Kang Seulgi was not a juvenile delinquent.
Sure, there was that one time in fifth grade when her class toured a dance studio in Seoul and it somehow caught on fire the next day, burning the entire building to ash.
And okay, maybe she was the one everyone thought was responsible for that freak stage accident her sophomore year in high school that nearly flattened the girl who had gotten cast to play the lead in Romeo and Juliet.
But she didn’t have anything to do with these incidents. Honestly.
Seulgi was just a teenage girl with ADHD and a deep love of dancing and drawing. She spent her time sitting outside sketching the scenery of Seoul and thinking up the next song to choreograph a dance to. Contrary to what the entire student body believed, she wasn’t a magnet for bad luck. Strange things just seemed to happen whenever she was around.
Of course try telling that to the principals of the last five schools she’d attended. One of them still hadn’t grown all his hair back.
Her parents had tried everything, but they were running out of options. Seulgi had a reputation and the list of schools that would take her in was dwindling fast.
So it was with a heavy heart and empty pockets that they sent her off to a private boarding school in Gangnam, the only school that was confident in their abilities to keep Seulgi’s “chaotic tendencies” under control.
Which, now that she looked back on it, they didn’t do a half bad job. Of course things still went to . But this time she lasted a solid four months.
The day everything changed for Seulgi started out like any other. She marched into the dance studio that morning at half past six to go over the choreography her class had learned yesterday. There was a solo section up for grabs and Seulgi was gunning hard to get the part.
She had to, especially when she would be forced to dance against the likes of other girls like Chungha, SinB and Soyeon for the opportunity. All three other girls were fantastic dancers but she’d be damned if she wouldn’t try her hardest to beat them out. Kang Seulgi was no backup dancer.
The fact that Kang Seulgi harbored a hidden competitive streak was not lost on her coach. Hyoyeon was once a main dancer for a girl group and after the group disbanded she managed to land a position teaching at one of the city’s most prestigious schools. She appreciated talent and hard work, traits Seulgi understood and took advantage of whenever possible.
Seulgi knew that Hyoyeon had a habit of coming into the studio a few hours before class every day so she tried her best to sync up her schedule in order to grab some one on one time with her coach. To “build rapport” as some people said.
Not that it helped much. Hyoyeon was a nice enough woman but she always seemed to pass over Seulgi in favor of one of the other students. Chungha was a particular favorite of the coach’s, and even though this upcoming solo part was of a style Chungha wasn’t used to dancing Seulgi just knew that Hyoyeon would end up picking her.
Still, when her coach breezed into the studio at 6:45 on the dot Seulgi greeted her with a polite bow and started asking for her advice on how to approach a certain move they’d learned the previous day. Maybe one day Hyoyeon would realize her talent.
“Coach, I heard the auditions for the solo part were going to be held later,” Seulgi casually brought up as the two of them settled into their pre-dance stretching routine.
Hyoyeon raised an eyebrow at Seulgi, easily settling into a side split to work her thigh muscles. “About that, I was thinking about scrapping that section entirely. Something about it doesn’t quite sit right with the choreo we’ve created already.”
No! She couldn’t do that! Seulgi had ben working her off for the last two weeks, ever since the announcement came out that there would be a solo audition. “Please don’t do that, Coach. We’ve all been working really hard.”
Seulgi thought if she made it seem like everyone else had been practicing for the audition maybe Hyoyeon would decide to keep the part. No one had, of course. For everyone else dance was just a fun, easy elective.
But for Seulgi it was the only time she truly felt at home in her body. She wasn’t trying to solve difficult math problems or focus on reading books in English, neither of which her brain seemed to appreciate. Whenever she had to sit down and pay attention, her brain would manage for about two minutes before flying off on some unrelated tangent. It didn’t help that the words on the page would sometimes appear to rearrange themselves into strange combinations. At this point Seulgi thought she probably had undiagnosed dyslexia too.
Hyoyeon shot her a look and sighed at the earnest expression on Seulgi’s face. She liked the passion the younger girl had for dance, it reminded her of herself back in her trainee days. But Hyoyeon wasn’t being paid to recognize talent, she was getting paid to hold the hands of these spoiled rich kids and teach them enough to dance at a passable level for the annual showcase.
“I just don’t know if we’ll have enough time to fit a solo dance break into our number. Especially considering the showcase is in less than two months.”
