Page 1

1


Give Me Back My Song When two hearts meet, the melodies from their soul come together to make the sweetest sound possible. This story is about a stubborn man who didn’t realize that his songs, his inspiration, his muse, came from one very special girl. He never knew that the smile that find its way to his face the moment he sees her meant Love. He never knew that his quickened heartbeat when she’s beside him meant Love. He never knew that the comfort he finds when she is in the same room as he is meant Love. He never knew that the music that starts playing in his head whenever he thought of her meant Love. He never knew... He thought he was the prodigy, the genius that everyone gives him accolade for. He thought he could do without her. In fact, he told her exactly that. “Leave then, I do not need you. I will be fine without you.”

2


And She She She

she did. was never one to beg. is a queen. walked out of his studio, out of his life.

A single tear fell from her left eye. Because that’s the side where the heart is. “That’s the only drop of tear that I will allow myself. No matter how much it’s going to hurt me, I will not cry. And I will not beg.” Until one day, she left. She loves him. Always. But she knew that she has to leave. It breaks her. The moment she walked out of that door, she knew. She knew that her soul will never be complete again. She told herself she would not cry. Because he will also be losing the other half of his soul.

3


Chapter 1 1 February 2013 YGE, Teddy’s Recording Studio “ARGH!! Why can’t I get anything right? WHY!?” Jiyong angrily slammed his hand down hard on the console in the studio. It was a shocking action because everyone knew how precious the equipment is to him. This was where he puts a bit of his soul into the music he creates. It is where he worked his magic. No one was allowed to touch that unless permission had been granted. All the other 4 members looked at their leader with concern. They turned to each other as if asking if it’s wise to go to him and ask what was wrong. But they were afraid what happened the day before would repeat itself again. Instead of approaching him themselves, they turned to the only other person in the studio whom they knew would be able to get an answer out of him. Teddy Park. Teddy knew what the other Big Bang members were asking of him. He was weary of approaching the boy as well. But he knew that he had to because the other 4 boys were terrified to step on to this minefield. He didn’t blame them. Yesterday’s incident had shocked all of them. No one had expected Jiyong to react that way to the news. To say that he was apoplectic would have been the understatement of the year. “Jiyong ah, why don’t you take five? Then tell us what is wrong so we can help you with it. We are all here to help you.” Teddy said in his most comforting voice. Usually it would have calmed the dragon down, but when Jiyong turned to look at him, he was shocked at the ferociousness on Jiyong’s face. “Get out. Now. All of you.” The 4 members stood up quietly and walked out of the studio, knowing that when their leader was in this mode, it was better to do what he wanted and 4


not argue. Teddy looked at the 4 of them and nodded his encouragement to them. Taeyang was the last one and when he got to the door, he turned back and paused. Seemingly to debate with himself whether he should go forward to console his best friend, he met Teddy’s eyes and saw him shake his head at him. Taeyang knew that was the signal for him to go and leave Jiyong alone. Teddy looked over at Jiyong who had laid his head down on the console. He walked over to him and put his hand on Jiyong’s shoulders. Jiyong looked up sharply, the ferocious look was still there but when Teddy looked closer, he saw the tears that were making Jiyong’s eyes sparkle. The fierce leader was gone. Teddy saw only a child who was lost and hurting. “We would all leave now, Ji, but know that when you want to talk, we are always here. Although I have an idea of why you are acting the way you are, I have a feeling you do not want me to tell you. In fact, I do not really want to tell you because I believe you need to figure this out on your own. I suggest you go back home, take a break if you need to then come back here when you are ready, physically and mentally.” Teddy gave Jiyong a tight squeeze on his shoulders and walked out of the studio. Outside, he found the 4 members waiting. They wanted to know if Jiyong finally told him anything. He looked at 4 of them and gave them a sad smile. “He’s not doing too well right now. Be patient with him. Expect him to be the worst nightmare you would have to be around for a while.” Seungri’s eyes, upon hearing that, grew as big as saucers. “WHAT?! He’s usually already a nightmare when it comes to work, you are saying he’s going to be beyond the worst we have gone through before? OMG! How are we going to survive?!!” “Lower your volume maknae. You don’t want him to hear you.” Taeyang said, smacking the maknae’s head. “But hyung! It’s the truth. You know he’s such a perfectionist when it comes to work. If he’s going to be worse than he usually is, we are in deep

5


trouble.” “Let’s take this elsewhere. Even though the studio is sound-proof, I don’t think you want Ji to hear us right now.” Having said that, Teddy led them to the rooftop of YGE building that only the top management has access to. He knew that during this time, he needed to be the hyung who would be there for his brothers. It hurt him to see Jiyong in the state he’s in and how confused the other members are but in truth, there was nothing they could do about it. It’s difficult to do anything that would entail the rescuing of another’s soul when the person himself didn’t know that he was losing it. The 5 of them just stood at the edge of the rooftop looking out, each lost in their own thoughts. The news that they received yesterday had shocked everyone but it would seem that it hit Jiyong the worst. Everyone was thinking of the repercussions of that decision when suddenly, all their phones except Seungri’s rang. Each took out their phone hurriedly to see who might be calling and upon seeing the name on their caller ID, they quickly walked to a quiet corner of the rooftop to answer the call. But for Teddy, it was an unknown number. Even then, Teddy could guess who was the one calling. Seungri stood at his original spot and lament why no one was calling him at this moment. “Man, am I that unpopular? Why doesn’t anyone take me seriously?”

6


CHAPTER 2 1 February 2013 YGE, Teddy's Recording Studio Jiyong was not oblivious to why he was feeling the way he was. He was hurt. He never thought this would happen. But it did. What’s worse, he knew that he was the one who caused it to happen. “Leave then, I do not need you. I will be fine without you.” Kwon Jiyong, you are such an idiot! How could you say such a thing to her? How could you? “ARGH!!” Jiyong pulled at his hair in frustration. He didn’t go easy on himself and his scalp was hurting from the abuse his hands was putting it through. No! I can’t do this. I have to make her stay! I have to! He quickly took out his phone and press ‘1’. That was the quick dial to her number. As he waited, he couldn’t help remembering how the tradition of the speed dial started. “Oppa, look I finally got myself a phone!” “It’s about time!!” “This is the first thing I ever bought with my own money! It feels good!” “Pass me the phone.” “Why?” “Just pass it to me!” Jiyong keyed in his number and set it to be on speed dial 1. Next, he saved his number under the name: My Jingyo Oppa <3 “Here you go~!” “What did you do to MY phone?” “I just put my number into your contact list.” She looked through her contact list in her phone. It was not difficult to find since he was the first person that she went to after she got the phone. She smiled when she saw what he put. 7


“Give me a call so I can save your number too.” And she did just that. When Jiyong’s phone rang, he answered it. “Hello~ You have reached Chaerin’s Jingyo oppa. If you are a guy, please hang up right now. If you are a girl, you can talk to her.” CL laughed at his silliness. She coughed to clear her throat and push her voice to the lowest she can manage. “I’m Chaerin’s protector. Jingyo oppa? Who’s that? Chaerin has never mentioned you before. Stop being full of yourself and pass the phone to Chaerin this very minute!” With that, CL hung up and collapsed onto the couch laughing. Her Jingyo oppa’s reaction was too funny! Jiyong looked at her and a smile sneaked up his face. ‘I could never be sad when she’s with me.’ Jiyong thought quietly to himself. Looking down at his phone, he looked closely at the number. 010-6220-8180 His smile turned to a wide grin. He quickly saved her number in his phone. ‘My HunChae <3’ At the same time, after recovering from her laughing fit, CL looked at the number that Jiyong had keyed in. Because prior to this, she had never owned a phone and any phone call to Jiyong was usually done on her manager’s phone, so she never really knew what his number was. When she opened up the contact information for ‘My Jingyo Oppa~’, she was shocked to see what his number was. My Jingyo Oppa: 010-0818-0226 At that moment, she looked up to see Jiyong looking at her too. Both of them exchanged a smile, each knowing what the other had done.

8


Although after that, they have had to change their numbers numerous times, both of them kept their first number but never used it again. Without fail, every time when they have to change their number, they would take each other’s phone and put their number in the number 1 speed dial. “The number that you are calling is no longer in use. Please check the number and try again.” What? No longer in use? What does that mean? For the first time in Jiyong’s life, he was seized by real panic. He felt a heavy hand squeeze his heart and not letting go. His right hand went to his chest, his weak attempt at relieving the pain that was taking his breath away. She had always been there. He never ever thought of the day when she’s not just a phone call away. He tried again but the voice that picked up the call was definitely not his HunChae. He almost threw his phone against the wall but he managed to restrain himself at the last minute. He still needed to use the phone. He decided that he needed to call the other 2NE1 members to check if they knew where his HunChae went. He dialed Minzy’s number first. “The number you are calling is not available at the moment. Please try again later.” He quickly ended the call and called Dara next. “The number you are calling is not available at the moment. Please try again later.” His anxiety was reaching a new high. His hand was shaking when he dialled Bom’s number. Please let me get through to her. “The number you are calling is not available at the moment. Please try again later.”

9


“FUCK!!!” He threw his phone hard against the wall and got no satisfaction when he heard it smash against the wall. He slid down against the wall closest to studio door and let the tears that he has been holding in slide down his face. He let out a loud, painful howl that even the thick sound-proof door could not contain within. The great G-Dragon has fallen. She saw everything that happened through the small window in the door. She knew he was hurting and wish that she could walk in and give him a hug from the back. But she knew she won’t. Her pride would not allow it. He had asked her to leave and she will not beg. The howl passed through the sound-proof protection and reached her ears. A single tear fell from her left eye. Because that’s the side where the heart is. That’s the only drop of tear that I will allow myself. No matter how much it’s going to hurt me, I will not cry. And I will not beg. With a resolve she didn’t know she had when it comes to her Jingyo oppa, she turned away from the studio and walked towards the elevator. Behind her, she pulled along her luggage. Her head knew she had to leave, her heart fought against it but in the end, she knew she had to go. Staying was not an option. For now.

10


CHAPTER 3 1 February 2013 YGE Rooftop “Minzy, how are you doing? Are you alright?” Daesung asked the maknae of 2NE1 the moment he picked up the call. “Dae oppa, have you seen Chaerin unnie today? She has gone missing from the dorm. She has taken her clothes and her passport but she didn’t leave a note. We couldn’t get her on her mobile phone as well and she is never without it. Oppa, what are we going to do? I’m scared...” Minzy started sobbing at that moment and Daesung panicked not knowing what to do. He was never good at comforting girls. Now his darling Minzy was crying, he felt even more helpless. “Minzy baby, don’t cry. I’d be there immediately. We’ll work something out, I promise.” “Oppa...” “Don’t cry, Minzy ah, you are breaking my heart with your sobs. Calm down, go get something to drink and I’d be there as soon as possible ok?” “Ok...” Daesung got off the phone and was turning to tell his other members that he’s off to 2NE1’s dorm when he saw Taeyang and TOP wearing panicked and worried looks on their faces as well. Once their eyes met, they knew that they have all received the same call of help. They turned to Teddy who was still on the phone with the mysterious caller. They caught the last of his conversation. “Of course I’d take care of him... Hello? Chae...” “Hyung! Are you on the phone with Chaerin? Where is she?”

11


Teddy turned round to look at the 3 Big Bang members, only to see them right in his face. “Yes... I was on the phone with Chae, why?” “Where is she?” TOP, who usually do not say much, spoke up. Seeing that it was TOP who asked, Teddy was quite taken back as well. “I don’t know. She just called to ask me to take care of Ji. Why? What’s wrong?” “The other 2NE1 members just called to say that she had gone missing from the dorm. She had left with her clothes and passport and didn’t leave them a note at all. They are all panicking right now.” Taeyang offered the explanation in the calmest way possible. “What?! She didn’t say anything about leaving when she called just now! Let’s go back to the studio and see if we can catch her there.” “Alright, let’s hurry! Seungri ah, we are going back to the studio.” The 4 hurriedly left the rooftop, not waiting for the maknae. At this very moment, Chaerin walked out of the building and Seungri saw her. “LEE CHAERIN!!” Seungri shouted and waved like a madman when Chaerin looked up. She was shocked but knew she had to wave at Seungri and pretended that nothing was out of the ordinary. After sending a quick smile and wave, she quickly got into the cab which she had waiting for her. She took one last look at the building that held so much of her laughter and tears. Goodbye. Thank you for seeing me through all these years. Goodbye. Seungri turned around, wanting to tell the other 4 who he just saw when he

12


realized that the rooftop was empty. He quickly ran towards the elevator and caught up with his hyungs. “Hyung, are we going back to the studio? Did Ji hyung call?” The elevator came at the moment and all of them got in. After pressing the floor number for the studio, Teddy explained why they were going back to Jiyong. “No, but we need to catch hold of Chaerin. The girls are in a state of panic because she has gone missing from the dorm.” DING. The elevator signalled their arrival at their desired floor. “Huh? But I just saw Chaerin leave the building. I was waving at her just now.” “WHAT?! WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY? YOU SAW CHAERIN? WHERE IS SHE?” Everyone turned to look at the elevator door. Jiyong was standing there, looking ready to pounce on Seungri if he doesn’t answer him fast enough. “Ji, calm...” Taeyang stepped forward to hold onto Jiyong only to have his hand flung off violently. He stepped past Taeyang and grabbed Seungri’s jacket. “Lee Seunghyun, I do not have time to play around with you. Where did you say you saw Chaerin?” “Ji hyung, let go... I don’t know...” “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T KNOW?!! DIDN’T YOU JUST SAY THAT YOU WERE WAVING TO HER?!! WHICH WAY DID SHE GO?!!” “I really don’t know... We were at the rooftop and I saw her coming out of the building. A cab was waiting for her at the door. When I saw her, I shouted her name and she looked up. She gave me a quick smile and waved before getting into the cab.”

13


“Why didn’t you stop her? WHY?! WHY DIDN’T ANY OF YOU STOP HER?!!!” Jiyong looked at Seungri then at the other 4 who came out of the elevator with him. He closed his eyes for a brief moment, trying to keep his tears in. “Seungri, did she have her luggage with her? Minzy said that she took her clothes and...” Jiyong’s eyes shot open when he heard Daesung’s enquiry. He released Seungri and turned towards Daesung instead. “What did you just say? What is this about her with her luggage? Where is she going?” Although he wasn’t shouting, his voice was laced with a quiet rage which the members knew was potentially more dangerous than if he was shouting. They knew if they allowed it to get out of hand, it would be difficult to control him, much less calm him down. Taeyang exchanged a look with TOP and TOP nodded back in understanding. They each moved to either side of their leader, ready to hold him down should he threaten to hit the two younger members. “Daesung, I’m asking one more time. Why did you ask Seungri if Chaerin had her luggage with her? Where is she going?” “Ji hyung, I don’t know where she’s going. That is something we would all like to know. We received a phone call from the 2NE1 girls, each asking if we have seen Chaerin today. They found her missing from the dorm, her clothes and passport are both gone. They are worried sick about where she might be.” Daesung answered as calmly as he could so that Jiyong can hear him clearly. It would not do to make him even more agitated. Jiyong turned to Seungri once again since he was fortunate or unfortunate enough to have been the last one to see Chaerin before she boarded the cab. “Seungri, yes or no? Did you see her with her luggage?”

14


“Yes.” The moment he heard Seungri’s answer, he took a step towards the elevator. Taeyang and TOP stepped forward and held him down. “BAE, LET ME GO! I HAVE TO GO AFTER HER!” “Ji, listen, calm down first!” “NO!! DON’T TELL ME TO CALM DOWN!! SHE’S WALKING OUT OF MY LIFE! SHE’S LEAVING! HOW CAN YOU ASK ME TO CALM DOWN?!! LET ME GO THIS INSTANT!!!” “Didn’t you ask her to leave? Weren’t you the one who told her that you didn’t need her? Why are you behaving like a madman now, Kwon Jiyong?”

15


Chapter 4 1 February 2013 YGE Building Jiyong stopped struggling against Taeyang and TOP upon hearing the voice. Everyone turned to look at YG, who was standing right behind them. “Listen, no one is allowed to go after Chaerin. She has my permission to leave. I have relieved her of her duties as 2NE1’s leader for now. Whether she is going to come back, I’m not too sure yet but I will not pressure her to do anything against her will.” He turned towards Jiyong. “Jiyong, I’m ordering you to not go after her. If you still care for her, which I believe you do, you will listen to me. She doesn’t need you to go after her asking her questions that she doesn’t have any answers to yet. Give her time. If she wants to come back to you, to us, she will. I trust her to make the right judgements.” YG turned towards the other 4 members. “I know with the exception of Seungri, the rest of you are dating the other members of 2NE1. I’m going to their dorm right now to talk to them and I believe they would need your support now, so you can come with me if you want to. Seungri, you stay with Teddy and Jiyong.” “What if I disobey you and go after Chaerin?” “Then I would take you out as the leader of Big Bang. But before you say anything, Chaerin has expected you to ask me this question. This is what she wants me to tell you should you ever asked this question. ‘If I know that Jiyong oppa is no longer leader of Big Bang or not part of YGE anymore, I will definitely not come back.’ So I would think twice if I were you. She also said to tell you that she would have her own way of finding out. Although I have a nagging suspicion she said that to prevent me from co-operating with you to lie to her.”

16


YG paused after revealing Chaerin’s ultimatum. Jiyong had never felt this defeated before. Yet, he consoled himself, seeing how well his HunChae knew him. All’s not lost, Kwon Jiyong. You still stand a chance. Just give her some time. Seeing that Jiyong had calmed down, YG continued to speak. “Jiyong ah, it hurts me as much as it hurts you to see her leave. But seeing you like that hurts me too. So do us all a favor, calm down, get some rest. Then decide what’s your next step alright?” He turned to look at Teddy. “Look after him. If need be, follow him home. Seungri, you are to look after Jiyong day and night from now on. Even if he hits you, you have to stay by his side, understand? Jiyong, let Teddy and Seungri know if you need anything or if you want to go anywhere. If you are thinking of drowning your sorrows in alcohol and go crazy, I advise you to do it within your own four walls and Seungri is to be there with you at all times.” “Thanks Boss, I will take care of myself. But is it alright if I follow you to 2NE1’s dorm now? I want to make sure that the girls are doing ok too.” YG looked at Jiyong suspiciously. Truthfully, he didn’t know if it’s a good idea that Jiyong tagged along with them to go to 2NE1’s dorm but seeing that he had reasonably calmed down from his crazy tirade, he decided that it would be alright for Jiyong to go along. “Alright, you can come with us. But you will stay by my side at all times. I do not want you wandering into the girls’ room.” “I understand. Thank you.” With that, Big Bang and YG left to go to 2NE1’s dorm. Teddy walked back to his studio in silence. He scrolled through the call history and redialled the last call he received, hoping that he would get to speak to Chaerin. “The number you have dialled has been suspended. Please check the number and try again.” 17


Lee Chaerin, you are so determined to leave us that you are not even going to leave us a way to contact you. But I know you will be back. Since the other half of your soul is here and you can’t bear to see him suffer for too long. Teddy arrived at his studio and saw Jiyong’s wrecked phone on the floor. He picked up the pieces and put it on the table. His eyes rested on the accessory that has fallen off. It was the replica of the strawberry with whipped cream ring that he has given to Chaerin. Teddy remembered it created quite a stir when the fans caught sight of it and started the rumor that the 2 leaders were dating. The irony was the 2 of them never dated although they were closer than most couples he knew. There was this unknown bond between them since the first day they met. YG never saw the need to dismiss the rumors but he did tell them to be more careful. Since then, CL stopped wearing the ring and would just put it inside a box with all her treasured gifts. She knew she had to be the one to put the rumors to rest since GD didn’t see the need to.

18


Chapter 5 1 February 2013 “Miss, where to?” “Incheon International Airport. Thank you ahjussi.” After telling the taxi driver her destination, Chaerin looked down at her hand. She had taken the strawberry and whipped cream ring with her as a reminder of Jiyong. She started caressing the ring, tracing the design. How ironic. I can only wear this ring when I’m away from you. But then again, I have never really been away from you. Not like this. Never like this. Even though tears threatened to break her facade, she held them in. Leaders don’t cry. . . . . . But I’m not a leader anymore. No, Chaerin, you are not a leader anymore. You stopped being one when you announced it at the press conference yesterday. But that doesn’t mean that you can cry. No one ever told her that she is the weakest when she’s the strongest.

31 January 2013 With the help of the PR department, all the major newspapers and TV stations were gathered in one of the main conference rooms in YG Building. They have also arranged it in such a way that no one, especially Big Bang and 2NE1 members were in the building. 19


Chaerin stood outside the conference room while she waited for the Head of PR to finish her explanation about why the media was gathered today. She didn’t go into details and instead introduced Chaerin into the press conference. Chaerin clenched her fists and hardened her resolve. Lee Chaerin, you can do this. “Chaerin ah, are you sure you want to go through with this? I could go in and announce that the reason for gathering the media today is to announce your solo album.” Chaerin turned to look at her boss, her second father and gave him a smile. “Appa, you know you would be called a troll right? We do not have those plans and it will disrupt everything that you have planned.” “I didn’t plan for this too.” “Appa, we have been through this. I have told you two months ago when we got back from our tour and started on our promotion for our latest album.” “Alright, just know that the doors at YGE is always open for you to come back again.” Chaerin turned and give YG a hug. She whispered a soft ‘thank you, appa’ before releasing YG. Chaerin mustered her courage and walked into the conference room. The cameras went crazy, the flash, the reporters started shouting questions at her. She gave the media a quick smile then walked to the center of the conference room. “First I’d like to thank the media for coming out here on such short notice. I will make this short.” She took a deep breath.

20


“I, Lee Chaerin, will be stepping down as 2NE1’s leader with effect from today. This decision was not an easy one to make because I really love my members and the whole YG Family a lot. But I have decided to chase after my other dream of becoming a fashion designer. Please continue to show support to all the other members of 2NE1 as they start on their own journey and all the YG Family artistes as well. I would also like to extend my thanks to YG sajangnim and my members for their understanding in this matter. As to whether I would come back and stand in front of everyone again, I cannot say for sure right now. But know that my love for the stage, my love for my members and my love for my fans will always be there. Last but not least, I would like to thank Blackjacks from around the world for their support since day 1. I would really appreciate it if you can respect my sudden decision. Please continue to support the other members in whatever they choose to do. Thank you very much.” Chaerin put down the microphone, stood up and did a 90 degree deep bow. The media again went crazy with their cameras and questions were again being shouted. Chaerin’s manager came in and escorted her out of the conference room and straight to YG’s office. The others from the PR team tried to contain the media in the conference room.

The tears that she had been holding in since yesterday flowed out continuously, like the current that had been trapped behind the dam for too long. She cried all the way from YG building to Incheon International Airport. (A/N: That’s about an hour) When they arrived at the airport, Chaerin wiped the remnants of her tears, checked her make-up then put on the huge sunglasses. The cab driver waited patiently for her to finish all her checks. When she was finally ready, she took a deep breath. “Chaerin-ssi, everything will be alright. Whatever or whoever caused you to cry so much, it will pass. Take a good rest and find your way again.

21


Fighting!” Chaerin was really surprised that the cab driver recognized her. She had kept her make-up simple and had darkened her blonde hair so that she won’t be so noticeable. “Erm, thank you ahjussi but how did you...” “How did I recognize you? How could I not? I picked you up from YG building, someone, Seungri-ssi from Big Bang wasn’t it, shouted your name from the rooftop, and not to mention everyone in my family is a big fan of 2NE1. In fact, if it’s not too much trouble, would you mind signing on your latest album for me? My family would be so happy!” “Sure. Who should I address it to?” “Jeon Hyunsaeng and Family from Mokdong. Thank you very much!” Chaerin took the album from the cab driver. It was their latest and possibly last album. Thinking about that, the tears started to form again. She wrote a quick message thanking the family for their support. Then she handed the album back to the cab driver and started to pull out the money for her cab ride. “Chaerin-ssi, please don’t worry about the cab fare. When 2NE1 comes back with the next album, I expect you to pay in full. We know you will come back but we will not pressure you. Take care of yourself. Your smile means a lot to your fans. FIGHTING ok?” “Thank you so much for your kind words. I hope to come back as a better person as well. Wish me luck and look upon me well.” “We will do that for sure. Have a good trip!” Chaerin got out from the cab, straighten her Chanel coat and handbag then pulled her luggage to the departure hall. She stood in front of the departure screen and see when’s the next flight out of Korea to Italy. Once she found one, she went to get her ticket and then she checked herself in for her flight. Only when she was seated in the VIP lounge did she take out the other thing

22


she had taken out of her treasure box: her first handphone. She switched it on and sent out a message. After she did that, she switched it off again. She wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t expecting an answer from the receiver anyway. At least not yet. Jingyo oppa... Goodbye... For now... or ever... Please stay healthy and true to yourself. I.. Love you.

23


Chapter 6 1 February 2013 Big Bang Nanny Van YG and the 5 members of Big Bang got into Big Bang’s nanny van to travel the short distance to 2NE1’s dorm. Silence filled the van. No one dared to break the tension. Everyone was thinking of their own 2NE1 member and was texting their own girlfriend, making sure that they were hanging in there. Jiyong was just looking out of the window, thinking of Chaerin and where she could have possibly gone to. Seungri, never one to stay quiet for too long, finally couldn’t handle the silence anymore. “Boss, how did you find out that all the hyungs except me and Ji hyung were dating 2NE1 members?” “Simple, Chaerin was the one who told me.” At the mention of Chaerin’s name, Jiyong looked away from the window and sat up. This was news to him, that Chaerin actually went to their boss with the information. The other boys also looked up when they heard what their boss just said. “And it was also because of her that I didn’t do anything to stop all of you. So before all of you start blaming Chaerin for letting me in on this secret, let me just say if any of you said anything to that tune, I’d take you out of the company without a second word. If it was not for her, I would have kept both groups apart as much as possible.” “Did you know about the press conference yesterday then?” Jiyong could not stop the question from coming out. He had to know. YG smiled, a bitter smile, one that a regretful parent would only have if they knew they had done wrong towards their children. “Yes.”

24


“Then why didn’t you stop her? Why? Why did you let her do that? You know that she would not be able to come back anymore don’t you?” Jiyong could not help the bitterness that came out from his mouth. He felt that both him and Chaerin have been betrayed by the man they trusted the most. “You think I have not tried to persuade her? You think I would let her go to the gutters that way? You think I have not shed tears and lost sleep about what she had decided to do? She is like my daughter like you are my son! Every hurtful comment attacking her online after her announcement is like a knife cutting my own heart. You think I am happy that she is gone?” “THEN WHY? WHY DID YOU AGREE TO IT?!! WHY??!!” “Because she wants everyone to be happy.” At that YG looked at everyone around him. “She knew if she wasn’t the one to announce that she wants to give up leadership of 2NE1, it would be difficult for the other members to say they want to do other things, to fulfill other dreams than simply being part of 2NE1.” “But why would she think that the other members want out of 2NE1?” Seungri asked quite innocently being the only one who was not romantically involved with 2NE1. The others just looked at each other, each with a slight guilty look on their face. “I think your hyungs will know this better than me.” He looked over at Jiyong. “Jiyong ah, I know her announcement to quit as the leader of 2NE1 hit you the hardest. But if you think she didn’t take you into consideration, you are wrong. She did what she thought would have been the best for both 2NE1 and Big Bang.” “Who asked her to think on my behalf? Who is she to think that she can 25


decide our fates?” “You did.” Jiyong was about to ask YG what he meant by that but they have arrived at 2NE1’s dorm. “The rest of you, especially Seungri, listen carefully. Chaerin does not want her members to know the reason she stepped down was so that you guys could be together or for the girls to be able to vocalize what they want to do. They really think that she decided to quit because she wants to pursue her dreams as a fashion designer. So for everyone’s sakes, especially Chaerin’s, please never let them know. Promise me this.” He turned to Jiyong next. “Jiyong, when she is ready to come back, you can rest assured that I would make sure the company will do anything to make sure she comes back with dignity. I am not cutting her loose. She is still like my daughter no matter what. But during this time that she is gone, you need to think very carefully what can you do to make her want to come back. She was really hurt when you lashed out at her when she tried to talk to you about her decision. She had wanted to let you know the real reason but you didn’t give her a chance. So if you want her back as much as you want to now, then think very carefully about what you have to do.” With that, YG got out of the van, followed silently by the Big Bang members. Jiyong was a step behind YG, Youngbae and the rest were walking behind. Youngbae jogged forward and put his arm around Jiyong in an attempt to comfort him. Jiyong looked at his best friend and for the first time since they have known each other, Jiyong shrugged Youngbae’s arm off and walked off. Youngbae was visibly shocked and stopped walking altogether. The others came up to him and TOP gave him a pat on his back. “He will come round. He’s just angry with himself that he didn’t manage to stop Chaerin from doing what she did.”

26


“But TOP hyung, I feel really bad as well now that I know Chaerin did what she did for us.” Daesung spoke up, his voice was shaky. “You heard YG sajangnim. We couldn’t stop her even if we wanted to. So now, I think we would just have to bear in mind that she did this to make sure that we are happy. The least we could do in return is to look after her members well for her until she’s ready to come back.” “Don’t forget Ji. We have to take care of him as well. Even if they weren’t in an official relationship, their bond is probably stronger than any of our relationship.” Youngbae added. All of them, including Seungri, nodded in agreement. “Hyungs, all of you have to gather yourself together. Dara noona, Bom noona and Minzy will need all of you the most right now. We will just take one step at a time.” The 4 of them knew that there was nothing that can do right now other than to listen to YG and let nature take its course. They have to be there for their girlfriends when YG breaks the news to them.

27


Chapter 7 1 February 2013 2NE1 Dorm Dara, Bom and Minzy were sitting on the 3-seater couch while YG sat at the single seater. GD choose to stand beside the TV cabinet. They were waiting for the other members to turn up before YG start. The moment the other 4 members stepped into the dorm, the 3 girls stood up immediately and went directly to their boyfriends. Seungri walked to GD and stood beside him. All of the boys wrapped their arms around their girlfriends and whispered words of comfort to them. GD, seeing the scene before him, got a little irritated especially now that Chaerin’s not there. In the past, whenever I visit, she’ll be here. She’s always here... “I know you are glad to see each other, but I think it’s better to let our boss finish what he’s here to do.” GD shocked everyone with his cold and distant voice. YG shot him a warning look but he just looked away. YG cleared his voice and looked over to the couples, catching the eyes of the Big Bang members. They reluctantly let go of the three girls. “Dara noona, let’s sit down and listen to what sajangnim has to say ok?” “Come, Minzy, sit down on the couch. We’ll talk later alright?” TOP didn’t say anything. Instead, he held both of Bom’s hands and gave her his craziest alien look just to get her to smile. When she did, he squeezed her hands and got her to sit down on the couch. Once they were seated back on the couch did the girls realize that their 28


actions was a dead giveaway that they are dating the Big Bang members. All of them looked at their boyfriends with some measure of fear. “Relax, our boss is already aware of your relationships.” Again, the too-neutral tone that GD was using made everyone uncomfortable. “Bom, Dara and Minzy, I am already aware of your relationships with the boys. Otherwise I won’t have brought them here with me. We will get to that at a later date. Let’s talk about the more important thing first. I know you girls must be very shocked by what Chaerin did yesterday. You must have a lot of questions so now I’m giving you a chance to ask them.” “Sajangnim, did you know what she was going to do?” YG nodded. “Then why didn’t you stop her?” Minzy, who was the most affected among the 3 girls by the sudden announcement, had to ask. For her, it was really difficult to understand why YG would let Chaerin go without a fight. “Because it is something that she really wanted.” “You mean she wanted to leave us? That’s what she really wanted?” “No, the reason why she decided to step down and quit as the leader of 2NE1 was to pursue her dreams in fashion design. She is still young and she has dreams beyond just the stage so I let her go. Don’t you have dreams of your own as well?” The 3 girls looked at their boyfriends again, only to find them smiling reassuringly at them. The exchange didn’t go unnoticed by YG or GD. GD had to look away because all he could think of now was how Chaerin has left him so they could fulfill their dreams. “Now, tell me, what do you wish to accomplish for yourself? In the time that 29


Chaerin isn’t going to be around, what new areas would you like to try?” “I want to sing more. If I can have a solo album, that would be the best thing!” Bom finally said after a long silence. “I want to try out acting and maybe hosting.” Dara also voiced out her wish. Everyone turned towards Minzy, waiting for her to say something. Everyone was shocked when she started crying. “Am I the only one who wants to continue standing on stage as part of 2NE1? Am I selfish in wanting all 4 of us to stay together?” She looked over at YG then and the piercing glare that she gave him was also unexpected. “Appa, do you want us to stop? Do you want us to just call it quits? And most importantly, do you know where Chaerin unnie is?” Daesung walked over to Minzy and put his arm around her, trying to calm her down. Minzy surprisingly didn’t give into the temptation to simply turn to Daesung. Instead, she continued to stare at YG with her teary eyes. “Minzy ah, I do not want 2NE1 to stop, I do not want you girls to call it quits but do you want to perform as a 3-member 2NE1 till Chaerin comes back? You want to ask your Big Bang seniors how they felt when they had to perform with a missing member?” YG let what he just said sink in. He could see the deadpan looks on each of the Big Bang members’ faces. They were remembering the times when they had to perform without GD and Daesung. Minzy turned to Daesung, knowing how those times had hurt him greatly. Daesung just held her tighter and gave her a reassuring smile. “During the time that Chaerin is gone, I can allow for unit projects among you 3 but you girls will not perform under the name 2NE1. The reason I 30


asked what are your dreams or wishes is not to end 2NE1 but instead I’d do my best to let you try as many things as you want. Have I made myself clear? 2NE1 is still part of YG Family but right now, we will focus on individual member’s development.” YG looked at the 3 girls in turn and he only continued when he saw them nodding. “What about Minzy’s last question? Do you know where Chaerin is?” GD couldn’t wait any longer. When he heard Minzy ask the question he wanted to ask most himself, he waited impatiently for the answer. “At the moment, no. I know she is leaving Korea today but I do not know her destination until she notifies me.” “And will you let us know where she is?” “No. I’m under very strict instructions from Chaerin that I am not to tell anyone from YGE where she is.” YG paused for a bit and held up his hand to stop any protests that he saw was coming from the girls and Jiyong. “Chaerin did say she will contact you when she is ready. Please respect her decisions for now, alright? This applies especially to you, Jiyong.” The air was charged as the Big Bang leader stared at their boss. Everyone was getting a little nervous that Jiyong might act out. “Since it’s what Chaerin wants, I would respect it. But I have a request.” “Say it, I would see if I can agree to it.” “I want time off.” “For how long?” “Until Chaerin comes back.”

31


“WHAT?!!” Everyone shouted out their shock. That is everyone except YG.

32


CHAPTER 8 2NE1 Dorm, same day “Ji hyung, what are you saying? Have you gone mad? How can you...” “Ji, are you trying to make us feel guilty?” Seungri was cut off by TOP whose gruff voice hinted at his rising temper. That was the second shock of the day, TOP showing anger. GD looked at each of them and for the first time since stepping out of the van, he didn’t look hostile. “Let me explain. I’m not saying that Big Bang will stop all activities. We will continue to appear as 5. However, I would like some time off from writing new songs. I would help in the producing process for anyone who needs it but I want to take a break from actual writing.” YG looked at Jiyong and to everyone’s surprise, he smiled. In fact, it felt like he was hiding a grin. Everyone was puzzled at YG’s reaction because let’s face it, Jiyong is one of the most prolific songwriter and producer in YGE. Without Jiyong, YG might have to rely on song writers outside of YGE. “Why?” “I tried today. I wanted to go on like nothing has happened, like the press conference didn’t happen, like she didn’t just tell everyone in Korea that she’s leaving, like she’s not leaving...” Jiyong took a deep breath in an attempt to stop his tears from falling. Leaders don’t cry. That’s what he always tell Chaerin whenever she was feeling weak. “But I couldn’t. I could not hear the song, the song that’s always there when I look for it. The song that will always appear when I think of Chaerin, the song that IS Chaerin. She...” Towards the end, Jiyong’s voice started shaking. Tears, born of relief from his heart, that he finally realized how important Chaerin is to him, started to 33


gather in his eyes. “She’s just not there anymore... I can’t see her... I can’t hear her...” And then another shocking thing happened. He freed the tears, allowing them to streak down his face without shame. No one has ever seen the great G-Dragon cry. Ever. Leaders don’t cry. But the sobbing man was not the famous genius songwriter-producer, GDragon, leader of Big Bang. He was simply Kwon Jiyong. A man who realized that his other half was no longer with him. Everyone was held frozen by the scene in front of them. They have never seen GD break down before, in front of anyone except Big Bang members. Youngbae took a step forward and gathered Jiyong in a tight hug. Jiyong hugged him back and just continue his heart-wrenching sobs. The 2NE1 girls gathered round Minzy because she had started crying when she heard how Jiyong has lost his song. Daesung went to her and wiped away her tears. “Shhh... Don’t cry. Your Chaerin unnie won’t have wanted to see her dear maknae crying like this.” Minzy clung onto Daesung but she didn’t stop crying. “Oppa... What if she never comes back? What if she finds someone else and...” “No! She won’t! She would be back! She has to! What am I going to do without her?!!”

34


As if the thought that Chaerin was not there just occurred to him, he pushed away from Youngbae and was rushing to the door to run after her. “Kwon Jiyong, stop right there.” The only voice who can stop Jiyong right now was YG’s and he knew he had to step in before Jiyong really ran out and alarm anyone who might catch him on the street. “Remember what I told you? Give her some time. She will come back to you, to us. Just as it pains you to not have her around you, have you ever thought of the pain that she’s putting herself through? Do you think it’d be lessen if she see you the way you are now?” “Then why did she leave? Why? If it was going to hurt both of us, why did she leave?” Jiyong sobbed out like a little child and it was painful for all to see him this way. “Because you didn’t know it was going to hurt this bad. You always took her for granted, you always think that she’s going to be around. In everything she does, she puts you first. Never has she ever refuse to go to you when you call, whenever you say you need her, she will be there. But time and again, we see you walk away from her once you found the comfort that you need and carry on doing things that would hurt yourself. Do you know how many times she cries herself to sleep, keeping her sobs as soft as possible so that we would not hear her? Do you? DO YOU?! I don’t pity you one bit for the pain you are going through right now because she was in pain every single day since she’s known you. Maybe it’s better that you leave her alone.” After hearing Minzy’s calmly delivered accusation, Jiyong stood by the door, dumbstruck. “Ji hyung, I apologize on Minzy’s behalf. She’s really upset about Chaerin leaving. Please forgive her.” “No, Dae, she’s right. I never knew it was going to hurt this badly. Maybe 35


it’s better if she leaves me forev...” Jiyong couldn’t finish the thought. He didn’t want to. He can’t. Chae, my HunChae... Please come back to me... Don’t leave me alone, please? “Alright, I think everyone had enough for today. Chaerin is gone but keep your trust in her that she would one day find her way back to us. Jiyong and Seungri, you will come back with me. The rest of you boys can stay here for a while. When you are ready to leave, call your manager and he will come pick you up. Girls, I think it’s wise that you stay in for this week or at least until the company sends out an official statement with regards to plans for each of you. The fans are going to draw blood if I don’t give them a viable plan soon.” The 3 girls nodded in understanding. “Ji hyung, let’s go. We can go back and play video gam...Oh wait.. No, we can’t... The TV’s broken.” The Big Bang members, with the exception of Jiyong, all shot Seungri a dirty look. YG turned to Seungri and asked. “Why is the TV broken? Didn’t I just replace it last week?” Not sensing the tense looks that Taeyang, Daesung and TOP were giving him, Seungri went on. “Oh Ji hyung broke the screen using TOP hyung’s Bearbrick statue yesterday after watching the ‘live’ telecast of Chaerin’s press conference. It was all smashed up and gave us quite a fright! Bom noona, you should have seen TOP hyung! He cried when he saw that his precious Bearbrick had scratches on its face.” “Lee Seunghyun, you really don’t know when to shut up do you?” Youngbae went up behind Seungri and hit his head.

36


“Jiyong, you will replace the television with your own money. Which Bearbrick did he use? Was it the limited edition one you just got from MCM?” “That’s the one.” YG let out a hiss then gave TOP a pitying look. “TOP hyung, I’d call up my friend in MCM and see what they can do about it. YG appa, are we leaving? And Seungri? I’m locking you in the room with Gaho tonight. He’s going to have so much fun terrorizing you.” “NOOOOO!!! WHY ME??!!” Incheon International Airport At that very moment when Jiyong gave in to his tears, Chaerin was walking to board the plane to her next destination, her new life. Just as she was about to step onto the plane, she felt a sharp pain in her heart and tears fell from her eyes without her noticing. She had to stop and take a deep breath. The air stewardess saw what happened and came up to her. “Miss, are you alright?” Chaerin nodded her head. “I am alright, thanks for the concern.” But my other half is not... She was about to turn back and walk back to the departure hall. Then she remembered why she was doing this in the first place. She closed her eyes to stop the tears. Jingyo oppa, hang in there. Stay strong. For yourself. For me. After taking a deep breath, she walked towards the entrance of the plane 37


and stepped through it without hesitation. Just before take-off, she took out her phone again and sent a message. To: My Jingyo Oppa<3 1 February 2013 3.03pm KST

Oppa, I know you are hurting and possibly crying. But please don’t cry. Don’t be hurt. I’d be back. I don’t know when but I will be. Will you still be there waiting? She hit ‘Send’ and again switched off her phone. She settled into her seat and got ready for the long flight ahead.

