...and The Future [ENCORE]

A Tease for A Tease
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The school’s auditorium was jampacked with expensive-looking people wearing formal attires. The sports field outside was also full, people from all ages and genders gathered in anticipation and excitement, all looking up at the big screen showing the inside of the auditorium.

The school’s event was dubbed as the Reunion of the Power Batch ’04 to ’08.

Why Power Batch? Because the batch homed some famous celebrities in the country and out.

Like Houkago Tea Time (abbreviated as HTT, literal translation: Afterschool Tea Time)—the famous Japanese band girl group under RV Entertainment label, who shot to fame as soon as they graduated from high school, most especially in Japan where they debuted and around the world. Their releases have been consistent on top charts and hailed as the number 1 girl group worldwide.

After School is Tea Time, our Break Time full of energy
We are together so courage is born
Forever after school, always tea time
Let's make it resound, the world's one and only never-ending song

As they finished performing the opening song for the event—their debut song that is titled same as their group’s name, applause echoed in the auditorium. The crowd outside in the sports field was screaming in cheering as well for their favorite foreign band.

The cheering went loud when the host of the program went out from the side of the stage, a cue card on his hand and a mic on the other. This handsome man who a lot of fans from outside were waiting for as well—actor and host, Park Bogum.

“That was Houkago Tea Time with their debut song, Houkago Tea Time!” Bogum announced as he went his ways towards the now standing up members of the girl group. They met halfway, the girls bowing and shaking hands with the much older host as behind them, the living set from under the stage slowly popped out like a transformer. Bogum then gestured for them to each take a seat for the interview proper to start.

“So, please greet your batchmates and sunbaes, along with your fans watching from outside.” Bogum started with a smile.

“Hello! I’m Hirasawa Yui!”

“Hi, I’m Kotobuki Tsumugi!”

“Good evening, I’m Kotobuki Mio.”

“Yo! I’m Tainaka Ritsu!”

“Hello everyone, I’m Nakano Azusa.”

“We’re Houkago Tea Time!”

“Welcome back to our dear school!” Bogum huffed. “Did you miss performing here?”

“Yes! It’s all so nostalgic to be able to play here again after all those years.” Tsumugi answered, her bandmates nodding along her.

“It is, indeed. This auditorium held a big place in our high school life.” Bogum agreed, eyes reminiscing fondly. He looked at the camera. “So, some of you might not know that pre-debut, Houkago Tea Time actually started playing here as Light Music Club during their freshmen days.” He turned to the girl group again. “Some of you were exchange students from Japan, correct?”

Everybody nodded.

“We’re all Japanese, Mio and Ritsu migrated here in Korea during their middle school, while me, Mugi and Azu were exchange students.”

“Can you tell us how you started to be Houkago Tea Time, even before you debuted in Japan officially?” Bogum asked.

Ritsu looked at Mio fondly. “Mio and I migrated here to study middle school, and well, being both Japanese in a foreign country, we got close. And then we discovered Red Velvet.”

Screams inside almost shook the auditorium, making the band and Bogum laugh—in both amazement and disbelief at their adult batchmates who still got their wild fan blood inside.

“Now, now,” Bogum said still chuckling, facing the crowd and trying to calm them down. He looked at the camera. “For the people outside, you’re most probably here because of Houkago Tea Time and the other artists you support we are yet to call out. But for us here inside the auditorium, besides from attending the reunion of our respective batches, we are really here to witness the comeback of our original stan—and that’s Red Velvet.”

Houkago Tea Time nodded as the crowd cheered a very loud yes.

Bogum laughed again and turned back to the band. “Sorry about that. Continue, Ritsu.”

Ritsu only laughed. “Understandable.” She continued. “They performed at a local festival and Mio and I got hooked. Like, hook line and sinker. They became our idols during our first year of middle school. Because of them, we both studied how to play bass and drums. And we targeted to study at this school, even though with our age, we won’t be able to see them because by that time, they’d have already graduated.” Ritsu continued.

“But, thankfully, Yerim-sunbaenim was still there when we were freshmen and we learned a lot from her.” Mio added.

At the mention of the name, the crowd went wild again, calling for the name. “YERI! YERI! YERI! YERI!”