Seulgi visibly deflated. All that hard work over the last month, completely wasted. She knew in the end she’d probably lose out on the solo to Chungha or SinB, but at least until now she could operate under the illusion of getting a solo part.
Seulgi suddenly couldn’t stomach being in the dance studio. She was too angry. How dare Hyoyeon hype up the possibility of a solo dance break and then cancel it out of the blue with such a lame excuse? In the back of her head there was a tiny Seulgi who tried to remind her about keeping her emotions in check and laying low at this school. This place was nice and she wanted to be able to last out the entire year here without any major incidents. Her parents had suffered enough to send her here, she couldn’t ruin it now. But the larger part of her head was filled with righteous indignation. After all, she was just a sixteen-year-old girl who had just been told that all her effort was going to go to waste.
“Forgive me for being so brazen, Coach but that’s absolute horse,” Seulgi said.
Hyoyeon frowned but there appeared to be a small glint of respect in her eyes as she addressed Seulgi. She was the kind of woman who could appreciate someone with a little spine. “Watch your language, Kang.”
“I’m sorry, but how could you just up and cancel the solo audition? I’ve been working for the last month on it!” Seulgi seethed. “And I’ve been working enough to know that there’s definitely enough time to work in a solo dance break.”
If this were any other dance studio Hyoyeon probably would have caved and agreed with her. But this was a school and there was so much more going on behind the scenes, things Seulgi wouldn’t know. The amount of politics and -kissing that had to be done at this school was ridiculous, so when one parent complained about something Hyoyeon had to roll over and accept it.
“I’m sorry, Seulgi but this is out of my hands.” Hyoyeon sympathized with Seulgi, she really did. Hell, she was planning on quitting her job here at the end of the school year, maybe she’d look up and recruit Seulgi for her own studio. The girl certainly had talent. “My decision is final. I’m cancelling the solo audition and we’ll proceed with our current group number as it is.”
Seulgi knew that there was nothing she could have done to dissuade her coach, but she was still thrumming with anger. “Someone complained, didn’t they? And you’re just going to give them what they want, right Coach? It’s shameful!”
Hyoyeon stood up. There was only so much bold anger she could take from one of her students. “Do I need to remind you of your place, Miss Kang?”
It registered in the back of Seulgi’s head that she was in major trouble. Hyoyeon only used her students’ last names if they were being rude and disrespectful.
“You should listen to her, Coach Kim. I’m sure Seulgi knows a lot about shame. Imagine having to bankrupt your parents in order to afford this school because it’s the only one that would accept her with all the black marks on her record.”
Seulgi stiffened. She knew that voice, and she tried her hardest to avoid it whenever possible. She’d even moved around her class schedule in order to avoid being placed in classes with the other girl. Generally Seulgi tried to ignore it whenever people would make cutting remarks about her appearance or her sense of style. Kids were s. Rich kids were worse. And there, leaning against the door frame with her arms folded was the worst of the worst. Bae Joohyun.
As always, Joohyun was clad in the latest and trendiest fashion. She could afford all the newest fashion, like most of the other students she was supposedly the daughter of some rich oil magnate. Her long black hair, which could usually be seen flowing freely down her back, was tied up in a neat ponytail. Seulgi was surprised to see her so far from her usual hunting grounds. As captain of the school’s varsity volleyball team Joohyun could usually be seen with a pack of similarly minded girls, picking on the less fortunate and stunning everybody she met with her beauty.
Seriously, Seulgi didn’t know how Joohyun got so lucky with her genetics. The girl was gorgeous. Pale white skin, deep brown eyes and glossy black hair. Both male and female students alike were obsessed with Joohyun, and you were either lucky enough to walk with her squad or unlucky enough to get harassed by said squad. There was no middle ground.
“What do you want, Joohyun?” Seulgi snapped. She was in no mood to deal with the older girl.
“Ooh, someone has a bit of bite to them today,” Joohyun responded dryly, staring at her immaculately done nails with disinterest. “You know I think this is the first time I’ve seen you without your tail tucked between your legs, Kang.”
“Joohyun”, Hyoyeon warned. “If all you’re here to do is insult my students I suggest you leave.”