38


Chapter 9 Big Bang Nanny Van YG, Jiyong and Seungri were on their way back to YGE after the talk with the 2NE1 girls. The mood wasn’t as tense as when they were on their way there. Jiyong seemed to have found some semblance of peace after his meltdown in front of everyone. “Jiyong, when you are ready, come and see me in my office. We need to work out how to manage Big Bang’s schedules now that you have requested for time off writing songs. I still do not want others to write Big Bang’s songs because only you guys will know what kind of songs you want to sing for your fans. So we will need to see if we are going to work on solo projects for the Big Bang members. Not only that, we need to talk about the other 3 girls’ unit projects if any.” “Alright. I’m sorry for the wilful request but...” “I know where you are coming from, don’t worry about it. I like it that you were honest about it with us and with yourself. Have a good rest today and then think about your next step.” “Are you really not going to tell me where Chaerin is?” “Yes, I made the promise and I won’t go against her wishes. To be honest, I don’t think she can cut you out so easily. Both of you just need some space and time. I believe she will be in touch sooner than you think.” “Do you know something we don’t?” “No. I don’t even know where she is now or where she is going. But I know where her heart is.” YG stopped, waiting for Jiyong to meet his eyes. And when he did, he continued. “In the years since she started her training with us, to her debut with 2NE1, other than her group members, you were her focus. Her eyes were always

39


on you, through the good and the bad. I don’t need to say much, you should know too. What Minzy said just now was the other reason why I allowed her to leave. She needed a break from focusing on you all the time and not getting anything back. She knows she’s leaving her members in the good hands of your members who never failed to show how loving and caring they are towards their girlfriends. That reminds me, we also have to factor in whether we want to go public with their relationships.” “But I do care for her in my own ways as well.” Jiyong felt he had to defend himself. While he did agree with what Minzy said, he thinks that he had also shown Chaerin the care and concern that an oppa should have for his younger sister. “Yeah, sure. You mean like how you would call her up to go for a meal with you only after all your other hussies don’t want to go out with you? Or how you would give her the gifts that you forgot to give to your latest love interest? Really, Ji hyung, you call that care and concern?” “Well, what she doesn’t know can’t hurt her right?” “Sheesh... for a genius in everyone’s eyes, you are actually quite the dumb blonde. You really think she didn’t know? For your information, all the gifts that you gave her that weren’t meant for her, she threw it out the moment she stepped out of the building. She would give the food presents to the security guard but she never brings them home. Maybe it’s really a good idea that she left. Or maybe I should step up and be the one to look after her instead. Would you approve, sajangnim?” “I would approve if your Ji hyung doesn’t kill you first. Or if Chaerin doesn’t kill you first. But it’s not a bad idea. She does need someone to take care of her.” “Lee Seunghyun, are you thinking that one night with Gaho is not enough? Do you want me to add Jolie into the mix as well?” “I’m not really scared of your son and daughter. Since I believe Chaerin is worth fighting for, I would put up with it! I know! I’d send a message to Chaerin, telling her that you are bullying me and maybe she will talk to Gaho

40


and Jolie on my behalf. You know they listen to her.” “You can try but her line is not longer active.” “Ha! That won’t stop me from trying! What makes you think I do not have her other contact numbers? See, I have all her 15 numbers, from her very first number till now.” “She has disconnected all of them, that much I know.” “Are you sure Jiyong? Are you sure she has disconnected all of them?” YG asked, as if he knew something that the two of them didn’t know. “Whenever she changes her phone number, she will come and update it on my phone on her own. I do the same for her as well.” “So this means you don’t have a record of all her numbers then? Then I suggest you be nice to Seungri. You never know when his records might come in handy.” “Ya! Maknae, hand over your phone so I can record the numbers!” Jiyong reached into his pockets wanting to take out his phone to record all of Chaerin’s number from Seungri when he realized that his phone was not with him. Then he remembered that he had wrecked it when he threw against the wall. Oh crap, I’d need to get a new phone. Then he suddenly remembered the one thing that stayed with him no matter which phone he’s carrying. The strawberry with whipped cream accessory. “Shit! My phone!” “You didn’t lose it outside of the YG building did you?” “No, I wrecked it earlier today but I can get a new phone, that’s not a 41


problem.” “Then why?” “There’s something important that’s attached to the phone. I hope the cleaning ahjumma didn’t clear it away.” The nanny van stopped at the entrance of YGE building. Without a second word, Jiyong jumped out of the van and headed straight for Teddy’s studio. YG and Seungri climbed out of the van and looked at Jiyong rushing to the studio. “It’s the strawberry with whipped cream accessory isn’t it?” YG asked since that was the object that caused the dating rumor between the 2 leaders. “Most probably.” “I really hope he learns his lesson well this time. Everyone could see that his heart is one with Chaerin’s. Everyone except himself that is.” “Sajangnim, like you said, you only let Chaerin go because you wanted her to take a break from him. Let them work this out themselves.” “Of course, I’m not going to interfere. They have to work it out on their own.” YG paused for a bit before continuing. “Look after him well. He’s not going to be too stable in the coming days and weeks, or at least till there’s some sort of contact from Chaerin.” “We will.” YG put his arm around Seungri’s shoulders and gave him a warning look. “And no getting into any trouble of your own. I have enough to think about without having to worry about YOU.” 42


Both walked into YGE building and entered the elevator. YG went up to his office and Seungri went to look for his Ji hyung at Teddyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s studio. Just as he was about to enter the studio, he heard a loud scream. I guess that means the accessory is gone. He resigned himself to either distracting him or deal with his anger. What can I do~ Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the life of a maknae!

43


Chapter 10 2NE1 Dorm “I can’t believe she just went off without a word. This is really not Chaerin’s way of doing things. She will never let us worry so much about her.” Bommie was sitting on TOP’s lap in the single-seater couch. TOP has his arms round her. Youngbae was seated on the couch and Dara sat sideways between his legs. She was leaning her head against his shoulders. Youngbae has his arms around her as well. Daesung came out from Minzy’s room after making sure that she was sleeping. He made his way to the living room where the other 2 couples were. “How is Minzy?” Dara sat up straight when she saw Daesung coming out of Minzy’s room. “She’s asleep now but she cried a lot before that. I think she will need some time before she can get used to Chaerin not being here. They were the closest after all.” Daesung’s worried face didn’t escape the others. “How did YG sajangnim know about our relationship? I didn’t dare ask when he was here but it seems like he knew about it before he got here. Did you guys tell him in the nanny van?” Bommie had to ask. It was the other thing that she couldn’t get her mind around. “Chaerin was the one who told him about it.” TOP said in reply to his girlfriend’s enquiry. Hearing that, there was a pause. “So am I right when I say it was also Chaerin who stopped YG sajangnim from splitting us up?”

44


The 3 guys looked at each other and debated if they should be telling the truth here. Finally, Youngbae decided to give an answer. “She did what she could to convince YG to let us stay together. In YG’s own words, if it hadn’t been for Chaerin, he would have kept both groups as far apart as possible.” “So if she knew that YG would be against it, why did she go to him in the first place?” Dara looked at her boyfriend and then at the other 2 boys suspiciously. She kept having this feeling that they were hiding something from them. “We don’t know. Maybe she needed a bargaining chip in exchange for her exit?” TOP put in the suggestion so as to throw the girls off track and to stop the line of questioning. Bommie got off TOP’s lap in a flash and stood apart from him. Dara also got up from her position to stand where Bommie was. Bommie said in a very quiet voice. A quiet but very dangerous voice. “Choi Seunghyun, if I ever hear you say that again, we are done. How can you ever think of Chaerin in that manner?” TOP quickly got up to placate his girlfriend but she would have none of it. “Youngbae, I’m warning you as well as Daesung, if any of you dare suggest what TOP just did, we are through. Daesung, I’m sure Minzy feels the same way, if not more strongly. I hope we have made ourselves clear.” “I apologize for even daring to suggest that. Look, let’s just respect her decision, that she left so that she can pursue her dreams of being a fashion designer.” “So what’s next? Are we really going to have unit projects like what YG suggested?” Dara only dared to say this because Minzy wasn’t around. After hearing the 45


announcement yesterday, Minzy went into a frenzy, wanting to confront Chaerin and ask her for an explanation. Not to mention after her speech about wanting to stay as 2NE1, it would seemed like a sin to suggest otherwise. “Let’s not worry too much about that first. I’m sure YG has to re-look at the year’s plan again now that we have not lost just one leader but two. Even though Jiyong would still be around to help out in the area of producing, it is unlikely that Big Bang will promote as 5 in the coming year. Let’s just be happy that he seemed to approve of our relationships. Whatever comes our way, we deal with it as they come.” “I think Youngbae is right. You girls shouldn’t worry too much about what’s going to happen next. Chaerin did discuss her departure with YG so I’m sure YG already have some plans with regards to handling this situation. We just have to trust that Chaerin will come back to us soon. I’m saying that not because I don’t want her to run after her dreams. I’m saying that because we all know that she can’t possibly leave Ji for too long. He was a wreck yesterday after he heard the announcement. After breaking the TV, he locked himself in the room and didn’t come out till this morning.” “I know I’m going to sound very mean for saying this but Minzy’s right. He deserves it. All those times, his thoughtless gestures caused Chaerin so much pain. As her unnies, we don’t know what to say to her at times to let her not be hurt so much. Every time a new rumor about Jiyong dating another girl comes out, we see her having to smile despite the hurt that she was feeling. Maybe it’s really better that she is away from him.” TOP went up to Bom and just wrapped his arms around her. “I won’t treat you this way. You are my one and only. I promise.” “You had better remember what you just said, otherwise I’d make sure I cause great pain to you that you might not be able to recover.” Just then, Bommie’s stomach growled and that made everyone laugh. “Aigoo, my alien is hungry~ I guess we have to feed her then.”

46


TOP teased Bommie. A blush crept up Bommie’s face. “Should we order delivery? Or should we just cook something simple?” “Let’s see what we have in the fridge. If there’s anything to cook with, we will cook, if not, we will get delivery. We can’t possibly leave Minzy alone at home. And we shouldn’t be seen outside as well.” Dara was already walking to the kitchen while she told the group their options. “I’d go check on Minzy.” Daesung excused himself to go check on his baby girl. He was really worried about her because Chaerin’s departure shocked her too much. Thinking that she was still sleeping, he was surprised when he didn’t see her in her room. He panicked and went out of her room. Just as he was about to go to the living room to check, he saw that the door next to her room was open. He knew then where Minzy was. She was in Chaerin’s room.

47


Chapter 11 2NE1 Dorm, Chaerin’s room Daesung opened the door and walked into Chaerin’s room. He saw Minzy just sitting on the bed and staring at the photograph that she took recently with Chaerin. He walked towards her, knelt down in front of her and held her hands. That was when Minzy turned to look at him. She had to blink twice to realize that he was there in front of her. “Why are you not resting? Come on baby, let’s go back to your room.” “Oppa, I can’t smell her anymore. I can’t smell the sweet strawberry shampoo that she uses, I can’t smell the Chanel no.5 perfume that she likes so much. I can’t... Chaerin unnie...” “Minzy ah, don’t cry anymore. She will be back. You believe that don’t you?” “It’s so unreal. Just 2 days ago, we were still making plans to go on a holiday together. In fact we were just talking about going to Jiyong oppa’s pension. Though now that I think about it, she was really quiet during our discussion. She knew then that she was leaving, didn’t she?” Daesung stood by the bed and gathered her to him. Minzy wrapped her arms around his waist, finding comfort from him. “Oppa, she will come back right?” Daesung looked down to look Minzy in the eye. He smiled. “Of course she will. How can she bear to be away from her lovely maknae for too long?” They stayed that way for another 10 minutes before Daesung heard Dara calling them out for dinner. He looked down at Minzy only to see that she had fallen asleep again. “Minzy ah, dinner is ready. Do you want to have something to eat?” Minzy roused from her sleep and nodded her head. She had not eaten anything since she saw the press conference yesterday. She got up but had 48


to be held by Daesung because her legs were a little weak. After getting her balance, she turned to put the photograph that she was holding onto Chaerin’s dressing table. She turned to walk away, then turned back again to stare at the contents on the table. “Something is not quite right... Something seemed to be different... What is it? OH! I know! It’s the box where she puts all her treasured gifts. Like the strawberry whipped cream ring that Ji oppa gave her. The box is a different one altogether. Let’s open it and see what’s inside.” Minzy took the box from its corner and opened the lid. Her eyes opened wide when she saw what was inside. She turned to look at Daesung before bringing the whole box to the living room with her. “Dara unnie! Bommie unnie! Look at what I found! It’s a video tape from Chaerin unnie!” Hearing what Minzy said, everyone gathered round to have a look at what she has found. “Oh~ Other than the video tape, there are letters too. And here we kept thinking that she just left without a note.” “Yes but who would have thought to go and look in HER room for notes that she left behind for US. I think that she did it on purpose.” “She has always been the smart one anyway.” “Let’s see... There’s 8 letters in all... Dara noona, Bommie noona, Minzy, Daesung, Seungri, TOP hyung, mine and Teddy hyung... She didn’t leave one for Ji.” Daesung picked up the video and read the label. “And the video is addressed only to ‘My darling girls and their boyfriends’... It would seem like she didn’t leave anything behind for Ji hyung.” “Let’s watch the video now since we are rarely gathered together this way. 49


As for the letters, we will take them back and pass it to the individuals. We might have to warn Seungri and Teddy hyung not to mention it to Jiyong, otherwise he might smash up something else again. Dara noona, where’s your video camera? We will need it to play the video.” “I’d go get it. Let’s plug it to the TV so it will be clearer.” Dara walked to her room to get the video camera and came back into the living room. Youngbae set it up and popped the tape into the camera. “Ready?” The 3 girls had sat down next to each other and held each other’s hands. The boyfriends were seated behind them, ready to offer support and comfort when necessary. Youngbae hit the play button and they were greeted with Chaerin’s familiar voice. CL: Ok how do I get this to work? Oh, here we go. On the screen they could see CL’s body right in front of the camera as she struggled to set it up. But once she got it, she retreated to her bed. CL: Annyeong~! Dara unnie, Bommie unnie and Minzy, Bae oppa, Tabi oppa and Dae oppa, first I have to apologize for leaving without saying goodbye. I’m guessing by the time you find this video tape, YG appa would have talked to all of you about my reason for leaving so suddenly. To my members, I know I should have discussed it with all of you since my decision affects all of you. But I also know that it’s not something that we can talk about easily because we all love the stage so much. However, I feel that while I’m still young, I should explore my other interests. I’m sorry if I sound really selfish. Please know that my decision was made after much deliberation. It was not a wilful decision nor was it an easy decision. I have talked to YG appa many times. He didn’t want to let me go but in the end, I convinced him that I really wanted to further my interest in fashion. I do not know yet when I would be back but rest assured I will come 50


back one day. In the meantime, just as I have taken my step towards my other dreams, I hope my members would do that too. I will be watching from where I am and cheering you on! To all the oppas, I’m entrusting my two unnies and dear Minzy to your care. Cherish them and love them like they should be loved and cherished. I’m very happy that my members have found their other half. While we are not able to look into the future, treasure the present and live each day with each other to the fullest alright? FIGHTING! Ok... erm... ending is always awkward, so I’m just going to end it simply. 1, 2, 3! 2NE1! Nolza! Annyeong~!! The screen went blank. No one said anything and the only sound that could be heard was Minzy’s sobbing. Dara gathered Minzy in a hug. “Minzy ah, she will come back. She said so in the video. We should let her fly without worries too. Your tears will weigh heavily on her wings if she ever got to know just how much you have been crying over the past 2 days. Be strong!” Even though Dara was trying to console Minzy, she had tears in her eyes as well. She looked at Youngbae and was glad to see that he was looking at her. She was thankful when he back-hugged her. Daesung drew Minzy away from Dara and held her tightly. Bommie was wiping her tears when she suddenly let out an exclamation. “Hul! Chaerin did the ‘Nolza’ on her own! How can she do that?” The whole group just turned to look at her strangely and TOP looked amused by what just came out of her mouth.

51


“Park Bom, this is what I love about you.” “No but seriously, how can she do that? It belongs to the 4 of us!” “So should we rewind the video to that part so the 3 of you can do it together with her?” Youngbae and Daesung looked at TOP like he has gone mad but the 3 girls exchanged a look then shouted together. “YES!” “Dara, you’d better be the one handling the video camera since it’s yours. We will all put our hands forward at the part where she put out her hand. Tabi darling, would you grab my phone and take a photo of it?” The guys did not dare say anything. While they know that it’s silly, it was also the first time that day they saw them so alive. Seeing the video had obviously done some good. “Should I go put on some gloss as well?” Youngbae and Daesung looked at TOP in amazement when they hear Bom talking about putting on gloss. TOP just looked at Bommie indulgently, as if saying do whatever you want, you are still the prettiest in my eyes. Bommie turned to look at TOP right at that moment and seeing that look stopped her. She walked over to TOP, put her arms around his neck, tiptoed and gave him a peck on his lips, released him and skipped away. TOP barely had time to register what just happened. But when he did, Bom was already in her room, putting on her gloss. “YA! Park Bom! You don’t do that then walk away! Come back here so I can give you a proper kiss!” “You can have it after you take the photo for us~” Bom shouted from her room.

52


“Or maybe after we have dinner! I’M STARVING!” “I’m quite sure now that TOP hyung loves Bommie noona a lot, maybe more than she loves him.” Youngbae said out loud and that caused everyone to laugh. It was good that they could end this day with some laughter. After the girls got ready, they took the photo and decided that they would upload it onto their Twitter and me2day. @krungy21: “Dear Chaerin, we’ll be waiting for you to come back! Spread your wings and fly! When you are weary, look upon us and find strength! 1,2,3! 2NE1!! NOLZA!!!” @mingkki21: “Chaerin unnie, wherever you are, look at us fly! One day, we will meet again! 1,2,3! 2NE1!! NOLZA!!!” @haroobomkum: “Chaerin ah, you cannot leave us out when you do this. This belongs to the 4 of us! I forgive you this time! Come back soon! 1,2,3! 2NE1!! NOLZA!!!” The 3 couples settled down to have their simple dinner. At around 9pm, Taeyang called their manager and told him to come bring them back to their dorm. As much as they want to stay with their girlfriends, they knew that they needed to go back to Jiyong. Before they left, Daesung took Minzy aside. “You sure you will be alright?” “Oppa! You are getting very long-winded! I’d be fine. I won’t cry anymore. Instead I’d use that energy to become a better singer, a better dancer, a better performer.” “That’s great. I was very worried, am still worried. If you need anything, just give me a call. Even if I can’t be here immediately, we can at least talk on the phone, alright?” “Arasseo~ You’d better go now. Go back and take care of Jiyong oppa. I’d need to apologize for the harsh words I said to him this afternoon.” 53


Daesung smiled at Minzy and then kissed her gently on her forehead. When he stepped back, Minzy moved forward and kissed him on the lips instead. “Oppa, thank you and I love you!” “I love you too, Minzy ah~” This time, Daesung took the initiative and kissed her on the lips. Nothing aggressive, just two people in love and knowing that they are with each other. Taeyang’s phone started ringing and they knew that their manager had arrived to pick them up. Saying their goodbyes one more time, they all left. 10 minutes later, the 3 girls all received a message from YG. “Girls, don’t be too sad about Chaerin’s departure. She will be back, rested and ready to bring 2NE1 to greater heights. In the meantime, I need the 3 of you to really think about what you want to do so that we can talk about it. I’d be asking your manager to fetch you from your dorm at noon tomorrow. I would love to hear what you want to try.” - YG The girls looked at each other and each sent a simple message to YG. “YG sajangnim, we will be ready at noon tomorrow. Thank you for coming over to talk to us today.” - Dara “YG sajangnim, though I still can’t really understand why you let Chaerin unnie leave, but I believe you did it for a good reason. I will think about what I want and tell you honestly tomorrow.” - Minzy “Sajangnim, see you tomorrow!” - Bom Dara looked at her 2 teammates and smiled. “It’s been a long day. I think we should all take a good shower then go to bed.”

54


The other 2 members nodded their heads and each went off to their own room. After 15 minutes, the three of them tiptoed to Chaerinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s room, each wanting to spend the night in her room. When they bumped into each other outside the room and realized they all have the same thought, they decided that they would all spend the night in Chaerinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s room. They chatted for a while but eventually they dozed off.

55


Chapter 12 1 February 2013, 5pm Italy, Milan After a 10 hours flight from Seoul, Chaerin finally arrived at Milan. She quickly approached the information counter to know where the nearest hotel is and how she could get there. Upon finding all the information that she needed, she quickly hopped onto a cab and went to the hotel. The moment she checked into her room, she took out her phone and switched it on. When the phone beeped to signal a new message, she closed her eyes and prayed that it’s not Jiyong. Yet at the same time, she wanted it to be Jiyong. She opened her eyes and opened her inbox. “Chaerin ah, where are you? Once you get this message, please let me know your whereabouts. I’m worried about you.” - YG Chaerin smiled. She knew it was difficult for YG to have let her go but she was well aware how much he doted on her. “YG appa, I’m in Milan. I just arrived at the hotel. Is everything ok?” Chaerin Chaerin sent the message and went about unpacking what she needed for the night. She stopped when she heard the phone beep again. “Glad to hear that you have arrived safely. Everything is alright at the moment. I have talked to the girls and I have also let the boys know that you told me about their relationship and that you have helped to persuade me to let them be in the relationship. They seemed to be taking it ok.” - YG “Thanks appa, they will need your support as much as possible.” - Chaerin

56


“You are not going to ask about Jiyong?” - YG “Jiyong oppa will do fine with or without me. I know he’s in good hands, whether it’s you or his members.” - Chaerin “Well, their TV and TOP’s limited edition MCM BearBrick will beg to differ. He broke down this afternoon.” - YG “I know, right around 3pm? I felt a pang, like I always do when he’s feeling low. But I guess that is part of the reason why I need to be away right?” Chaerin “Minzy gave him a good scolding this afternoon. You should have seen your maknae standing up for you against GD.” - YG “Trust Minzy to do that. I’m worried most about her but at the same time, I know she is probably the least of my worries once she comes to terms with me not being there. Appa, just as you have send me off to fly to greater heights, I hope you would do the same for Dara unnie, Bommie unnie and Minzy.” - Chaerin “Of course I would. They have to meet you at the new place that you would fly to. I have faith in you, otherwise I wouldn’t have let you go. Don’t worry too much about things here. Everything will be fine.” - YG “Thank you. I will use this time well too.” - Chaerin “I’m waiting to see your achievements! I don’t have to remind you that your fans will be waiting to see what you can achieve too right? And look forward to seeing your girls fly higher than they have been too. And don’t take to heart what people are saying online.” - YG “Don’t worry, I wouldn’t have survived the last 3 years if I didn’t know how to ignore the negative comments. But appa, don’t forget not to tell anyone about this number. Although I already sent Jiyong oppa 2 messages but I doubt he would get it.” - Chaerin “I would keep this secret for as long as I can. Seungri actually has all your previous numbers stored in his phone. So don’t be surprised if you get a SOS message asking for help to talk to Gaho and Jolie.” - YG 57


“^^ I’d have to be careful then. He’s not very good with keeping secrets, especially from Jiyong oppa. Alright appa, I will keep you updated on what’s happening on my side. And I expect you to let me know what is happening in Korea as well. You take care of yourself too.” - Chaerin “I’m curious. What if Jiyong really sends you a message using his first number? Would you reply?” - YG “At a suitable time. But I would be communicating in a different manner with them. They might not know it’s me but I will respond indirectly to my members and the other oppas.” - Chaerin “Alright then, I’d leave you to settle in. If you run into any problems, let me know. If you need money, let me know as well.” - YG “Arasseo~ Thank you again.” - Chaerin “You are welcome.” - YG Chaerin was going to switch off her phone when she decided that she would send one last message. To: My Jingyo Oppa<3 Oppa, I have arrived. I miss you and everyone. But I’m excited as well. This is the beginning of a new journey for me. You will be happy for me right? I will still be looking at you, even if it’s from afar. . . . . . I love you. That night, a new Twitter account was created and all of Big Bang members and 2NE1 members with a Twitter account got a new follower. The user ID: Cielo_Lealtà

58


(A/N: it would be Cielo_Lealta on Twitter because they don’t allow the ‘à’ in username. I choose Lealtà for ‘Faith’ in Italian because it starts with L and the meaning is ‘loyalty’ though I was trying to find the translation for Faith. Cielo=Sky in Italian. Why Italian? She’s in Italy.) She saw the picture and messages that the 2NE1 members posted and it made her tear up and cry. Her first tweet: In pursuing my dream I left my love behind... My dream is simple It's to make you mine After twiddling around with the settings for a while, she switched off her laptop and went to get ready for bed. Even though it was only 7pm in Milan, it was already 3am in Korea. Goodnight Jingyo oppa. Dream of me... Or not...

59


Chapter 13 1 February 2013, 5pm Teddy’s studio Jiyong rushed into Teddy’s studio and started to look around for the accessory. After rummaging for about 5 minutes, he found no sign of the accessory or his wrecked phone. He let out a very frustrated scream that alerted Seungri to the mood that he was in. Seungri walked into the studio to find Jiyong sitting against the wall where he had thrown his phone at that afternoon. His head was down and again his hands were tearing away at his hair. “Ji hyung, you might want to stop what you are doing to your hair. You might become bald!” Jiyong looked up and Seungri was a tad shocked to see tears in his eyes. He walked over and sat down beside his Ji hyung. “Ji hyung, let’s get you a new phone first then we can get the accessory customized again or better still you can get a new accessory in a pair and give it to Chaerin when she comes back. I know that strawberry whipped cream accessory was a very dear memory to you since that was the first thing you gave to Chaerin. But I feel that’s also a past she might not want to be reminded because after that you never really gave her a gift from the heart again. So why not take it as a fresh start and this time, get her something that would be for her only?” Hearing what his maknae said, Jiyong felt even more remorseful. “Did I really treat her so badly? Did I really make her feel that she’s not important?” It pained him to think about how badly he had treated Chaerin without him actually realizing it. And she has taken all that in stride and never failed to be there for me when I need her. “Only you can answer those questions. But if you really want my opinion, 60


then yes, you did treat her badly because how much she gave to you, she never got back even a quarter, so let’s not talk about on equal terms. So many times, we see you making plans with her, then cancel on her at the very last minute when one of your girls called. Yet, when you do that, she would just put on a smile and ask you to have fun or worse to take care of yourself if you happen to lie and said you were staying in the studio to finish up your work. You don’t know how many times she came by, bringing homecooked food or snacks for you only to see you not in the studio. Why do you think Teddy hyung is so protective over her? He gets to see how much she had given to you yet you don’t seem to appreciate it. Not to mention how she will protect you, saying that it was alright.” Jiyong was quiet during the whole time that Seungri was talking. He didn’t know all these, didn’t know that she would visit with food and show concern for him. “I’m really a bad man huh...” “Yes you are, when it comes to Chaerin.” “But no one has ever told me about all these things that she did for me, like bringing food over, etc. If only I have known...” “She didn’t want to burden you with the knowledge. Since you were not at the studio or with us, she figured you were with someone else who was important to you. So she kept her quiet and then told us to have the food AND apologize because she felt bad that she’s only giving us the food because you were not there.” “So you guys ate the food meant for me?” “What were we supposed to do? Refuse her? Would you have the heart to do that?” Seungri paused as if debating whether to say what he’s about to say but decided that he needed to. “Ji hyung, you need to figure out why you really want her back beside you. If you are just feeling the loss of familiarity now that she’s gone, and you

61


only want her back to gain that bit of balance in your life, then when she does come back, have a talk with her and tell her how you really feel. So she knows where she stands with you and be open to other guys who wants to care about her.” Jiyong was about to protest when Seungri put up his hand to stop him so he could continue. “But if you think that you might love her, then you really need to think about how you are going to treat her when she does come back for real. We really cannot bear to see her putting on fake smiles and saying that she’s alright when she’s absolutely not. And I wasn’t joking about going after her. I only haven’t made my move because I know her heart is with you. So consider yourself warned. Even if you can put me off, don’t forget she has plenty of admirers who are just waiting for her eyes to fall on them just once.” “Have I wasted all that time with all the other girls, got myself heartbroken when the girl I always want to be with was right next to me?” “Well, like they said, ‘you won’t really know until you’ve gone through it all.’ You are young and you know everyone wants a piece of you. So of course you will be lured into it. We are healthy, young males who just want to have our fun.” “How does she know that it’s me that she wants to spend the rest of her life with? How can she still hold on to that thinking when I have done nothing but hurt her again and again?” “I really have no idea. It takes someone with great courage to put in her all time and again without getting anything back. But we could see that she really started to get tired of it during the last leg of their tour. The cancelled concerts in Malaysia and Indonesia didn’t help at all. She felt that she didn’t do a good enough job in leading 2NE1, she felt she had let the fans down. And yet when she tried to seek comfort from you, you were not there. To be fair, we were all not there for her because we were busy with our own tour. But I heard from Daesung hyung that Minzy told him how upset she was and how she stopped herself from contacting you because she knows you were busy too. I guess that’s why she decided to talk to YG about stepping down and not being in Korea for a while after their last album.”

62


Silence reigned after Seungri said what he wanted to. So many things were going through Jiyong’s mind right now. Truth be told, he didn’t have an answer for the question that Seungri asked: Did he really want her back because he loves her or was it simply because he wasn’t familiar with the idea that she’s not there. But he did know one thing: thinking about Chaerin with another man caused his heart to ache and left him breathless. Whether that’s love or pure possessiveness, he didn’t know because he never thought she would leave or would find someone else. But now that she had, it did make him think. He got up suddenly and pulled Seungri with him. “Maknae, thank you for what you have said to me. I appreciate it but not the part about you going after Chaerin. Like YG said, you have to pass me first to get to her. Let’s go shopping.” “I’m the easy rival but there will always be others who won’t stop just because the great G-Dragon asked them to. We are going shopping? Now? At this kind of time?” “I need a new phone and we need a new TV. So I suggest we get moving.” “Oh, I thought you were going to shop for clothes. What about the phone accessory?” “I don’t think I want to rush it. Like you said, I have to think about what I want from Chaerin. When the time comes, I believe I would know exactly what to give to her.” “Alright, if you say so. Let’s grab dinner on the way too! I’m hungry! I was just dragged from one place to the next for the whole day. Your treat since it’s partly because of you. I will make Chaerin buy me a meal when she gets back.” “Not alone though. I’m not leaving her with you alone.” “Deal, but you can’t come along too! Mehrong!”

63


Seungri ran out of the studio as fast as he could. Jiyong chased after him and when he caught up with him, headlocked him into submission. The leader and the maknae then walked out of the building to do a spot of shopping and to get some food in their stomach.

64


Chapter 14 1 February 2013, 10pm Big Bang Dorm The 3 Big Bang members arrived at their dorm to see Seungri and Jiyong sitting in the living room with bubble wrap and packing styrofoam around them. They guessed that Jiyong probably went and got the new TV. When they walked in, Seungri exclaimed excitedly. “Look hyungs! Ji hyung bought us a projection TV and he put in a new sound system as well so it’s a total theatrical experience even when we are playing games!!” The 3 members walked to the living room and just as what Seungri had said, Jiyong really bought them the projection television and when Seungri switch the TV on, they got a taste of the powerful audio system as well. “Thanks Ji! This is a great thing! Maybe now we can have movie nights with the girls.” Jiyong turned to the rest of his members and looked at them sincerely. “TOP hyung, Bae, Daesung and Seungri, I want to apologize for my crappy behavior this afternoon while we were at the girls’ dorm and for the wilful request to have time off as well. I know this will put a stump in promoting Big Bang as 5 since it would mean that we probably won’t be putting out a new album but it would mean that all of you get to put out a solo album each. I think this might be the best arrangement. I have given it some thought while out shopping with Seungri just now. And I will be putting in this suggestion to sajangnim tomorrow if he had not already thought about it.” “Ji, we understand where you are coming from. We also have to apologize because we believe that Chaerin left partly because we have been rather demanding towards our girlfriends about spending time with us. That was part of the reason why Dara noona came to Philippines because I was missing her so much that we got into a bit of a quarrel. And it was Chaerin who encouraged her to fly over when she saw Dara crying. She knew that it

65


was going to be difficult to maintain the relationship if our 2 groups keep spending time away from Korea or if our schedule doesn’t match.” “Yes, me too. I was really upset that Minzy couldn’t take the University entrance exams this year because of their tour. I had wanted her to be in the same university with me before I graduate so that we can have sort of a normal life as well.” “Chaerin had to help cover up for Bommie every time she sneaked out in the middle of the night to meet me. She has also flown to Japan a couple of times to meet me when I got upset that we were just apart way too much.” “So this is what sajangnim meant when he said Chaerin had to make the decisions for both 2EN1 and Big Bang? Because she was aware of all these and I’m not? How come none of you came to me about your relationships?” “Honestly, we didn’t want both leaders to know. We know how you feel about dating within the company and we know how Chaerin would be burdened if she has to take care of everything including our relationships. But Chaerin eventually found out when she had to console her members when they broke down because of how we have been so demanding towards them.” Youngbae rushed to explain why they didn’t let Jiyong know of their relationships and TOP continued. “So we are sorry that in part, we might have been the cause of Chaerin stepping down as the leader and leaving. But we couldn’t imagine breaking up with our girl as well.” Another few minutes went by without anyone speaking. No one dared to say more because Jiyong had gone totally quiet as he sat down on the couch. The 4 members looked at each other, not entirely sure what to do. “Ji? Say something?” Youngbae finally couldn’t stand the silence anymore. He knew he had to be the one to talk to Jiyong since they have been best friends since like forever. “Bae, suddenly I feel like I’m so out of touch with everyone. Like I’ve been 66


living in my own little world, without realizing that my actions affect other people or others might look to me for answers. Whether it was Chaerin or you guys, it really felt like I’m such an ass for having treated you guys the way I have been doing. Why am I still the leader when I have forgotten that I have group members? Oh god, I feel like such a failure right now.” Youngbae sat down beside Jiyong and gave him a pat on the back. Then he looked at Jiyong and smiled before saying. “The reason why you are the leader has never changed. You set the focus Big Bang has to have and you have been true to that focus. You have kept us in line even when you strayed from time to time. But you will come back and be there again. No matter what happens, you will always be Big Bang’s leader, no one is going to come and take that away. But you are slowly coming to the realization that you are not alone, that people look to you for directions in other aspects as well. And that is a good thing. If it had taken Chaerin to leave for you to realize that, then maybe it is a good thing after all. Especially if it gives you the wake-up call that we have all been a little afraid to give to you.” “We are all sad that Chaerin left the way she did. But I believe she knows what she is doing and that she would achieve great things away from us, away from you. One day, when she had achieved what she needs to, she will be back.” TOP went to Jiyong’s other side and gave his shoulder a squeeze. When Jiyong turned to look at him, he gave him a big smile which Jiyong returned. Jiyong turned to look at the 2 maknaes and smiled at them too. “Alright, I think we have had a long day. Let’s go and rest then we can decide what we are going to tell sajangnim tomorrow about what we want to do. And please, don’t keep me out anymore. I want to know everything. I want to stop being just the leader and be a friend too.” “GROUP HUG” Seungri shouted and went towards where the 3 elders were. Jiyong looked at Youngbae and TOP then all 3 of them turned to look at Daesung. With one

67


look, the 4 of them caught Seungri and tackle him and crushed him under all of them. “AAHHHHHHHHHHH!! HYUNGS!!! PAIN! PAIN!! PAIN!!! OWWWW!!!” Gaho who was observing everything that was going on since Jiyong and Seungri got back, got up upon seeing the scene and walked away. Silly humans.

68


Chapter 15 2 February 2013, 10am Big Bang Dorm Seungri was checking his Twitter when he saw the picture that the 2NE1 girls tweeted last night. He saw that Chaerin was also in the picture and that was obviously part of a video. And in the reflection of the TV, he saw TOP who was taking the picture. He quickly walked out of his room and walked towards the dining room where all his hyungs were. Without giving it a second thought, he shouted. “Hyungs! Did Chaerin leave a video for the girls that we do not know anything about? And don’t lie, I can see TOP hyung in the reflection of the TV taking the photo!” The moment Daesung heard the word ‘video’, he went forward wanting to stop Seungri from continuing. But he was too late. Jiyong, upon hearing what Seungri said, went forward and snatched Seungri’s phone from him. When he saw Chaerin on the TV screen, he turned towards the other members and asked in a quiet controlled voice. “What is this? Did she really leave the girls a video? How come no one mentioned it yesterday?” “Ji hyung, listen, we found it by accident. Minzy was in Chaerin’s room after you guys left and she happened to notice that there was something different on her dressing table. When she opened the box, that was when we discovered the video and...” Daesung was about to reveal the letters when he remembered that there wasn’t one for Jiyong. “And what?” What else was there inside the box?” “Nothing. Dae was going to say that we watched the video after that.” “Then why did no one say anything about the video when you guys got back?”

69


Daesung looked at Youngbae and TOP. Youngbae turned to Jiyong and said simply. “The video was addressed to the girls and their boyfriends.” “What?! She left me out of the video? How could she? That Chaerin deserves a good scolding when she comes back. No, in fact, I would do that NOW. Ji hyung, can I have my phone back? I’m going to send a message to all of her 15 numbers.” Seungri was indignant about being left out of the video. But he also wanted to test a theory that he had. He believed that YG was trying to hint that it was possible to contact Chaerin and the number was one of her old numbers which everyone thought had been discontinued. He knew from past experience that if a number has been really disconnected, then there will be a invalid number message from the telecom company. Jiyong gave Seungri back his phone but not without taking one last look at the picture. His HunChae was in the picture, smiling so widely. He saw that it was the usual ‘Nolza’ action that 2NE1 would do before every performance. He teared up without him actually realizing it. “What did she say in the video?” Jiyong’s slightly shaky voice caught everyone’s attention, including Seungri who was in the midst of composing a long and nasty message to Chaerin. “Nothing that YG sajangnim didn’t already tell us and for us to take care of her unnies and her maknae well. She told the girls to chase after their own dreams as well and that she will be looking at them from afar. The girls felt better after seeing her video.” Jiyong continued looking at Youngbae with a questioning and hopeful look after he told Jiyong what the video said. Youngbae knew what he was asking and gave him a sad shake of his head. Jiyong turned to walk to his room without a second word. He didn’t want to cry in front of his members again. But everyone saw the tears that had betrayed him when he turned.

70


The moment he entered the room, he locked the door and his feet gave way. Gaho walked up to him and put his snout on his father’s knees. Jiyong looked at his son and pat its head. “Gaho ah... Appa never knew pain like I'm experiencing it now. Did I do this to your omma too? Did I hurt her like this time and again? Have she had enough that she needs to be away from us, from me?” She didn’t mention me. It’s like I don’t exist in her life anymore... Chaerin ah... My HunChae... Is this what you want Chae? For me to be gone from your life? “No! I’m not going to leave without fighting for another chance to be there. Please, right now, I just want to know that you are alright. Don’t cut me out... don’t..” And Jiyong gave into the tears again. There was no use in fighting that battle when he knew he had already lost it. He just didn’t know how much more tears he was going to shed for Chaerin before there’s some kind of contact from her. There was a knock on his door and Youngbae’s voice could be heard. “Ji, YG sajangnim just called and he wants to see us at his office at 1pm. He said the girls will be there earlier to talk about their plans.” After a pause, Youngbae went on. “You ok in there?” Jiyong opened the door then. Youngbae could see that he had been crying but he didn’t say a word. “Do you guys want to go over early so you can see the girls as well?” “We have the intention to but apparently YG has already asked their manager to go fetch them.” 71


“Give me a minute. I’d call YG and tell him that we will go pick up the girls on our way to the company.” “Is he going to be alright about it?” “Don’t worry, I’d talk to him.” “Thanks bro, appreciate that.” “Let TOP hyung and the 2 maknaes know so that they can go get ready as well.” Youngbae nodded and left. Jiyong got on the phone with YG. “Appa, can we go fetch the girls instead? We want to go over to the company early too.” “Alright fine, I want them here by 12 noon, not a second later, understand?” “Yes sir! We will be there.” YG hung up the phone and called 2NE1’s manager to tell him that he did not need to fetch the girls. Jiyong walked out and told the boys that they were going to fetch 2NE1. The 3 boys were delighted and quickly called their girlfriends to let them know about the change in plans. Seungri was just staring at his phone and mumbling to himself. Jiyong only managed to catch the last phrase. “Aish! It’s not this one too.” “Maknae, what are you doing mumbling to yourself?” Seungri stared at Jiyong shocked, like a rat caught running away with the cheese right in front of the cat. “N-n-nothing~ Just playing a game~” “Ok... Go get ready, we are leaving to fetch the girls soon. Don’t dilly dally

72


otherwise your other hyungs would have your head.” “Ok!” Seungri left his phone on the table and went to his room to change. Just then the message he has been hoping to see appeared on his phone and he missed it. “Your message has been sent successfully.” The message that he sent to Chaerin’s first handphone number has gotten through. Milan, 2.15am Chaerin sat up in her bed because of the sudden pain that she felt in her chest. She blinked and tears fell from her eyes. She touched her face and realized that she had been crying in her sleep. She recalled the scene she saw in her dreams before she woke up and that caused her to cry even more. There he was, sitting in his room at the door. Gaho came up to him and put his snout on his knees. He was crying, she could see it... She wanted to go up to him and wiped away his tears... But she can’t... Why not? Right... She left... And she cried too... She got out of bed and went to wash her face to calm herself down. When she looked up in the mirror and saw her bloodshot eyes, she knew that she had been crying a lot in her sleep. She went to her phone and typed in another message. To: My Jingyo Oppa<3 Oppa, I dreamt of you just now. I saw Gaho too. I saw you crying and it made me cry in my sleep.

