Everyone was asked to wake up at 6AM for breakfast and half of the team seemed to struggle with this as they dragged their feet towards the smell of food.
Yeji was walking beside Ryujin; both had yet to utter a word since they got up. Ryujin wanted to check on her unnie since she seemed a bit distant. Too focused on her desire to start a conversation, the younger girl suddenly tripped over her own foot and lost her balance, but thanks to the captain's quick reflexes, she was spared a moment of embarrassment. Yeji's arm found itself around Ryujin's waist, while the latter's hands naturally fell onto the taller girl's shoulders.
It took a couple of seconds for both to regain their composure. Noticing their close proximity, Yeji pressed her lips together and cleared while Ryujin took a step back and rubbed the back of her neck. She mumbled, "I'm sorry," then gave Yeji her best puppy eyes.
A more relaxed smile crossed the older girl's face, "I just saved your life. Now you owe me one," Yeji said with a wink.
Ryujin felt her knees buckle at the gesture and it was like her heart tried to do a flip but stumbled; if that's even physically possible - but Ryujin swore she felt it.
She tried to laugh it off, but she was sure it sounded more like a croak, "Yeah, okay sure. You got 1 Ryujin pass," she said as she wiped her clammy palms and took Yeji's hand. "Now let's go get some breakfast before we break the dance floor."
Yeji shook her head, "I will just assume that the bad joke is just your hunger talking."
Ryujin feigned offense and held her free hand over her chest, "Excuse me? That was good."
"Babe, you must be starving," Yeji said with a giggle.
Yeji was already beautiful as it is. Even when she's sleeping, or when she just woke up in the morning, blinking her sleep away. But Yeji with a bit of make-up, hair tied up in a high ponytail, and all dressed for the competition? Now that's something else. Ryujin knew she was blatantly staring, quite unapologetically, but at that moment, nothing else mattered.
"Damn, she's so pretty," Chaeryeong said, suddenly appearing next to her. "That's so not fair. How can someone be so... 'wow'?"
Ryujin nodded, absentmindedly agreeing to whatever her friend was saying because she was just so enthralled by Yeji's presence.
"Unnie! You're so pretty!" Yuna said as she approached the older girl. Yeji smiled at her and reciprocated the compliment, "Yuna, you look so good with that style!" The two continued showering each other with the nicest words.
Ryujin had to tear her eyes away as she started beating herself up for being so awkward. She was not pleased by her inability to casually walk up to Yeji and tell her she looks amazing. She decided to go outside for a breathe of fresh air. It had been overcast and windy, and it was Ryujin's favourite kind of weather. There was something about the rustle brought by the sighing wind that calms her. She decided to stand just outside the entrance of the convention centre and watch the scenery in front of her.
"I've been looking for you," she heard a familiar voice say. She turned to the direction where the voice was coming from and saw Yeji's flawless self approaching her.
"Hey," Ryujin said, suddenly forgetting her words.
Yeji stopped in front of her, concern written across her face. "Is everything alright?" she asked as she reached for Ryujin's hand and squeezed it.
Ryujin looked down on their joint hands and squeezed back. "Yeah," she said and started rubbing Yeji's knuckles instinctively. When she looked back up, Ryujin's eyes were met with the sincerest pair of brown eyes and at that moment, she found herself instantly lost in them. As her mind aimlessly wandered in the abyss of Yeji's orbs, she whispered, "You're so beautiful."
Yeji's eyes dilated slightly upon hearing those words, Ryujin noticed. The older girl blinked a few times, as if to clear some thoughts, before reaching out to tuck Ryujin's hair behind her ear. The other dancer blushed at this gesture and was the first to break eye contact. "You look amazing, yourself," Yeji said as she gave Ryujin's hand another squeeze.
Their performance went well and their coach had reassured them that they pretty much already have it in the bag, but even when their group name was announced as the winner, some members couldn't help but tear up.
Yeji found herself wrapping her arms around Ryujin in celebration. "You did so well, babe," she heard the younger girl say next to her ear. Yeji wasn't sure if it was the announcement or the tingling sensation left by the air that brushed her ear with Ryujin's words, but the team captain could suddenly feel the pulse on . Nevertheless, she found herself tightening the hug.