“Sorry Coach Kim,” Joohyun said, though her voice wasn’t exactly respectful. Joohyun was never outright rude to any of the school’s teachers, but she didn’t exactly seem to respect any of them either. Must have come from her upbringing as an heiress. Of course this school didn’t do anything to temper her personality. Nearly everyone here was related to someone influential. Seulgi wondered if there was a mandatory class all the rich kids had to take that taught them how to be s. She could see the syllabus now: Lesson One- How to look down on Poor People.
Joohyun hadn’t left yet though, which made Seulgi suspicious.
“Seriously, what are you doing here, Joohyun? Don’t you have some poor freshman to intimidate?” Seulgi grabbed her bag, ready to excuse herself from this conversation.
Joohyun smirked, pushing herself off the doorframe and pushing her hair behind one ear in a way that made Seulgi pause with how gorgeous even that one mundane action was. “Coach Kim, if you’re done being lectured by Welfare Girl-“
“-Seulgi,” she amended reluctantly. “the principal wants to see her in his office.”
Seulgi narrowed her eyes.
“So are you done complaining yet, Kang?” Joohyun plowed right through Hyoyeon’s protests. “I have practice in twenty minutes, so don’t make me wait too long.”
Seulgi was sick of Joohyun’s entitled behavior. Slinging her bag over her shoulder she bowed to Hyoyeon and stormed out of the dance studio with Joohyun on her heels. As soon as they were out of earshot Seulgi rounded on the shorter girl. “What the hell is your problem?”
Joohyun didn’t back down though, instead drawing herself up, her warm brown eyes hardening into a stare so frigid that Seulgi instinctively stepped back out of fear. In the morning light it seemed like something dangerous lurked beneath Joohyun’s carefully crafted façade.
“My problem is that I’m being forced to you to the principal’s office at seven in the morning. I’m not some messenger pigeon,” Joohyun growled.
“No one’s making you do it,” Seulgi shot back, turning away from Joohyun and walking down the hall. “I know the way.”
“I’m sure you do,” Joohyun said blithely, adjusting her grip on the stack of books she was carrying. “But unlike you I’d rather not get in trouble if I can help it.”
They passed by several classrooms and Seulgi made a pit stop at her locker to drop off her dance bag. The two of them didn’t talk at all, Seulgi doing her best to not even look at the other girl. It didn’t last long though.
“So what did you do this time?” Joohyun’s comment carried an underlying insult. As though Seulgi had done something to get herself in trouble with the principal.
“Why does everyone assume it’s something I’ve done? Does no one think I’m capable of being called to the office for something positive?” Seulgi muttered under her breath.
“No.” Crap. She must have spoken loudly enough for Joohyun to hear her. Seulgi huffed and didn’t bother responding to the other girl.
As they passed by the auditorium, the doors swung open, causing the two girls to freeze in their tracks. Animosity set aside for a brief moment, Seulgi and Joohyun shared a look and turned in the direction of the open doors.
“Hello?” Seulgi called out. It was strange. The auditorium had been closed to the student body for the entire year. Officially it was because the entire area was in the process of getting remodeled, but that didn’t stop the rumor mill from running. Seulgi had heard everything from safety code violations to a recent rumor that the entire auditorium was haunted.
At the moment the latter seemed the most likely.
As if she didn’t have control of her own body, Seulgi took a few steps toward the dark room. “What are you doing?” came Joohyun’s voice, and was Seulgi imagining things or was that a tremor in the older girl’s voice?
“Is anyone there?” Seulgi called again. She paused when she felt a small hand close around her wrist, looking down to see Joohyun attached to her. The look Joohyun shot her was full of venom, just daring her to take another step forward.
Seulgi was defiant though, and she shook her arm to dislodge Joohyun’s grip. Full of curiosity she took the last few steps and walked inside the abandoned auditorium.
The first thing she noticed was that there had been absolutely no remodeling done on the auditorium. It looked like someone had tried to start something because there were a few wooden supports wrapped around the columns flanking the stage but other than that everything was covered in a thick layer of dust. The only light came from the hallway outside.
Seulgi ran her fingers over the dusty armrests as she slowly made her way to the stage. The entire place smelled musty and stale and unnatural. Behind her, Joohyun stifled a sneeze and Seulgi stopped, realizing that instead of leaving, Joohyun had followed her.
Approaching the stage, Seulgi easily pulled herself up and stood up to take a look around her. She imagined what this place used to look like, with blazing spotlights and crowds cheering. It woul