73


Oppa, don’t cry. You have to be strong. Fighting! She hit the ‘send’ button and wondered again why did she keep on sending him message? Was it the security in knowing that he might never see them? Her phone beeped signaling a new message. Her heart raced, wondering if it was Jiyong who sent the message. She opened the inbox only to see the message from YG. “Chaerin ah, are you awake? I’m meeting the girls at 12 noon (which would be 4am your time). Do you want me to call you and leave the phone on so you can listen in?” “Alright appa, you can call me when the meeting is about to start. I want to hear what they have in mind as well.” She heard the beep again, almost immediately after she had sent the last message to YG. She frowned. He couldn’t have responded that quickly. She opened her inbox and her eyes opened wide as she saw who the sender was. SeungRat >.<

74


Chapter 16 2 February 2013 Milan, 2.30am From: SeungRat >.< YA!! LEE CHAERIN!! HOW DARE YOU!! HOW DARE YOU NOT INCLUDE ME IN YOUR VIDEO TO THE GIRLS? HUH HUH HUH!!! I THOUGHT WE WERE FRIENDS!! HOW CAN YOU IGNORE ME LIKE THAT? I CAN UNDERSTAND IF YOU DON’T INCLUDE JI HYUNG BUT HOW CAN YOU FORGET ABOUT ME? WE HAVE THE SAME SURNAME!!!!! I DON’T CARE!! IF YOU GET THIS MESSAGE, YOU HAD BETTER SEND ME A REPLY!!!! IF NOT I WILL HATE YOU!! NO WAIT, I ALREADY HATE YOU! QUICK, REPLY ME!!!! Chaerin snorted. As if I would actually send you a reply. You would probably go to your darling Ji hyung and tell him about it! But the message did put a smile on Chaerin’s face. Much as they have a catdog relationship, she was actually most comfortable with Seungri after Jiyong. But wait, I did leave him a letter. Maybe the other members have not given it to him yet. Or they are waiting for a good time to pass to him when Jiyong is not around. SeungRat, you will get your letter soon. She smirked before breaking into a grin when she remembered the contents of her letter to him. Since she was already awake, she decided to start looking for an apartment near Istituto Marangoni, the famous fashion design school that she had enrolled herself in for their Masters course and internship and got accepted to. While looking through the classifieds, her stomach started growling. Oh right, the last meal I had was on the plane. I had better order room service. I don’t want to get gastric in a foreign land.

75


She picked up the phone and ordered a simple breakfast set. She was glad that she could use either English or French in Italy. She decided not to go to France because that would have been anyone’s first guess of where she would be heading. Not to mention, she was really interested in the works of Italian fashion houses. When she got the approval for her course application, she was delighted. She continued searching for an apartment and was really happy when she saw an ad posted by a Korean who’s staying in Italy. She quickly took down the number and sent the person an email, expressing her interest in the apartment. After that, she got up to stretch and check the time. It was already 3.30am. She made sure that her phone was switched on and had enough battery to last the meeting. Knowing her boss, it’s going to be a while before the meeting ends. Seoul, 11am Big Bang Dorm Big Bang’s manager came with their nanny van to pick the boys up. When he arrived, Jiyong gave him the keys to his Bentley and told him to drive his car to the company first and they would drive the van and meet him at YGE. The manager was a little shocked with the request but he could guess that the boys were going to pick up the 2NE1 girls and didn’t want to attract attention by driving their own cars. Since Youngbae was the best driver among them, he was nominated as the driver while Jiyong took to the passenger seat. Within 10 minutes, they arrived at 2NE1 dorm. The boys had called when they left their dorm so the girls were already waiting for them to arrive. TOP opened the door of the van for the girls to enter. Youngbae went to the back, Jiyong took over as the driver and Seungri took to the passenger seat. TOP and Bom settled down in the last row of the seats, Youngbae and Dara took up the middle row and Daesung and Minzy were in the first row. The moment the girls came on board, the boys held their hands and gave them a peck on the cheeks. The girls smiled and blushed daintily. Jiyong observed his members from the rearview mirror and was envious. He wondered if he would ever be able to share such moments with Chaerin. 76


“Ji hyung, don’t be envious, you will get your turn when Chaerin comes back.” Jiyong turned to look at Seungri who was grinning at him. “Who said I’m envious of them?” “Your eyes and the drool that was flowing out of the side of your lips?” Jiyong gave him a knock on the head and started the van. “Hey lovebirds, we are off. Please check and make sure all the curtains are drawn. We don’t want a scandal at this moment in time. Oh yes, YG sajangnim did mention that we would have to think about whether we want to go public with your relationships. So give it a thought as well.” The couples looked at each other and know that this was something that they have never really talked about. Much as they would like to go public, they were all too aware of the repercussions. Bom and Dara were worried that people might think they are too old for TOP and Youngbae while Minzy is too young to be in a relationship yet. The girls looked at their boyfriends with a worried look on their face but the guys just smile reassuringly at them. TOP placed his lips on Bom’s forehead and then whispered in her ears. “I’d go with your decision. If you want us to go public, we will. I don’t care about what everyone has got to say, especially not your age. I already know you are older than I am when I decided to court you and have you as my girlfriend. So that is definitely not going to be an issue.” “But you have your choice of all the pretty girls out there, why would you want to settle for me?” “Who are all the other pretty girls? Even if there are, they are not you. Just remember that alright and trust me to protect you at all time.” “Thank you~ We don’t have to go public unless you want to. It’s really not a problem until we are ready.” 77


TOP nodded and gave her a quick peck on the lips. Dara and Youngbae overheard bits of TOPBOM’s discussion and they looked at each other. “My worries is the same as Bommie... I’m older than you are, there are perhaps others who would fit you better...” “You are older than me, that I already know a long time ago. My stand is the same as TOP hyung. I went into the relationship with you knowing that fact. It’s not like you kept it a secret from us. If you want us to go public, we would and I will protect you against all the opposition that would come from wherever. You have to believe in me.” “I do.” “That’s all I need to know. We will decide what to do when the time comes.” Minzy and Daesung looked at each other and Minzy spoke up first. “Oppa, I don’t want us to go public yet.” “Why?” “Because I want to be able to enjoy US time. Being in the spotlight and having to avoid paparazzi just to go on a date, it’s really frustrating.” “But if we go public, then we already satisfy the readers’ curiosity and they might leave us alone.” “Come on oppa, you are Kang Daesung of Big Bang. People don’t leave you alone.” “And you are Minzy of 2NE1 and equally sought-after. What’s your point?” “Oppa, I really just want to have a normal relationship. Sometimes I really get overwhelmed by all the attention given to every aspect of our lives because of who we are. While I like the idea that our hard work is being recognized, and I know full well that I have to give up some amount of 78


privacy, I never want to use our relationship to gain more attention.” “Alright then, we won’t go public. I want us to have some kind of normalcy as well.” “Thank you oppa~” “Anything for my Minzy baby~” “Hyungs! Please take pity on 2 single dudes, one of whom just got dumped. While we are happy that you are happy, it’d be nice if you guys tone down the couple talk.” “PandaRi, you do realize that one can only be dumped if they were in a relationship before? Or are you talking about yourself?” “Bommie noona, you know I’m talking about Ji hyung.” “I know but like I said, he was never in a relationship with Chaerin so you can’t say he has been dumped.” TOP tugged at Bom’s hand, silently asking her to stop. She was about to protest when he shook his head. He bent towards her ears and whispered really softly. “Stop. He’s hurting really bad. He cried again this morning when he saw the photo you girls took and that he was not mentioned in the video. Spare him the agony even if you think he deserves it.” The silence was getting heavy after the conversation between Seungri and Bom. Minzy decided to apologize for what she said to Jiyong yesterday. “Jiyong oppa, I’m sorry for shouting at you yesterday. Please forgive me. Though I must say that I meant every word I said.” Jiyong caught Minzy’s eyes in the rearview mirror and smiled at her. “Minzy ah, thank you so much for the scolding. I needed it. I didn’t know I was causing Chaerin so much pain with my senseless gestures. Later, oppa will buy you a meal ok?” 79


Next, he tried catching Bom’s eyes in the rearview mirror. When he did, he gave her a smile too. “Bom noona, you are right. I have never been in a relationship with Chaerin and therefore cannot be said to have been dumped by her. But her departure had really affected me and I’m just beginning to realize her importance in my life.” “Jiyong ah, you know that we are all behind you if you ever decide that you want to go after Chaerin right?” Jiyong smiled, a rather bitter smile. “Now, I don’t even know if she would have me if I were to go chasing after her.” “You do know that all you need to do is show her how much you love her right? I mean she’s been waiting for the past 6 years for you to make a move. But I do agree that it might be a little difficult. We don’t really know how she felt when she left. She didn’t say anything about that in the let...” “Dara unnie! Did you forget something?” Minzy turned to look at Dara with a warning in her eyes. Dara then realized that she almost made the blooper. “No.. I didn’t.” “Hyungs, noonas and Minzy, did Chaerin leave something behind other than the video? Why do I have a feeling that there’s more in that box that Minzy found in Chaerin’s room than you guys are willing to let on?” “Ya! Maknae! Let it go. There is nothing else in that box other than the video tape.” Jiyong looked in the rearview mirror and saw that despite what TOP just said, everyone looked really uncomfortable whenever the box was mentioned.

80


Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s obvious that they are hiding something. But exactly what?

81


Chapter 17 2 February 2013, 11.45am YGE The group eventually arrived at YGE building and all of them got out of the nanny van. Big Bang’s manager came out to get the key for the nanny van from Jiyong and went to park the van. The 8 of them took the elevator up to their boss’ office. They knocked on the door and were asked to go in. When they entered the room, YG was on the phone. He signalled for them to sit down. He put down the phone on his table and sat down at his table facing the 8 of them. No one noticed that YG switched to speaker phone on his desk phone. “So all of you are here. Let’s start then. I want to talk to the 2NE1 members alone first. Jiyong, can you please stay too? The rest of the Big Bang members, you will come back when we call for you.” The 3 girls looked a little scared since their boyfriends were being asked to leave. At the back of their heads, they were always worried about being asked to break up by YG. “Don’t worry, part of my promise to Chaerin is that I would not force you to break up. We will work round it.” The guys nodded and left the room to go to Teddy’s studio. “Alright, now let’s start. Jiyong, the reason why I want you here is so that you will be filled in on everyone’s lives since you have missed quite a bit of it. Your opinions will be sought because I did choose you and Chaerin as leaders for a reason. So, for now, get your mind off the fact that Chaerin’s gone and let’s focus on who’s here, alright?” Jiyong nodded. “So girls, who wants to start off first? Tell me which areas are you hoping to develop in. I have already heard from Dara and Bom yesterday, maybe 82


maknae wants to go first?” Both girls looked at Minzy worriedly because they knew from Minzy’s reaction yesterday she wasn’t that keen on solo or unit activities. So they were pleasantly surprised by what Minzy said next. “I would go where Daesung oppa goes. If he’s required to be out of Korea for an extended period of time, then I want to be where he is. I want to do multiple dance exchanges in the famous dance schools around the world before my university entrance exams at the end of the year.” “That might mean you have to leave Korea soon and follow him to Japan. After all his plans from February to April was to release his Japanese remake album and his solo concerts.” Minzy nodded. “I’m aware of that, so I have already looked at dance schools in Tokyo. If I have your permission, I would write to them to ask if I can take part in their classes. I will also go to dance schools for traditional Japanese dance.” “So that means you want to develop your skills as a dancer right?” “Dance has always been my passion and my forte so yes, I want to hone my skills in dance before concentrating on the other aspects like acting. That I might be able to do when I’m in university.” “Ok, I’d let the PR department know so that they can help you source for dance schools and send in your application.” Minzy shook her head. “Sajangnim, as far as possible, I want to do it on my own. I want to go as Gong Minji and not Minzy of 2NE1 from YG Entertainment. Daesung oppa and I really want a bit of normalcy. As long as you agree to what I want to do, that’s what we will tell the fans and I would update them through Twitter and Me2day.” “Alright, I respect that. Chaerin was right when she said you would be the least of her worries once you get your head round to her leaving. I’d 83


approve of what you want but I want to know where you are going exactly.” “I will definitely keep you informed.” “So Ji, I think for Daesung, after he’s done with his solo album and concerts in Japan, we shall release his solo Korean album. I think that would be around May? Let’s see if we can include a duet with Minzy in the album. Then we would launch an Asia tour for him and Minzy can have a good reason to tag along to all the countries that he would be traveling to.” Jiyong nodded. He was quite pleasantly surprised at how mature Minzy was about the whole thing. YG turned to the 2 elder members next. “Bom, you mentioned you would want to have a solo album and Dara said you want to go into acting and hosting. Any particular directions you want to take?” The two Park sisters looked at each other and Bom spoke first. “I think, like Minzy, what we really want is to be by our boyfriend’s side. The last year has been tough with both of our groups touring at the same time. We were barely in Korea and even when we were, we were just barely here. I know for TOP it might be his last year before he enters the army so spending as much time as I can with him would be my top priority. But I would definitely want to become a better singer and having a solo album would definitely be a great bonus.” YG looked over at Jiyong. “Jiyong, how far are we on the progress on TOP’s solo album?” “The songs are in, we have started basic recording and songs that need featuring, we are already looking for suitable artistes. By estimation, it should be completed in mid or end of March.” “Ok, see if we can work in Bom to be featured in at least 2 songs in TOP’s album, but not more than 3. Bom, we will start preparing your album now. You should try your hand at writing the songs, Jiyong will help you in the 84


producing. We might push your album release to the second half of the year because you would take part in the promotions for TOP’s album as well. In the meantime, I want you to consider being a vocal trainer for YGE as well. The reason for this is I cannot let you have an empty window because in your fans’ eyes, it would seem like I’m throwing all of you aside in favor of the new girl group that we have plans to debut this year. In fact, I would like you to work with the new girl group and the other new talents we have gotten through K-Pop Star 1 and 2. We would push the debut of the new girl group to end of the year, if not next year. Ji, I know you really wanted them to debut this year, but I don’t think that’s a wise move for now.” “I understand. My heart is also not in the right place to be able to focus on them right now. I would talk to them personally.” “Good, now for Dara. Do you want to act in Korean dramas or would you prefer overseas collaboration like what Seungri has done?” “Since Youngbae just finished his promotions for his solo album, I think I would like to start with appearances in Korean variety shows and dramas. I don’t need to be the main star, I want to treat this as a learning journey as well and to learn from the seniors in the industry. If the chance for overseas collaborations arise, I’m not opposed to it as well, but bottomline is I don’t want to be too far away from Youngbae.” “Ok, we will start contacting TV stations about you wanting to be a host or permanent guest. We might need Seungri’s help with that and we might even put the 2 of you to work together. Do you have a problem with that?” “No, after all he is considered to be a senior in this aspect and I believe I have lots to learn from him as well.” “And in the event that you do get an invitation for overseas collaborations, we can see if Youngbae could have a solo event there as well. So that will minimize the amount of time spent apart.” “Thank you sajangnim.” “Ok, I think that kind of settles it. I will let the PR department know so we can organize a press release and live press conference to be streamed

85


simultaneously.” YG paused. “Jiyong, can you go and get the other Big Bang members here while I speak to the girls alone?” Jiyong nodded and stood up to leave. “Come back in 30 minutes.” “I will do that.” Jiyong turned to give the girls an encouraging smile and left the room. YG waited for Jiyong to leave before looking at the girls. He picked up the phone and started talking to the other party on the phone. The girls looked at each other puzzled because YG didn’t dial any number at all. “Chaerin, do you want to speak to your girls? Jiyong has left the room.” Chaerin was rather shocked that YG would reveal that she was on the line with him when the girls were still in the room. But then she did guess that he would do something like that when he asked Jiyong to leave the room. “Appa, you leave me with no choice. Put me on speaker phone then.” YG smiled and put the phone on speaker mode. “Bommie unnie, Dara unnie, Minzy ah, annyeong~” The girls were so shocked to hear Chaerin’s voice that they burst out in tears almost immediately. They rushed forward to YG’s desk. “Chaerin unnie! Where are you? Are you alright? Why did you leave without saying anything to us?” “YA! Wifey! How could you?! How can you do that to me?” “LEE CHAERIN!! Are you doing lots of shopping and eating lots of nice food where you are? Hul! How can you not take us with you?!”

86


The 3 girls pretty much exclaimed at the same time. Chaerin laughed at all the questions and exclamations. “Calm down all of you! Bommie unnie, take a deep breath! No, I haven’t been out shopping yet. In fact the moment I got here, I fell asleep. The only thing I have had is scrambled eggs and some bread and coffee. Dara unnie and Minzy, sorry for leaving without a word. I can’t possibly tell you girls in the face that I’m leaving. I’m sorry. But be happy for me as well because I’m where I want to be.” “But WHERE are you?!” “I’m touring around for a bit first before settling down.” Sorry, unnies and Minzy, I can’t tell you guys the whole truth because knowing Jiyong oppa, he’s probably standing outside the room. No one heard the door open since all of them have crowded round YG’s table. “Where will you finally settle down at? How long do you intend to be away from me? Lee Chaerin, ANSWER ME!” Everyone turned with shocked faces to see Jiyong standing at the door. His voice... I never thought I would hear it again so fast... “Jiyong oppa...” Her voice... Calling my name... Is this a dream? “Don’t ‘Jiyong oppa’ me, answer me!!” The soft click, followed by the tone signaled the end of the phone call with Chaerin. The girls were going to give Jiyong a piece of their mind about shortening their phone call with Chaerin when they saw the tears that had 87


slid down his face once again, leaving him defenceless, naked yet again. “Girls, leave the room. Come back with the boys when I call for you.” “Yes sajangnim...” The 3 girls left. They were grateful that they never had to be forced apart from their boyfriends because if the pain that Jiyong was going through was any indication, they never want to taste it. “I don’t know about you girls, I just want to go find my Tabi and give him a hug for as long as I can NOW.” Minzy and Dara nodded, sharing the same sentiments with Bom. They were glad that they have spoken out their wish to be by their boyfriend’s side. They headed towards Teddy’s studio because they knew they would find them there.

88


Chapter 18 2 February 2013, 12.45pm YG Office YG went over to where Jiyong was standing and led him over to the couch to sit down. He was partly caught by surprise that Jiyong barged into the room but he should have known that Jiyong would be outside the door as well. He was a smart boy. “Jiyong ah...” “I can’t... I really can’t...” The tears came again. It surprised Jiyong as much as YG. YG said nothing and just waited for Jiyong to subside. “It’s been barely 24 hours and I’ve cried more than I have in all of my 6 years that I have Chaerin beside me. Is this the price I have to pay for hurting her unknowingly?” “Jiyong ah, I know you are hurting right now. And honestly, I’m at a loss as to what to do. As much as I think the two of you should meet, I really don’t think it’s the time yet.” “All I really want to know is where she is and how long she will be gone. Is that too much to ask?” “Can you promise me that you won’t take the first flight out to wherever she is? Can you promise me that you will not persuade her to come back immediately? Can you promise me that you won’t bring her back and then not care about her again? Because right now, I don’t quite trust what you are feeling. All I can tell you is that she has arrived safely at her destination and she will be away for at least 6 months.” YG looked at him and said one last thing, something that gave him a glimmer of hope. “And like what I’m doing for the rest of the couples, you will get your chance to go to where she is. But only at a time that is right and it is entirely up to Chaerin when she thinks she is ready to see you again. When you two meet, 89


I’d leave it up to you if you want to stay there with her till she is ready to come back. Help her help her members to reach where they want to go, and you will stand a better chance.” Jiyong chuckled despite the tears. “Is that your way of telling me if I don’t help them out, I can forget about seeing her again?” “On some levels, yes. But I want you to be happy and I want Chaerin to be happy too. And I believe that the both of you would be the happiest when you are with each other.” YG looked at Jiyong seriously and Jiyong knew whatever he’s going to say next is going to be important. “Jiyong ah, you have already wasted 6 years, that’s 6 years you can’t get back. I hope you are not going to waste another 6 years. It took Chaerin great determination to even consider walking away from you and no one, not even me, knows how she feels towards you right now. I suggest that instead of wasting time trying to figure out where she is, you should start showing her that you are serious about her. If not, then send a clear message that she is not...” “No, I’m pretty sure she is who I want to be with for the rest of my life. Though I have been heartbroken before, it’s like nothing that I have experienced in the last 24 hours of my life. While I admit part of it is because Chaerin was just suddenly not there anymore, but I asked myself if I could handle not having her by my side. I can but I’m never going to be the best that I can be. She makes me whole without me realizing it.” “Good then. Once your heart is in the right place, it will guide you to do the right things. I’m sure she will let you into her life again if you show her that you want to be there enough.” “Nothing I can do right now then, other than to wait. While waiting, I shall use the energy for my and her members’ ventures.” “What about you? Do you have anything you want to do?”

90


“Right now? I just want to be by Chaerin’s side, supporting in what she is doing. Nothing else matters, not another award, not another hit song. I just want to be by her side.” “You will get there eventually. Treat this as a new journey of discovery for yourself. But remember how you feel now, store it somewhere so that in future you know never to let go of what is truly important to you.” Seoul, 12pm YGE, Teddy’s studio After being dismissed from YG’s office, TOP, Youngbae, Daesung and Seungri made their way to Teddy’s studio. When they entered the studio, all of them greeted Teddy and then sat down. “Teddy hyung and Seungri, this is the letter that Chaerin left for you guys. But we need you to keep this a secret because she didn’t leave one for Jiyong and I don’t think he wants to know that he’s really the only one who have been left out. He didn’t do too well this morning after knowing that a video was left for the girls.” Youngbae took out the letters from his bag and handed them to their owners. “I knew it! I knew that she won’t forget me!” Seungri opened his letter with great care, not wanting to tear it. And when he finally opened up the letter, his eyes opened wide. “Hyung, you are not playing a trick on me right? Did you change the content of the letter before giving it to me?” “Ya! Maknae, the envelope was sealed and there was no break marks. Why are you saying that?” The rest got curious and walked over to see what was on Seungri’s letter. Once they caught a glimpse of it, they all burst out laughing. “Yes, I can totally imagine it!”

91


“OMG! Yes!! Trust Chaerin to leave him with that!” “IT’S NOT FUNNY!! Aish! That Lee Chaerin!! How dare she!!!” On the letter was a blurry character ‘뻥’ which means “It’s a Joke” in size-72 font and at the bottom “If you can’t see this clearly, it’s only because you have been watching too much *ahempornahem*. Take care of your health!!” “But at least she did ask you to take care of your health.” “Have you guys read her letters to you then?” Teddy asked after reading his letter. All the Big Bang members except Seungri, nodded and their expression became solemn. “You know why I’m asking right?” They nodded. Seungri couldn’t stand it anymore because obviously he didn’t receive the same content as the rest of them. “What? What did she say to all of you?” “In this case, it was what she didn’t say that is alarming.” Seungri looked at each of them, still puzzled. “She never mentioned Jiyong at all, not a squeak, no sign of ‘please look after him well’, nothing of that sort.” “The girls also said that he was not mentioned in their letters as well.” “She really seemed determined to cut him off huh?” “It would seem that way. Which is why I think we really need to keep it from him.” “I’d be careful, but you guys had better keep a closer watch on Seungri though his letter isn’t much, at least she left him something and told him to take care of his health.”

92


Teddy put the letter back in the envelope and kept it in his bag. Seungri kept his too and then he remembered something. “Oh Teddy hyung, when you came back to your studio yesterday, did you see Ji hyung’s wrecked phone?” “Are you asking about the wrecked phone or what is always on his phone?” “The strawberry whipped cream accessory.” “It’s with me, I kept it.” “Are you going to give it back to Ji hyung?” “No. I’m going to give it to Chaerin when she comes back. She can decide what she wants to do with it.” “Why? You know how much that accessory means to Ji.” Youngbae couldn’t understand why Teddy was not going to give it back to Jiyong. “Does it really? Seriously, after the way he treated her for 6 years, I don’t know anymore. I think he needs a clean slate when it comes to Chaerin. I believe now that she’s gone, he is finally getting the wake-up call that he needs. He really needs to think about what he wants with Chaerin. We do not know what he was thinking when he gave the ring to her or when he got himself a handphone accessory customized to be exactly the same as the ring design but I think Chaerin took it as a kind of silent promise between the two of them. So in a way, I don’t want them to be stuck in the past. Jiyong especially needs to think about what he wants in the future.” “I told him something similar yesterday when we came back to look for the accessory, that it might be a good thing that he didn’t find it. He really needs to know whether he’s just panicking with Chaerin’s sudden disappearance or he really wants her for something more. I told him that he has no lack of rivals for her attention.” “That much is true. We have heard so many confessions of love from all the different idols. Even Hyun Joong likes her and given half a chance, he would 93


have already made his move already.” “Don’t forget Jay Park as well.” “No matter what, Ji hyung has got his work cut out for him. For Chaerin to even consider leaving him this way, it took a lot from her.” “No doubts about that. So what brought you guys here today?” Teddy asked. Though it’s no secret that his studio was like a second home to most of the artistes in YGE, for 4 of them to be in the studio without Jiyong was a strange event. However, before the boys could reply, the girls ran into Teddy’s studio. Bom headed straight for TOP and hugged him. The other 2 two girls did the same. “And hello to you girls too. What’s going on here?” Teddy was a little taken back. Though he had his suspicions that the Big Bang boys and 2NE1 girls were somewhat ‘together’, this was really the first time that he saw outright display of affections. The boys, in turned, hugged their girlfriend tightly. But they looked up to catch each other’s eyes and worry was definitely showing in their eyes. Daesung soothed Minzy by rubbing her back with his right hand and then he whispered in her ears. “Baby, what’s wrong? Don’t scare me like this. I thought YG sajangnim said he won’t force us to break up. Did something happen?” Minzy pulled back from her hug and Daesung wiped the tears on her face away. “Oppa, thank you, thank you for being here. And if you ever find anyone that you love more than me, please let me know. I will let you go but promise that we can remain as friends.” “Minzy, slow down, what are you talking about? What happened in the office?”

94


“After we talked about our plans for this year, YG sajangnim told Jiyong oppa to come and get all of you. He then put Chaerin unnie on the phone with us. She was on the line throughout our discussion. We were talking to her when Jiyong oppa came back in and he asked her where she was and she hung up. He cried again. Oppa, it’s really painful to see Jiyong oppa crying. I know Chaerin unnie was probably crying after she got off the line. Is that how it is when two person in love with each other are separated?” “Shhhh, it’s ok. They will work things out eventually. Like you said, they are in love with each other so they will find their way back to each other when they are ready.” Minzy nodded, still clinging onto Daesung for dear life. “AH!” Everyone turned to TOP since Bom was the one who made the sudden exclamation. And TOP looked really worried. “Let’s go eat! I just remembered we haven’t had breakfast!” The tension in the studio was temporarily released by Bom and her love for food. The whole group went to the canteen to eat and wait for the call from their boss. Throughout lunch, Seungri kept fiddling with his phone. He was trying to figure out which number of Chaerin’s did he manage to send his message through. Which was why he didn’t hear Jiyong coming from behind and taking his phone away. “YA!” Seungri said on reflex but when he turned and saw that it was Jiyong, he quickly apologized. “Ji hyung, I’m sorry! I didn’t know it was you.” Jiyong was not paying any attention to him. He was looking through Seungri’s contact list for all of Chaerin’s numbers and storing them into his phone. Now that he knew that there was definitely a number that he could 95


reach Chaerin by and remembering what YG said in the van the previous day, he knew it was probably one of the 15 numbers. Once he’s done, he gave Seungri his phone back. “YG wants to see us in 15 minutes. I’d meet you guys upstairs. And Seungri, I have deleted all of Chaerin’s number from your phone. Don’t you dare try to contact her again!” And he turned and left without a second word. Everyone was left puzzled at what just happened and turned to Seungri to seek some clarification. All they saw was Seungri grinning. “What just happened there? What are you grinning like a fool?” “Because Ji hyung just recorded all of Chaerin’s past 15 numbers in his phone. I guess that means he’s going to try to contact her.” “Ok... Anyway, let’s finish up here so that we won’t be late in meeting the boss. You know how he is when we are late.” Everyone nodded and quickly finished up what they were eating. The girls have filled the boys in on the plans that they have talked about with the boss and the boys were beyond happy and can’t wait to get started with all their projects already.

96


Chapter 19 2 February 2013 Milan, 5am Chaerin has been listening in while her group members were discussing their plans with their boss. The few times that she heard Jiyong’s voice over the phone, she had to bite her lips so that she would not give in to her tears. She was happy that each of her members would be pursuing areas that they are interested in and would be able to spend time with their boyfriends. After all, this was the most important reason why she left in the first place. If she were to ask herself what was the thing that she hoped to achieve by leaving, other than giving her members some space to develop their skills and have time with their boyfriends, it was really to get away from Jiyong. Not that she loved him any less, but seeing how her members could get into quarrels with their other half because they were not spending enough time with each other made her realize her dedication to Jiyong was a joke. The acceptance to one of the most renowned fashion design schools in Europe and an internship was a god-sent and possibly a message that she should also put her focus on other dreams. I have not abandoned you, Jiyong oppa... I just feel that we need time off from each other... Well, at least I do... She was shocked when YG left her with no choice and she had to talk to her members on the phone. She knew it wasn’t a good idea but she had to talk to them. She missed them. She missed the craziness that involved living and working with her members. Once she heard the click that signaled that she was on speaker phone, she greeted her members. She listened to the commotion and laughed at Bommie’s question. She could also tell from their voices that they were crying just a little. That caused her to choke up a little but she regained her composure when she replied to them. She needed to keep up the strong front, the leader front, even if she’s not a leader anymore. That was until she heard his voice calling her name. “Where will you finally settle down at? How long do you intend to be away

97


from me? Lee Chaerin, ANSWER ME!” The tears that she had tried to keep at bay while talking to her members fell, without warning, without hesitation. Though she had heard it during the meeting but to have him directly addressing her, calling her name, it was too much to bear. “Jiyong oppa” That came out naturally, as if her mouth was programed to respond to his voice. “Don’t ‘Jiyong oppa’ me, answer me!!” The slight catch in his voice, the one that she was all too familiar with, the voice that signaled that he was on the verge of crying. She won’t win against that voice. She hung up the call and sat there on the bed, numbed to the core. But her tears didn’t stop, they just kept sliding down her face. How is it that I can’t feel anything yet my tears kept falling? Does this mean I’m still hurting? That I’m still capable of hurt? She hugged her Rilakumma bear close to her, the one that she always bring with her wherever she went, the one on the receiving end of too much of her tears. Though it didn’t provide any warmth, it provided her with the comfort of familiarity. This time, because she was alone, she allowed herself the liberty to cry out loud. She surprised herself at the sound she made. Was this how pain sounded like? I never knew... I always cried those silent tears... So that no one would know... Her handphone beeped. She was a little afraid to check because she really won’t know what to do if Jiyong were to message her. Now that Seungri might already know which of her numbers is still in use, it might not be long before she gets messages from Jiyong. 98


Her phone beeped again. 2 New Messages. She slid her finger across the screen to unlock the phone. She heaved a sigh of relief. It was YG and Seungri. She opened YG’s message first From: YG sajangnim Chaerin, I’m sorry. I should have known that Jiyong would be outside the door. Or I shouldn’t have asked you to talk to your members. I had a good talk with Jiyong and I know he’s hurting. But it’s your call and I want you to do what is right FOR YOU and not for him, ok? To: YG sajangnim It’s ok. I missed my members’ voice too. So it’s good to hear them. I’m not going to go back. I’ve barely been away. Staying is the right option for me. I will work hard! :) From: YG sajangnim That’s good then. You heard what I said just now about the press conference and live streaming right? I’d need you to either send me a video of you or agree to the live stream from wherever you are. To: YG sajangnim I’d do a recording. I’m going to be totally helpless when it comes to all the technology that involves streaming. When do you need it by? From: YG sajangnim In a week’s time? Once you are settled down in your new apartment, do the recording. I can’t postpone the press conference for too long since we have not done an official response to you leaving YGE and 2NE1 so we need to do this fast. I would not reveal your whereabouts. To: YG sajangnim Ok, I’d get it done as soon as I settle my lodging today. I found an apartment near the Istituto Marangoni and it’s owned by a Korean. So 99


hopefully I’d get a response from the owner today. From: YG sajangnim Good luck with that! I’d talk to you again soon. To: YG sajangnim Yes. I’d be in touch. :) She then opened Seungri’s message. From: SeungRat >.< YA! Lee Chaerin! Why are you not answering my messages? Do you want me to call instead? Is that what you want? I know you are still using this number! And what do you mean by the letter you left for me?! I don’t watch porn!!! Argh! Answer me! Or I’d go to Ji hyung with this information. Pfft! You will still go to your Ji hyung with the information whether or not I answer you. Hmmmm... Should I strike a deal with him then? No, it’s still too early. He could be lying that he knows that this number is working. She put the phone on her bedside table and was contemplating if she should go back to bed when her phone beeped again. Aishhh! That SeungRat is really really annoying! She was about to type a nasty reply to him when she saw the caller ID on her phone. GD Shit. How? How did he know? Did Seungri really tell him about it? Should I open the message? I have to, don’t I? No, what if I give in? 100


No, Lee Chaerin, you will not give in to him. You are a strong girl. You can do this. She unlocked her phone again and calmed herself down by closing her eyes before opening his message. From: GD (Jiyong’s MOST RECENT NUMBER) Chaerin ah, I’m sorry. If you get the message, please reply and let me know. Don’t cut me off. Oppa, I’m sorry too but I have to. For now. She sent a message to Jiyong’s first handphone number To: My Jingyo oppa<3 (Jiyong’s FIRST NUMBER) Oppa, I have received your message. I am sorry too. For now, I can’t contact you directly because I’m afraid my heart will waver. But the day you see this message, then maybe you would be ready to meet me again. Stay strong oppa. Leaders don’t cry. She hit the ‘Send’ button. She decided that she’s not going to go on a selfpity party on her own. Since she was already awake, she might as well make use of the day and do some shopping and exploring in this new city. After taking a long and well-deserved bubble bath, she dressed herself carefully, put on simple make-up, packed her iPad, sketch pad and stationery into her tote bag and left the hotel room. She was walking down the street when an enchanting cafe caught her eye and she went inside. She ordered herself a hot Americano and sat down near the Christmas tree and wrote in her diary. She also updated her Twitter. @Cielo_Lealta: A name sometimes show the distance that we have put between us. It would be nice if we can go back to the beginning... She thought back to the last time that she had to update her new number on Jiyong’s phone.

101


“Jiyong oppa, can you pass me your phone? I have to change my number again.” “Again? Didn’t you just have it changed a month ago?” “You know how it is with the fans. They just have a way of finding out about our numbers even faster than we can say ‘Bbyong’.” “That’s true. Here you go.” Jiyong handed over his phone to Chaerin like they always do when they have to update their new numbers on each other’s phone. Chaerin was scrolling through his contact list to look for her name under ‘HunChae’. But she couldn’t find it. She was going to ask Jiyong where did he store her number but he was busy with recording for the new girl group and she knew not to disturb him when he's in work mode. She scrolled back up to see if he had stored it under ‘Chaerin’ instead. But what she found surprised her. She didn’t see ‘Chaerin’. Instead, what she saw was ‘CL’. She opened up the contact information for that name and when she saw that it was her previous number, she felt an ache in her heart. So this is how it is? I’m no longer your HunChae? Not even Chaerin? But just CL? She quietly edited her contact number. She didn’t tell him that she had to change her number this time because some of the die-hard GD fans have started to send threatening messages to her and asking her to stay away from their Jiyong oppa. Oppa, you don’t need to know. After all, I’m not your HunChae anymore... “Here you go, Jiyong oppa. I have edited my contact number. I have to go meet my members for dance practice now.” “Ok. See you soon.” 102


He didn’t even look up from the monitor to look at her. Chaerin swallowed the bitterness that was welling up in her and left the recording studio. The moment she was out of the recording studio, she took out her phone, scroll down to ‘My Jingyo oppa<3’, opened the contact information and edited the name. GD She smiled bitterly. Oppa, we have come a long way haven’t we? We have both attained the success that we want as GD and CL. But it seems like we have forgotten who Jingyo and HunChae are anymore... Will we be able to go back to where we were before? “Chaerin?” Chaerin was brought back from memory lane by someone calling her name. She looked up to find a familiar face smiling down at her. “OMO! JaeBeom-ssi!” There, standing right in front of Chaerin was Park JaeBeom aka Jay Park.

103


Chapter 20 2 February 2012, 8.30am Milan, Italy “I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me when I thought I saw you through the windows looking pretty as always. I never thought I would run into you here. Are you here with the other 2NE1 girls?” “Me too! Milan is the last place I would have expected to see you too, JaeBeom-ssi. I’m still very surprised! No, I’m here on my own. I guess you left Korea before the announcement that I was stepping down as the leader of 2NE1 came out.” “WHAT?!! That’s BIG news! How come I didn’t hear of it? What happened? Why would YG sajangnim let you go? Why would Jiyong let you go? And call me JaeBeom oppa, please.” Chaerin smiled and decided to pretend not to hear the last question. “You didn’t hear much of it because YGE has decided not to make a big fuss out of it. It’s a temporary arrangement while I’m doing my fashion design course and internship in Milan. But because I didn’t want to let people know my whereabouts, I have to keep that detail a secret for now. JaeBeom-ssi...” When Jay stared at her, looking angry, she laughed. “Alright alright, JaeBeom oppa, please help me keep the secret too! I know how active you are on Twitter. I really would like my peace while I do a masters course at Istituto Marangoni and then internship at a fashion house for the next 6 months.” “Did I hear you just say Istituto Marangoni? Man, that’s a big thing! They are like THE fashion design school in Europe! How did you even get in there?” Chaerin smiled then took out her sketch pad to show her creations to Jay. Jay took the sketch pad and started flipping through it. The more he saw, the more he was fascinated. He looked up at her, totally awestruck. “These are some preliminary sketches that I have done. Since my major in university wasn’t fashion, I had to send my more complete portfolio for the 104


enrolment.” “These are amazing!! Wow! I would never have thought. But then seeing how you and Jiyong are both fashion icons in your own right, I shouldn’t be surprised.” Chaerin forced a smile onto her face when Jiyong was mentioned again. It didn’t escape Jay’s eyes but it did make him very curious. “So what about you? What are you doing in Milan?” “I was in France for a concert and I decided to extend my stay to surprise my cousin who’s staying in Milan. But my timing sucked because she’s leaving soon for her 6-month-round-the-world trip. In fact, she has a place near Istituto Marangoni and she’s looking for someone to rent the apartment.” “Oh really?! That would be perfect! I saw an ad this morning for an apartment near the school and the landlord is Korean. Maybe it’s your cousin! Let me check my email and see if there’s a response from the landlord.” “Let me see the address. I would know if it’s her apartment when I see the address. I happen to be staying there at the moment.” Chaerin took out her iPad and went to her email address. She was glad to see that she has gotten an email from the apartment owner. She turned the iPad to Jay once she had the email opened. Upon looking at the address, Jay smiled. “It’s my cousin’s apartment! This is really amazing! Let me call her and arrange for you to go see the apartment then. When do you want to move in?” “As soon as possible since I don’t like staying in hotels.” “That shouldn’t be a problem since there are 3 bedrooms. You can probably stay in the extra bedroom that she has now.” “How long are you going to be here? And when will your cousin leave?” 105


“Why? Can’t wait to get rid of me and your landlord already? Planning some wild parties?” Jay teased Chaerin and that made her laugh. “No. I just want to know for how long do I have people who I can speak Korean with before I’m left alone to fend for myself. And what wild parties? I barely know anyone in this city!” “My cousin is leaving at the end of the week, which is in 3 days time while I would be here for another week before going back to Seoul. When does your lesson start?” “So if I move in tomorrow, I’d be sharing an apartment with you for a week?” “Are you afraid of me?” “No, I just don’t want to put you in an awkward position. After all, I’m a runaway girl right now.” Chaerin winked mischievously at Jay and for a second there, Jay was reminded why he was always fascinated by this girl in front of him. He has expressed his wish to work with her so many times but somehow he felt that Jiyong wasn’t very welcoming towards his suggestions. “Runaway girl huh... Did something happen between you and Jiyong? Is that why you are escaping?” Chaerin’s smile faltered, and she looked away, collecting her thoughts on how to best answer the question without lying or revealing about the couples between 2NE1 and Big Bang. “Nothing happened between me and Jiyong oppa. I just needed time off after our world tour. I applied to Istituto Marangoni on a whim and when I got accepted, it was just too good an opportunity to give up. YG sajangnim wasn’t too pleased about it but he understood that I needed to chase other dreams when I’m young, so here I am~!”

106


Jay could see that the happiness was a bit forced but he did recognize talent when he sees it. The sketches were amazing and Chaerin definitely deserved to chase after her dreams too. But there was a certain spark missing from her eyes and he knew that it’s probably because she was not beside Jiyong. She was always the brightest when Jiyong was beside her. On stage, she had the cool charisma thing going on for her but beside Jiyong, it was a gentle brightness. Warm, maybe that’s why Jiyong always referred to her as his HunChae. “Alright, shall we go? Since my cousin already responded to your email, we should go take a look at the apartment, see if you like it.” “Ok, let me pack up my things then we are good to go. Thanks JaeBeom oppa.” “Why? I didn’t do anything to help, well not yet anyway.” “Sometimes by just being there at the right time and the right place is all the help another person needs.” Chaerin gave Jay a gentle smile and it made him very glad to have met her, in a foreign land that he never imagined. So this is how Jiyong felt when he’s around Chaerin? This warm feeling is really like no other. “JaeBeom oppa, on second thought, I think we should go to the destination separately. One can never be too careful. With camera phones nowadays and social media, anything can go viral within seconds. It will be disastrous if we were spotted entering the same apartment together.” “Is this how you kept yourself and 2NE1 out of scandals for the past 3 years?” “I’m lucky to have co-operative members. We are usually really careful when it comes to contact with other artistes and we always watch our actions. Girls are not as resilient as guys when it comes to scandals. One wrong move and whatever we have worked for would be gone. YG sajangnim has enough to deal with with Seungri and Ji...”