Bogum can only chuckle at the request. “Alright, alright.” He stood up. “Due to insistent public demand, please welcome, world-renowned Director, and Houkago Tea Time’s manager, Kim Yerim!”

The crowd stood up and clapped, the band too, as Bogum hugged Yerim as a greeting. “Ah! Yerim-ah!”

“Bogum-sunbae, long time no see, huh?” Yerim greeted in sarcasm; they’ve always crossed paths because of their work, after all—sometimes with Bogum interviewing her, most of the times, the actor acting for her films. “You’re no longer mad at me, right?” She added in teasing as she broke their hug, referring to when she lied to him about him having a chance with Joohyun.

Bogum laughed loudly. “Hey, no need to bring that back!”

Yerim laughed then greeted the group she’s handling with kisses on their cheeks. Then she sat at the end of the sofa, near Bogum’s. She huffed. “Home sweet home!”

“I know, right!” Bogum agreed. “So, we were just talking about how Houkago Tea Time started. Can you walk us through to their humble beginning pre-debut? I’m sure their fans are eager to know.”

Yerim smiled in reminiscing. “They’re just a couple of fangirls honestly, Mio and Ritsu.” She laughed when the two whined cutely. “And as all of you here knew, I was just a mere fan too, so they instantly connected with me in a spiritual level.” She paused. “They barged in into the clubroom during their freshman year, I wasn’t even ready with my recruitment plan yet, asking, begging to be part of the club and announcing that they’re Red Velvet fans. Then asked for my autograph and for a selfie.”

The audience and the host laughed.

“Then, it all went from there. They were able to recruit Yui and Mugi, and Azu as their maknae, and they created their own band—though obviously whipped for Red Velvet, they were a band of their own. I was a member of the club still then so I acted as their manager.”

“I hope you won’t mind me asking this but, how come they ended up singing Red Velvet’s songs? I—no, we, thought and hoped for Red Velvet to debut as an official band after graduation, but that didn’t happen. I mean, we were all devastated when you posted on your official page that Red Velvet won’t be active anymore. And then a year later, Houkago Tea Time debuted in Japan and we were shocked to hear your songs, though translated in Japanese, we knew it were Red Velvet’s.” Bogum asked seriously. The aura inside the auditorium became gloomy.

Yerim hummed, the glint in her eyes were a bit sad. “In the middle of my senior year here—that’d be my unnies’ first year of uni, right?” She took a deep sigh. “Joy-unnie’s father got sick and had to step down from his position. That opted her mother to do the same to take care of her father… and well… that opted for Joy-unnie to take over their family business.” She paused. “It was our plan to debut, really. It was our dream to perform together. We were preparing to send demos, even. Though Joy-unnie got a course in business while Irene-unnie got into culinary, it was still our goal. Seulgi-unnie and Wendy-unnie even got into performing arts course and I was planning to follow them too. But because of that, we had to change course.”

“I see.” Bogum said sadly. “We’re sorry, we didn’t know.”

Yerim shook her head. “It’s okay.” She smiled. “Like I’ve written in our song, Afterschool Tea Time, even if the day comes when we aim for different skies and separate, we won’t be apart. And I predicted that. Even though it was a sad ending to our dream, I made sure to keep my promise to my unnies that I won’t let us disband—I won’t let us die. Because they kept their promise too that the five of us will be together forever.” She chuckled. “They still included me with their events as if I wasn’t in a different school, we still gathered together once in a while when our schedules permit.” She huffed. “Even though it was hard those times, because we refused to talk about our band ending, it was just a heavy silence that lingered within us, something that we tried to push at the back of our minds because we can’t blame anyone for it. That angst, made me determined, to really not let our songs be forgotten.”

“And so you made Houkago Tea Time sing it for you?”

Yerim nodded proudly. “It was a united decision within the five of us, to let them. I prepared them back then, they like, auditioned for it in front of all of us.”

Yui nodded eagerly. “It was exciting, and nerve-wracking at the same time!”

“I can still remember Joy-sunbaenim’s judging eyes on me.” Mio shivered at the remembrance which made all of them laugh.

