7 Alternate Dimensions is the only k-pop group that I like but everyone calls them 7AD. They've become a worldwide sensation and turned the k-pop industry upside-down as they made k-pop globally known. They gave way for other k-pop idols to be known internationally. I'm glad that Brianne introduced me to 7AD but I could never stan k-pop idols like her. I might be the only one who likes Original Pinoy Music (OPM) among my batchmates. OPM gives me a sense of identity as it deserves to be appreciated more.

Why do some fans of K-pop change due to their idols' influence on music? Sure, I like their music and concepts but I am certain that I will never become a hardcore fan like them. Sometimes, I just dislike how some international fans imitate Koreans just because of their love to k-pop, some call them a koreaboo. Koreaboos became too extreme that every now and then, other fans cringe at their exaggerated pronunciation and actions. There's nothing wrong with loving another language and culture but I hope that we could love our culture first for it gives us a define identity.

I started reading through my past notes. I looked at my reflection from my pocket mirror and noticed dark eyebags visible on my face.

"Forget that dream. I have to study this early before my tests for this week," I told myself.

Today is my friend's birthday and I promised her that I'll come. It wouldn't hurt to have a day to go out and enjoy a little bit. I have a small circle of friends but I'm happy to be with them.

After finishing my usual morning routine, I wore my usual comfy outfit: a red shirt on top of a black jacket, sneakers, and an Adidas cap. My parents don't usually allow me to go out, but since it's my Brianne's birthday today, they gave me their permission.

I jogged from my dormitory to SM Baguio. The sun is shining brightly with the cool air breeze surrounding me. The hue of the trees blended perfectly with the blue clear sky.

It was only that moment when I felt a strange feeling in the air. It was those Korean's eyes that made me lose my focus from my surroundings. I was sure that he might be the phantom in my daydream.

End of Flashback

After a few minutes, I entered Greenwich and looked for their table. I saw Brianne's hand signal and immediately sat on the empty chair. "It's a good thing your parents allowed you to go out with us."

I smiled, "I know, they rarely let me go out and hang out with you. Let me greet you for your special day. Happy birthday Brianne!"

"Thank you!," she said while grinning, "Let's order lunch now to fill up our empty stomachs."

While waiting for our orders, I noticed Brianne's shocked reaction as she scrolled through her phone's screen. "I cannot believe it. Another sasaeng tried to ruin Dong-Yul's vacation."

"Sasaeng?, " I asked out of curiosity.

"Yes. You know, those overly obsessive fans who would intrude any group's privacy for their own pleasure. At first, there were rumors that Dong-Yul was dating one of the staff of their agency. In this update, his agency released a statement that the staff member was actually a sasaeng fan who applied as a make-up artist so that she could seduce Dong-Yul while styling the other members. I just couldn't believe it. I hope that his agency would give better treatment to their artists."

I rolled my eyes. "Still, I still wonder why you're still fangirling so much on them. No offense but what's so special about them that you are always on the watch 24/7?"

"You wouldn't understand because you wouldn't give k-pop a chance."

"I like 7AD's songs but no one can entirely drag me into k-pop."

"I really tried to introduce you to k-pop but you wouldn't budge. It's your choice anyway. If ever you want to know more about the k-pop fandom, ask me okay?"

I grinned, "Alright." The food we ordered came. We laughed as we looked back at our memories together.

Brianne spoke up, "You know Mia, I want to hear you sing again. It's been a long time since I've heard you sing."

I coughed as I drank my cola. "Me? Singing again? You know that I left the choir two years ago. I haven't sung for a long time."

"Come on, just one song in front of an audience. I promised my subscribers that I'll show your amazing singing skills on my vlog on YouTube. It'll help me increase my viewers. Please do it for me?"

Just this once.

"Fine, I'll do it but only in one condition. Let's finish drafting our research paper earlier than the deadline."

She let out a sigh. "Fine. This time I'll be more productive for our research paper. Thank you! I bet that my subscribers would love my next video."

"You're welcome. It's your birthday after all "

Brianne brought out her birthday cake and lightened the candle. She thought of her wish carefully while my friends and I sang her birthday song. "I'm not sure if it will happen but I wish that I'll have a friend who is also a K-pop idol."

At the moment she blew off the candles, all of the lights flickered in the room. A whistle was heard as the sound of glass breaking echoed in my ears. I took a moment to remain calm and looked outside the window. I've caught sight of a familiar figure staring at us.

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