107


Chaerin stopped herself just in time and just smiled. “I’m going to go back to my hotel room to grab a few things. I’d see you at the apartment later then? Oppa, you want to leave first?” Jay didn’t want to put Chaerin in a spot so he smiled, nodded and stood up. But before he left, he leaned forward to give her a hug. The hug caught Chaerin by surprise. “Chaerin ah, I don’t know why, who or what you are running away from but I’m glad that I met you here. Stay happy and keep smiling ok?” He released her from the hug and smiled at her. Her head was down for a second and Jay knew she was trying to hide the tears. When she looked up, she gave Jay a bright smile again. “Oppa, thanks. I’d see you later then. Jay walked out of the cafe and he gave his cousin a call. “Noona, no matter what, you have to rent your apartment to the Korean girl who wrote to you. Her name is Lee Chaerin. Treat it as a favor for me?” Jay listened to the terms listed by his cousin and agreed to every single one of them. How could he not? He couldn’t think of a better way to spend the rest of his vacation. 1 week with Chaerin, that’s like a god-sent gift. In Seoul, it would have been impossible. There’s always fans. There’s always managers and company rules. And there’s always Jiyong. Jiyong, I don’t know what you have done to make her run but thank you. Jay couldn’t resist sharing his feeling on Twitter but he was careful not to reveal any crucial information that would put Chaerin in a difficult position. @JAYBOMAOM: I met an angel just now. She’s a little lost but still as bright and warm as usual. Of course that left all his followers wondering who he might be talking about but no one knew that he was in Milan, he was still relatively safe. He knew 108


that he had to be more careful now since Chaerin was in the picture. Because she was right. Girls don’t survive well in scandals. Chaerin ah, don’t worry, I’d protect you as long as you allow me to.

109


Chapter 21 2 February 2012 YG Office 1.15pm On the way up to YG’s office, Jiyong did what Seungri did previously. He sent the same message to all of Chaerin’s 15 numbers, just to see if he gets a response. He was smart enough to do a mass-message to all 15 numbers at the same time. However, 5 of the 15 messages got through which means out of the 15 numbers, 5 of them have not been terminated yet. 010-8891-1826 010-0802-8891 010-6220-8180 010-9102-8808 010-9126-8818 Taking a closer look, Jiyong couldn’t help but notice that Chaerin’s phone numbers always contained some elements of their birth dates, at least for the ones that have not been terminated. He stopped taking notice of the numbers after having to change his phone for the 3rd time. Usually he would have his manager take care of it and just take any number that he got. To him, it’s something that they have to change regularly so there was no need to put too much effort into it. Thinking back, when he got his first number, he made an effort to make sure that it was his and Chaerin’s birthday. Because he wanted it to be that way. Just like the strawberry whipped cream ring, he really wanted it for Chaerin the moment he laid his eyes on it. Even when he had a handphone accessory custom-made in the same design, it was because he wanted it. Since when did I stop wanting to put in effort when it came to Chaerin? Why did I stop putting effort when it came to Chaerin? As much as he tried, Jiyong couldn’t figure out when the change happened and why he allowed it to happen. That made him very uncomfortable. But maybe this was what he needed, to actually think about what had happened so he can find the solution.

110


Suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulders. He turned to look and saw that it was Seungri. He was grinning like a panda which has just gotten a new bamboo plant all to himself. “Figure out which one is it yet?” “Well, I have got 5 suspects. So I guess I’m just going to keep sending until there is some kind of response.” “Wow, 5 numbers... Chaerin is smart, and determined too. Look like she won’t contact you until you passed some kind of secret mission that she has set for you.” “Secret mission?” “Yeah like you know, maybe you are supposed to send her a picture of a place that both of you really liked or have a great memory of, or you have to sing her a song that she really likes, or you have to cook her a dish that only you know she likes. Who knows what she has in mind. But knowing her character, once she has set her mind on something, she is unlikely to change her mind about it.” “So what should I do?” “Everything! Something is bound to be correct.” “I realized today that she really puts in a lot of effort into us. Looking at all the numbers that she didn’t terminate, they all have our birth dates included in some way. And what did I do? Give her gifts that weren’t meant for her... I’m such a crappy excuse for a man.” “I guess all these are lessons that you have to learn now that she’s away. We have seen all these considerations she put towards you so now it’s really about seeing how you learn and make right all these wrongs. Maybe in your messages, you can tell her what you have learnt every day. It’s worth trying, admitting your mistakes and making amends for them.” Jiyong considered Seungri’s words and admitted to himself that it seemed like a lot of work to put in for one single girl. But since it’s the girl that he

111


has decided to walk till the end with, he had better get his act together. He knew that his patience will be sorely tested because like Seungri said, Chaerin is a determined girl when it comes to things or people who mattered to her. Yet, it also left him with anticipation. He likes a good challenge once in a while. And he’s quite sure Chaerin is going to provide it. The 3 couples caught up with Jiyong and Seungri and after knocking, they entered YG’s office together. Jiyong and Seungri took the single seaters while the 3 couples found seats in the long couches. YG looked at the couples and how each was holding their other half’s hand so tightly. He looked at them sternly but inside he was hiding a grin. Dara and Bom started to squirm under the stare and tried to pull their hands out of their boyfriend’s hand. But Youngbae and TOP refused to let go and instead held their hands even tighter. Minzy and Daesung just sat there like they were meant to be holding hands since the first day they were born, and looking at YG straight in the eye. Jiyong looked at the scene and it was not lost on him. He knew part of the reason why their boss had not said anything was because he wanted to see how well they performed under pressure. Big Bang is used to it since they were always called in for this pressure chamber treatment, thanks to Seungri and Jiyong. Which was why Youngbae and TOP didn’t let go of their girlfriend’s hand. They knew it was a test. YG looked at Jiyong right after the observation and their eyes met. Jiyong smiled and nodded, indicating that he knew what his boss was trying to tell him. If someone is worth holding on to, never ever let go even if there might be opposing forces in place. “If we ever have to go public with your relationships, Daesung and Minzy will go first.” Now this was a surprising statement because no one expected YG to say that. First of all, they came with the impression that he was going to give

112


them a talking-to about breaking their dating ban and asking them to be careful not to be found out. Not to mention, they are the maknae couple. “Why? We don’t want to go public with our relationship yet.” Minzy was surprised at the statement that their boss just made but to her, going public or not isn’t really important. All she wanted is her Daesung oppa beside her. “Because you were the only girl who didn’t try to free herself from your boyfriend’s hand.” YG looked at Jiyong when he spoke up and there was an outright grin this time. Daesung looked at Minzy and his eye smile made his whole face glow. Minzy looked back with a big grin on her face too. “But boss, your stare is really scary which is why Dara noona and Bom noona were trying to free their hands from us.” Youngbae spoke up, worried that their boss will think that Dara and Bom do not love them enough. “That didn’t scare Minzy into letting go. I’m not saying that Dara or Bom love you or TOP any less but they need to know that because of who you are, there will be people who would be staring, people who would be talking, people who would be criticizing, people who would be threatening. Why do you think Chaerin had to change her number so many times recently?” YG paused for a second before moving on. He knew that Jiyong had wanted to ask question when he made the comment about Chaerin changing her number but changed his mind at the last minute. He turned and addressed the couples. “Anyway, now that I’m already aware of your relationships and while I’m not against it, I would still have to tell all of you to be careful. I don’t think I have to remind you that if a scandal breaks out, it might ruin both groups. On some level, the responsibility each of you hold now is higher because you are not responsible only for your own group members but your other half’s members as well. When you feel that you are really ready to take the plunge

113


and announce to the world your relationship, you come to me and we will do it the proper way. And when you do announce it to the public, you need to show them that you are very sure that you really want to be with the other person who’s standing by your side. The conviction that the person beside you is the one you want to stand beside till the very end is what will convince the public and save you in the end.” While YG was talking, Jiyong kept checking his phone to see if Chaerin had replied with any of the 5 numbers. The last part of YG’s statement about Chaerin’s frequent change in numbers and coming almost immediately after the quip about being threatened poked at his curiosity. Did she receive threats? From who? “YA! KWON JIYONG!! PAY ATTENTION!! STOP STARING AT YOUR PHONE!” Jiyong was taken away from his thought by YG’s yelling. Then he realized all eyes were on him. “Did you hear what I just said?!” “Erm... no...” YG took a deep breath and then continued. “I was telling the girls to be really careful about what they put on their social media accounts. Last night’s photo on Twitter had created quite a stir that we have no choice but to hold the press conference fast. Please work with the PR team and let them know what are the plans for each of the members of 2NE1. You also have to think about what you are going to say if people ask you what you are going to be busy with. And do not make any reference to Chaerin directly on social media and don’t answer any questions about her until we do the press conference. That applies to everyone here. Seungri, did you hear what I just said? Chaerin would be sending me a recording for the press conference once she settles down. The press conference would occur not more than a week from now. Speaking of which, the video that she left for you girls, please bring it to me 114


so we can keep it securely in the office. I don’t want the video to be leaked. And please do not make copies of it. Jiyong, remember what I said to you just now and focus on what needs to be done. For Big Bang, I would not announce an official hiatus but we will definitely be putting hype on the solo albums for each of the members. Daesung and Minzy, you have to start getting ready for your stay in Japan. Please be extra careful when you are in Japan. Minzy, you will not be having a personal manager because theoretically you are not having any activities there. But Daesung’s manager would oversee your training with the dance schools while you are there so that would give you the excuse of being occasionally seen with Daesung. But maintain the distance as expected of a senior-junior relationship. Daesung, I know you have already worked on your Korean album but I want you to include a duet with Minzy. Maybe the two of you can work on it together.” Daesung and Minzy nodded and smiled widely at each other. “The rest of you, nothing would be changed. You will continue to stay in your own group’s dorm and you will have a curfew if you do not have a schedule. The plan for you to work together as much with your other half is so that the public can get used to seeing you together. But even then, there will be a lot of time where you won’t get to see each other. That’s the basic you need to know and grapple with when you decided to go into a relationship in the entertainment industry. Anyone has any questions?” Everyone looked around at the others and each gave a comforting smile. Jiyong looked at YG and shook his head. “Alright, the PR team will contact you once I have briefed them about the situation. Do try to keep a low profile even when you are within this building. You can go now.” All of them stood up and started to file out of the room. But Jiyong remained. He needed to know. “YG sajangnim, I didn’t want to raise this up when the girls are here, but did Chaerin receive threats? Was that why she kept changing her number?”

115


“Yes, she did. She didn’t want me to tell you but she did receive threatening messages that would put her, her members and your group in danger.” “Who and why?” “Mainly your die-hard fans. To be honest, no matter how discreet any couple is, when they are in a position of high prominence, there tend to be more attention given. You are one of Korea’s most successful composer at the age of 25, you have a lot of fans, you get a lot of attention. The other members of Big Bang as well. The same goes for 2NE1. There have been murmurs of couplings between the two groups for a long time and while some fans embraced these couplings, others shows their objections in a stronger manner. Your close association with Chaerin does not go unnoticed by your fans.” “So she walks out of my life to protect me, her girls and my members?” “But that’s the best protection she can give to herself as well. While people are calling her irresponsible for walking out, she’s the one with the best reason right now. Once we hold the press conference and give the public the information they need to know, the storm about her leaving will die down. Don’t blame yourself. Such things happen all the time. Chaerin just did what she could while at the same time, she gets to pursue her other dreams so it’s still a win-win situation.” “I see. Alright, I will remind the others to be careful.” YG nodded and Jiyong turned to leave as well. A win-win situation for everyone except me and Chaerin. But I need to learn discretion as well. I need to be responsible for myself and Chaerin. Otherwise, I’m undeserving of the feelings she has for me.

116


Chapter 22 2 February 2013 Milan, 12pm Chaerin was on her way to view the apartment that belonged to Jay’s cousin. Because she forgot to get his number, she called his cousin to let her know that she was on her way to view the apartment. “Hi, is this Miss Park Shin-Yi? I’m Lee Chaerin. I emailed you about renting your apartment this morning and I got your reply. I was wondering if it would be convenient for me to come over to view the apartment.” “Hi, Miss Lee. I’m glad you called. You must be Jay’s friend. He had been an irritant for the past 2 hours after he realized that he forgot to get your contact number. Sure, you can come over now. And please call me Shin-Yi unnie, or just unnie would be fine.” “I’d be on my way right now then.” “Are you taking the subway or a cab over?” “I’m not too familiar with the subway system yet so I think I’d take a cab over.” “Ok, when you are in the cab, give me a call again so I can tell the driver the directions to my place. See you in a while then!” “Thank you very much! See you soon!” Chaerin went to the hotel lobby and got herself a cab. Once she got into the cab, she called Jay’s cousin again. “Shin-Yi unnie, it’s me, Chaerin.” “Hello! You are in a cab already? Pass me over to the cab driver.” Chaerin passed the phone over to the cab driver. After the instructions were given, the phone was passed back to Chaerin.

117


“Hello Chaerin? Hold on, my annoying cousin wants to speak with you.” Chaerin laughed at the obvious affection that Shin-Yi has for Jay. “Chaerin! Are you on your way over now? Cool! Do you want me to wait for you outside the apartment?” “JaeBeom oppa, if you wait for me outside the apartment, that would defeat the purpose of going separately in the first place. Even if people don't recognize you so readily here, it’s still not safe. Don’t worry. Shin-Yi unnie already told the cab driver where to take me.” “Alright then, see you in a bit! Have you had lunch? Let’s eat together later.” “Alright, let’s meet up at the apartment first then we will decide ok?” “Sure thing! See you!” They got off the phone with each other and Chaerin reminded herself that she needed to get a local Italian number otherwise her phone bills when she goes back to Korea is going to be crazy. Her phone beeped. She was thinking that it might be YG or Seungri or GD but it was actually from Jay. From: +82-10-1987-0425 Chaerin! This is Jay! Save my number!! Then we can use Whatsapp or Kakao! That brought a smile to her face. Jay’s excitement was rubbing off her. She saved his number as ‘Jay Oppa :)’ To: Jay Oppa :) Oppa, can I call you Jay oppa instead of JaeBeom oppa? But yes, once I have WiFi connection or when I’m using the local 3G network, we can definitely talk on Whatsapp or Kakao! Within seconds, BOTH her Whatsapp and Kakao had messages from Jay. From: Jay Oppa :) (Whatsapp) 118


I just did a dance in front of my cousin who has decided that I have gone crazy~ Chaerin ah, you can call me Jay oppa or just oppa would be nice too~~~ From: Jay Oppa :) (Kakao) [emoticon] Free-falling from happiness!!! Chaerin was going to reply but another message came in. She thought it was Jay who was going to send another funny emoticon. But it wasn’t. From: GD 02 February 2013 12.20pm CET

Day 2 of you not being by my side. I have not felt this empty before. Did you always feel this way when I’m not looking at you? Chaerin ah, I’m sorry. Her smile was wiped off her face immediately. She blinked back tears because she didn’t want to worry Jay and his cousin or worse make them think that she’s unstable. She took a few deep breaths and that helped. To: My Jingyo Oppa<3 02 February 2013 12.23pm CET

Oppa, When you are not looking at me, I feel the pain. When you are beside me, I don’t feel you. But I still love you. No matter what. Don’t hurt. We’ll see each other again. “Miss, we have arrived at your destination.” Chaerin put her phone away and took out the cab fare to pay the cab driver. She said her thanks and got out. Standing in front of the apartment, she knew this was where she will start her new life in Milan. She smiled as she walked towards the lift lobby. Jay has been waiting by the window since his phone call with Chaerin. When he saw the cab arrived, he wanted to shout her name from the window. But 119


he remembered what she said and instead went to wait for her at the lift lobby. Ding! He waited right in front of the lift door and when the door opened, he saw that she was looking at her phone, looking a little distressed. Before turning, she dabbed her eyes. Jay knew then she saw something that made her cry. Without a second thought, he walked into the lift and embraced her. Chaerin was taken by surprise first then she gave Jay a quick hug and pulled back. “Jay oppa, did you miss me so much that you are waiting for me here? Aigoooo~~ You are worse than Gah...” Chaerin stopped herself, smiled and walked out of the lift. “Left or right?” Jay knew that whatever Chaerin just saw on her phone definitely got to do with Jiyong. He put aside that thought and put on a smile for her. “Right. You are going to love the apartment!” “I know, I already liked how it looks on the outside.” They made their way down the corridor, only to be greeted by a lady in her early thirties, looking very radiant and healthy. When she saw Chaerin, she gave her a big grin and gave her a tight hug. “Welcome to my apartment, Chaerin-ssi!” “Shin-Yi unnie, since you already asked me to call you unnie, let’s drop the formalities.” Shin-Yi took hold of Chaerin’s hands and led her into the apartment. She took her round the apartment and showed her her room if she decides to rent it. Chaerin was very happy with the apartment, not to mention once Shin-Yi and Jay are gone, she has the space to herself. 120


“Shin-Yi unnie, I really would like to rent this place. How much is the rent per month?” “I heard from Jay that you are going to be studying in Istituto Marangoni. How long is your course?” “Right now, I’m here for 6 months. I don’t know if I would stay longer than that.” “Oh ok, so you would be here for the duration that I’m gone? How about if you just pay the maintenance and utilities bills plus 250 euros a month? This should add up to not more than 500 euros a month.” “Are you joking? This is way too good a deal! I’m going to get the whole apartment to myself after you leave. Are you sure you are ok with me just paying that amount?” “You are Jay’s friend. Don’t worry about it. This apartment has been paid in full so I’m not paying any loans for it. Now that you are going to stay here and help me look after my house, I can go and travel with ease of mind as well. When do you want to move in?” “Since I have already booked the hotel room for tonight, I think I’d move in tomorrow.” “That’s settled then. How about if I take you and Jay out for a tour around the area and show you how to get to your school from here? We can have lunch too.” “That would be great! I’m so lucky to have met you, Shin-Yi unnie!!” Jay ahem-ed in the background, as if to remind them that he was still there. “And you too, Jay oppa!” “Let me get my coat. Jay, go wear something warmer too. The weather will get colder as night approaches!” While waiting for Jay and Shin-Yi to get ready, Chaerin took out her phone 121


to look at the message she received from GD again. She smiled when she saw the photo of Gaho that was attached. Chaerin logged onto her Twitter account to check on her members and other YG family artistes. Seeing that none of them have updated anything, she knew that they probably got a talking to for the photo last night. She clicked on the icon to send a new tweet. @Cielo_Lealta: Gaho ah, I miss you too!

She attached a photo of Gaho that no one has ever seen before in the tweet. It was a picture of him when he was still at a pet shop. She didn’t realize that Jay was standing behind her all this while. “Added! I didn’t know you have a Twitter account!” Chaerin was startled by Jay’s voice since she didn’t hear him coming out from his room. “Oppa, I don’t think that’s a good idea...” “Don’t worry, I’m not going to mention you. But at least I can DM you if I want to respond to your tweets.” “DM? What’s that?” “You don’t know what that is?”

122


“I’m a social media idiot. I only started this account just so it would be easier to keep track of what’s happening with my members.” “DM means Direct Message. It is a little like an email. And you can only DM the other party if both are following each other. Remember to follow me!” “Ah.. Ok... But no matter what, we have to be careful.” “Ok ok~” Shin-Yi came out from her room, all prepared for the days’ adventure. “Let’s go!”

123


Chapter 23 Seoul, 8.25pm Big Bang Dorm After sending his 2nd message to 5 of Chaerin’s still active numbers, Gaho walked into Jiyong’s room, his footsteps were a little heavy. He jumped onto the bed where Jiyong was lying down on and licked his face. Jiyong turned and looked at Gaho. “Gaho ah, do you miss Chaerin omma? Let’s send her a picture alright?” Strangely, at the mention of Chaerin’s name, Gaho seemed to brighten up as well. “Stay there, appa is going to take a photo of you. 1, 2, 3! Well done Gaho! Handsome boy!” Jiyong attached the photo to the message that he was going to send. To: CL (All 5 numbers) 02 February 2013 8.30pm KST

Pic Credits: blissful1153 (photobucket) Omma~~ I miss you! Appa now knows that he’s wrong. Would you forgive him? Jiyong sent the message and went back to where Gaho was. He stared at Gaho and remembered how he got him as a pet.

124


16 February 2009 “Chaerin ah, did you like the food at the restaurant?” Silence. Jiyong turned to look at Chaerin who was walking next to him. But she was not there. He turned around and then saw her staring at the shop window and doing her aegyo actions at the window and taking photo of whatever it was that got her attention. Who got her attention and made her all cutesy? Doesn’t she know that when she’s all cute like that, guys will be attracted to her?” He walked back to her and stood behind her so he could observe without disturbing. When he saw what had gotten her attention, he smiled. Inside the shop was the cutest Chinese shar-pei puppy ever. And the puppy was reacting to Chaerin’s cute actions by coming close to the window and wanting Chaerin to touch him. Chaerin laughed at the cute antics that the puppy was showing. Her laugh made Jiyong grin. He took her hand and pulled her inside the store. That shocked her because she didn’t know that he was standing behind her. “Let’s go inside.” When they got into the store, Jiyong got the shop assistant to bring the puppy out of the window so that they could play with it. At first, Chaerin stood from afar and satisfy herself with just taking photos of it while Jiyong played with the puppy. But the puppy just kept coming to her and when she finally picked it up and held it close to her, he licked her face and she burst out laughing. “Let’s get it.” Chaerin looked at Jiyong like he has gone crazy. 125


“Oppa, with our schedules, we can’t possibly keep a pet. A dog needs a lot of attention and love. No, we shouldn’t get it and deprive him of a better home.” Chaerin returned the puppy to the shop assistant, thanking her and said goodbye to the puppy. “Come on, oppa, let’s go.” “But you like it so much.” “Exactly because I like it so much, I know he deserved better. Come on, we are going to be late. Teddy oppa is waiting for us to record ‘The Leaders’.” Without a second glance at the puppy or Jiyong, Chaerin walked out of the shop. She quickly dabbed at the tears because she didn’t want Jiyong to see it. She loved that puppy and wish she could bring it home. But to get it together with Jiyong felt right and wrong at the same time. She knew she would like to raise the puppy together with him but she doubted that was what he had in mind. He has a girlfriend now. Jiyong looked at the puppy one last time and then he told the shop assistant. “I’d come back for him next week. Please do not let anyone get him ok?” “Sure, are you planning to give your girlfriend a surprise?” Jiyong frowned at the question. No, my girlfriend doesn’t like animals. Then he realized that the shop assistant had mistaken Chaerin as his girlfriend. He was about to set things right but then he shrugged.

126


It was going to be a surprise anyway. He just smiled and thanked the shop assistant for agreeing. He walked out of the pet shop to catch up with Chaerin, and he didn’t bring up the topic of the puppy again. One week later, 3 days before Chaerin’s birthday, he went back to the pet shop to pick up the puppy. He was going to give it to her as a birthday gift. He remembered how on the day of Chaerin’s birthday, he suddenly had to fly to Japan because his girlfriend then was throwing a fit about him not spending enough time with her. So when he finally came back from Japan, Chaerin’s birthday has passed. He was left with the puppy which he couldn’t give back. The puppy had stolen his heart, just like it had with Chaerin’s. So he kept the puppy and made him his son. He smiled remembering Chaerin’s expression when she saw Gaho for the first time. She had been avoiding him for weeks after her birthday because he bailed out on her. He had asked her out for dinner before joining the others for the party at YGE. He didn’t show up. He looked at Gaho now. He was glad that he got the puppy then and kept it. It was one of the last thing that they shared before 2NE1’s debut. After that, they all became too busy chasing after their own dreams. And he lost sight of Chaerin. Maybe since then, he sees her but doesn’t see her. He was extra careful too because 2NE1 has just gotten their start and any scandal would have buried them. Not that there weren’t any rumors about him and Chaerin being close, or too close for comfort, but there would always be bigger scandals and rumors that would cover them all up. There was a knock on his door and he looked up to see Youngbae at the door. “Hey Ji, doing alright buddy?” Jiyong smiled for his longtime best friend. 127


“Come in. Have a chat with me. It’s been a long time since I sat down with you and not talk about work.” Youngbae walked in and sat down on the beanbag beside Jiyong’s bed. Jiyong sat up in his own bed. Gaho got up and went to Youngbae for a belly rub because he was the best at it. Youngbae played with Gaho for a while before returning his attention back to Jiyong. “You know, Gaho was actually a birthday gift for Chaerin. We saw him about 10 days before her birthday in 2009 and she fell in love with it. I wanted to get it on the spot for her, but she refused. I told the shop assistant to keep it for me and I went to get it 3 days before her birthday. I never got to give him to her.” “I remembered that birthday. She came to the party alone. She was smiling and laughing along with the rest of us but we all knew that she had been crying before she arrived at YGE. Her bloodshot eyes and pale face gave her away. She covered it up well but there was still a tinge of sadness that couldn’t be covered up by make-up. We didn’t know what happened until the girls woke up in the middle of the night 2 days later because they heard sounds coming from the living room. They walked out to see what was happening.” Youngbae paused and stared at Jiyong. “They found Chaerin staring at the TV screen. She was watching a video of you. Just short snippets of stolen moments. She was laughing at the funny moments and crying at the sad ones. Her members just stood there, hidden, watching her watch you on TV. At the end of the footage, she got up, took the CD out of the CD player and broke it into 2. She held the broken pieces in her hands so hard that they cut her and she began to bleed. She didn’t even realize she was bleeding until Dara and Bom came to her and gently pried the CD from her hands. That was when she looked down and saw the blood. Minzy came with the first aid box and they started to tend to her injury. She sat through all that without crying a single tear. She thanked them when the bandages were done and walked out of the dorm. Minzy wanted to follow her but she shook her head and asked her to stay.

128


When she got back, she had breakfast in her hands for everyone. She knew that they would stay up to wait for her so she got them breakfast. Over breakfast, she told them that you were supposed to meet her for dinner before going for the party together but you never showed up. She waited till it was almost time for the party before she left. She cried in the cab on her way to YGE but she remembered to touch up on her make-up before stepping into the party. She told her members not to make a big deal out of it and they were under her strict orders not to confront you since you were already in trouble for the news of you and Kiko being photographed in Japan on her birthday.” Youngbae stopped talking because Jiyong had started crying again. It hurt Youngbae to see Jiyong in tears. He put his hand on Jiyong’s arm to comfort him but he knew he had to say what he wanted to say next. “Jiyong ah, stay away from Chaerin for now. I know you are hurting very badly right now and all you want to do is to find her and see her again. But to be very honest, even if you manage to find her now, what are you going to say to her? A simple ‘sorry’ is not going to be enough. She never cared much for your apologies because to her, there will always be a next time when you are going to do the exact same thing and then say sorry again. Think about this. Because you really need to know what to say to her when you see her again to keep her by your side.” The two best friends sat there without another word. Youngbae didn’t stop Jiyong from crying because he knew that he needed the relief. He knew that while Chaerin had been hurt by Jiyong’s actions, Jiyong has been hurt by his own actions. Some of these actions might have been subconsciously connected to Chaerin. No matter what, the 2 of them have been hurt too much over the past 6 years and they need to meet again, without all the baggage of those 6 years. Like what Teddy said, they needed a clean slate. Before leaving Jiyong’s room, Youngbae left him with some advice. “Ji, take a trip back to our trainee years. Relive those moments where we were young and all we cared about was to stand on that stage and be recognized for our music. I don’t know if it would help you find what you have lost somewhere along the way but I think it would be good for healing a part of you that you have neglected for too long. Just stay contactable, 129


ok?” In that split second, Jiyong realized Youngbae was right. There was a part of him that he had not felt for a long time. It was like if he were to look at the past 6 years, he had lost something that he can’t quite put a finger to it yet. He needed to search for it again and taking a trip back to yesteryears didn’t seem like a bad idea. It wasn’t a bad idea at all because Chaerin was there too. He wiped away his tears and resolved not to cry anymore because of Chaerin’s departure. It’s not an end, but a beginning to a journey that would bring what is important to him back into sight and he intend to make sure that Chaerin was part of it. She is his future but before he can start the journey back to her, and into their future, he needs to find himself first. Jiyong got up from his bed and gave Youngbae a hug. When he pulled away, he had a naughty grin on his face that Youngbae had not seen in a long time. “The next time we talk, you are not getting away from telling me about how you and Dara noona got together. Considered yourself warned~ I shall now bring Gaho to terrorize Seungri! Gaho! Come here! Let’s go and terrorize Seungri!” Gaho gave a happy woof and ran out of the room with Jiyong following it shouting. “Seungri! Where are you?” Youngbae followed behind them and laughed when he saw Seungri’s expression as he saw Gaho approaching him and looked like he was going to pounce on him. “Ji hyung, no no no~~ Mercy!!!” “This is for trying to contact Chaerin! Gaho! Get him!” Very soon, the shouts from the living room attracted TOP and Daesung and 130


they appeared from their room, each with their phones in their hands. They were going to ask them to keep quiet because they were on the phone with Bom and Minzy. But seeing their maknae being tortured by Gaho, they got off the line with their girlfriend. And then joined in the fun. Youngbae took a photo with his phone then posted on his Twitter account. @RealTaeyang: Big Bang members being kids... Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m the only adult here. Response from VIP was rapid and quick. They were always happy to see Big Bang members acting like kids though some Seungri fans were a little worried if their oppa was being bullied by all his hyungs.

131


Chapter 24 2 February 2013 Milan, 6pm Chaerin, Shin-Yi and Jay had a lot of fun through the whole afternoon. They went to Istituto Marangoni and were awed by the interior of the school. Chaerin went to enquire about orientation dates and timing and she realized that it would start 2 weeks later. She walked out, all excited to start her course at the school. Next, they went to the fashion district located near the school and the 3 of them had a great time trying out different outfits and looks. Chaerin was really glad that she bumped into Jay and his cousin was such great company. It signaled a great start to this new life. They settled down at a bistro near the main train station and decide to have dinner there. After ordering, Chaerin turned to her 2 companions. “Shin-Yi unnie, Jay oppa, thank you for accompanying me today. I had such a good time and now I’m not too worried about starting school.” “Since you have 2 more weeks before you start school, how are you going to spend it?” “I was actually thinking of going outside Milan to explore other parts of Italy. I have to do a video for the press conference...” Chaerin exchanged an anxious look with Jay, wondering if Shin-Yi was aware of who she is. “Don’t worry, I’m aware of who you are. This monkey had told me all about it this morning. I would keep the secret for you.” “Thank you. I need to do the video but I don’t really want to do it in Milan and then give away where I am.” “How about this then? Tomorrow, you can move your things over to the apartment. We can pack an overnight bag and we can travel out of Milan with you. Outside of Milan, you will definitely need someone who can speak Italian with you. You can do your video and then we can stay at one of those 132


charming bed-and-breakfast before coming back.” “But won’t it be too rush for you? Since you are going to leave 3 days later?” “I’m all packed. All my documents are in place so I actually do have time. And if anyone spots the two of you and put it on the grapevine, at least you have me as the chaperone. You monkey! Can you try to be a little discreet? You were taking pictures and uploading them.” “Don’t worry, I didn’t upload them. I took a lot of pictures, that is true. And why not? I had a great time with my dearest noona and I have Chaerin too!” “Jay oppa, are you going to come with us tomorrow?” “Of course, otherwise who would be the photographer?” Both Chaerin and Shin-Yi laughed out loud at this. “Chaerin, did you bring a camcorder?” “I did, because I knew I would probably have to provide a video for any press conference that would occur. I just hope I remembered what I learnt about using a camcorder from 2NE1 TV.” “Don’t worry, you have me. I have been recording Jay TV so I know a thing or two about recording and editing videos.” “Just remember not to edit yourself INTO the video. You don’t want to cause more problems for Chaerin. Chaerin, you sure you are going to be ok when I’m gone? This monkey can be rather annoying.” “Shin-Yi unnie, don’t worry, I know how to take care of myself. Unnie, can you help me with one more thing? I need to get a SIM card from one of the telco otherwise my phone bills is going to be crazy when I go back to Korea.” “Oh, you should have said so earlier. The telcos close very early. It’s ok, we will get one for you before we head out of Milan tomorrow. Do you have a lot of luggages?”

133


“I didn’t bring a lot of clothes with me this time round. I’m in Milan. If I want new clothes, I can always get some. Don’t worry, I won’t have problems bringing my luggage over to the apartment tomorrow. What time do you think we should set off?” “Let’s go to Lake Como. It’s not too far away from Milan but it’s not too crowded as well since tomorrow is the end of the weekend. Let’s meet at the apartment at around 10.30am. That would give us enough time to go to the telcos before they close at noon since it’s Sunday tomorrow.” “I’m ok with anything. After all, I’m in the company of 2 beautiful ladies, what more can I ask for?” “Indeed. Chaerin, what do you want to do after dinner?” “Actually I’d like to go back to the hotel. Jet lag is catching up on me and I have been up since 4am this morning.” “Oh ok, do you need us to send you back to the hotel?” “No, I’d be fine. I will need to learn to be independent right? Thank you so much unnie for all your help today!” “You are very welcomed!” Their food arrived and they started eating. Jay didn’t really want their day to end so quickly but since he was going to be seeing Chaerin for the next week, he decided to let it go for now. He wanted to send Chaerin back to her hotel, but he knew that she would reject him, citing her usual reasons for discretion. Not to mention, she did look tired. “Are you taking a cab back to the hotel?” Chaerin smiled at Jay who asked the question and nodded. “Yes, I’m going to take a cab back because I’m tired. Actually, I’m still getting used to public transport. It’s been so long since I have to worry about getting from point A to B. Usually, we just climb into the nanny van and zone out.”

134


“Haha~ Exactly!” “So yeah, I’d eventually have to learn to use the public transport because cabs are expensive here.” “Don’t worry, the system here is not very complicated and after a while, you will get the hang of it.” Chaerin smiled at the two almost-strangers who became friends over the course of the afternoon and thanked her lucky stars that she met both. “Shin-Yi unnie, Jay oppa, I’m really glad I met you here in Milan. Otherwise, I would have been so lost.” “Stop saying thank you! I can’t thank you enough for helping me look after my apartment and this monkey for the next week.” “Noona! You have to stop calling me a monkey!! I have an image to upkeep!” Chaerin and Shin-Yi looked at each other. “NAH! YOU DON’T HAVE ANY!” The 2 girls said at the same time. They burst out laughing and high-fived each other. “Alright, unnie and oppa, I need to go now. I can barely keep my eyes open.” “Ok, have a good rest, Chaerin and we’ll see you tomorrow.” “I’d walk you to get a cab.” “Thank you, Jay oppa.” Jay took extra care to make sure that he cannot be identified and so did Chaerin. He waited with her along the main road to wait for a cab. When an empty cab finally stopped for them, Chaerin turned and gave Jay a quick hug, stepped back and got into the cab before he could react. She looked

135


out of the window and waved goodbye as the cab drove away. Oh man! Jay, that was NOT COOL! You were just standing there like a DUMB ASS!! He took out his phone and sent Chaerin a message. To: Angel Chae :D 02 February 2013 7.20pm CET

Ya! You can’t give oppa such a fright! I think you took my heart away with you! Come back!! :D When Chaerin saw the contents of the message, she burst out laughing! To: Jay oppa :) 02 February 2013 7.22pm CET

Oppa, sorry, I checked but there’s no sign of a monkey heart~ :p Thank you for today! See you tomorrow!! Jay grinned at Chaerin’s message about the monkey heart. To: Angel Chae :D 02 February 2013 7.25pm CET

-.-” This monkey joke is going a little too far. I had fun today. Thanks for being with me. See you tomorrow!! Jay walked back to his cousin and she was looking at him with a knowing look. “You like Chaerin don’t you?” “Am I that transparent?” “Like a pane of glass.” “I’ve always admired her, as a fellow rapper and as a fellow performer. I have never kept it a secret that I would love to work with her. But my request has not been granted thus far. Today was totally different. We were just 2 people having fun without our baggage as idols. The delight in her 136


eyes when she walked into Istituto Marangoni, the spark when she tried on all those clothes or when she made us try on clothes that she thought would look good on us, rendered me speechless.” “Then what do you think she’s running from? She was so careful, so guarded. Even when I’m walking with the two of you, she kept her distance.” “Years of being an trainee and idol probably had that instilled in her. Trust me, if you were not here, she won’t even be seen with me on the streets. Not to mention, being a leader meant that she had to be the role model all the time, even when she’s much younger than half of her team. The leader badge is not one that is easy to wear. She knows that if she got into a scandal here, it will still affect her members and her entire company. She was worried about me too.” Jay paused, his eyes becoming a little sadder than a minute ago. He remembered his own past when he had to carry the leader badge. It was not easy, but in the end, he gave it up. The badge was too heavy and too restrictive. “That doesn’t answer my question of what is she running from? If she was so concerned about everything to do with her members and her company, why would she be here? I can understand the part about chasing after her dreams and I can see the delight that she has when it comes to fashion. But whenever there’s a quiet moment, she drifts off. It feels like her heart is not totally here.” “You know G-Dragon from Big Bang?” Shin-Yi looked at Jay and rolled her eyes. “Ya! I’m older than you but not that much older. Of course I know him! Oh! You mean they are a couple? But his scandals never involved Chaerin...” “I don’t know what happened between the two of them. But from what I know, they were never together officially and both have been careful not to have their names linked in any way. Jiyong is adamant about not dating within the company and Chaerin knows how to keep her distance. But there’s no denying the chemistry when the 2 of them are together. I don’t

137


really know both of them enough to know everything, but subconsciously, there’s this understanding that Chaerin is out of bounds.” “So are you going to make use of this opportunity to get her?” “Honestly, no. I just want this week to get to know her better. You know, other than my crew, I don’t have many friends in Korea. So I would treat this week as a way to get to know her better and have a new friend.” There was a whimsical look on Jay as he thought back to the last time he saw Chaerin with Jiyong. They didn’t know that he saw them but he did. It was a beautiful moment and Jay could only pray that one day, he can find his own light. “You have never seen them together. The two of them glow when they are with each other. Their smile, their look, their whole being and the air around them, is just different. Jiyong is not wrong when he calls her his HunChae. If you were standing outside in -20 degree celsius weather and wearing a thin shirt, seeing the 2 of them would immediately warm you up. I can only wish that I would find the someone that’s just for me one day.” “Then why did Jiyong let her go?” “G-Dragon let her go, I don’t think Jiyong did. He’s probably really miserable right now.” Jay stopped there. He knew how that felt. He had to do that once. He had to send someone away as Jay Park but Park Jae Beom never forgot that girl that he sent away. He turned to look at his cousin and give her a careful smile. “Shall we go noona? It’s been a long day.” Seeing the look on Jay’s face, Shin-Yi knew not to go further. The two of them got the bill and was told that Chaerin had already settled the bill before she left. She even left a note for them. To: Shin-Yi unnie and Monkey oppa! Thank you for today! Please allow me to pay for this meal! See you tomorrow! 138


From: The one who shared a meal with you ;) “She’s really careful isn’t she?” “That’s her way of caring.” “Let’s go home. We need to get ready for tomorrow.” The two cousins hailed a cab and went home. That night, Jay updated his Twitter. @JAYBOMAOM: An angel’s smile can really brighten up anyone’s day. Never let go of your angel once you found yours! It’s a pity that I know that Chaerin is Jiyong’s angel and her light will be dimmed if she’s with anyone else. Otherwise, I would beg her to be mine. But I will be the guardian of this angel if she’s ever hurt. Chapter 25 2 February 2013 Milan, 8.30pm Chaerin’s hotel room After a shower and packing her bags so that she could check out of the hotel quickly the next morning, she put her phone to charge. After her message to Jay, her phone had run out of battery. When she checked her phone, she was shocked to see that she had missed calls. 2 Missed Call - YG Sajangnim 2 New Messages She opened her inbox and saw that YG had sent her a message. The other message was from GD. From: YG Sajangnim 02 February 2013 7.30pm CET

Chaerin, I called you just now but you didn’t pick up your phone.

139


Please call me when you can. Chaerin knew that even though it’s late in Korea, she had to send a message back to YG. To: YG Sajangnim 02 February 2013 8.35pm CET

Appa, I’m ok. Sorry for sending the message so late. My phone was out of battery just now. I have found a place to stay. I will be out of Milan tomorrow and I will get the video done. I still do not want my whereabouts to be revealed. I will call you tomorrow. Goodnight! Chaerin took a deep breath to calm her heart beat down as she looked at the name staring back at her, as if daring her to not open the message. She knew there was no escaping because she would be so curious and won’t be able to sleep. She opened the message. From: GD 02 February 2013, 7.30pm CET

Don’t hide from me, please. I can’t take it. Just one message. I just want to know you are safe. And as if Jiyong knew that Chaerin was holding her phone at that very minute, another message came in. From: GD 02 February 2013, 8.40pm CET

Chaerin ah... I can’t sleep. I remembered whenever I can’t sleep in the past, I would call you and you would pick up my call and then sing me a lullaby. I miss your voice. Would you sing me a song? She knew that she was stupid but she still opened up the voice recording application on her phone, cleared her throat and sang a song that was really fitting to how she felt at the moment.