“Speaking, I told Joy-unnie about my plan before. We, the maknae line always have the best plan, you know?” Yerim giggled. “I told her, if we can’t debut as a band, then why not Houkago Tea Time? We’ll make them sing our originals then go from there. That way, our songs wouldn’t die, Joy-unnie’s entertainment company can venture into a new subsidiary and Red Velvet’s name will stay alive. In my bias-wrecker’s words, hitting three birds in one stone.”

Bogum nodded in realization. “Thus, the RV Entertainment.”

Yerim nodded proudly. “Yes.” She paused. “The debuting in Japan were all Joy-unnie’s business strategy that I can’t explain myself, so why don’t you just call unto her next??”

Whistles and cheers soon echoed at that, Joy’s name being called excitedly.

“Well,” Bogum huffed. “Let’s not wait anymore… let’s welcome the CEO of Park Enterprises and RV Entertainment… Park Sooyoung-shi!!”

The crowd roared as Sooyoung, elegantly stepped in on the stage and waved with her unchanging snobbish smile, hugging Bogum as a greeting. She pinched Yerim’s cheeks then sat beside her after waving to the members of HTT, who gushed at how beautiful she is.

“Oh my, you still look so expensive, Sooyoung-shi.” Bogum commented, beaming.

Sooyoung flipped her hair. “I know.”

Yerim chuckled beside her, head shaking at how confident her unnie is now. Geez, her Wendy-unnie’s greasy flatteries has really soaked up into her head.

“From a keyboardist to a successful businesswoman. Wow.” Bogum complimented.

Sooyoung shrugged. “The plan to have HTT debut in Japan was success after all. Not to mention the venture from mainly musical music into pop, too. My father didn’t trust me before, but well, they’re all thankful now. Band girl groups aren’t that famous here in Korea—they mostly focus on performing groups—so I thought, they’ll have a higher chance in Japan. Also, it’s their home country so much better for their comfort level. It’s just a bonus that they did well here too, and in other countries.”

“But was there any disappointment that Red Velvet didn’t become what you five initially wanted?” Bogum asked.

Sooyoung pursed her lips. “Of course there was. There’s a guilt in me that because of my family’s circumstance, we ended up giving up on our dream. But hey, as my bandmates assured me, that didn’t mean we didn’t reach our dream. We still create music together, though just in the background, we five are still together—I do all the financing and management, Yerimie for the MV direction, Joohyun-unnie helps us too, do I even need to mention Seulgi-unnie, because, it’s Seulgi-unnie, and of course, all in support for not only Seungwannie and HTT, but for all artists in and out of our entertainment.” She paused. “Besides, HTT made our songs soared worldwide, what else can we ask for? I mean that, or nothing at all, right?”

“Haaaa~” Bogum exhaled. “Mentioning all the Red Velvet’s members sure brings back memories.” He paused then turned to Yerim. “Can we call on them now? We really can’t wait.”

The director laughed and finally nodded, HTT moved to the other couch while the two scooted to give way to their other members.

Bogum threw a fist in the air in victory and stood up, the crowd inside the auditorium was screaming loudly. “Please welcome, the other three members of Red Velvet; Kang Seulgi, Son Seungwan and Bae Joohyun-shi!!!”

The crowd roared, loudly, as the sports field did the same. The three went out from the backstage and took turns to greet the host, HTT and their two members.

“Oh my god! This is finally it! Red Velvet is together again after how many years!” Bogum gushed like the fanboy he always is. “Oh my god, how are you, guys??”

“We’re doing great, Bogum-shi!” The three answered.

Bogum beamed at them proudly. “Kang Seulgi, the hidden brain for all the famous songs and OSTs in the country and out; Son Seungwan, best singer, ever; and well, Bae Joohyun-shi, the country’s original visual chef.” He turned to the audience. “Really, when they said Power Batch, they are one hundred percent right.”

Everyone laughed at that. The three settled beside Yerim and Sooyoung.

“You are not so bad, yourself, Bogum-shi.” Joohyun said, earning a mad blush on Bogum’s face. Yerim, Sooyoung and Seungwan snickered at Seulgi.