"Can we please have the winners on the stage?" the girls heard the host say, which broke their little moment. Yeji took Ryujin's hand and made their way back to the stage. Seeing how nonchalant the taller girl seemed, Ryujin wondered if the hug had the same effect with Yeji as it had with her. She felt herself melt into the embrace and at that moment, Ryujin found maximal solace.
On the way up, Yuna slipped and twisted her ankle. The coach and Yeji were quick to rush to her side. "It's okay, I got it," Yeji said, getting on one knee and back turned to Yuna, "Hop on," she instructed. Yuna did as told.
When they were packing up to go home, Ryujin was looking around for her two roommates when she heard a knock on the door. It was Solar.
"Unnie," Ryujin said, sounding a bit surprised.
"Hey, Yeji asked me to tell you that they had taken Yuna to the hospital to make sure it's nothing serious," Solar said. "I'll be in charge for now. I'm expecting you all to be in the lobby in 10?"
While checking out of the hotel, they all decided to hang out at their favourite fast food chain as an after party. For a reason that hadn't made itself known to Ryujin, she wasn't feeling social and had this weird heaviness in her chest. She told the members that she is going to have to make it up to them next time and will be heading home instead.
Solar approached her and asked, "Are you okay? Would you like us to drop you off?"
"Us?" Ryujin asked in confusion.
"Oh, Moonbyul and I," Solar said, flustered by the question.
Ryujin briefly looked at Moonbyul then back to Solar. She would save the questions for later, she thought. Ryujin would just like to go home and be miserable. Miserable? What even? She mentally slapped herself.
"Oh no, it's okay, unnie. Thank you for the offer though," Ruyin said.
Solar didn't seemed convinced, "Are you sure?"
"Yeah! I promise," Ryujin reassured.
It was a bit late in the night when she received a text message from Yeji.
10:28PM YJ-unnie : Hi, you awake?
10:29PM Ryujinnie : Yep, can't sleep?
10:29PM YJ-unnie : That was quick LOL and do you mean you can't sleep or are you asking if I can't sleep? If it's the latter, then yes
Ryujin felt embarrassed for not being able to hide her eagerness - as if the reason why she was up wasn't because she was waiting on the older girl's text.
10:30PM Ryujinnie : What's wrong? Does it have something to do at home? You know you can talk to me
10:30PM YJ-unnie : I know.
10:31PM YJ-unnie : Do you think you'll be able to come out? Like we don't have to go anywhere
Ryujin looked at the message, eyebrows knitted together in confusion. It took a couple of seconds for realisation to hit her. No way, she thought. But sure enough, when she got out of their gate, Yeji's red car was the first thing she saw.
Upon the sight of the younger girl, Yeji turned the car engine off and got out, paper bag in hand. She handed it over to Ryujin.
"What's this?" Ryujin asked as she took it.
"Apple pie. Solar mentioned you didn't go with them earlier because you weren't feeling well so I thought I'd get you some on the way. It's your favourite, right?" Yeji said.
Ryuin couldn't help but smile at the simple thought that her unnie remembered that detail about her. "Yeah," she said.
"Are you feeling okay though? Solar told me you weren't well."
"Ah, no," Ryujin said, shaking her head. "I mean I was just tired, but I'm feeling better now," she added.
Yeji looked at her as if assessing the truth behind her words so Ryujin felt the need to keep explaining, "It's true! I've had a nap when I got home so I'm all good now. What about you? Are you okay?" she asked, hoping to steer the attention away from her.
Ryujin saw Yeji dip her head and kick an invisible stone in front of her. For a moment, the older girl said nothing but Ryujin patiently waited for a response.
Finally, Yeji looked up and breathed out; eyes glossing over unshed tears, "Yeah, just the usual ," she said as she put her hands in the back pockets of her jeans. "Hey," she continued, pausing to ponder on her thoughts.
"Do you think I can use that 1 Ryujin pass now?" Yeji asked, voice cracking.
You can use as many Ryujin passes any time you please, Ryujin thought. "Sure! What would you like me to do, Your Highness?" Ryujin joked.
Before she could comprehend what's happening, Ryujin felt herself enveloped in warmth, and floral, coconut, powder, and musk. Yeji rested her head on the younger one's shoulder, arms around her waist. "Can we stay like this for a bit?"
When Ryujin's internal panic subsided, she pulled Yeji closer. "We can stay like this for however long you want," she said.