140


My heart wants to cry but I have no one to talk to Sometimes, I want to smile widely but I have no one by my side Maybe I’m missing you oh oh Maybe I’m missing you oh oh Maybe I’m missing you oh oh Maybe I’m missing you [Chorus from GD’s ‘Missing You’ Featuring Kim Yoona, translation from Pop!Gasa] She sang that twice before her tears started to fall again. She didn’t dare listen to it because she knew it wasn’t her best and she was not in the state to record it again. To: My Jingyo Oppa<3 02 February 2013, 8.45pm CET

Oppa, This is the lullaby that you wanted me to sing for you. It’s not my best but it’s how I’m feeling right now. Sleep well. . . . . . I miss you, really. She attached the music file to the message then send it to Jiyong. She wiped the tears from her face. She loved those late night calls when Jiyong would call her and insist on hearing her sing him a lullaby. It made her both happy and sad that even when he had a girlfriend, he would still call her and want her to sing for him. In fact, if she was honest with herself, this happened much more when he was attached. Although she would always refuse at first because it felt like she was being used, but she would eventually give in because she could never refuse him anything. It felt good to feel needed even if it were just for a minute. They would talk for a bit after she sang but never for long and never about

141


important things. But to Chaerin, such moments kept her sane. Such moments gave her hope. Another message came in. She was almost afraid to open it but she knew there was not escaping. From: GD 02 February 2013, 8.50pm CET

Chaerin ah... You can’t be the only one to sing all the time. Let oppa sing for you once. Listen to the lyrics. This is how I feel now. I miss you... so much so much... Chaerin opened the music file attached and clicked ‘Play’. Every day when I open my eyes, it still feels like you’re next to me Can’t I turn time back to when we were together? My heart wants to cry but I have no one to talk to *Now, I want to smile widely but *I don’t have you by my side My heart wants to cry but I have no one to talk to *Now, I want to smile widely but *I don’t have you by my side *Baby I’m missing you oh oh *Baby I’m missing you oh oh *Baby I’m missing you oh oh *Baby I’m missing you *Took the liberty to change some of the lyrics. [Last verse of GD’s ‘Missing You’] Her tears fell again. Oppa, this is unfair. How can you sing the same song as I did? And you even changed the lyrics... Are you really missing me? My head wants to trust you 142


But my heart is telling me not to... To: My Jingyo Oppa<3 02 February 2013, 9.05pm CET

Oppa... You are not playing fair... My heart is being torn in two... One side wants to believe that you are missing me.. The other side doesn’t want to believe it... What should I do? Chaerin switched off her phone because she knew if she were to receive one more message that night, she was going to give in and send him a reply. No! Lee Chaerin! You are stronger than this! She wasn’t kidding about the jet lag kicking in. After she switched off her phone, checked that everything was in place, she called the front desk to get them to give her a wake-up call the next morning. She laid down on the bed and was asleep within seconds. 3 February 2013, 4.45am Seoul, Big Bang’s Dorm Jiyong’s room Jiyong was pacing in his room because it finally hit him that Chaerin wasn’t going to respond. He had sent her a message an hour ago but there was no reply. He was worried sick. Even if YG had already reassured him that she had arrived safely at her destination. But that was the thing that frustrated him: he didn’t know where she is! He might appear to be aloof and nonchalant when it comes to Chaerin but he knew her every single move. If he couldn’t get information about her schedule from her, he would always ask her manager. And if the manager couldn’t tell him where she went, he would panic. Even when he was with his girlfriends.

143


If there were no contact from her for a whole day, he would employ his lullaby tactic. At first, he really did it simply because he needed a reason to contact her. But as time goes by, it became a reason to just hear her voice. He didn’t know why but her voice soothes him, comfort him like no others. Even when he was with his girlfriends. He could never understand why the frequency that he would call Chaerin up at night increased every time he was with another girl. It was as if I was afraid of losing her. He thought back to the first time he ever did that. September 2008 Jiyong was drunk. He just quarrelled with his latest girlfriend and he went drinking on his own. But he managed to make his way back home. When he stepped into his empty apartment, he felt alone. He took out his phone and hit speed dial number 1. “Lee Chaerin, pick up your phone!” The call connected but it was obvious that Chaerin was already asleep when he called. “Jingyo oppa?” “Chaerin ah, my HunChae... Are you sleeping already?” “Yes... Oppa, are you drunk? You sound weird...” “Chaerin ah... Oppa is feeling sad...” “Did you quarrel with your girlfriend again?” “How did you know?” “I just do. Oppa, treat her better. You are always so busy that you neglect 144


her.” “I know... But... Chaerin ah... I just feel sad and alone... I’m sitting here in my own apartment all alone and the first person I thought of is you...” Jiyong paused for a bit, then continued. “Chaerin ah, would you sing oppa a lullaby? I want to hear your voice. It always drive the loneliness away and fill me with warmth. Sing oppa a song ok?” This was the first time Jiyong had ever requested Chaerin to sing for him and it caught her by surprise. She decided that since he was drunk, there was no harm in singing this song as he was likely to forget every thing in the morning anyway. Just like always... “Ok oppa, I’d sing you a song.” Actually after our first meeting Saying I like you Isn’t something easy for me If I don’t contact you first I’m afraid of missing you I type out the text, hesitate a bit, then delete it again I keep repeating this process over and over If my love for you gets any deeper It will only result in getting hurting My fears are filling my mind This is the truth Praying with all my heart, the person I’m yearning for I believe that person is you Woo… I’m in love Woo… I’ll fall in love Never feel any more fear 145


As long as I’m with you The world is so beautiful I thought I’m never gonna fall in love But I’m in love, cause I wanna love you baby Actually from the first time I met you Somewhere deep in my heart You crashed in like a strong wave You’re the only thing in my mind all day I can be your good lover Wanna be your four-leafed clover It feels like I’ve become the happiest woman in the world Please you gotta believe me Make you never gonna leave me I won’t be suspicious, I’ll trust you Ahhh… I’m in love Ahhh… I’ll fall in love Never feel any more fear As long as I’m with you The world is so beautiful Woo… I’m in love (I’m so deep in love) Woo… I’ll fall in love Never feel any more fear As long as I’m with you The world is so beautiful You are so beautiful Song Title: I’m In Love (Original Singer: Ra.D) Cover: Narsha (Brown Eyed Girls) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQ-qyIxtW7Q When Chaerin finished the song, she smiled to herself. To her, it’s a song that expressed how she felt towards Jiyong and if this was the only way that she could sing this song for him, then she would take the chance.

146


“Jiyong oppa? Are you still there?” Hearing no response, Chaerin thought Jiyong had fallen asleep.” “Oppa, goodnight. Sweet dreams.” Jiyong smiled at the memory. He remembered how surprised he was when he heard her choice of song. He remembered tearing up because he knew she meant every single word that she sang. Yet, he knew that he could never let her know that he knew. Because it would change everything. At that time, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to change anything. Big Bang was starting to get the recognition that he craved for and Chaerin was going to debut soon with 2NE1. So he thought he would act dumb. Unconsciously, he started to distance himself a little a day from Chaerin because he was afraid. Yet at the same time, he can’t bring himself to distance himself too much from her. He needed his HunChae when the world was cold to him. Popularity was a double-edged sword. He choose to be selfish and enjoy the warmth that she gave to him unconditionally, without holding back. Now, he had to convince Chaerin that he wanted things to be different between them. How he’s going to achieve that, he had no idea, but he’s not going to give up. Suddenly what Seungri said to him that afternoon came to him. Maybe... Just maybe... He took out a piece of paper and wrote the heading “Things I should do to show Lee Chaerin that I love her” 1. Sing her a song that she likes ● I’m In Love (the first lullaby she ever sang for me) He decided that he would slowly add on to the list and prepare them for Chaerin. He really needed to show her that he’s really in love with her and 147


wants her by his side. Forever. Thinking about that gave him some semblance of peace. Rather than just crying and moaning over her departure, now he has some kind of a plan. And as if he had really heard that song again, he fell asleep smiling.

148


Chapter 26 3 February 2013 Seoul, 9am Jiyong woke up earlier than usual. Even though he only fell asleep at 5am and woke up at 8am, he felt more refreshed than usual. Maybe because he had not had such a good sleep in a long time. He woke up feeling energized, purposeful and everything seemed good. He decided that’s no time like now to start on the journey to look for himself. Whether it’s to seek or to heal, he’s open to all the possibilities. He decided to leave Youngbae a note since he’s usually the one who wakes up the earliest so they would not be worried. He slid the note under Youngbae’s door and left the dorm. To: Youngbae I’m starting on my journey to the past today. Don’t worry, you can still get me on the phone. I would be back this evening. Just thought I leave you a note in case you guys start panicking thinking that I left without a word too. ^^ See you later!! From: Ji Though he had no idea where he was going to go, he got into his car and started driving. After 30 minutes, he stopped at a familiar building and he smiled. It was the old YGE building. Compared to the new spunky building, this one was a little closer to heart. Although YGE don’t use this building anymore but the building still belongs to YG. He got out of his car and went to the front of the building. He saw the old security guard and said his greetings. “Aigoo~ If it isn’t our Jiyongie! It’s been a long time since we last saw you in this neighborhood. How have you been? Are you here alone? Where’s Youngbae?” “Min Yi ahjussi, I’m here alone today. Have you been well? Do take care of yourself. The weather is still cold. Have you been eating well?”

149


Jiyong was a little worried about the old man because he has been living alone for the last decade after his wife passed away. The trainees used to take turn bringing him food and visiting him once in a while. Speaking of which, I can’t remember the last time I visited... “Don’t worry about me. I have been well. Chaerin visits me every 2 weeks with home-cooked food. Yang sajangnim also comes here once in a while and he would bring me to the BBQ shop. What about you? Jiyong ah, you are becoming more and more skinny. And did you make our Chaerin angry? Because the last time she was here 2 days ago, she said she was leaving and won’t be back for a while. Son, listen to me, you have to catch her before it’s too late.” “Chaerin was here 2 days ago?” “Yes, she had her luggage with her. I asked her where she was going but she didn’t tell me. Her eyes were sad, Jiyong ah... Chaerin never had such sad eyes, not even when...” “Not even when?” “Every single time you got attached to a new girl, she would come back here and go to the practice room that all of you used to train in together. During those times, her eyes would be sadder than usual. She would sing herself hoarse, dance till her legs can’t hold her up anymore. It was as if she was trying to make herself so tired so she couldn’t feel anymore. It pained my heart to see her do that to herself. A few times, I told her to just give up on you, you know what she would say?” Jiyong was conflicted. He didn’t know if he really wanted to hear it. “What would she say?” The words came out before he could stop himself. “‘Min Yi ahjussi, are you telling me to cut out half of my heart?’ That’s what she would always say to me. But Jiyong, when I saw her 2 days ago, it really seemed like she had done just that. Other than the sadness, there was a quiet calm in her eyes, the kind of calm that only dead people has.” 150


The pang of pain that hit him in his heart was like no other that he had felt before. He remembered how he would always tell her in joy when he got attached to a new girl. Never once did she show her weakness to him but instead she would smile and congratulate him. You never saw the desolate figure when she walked away from you. Because you were too busy... Too busy looking at all the substitutes you got to replace her. “Jiyong?” “I never knew...” “That was one thing we were very worried about, that you don’t seem to know or realize the pain that you were inflicting on her. I don’t know whether to be happy that she has finally given up on you or...” Seeing the pained look that Jiyong had on his face caused the elderly man to stop mid-sentence. “Oh! Look at me go on and on. Chaerin asked me to pass something to you if you ever come round. Where did I put it...” Jiyong’s head snapped up when he heard that Chaerin had left something for him. “Ah! Here it is. Jiyong ah, here, this belongs to you.” When Jiyong opened the envelope and saw what was inside, he couldn’t help the tears that had forced their way out again. It was the dream card that YG had them write when they were trainees. “Chaerin told me that she found this on the floor of the locker room. It seemed to have fallen out of your locker and somehow ended up wedged between the lockers. She said this was very important to you. I told her if it was this important, then she should keep it and pass it to you when she sees you. She just gave me a sad smile and told me she has lost her rights to pass this to you because she was leaving you.” 151


“Ahjussi, I’m just going to go and sit inside for a while.” The elderly man nodded and didn’t say a word more. He knew that Jiyong was hurting as well. Boy, I hope you’d heal and then go find your heart soon... Jiyong walked into the practice room where he had shed tears, sweat and blood. He went and sat in his favorite corner. He took out the dream card and saw how Chaerin had painstakingly smoothened out the creases. Chaerin had lied to the old man. She didn’t pick the card from the floor. She had picked it up from the rubbish bin in the locker room. Jiyong remembered that fateful day clearly. It was the day when YG told him that he was going to debut as part of a group and he felt all his dreams had been dashed by that single announcement. January 2006 “F*&K F*&K F*&K F*&K F*&K!! I didn’t train my butt off for 8 years to debut as a boyband!! This is total bullshit!!!!” “Jiyong oppa, calm down. I’m sure there’s a good reason...” “Lee Chaerin, just go away! Don’t try to console me! I’m just not good enough to be a solo artiste!” At that point, he kicked the locker cabinet and his dream card dropped from the locker. He picked it up, looked at it one last time and gave a mock laugh. Then he crushed it and threw it inside the rubbish bin. He walked out of YGE building and never came back until 3 days later. Chaerin knew that he was acting out because his dreams have been dashed. Or so he thought. She walked over to the rubbish bin, picked up Jiyong’s dream card and smoothed out the creases. She looked at what he had written on his card. 152


Oppa, you would accomplish all these dreams one day, I believe in you. Without anyone’s knowledge, she took the card home, placed it in between some books to straighten it. When the creases were not as obvious, Chaerin had it laminated. Oppa, I will keep this on your behalf for now. I will be by your side to make sure that you will achieve these dreams of yours. Have faith in yourself. Jiyong looked at the laminated card that Chaerin had placed in an envelope. He took out the dream card and that was when he realized there was a note inside. He quickly took the note out and saw that it was Chaerin’s handwriting. His eyes devoured the familiar handwriting hungrily. For a minute, he just stared at the note because he realized that Chaerin did leave him something. Finally, he read the note. To: My dearest Jingyo oppa... Oppa, if you are reading this note, it probably meant that you have come searching for something. I do not know if this is what you are searching for but I want to tell you one thing: OPPA! ALL YOUR DREAMS HAVE COME TRUE! Sometimes, when things do not happen the way we want them to, we become angry and then lose sight of what we are working for. I believe you are very lucky to have Youngbae oppa, Seunghyun oppa, Daesung oppa and that crazy panda to keep you in line and showed you that you could still achieve your dreams even if it was not done your way. Please, always be thankful for them. I was privileged enough to witness you working towards your dreams even when you didn’t realize it. And that motivated me to run towards my own dreams too. Thank you for taking me along on this journey. You were and continue to be an inspiration to many. 153


Everyday, you are inspiring more dreams. So be proud of yourself too! Now, I must leave you, maybe for a short while, maybe for a longer time and I believe this dream card should go back to its rightful owner. Stay healthy, stay crazy, stay passionate! I’d be watching from afar. Love, Chaerin “LEE CHAERIN! WHO SAID YOU CAN LEAVE? WHO SAID YOU CAN WATCH FROM AFAR? YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO STAY BY MY SIDE!! YOU PROMISED!! HOW COULD YOU LEAVE ME ALONE?!! COME BACK... COME BACK...” Jiyong held the note and his dream card close to his heart and sat there in a foetal position. He was trying to contain the pain and not let it spread. But it was not working. The words in the note kept coming back to him. He thought he had finally come to terms with Chaerin leaving. But the note just reminded him of how he had acted out in anger, in denial. He had pushed Chaerin further and further away with every new girlfriend that he got, with all the atrocious drinking and involvement with drugs. He had no idea that these actions were his way of coping, his way of compensating his own heart for not being brave enough to seek out his other half. The other half of his heart, Lee Chaerin. Jiyong stayed in the practice room for the whole morning and only got up because his phone was ringing. Looking at the caller ID, he knew he had to pick up the call. “Youngbae, what’s up?” “Ji, are you ok? You don’t sound too good. Where are you?” “I’m at the old YGE building.” 154


“Oh...” “I’m on my way back now.” “I only called to tell you that we are meeting the girls for lunch and to ask if you want to come along. Since you are at the old YGE building, we will meet you there and go to the BBQ restaurant that we used to go.” Jiyong was about to refuse because he wasn’t really up to being around the couples. But then he remembered what Chaerin said in the note about being thankful for his members. Then he also remembered that their boss had told the girls to not be out and about until after the press conference. The leader in him kicked in. “Youngbae ah, why don’t we gather at the girls’ dorm and eat in? Have you forgotten that the girls are not supposed to be out and about until after the press conference? Call the girls to let them know about the change in plans and you guys meet me at the supermarket near our dorm to buy the food then we would go over. We can do BBQ at home too.” “You are right. I totally forgot that they are not to be seen out in public. Ok, I’d call Dara noona and let her know that we are coming over with food instead. We’ll meet you at the supermarket in 30 minutes then?” “Yes, see you in 30 minutes. And you are still calling your girlfriend ‘noona’?” “She likes it so yeah...” “Ok, stop right there. I don’t want to know. See you in a bit.” Jiyong ended the phone call. He opened his inbox and decided to send Chaerin a message. To: CL (all 5 numbers) 03 February 2013 12.38pm KST

Chaerin ah, Thank you for protecting my dreams for me. And for being there every step of the way.

155


I have a new dream now, Do you want to know what it is? If you want to know, you would have to come back. Please come back to me soon, ok? I’d be right here waiting. He took out a pen that he always carries with him because you never know when inspiration will strike and scribbled a note on the back of Chaerin’s note. Then he put the note back into the envelope, together with the dream card and exited the building. “Min Yi ahjussi, thank you for keeping this for me.” “Jiyong ah, I hope you got the answers you were searching for.” “Not yet, but I feel better now. It was a blow to me when Chaerin left without a word, without saying ‘Goodbye’ but I guess there isn’t a need to when she’s going to be back one day. Or I’d go to her. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I know that I have to have her by my side.” “I’m glad to hear that. Everyone knows that you were meant for each other except maybe yourself. Now that you have realized it, that’s a good thing.” “Maybe a part of me has always known but it’s the part of me that I have shut out for way too long. Better late than never I guess. Min Yi ahjussi, this is my number. If you ever need anything, please do not hesitate to call. You took care of us when we were young kids training here. Allow us to give back some of that kindness as well.” The two men shared a smile and the elder man was glad that the younger one looked better than he did before he entered the building. “Son, I hope you will find your heart soon. But if you listen, you would know. Good luck!” “Stay well, Min Yi ahjussi! I’d come back soon.” His phone beeped. He thought that it was Youngbae messaging to ask where he was. But when he opened his inbox and saw that there was a message from an unknown number. He quickly opened the message, thinking that it 156


might be from Chaerin. From: OLLEH We could not deliver your SMS to the following number: 010-08028891 This could be because the inbox is full or the phone has run out of memory. Please check with the holder of the number and send it again. Thank you. Jiyong smiled. Even though it was not from Chaerin but now the list of 5 contactable numbers just became smaller. He deleted the number from his phone. He knew that Chaerin would clear her inbox especially if the messages were not important. So if the inbox is full, it just meant that the number is not the one sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s using. 1 down, 4 more to go. He got into his car, feeling much better than he had ever felt in a long time.

157


Chapter 27 3 February 2013 Milan, 8am Chaerin woke up from her sleep, feeling surprisingly refreshed and light, like something had been lifted off her chest. She was surprised because she woke up so many times when she first fell asleep to Jiyong’s voice shouting her name. She finally dismissed it as her hallucinating. But from 3am onwards, her sleep was peaceful and she got one of the best night of sleep. Maybe it’s because I’m away from Jiyong oppa... Even as the thought came to her, she pushed it away. No matter what, she was happy to start her new day feeling fresh. She headed to the bathroom for a shower to start her day. After she was done, she went to switch on her phone. The beep no longer surprised her. She picked up her phone and saw that there were 2 messages waiting for her. From: YG sajangnim 03 February 2013 2.43am CET

Call me when you are awake. She had the intention to anyway since she had to let her boss know that she was moving to an apartment so that didn’t come as a surprise. And though she had expected Jiyong to message her, the content of the message surprised her. She didn’t expect him to get what she left for him so quickly. From: GD 03 February 2013 4.38am CET

Chaerin ah, Thank you for protecting my dreams for me. And for being there every step of the way. I have a new dream now, Do you want to know what it is? If you want to know, you would have to come back. Please come back to me soon, ok? I’d be right here waiting.

158


She smiled, it was the first message that he seemed calm. She looked at the time that the message came in. Was that why my sleep got better after 3am last night? I guess no matter how far I run, the connection is still there. She sent a reply. To: My Jingyo Oppa<3 03 February 2013, 8.12am CET

Oppa, you seemed calmer and more at peace now. Did you find what you were looking for? Like I said in my note, you were an inspiration to me to run after my dreams. And I believe that I have achieved part of my dreams. Does your new dream involve me? Why do I have to go back to know? I guess you would just have to wait a while more, oppa. She was about to call YG when her phone beeped again. She thought that it was Jiyong but it wasn’t. When she saw the message, she laughed out loud. From: Jay Oppa :) 03 February 2013, 8.15am CET

I hope you have got lots of banana for me! You girls kept calling me a ‘Monkey’ that I seemed to just evolved into one! Bought this on our way back to the apartment last night! To: Jay Oppa :) 03 February 2013, 8.17am CET

Monkey oppa, please tell me that you are not going to wear that when you are out with us today. From: Jay Oppa :) 03 February 2013, 8.19am CET

I’m actually a prince under a curse. I need a princess to kiss me back to human form. Any volunteers? To: Jay Oppa :) 03 February 2013, 8.20am CET

Does that mean that we have to go to the zoo and leave you there 159


today? Since you are quite fit, I’m sure the zoo will be glad to take you in. :p Ok, oppa, I need to call my boss. I’d see you at the apartment later ok? Chaerin dialled YG’s number and waited for her boss to pick up her call. She was checking the room to make sure that she didn’t leave anything important behind. “Hello, Chaerin?” “Hello, YG sajangnim~ Good morning!” “Well, it’s already 4.25pm in Seoul. So, what’s happening today?” “I’m checking out of the hotel now and moving to the apartment. Turns out that the apartment belongs to Jae Beom oppa’s cousin. After that, we will be going to Lake Como to do the recording for the press conference.” “Wait, who’s the ‘we’?” “Jae Beom oppa, his cousin and me.” “How come Jae Beom-ssi is in the picture?” “I just happen to run into him yesterday at the cafe and I was telling him that I was looking for an apartment then he told me that his cousin was looking to rent out her apartment because she’s going to go on her world tour soon.” “When is his cousin leaving?” “The day after tomorrow.” “Is Jae Beom-ssi leaving on that day too?” “No, he would be here for another week.” “And is he staying in the same apartment with you?” “Yes...”

160


“Chaerin ah, you cannot move into the apartment today. In fact, you can’t move in until Jae Beom-ssi leaves Milan. I don’t even think you should go to Lake Como with him today.” “But his cousin is coming along as well. I promise this is the only time that I’d be out with him while he’s here. I’d stay in the apartment for the rest of the week. I’d be careful.” “What are you going to do about food? I still feel very uneasy that you will be under the same roof with a guy.” “Sajangnim, you have to trust me. Nothing will happen. On our way back, we will buy enough grocery for the week and I will cook at home for the rest of the week.” “Chaerin ah...” “Appa, I’d be alright. I know what I can do and what I can’t. Don’t you trust me?” “Ok, fine. When you arrive at your apartment, give me a call. I want to talk to him personally.” “Appa!” “Chaerin, you know I could easily tell Jiyong where you are and he would be there in a snap. I just want to talk to him.” “Ok, alright. Don’t let Jiyong oppa know. He would slaughter me and then skin Jay oppa alive.” Both of them laughed. “I know. I do not want to add murder to his list of crimes too.” “I’d call you when I arrive at the apartment.” Chaerin ended the call and decide to give Jay some warning about YG’s phone call. 161


To: Jay Oppa :) 03 February 2013 8.30am CET

WARNING! My boss wants to talk to you later when I arrive at the apartment. He was worried about me staying with you in the same apartment. From: Jay Oppa :) 03 February 2013 8.33am CET

I guess I can’t wear the monkey suit then. Don’t worry, I’d be on my best behaviour. Are you coming over now? To: Jay Oppa :) 03 February 2013 8.35am CET

Yup! Doing my last minute check to make sure I didn’t leave any evidence behind. From: Jay Oppa :) 03 February 2013 8.37am CET

Ok, see you then! Even though Chaerin was aware that her boss was just looking out for her when he said he wanted to speak to Jay, she still can’t help but feel uneasy about it. She hoped that her boss won’t say anything too mean to him. To: YG sajangnim 03 February 2013 8.40am CET

Appa~ Promise me that you will not threaten Jay oppa in any way. He just went out of his way to help me and that’s not how I want to repay his goodwill ok? Chaerin waited anxiously for a reply and when it came, she was relieved. From: YG sajangnim 03 February 2013, 8.45am CET

Knocking an aspiring talent down is never my style. I respect the kind of determination and passion he has for his craft. I won’t initiate any kind of lock-down on his activities. In fact, I’m thinking of asking him to feature in TOP or Taeyang’s next album. Don’t worry alright?

162


To: YG sajangnim 03 February 2013, 8.47am CET

Thank you. I’d talk to you again soon after we get the video done. Chaerin picked up her bags and hurried down to the lobby to check-out of her room. Once that was done, she hopped onto a cab and went over to Shin-Yi’s apartment. In the meantime, YG had called up his PR department and got the social media ‘police’ team to monitor Jay’s postings on all his social media accounts. Better safe than sorry. Any rumor between him and Chaerin would not do both of them any good. He wasn’t lying when he told Chaerin that he was thinking of getting Jay to be featured in either TOP or Taeyang’s next album. Jay is a talent pretty much like GD, just that he was not given the space to do his own things during his days with 2PM. Now he has one more motive to get him to cooperate with Big Bang in some ways. He wanted him to give Jiyong information about where Chaerin is. While he did promise Chaerin that he was not going to tell anyone where she was but he can’t control the people outside his immediate control. Plus it would be interesting to see how Jiyong react in the eye of a competitor. YG chuckled and thought of how he would approach Jay. Chaerin arrived at the apartment and Jay was at the lift lobby to help her with the luggage. She greeted Shin-Yi and went to put her luggage in her room. She stopped Jay from leaving the room. “Jay oppa, I’m sorry that my boss is going to put you through this. I tried to reassure him that it would be alright but the only way he would allow me to stay at the apartment with you, without telling Ji...” Jay noted the hesitation when it came to mentioning Jiyong’s name again. He smiled reassuringly at her.

163


“Don’t worry about it. I’m actually glad that your boss is so protective over you. Though part of it is because it would be a PR hell if we are caught in a scandal all the way in Europe, but actually asking to talk to me goes beyond the protective nature of a boss. I will reassure him that I am aware of the dangers we are in and I would not expose you to such unnecessary dangers. Maybe I should show him the monkey suit.” “Don’t you dare! He would not take you seriously if you do that.” “Chaerin, I want you to be at ease here. So if I have to talk to your boss so that he can have a peace of mind, then that’s what I would do.” “Thank you, again. Sometimes I really hope that YG is not so protective over us.” “You should be glad that he’s willing to let you do what you want. At least he listens to what you want right? He just wants to make sure that you are in a safe environment where you can do what you want to do.” “I know. Alright, are you ready? I’d call him now.” Jay nodded and sat down at the couch in the room. “Hello YG sajangnim, I’m at the apartment already.” “Ah ok. Pass the phone to Jae Beom-ssi then.” “Sajangnim, remember what you promised.” “I know. I want to talk to him alone.” “Sajangnim!” “Don’t worry about it. I will keep my promise.” Chaerin turned to Jay with a worried look on her face. Jay mouthed ‘It’s ok’ and motioned for her to pass him the phone. Only after Chaerin had left the room and closed the door did Jay put the phone to his ear. “Yang seonsaengnim, hello to you. I’m Jae Beom.” 164


“Jae Beom-ssi, let’s not be too formal. I’m going to call you ‘Jay’. To be honest, I’m against Chaerin staying in the same apartment as you. I’m sure you are aware why too.” “Sir, I’m fully aware of that. Can I reassure you that I would not put Chaerin in any unnecessary danger that would cause her location to be exposed or that she’s staying in the same apartment as I am?” “Can I persuade you to move out and stay in a hotel for the rest of your stay in Milan? YGE will bear all the cost.” “Sir, the reason why I want to stay at the apartment is not because I cannot afford to pay for a room at the hotel. When I saw Chaerin at the cafe yesterday, she looked so alone and sad. She looked like she needed a friend, a familiar face. Otherwise, I would have just walked away because I am fully aware that if a scandal were to break out between the 2 of us, it would be hell for all parties involved.” Jay paused, waiting for YG to say something. When he didn’t, Jay continued. “Sir, I know how getting into a scandal would affect a lot more people than just the immediate parties. YGE is a well-known company internationally and if I were to get into a scandal with Chaerin, it means that all the artistes in your company would be affected. I promise you that I would not put Chaerin, or YGE in that situation.” “Jay, I know what you went through 4 years ago was tough and I’m sorry if I have insinuated otherwise. Alright, you can stay with Chaerin for the remaining time that you are going to be in Milan. But as a senior and as her boss, I have to let you know that I have my PR team monitoring your social media channels. I know that your present company gives you free rein when it comes to social media and your fans are used to your way of expressing yourself. I don’t need you to change that. I just want to make sure that Chaerin’s location will not be exposed in any manner and that no connections to you can be drawn. You might think of it as an interference, but rest assured, I just have Chaerin’s interest at heart.” “Sir, I’m well-aware of that and let’s just say we are on the same page when

165


it comes to Chaerin’s well-being.” “You are not by any chance interested in our Chaerin are you?” Jay laughed out loud at the question. “No sir, while I’m extremely fond of Chaerin, I know she’s out of bounds.” YG gave a hearty laugh at what Jay said. “Oh, why? Is it just because she’s from my company?” “Sir, I’m sure you know that I have always wanted to work with Chaerin. And I have a feeling the only reason why it never falls through is because someone is preventing it from happening. Strangely, I don’t think that person is you.” “So you know huh?” “She’s been extremely sensitive when it comes to him. But I have also seen the 2 of them together, so I know. The question is does he?” “Jay, I actually need your help.” “What do you mean...” “I promise you that you will get the chance to work with Chaerin when she decides to come back. In return, I want you to be one of the featured artistes for either TOP or Taeyang’s solo album.” “Why?” “Other than the fact that you are talented? I want you to tell Jiyong where Chaerin is but indirectly.” “Why can’t you just tell Jiyong yourself?” “I made a promise to Chaerin that I would not do that. But I can’t help it if he found out from other avenues right?”

166


“Sir, you are a crafty one. How do you propose I do it?” Jay listened to YG as he outlined a possible plan. Jay smiled and shook his head in amazement. Who would have thought that YG would play cupid? “I understand fully. Once again, let me express my admiration and respect for you, sir. I just have 1 question. Why are you doing this?” “I want them to be happy. They are more like my children than just my artistes. I watched them grow up, train and run towards their dreams. I am aware of how much they have to give up in order to stand on that stage. Alright, I’d be in touch time and again. I will talk to your CEO about asking you to be featured.” “What about JYP? I know you are close to him as well. Won’t he say something about you letting me do a feature with your artistes?” “Jay, I might be close to JYP but I was never in agreement to how you were treated during the outbreak of your supposed scandal. Nothing is more important to me than the well-being of my artistes. And no one tells me how to run my own company. I’d see you when you come back from Milan. Remember to bring gifts.” “Sir, I would definitely do that. Thank you.” Jay got off the call with YG and went out of the room to find an anxious Chaerin pacing outside. Shin-Yi was trying her best to calm Chaerin down. Jay walked up to her and gave her back her phone. She looked at Jay, as if trying to see if any injuries had been inflicted. “So?” Chaerin looked at him questioningly. “Nothing. We had a good chat and I must say your boss is a very interesting man. And yes, I can stay here with you.” “He didn’t say anything mean to you?” “Nah, we had a very good chat and since we are on the same page when it 167


comes to your safety, there isn’t much of a problem.” “Oh ok.” “Noona, are you ready to go? We are running late! We have to go to the telco first, remember?” “I’m ready to leave whenever. Chaerin?” “I just need to get my overnight bag from the room.” Once Chaerin got her bag, Jay took it from her and the three of them left to go to Lake Como in high spirits. Chaerin and Shin-Yi walked close to each other while Jay kept a safe distance from the 2 of them. But he was vigilant and made sure that no one came close to Chaerin.

168


Chapter 28 3 February 2013 Lake Como, 7.30pm After visiting the scenic spots in Lake Como, they found a Bed & Breakfast and settled there for the night. Chaerin and Shin-Yi shared a room while Jay came in much later than they did and got himself a single room. They did the video recording in Jay’s room though. Chaerin was careful to make sure that there were no reflective surfaces behind her when she did the recording and that there was no way for anyone to find out where she was. Netizens have got crazy observation skills. What she didn’t know was that Jay let the camcorder continue running after the ‘formal’ recording. YG told him that Jiyong would probably want a copy of the video after the press conference so he thought he would leave a surprise for Jiyong. Of course, YGE will air the edited video. The raw one is only for Jiyong’s eyes. After accomplishing the main mission of recording for the press conference, the three went down for dinner. Jay has his own camcorder with him and he took more footage of Chaerin. He made sure to have his voice recorded and he even appeared in a few frames. He put his camcorder away and went to sit beside Chaerin on the swing. The whole sky was filled with twinkling stars and the two of them just sat there and looked at the sky. “What are you thinking about?” Jay broke the silence but Chaerin didn’t turn to look at him. She continued looking at the sky, lost in her own thoughts. Suddenly she started singing. You're just too good to be true Can't take my eyes off of you You'd be like heaven to touch I wanna hold you so much At long last love has arrived And I thank God I'm alive You're just too good to be true

169


Can't take my eyes off of you Jay clapped and that stopped Chaerin. “Chaerin, that was beautiful. Sing it again.” Chaerin smiled, looked up at the sky and started singing again. She didn’t notice that Jay had taken his phone out and started recording. Chaerin started singing from the beginning of the song again. As the first verse was coming to an end, Jay touched Chaerin’s shoulders and signaled that he was going to join in. Instead of singing the verse, he rapped it. Pardon the way that I stare There's nothing else to compare The sight of you leaves me weak, weak, weak There are no words left to speak But if you feel like I feel Please let me know that it's real You're just too good to be true Can't take my eyes off of you I need you baby, (uh, uh, I need you baby girl) and if it's quite all right, I need you baby to warm a lonely night (make my nights lonely no more) I love you baby (I love you baby) Trust in me when I say OK Oh pretty baby, don't let me down (Nah ah I won’t) I pray. Oh pretty baby, now that I found you, stay. And let me love you, (I love you) oh baby let me love you, (I love you) oh baby.... Both of them burst out laughing when it’s done. They did a high five and congratulated themselves for a very successful, impromptu collaboration.

170


“You know, I did a cover of that song and put it on YouTube. I even added a rap at the end of it.” “I just love Lauryn Hill. Thought of my dad just now so this song just came to me.” Her phone beeped signaling a new message. She took out her phone and saw that she got a new message. From: GD 3 February 2013 8pm CET

Day 3 of you not by my side. Today wasn’t as bad as yesterday. Not because I missed you any less But because I’m more sure of what I want now. Baby, it’s you. See you in my dreams. Goodnight, sweetheart of mine. Dream of me wherever you are too. Chaerin smiled and put her phone away. She would reply to his message later. “Jay oppa, have you ever had someone whom you can’t take your eyes off of?” It was Jay’s turn to go quiet. His conversation with his cousin last night came back to him. “Yes, but I had to send her away before she was hurt by people who love me. Chaerin, our life is quite ironic at times, don’t you think? For the people who love us, we have to give up on the one we love.” Chaerin smiled, a sad smile. “But oppa, we choose this life, didn’t we?” Silence prevailed again between the two of them. “What about you? Who’s the lucky guy that you can’t take your eyes off?”

171


“Right now, no one.” “Which means there was one before that. Who would that be? Jiyong?” Chaerin turned to look at Jay with some amount of shock in her eyes. “How...” “Chaerin, I’m not stupid. Every time his name came up these 2 days, you would let it drop. And while I believe that you are really in Milan for your dream as a fashion designer, I believe you are escaping too.” Chaerin had gone back to staring at the stars again. “He’s always so far away, like the stars in the sky. Even if he’s the only star in my sky, I’m just one in the million looking at him, from afar.” “Do you really think that he doesn’t see you?” Chaerin just kept quiet and continued staring at the sky. “To be honest, I don’t want to know the answer anymore. Either way, it’s going to be really painful. So I decided to run. I thought that if I were under a different sky, I would not be able to see him anymore.” She swallowed the tears that were fighting with her. “But he’s still everywhere.” “Chaerin, you think that he’s very far away but he’s not. He’s part of you, he’s inside your heart. I know how it feels. I wanted to shut her out as well, I ran, I hid, I hurt myself but she’s still there. Because I can’t get rid of her. To get rid of her would mean I have to kill myself first.” “Then why are you not going after her?” “Why are you running away from him then?” Both of them looked at each other, and then laughed.

172


“Just stay here for a while and run after your dreams. Maybe for once, wait for him to run after you.” Chaerin didn’t say anything. Would you? Jiyong oppa, would you run after me? “Alright, I’d better get back to my cousin. I want to spend some time with her as well before she leaves. Do you need anything?” Chaerin nodded and gestured for Jay to go join his cousin. To: My Jingyo Oppa<3 03 February 2013 9pm CET

Oppa, you have always been my dream, my star. I have never taken my eyes off you before. Until now. You have gotten too bright, too brilliant, That I begin to wonder if you can still see me Standing amidst the millions who stand with me Staring at their star, G-Dragon. But I only see Kwon Jiyong Would Kwon Jiyong ever see Lee Chaerin? 30 January 2013 Chaerin was packing her room since she had decided to leave Korea 2 days later. She couldn’t be too obvious since she didn’t want to alert her members. After she was done with her clothes and some of the essentials that she would need in Italy, she went to her closets and opened the bottom drawer. Inside the drawer, there was a few file folders and 3 big photo albums. She took them out and flipped through them. There were 6 so far. Inside each folder were newspaper clippings about Big Bang. From their debut, the awards they have gotten, to each of their scandals, she had painstakingly collected them and organized them in the file folders. Inside the photo albums, were photos that she either took of Jiyong for each 173


of his earlier performances. As time passed, she only managed to get screen captures from fan cameras present at the various performances and events. She took out the ribbon that she bought, piled the file folders together and tied them up. She wrote a note and paste it on the top: Oppa, through the good and the bad, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m right there beside you. :) She gathered the photo albums, did the same thing. The note read: Your Forever VIP. She put both the file folders and the photo albums into a box. Finally, she walked over to her bed and took out one more photo album from under her pillow. Inside this photo album were pictures of her and Jiyong from their trainee days to Big Bangâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s debut to present day. Her heart ached at how in the later years, the only time they took a picture together was for either YG family promotional materials and public appearances. After 2009, Jiyong never appeared in any of her photos on her birthdays. That particular birthday was particularly difficult. It was also after that birthday that she decided that she had to keep her distance from him. As she reached the last page of that photo album, she had given in to her tears. One last time... This is the last time Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d be seeing these pictures. Oppa, I have to put you away. On the inside of the back cover, she wrote: The days past, Thank you for being there in my memories. I do not know when did our paths start diverging from each other And I do not know when they will meet again. My Jingyo Oppa, Annyeong... From her bag, she took out one more item and placed it inside the box, something that she had been carrying with her wherever she goes. She

174


sealed the box, sealing her memories and her past with her Jingyo oppa. From now on, He would only be Kwon Jiyong to her. “Chaerin ah~ It’s getting cold, let’s go inside for some tea before going to bed?” Shin-Yi’s voice broke through her thoughts. She turned to see Shin-Yi standing next to her. She quickly dabbed the tears from her cheeks and gave her a smile. “Chaerin ah, there is no need to smile if you don’t want to. You are going through a difficult period so if you are hurting, there is no need to put on a strong front for my sake or for Jay’s sake, ok?” Chaerin nodded and stood up to give Shin-Yi a hug. When she pulled away, she took Shin-Yi’s hand and mouthed ‘Thank you unnie’. Both girls smiled and then walked into the Bed & Breakfast where Jay was already waiting with a pot of tea. They were lucky that most of the weekend crowd had left Lake Como so they pretty much had the whole place to themselves. The three of them chatted, looked at the photographs that Jay took and laughed themselves silly at some of the stunts that Jay pulled. At the end of the day, each of them retired to their own room. Chaerin logged into her Twitter account and saw Taeyang’s picture of Big Bang messing around, bullying Seungri with Gaho at the side. She saw the ‘Follower Request’ from Jay and hesitated for a minute but decided to approve the request. In turn, she added Jay into the list of the people she’s following as well. @Cielo_Lealta: I wanted to run to another sky where my star isn’t there but he’s here in my heart all along. At that moment, Jay also tweeted. @JAYBUMAOM: Run all you can, but you can’t run away from your own heart.