“Why, thank you, Joohyun-shi. But enough of me, everyone knows we’re after your reunion.” Bogum pause, his fanboy blood taking over and his excitement can’t be kept to interview his original stan girl group. “Who would’ve thought, huh? The bassist who preferred on the sidelines is now a famous celebrity chef, while the charismatic vocalist and lead guitarist worked magically on the background. Lastly, the drummer who was always in the back is now in the spotlight as, well, arguably, the best solo act to date. How did that happen?”

“We jinxed each other when we gave each other’s gifts long ago.” Yerim answered with a laugh and her bandmates soon followed. She was referring to that night when they exchanged gifts and somehow, the gifts they gave each other predicted what they’d become in the future.

Bogum shook his head, not getting the inside joke.

“You see, Bogum-shi… this is me getting jealous…” Seulgi started who’s now beside Bogum, explaining in Yerim’s stead. She laughed when Joohyun beside her smacked her arm while the other three guffawed.

“Jealous? I-I don’t get it…” Bogum asked, eyes squinting in complete confusion.

“See, I can still talk to you and act professionally and decent. I won’t hold grudge and understand that it is normal for others to be stunned at your lover because damn, she’s beautiful.” Seulgi paused. “But Hyunnie here,” She laughed again as Joohyun pinched her side playfully. “Holds people in contempt. She can’t control her angry reactions of jealousy so I had to step down. Can you imagine if I was in the limelight? Hyunnie might’ve killed someone by now.” She teased and earned another smack on her arm but she just giddily caressed it, as her fangirls from long ago swooned at her never-changing charisma on-stage and screamed her name with their high-pitched voice. She turned to Joohyun who was frowning at the audience and guffawed. “See? So, it’s better her in the sp

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Chapter 41: STOPPP I CANNOT TAKE THIS. I'm so in love with the characters and their personalities! I know their based on the actual Red Velvet members but it still feels like a separate persona. I admire the group's dynamic and I love how we got a look into how they stayed together despite the separation. I can't believe I reached the end of this already. It feels like only yesterday I started reading this (I probably did but it still ended so fast). I honestly feel inspired to truly take on my dream of being a musician as I have started. Something about this story makes me want to be more adventurous and explore my life. I have a habit of growing attached to stories because of all the emotions they manage to make me feel. So I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being such an incredible writer and having a way with your words. Until next time! :)
Chapter 40: I JUST CRIED???? This is the one of the best stories I've ever read and the plot is so unique! I love how the songs fit the emotions of the characters and I can tell you spent a lot of time on this. I love every second I read this :,) Sad that it's ending, but I'll manage. Thank you for creating such a wonderful story. :)))
Chapter 5: LMAO The uptown funk reference in the authors note is so good
Chapter 41: when I realized it was the last chapter, my brain and heart were already preparing to write 2 or 3 full paragraphs of review. I mean, gosh, this is so well written! honestly, I've never read a long story with just my fluff playlist playing instead of a tearful mellow playlist. But hey, I still cry! Usually I cry when I read the sad parts and only sigh with relief when the main characters are finally happy. However, while reading this story, I found myself crying tears of joy. Friends into Lover is quite a cliche trope, but you write it sincerely. Nothing is forced so that all emotions can be conveyed properly.

I'm not too sorry to leave this story in the library for a long time. Because in the end, I'm reading this in the last week of vacation and next Monday I have to start my real life. I believe this story will give me positive energy to start a new semester. I remember well all the sweet things in this story. I even imagined a tv series with this simple plot and I think other people will like it too!

As I also said before, I'm always amazed by the way you gather Red Velvet members in one story. It's smooth and sweet. You are one of the Seulrene authors that I love the most!! this story deserves more attention! I also write even though I'm still an amateur, so I feel I appreciate your writing more than before I started writing. I'm also actually quite jealous of your head that can contain these brilliant story ideas and your hands that execute everything so well! okay, at this point I could probably make a book to express how much I love your writing!!! I fall in love! You are cool! please keep writing because your writing makes my day more colorful!
Chapter 37: Next stop! Wenjoy!
Chapter 29: Bunny sounds cute and rabbit sounds too serious lol
Chapter 23: Idk but I think it was something related to Yeri's big fat crush on seulgi
Chapter 20: I've always been in love with the way you put 5 girls together in the storyline. I still remember the ending of 'The Notebook', it was so sweet
Chapter 15: Fluffy time sound so goooddddd