175


Chaerin knew that was a tweet in reply to her tweet. She put aside her iPad and sent one more message to her boss. To: YG sajangnim 04 February 2013 1.30am CET

Sajangnim, I did the video today. Do you want me to send the video file to you? From YG sajangnim 04 February 2013 1.32am CET It’s ok. Can you pass the video file to Jay? I don’t want you to send it online because there is a possibility that it can be traced. I’m setting up a meeting with him after he’s back in Seoul. The fans seemed to have calmed down after seeing the photo that the girls tweeted. Chaerin was a little surprised at YG’s request but he had a point. It was easy to track online activities. To: YG sajangnim 04 February 2013 1.35am CET

Alright, I’d pass it to Jay oppa then. Sajangnim, remember the box I pass to you 2 days before I left? It is still with you right? You have to keep that box safe for me alright? From: YG sajangnim 04 February 2013 1.38am CET

Yes, the box is still with me. I am keeping it safe from Jiyong, don’t worry. To: YG sajangnim 04 February 2013 1.40am CET

Thank you! Goodnight! 4 February 2013 Seoul, 9.40am YGE At that very moment in Seoul, someone knocked on YG’s door. It was one of the personnel from the PR social media ‘police’ team.

176


“Sir, you told us to report any strange activity as soon as we see any.” “Did Seungri go on a drunken spam again?” “It’s not Seungri, in fact, it’s not one of our artiste.” That got YG’s attention. “Who is it then?” “Jay Park, sir.” “What’s wrong?” “He just added someone with the user ID ‘Cielo_Lealta’ to his follower’s list.” “And why is that a strange activity? He has the freedom to add whoever he wants.” “Both ID just used the same ISP in Italy to send a tweet.” “Well, it could be someone that Jay just met wherever he is.” “Sir, ‘Cielo’ means ‘Sky’ in Italian and ‘Lealta’ means ‘Faith’. We think this might be Chaerin’s Twitter account.” That got YG’s attention. “So what has this new account been tweeting?” “It’s a locked account but we managed to hack into the account. The tweet about Gaho kind of confirmed our suspicion.” “Alright then, file this information away but don’t let anyone in the company know about it.” “Do you want us to follow this account as well?” “Yes, keep an eye on it, but don’t run interference. I don’t want her to know that we know of this account.”

177


â&#x20AC;&#x153;I understand, sir.â&#x20AC;? The personnel left YGâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s office. YG took his phone out and sent a message. When he got a reply, he smiled. He sent another message to the person. Oh, this is going to be interesting.

178


Chapter 29 3 February 2013, 2pm Seoul, 2NE1 Dorm After Jiyong met up with the rest of the Big Bang members at the supermarket and got what they needed for a BBQ lunch, they headed over to 2NE1’s dorm. Jiyong had gone back to the dorm and left his car at their dorm. But he remembered to bring the envelope containing the dream card and Chaerin’s note with him. They went over in Youngbae’s car. Jiyong sat in the passenger seat and the other 3 members were sitting at the back. The boys were all making fun of TOP and the box of corn he got for his goddess. His only defence was that he won’t have to keep making trips to the supermarket whenever she has a craving for it. “But hyung, that is a gesture of caring too no? Whenever Minzy wants me to get something for her, I feel that I mattered because she thought of me first.” “Dae, you have NO idea how fast she will finish this box of corn do you? I give her 3 days. Yes, 3 days for the whole box.” “Where does all of that go? Her body is perfect.” “YA! Lee Seunghyun! You are not supposed to look at my girlfriend in that way!” TOP smacked the maknae’s head. “What do you want me to do? Cover my eyes and not look? Or am I supposed to make myself blind now?” “You can just keep it to yourself.” “Ji hyung! You are supposed to be on my side! We are the singles team!” “All I’m saying is you don’t have to tell everyone what’s going on in your head. You really don’t want 3 of them to go crazy on you whenever you 179


make a comment about their girlfriends.” “Alright then, you have a point. So out of 2NE1, only Chaerin is fair game right? Cool, after all, she does have the best body. EXACTLY my type.” Everyone just went silent. The temperature in the car dropped a few notches. Seungri glanced to his left and TOP simply shook his head at him and looked out of the window. He looked to his right and saw that Daesung’s face had gone pale. “Youngbae, stop the car.” “Ji, he’s just joking, don’t take it to heart.” “Stop the car.” Seungri knew he was in BIG trouble. He looked to Youngbae for help. Youngbae stopped the car. “Lee Seunghyun, get out.” “Ji hyung...” “Get out.” “Ji, you can’t leave him here in the middle of the road. You don’t want to start the unnecessary rumor that we are fighting among ourselves.” Jiyong breathed in deep, remembering Chaerin’s note. It’s almost as if he could almost hear her voice reprimanding him. One day, one day, I will hear your voice again... In my ears and in my heart where it matters... “Lee Seunghyun, listen very very very carefully. If you ever dare make a single indecent remark about Chaerin, you are out. Do you understand? You’d better put this down as one of the thing you have to thank Chaerin for.”

180


“Why do I have to thank her?” Youngbae started the car before Jiyong changed his mind about leaving the stupid panda in the middle of the road. Then he looked over to Jiyong and noticed that there was a certain calm about him, something that has been missing for the past 2 days. No, wrong... Something that has been missing for the last 5 years... Ever since 2008, after they gained the recognition as Big Bang. “Did you find something at the old YGE building?” Jiyong looked at Youngbae and smiled. Yes, that smile too... Youngbae found himself tearing up. He stopped the car suddenly, shocking the 3 members in the backseat. He turned towards Jiyong and gave him a hug. Jiyong returned his hug and the tears that have quietly gathered in his eyes slid down silently. After the two best friends shared a moment, Youngbae pulled back and said simply. “Long time no see, my friend. Don’t leave again, please?” Jiyong wiped his tears with his long-sleeve shirt and nodded. TOP reached over and gave Jiyong a squeeze on his shoulders. “Welcome back.” There was a bit of a tremor in the eldest member’s voice as well. He had known Jiyong when they were both young and full of dreams. He knew that standing as a member of 5 was never part of their dream. But TOP found his own peace when he got to do music, he got to stand in front of his fans and got to express himself. But he had seen Jiyong withdraw more and more into himself as they got 181


more popular. It was like he felt he was betraying himself for enjoying that popularity. So while he wasn’t as fast to pick up on it as Youngbae but the moment he saw the two of them hug each other, he was reminded of his old friend, Kwon Jiyong. It has truly been a long time. Jiyong looked at TOP and smiled that smile that everyone had missed. Daesung smiled at Jiyong as well. “Ji hyung, it’s really been a long time.” Seungri simply took out his phone and started typing in his phone. “Done.” Youngbae started the car again. He didn’t want whatever Seungri has done to cause Jiyong to change his mind again. “I’m almost afraid to ask but I think I have to. Maknae, what did you just do?” Jiyong said in a very tired voice because he couldn’t decide if he wanted to know. “I just said ‘thank you’ to Chaerin.” “And where did you send that message to?” “It’s a secret. I can’t tell you.” “Seungri ah, I’m hungry and I really want to see Minzy, please don’t do this. Just tell Ji hyung already.” “I tweeted it.” “Pabo ah, she doesn’t have a Twitter account. Why would you send her a tweet.” “It doesn’t matter. She can still check our Twitter update by going to our Twitter page.”

182


“And what exactly did you tweet?” “‘Chaerin ah, thank you for giving Ji hyung back to us!’” “Delete it. NOW.” At that very moment, Seungri’s phone rang. His face paled when he saw who was calling. YG sajangnim. He answered the call gingerly. “Hello sajangnim...” He didn’t get far as he heard what Jiyong just told him being shouted by his boss. “...AND IF YOU DO SOMETHING THIS STUPID AGAIN, I’D TAKE AWAY YOUR PHONE, DE-ACTIVATE ALL YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS AND LOCK YOU UP!!!!” “Yes, sajangnim, I won’t do that again. I will delete the tweet right away.” But of course, that tweet had been screen captured before Seungri could delete it and it went viral. The fans were all talking about it and were throwing all sorts of theories in the air. However, within the next 2 hours, every single mention, every single retweet, every single post on Facebook or ANY social media and website, was wiped off. Any new post was deleted or disappeared immediately. No one could find a trace of what had happened. The social media ‘police’ team had done it again, with the help that Jiyong managed to get from a close friend of his who had always helped him when he needed some information deleted from the Internet. The rest of the ride to the girls’ dorm was rather uneventful. How a short ride that usually took only 15 minutes would take them 3 times the time stumped all of them.

183


When they finally arrived at the girls’ dorm, everyone was just glad to make the ride without any more mishap. The very moment the girls saw their boyfriend, they pulled them into the apartment, helped them put away the grocery bags then they hugged them tight. The 3 attached boys were of course over the moon while the 2 single members shot them deadly glares which went totally unnoticed. “Oh god, seriously you guys! Can you just let go of each other already? It’s not like it’s been that long since you last saw each other.” “Don’t listen to him. A second away from you is a second too long.” Daesung looked at Minzy when he said that and that caused Minzy to blush beautifully. Daesung, upon seeing the blush, cupped her face and kissed her on each of the cheeks. Then hugged her close again and whispered in her ears. “Minzy ah, thank you.” “Why, oppa?” “Because of you, I found me back. I found my smile back. And of course, I found you.” “I’m glad. I was so afraid that I would lose you when that terrible incident happened. But it brought me closer to you. Oppa, don’t ever leave me that way again alright?” “Actually, I have always wanted to ask. How did the 3 of you get together?” Jiyong could not help being affected by the warm atmosphere that was coming from his members and the 2NE1 girls. He had to know. “I suggest we do that over lunch since Bom noona looks like she’s going to start throwing their knife collection at you for taking so long to get here with the food.” “I’m ok now that I saw my box of corn. But let’s get lunch started!”

184


The 8 idols didn’t dine as global idol stars that day. That day, they were simply who they are: people in their twenties, enjoying a meal together with their friends. The whole lunch was filled with gossips and teasing. The 3 boys also talked about how they got together with their girlfriend and that brought out rounds of laughter and envy from the 2 single men. “Say, did something happen today? It feels different, especially Jiyong-kun.” Bom finally made the observation and spoke her mind. Jiyong smiled that smile that everyone had missed and that brought the look of wonderment to the girls. “I found my long-forgotten self and Chaerin’s note to me.” “WHAT?! SHOW!!” All 7 were shocked to hear what Jiyong just said. Jiyong took out the envelope carefully and when Seungri tried to snatch it away, he looked sternly at him. “Don’t you dare tear it.” “I won’t, I promise.” Seungri exercised the same amount of care to the envelope like what he did when he was opening the letter from Chaerin. When he took out the dream card and realized what it was, his eyes went wide and tears started swimming in his eyes. “She kept this for you?” Youngbae finally saw what it was and was surprised. He remembered Jiyong coming back to YGE 3 days later and was rummaging through the rubbish bin trying to look for it. He remembered how when he didn’t manage to find it, he started crying, saying that it’s final, his dreams will never come true now. Youngbae took and read the note that Chaerin wrote. By the end of the note, he had tears in his eyes too.

185


“Jiyong ah, I never thought I would say this, but if you ever hurt Chaerin again, I’m going to kick your ass, best friend or not.” Everyone laughed. “Oh! What’s this at the back of the note?” Dara was about to turn and read the short note that Jiyong had written but he was faster than she was. He quickly took back the note and put the dream card and the note back into the envelope. “Sorry, that’s for Chaerin’s eyes only.” “Ji hyung, you didn’t write anything naughty in there, did you?” “Seungri ah, I’m not you.” Everyone burst out laughing at that. “I’m not like that! Why does everyone think of me as a pervert? Even Chaerin...” Seungri quickly put his hand over his mouth because he remembered belatedly that he wasn’t supposed to reveal that he got a letter from Chaerin. “Even Chaerin what? Seungri looked to his other hyungs for help. They ignored his frantic SOS call. Seungri looked like he was about to cry. Minzy decided to come to his rescue. “Chaerin unnie left all of us letters with the video. Now it makes me wonder what did Chaerin unnie write in the letter to Seungri oppa...” At this, the 3 attached Big Bang members laughed. “Oh, she left a good one. It probably qualified for the Guinness record of the funniest farewell letter!”

186


TOP said, revealing a little of his Bingu self. “So?” “It wasn’t anything important. She asked him to take care of his health and if he couldn’t read the 72-font size single character properly, he should stop watching too much porn.” “Then why didn’t you guys just tell me that Chaerin left letters for all of you?” “Would you have been able to handle it? That she thought of everyone, even Teddy hyung but left nothing for you? We are only telling you now because you have that note as a buffer and of course the stupid panda who gave himself away.” Jiyong was silent as he thought about what Youngbae just said. That was true. If he didn’t find the note and the dream card, it would have hurt terribly to know that he was the only one who was left out. But she didn’t. In fact, she gave me more than I could ever hope for... In the past, and in the present... Chaerin ah, would you give me a chance to give back what you have done for me in the future? “Alright, fine. Seungri, I’d let you off this time. Remember what I said about making indecent remarks about Chaerin.” “Ok ok! Sheesh! Everyone is always against me, everyone of you!” “Aigoo~ There goes the panda and his tantrum. Do we need to get him bamboo shoots?” Dara couldn’t help teasing Seungri who was sulking in the corner. “Or maybe we should just put him in a room with a porn video.” Bom gave the suggestion before melting into a puddle of giggles. 187


“Just not in our dorm.” Minzy, the ever-sensible one had to add. “Daesung oppa, since you guys didn’t buy any desserts, let’s go get some for all the oppa and unnies?” “Hul! I was about to suggest that!” Bom pouted, seeing how her plan to spend a little alone time with TOP had been taken by their maknae. “Dae oppa, let’s go!! Bye oppas and unnies! We’ll be back soon!” “Don’t take too long!! I want corn ice-cream!” All of them turned to look at Bom, who had eaten at least 5 corns over lunch. They knew not to say anything but they were still amused by what she wanted. The couples each found some other ways to spend some time together. Dara and Youngbae took care of the dishes while TOP and Bom went to Bom’s room to look at some of the clothes that she had purchased for TOP. Jiyong and Seungri were left in the living room. Since they have decided to watch a movie together, the 2 were tasked with setting up the equipment. “Aish~ We should do this at our dorm with the cool projection TV and the superb sound system.” “True that but it would be weird if the girls came to our dorm. So we will just have to make do with it.” “What are we watching?” Youngbae came in from the kitchen and sat down on the couch with Dara in his arms. The slight tinge of red on Dara’s face indicated that they did more than just the dishes in the kitchen. “Anything, as long as it doesn’t involve your guys making out.”

188


“You wish, you pervert panda!” Just then, Minzy and Daesung came back from their errand of buying icecream. Both of them were a little out-of-breath and Daesung’s face was tomato-red. “So not going to ask what Minzy just did to make Dae a red-hot tomato.” “Ya! Maknae! Don’t tease my Minzy!” “Alright, alright~ I’d back off. Who’s going to go get the elderly couple?” Everyone turned and look at Seungri. “ME? Why me again?” “Because you are the maknae.” “But Daesung hyung...” “See, you already call him hyung, so go.” “What about Minzy?” “I seriously don’t think I want to corrupt Minzy. The elderly couple might be doing something more than just trying on clothes.” “Seriously, I don’t think Minzy is that innocent.” “Seungri, just go.” “Fine, leader’s orders. But if I’m get traumatized by what I hear, I’m going to hold all of you responsible.” “Relax, it’s probably not as bad as your porn collection.” “Argh!” Seungri stormed off in the direction of Bom’s room. He put his ears to the door first to check if it’s ok to knock. He knew it’s a crappy feeling to be 189


interrupted while they are caught up in the heat of the moment. Silence greeted his ears. That’s strange... Even if they were not doing it, there shouldn’t be silence. Seungri knocked on the door to let them know that they were going to start the movie soon. No response. He tried the doorknob and found the door to be unlocked. He slowly opened the door and peeked in. The sight that greeted him was unexpected but it brought a smile to his face. There, on Bom’s bed, the 2 eldest members of Big Bang and 2NE1 had fallen asleep in each other’s arms, fully clothed. TOP was holding Bom as close as he could and Bom was snuggled nicely against TOP’s chest. There was a peaceful smile on both their faces. They look like two pieces that just fit each other... Seungri smiled to himself and closed the door softly since he didn’t want to wake them up. He walked back to the living room and the rest had already started the movie. “Where’s the elderly couple?” “Being the elderly couple, they have fallen asleep.” “Whatever they were doing must have tire them badly.” Youngbae whispered softly, causing Dara to giggle. “Actually I don’t think they did anything. They seemed to have simply fall asleep in each other’s arm. It’s a beautiful sight, two people fitting each other perfectly. Very nice.” Jiyong patted Seungri on the back.

190


“Maknae ah, don’t worry, one day you will find someone who’s your perfect fit as well.” “Ji hyung, why are you talking like I’m the only one who have not found that perfect fit. Last I checked, you are single too.” “I already found my perfect fit. She’s just not beside me right now.” “Really, Ji hyung, you are going to give up the whole forest for a tree named Lee Chaerin?” “Panda, when you finally find your one and only bamboo shoot, you will know that it’s worth it to give up the whole bamboo plantation for that one.” “Gawd, this is a little too much for me to handle. Am I the only one left who would do the crazy partying?” “There’s always Psy hyung. But if you are talking about Big Bang, I guess you are on your own.” “Argh~” “Oh can the two of you keep quiet? We are trying to watch a movie here.” “Ok fine. We’ll shut up.” So, the people in the living room watched their movie while the elderly couple slept through the afternoon. There was no phone calls, no schedule, no watchful eyes of the fans and media. Just 8 people having a normal day, spending quality time with people who mattered.

191


Chapter 30 5 February 2013 Milan, 12.30pm “Shin-Yi unnie, I’m going to miss you!” Shin-Yi was going to start her 6-months round-the-world tour that day and the 3 of them were sharing a quick meal cooked by Chaerin before she set off for the airport. Jay took a picture of the Kimchi Fried Rice that Chaerin is famous for and send a tweet with the picture. @JAYBUMAOM: Home-made Kimchi fried rice! Reminded me of the one time that @IBGDRGN shared some with me! DELICIOUS!! Of course, the only 1 time that Jiyong ever shared Kimchi fried rice with him was when he turned up at their studio for a surprise visit because Dok2 was collaborating with GD and Tablo for “Light Up The Fire”. Chaerin had come to visit and brought with her some of her famous Kimchi Fried Rice. He wondered what would be Jiyong’s response when he sees the tweet. His phone beeped, showing the notification from Twitter. He’s got a mention from GD. That was fast. Jay grinned when he saw the reply. @IBGDRGN: @JAYBUMAOM That looks delicious bro! When are we going to meet again? Where are you now? Hmmmm... That was a mild response... That was when he heard another beep. It was another notification from Twitter. This time, it was a DM (Direct Message). Jay smiled and decide to reply to the public tweet first.

192


Jay decided that he would check the DM later. He already got a response from GD and he knew that this was a big giveaway that he was with someone he knew. Jay grinned. Let the game begin! He went back to Shin-Yi and Chaerin who was still fussing over Shin-Yi like a mother hen. Once a leader, always a leader. She just couldn’t resist making sure that everything goes smoothly. He walked over to Chaerin. “Chaerin ah~ Stop. Shin-Yi NOONA is older than you are and she knows what she’s doing. She’s gone traveling before. So don’t fuss over her.” “Ya! Just because you don’t care about your noona, you shouldn’t prevent others from caring.” She then turned to Chaerin and patted her hand. “Chaerin ah, I’m good. I’m all packed, all my documents are in place. I appreciate the fussing though. This is the first time someone ever fussed over me when I’m going to go traveling.” “Sorry unnie, it’s just that I’m so used to having to make sure that everything has been taken care of for every overseas trip.” “Nothing to be sorry about. I like the fussing but you don’t have to worry your pretty head about it ok?” Chaerin smiled at Shin-Yi. “Ok, just one last thing. Unnie, you have to take care of yourself while you are traveling. Stay contactable and try to send me a message whenever you reached a new place. Don’t worry about your apartment, I would take good care of it while you are gone. I will also take care of Monkey oppa for the next 4 days and make sure he doesn’t break any of the furniture. Come, let’s eat before the food gets cold.” 193


The three of them tucked in, occasionally making comments about the food. Jay was overjoyed that Chaerin decided that they would be having homecooked food for the next few days while he was in Milan. He could surely get used to this. He grinned again when he thought of his next step. 5 February 2013 Seoul, 8.30pm YGE Big Bang was practicing and recording a few tracks for their upcoming performance for Yoo Hee-Yeol's Sketchbook. They had done their concert finale in January but they have to wrap up the whole promotion for ‘Alive/Still Alive’ properly before they embarked on the next series of promotion. They would do a little showcase and the interview would focus on the solo album promotions for each of the Big Bang members. They were having a 15-minutes break before continuing. Youngbae came and sat beside Jiyong during the break. “So what are you going to say when they ask you what you would be doing for this year?” “I would just say that since I have just released a solo album and we just finished our tour, I would be taking a bit of a rest and helping with the production of the members’ solo albums.” “What if your fans react violently to your hiatus?” “I will reassure them that they would still be able to see me because I would be doing featuring for TOP hyung’s album. And I will still be appearing for any events that Big Bang would be taking part in. So they will still see me.” “What are you going to do about Chaerin?” “I believe that when it’s time, she will let me know. Now all I can do is wait. But I’ve been sending her messages to her numbers. I still do not know which one is the one she’s using. She is not replying to any of them. But somehow I feel that she had seen all of them.”

194


Jiyong hesitated, wondering if he should voice his doubts aloud. But decided since it’s Youngbae, he would understand. “But Bae... What if it’s not enough? What if this time round, she is determined to leave me? What would I do?” Youngbae put his arm around Jiyong and offered silent comfort. He wanted to reassure Jiyong that everything would be fine and that she would come back to him. But he wasn’t sure. “Ji hyung, have you ever had Kimchi fried rice with Jay Park before?” Seungri was checking his Twitter when he chanced upon Jay’s tweet. Since he was following both of them, the tweet also turned up on his stream. He thought that it’s strange that Jay would mention Jiyong on a tweet about Kimchi fried rice. Not to mention, the picture looked somewhat familiar. Like he had seen the dish before. “Maknae ah, what are you talking about? Why would you care if I had Kimchi fried rice with Jay?” “Because he just posted a tweet mentioning you and Kimchi fried rice. He attached a picture and the fried rice looked like something that Chaerin would...” Seungri didn’t get to finish his sentence when Jiyong took his phone from his hand the moment Chaerin’s name was mentioned. He looked at the tweet and then the picture. “You are right, the fried rice does look like the one that Chaerin would cook for us from time to time.” Youngbae had also moved over to see the tweet and the picture. Jiyong had gotten his own phone out and dialled Jay’s number. But all he got was a voice telling him that the number is not in use. He quickly logged into his Twitter app. Is he with Chaerin? Is he trying to tell me something? 195


Once he was logged in, he quickly replied to Jay’s tweet. But at the same time, he knew he couldn’t ask him directly if he was with Chaerin since he knew that news on Twitter goes viral really fast. Just as he was debating what he should do, Seungri came over. “Ji hyung, you can try sending him a Direct Message since both of you are following each other.” “THANK YOU! Perfect!” He quickly went to the DM inbox and typed in his question. His hands were trembling. DIRECT MESSAGE To: @JAYBUMAOM Jay, where are you? Are you with Chaerin? If you are, please let me know. I’m looking for her. A notification came in from Twitter. But it was a reply to the public tweet. He shouted in frustration at Jay’s cryptic message. @JAYBUMAOM: @IBGDRGN We’ll meet soon I guess? I’m in heaven with a pretty angel. ^^ @IBGDRGN: @JAYBUMAOM Are you in Korea bro? There was no more reply and their break was over. Jiyong was heading towards a breakdown. This was the closest to a clue that he has gotten so far over the last 2 days. He knew this might be grasping at straws but he really hope that he would get answers from Jay. “Ji, focus. We will find out more later.” Jiyong closed his eyes, took a deep breath and re-focus. Kwon Jiyong, focus. You need to get through this practice before you can find out more. “Alright everyone, let’s nail this so we can go home!” 196


Jiyong said this as much for his bandmates and for himself. With heightened determination, everyone worked their hardest. While they had to stop a couple of times to check the choreography, everything was done in record time. At 10pm, they managed to get everything down and Jiyong called it a night. Everyone started packing their things. Jiyong sat at one corner staring at his phone. There were no replies from Jay or Chaerin or anyone. Tears of frustration were threatening to fall but he can’t let them fall here, not in front of everyone. “Ji, are you going to stay here?” Jiyong looked up at Youngbae and Youngbae saw the tears. “Come on, let’s go home. We’ll figure something out.” He helped pull Jiyong up and both of them walked out of the dance studio. Seungri wanted to go up and talk to Jiyong but was stopped by Youngbae. He nodded towards the carpark and Seungri got the hint that they should get out of the building first. TOP and Daesung sensed that something wasn’t quite right but they said nothing and followed Youngbae and Jiyong out of the building. Once they were in the carpark, Youngbae put Jiyong in the passenger seat of his car. “Dae, did you drive here today?” “No, I didn’t. I was thinking of getting a ride with you.” “Ok, can you do me a favor? Can you drive Jiyong’s car back to the dorm for him? I don’t think he can drive at the moment.” “What’s wrong with him?” Youngbae looked at TOP who asked the question. From the look, all 3 knew that it had got to do with Chaerin again.

197


“Seungri, you ride in Jiyong’s car with Daesung. TOP hyung, are you going home or coming back to the dorm with us?” “I’d ride with Daesung back to the dorm. You look like you could do with some help.” Youngbae nodded and took Jiyong’s car keys from his bag and passed them to Daesung. “See you guys back at the dorm then.” Once in the car, Jiyong took out his phone again. Instead of checking his tweets, he was looking at the messages he had sent Chaerin the past 2 days. To: CL (all 4 numbers) 4 February 2013 12.30pm KST

Chaerin ah~ Today I went to your favorite cafe, ordered an Americano and a strawberry shortcake and imagine you were sitting right opposite me, telling me about your day. Would we be able to do this? Soon? To: CL (all 4 numbers) 4 February 2013 11.00pm KST

Chaerin baby~ I miss you so very much. Can you at least reply to my messages? Please? To: CL (all 4 numbers) 5 February 2013 2.03am KST

Chaerin, Oppa’s going to bed now. I know it’s weird for me to be going to bed this early. But I want to see you in my dreams. You didn’t come see me yesterday. Would you do that today? To: CL (all 4 numbers) 5 February 2013 9am KST

198


Chaerin... Why didn’t you come into my dreams last night? They said I would dream of what I think of most in the day. You are all I think of, so why can’t I see you in my dreams? Come back to me ok? Please? He started typing another message when the Twitter notification came in. When he saw that it was Jay replying to his DM, he quickly logged into Twitter. FROM: @JAYBUMAOM Hey GD, I’m with my cousin in Europe. Why are you looking for Chaerin? After reading Jay’s message, his heart sank. The tiny speck of hope was wiped out with the message. “Bae, can you drive me to Han River?” “Ji, let’s just go back to the dorm ok? It’s late.” “Bae, please?” “Alright, let me tell the rest.” “It’s ok, you guys can go back to the dorm first. I just want to be alone for now.” “Sorry Ji, I can drive you to Han River but no way am I going to leave you alone.” “Bae..” “No room for discussion. Either I get to be there with you, or we are all going back to the dorm. And don’t pull ranks with me, doesn’t work that way.” Jiyong kept quiet. His eyes were staring out of the windows blankly, barely taking in the night lights. Youngbae got onto the phone with TOP and let 199


them know that he was heading to Han River with Jiyong. They told Youngbae that they were right behind him so they would just follow him. “Ji, is there a particular part of Han River you want to go to?” “Noeul Cafe.” “Alright then.” 30 minutes later, Youngbae arrived at Noeul Cafe. Daesung was right behind them. Jiyong got out of the car and headed straight for the observation deck. “TOP hyung, maybe the 3 of you want to wait inside the cafe? It’s rather cold and I don’t think it would be smart if all of us fall sick before our showcase at Sketchbook.” “You sure you will be alright with him?” “I’d call if I need help.” TOP nodded and headed into the cafe with the 2 maknaes. They each ordered a drink and sat down to look at the night view. “I should bring Minzy here the next time. The view is amazing here.” “Maybe we can go on a double date here. I’m sure Bommie would love it here too.” “Forever alone.. I’m forever alone...” TOP and Daesung laughed at their maknae and sipped their drinks quietly. Over at the observation deck, Jiyong had sat down at a bench that gave him a perfect view of Namsan Tower. Youngbae went and sat beside him. No one spoke for the next 10 minutes. “I used to come here with Chaerin. During our trainee days, before Big Bang, before 2NE1. We used to come here like normal teenagers, like 2 person on a date. Then, her favorite drink was hot mocha. Coffee tinged

200


with a hint of chocolate. That’s my Chaerin, strong but always sweet.” He turned to look at Youngbae. “Since when did I lose her? I thought that I lost her only these couple of days when she’s not by my side but it seemed like I lost her way longer than that.” “No, you never lost her. She was always there. If you were honest with yourself, you will know that I’m speaking the truth. But you lost sight of Chaerin, you lost sight of your Hunchae. You replaced her with CL, the leader of 2NE1, your junior, a mere colleague.” “Bae, I’m really scared now. What if she doesn’t come back to me? What if she finds someone who’s better for her?” Youngbae was silent for a while. He didn’t really know how to comfort Jiyong because he knew just as Jiyong had kept part of his heart guarded and used ‘CL’ as a way to ignore his feelings for Chaerin all these years, Chaerin is now doing the same thing. She’s keeping her heart safe by denying the existence of her Jingyo oppa. “Frankly, I don’t know what to say to comfort you. Part of me wants to tell you everything will be alright, but that won’t be the whole truth and we know it. So it’s better to face the possibility that what you said might come true, that she might never come back to you as your Hunchae, or even Chaerin.” “Right now, I don’t even have her as ‘CL’... What the hell am I going to do?” “Let her be Chaerin in another place for now. She can’t just live her life for you. After all, you have been living your own life as GD without any regards for Kwon Jiyong or Lee Chaerin.” Youngbae paused then went on. He knew that this was going to be another hard punch for Jiyong to bear but he had to. “Jiyong ah, this hiatus that you are going on, shed the image of GD. Throw everything away. The insecurities of losing that popularity, the need to

201


upkeep GD’s image as wild and carefree and really think about what Kwon Jiyong wants. Because just as we have lost him somewhere along the years, YOU have lost him too. And you cannot afford to. Because too many people love Kwon Jiyong, by people who truly matters, people who will walk till the end with him. GD is loved by millions in the world today but when he stepped down from the stage, when the spotlight is not shining on him, will he still exist? We all know how fickle popularity is. One day, the fans are going crazy over every single thing we do then the next day, they move on to something else. It’s time to go back to the beginning, it’s time to go back to our roots, it’s time to go back to ourselves.” Jiyong thought about what Youngbae just said and he saw the truth in what he said. He had done some really stupid things over the years to fill an emptiness in his heart that he didn’t even know exist. Or he simply refused to acknowledge its existence. Without their knowledge, the other 3 members were on the observation deck during Youngbae’s last speech. They walked quietly up to the 2 of them and stood in front of them. Seungri put out his hand in the middle first and the others took the hint. All of them stacked their hands up. “Jiyong, would you do the honors?” Jiyong looked up at them and smiled knowingly. “Seunghyun hyung, Youngbae, Jiyong, Daesung, Seunghyun maknae, we will walk till the end of forever together but we can never lose ourselves. Big Bang forever!” “FOREVER!” The 5 brothers shared a moment. Seungri passed Jiyong and Youngbae the hot coffee that they had ordered for them. After taking in the view a little more, they decided to go for supper. Over supper, Jiyong made a decision and he told his members about it. Surprisingly, they were in agreement with his decision even though it meant

202


that they have to re-arrange their choreography and tracklist for their showcase at Sketchbook. But itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s something that they felt they all have to do. They would sing the song that brought them to the forefront 6 years ago.

203


Chapter 31 5 February 2013 Milan, 5.30pm Jay sent Shin-Yi to the airport while Chaerin went to the grocery store since she was alone. She liked going to the grocery store and just roam around the aisles, getting food items that her members liked. Getting food items that he likes... Unconsciously, she had filled up her shopping trolley with things that Jiyong likes. She decided not to put them back since they were quite common dishes that should suit Jay’s taste as well. I just have to buy more bananas... With that thought, she actually grinned. She was very thankful to have met Jay and his cousin at such a time. It helped her take her mind off Korea and everyone there. But you can’t run away forever... She knew that running away forever was not an option. But for now, she just didn’t want to think about it. She paid for the food items and was on her way home when her phone beeped signaling a new message. She decided to check it only when she got home. Because she knew the message was either from YG or Jiyong. Since she had already gotten a Italian handphone number, she had given Jay that number so it would be easier and cheaper for him to contact her on that number. Jay had also gotten a pre-paid SIM card when they went to the telco together. When she got home, she put away all the groceries that she had bought first because she could not stand any mess. Only after she was done, did she take out her phone from her bag to check the messages. 1 New Message

204


It was from Jiyong. He had gotten into the habit of sending her at least a message each day, which was more than what she used to get when she was by his side. So I guess separation does make the heart grow fonder... Before she looked at the new message, she read through the message that he sent the previous 2 days. From: GD 4 February 2013 4.30am CET

Chaerin ah~ Today I went to your favorite cafe, ordered an Americano and a strawberry shortcake and imagine you were sitting right opposite me, telling me about your day. Would we be able to do this? Soon? To: My Jingyo Oppa<3 4 February 2013 4.35am CET

Oppa, I miss the Americano. I miss the strawberry shortcake too. But most importantly, I miss you. We will be able to do that again right? Soon? From: GD 4 February 2013 3.00pm CET

Chaerin baby~ I miss you so very much. Can you at least reply to my messages? Please? To: My Jingyo Oppa<3 4 February 2013 3.05pm CET

Oppa, I have been replying to your messages. You are just not looking at the right place. Would you be able to find it soon? Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d really want you to, oppa.. From: GD 4 February 2013 6.03pm CET

Chaerin, 205


Oppa’s going to bed now. I know it’s weird for me to be going to bed this early. But I want to see you in my dreams. You didn’t come see me yesterday. Would you do that today? To: My Jingyo Oppa<3 4 February 2013 6.08pm CET

Oppa, Goodnight and sweet dreams. I can’t be in your dreams tonight... Or for now... But maybe one day I will be? From: GD 5 February 2013 1am CET

Chaerin... Why didn’t you come into my dreams last night? They said I would dream of what I think of most in the day. You are all I think of, so why can’t I see you in my dreams? Come back to me ok? Please? To: My Jingyo Oppa<3 5 February 2013 1.05am CET

Oppa... Maybe it’s because we are not in the same time zone anymore. Maybe we have been living in different worlds for too long... Maybe we are just not meant to be in each other’s dreams... Maybe... She read the newest message. From: GD 5 February 2013 5.37pm CET

Chaerin... Sorry... Sorry for not seeing you all this while... I used ‘CL’ as a cover... To stop myself from seeing Lee Chaerin...

206


To stop myself from seeing my Hunchae... Sorry... From today onwards, I would stop using ‘GD’ to hurt you, to hurt myself and the people who matters to me. Would you love Kwon Jiyong again? Would you love your Jingyo oppa again? Please? “I really think you should give him another chance you know.” “OMG!! JAY OPPA!! You scared me! When did you get back?” Jay was standing behind Chaerin and he saw Jiyong’s latest message. “About 5 minutes ago. I called out but you didn’t reply. I found you here in a daze, staring at your phone. Since I didn’t send you a message, I figured it has to be someone from Korea. You didn’t realize that you were crying did you?” A tear fell onto Chaerin’s hand at that moment and it was with some amount of shock to realize that she had been crying while reading the messages. She quickly dried her tears. “Have you been replying to his messages?” Chaerin gave Jay a sad smile. “Yes.” “Then why is he still looking so desperately for you?” “I replied but I doubt he received them.” “What do you mean?” Chaerin gave him a mystical smile that told Jay nothing. “Jay oppa, how do you feel about strawberries? I know you would much prefer bananas but I feel like baking a strawberry shortcake.”

207


Jay knew she was trying to change the topic and seeing her cry just now, he decided to let it go. “You know how to bake?” “Yes... Why?” “‘I’m CL, Seoul’s baddest female’! She knows how to bake? Seriously?” Chaerin laughed at Jay’s imitation of her. “I’m in Milan now. And Chaerin always knew how to bake and cook and clean.” “Wow~ That makes you the perfect housewife!” “And I love babies too~” “God-sent! Would you be my wife?” That caused the real smile to diminish. Chaerin turned to refrigerator and got out the strawberries that she bought from the supermarket just now. She saw the other baking supplies in the cupboard just now while she was cooking lunch and Shin-Yi told her to use whatever she needed. “Chaerin, I’m sorry. That was out of line. I was just joking by the way.” Chaerin turned to Jay and gave him a somewhat forced smile. “No girl would want to know that a proposal was a joke. But since you are Monkey oppa, I’d let that slide. Now, you shall have to help me with my strawberry shortcake.” Jay saluted her jokingly. “Yes, madam! Your wish is my command.” For the rest of the evening, the two former leaders worked to create the strawberry shortcake. Chaerin also made a simple pasta dish since they can’t just eat strawberry shortcake. When both was finally done, Jay took a

208


picture and uploaded it on Twitter. @JAYBUMAOM: I’m definitely in heaven! Homemade strawberry shortcake and pasta! YUMZ!! After sending the tweet, Jay settled down to the feast set up before him. Even though it was a simple meal of pasta, it’s been a long time since he had home-cooked food. “Chaerin ah, thank you! It’s been a long time since I had home-cooked food. This is absolutely delicious!” “It’s my pleasure. I like to cook and it’s nice to have people eat my cooking.” “If anyone doesn’t want to eat your food in the future, call me. I’d be there to eat it all!” “I’d hold you to it. Not all my dishes are perfect. These are some of my better ones.” “Practice makes perfect.” “Jay oppa, let’s eat before the food get cold. Do you want coffee or tea with the cake later?” “What are you having it with? I’d just go with your choice. I’m not picky.” “Tea then.” “Sure! I look forward to tasting my first-ever strawberry shortcake!” “You did well, oh student of mine~” “You taught well, oh teacher of mine~” Both patted each other on their backs as congratulations and tucked into their dinner. 6 February 2013 Seoul, 1.30am

209


The Big Bang members were back at their dorm after a heavy supper of Korean BBQ at the restaurant they used to go to when they were still training at the old YGE building. Seungri had asked the boss to take a picture of them and he was uploading that onto his Twitter. @ForvictoRi: Good old memories! Big Bang is Back! He was checking his Twitter stream when he chanced upon Jay’s tweet about the strawberry shortcake. His eyes opened wide when he saw the picture. Not wanting to alert Jiyong, he went over to Youngbae and asked if he would mind following him outside for a while. Youngbae thought it strange that Seungri would want to see him alone. But he knew that he had to follow the maknae out because he was curious too. The moment they were outside the BBQ restaurant, Seungri showed Youngbae the picture of Jay’s tweet. “Youngbae hyung, does this look familiar to you?” “Seungri ah, why are you showing me a picture of a strawberry shortcake? Are you craving for one?” “Hyung, take a closer look. Haven’t you seen it before?” Youngbae finally decided to take a closer look because it was rare that Seungri was so insistent. He really didn’t see any similarity until he paid a bit more attention to the way the strawberries and the whipped cream was placed. It reminded him of... His eyes widened... “THE CAKE CHAERIN BAKED FOR JIYONG’S BIRTHDAY!!” “BINGO!!” “But why are you showing it to me?” “This picture was attached to Jay’s newest tweet.” “Oh, then it couldn’t have been the same one as the one Chaerin baked.”

210


“Jay said it’s home-made though.” “Even if it is, we can’t make a direct connection to Chaerin.” Youngbae considered if they should let Jiyong know about this. But remembering what happened with the cake and Jiyong’s birthday last year, he thought it would be better not to let him know. Yet. Seungri seemed to have remembered the same incident. “I guess we do not need to alert Ji hyung to this yet. He would probably find out about the tweet later.” “Yea... Let’s just enjoy our supper...” Inside the 2 members’ heads the following was swirling in their heads... While it lasts... 5 February 2013 Milan, 7.30pm After they were done with their pasta, Chaerin and Jay cleaned up the dishes for dinner and then settled down in front of the fireplace for tea and their strawberry shortcake. At the first mouthful of the cake, Jay looked at Chaerin with his eyes wide open. “Oh my goodness! This is so good!!” “I’m glad you like it, eat more then, oppa.” “Where did you learn to cook like that?” “I just pick it up here and there. A lot of it is just practice and practice. The first time I baked a strawberry shortcake, it was all burnt and I put salt instead of sugar. So that didn’t turn out as good as this.”

211


Jay continued eating the cake and pondering how he was going to ask the next question. He decided that there was no other way other than being direct about it. “Chaerin, I’m going to ask the question you probably do not want to hear right now, but I have to know. Why did you finally decide to walk away from Jiyong?” Chaerin stopped mid-way in putting a mouthful of cake in her mouth and turned to look at Jay. She put down the plate with the cake and took a sip of the tea to stall time. Jay continued eating his cake, even getting another slice and waited patiently for her answer. Chaerin knew there was no way out of this. She decided to be honest about it. “I got tired.” Jay looked at her and she knew it was the signal to continue. “The first time I met Jiyong oppa, I fell in love with him. Don’t ask me what attracted me to him but he was just standing there and my heart just wasn’t mine anymore. When he came up to me and welcomed me to YGE, my heart was beating so fast. Then, he wasn’t the polished performer we know him to be today. He was just a simple kid running ferociously after his dreams. And while I didn’t do anything like confess my everlasting love to him, he would always be beside me when I look.” Chaerin thought of those days past and she can’t help feeling the loss of yesteryears. “We used to go to the Han River when we finished practice or on days when we didn’t have any practice, we would go shopping like normal teenagers, like 2 person on a date. We would joke around, eat at the street carts, talk about our dreams...” Chaerin had to stop because of those memories started flashing before her eyes again and when she closed her eyes to let them stay a second longer, the tears that slid down seemed to mourn the loss with her.

212


“Then Big Bang happened, and we spent less time together. Before 2NE1’s debut, I try to be there whenever I can. But then I got busy as well and we just don’t see each other much.” Jay went to Chaerin then and embraced her, offering her the comfort that she needed. He knew that it was a cruel question to ask her but he knew that she needed to get it out of her system. He guessed that she probably never told anyone how she felt. “Even as I started focusing on 2NE1 and our debut, my mind will always run to him. Even when I know he has his girlfriends to look after him, I would still want to be the one to offer him comfort when he needs it. At first, it was still alright because he seemed to want me there. But gradually...” Thinking of all the times when she tried to go to Jiyong but were ignored by him or how she was made to feel like she was not wanted there made her sob louder. “Shhhh... It’s ok.” At that moment, Jay’s Twitter notification alerted him to a new DM. He took out his phone, one arm still holding onto Chaerin. Direct Message From: @IBGDRGN Because I love her and I want to be by her side. Jay smiled when he saw the message. Correct answer, Kwon Jiyong. Don’t worry, I will make sure you will see her again. Soon.

213


Chapter 32 6 February 2013 Seoul, 3.30am After supper, the Big Bang members returned to the dorm. Youngbae and Seungri were still debating whether to tell Jiyong about Jay’s tweet. They looked at Jiyong who was still feeling good after their supper and decided to let him stay in the bubble a little longer. At least, they didn’t want to be the ones who would prick the bubble and burst it. “Bae, I’m going to go to bed. Thanks for tonight. I needed that talk about who I am and which of me is really important.” “You’re welcome. We all needed that. After 6 years, we have lost a bit of that ‘beginner’s heart’, which is why we really should do ‘Lies’ on Sketchbook. That was really the beginning of the realization of our dreams.” “We will talk about the details later when we are at practice tomorrow. TOP hyung, Daesung, maknae, goodnight!” After Jiyong went into his room, the other members looked at each other and smiled. It felt good to shed ‘Big Bang’ for a while and just be themselves. “Alright, it’s late, I think we all need some sleep. Let’s go! Off to bed!” Youngbae, being the ‘mother’ of the group, started chasing the rest of the members to their bedrooms so they could get a good night’s rest before the day started. TOP, as usual, made Daesung piggy-back him to his room because he was too tired and just because he can. Once they were gone, Youngbae patted Seungri’s shoulders. “Let’s go to bed and pray that he won’t react too violently to the tweet.” “Maybe we should send Jay a DM and tell him not to tweet anymore of the home-made dishes.”

214


“Well, he is free to tweet whatever he wants. And we can’t be sure that those are made by Chaerin anyway.” “You do know that she arranged the strawberries and whipped cream according to how the ring looks like right? And that was exactly how it looked like when we saw the cake last year. If it’s not Chaerin, it’s too much of a coincidence. Did Ji hyung get a reply from Jay where he is now?” “I think he did but I don’t think Jay is with Chaerin. Otherwise he won’t have been so upset just now.” “Ok... Looks like there’s nothing we can do other than act accordingly when the situation arises.” “Yup~ Let’s get some rest.” Youngbae and Seungri went to bed as well. After getting a shower, Jiyong was lying on his bed, thinking about everything that happened today. From Jay’s tweet to what Youngbae said to him, it was a lot to take in. Belatedly, he realized that he had not replied to Jay’s DM. While it’s not really any of Jay’s business but he felt that an answer is still needed. He logged onto his Twitter app and went to his DM and opened up his DM with Jay. Looking at Jay’s answer again, he realized that he was in Europe so there was still a possibility that he might have met Chaerin. While he didn’t say that Chaerin is with him, he didn’t say he wasn’t either. Why am I looking for Chaerin? That’s easy. Direct Message To: @JAYBUMAOM Because I love her and I want to be by her side. After sending the DM, Jiyong went to check his Twitter stream. He was scrolling through when he noticed that Jay tweeted again. @JAYBUMAOM: I’m definitely in heaven! Homemade strawberry 215


shortcake and pasta! YUMZ!! When he opened the picture and saw the picture of the strawberry shortcake, his mind went blank for a moment. That cake looks familiar... When have I seen it before? He frowned, trying very hard to recall why seeing this picture would have caused the mind buzz but nothing came to him. Finally, he gave up and his eyes were closing on him. Before he went to bed, he decided to send Chaerin another message. To: CL (all 4 numbers) 6 February 2013 4.30am KST

Baby, I might not be by your side now But I want to Would you let me stand by your side again? Please? I love you, very very much. Goodnight sweetheart. Just as Jiyong was about to doze off, his phone beeped. It was a message. His eyes flew open and he quickly opened his inbox. Though his heart sank a little but he was getting closer to knowing which number is the one that he can use to contact Chaerin. 2 down, 3 more to go. 5 February 2013 Milan, 8.00pm “It always hurt the most when I’m made to feel like I’m not wanted.” Chaerin had calmed down after the initial breakdown in front of Jay. She was a little embarrassed to be showing him a side of her that she reserved only for the few close friends in her life. She didn’t know why she felt that it was alright to cry in front of Jay. Maybe it’s because she was in a different country, or maybe it’s because she felt comfortable with Jay.

216


“Have you ever considered the possibility that he was just acting that way because he feels guilty?” “What do you mean?” “He might really want you there but the thing is he can’t give you more than simple friendship, especially if he’s attached. So he has to act indifferent or that he doesn’t want you there because he doesn’t want to give you any false hopes.” “Hmmm... If I say I didn’t want anything more than just friendship or to be look upon as just his junior, then I would be lying. But at the same time, I want to still be able to care for him. Whether we were in a relationship or not, it didn’t matter because I simply couldn’t bear to see him hurt, or not taking care of himself when he’s immersed in his work.” “But to him, it might be a burden.” “Gradually, I realized that. So I did withdrew a little. I stopped turning up at the studio when I know they are pulling an overnighter, I stopped messaging him daily, I stopped calling him.” “But he ends up being the one who would message and call?” “How did you know?” “Because he does like you fawning over him but at the same time, he can’t show that he likes it. So when you stopped, he can’t actually handle it because it made him question if he had lost you.” “So I shouldn’t have given in and I should have just continued to withdraw from him?” “This is a very delicate game and it requires a lot of balance. Right now, you are taking away every possible contact, it’s probably driving him crazy.” Chaerin shrugged. Honestly, she only knew she had to walk away and be away from Jiyong for a while. She never really gave any thought to how he might be reacting to her sudden departure and not being contactable. Although through his messages to her, she could sense the anxiety and how 217


upset he is, but at the moment, she just didn’t want to care. Because the moment she did, she’s going to hop onto the next flight back to Seoul just to quell his anxiety. “I don’t know, I think I just got so tired of this push-pull game which I do not know the rules of. I give him too much control over me emotionally and I need to take that back.” “Chaerin, this is a 2-way game. Just as you think he has too much control over you emotionally, do you think you don’t? Think about it. During those times when he had a girlfriend, he could have easily not play this game with you. Yet, by your own confession and observations, it’s the opposite. When he’s attached, he feels that he needs to be more in touch with you. I think he fears you leaving him more than you think.” “But he’s very committed to every one of his relationships. So if what you say about him being more afraid that I would leave him when he has a girlfriend, then why is he constantly in a relationship? Why doesn’t he just make a move on me?” “He’s looking for someone to replace you, but at the same time, he knows that they can’t. So he has to be nice to every one of the girls who he choose to go into a relationship with. Subconsciously, he knows that they were but mere distractions. To him, the amount of reliance he has on you emotionally scares him. You can easily break him if you want to. So he looks everywhere but at you to find someone to care about. Were you ever in a relationship after you got to know him?” “Once, about 6 months into my training with YGE.” “Were you already close to Jiyong then?” “Yes.” “What was his reaction when you told him that you got a boyfriend?” Chaerin thought back to that time when she started going out with her exboyfriend. She remembered how she was always on the phone with him and when Jiyong asked her to go out with him, she would always reject him and

218


lied about why she can’t go. She remembered that day when he finally found out. “Hunchae~ Let’s go to Dongdaemun after practice today. Sangyi hyung just messaged me to say that a new shipment of clothes and accessories has just come in and we can take a look first before he starts selling.” Chaerin was busy typing a message on her phone and wasn’t paying much attention to Jiyong. When she got a reply, she smiled widely. “Hunchae?” When Jiyong didn’t get a reply again, he turned to see what Chaerin was doing. That was when he noticed the phone in her hands and how she was grinning like an idiot looking at the screen. “YA! LEE CHAERIN!! I’m talking to you! And since when did you get a phone and you didn’t tell me?!” Chaerin finally turned towards Jiyong after she tried to hide her phone from Jiyong. “Jingyo oppa, sorry~ What were you saying?” She did her eye smile and piled on the aegyo which she knew was Jiyong’s weakness and she could get away with murder. And true enough, Jiyong only saw the aegyo and forgot all about what he was scolding her for. “I was asking if you wanted to go to Dongdaemun with me. Sangyi hyung...” “Oh I can’t, not today.” “Why?” “Erm... Ah! My father is coming back to Seoul today from Japan so I’m going home for dinner.” “Oh... Ok then. It’s been a long time since you saw your dad right?”

219


“Yes. Oh! Look at the time, I’d better get going then.” Sorry Jingyo oppa, I have to lie to you. Sorry Daddy, I have to use you in a lie. Chaerin ran out of the dance studio as quickly as she could because to stay longer with Jiyong would mean she would have to lie more and she’s not good at lying. “Chaerin, your... Aish! That girl, it’s turning cold and she just left her sweater here and ran out with a sleeveless tank top. She will be the death of me.” Jiyong zipped up his bag and his own sweater and holding Chaerin’s sweater in his hands, he ran out hoping to catch Chaerin before she was too far away. As soon as he stepped out of the building and spotted her across the road, he started waving at her, hoping to get her attention. When she put up her hand to wave, he thought she was waving at him and he waved even more vigorously to get her attention. Just as he was about to cross the road to get to her, he saw something he had never expected to see. A guy was walking up to his Hunchae and hugging her. The smile on her face when she saw him was blinding. She looked so happy... Who’s the guy? Is it her boyfriend? The next thing he knew, the guy was kissing his Hunchae, in broad daylight, in public! How dare he? She’s mine! Jiyong hurried across the road and rushed to Chaerin’s side. He pulled the guy away from Chaerin and gave him a punch. 220


“Jiyong oppa, stop! He’s my boyfriend!” “I could still remember the look he gave me when I shouted that. His eyes were questioning me if what I said was the truth, and when I looked away from him to attend to my boyfriend then, he stood there shocked. When I looked up at him again, I saw tears flowing down his cheeks. He walked away in a daze and almost got into an accident...” “And you didn’t think much of his reaction then? Chaerin ah, even if Jiyong never told you how much he loves you, you should know from his actions. This is the reason why he never allowed himself to come too close to you. Because he knew you have the power to crush him totally. Now, let me ask you another question. What is your reaction whenever he tells you he has a new girlfriend?” “I usually congratulate him and say I was really happy for him.” Jay looked at her with a raised eyebrow, calling her bluff. “Then I would go to the old YGE building to sing and dance till I’m too tired to feel anything.” “If you have never shown him how you really feel about him getting a new girlfriend, how can you expect him to know that you are hurt? This is why he thought that he doesn’t mean as much to you as you are to him. One last question, have you ever asked him what is the reason for his breakups?” “I never really asked him about it and he had never really told me why he broke up with them.” “Ask him that the next time you see him.” “Why?” “Because you need to know.” “Ok... Jay oppa, you are making me feel like it’s wrong of me to walk away from him.”

221


“No, I’m not saying that. I know it can get tiring to be giving and not getting anything back. What I’m trying to do here is to rationalize why he’s not giving you anything back from a guy’s point of view. I’m not trying to make excuses for his behavior but I want you to know that you probably mean more to him than you think.” Jay paused before going on. “Chaerin, it’s obvious that you are very much in love with Jiyong and you only walked out of his life because you needed a break. I can understand that. Can I show you something?” Chaerin nodded and got curious as to what he would want to show her. Jay took out his phone and went onto Twitter. Although Chaerin could probably see the exchange between him and Jiyong since she’s following both of them, she wouldn’t have been able to see the DMs. “I posted a picture of your Kimchi fried rice and mentioned Jiyong on Twitter this afternoon. His response was immediate because the only time I had Kimchi fried rice with him was when I paid a visit to YGE when Dok2 was recording with him and Tablo hyung. What he said in the public stream might seem like he didn’t care. But check out the Direct Messages.” Chaerin took Jay’s phone from him and look at the DMs that was exchanged between Jiyong and Jay. Her eyes opened wide at the last message that Jiyong sent. “Remember, he didn’t have to tell me a single thing. My message was vague and being here with my cousin would have explained the homecooked meal. But he choose to tell me why he is looking for you. Chaerin, I’m not asking you to go back to Korea, or go back to him. What I’m asking you to do is to realize that he does love you, very very much. Don’t let your hurt blind you to him, alright?” Chaerin looked at the DM again and her tears started gathering again. And she tried to stop them by looking up. She was almost successful when her phone beeped. She lifted her phone and opened the message. Once she read it, the tears slid down the side of her eyes.

222


From: GD 5 February 2013 8.30pm CET

Baby, I might not be by your side now But I want to Would you let me stand by your side again? Please? I love you, very very much. Goodnight sweetheart. “Jiyong oppa...” Chaerin couldn’t say another word as she was overwhelmed by her emotions. Maybe what Jay said was true. While she had always showed that she cared but she never let Jiyong know that the motivation behind that care is love, then she hasn’t been entirely honest with him. Jay held Chaerin in his arms for the second time that evening and let her sob her heart out. Chaerin ah, this is all I can do for you... I hope you will find your way soon.

223


Chapter 33 5 February 2013 Milan, 10pm After crying again for the second time that evening, Chaerin decided that it had been quite a day. After putting the remaining cake in the refrigerator and Jay helped with the cleaning up, both of them retired to their own room. Chaerin looked at the message that Jiyong sent just now and pondered hard about how to answer him. Jay’s talk had given her a different point of view, one that she never really thought of before. While she had never fully blamed Jiyong for the hurt she received each time, she had never been truly honest with him either. From: GD 5 February 2013 8.30pm CET

Baby, I might not be by your side now But I want to Would you let me stand by your side again? Please? I love you, very very much. Goodnight sweetheart. To: My Jingyo Oppa<3 5 February 2013 10.15pm CET

Oppa, I’m sorry. I never thought that my dishonesty would hurt you indirectly too. Would you forgive me? But oppa, for once, would you come to me instead? I want you by my side too, always. That has never changed. Come be by my side soon? I love you too, Jiyong oppa Very very much. As much as she wanted to go back to Korea and run into Jiyong’s embrace, she can’t. She had to achieve what she set out to do. Not to mention, she stepped down as 2NE1’s leader out of her own free will. To go back now would put YGE and YG in a difficult position.

224


Chaerin, it will be ok... If he’s truly feeling the way he is now, he’d be there waiting for you. Jiyong oppa, I’m putting my trust in you. Please hold on to it tight and bring it to me, ok? Chaerin dozed off after a while, the day had been an emotional one for her. That night she had a dream. She dreamt that Jiyong came knocking at her door and the moment he saw her, he smiled and pulled her into his embrace, whispering ‘I love you, Lee Chaerin.’ in her ears. She smiled gently in her sleep. 6 February 2013 Seoul, 10am Big Bang Dorm “Ji hyung~! Wake up!! YG wants to see us at his office in an hour. It’s about 2NE1’s press conference.” Jiyong was about to kick Seungri out of his room when he heard ‘2NE1’ and that got him to sit up immediately. “What about 2NE1’s press conference?” “Not sure, he just asked us to go pick the girls up before making our way to the company. The other hyungs are now getting ready to look their best for their girlfriend. They sent me to wake you up and to tell you that if you are not going to come with them, you would have to bring me with you while they go pick up their girlfriend. You have 10 minutes.” “10 minutes and you wake me up only now! Get out! I will be out in 8 minutes.” “We could always let them go and fetch the girls on their own and we can make our way there.” “While I trust Youngbae to do the right thing, I don’t trust him when Dara noona or Bom noona is in the mix. TOP hyung is putty in Bom noona’s hands and Dae will listen to Minzy who will listen to her unnies. No, we are going with them. Get out now and try to stall them as much as possible.” 225


“Fine.” Seungri went back to the living room to see his other 3 hyungs in various stage of preparation. Youngbae was combing his afro hair and mumbling to himself. “Seungri ah, do you think I should cut my hair?” “Erm... Hyung, you never cared for opinions about your hair, why are you asking me now?” “Because Dara noona suggested very nicely the other day that since the weather was getting warming, maybe I should cut my hair. That’s it, I shall go cut it today after the meeting with YG and 2NE1. What time is our practice scheduled for today?” “We didn’t fix a time, so I guess we can talk about it later in the van.” Youngbae nodded and continued with the grooming of his hair. Thank you, Dara noona! No one had dared to tell him that this hairstyle is totally bad, especially when he braids it up. “Seungri ah, did you see my mask pack? I want to bring some for Minzy.” “Dae hyung, you are going to part with your beloved mask packs? Wow...” “It’s for Minzy, she’s part of me now so why can’t I share?” Daesung walked back into his room to continue searching for the masks that he wanted to give to Minzy while Seungri just stared at his retreating back in shock. No one touches Daesung’s beloved masks. No one, not even TOP hyung. And now he’s giving it to that country bumpkin...

226


“Seungri ah, which shirt should I wear? The green one or the green one?” “TOP hyung, they look the same to me and you just describe them with the same color.” “I know, but to Bommie, there is a slight difference. I don’t want to wear the wrong green.” “But they look the same. Ok, which one is the one bought by Bom noona?” “Both of them.” “TOP hyung, go with the one on the right. The blue lines will accent your hair much better than the one with the pink lines. But next time, please tell Bom noona that aliens can be of other colors too and she doesn’t have to buy green clothes for you all the time. Wear the black leather jacket with it otherwise it would be too much.” Jiyong came out of his room, looking like a model ready to walk the runway. He was wearing a simple black turtleneck complete with his black Chrome Heart leather jacket. He wore dark colored Balmain jeans and paired it with a pair of gold high-top sneakers. He accessorised with a simple Chrome Heart necklace and his Chanel beaded necklace. He was putting on his gold Rolex watch when he walked into the living room. “How? How do you look picture perfect? You just woke up 10 minutes ago.” Seungri’s eyes were about to pop out. Other than the fact that Jiyong looked picture perfect, it was the speed that he managed to get everything done that amazed Seungri. Usually, he would have to go and get him a second time, when the others were ready. Jiyong simply shrugged and walked into the kitchen to grab a glass of juice. He took a look at his watch. “You guys have 2 minutes left of the time limit you gave me. If you are not ready to leave in 2 minutes, I’m leaving to pick up the girls while you guys can figure out how to get to YGE on your own. Your 2 minutes starts now.” Usually, the boys would have disregard Jiyong’s threat but since he put the 227


girls in the line, everyone’s movement suddenly became really fast. And within 2 minutes, all 4 were gathered at the entryway, putting on their shoes. Jiyong was equally impressed with the speed that the other 4 got ready. He knew Seungri was just afraid to be left behind but the other 3 was a surprise. Ah.. The power of love. “Who wants to drive?” “Can I drive? But I want the passenger seat to be empty so Dara noona can be at the front with me.” “Can you make sure that we will arrive at YGE within the stipulated time? And no holding hands because there’s no curtains to cover out front.” “Ji...” “I’m serious, Bae. This is not the time to be caught in a controversy. Everyone’s eyes are still on 2NE1. One wrong move, they would never be able to stand on the stage again.” As if this was the wake-up call the 3 attached Big Bang members needed, everyone kept silent. Seungri, seeing the tense atmosphere knew that he had to be the one to loosen it up. “I’d drive but I want Ji hyung to be sitting at the front because it would be a tight squeeze for any of the couples to sit together with me.” The others were really happy that their maknae offered to drive. “BUT each of you owe me a favor. Settled, let’s go.” “YA! Maknae, why do I owe you a favor? You owe me one for letting you have the chance to get 3 favors!” Jiyong ran after the maknae and headlocked him.

228


“Ok ok! Ji hyung, you don’t owe me a favor but you shall have to help me remind the other hyungs!” “Deal!” The boys set off to pick up the girls. And like the other time, the girls sat with their boyfriend and shared a moment before arriving at YGE. They got out of the van and went to YG’s office. While they were not holding hands inside YGE building, each of the boys stood close to their girl. Upon reaching YG’s office, the couples held hands tightly. Jiyong smiled at them and then knocked on YG’s door. At his command to go inside, they walked in and stood in front of his desk. YG was on the phone with someone and at their entrance, he ended the call. “Alright, I’d see you next week then. Take care and remember to bring gifts.” YG laughed at whatever the other party said and then put down the phone. “Have a seat. We have to wait for the elders and the PR team to get here. You guys are especially early today. I’m guessing picking the girls up probably caused that miracle to happen.” The 3 girls blushed and looked at their boyfriends. “I have already told the elders and the PR team about your relationship, so don’t worry about it. My office is the safe zone. Outside of it, exercise caution at all times because you don’t know who might be walking around or just watching all of you.” There was a knock on the door and this signaled the arrival of everyone else. Big Bang and 2NE1 members all got up to greet the elders and the PR team. “Alright, I’d make this meeting short. Girls, your press conference would be held on Valentine’s Day because we want to make the news you are about to give to your fans sound like gifts for them. And on some level they are. I’d leave the PR team to brief you girls on the angle we are taking for the press conference. It would be pretty much what we have discussed previously but 229


this time, with all the confirmed plans.” Jiyong looked at YG then at the girls with a question in his eyes but he didn’t voice it out. Finally Minzy decided to give Jiyong a break and ask the question on everyone’s mind. “Sajangnim, what about Chaerin unnie?” Jiyong mouthed ‘thank you’ to Minzy and turned back to look at YG. He had been looking at Jiyong so the moment he turned to YG, he gave him a knowing smile. “Chaerin had already done a video recording which will be in my hands soon. We will be playing the video during the press conference. She would not reveal where she is but she would show something to the audience that would make people realize that she is really chasing after her dreams of being a fashion designer.” “If she had done the recording, why can’t she just send it to you electronically?” Jiyong couldn’t work out how YG was going to get the recording if not via email. It didn’t seem like Chaerin would be coming back for the press conference. In the end, he just decided to ask. “Can’t wait to get your hands on it already huh?” Everyone shared a laugh at his expense. Instead of coming up with excuses, he just laughed along with everyone else. YG noticed the difference and looked at Youngbae who subtly nodded. YG grinned. He was glad to hear Jiyong’s laughter too. It’s been too long, Jiyong ah... “Don’t worry, you would get a copy of it. I’d make sure of it.” This made Jiyong cover his face in embarrassment but he was also laughing heartily. “By the way, Jiyong, I have asked Jay Park to feature in TOP’s solo album. 230


He will come in next week to discuss the details with you.” Youngbae and Seungri exchanged a quick look. Both thought it strange that their boss would suddenly bring up Jay Park, especially in light of what happened on Twitter yesterday. They looked at Jiyong who didn’t think much of it and was already talking to TOP about which song to feature Jay Park in. Seeing that Jiyong was not alarmed in any way, the two of them looked at each other again and shrugged. “Sajangnim, can we be there when Jay comes? I have always wanted to meet him.” Bom was the one who put forth the request and that got TOP to look at her strangely. If anyone were to look closer, they would see that the great TOP was jealous. “Alright, I’d let you know when he is coming. But do you want to see him more or do you want to see your boyfriend in action more?” Bom actually gave the question some serious consideration. TOP was slowly losing it since he expected Bom to say it was to see him. “To be honest, I want to see Jay more. But seeing the boyfriend is an added bonus.” “Ya, Park Bom...” “Tabi ah~ saranghae~” And so TOP’s tirade was halted by Bom’s aegyo and proclamation of love. The meeting ended with hoots of laughter when TOP leaned over to Bom and kissed her on the lips. He gave her a hug and whispered in her ears. “That’s for calling another guy’s name.” “Aigooo~ Don’t be silly. I’m yours. But I really want to meet Jae Bum-ssi.” That set off another round of laughter since Bom changed the way she addressed Jay and knew that TOP probably said something to her. When the laughter finally died down, YG sent the girls to the PR team to prepare their 231


speeches for the press conference. Since the boys didn’t have anything on, they decide to go to Teddy’s studio to record a new version of ‘Lies’ before they have their practice again for Sketchbook later that day. YG looked at Sean then and he nodded. Sean walked out with the Big Bang boys but he put his hand on Jiyong’s shoulders and stopped him. “Jiyong ah, can I have a word with you?” Although Jiyong was shocked by the request, he knew that Sean meant no harm. He nodded at his members to make a move first while he followed Sean to his office.

232


Chapter 34 6 February 2013 Seoul, 10.45am Sean’s office Jiyong walked with Sean to his office and when asked by his senior to take a seat, he sat down on the couch and took the photo frame at the end table to see the photo of Sean’s family. It brought a smile to Jiyong’s face and a strange yearning to have a family. He shook his head to get rid of the feeling but looking at the photo again, he smiled. “Like what you see?” “Sean hyung, you are truly an amazing man. How do you even do it? You have a career, your relationship with your wife is amazing, and 4 children! Wow!” Sean took the photo from Jiyong’s hand and look at it too. He smiled and in that smile, Jiyong knew. It was a smile of a man in love, very much in love with his family. The kind of happiness and peace that comes from the man is undeniable. Jiyong made a note to come see Sean more often. “When I look at my wife’s face every morning when I wake up, I’m glad that my heart is still beating because I get to spend another day with her. Then I’d go to the children and when they greet me, I know I won’t have given them up for anything in the world. I guess it’s about finding where my heart is.” Sean turned to look at Jiyong and smiled. “Have you found your heart, Jiyong ah? I know you put in your heart and soul into your music and that is pretty much your love but have you found someone that made your heart glad that it’s pumping?” “Hyung, I’ve always thought that music was enough. It makes me excited every time I see a song I wrote in my lyric book become reality. Whether it’s a hit song or not, it doesn’t really matter to me because they are mine, you know what I mean.”

233


Sean nodded his understanding but stayed silent because he knew Jiyong was going to go on. “But I lost it. I stopped hearing the melodies and the words in my head and in my heart. It’s freaking me out.” “Do you know the reason?” “Chaerin. The day I saw her press conference about her stepping down, about her leaving, I panicked. I couldn’t get her on the phone and even when I contacted YG, he was vague on the details and where Chaerin was. The next day, I tried to go to work as per normal, like nothing is wrong. But I couldn’t get anything done. And when Seungri told us that he saw her leaving with her luggage, my heart was seized with a real panic. It was like I knew I was losing her.” Jiyong thought back to the day when Chaerin finally, really left YGE, left Korea and left him. And the fact till now he still did not know where she is made his heart ache again. “Do you think you have lost her?” “Yesterday, Youngbae had a talk with me and he told me something that made me think. He told me to shed my GD image and go back to being Kwon Jiyong. I think GD has lost Chaerin but Jiyong is going to fight to his last breath to get Chaerin back. So no, I do not think I have lost her, not totally.” “How do you know that Chaerin is the one? What if, she comes back and you go back to being GD and push her away again? I’d let you know that along with YG, we are still pretty unsure of where you stand when it comes to Chaerin and we don’t want her to be hurt again.” “Hyung, why is it that everyone knows how much she was hurting and I’m not aware of it? Why didn’t anyone come and hit my head with a hammer or something?” “Simple, because you were never a couple. So while we sympathized with Chaerin, there wasn’t anything we could do and we believe Chaerin knows it

234


as well.” “Hyung, you asked how do I know that Chaerin is the one, can I ask you that question instead? How did you know Hye Young noona was the one for you? Or how do you know someone is NOT the one?” Sean looked at the photo in his hand again and chuckled. “Well, the simplest answer I can give you would be to look into the person’s eyes. Do you see your children in her eyes? To even want to see your children in the girl’s eyes means that you are considering a future with her that includes your offsprings, not just the two of you. If you don’t even see your future with her, then maybe she’s not the one. I saw my children, my future in your Hye Young noona’s eyes the first time I met her. Does that answer your question?” “Hyung, you were at the peak of your career when you met her and decided to pursue her, weren’t you worried?” Sean considered what he was going to say next because it is a serious issue. “Jiyong, right now, Big Bang is at the peak, your career is at its peak, that’s undeniable. But who do you go back home to? Can you do that for the rest of your life? You are right when you say that I met Hye Young at the time when Jinusean was doing very well, and she put me to the test as well. Did you know that she made me bring her to Lotte World and to eat at street food carts for our first date? If I didn’t do that, she won’t go out with me? Popularity, fame, money, they are all good, but at some point in time, it’s not going to be enough. I hesitated, I would admit but at the end of the day, I had to ask myself which is going to last longer. I don’t think I need to answer that question for you.” Sean paused to let Jiyong take in what he had just said before continuing. “Jiyong ah, we know that you have been in and out of relationships throughout the years. That is not a secret and we know that for each of your relationships, you are committed to them. But eventually, you would break up with the girl, or the girl will break up with you because you are too softhearted to do that. Have you asked yourself why? If you haven’t, I think you

235


should ask yourself that question. Because the answer might have been staring at you in your face for the longest time.” Jiyong took a moment to think about all his previous relationships and it was true. After a while, when the passion wore off, when the initial feeling of being in love faded off, he couldn’t wait for the relationship to end yet at the same time, he was never the one to end it. Sean went behind his desk and took out something from a box. “Here, I think this belongs to you. Since you are on a journey to discover yourself, I think this might help. Share it with your members if you want to but I do believe that this was done for you.” Sean put the 6 folders and the 3 photo albums that Chaerin had sealed in the box before she left in front of Jiyong. YG, being the nosey boss that he is, decided to open up the box to see what was in it. When he saw the content, he decided to bring in Sean’s help since he was more of the emotional pillar in the company. They finally decided that they would pass the items to Jiyong at the right time. Since YG saw that Jiyong was on the right path in search of himself and getting the confirmation from Youngbae just now, he decided that it was time for Sean to give the items to Jiyong. “There’s more where this comes from but I will only give it to you at the right time. Chaerin left it with YG for safekeeping. We don’t know if she meant for you to see them but we believe you need to.” “Can’t I have them all?” Sean shook his head no. “I know you are anxious to see everything but believe me when I say it’s not the right time yet. Because some items would send you into a frenzy and you are going to lose your focus. You are doing well. It’s been just 5 days since she left.” “Feels like a lifetime already.”

236


“If 5 days away from each other felt like a lifetime, doesn’t that tell you something too?” “Hyung, do you know where she is?” “I do. But no, I won’t tell you. You are not ready to see her yet and from reliable sources, she’s not ready to see you yet as well.” “Reliable sources?” “YG. He keeps in contact with her, you should know that since you overheard the phone conversation the other day.” “Was she listening in to our meeting today too?” “Nope, YG said he couldn’t contact her.” Jiyong’s eyes showed alarm. “Relax, where she is, it would be time for her to sleep. And she didn’t need to know the details of the press conference since we already know that she has done the recording.” “YG really doesn’t have a copy of it yet?” Sean laughed at the exasperated tone that Jiyong used to ask. “Nope. All I know is that it will arrive next week. How and exactly when, I really don’t know either. But I doubt you will get your copy till after the press conference anyway so treat it as a Valentine’s Day present.” Sean looked at the 2 piles on the table and then back at Jiyong. “You need help with that?” “I think so.” “Come, let me help you bring them down to Teddy’s studio for you. Since the rest of the boys are there. And Jiyong, remember what you asked me today and what you have said. Don’t run away from it.”

237


Jiyong nodded and smiled his thanks. “One more thing, please do not let Chaerin know in any manner that you have gotten hold of these items. Otherwise we are not going to hear the end of it. I’ve heard that you have been sending her messages. Any luck?” To that, Jiyong shook his head. “Don’t give up, especially if it’s a test set up by Chaerin. A message a day at least.” “I have been doing that. It’s such an irony that when she was here, I rarely send her a message or reply to her messages unless I needed something.” “Don’t give up. Eventually, your efforts will be worth it. And now is a good time to practice the one message a day rule.” “I will do that, hyung.” They entered Teddy’s studio and was greeted with the melody of ‘Lies’ playing in the background. Sean turned to look at Jiyong with a question in his eyes. “We thought we would sing this song on Sketchbook as remembrance of our past so that we can look to our future.” “Then I think these folders and photos came in really handy.” “Yes, it’s like she knew that I would need these at some point in time.” “Catch her this time and never let go again.” “I know.” Sean put his pile on the table, greeted Teddy and the boys before leaving to fetch his children from school. Before he left, he gave Jiyong a pat on the back as a sign of encouragement. Sean’s phone rang and when he saw the caller ID, the soft smile that came to his lips made Jiyong smile too and knew who was the one calling.

238


That smile has never changed. Ever since Sean started going out with Hye Young noona, whenever they were with him and she called, he would have that smile. Did I used to smile like that when Chaerin called? I used to at the beginning... When I was still Kwon Jiyong... When I was still her Jingyo oppa... But I lost that somewhere along the line... When I lost Kwon Jiyong... And the right to be called her Jingyo oppa...

239


Chapter 35 6 February 2013 Seoul, 11.45am Teddyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Studio Jiyong sat down on the couch and untie the ribbon holding the folders first. He saw the note that Chaerin had pasted on top of the pile.

Oppa, Through the good and the bad, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m right there beside you. :) But you are not here now, baby... Come back to me please... Before his tears betrayed him again, he put the thought behind. This is not the end. I will see her again. He took out the envelope with his dream card and note and place the note inside with the rest. He looked over to the 3 photo albums and saw that there was another note.

240


Your forever VIP. He detached that note and put it inside the envelope as well. He looked at TOP who was in the recording booth recording the rap parts for ‘Lies’ while the other members were waiting for their turn. He went forward to the sound console, greeted Teddy and then stopped the recording. He smiled at Teddy to reassure him that everything was ok. He gestured for TOP to join them in the studio. Once TOP entered the studio, he gathered all the members and asked them to come over to the table. That was when the other members saw the two piles of materials. “I want us to take a look through these materials together to remember. Since we are doing ‘Lies’ as a kind of tribute to our past, I think a walk down memory lane is necessary.” “Where did you get these from? They are really comprehensive. Even the archives wouldn’t have done such a thorough job.” Youngbae was flipping through their 2011 folder and saw that all the news about them that year had been compiled and put separately according to

241


source. There was news reports from other countries as well. “It’s Chaerin’s collection.” All of them turned to look at Jiyong then as if to check for any sign of previous breakdown before he arrived at the studio. “Did Sean hyung give these to you? How?” “Apparently Chaerin left a sealed box with all these items and put it with YG. Our boss, being the ever curious man that he is, opened up the box and then because it’s rather personal, he decided to call in Sean hyung’s help. I just had a talk with Sean hyung and he gave me these. The best part, there are other items in the box that he refused to pass to me, saying it’s not the right time yet.” “Then maybe it’s not the right time yet. Be patient.” “So, shall we take the trip down memory lane together?” “I’d go get you guys food then.” “Thanks Teddy hyung!” Since they were doing ‘Lies’, they decided to look at their file in 2007. As they flipped through the newspaper clippings, news downloaded from the Internet, everything came back to them as clearly as if it just happened yesterday. They also looked at the photographs in the album and laughed at how they looked during their debut years. When Teddy came back with the food, they tucked in and continued flipping through the folders and photo albums. “The later years, a lot of the photos actually came from either screen captures or our fan sites.” Daesung commented after seeing that the photos at the beginning were taken by Chaerin herself but after 2009, they were gradually replaced by photos from their fan sites or screen captures.

242


“Well, Chaerin did get busy after 2NE1 debut. But to actually still monitor our performances and put down notes beside the photographs took a lot of effort too.” Surprisingly, it was Seungri who came to Chaerin’s defence. He had been the quietest while they were looking through the clippings and the photos. Just then, Teddy picked up the guitar and started strumming ‘Lies’ on it. Jiyong looked up and when it was his cue to come in with the intro, he did. Once he did that, the rest of the members knew that they have to take their cue to come in. At the end, the members were all quite shocked at their impromptu acoustic version of ‘Lies’. “Let’s go acoustic with this song then. But I want it to be slower. TOP hyung, the rap parts, let’s go a bit softer. I’m sorry to say this, but when we sing, can you imagine you being separated from your girlfriend? Seungri, you would just have to imagine that you are separated from someone, take your pick from the girls you have been with.” “Oh I know who I would be imagining.” Seungri’s tone actually sounded a bit sad. “Who?” Daesung asked out of curiosity. But Seungri just gave a mystical smile. “That’s for me to know, and for you guys to never find out.” “Ooooo, our maknae has someone he’s considering seriously too? I know it’s February and Valentine’s Day is coming but seriously, ALL of you?” Teddy exclaimed and then everyone laughed. Jiyong looked at Seungri for a second and his conversation with Seungri on the day that Chaerin left came back to him. When their eyes met, Jiyong knew who he would be thinking of. Chaerin.

243


Seungri smiled at Jiyong and in that smile, Jiyong knew that Seungri was trying to tell him that it’s ok. “Shall we start?” Seungri said with a too-excited tone that made everyone look at him strangely. Jiyong put the thought that Seungri would be thinking about Chaerin when he sang the song behind and focused on what needed to be done. “Alright, remember that we are supposed to convey being separated with our loved ones. We’ll try it once more then we will record it together. Teddy hyung, if you would play the guitar for us.” “For sure, let’s go!” Maybe it’s because all of them were in love and having to think of being separated with their loved ones made it a stronger reality than they thought, the song was a lot more mellow than the original. Jiyong’s rap intro was softer and more melodic as well. TOP’s rap, with Daesung’s voice lost the hard edge and took on a more emotional tone. At the end of the song, all the members had their eyes closed and all had to turn away from each other, dabbing at their eyes. “Wow... That was... Incredible...” All of them turned to see the 2NE1 girls standing at the entrance of the studio. They had come down to the studio, wanting to surprise their boyfriends when they heard the guitar strumming and decided to keep quiet and just listened. At the end of the song, all 3 of them were in awe because they felt so much from the song. In fact, all of them had tears in their eyes as they listened to the voices singing the longing and pain of losing their loved ones. Since Daesung was the closest to the door, Minzy walked over to him and without a word, Daesung pulled her into his embrace. “Oppa.. Can’t... Breathe...” 244


Daesung loosened the embrace but he didn’t let go. He looked into Minzy’s eyes and when he saw the tears, lifted his right hand to wipe them off. “Why are you crying?” “The song was beautiful, sad but beautiful.” “I thought of how I would feel if you were not by my side, just never leave my side, never. Alright?” “Oppa, you have got to stop thinking that I’m going to leave you every time I’m apart from you. We are going to Japan together soon. I’ve just been told we would be staying in the same apartment building, different floors of course.” Minzy tiptoed and whispered in Daesung’s ears. “But I’m going to be alone most of the time.” “Minzy maknae, we can hear you! Dara unnie and I will be taking turns to fly to Japan whenever we can! Oh food!” Seeing the food that Teddy had brought for the boys on the table, Bom grabbed the bread and then sat down on the couch. TOP went over to her and took a bite off her bread after she had taken a bite. “Ya! I’m hungry! Why did you eat my bread? There’s plenty on the table for all of us!” “Indirect kiss~” Bom turned to hold TOP’s chin and planted a loud smacking kiss on his lips. “Now, if you wanted a kiss, ask. Don’t ever eat my food again, ok?” TOP looked like a child who got the toy and the cake. Pure delight showed on his face. “Alright, we’ll take 5. That was perfect. Don’t forget the emotion even

245


though your girlfriend is beside you now.” Jiyong stepped out of the studio because truth be told, the couples were making him a tad uncomfortable. He took out his phone and decide to send Chaerin a message. To: CL (all 3 numbers) 6 February 2013 1.58pm KST

Baby, I want to share a drink with you So I can kiss you indirectly. I want to act like a baby So you would pat my head and give me a hug. There’s so many things I want to do with you, Let me be by your side again, Through the good and the bad. Love you sweetheart. “Messaging Chaerin?” Jiyong looked up to see Seungri offering him a drink. He took the drink and nodded simply. There was no need to hide from him even though he knows that Seungri likes Chaerin too. Seungri just gave him a quick smile. “Hyung, promise me you will take good care of her?” “I will. Seungri ah, sorry.” “Don’t say sorry. She was never mine and would never be mine so it’s just me. But if you hurt her again this time, I will hurt you, leader or not, hyung or not.” “Please do. If you ever feel that I’m hurting Chaerin in any way, please hit me or scold me. I really didn’t know...” “Didn’t know or you didn’t want to acknowledge it? How could you miss it? She tried to walk away from you so many times but time and again you would do something and give her hope again.” 246


Jiyong kept quiet because it was true. He did know that Chaerin likes him and he likes her too but he didn’t realize that not acknowledging or continuing to act ‘normal’ when he’s in a relationship with another girl would hurt her so much. “Ji hyung, let me tell you something. Every time you get into a new relationship, I have a bet with myself how long that relationship is going to last. I never bet more than 6 months and I’m right most of the time. The few times I was wrong, those girls all had one thing in common. I will leave you to think about it. Your 5 minutes is almost up. So let’s go and get the recording done.” Jiyong was stunned. Seungri never spoke to him in this manner before. But this gave him insight just how much Chaerin meant to him. Beneath that joking demeanor, and all the cat-dog love-hate relationship, Seungri cared for Chaerin more than they knew. He took a deep breath and knew that he had better not take the wrong step. Because if he does, not only is he going to lose the most important person in his life, but the rest of YG Family is going to come after him as well, with Seungri leading the pack. He walked into the recording studio and got his members into the recording booth. He turned to look at the 2NE1 girls who were waiting for their boyfriends to finish recording. He decided that he would give the members the rest of the day off once they finished recording because he needed to sort his thoughts out as well. “Alright, let’s try to get this down as quickly as possible. Once we are done, we can all go home. We will do the practice for Sketchbook tomorrow. But be warned that I expect 200% from all of you when we are practicing tomorrow.” The members all hooted with happiness, even Seungri because it’s rare that Jiyong would actually grant them time off when there’s work to be done. And then, the power of love strike again. The recording was done in 3 tries and the track was done. Jiyong was surprised at the overall effect of the acoustic track. The Big Bang members started to pack up and Seungri offered to help Jiyong with the items that Chaerin left for him.

247


Since Big Bang went to fetch 2NE1 to the company, the girls had no choice but to follow them back. Everyone spent the first half of the afternoon watching a movie together. Jiyong excused himself halfway through the movie, saying that he needed to go somewhere. He told them that he would bring back dinner for them. After a while, Seungri left the group and went back to his own room. The 3 couples started to doze off during the movie and decided to switch it off before retiring to their bedrooms.

248


Chapter 36 6 February 2013 Seoul, 4.00pm Jiyong needed a break from the couples. He was happy for them for sure, but seeing them together made him realize what he’s missing. Coupled with the fact that he could have what they have just made the situation all the more depressing. So he made an excuse saying that he had to go somewhere but honestly, he didn’t know where to go. So he just drove along the road and before he knew it, he was back in the area where his family used to live. His whole family moved after he gained popularity. Not because he had the means to move his family to a better house but because the fans were creating quite a bit of problems for their neighbors. His old neighborhood was like any other in Korea. The houses were clustered together and after knowing where he lived, fans would hang out at the local cafes and restaurants just to catch a glimpse of him when he came home from work in the past. At first, the cafe and shop owners were really happy for the customers but as time goes by, these fans stayed there for long hours without ordering food and just taking up space when there were customers who really want to eat at the cafe or restaurants. Despite having the managers talk to the fans numerous times, it didn’t ease the problem much. That was when Jiyong decided to buy his own apartment and let out the news that he was staying on his own, close to YGE. Since it was a private property, the security guards were able to keep the fans at bay. He then moved his parents to another area as well. He drove up the hill to a cafe located right at the top. He smiled. It was really good to have his heart as the navigator. This was the cafe that he used to come with Chaerin. When he arrived at the cafe, he got out of his car and walked into the cafe. Because it’s located at the top of the hill, it’s not as crowded compared to the ones at the foot. But the view was to kill for. He went inside and was

249


greeted by the coffee fragrance that he’s so familiar with. And a soft melodic voice that belonged to the owner’s wife. “Omo! If it isn’t Jiyongie! It’s really been a long time.” “Annyeonghaseyo~” Jiyong bowed respectfully to the lady boss and grinned at her. The lady boss looked behind Jiyong, as if expecting someone else. “Where’s Chaerinnie?” Jiyong’s smile dropped a notch and the lady boss caught on that he was not with Chaerin today. “Where’s the girl then?” Jiyong frowned, not understanding what she meant. “Your present girlfriend?” “I don’t have one.” “Oh.” “Sajangnim, why would you ask me that?” “Jiyong ah, you always bring your girlfriends here. I still remember the first time you brought someone other than Chaerin, I got you into an embarrassing situation when I just asked where was she before I realized you were with someone else.” “Yet, you would always ask me where’s Chaerin first...” The lady boss gave him a matronly smile and then patted his hand. “Let me get you your favorite drink, then we’ll talk ok? You look like you are trying to figure something out. Hopefully I can help. Go sit in your favorite seat.”

250


Jiyong took the lady boss’ advice and went to his favorite seat by the window. Whenever he came with Chaerin, they would always sit by the window. But gradually, as he got more popular, he would always sit inside, hidden in a corner. Because to be caught out on a date with anyone would have caused a scandal that he could do without. As if remembering something, he turned to the window, only to realize that it had been recently re-painted. He took a look around and saw that the cafe had gone through some renovation recently. Or at least since the last time he was here. He felt a little down because he and Chaerin had left their marks here, on the window frame, etc. It’s true then... Somethings will never be the same again... The lady boss came with a tray of tea and Jiyong’s favorite chocolate drink, with chocolate eclairs and a slice of strawberry shortcake. “I got you yours and Chaerin’s favorite whenever you are here.” When the lady boss put down the tray, Jiyong noticed that there was something else on the tray. It looked like a photo album. The lady boss noticed Jiyong staring at the photo album and smiled to herself. “Here, I think this is yours. Or at least yours and Chaerin’s.” The lady boss proceeded to put the drinks and snacks on the table and gave Jiyong a bit of time by walking back into the kitchen to put down the tray. Jiyong opened the photo album and was greeted with a Polaroid photo of the marking they left on the window frame when they came here for the first time.

251


With My Jingyo Oppa With My Hunchae 2006.02.28 He flipped to the next page and saw the notes that each of them wrote and left in the cafe on their first visit, immortalized on Polaroid photos.

252


Today was an exceptionally difficult day at training ă&#x2026; . But itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s all better now because Jingyo oppa brought me here! Jingyo oppa! Thank you! Your Hunchae 2006.02.28

253


Sitting here, looking at her, My heart is warm Despite the cold outside. Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s really MyHunchae~ Chaerin ah, Thank you for coming into my life! Your Jingyo oppa 2006.02.28 As he flipped through the photo album, the memories of sitting at the cafe

254


with Chaerin just came to him again. And like before, his heart felt warm but at the same time, there was an ache that reminded him that sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s not there right now. Soon, my heart, soon... Sheâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d be back with us again... Midway through the album, there was no more notes from him about her. All the notes were written by Chaerin when she came to the cafe on her own. One particular note caught his eyes.

He looked so happy... Sitting there... Looking into her eyes. 255


He didn’t even see me when he walked in, Holding her hands. I guess I have to stop holding your hands now. Jingyo oppa... Goodbye. Chaerin 2009.02.07 Jiyong remembered that was a few days before they saw Gaho together. Then, he was going out with Kiko who happened to fly in for a fashion show and they had gone out on a date together. Shit. I cancelled on her when I got the surprise phone call from Kiko. We were supposed to have dinner and then come to this cafe. So she came without me and saw me with Kiko. Shit. “You know, through the years, she had never came here as CL. Every time she’s here, she’s the Lee Chaerin you brought here the first time. She would always sit by the window, at this seat, without a trace of her stage make-up. If the cafe gets too busy, she would help out in the kitchen since she didn’t want to draw attention or get recognized, knowing that might cause unnecessary inconvenience to us if people realized that she comes to this cafe.” Seeing which page Jiyong was on, the lady boss looked up at Jiyong. “This one must have been the most painful one for her to photograph. The original note was pretty badly smudged after she took a photograph of it. What you see in this photo album are the one she chose to photograph and I guess it’s memories of both of you. A lot of the notes that she wrote in the later years when she came here alone, she didn’t take a photo of them. When she knew that we were going to renovate this place, she called me up and asked if it was alright that she came over after opening hours one of the days to take the photos. I believe it was in between her tour dates. When she came that night, she looked pale but she knew she had to do it before all traces of her memories, with you or otherwise, would be wiped away. I asked if she wanted me to stay with her, she said it was ok and that she 256


would lock the door on the way out and leave the key in the mailbox.” The lady boss looked away for a while, trying to control her tears. After taking a deep breath, she turned back to look at Jiyong. “When I came back the next morning, she was sitting at this chair, asleep. I looked at all the notes that she had painstakingly looked for and the photos that she had taken. Then I looked at her face. The tear trails were still on her face and she was crying in her sleep. The smudged ink on the notes told me that she had been crying when she took the photos.” Jiyong looked at the lady boss with tears in his eyes. “Where are the notes now? The ones she didn’t take a photo of?” “When she woke up, she tried to hide that she had been crying and started putting all the photos in chronological order. After reading all the notes one more time, she threw them away. She has not been back since.” The lady boss looked at Jiyong who had started crying again. Even though he tried to hide it by covering his face, she knew. “Jiyong ah, where is Chaerin?” Jiyong looked up at her and shrugged. He couldn’t say the words that he didn’t know where she was. It hurts too much. “Jiyong ah, I’m asking you again, where is Chaerin?” Jiyong was puzzled why would the lady boss ask again. The lady boss could see the confusion in his eyes. “Jiyong ah, one last time, where is Chaerin?” Jiyong thought about the conversation he had with Sean. The ache in his heart seemed to be telling him something too. Then he realized what the lady boss was asking. He smiled despite having tears flowing down his face. “In my heart.”

257


“That’s it, boy. You didn’t come here today because you want to. You have not been here for a long time, well, since your last girlfriend anyway. I believe your heart brought you here. Here, take these back with you and stop hurting your heart.” In the hand of the lady boss was a Ziploc bag containing the stack of notes that Chaerin had thrown away. Jiyong looked like someone who had just been given oxygen after being underwater for too long. He took the notes out from the bag and looked through every note. “Jiyong ah, you asked me why I would always ask if Chaerin is with you every time you are here. Because she’s the one for you. I have seen all your girlfriends but you never brought the same girl here twice. Ever wondered why?” Jiyong shook his head. Too many people have been asking him to think about his past relationships that day. He just want a straight answer so that he could reflect upon it. “Because your heart knows who it belongs to. When you came here with Chaerin for the first time, you already knew who you would come back here again and again with. You might bring your girlfriends here but when you walk out of here, you know it didn’t feel right. You were trying to find a replacement for Chaerin, to find the same feeling that you have when you are here with her. But you never did, did you? And your heart never ever allowed you to bring the same girl back here again. Your heart already knows that no one could compare to Chaerin. No one can make you feel the way she did. Her place in your heart is permanent.” Jiyong thought about what the lady boss had just said and the last bit got his attention. Your heart already knows that no one could compare to Chaerin. No one can make you feel the way she did. Then he remembered what Sean asked him and what Seungri told him about his bet with himself. Is that why I would always break up with my ex-girlfriends?

258


Because none of them can be compared to Chaerin? Because none of them can ever make me feel the way I do when I’m with her? Is that why my relationships never lasted for more than 6 months? What about those that did? Jiyong tried to think about those girls who Seungri said lasted more than 6 months and strangely, he can’t even remember their faces. But I remembered their eyes... They were the same as Chaerin’s... The cat-like eyes... But they lack the warmth that I always see in hers... Because they are not Chaerin. “Sajangnim, have I been wasting my time all these years when the one I want has been right there beside me?” “Dear boy, nothing is for naught. If you didn’t go through all those relationships, you won’t know who is the right one for you. If Chaerin didn’t leave you, you won’t know how important she is to you. I’m pretty sure this time, when you finally meet her again, you are not going to let her go. Because now you know. So, until you get together with her, this is the last time I’m letting you into my cafe.” “You know that she left?” “I do watch TV and read the news. But also because after she came to take the photographs, she just left them with me. When I asked her why, she said she can’t bring too much baggage with her where she’s going, especially you. You have your work cut out for you. She seemed determined this time to leave you behind.” “If she didn’t want the reminder, why did she come and take the photos? She could have just let you throw them away or re-paint over.” The lady boss smacked Jiyong on his head. “Aigooo~ For someone who have had so many relationships before, you

259


don’t know why she did this? For her, it’s a ritual. She needed to see everything one more time before she can let go. Girls are scary that way because once they decide that the relationship is done, they do what is necessary to end it once and for all. I’m pretty sure this was not the only thing she did.” Jiyong got a bit depressed when he heard what the lady boss said because the items that Sean handed over to him that morning now seemed like part of this ‘cleansing’ ritual as well. Is this a lost cause then? Would I never be able to get her back? “All’s not lost. Jiyong, she loved you for a very long time and probably still does. It might be a good thing that she tried to leave everything of the old relationship behind. That means both of you can start afresh. Since both of you were never in a relationship before, it’s actually a good thing. She might have put an end to her infatuation or unrequited love for you but that doesn’t mean that Chaerin AND Jiyong cannot happen. Just remember that, you would not get another chance.” “I’m so afraid that I would do something wrong and ruin it all.” “So you are not going to even try? I thought you have more guts than that.” “Because I know what is at stake, it’s really scary to take a wrong step.” “Listen to your heart. Then you will not go wrong. Sometimes we need to think less and just do what your guts tell you to do. Alright, I’m going to leave you here to think about what you are going to do. I’ve closed the cafe for the day so no one can disturb you. You can stay for as long as you want. If you need anything, just let me know.” “Thank you sajangnim!” The lady boss smiled at him and left to go back to the kitchen. Jiyong looked at the drinks and snack that the lady boss had prepared for him and he took out his phone and took a picture.

260


To: CL (all 3 numbers) 6 February 2013 5.30pm KST

Baby, This is the last time I can step into this cafe. Lady boss will only let me in if I bring you with me the next time. Will you come back with me? Today, I realized that my heart has chosen its owner a long time ago. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s you. It has always been you. Sorry, sweetheart of mine, Sorry for hurting you all these years. I promise I would never hurt you again. He started eating the eclair and then the strawberry shortcake. With every bite, he remembered how Chaerin would eat her strawberry shortcake. How she would take the strawberry on top and put it to the side and cut it into two and feed him half of it. How she would put the remaining strawberry into her mouth and close her eyes to savor the fruit. How she would then cut a piece of the cake and eat it. 261


As he ate the sweet-sour fruit, tears fell from his eyes. But this time, it wasn’t pain that triggered off the tears. It was the knowing, the accepting of the simple truth that it has always been Chaerin that his heart would run back towards. There was a smile on his face as he finished the last mouthful of cake. This is the last time I’m going to eat a strawberry shortcake alone. Just then his phone signalled a new message. When he read the message, he laughed. From: Bom Noona 6 February 2013 5.54pm KST

Jiyong-kun, we are hungry! Our stomachs are singing a rebellion song, can you hear it? Please come back and bring food to appease the hungry stomachs! And bring me corn ok? To: Bom Noona 6 February 2013 5.56pm KST

Noona, I’m coming back with food now. Give me 30 minutes. And yes I’d bring corn for you. Any other requests? From: Bom Noona 6 February 2013 5.58pm KST

Nope! Thank you! ^^ Jiyong got up, picked up the photo album and the bag of notes and went to the counter to pay for the food. The lady boss refused to take any payment from him. Seeing that she refused to take the payment for his food, Jiyong bought what’s left of the cakes and pastries and insisted on paying for those. Knowing how stubborn he can be, the lady boss relented and sold the cakes and pastries to him at half price. She helped him bring the cakes and pastries to his car and before he left, left him with some final words. “Remember, listen to your heart and I want to see the two of you holding hands when I see you here next.” “I will. Sajangnim, thank you!” 262


Jiyong got into his car and felt better than he had in the last 5 days. His heart felt more settled, knowing that he had finally acknowledged what he had always thought he knew. He took in the view one more time and then drove off to get food for his second family. He called the Japanese restaurant they always go to and order their sushi platter and sashimi set. He added other ala carte dishes that he knows his members love and most importantly, he got the kitchen to grill some corn that’s off the menu. 15 minutes later, he waited at the restaurant car park and paid the manager when he came to deliver the food to him. When he was about to arrive at Big Bang dorm, he called Seungri to come downstairs to help with all the food since he had the cakes and pastries as well. When the couples saw the amount of food that Jiyong brought back, they were really excited. “Let’s eat!” Bom, being the eldest, gave the signal to start eating. And because everyone was hungry, there was silence as everyone concentrated on eating. The couples started feeding each other and that brought about some teasing and booing from the 2 single men. “Hwangssanbu is going to have my head for eating so much but I don’t careeh-eh-eh-eh-eh~!” Everyone laughed at what Bom said. “Bommie unnie, we’ll help you keep it a secret.” “Minzy ah, it’s no use. He would still know. Doesn’t matter, I’m happy, my Tabi is with me, that’s all it matters!” Everyone laughed at Bom’s statement again and TOP held her hand in his tightly. Jiyong looked around him and seeing the couples, sighed. Indeed, all it really matters is having the person you love beside you. Chaerin ah... I miss you. 263


Chapter 37 6 February 2013 Milan, 2am Jay went to Chaerin’s room to check on her. He was a little worried about her since he saw her break down just now. He knocked on her door and getting no reply, he gently opened the door and peeked in. He saw that she was asleep with a smile on her face. That put his mind at ease. He was about to leave the room when he saw the burst of light from the side table. He looked at the caller ID. YG Sajangnim He wanted to ignore the call but he wasn’t sure if it was something urgent so he made a quick decision. He picked up the phone from the side table and left the room before picking up the call. “Hello, Yang sajangnim...” “Jay? Why are you holding onto Chaerin’s phone? Is she not with you?” “Yang sajangnim, Chaerin is asleep at the moment. I only picked up your call because I was worried that it might be something urgent.” “Did something happen today? Chaerin usually don’t sleep so early.” “Maybe because she had a long day, nothing major happened today.” “Nothing major, so something did happen today.” “I just had a talk with her about Jiyong and it got a little emotional for her. Do you need me to wake her up? Is it something important?” “I’m just calling to check on her, that’s all. What did you talk to her about?” “I told her that Jiyong might be just too afraid to lose her, which is why he never made his move. I told her to be more honest when it comes to showing Jiyong how she really feels about him or his actions. If she acts like she’s ok when she’s hurting, Jiyong might just feel that he is not as important to him as she is to him.” 264


“Good, I think she needed that. When are you coming back to Seoul?” “I’d flying back on the 9th and arriving in the evening on the 10th.” “Then would you be able to meet me on the 12th? I’d like to meet with you first before introducing you to TOP and Jiyong.” “12th shouldn’t be a problem but let me confirm with you again when I arrive in Seoul? I’d let my manager know about the date and see if there are any crashes. If not, then it would be alright.” “Good, I’d ask Jiyong and TOP’s managers to clear up 12th and 13th for them. Can you pass the message to Chaerin that the 2NE1 press conference is going to be held on 14th? Did Chaerin tell you that I would like to ask you to bring back the video recording that she has done?” “No, she didn’t tell me that but I can do that, not a problem. Sir, I need to ask permission for something.” “What would that be?” “You mentioned that Jiyong would want a copy of Chaerin’s press conference video. Would you mind if I do some editing of my own for his copy?” “Be my guest. If your edit can give him an idea of how Chaerin is doing, I think that would be great. But Jay, I have to warn you. Jiyong has become very sensitive about Chaerin. I do not know how he’s going to react when he found out that you have been staying with Chaerin for a week under the same roof.” “I expect him to go crazy but don’t worry, I didn’t go to the gym for nothing. I can throw a punch or two if I have to.” “Oh! One more thing. Since the press conference is going to be on Valentines’ Day, do you think you can coax Chaerin to make some gifts for her girls and maybe the Big Bang members as well?” “I could try. We made a strawberry shortcake this evening.”

265


“How’s the taste?” “It was really good. And yes, I have to let you know that I tweeted a photo of Kimchi fried rice that Chaerin made and mentioned Jiyong. His reaction told me what I needed to know about how he feels about Chaerin. I was vague about whether I was with Chaerin or not.” “Good good~ What about the strawberry shortcake?” “I tweeted the picture too but that didn’t get any response from him.” “Alright, I’d see you next week then. Take care and remember to bring gifts.” “Sir, you are a very demanding cupid. I will come bearing gifts suitable for the occasion. You have a good day too, sir. I’d see you next week.” Both YG and Jay ended the call. Jay went back into Chaerin’s room to put her phone back on the side table. He took another look at Chaerin and seeing that she was sleeping peacefully, he went back to his own room and fell asleep within minutes. 6 February 2013 Seoul, 8pm KST “Jiyong oppa, thanks for the feast!! I’ve not had so much food for so long! Where did you get the cakes and pastries from?” “A cafe in the area where I used to live in. Your Chaerin unnie and I went there a lot during our trainee years.” “Oh that cafe. Chaerin unnie used to go there a lot on her own. She brought me there once. I think Seungri oppa was there before too. Chaerin unnie showed me the note that they wrote and left in the cafe.” Jiyong turned to look at Seungri who was staring at the strawberry shortcake in front of him. When he heard his name, he looked up and met Jiyong’s eyes. “Yes, once. We never went there again, at least not together. We were there 266


together only because I was following Chaerin, wanting to make sure that she was alright.” Jiyong looked over at Seungri with a frown, showing his confusion. Seungri looked directly at Jiyong as he replied to the silent query. “Every time you announced a new girlfriend, she would leave after practice on her own. I followed her that time and found out that she would always go to this cafe. We didn’t talk much. She just sat at her favorite seat and ate her strawberry shortcake. Strangely, she only ate half of the cake, even the strawberry at the top was halved. There was also a chocolate eclair which was left untouched and a cup of chocolate. Occasionally, she would look at the window frame. A couple of times, she looked like she was going to break down in tears. But she kept it in. We left when the cafe closed for the day.” Seungri remembered that day as clearly as if it just happened. Looking at Chaerin holding her tears in and stealing glances at the mark that they left when they went there for the first time, he remembered his heart hurting. He had wanted to take her hands in his and tell her to give him up, that he would protect her. Or to just cry and he would be there to wipe away her tears. But he didn’t. He knew Chaerin is a prideful girl and the only person she ever put aside that pride for is Jiyong. He remembered the note he wrote that night. He wrote 2, one was the one that was left at the cafe, the other one he had kept it in his wallet till this day. “What did she write in her note that day?” Jiyong addressed the question to Seungri. He was a little taken back that Chaerin would order the same things that they would order when they go together. Seungri looked at Jiyong and smiled a bitter smile. “‘Like a moth to fire, I watch myself burn.’ That’s what she wrote.” “And what did you write?” “‘The strawberry shortcake is delicious!’ That’s what Seungri oppa wrote.” “It is really delicious!” 267


Dara, seeing the mood had turned strange, took the chance to lighten it again. The strange feeling that Chaerin had meant more to Seungri made her, and everyone at the table a little uncomfortable. Seungri looked at Dara and knew her intention. “It is really delicious isn’t it? I went back there a few more times just to satisfy my craving for the strawberry shortcake. You guys should try some since Ji hyung brought back so much cakes and pastries.” Everyone decided to play along and each took either a piece of the cake or pastry. The couples were feeding each other and the atmosphere returned to normal again. Seungri looked at Jiyong and nodded. Hyung, don’t worry, it’s nothing. I know where I stand. After dinner, Seungri offered to be the driver again to bring the 2NE1 girls back to their dorm since it was still not safe for their boyfriends to send them back individually. And the boyfriends wanted to tag along so the best way was to have a driver in front while the couples stayed at the back. On the way back, Daesung offered to sit upfront with Seungri. The story of Seungri and Chaerin in the cafe had aroused their curiosity and they wanted to know. Since Daesung was the closest in age to Seungri, they ‘nominated’ him as the one to talk to him. “Maknae, what was that all about at the dining table just now?” Seungri knew what Daesung was asking but he choose to act dumb. “Dae hyung, what are you talking about?” “Ya! Lee Seunghyun, don’t act dumb with us. You know exactly what we are talking about.” TOP scolded the maknae. Seungri knew that wasn’t any escaping so he waited for them to ask again. “Are you, by any chance, in love with Chaerin too?” 268


Youngbae knew beating around the bush won’t get them the answers they wanted in the limited time they have. The van came to a stop at the carpark of Big Bang’s dorm and Seungri looked away for a while, as if gathering his thoughts and pondering how to answer his hyungs. “Seungri?” “Yes, I am, for a very long time now but I know that it’s no use because I know deep inside she belongs with Ji hyung. But I can’t help being hurt when she’s hurt. And I lied just now about not going to the cafe with her again. Or rather, she didn’t know that I was there. Since that time, and knowing that’s where she would go wherever Ji hyung would announce, all excited, that he’s got a new girlfriend, I would go there just to look out for her. And the note that she wrote? Behind the note, she would put down how many times it has been. So the note that time when I was with her, it’s actually ‘Like a moth to fire, I watch myself burn. x5’. I’ve searched for the rest of her notes. Each of them was the exact same words. The increment in the number hurt like crazy for me, can you imagine how it’s like for her?” Seungri took a deep breath and when he blinked, the tears fell. “Do you know why she would only eat half of the strawberry shortcake? And why she ordered all the other pastries and one more cup of drink when it’s only her?” No one said anything. That was the other question on everyone’s mind when he spoke of it during dinner. “Because that’s what Ji hyung would order and she always shared the strawberry shortcake with him, right down to the strawberry on top. You guys should know how much she loves strawberries, yet she always shared it with him.” “How did you know that?” “You guys are going to think of me as a stalker now but do you remember once when we were all in the recording studio listening to Ji hyung recording 269


for his first solo album and Chaerin was there because they were supposed to go for dinner?” The members tried to think back and each remembered that particular incident. “Remember how Ji hyung received a phone call and then send each of us a message telling us to go along with his story when he said that our manager hyung forgot one of our schedules and we needed to leave urgently?” “Oh yes, I felt so sorry for Chaerin that day when we had to lie to her. She was so excited and looking forward to the dinner. I remembered when she heard the news, her smile just disappeared and though she looked away, I think she cried. But that was only for a second. Then she regained her composure, took her bag and left. You followed her then too?” TOP remembered the incident and the uneasiness he felt then came at him again. He didn’t like to lie. Seungri nodded. “She went to the restaurant that she was supposed to go with Ji hyung and played with her food. She didn’t eat much and as if staying there alone reminded her of the failed date, she got up and left. She went to the cafe then. She did the same thing, sat by the window and ordered the exact same thing. I sat somewhere else, away from sight but I could still see her.” “Then what happened?” “About an hour later, she suddenly perked up when she caught sight of something outside the window. I didn’t realize what she saw until I saw Ji hyung walking in. With Kiko.” “WHAT? Was Ji out of his mind? Why would he bring Kiko there?” “I saw the smile and excitement a minute ago fell and she just opened her eyes wide, as if she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She quickly looked away when Ji hyung turned. He walked by my table, holding Kiko’s hand. When the lady boss walked past my table with his order, I realized that he had ordered the exact same thing. I thought Kiko liked strawberry shortcake and tea too but while she sipped the tea, she never once touched

270


the strawberry shortcake. And guess what?” “Please don’t tell me he kissed her in front of Chaerin. I might go kick his ass now.” “Count me in.” Youngbae and TOP were angry because they not only had to lie to Chaerin but now that they knew that she knew it was a lie, they were indignant. “Ji hyung did exactly what Chaerin did with the strawberry shortcake. He only ate half of the cake and he cut the strawberry into half as well.” “I’m sorry but that’s kind of creepy. Why does he do the same thing when he’s with someone else?” “Because subconsciously, he thinks that he’s with Chaerin or he’s trying to feel the same way he would feel when he’s with Chaerin. I have seen the notes that they left in the cafe. They had a lot of memories in that place.” Seungri paused and then continued because he needed to reassure the rest of his hyungs that his love for Chaerin would not be a problem between him and Jiyong. “And it’s also because of that, that I know that no one could replace Chaerin in his heart. That’s the reason why I never made a move on Chaerin, choosing instead to just be there for her or distract her by irritating her all the time. I don’t think he even realized what he was doing but now it seems that he has.” The 4 guys sat in the van in silence, each absorbed in their own thoughts. Seungri looked up towards the sky and said a silent prayer. Lee Chaerin, Be safe and be strong. Ji hyung will come for you soon. Don’t worry, if he hurts you again, I’m going to kick him for you.

271


Chapter 38 6 February 2013 Milan, 8.30am Chaerin was in the kitchen cooking breakfast for Jay and herself. She had woken up at 6am, feeling refreshed from a good night of sleep and went jogging. On her way back, she went to the grocery store and she saw the fresh bananas and decided to make banana pancakes and bacon for breakfast. She bought a bunch of bananas and made her way back to the apartment. Jay woke up to the delicious smell of bacon. He let his nose lead him to the kitchen. He thought he had gone to heaven and was now meeting his personal angel. He shook his head at the ridiculous thought and sobered up enough to see that Chaerin, dressed in a baggy white knit sweater and black tights with a red apron, was standing at the stove cooking breakfast. He walked back into his room to get his phone. He crept quietly back to the kitchen and took a picture of her side profile. He took a look at the photo and then back at Chaerin, marveling at the perfection that was standing in front of him. “Monkey oppa, if you are done taking sneaky pictures of me, go wash up. Breakfast is almost ready.” “How...” “I knew the moment you stepped into the kitchen for the first time. I think all guys are the same when they wake up to the smell of food.” “Ooooo, our scandal-less 2NE1 leader cooks breakfast for unknown male in the morning? This is an exclusive scoop!” “Ooooo, it is indeed an exclusive scoop because it would then have to be revealed that I didn’t cook for 1 but 4 males. It was a tradition between the Big Bang boys and 2NE1 girls that we would gather at least once a month just to share a meal. Since it was easier to just eat at home, we just ended up cooking all the time. The Big Bang members are good cooks in their own rights too.”

272


“4 males? Who’s the missing one?” “Jiyong oppa. Sometimes, it’s only 3. Seungri was in Japan a lot last year.” “But how did you guys manage, especially last year, when both groups were touring?” Chaerin remembered how it was really difficult and almost impossible to gather the two groups. That was the beginning of all the quarrels among the couples, about not spending enough time together. “Last year was especially difficult but we tried nonetheless.” When Chaerin placed what she cooked for breakfast in front of Jay, he just stared at it dumbly. “You bought this right?” “I bought the bananas yes, since I didn’t bring my portable banana tree with me. But everything was made in this lovely kitchen.” “Can I be invited to your future meal dates with Big Bang and the girls? This looks amazing and I bet they are going to taste like heaven too.” “Oppa, it’s just caramelized banana pancakes and bacon. It’s not difficult to make.” “You are talking to one who eats cornflakes for breakfast AND lunch and sometimes dinner too because it’s the most convenient food. Is this your signature dish too?” “Actually no. I actually got the recipe from Youngbae oppa but I have added chocolate chips inside because I always can’t decide between banana or chocolate so I figured why not both. Try it and tell me how it taste like.” Jay took a picture of the pancakes and bacon then posted it on Twitter.

273


@JAYBUMAOM: I’m in HEAVEN! The angel could not decide between banana or chocolate chip pancakes so she decides to put both together! “Jay oppa, are you tweeting again?” Chaerin got her own serving and sat down opposite Jay at the dining table. She was concerned that it would arouse suspicions but decided that she’s safe because Jiyong didn’t really join them for their monthly cook-out. When he did join them, she’s usually not there. “Yes! I’m in heaven and I want everyone to know!! Can I not go back to Seoul? Can I stay here with you till you finish your 6-month course here?” “Jay oppa, what about your fans? I thought you are going to release the new album soon. How can you forget your fans? I’m disappointed...” Chaerin shook her head and put on her most disappointed look on her face. Knowing that she was just joking, Jay started cutting up the pancakes and ate it

274


“Oh my! I am in heaven! Gosh, Chaerin, this is too good! Chocolate and banana!!” “Eat more then. I have some more batter in the fridge if it’s not enough for you.” The two of them ate in silence for a while. After satisfying the initial hunger pang, Jay decided to satisfy his curiosity. “Chaerin, other than Jiyong, who are you close with in Big Bang?” Chaerin took some time to consider. She was close to each of the members but if she really have to choose someone after Jiyong, then it would probably have to be Seungri. “I’m close to all of them but if I really have to pin-point who I’m closest with after Jiyong oppa, then it would have to be Seungri.” That caught Jay a little off-guard. Because from what he knew about Chaerin and Seungri, the two of them have a cat-dog relationship. “But I thought the two of you have a cat-dog relationship?” Chaerin laughed at how Jay described her relationship with Seungri. “We do. He irritates me all the time. ALL THE TIME. Yet he’s the one I find myself most comfortable with when I just want to sit down with someone and not have to talk. Why do you suddenly ask that?” “I’m just curious because when I see the 2 groups on 2NE1 TV or YG ON AIR, you guys seemed really awkward around each other.” “I think it’s because we are too close? If we were to act the way we act with each other on broadcast, it would have caused quite a bit of scandal. So in being careful, we became awkward.” “Why would it have caused scandals?” Chaerin looked up from eating her pancakes and weighed if she should tell Jay about the couples. 275


“Jay oppa, I need you to swear that whatever I’m going to tell you next will stay within this apartment. You are not to let anyone, even the people I’m telling you about know that you know. Because that would be a dead giveaway that you were with me and YG won’t like that.” “Ok, this sounds serious.” “It is. It concerns the survival of Big Bang and 2NE1.” “Alright, since I still want to collaborate with you, I guess I have to keep my mouth shut.” “Ok. Other than me, Seungri and Jiyong oppa, the other members are actually coupled up. TOP oppa with Bommie unnie, Youngbae oppa with Dara unnie and Daesung oppa with Minzy.” Jay looked at Chaerin with slight disappointment on his face. “That’s it?” “That’s it?! This is big news!” “Chaerin, it is big news to the fans and because of who we are but is being in a relationship really that big of a deal? To decide to be in a relationship together, despite knowing the odds against them, they already know what they want. They keep it a secret because they don’t want people outside the relationship to hurt their other half. If they really want to be together, what can the fans do? They can either choose to support or choose to leave. To them, fans aren’t the ones who would stay with them for the rest of their lives, it’s the person they choose to be in a relationship with.” “But it might cause the group to break up and cause distress to the fans and the company would find it difficult to savage the situations.” “Chaerin, let me ask you a very serious and painful question. I apologize in advance but I think you need to ask yourself this. How long do you think 2NE1 can survive in the fast-changing Kpop world? Two of your members are near 30 years old, while they are pretty and youthful still, can they compete against the 18-year-olds who are being groomed and trained and 276


debuted now? In 2012, close to 70 new groups debuted. How many of these 70 would we still see this year? Did they disappear because they got into relationships? If you are asking about fans, they are probably one of the most fickle group of people. Not to sound ungrateful, but fans eventually grow out of their adoration for us, reality kicks in, they can’t just be standing outside our company, trying to steal glimpses of us all their life. Popularity and fame is but temporal. I’d know, I used to be the leader of one of the most popular male group in Korea, even more popular than Big Bang at some point. When my scandal happened, fans either rallied together for me or against me. 2PM suffered too. Is that caused by a relationship? Strangely, I believe your company would know exactly what to do. I won’t be surprised if they are already putting plans into action to desensitize the fans about the couples.” “What about the dating ban that YG put on us? Isn’t that to prevent us from getting in relationships?” “Ever asked yourself why, other than the reasons you have already given to me?” “Not really.” “Chaerin, the average lifespan of an idol group is 5 years. Because the target audience are teenagers from age 13 to 18. After that, the harsh reality will kick in. When 2NE1 debuted, Dara noona and Bommie noona were already in their mid-20s while you and Minzy were barely out of your teens. If the company didn’t impose the dating ban, speculations of Dara noona and Bommie noona being in relationship would have buried your group even before it can take flight. The dating ban is a preventive measure against rumors and speculations, never against the members.” Chaerin considered what Jay had just said and it made sense to her. “I’m sure you were against your members’ relationship initially. What changed your mind?” “Because they never gave up even when it was obviously easier to give up the relationship rather than carry on. It’s like they were very sure that they have found who they want to spend their life with. I couldn’t be the one to

277


break it up.” “So you left to protect your members?” Chaerin looked at Jay in surprise. “Don’t look so surprised. Only by leaving, can they start thinking about their individual routes. Only by leaving, can 2NE1 stop activities for a while. Only by leaving, can the couples be put in situations where they can work together and be seen together without piling suspicions on them.” “How...” “I was a leader once too. Rather than have Koreans hate 2PM, I would rather people hate just me. I admit that the situation could have been handled better by the company and myself but at that time, the easiest solution was for me to leave. Let it be seen that I have abandoned 2PM, abandoned the fans, abandoned Korea, instead of them abandoning me. However short it was, we were in the same team, chasing after the same dream.” “Did you ever regret it?” “I was upset because I knew there were fans who were fighting for me, against my team, against my company. I started from zero again. But I get to do things that I love again without restrictions now. So I guess it did work out well for me at least.” “I’m happy for you. It was difficult watching a fellow artiste face the kind of controversy that you did.” “Is that why you ran from Jiyong, to protect him? “Yes.” “What makes you think that he wants your protection? What if he wants to be caught with you?” “Jay oppa, you don’t understand. I can’t subject him to such risks. He’s at the top of his game now. Any scandal would topple him. I can’t allow that to 278


happen.” “Chaerin, have you ever thought of the possibility that he’s tired of being at the top especially if being at the top means he can’t stand beside you?” “Jay oppa, remember what I told you about him being the only star in my sky? If he falls, I will lose the right to look at him from afar. So he can’t fall.” “So you want to subject him to a life of loneliness, without his true love beside him? There’s no one else in the sky with him. He gets lonely too you know?” “That’s only in my sky. In my sky, he’s the only star. But he’s in a lot of other people’s skies, with other stars around him. The Big Bang oppas are with him. And...” Chaerin swallowed the ache as she thought of who else would be around him. “And the girl he chooses to fall in love with.” “If I didn’t remember wrong, that girl happens to be you.” “He might be in love with me now, but I would never be the one that is in his heart.” “Are you sure?” Chaerin was about to answer when her phone beeped, signaling a new message from either YG or Jiyong.

279


Chapter 39 6 February 2013 Milan, 9.30am CET From: GD 6 February 2013 9.30am CET

Baby, This is the last time I can step into this cafe. Lady boss will only let me in if I bring you with me the next time. Will you come back with me? Today, I realized that my heart has chosen its owner a long time ago. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s you. It has always been you. Sorry, sweetheart of mine, Sorry for hurting you all these years. I promise I would never hurt you again. The shock on Chaerinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s face and the tears that just started to cascade down her cheeks told Jay all he needed to know. Jiyong had sent her a message

280


that probably just showed her what she has been trying to deny all along. “How could it be...” “You underestimate how much weight you have in his heart.” “But all those relationships... Him bringing his girlfriend to this cafe, to our cafe... How can he say that... It’s unfair...” Chaerin started crying at this point as she remembered the last time she was in that cafe. Jay passed tissues over to her and waited for her to stop crying. When he saw that she had stopped, he asked. “So what happened at the cafe?” “He was preparing for his 1st solo album and we barely had time to meet up. But he called me up the day before and asked me out for dinner. I was really excited because I have not seen him for a long time. So the next day, I dressed up and went to meet him at the recording studio. The other Big Bang members were there to give support as well. So I was just there waiting. At around 5.30pm, he received a phone call. When he saw who was calling, he went out of the studio to pick up the call. After about 5 minutes, all the Big Bang members received a message on their phone and they looked a little uneasy. Jiyong oppa came into the room and apologized, saying that he had to cancel our dinner date because their manager forgot a schedule. I looked at all the other members, who didn’t dare meet my eyes. I was upset, not just because the dinner was cancelled but because he lied and he made the other members lie to me as well. I was disappointed but I left to salvage what’s left of my pride. I went for dinner at the restaurant that we were supposed to eat at. But I couldn’t stomach anything. I decided to go to this cafe that we used to go to when we were trainees. It was our cafe. Every single time we were there, we would order the same thing and we would write notes for each other and leave it in the cafe.” Chaerin paused as the most painful memory of the cafe came back to her

281


again. “About an hour later, I looked out of the window and I saw his car. For a moment there, I thought he came by to look for me. I looked away from the window and dug out my mirror to check how I looked.” When she remembered that moment of vanity now, she laughed at her own stupidity. “When I heard the bell above the door tinkled, I turned to look. I wanted to surprise him but he surprised me instead. He walked in with his then girlfriend, Kiko, holding hands and looking really happy. He went to the lady boss who was looking at him strangely and ordered the exact same thing that we would order whenever we were there.” “Did he ask Kiko what she wanted?” “Not that I remember but my memory is rather hazy after I saw him with the girl.” “Mind if I ask what would you guys order?” “Strawberry shortcake and tea for myself, chocolate eclair and hot chocolate for him. I usually share the strawberry shortcake with him.” “Did the girl eat the cake at all?” Chaerin thought hard. She tried to not look at them but she couldn’t resist stealing glimpses. “I don’t think so. She drank the tea though.” “Then what happened?” “Nothing much. They sat there, Jiyong oppa did most of the talking and he looked really happy. About 30 minutes later, Kiko said she needed to go back, so they left.” “What did you do then?”

282


“I sat there and decided that I have to have a clean cut from Jiyong oppa. That was the last time I was there.” “Were you close to the lady boss?” Chaerin was puzzled about why Jay would ask about the lady boss suddenly. “I would think so. I go there alot on my own especially after Big Bang had their debut. Whenever I’m there, I would feel that I’m there with Jiyong oppa.” “Has the lady boss ever talked to you about Jiyong?” “Usually just asking about how he’s doing and such.” Then as if remembering something, Chaerin frowned. “What is it?” “That night, after Jiyong oppa left with Kiko, the lady boss actually sat down with me. She said a whole bunch of things, like how Jiyong would bring his girlfriends to the cafe but he never brought the same girl twice. She also mentioned that the two of us would order the same thing and have the same habit with the strawberry shortcake.” “What would this habit be?” “I told you that I would share the cake with him right? So even when I’m alone, I would only eat half of the cake. Even the strawberry on top, I would halved it.” “And according to the lady boss, he does the exactly same thing?” “That’s the only habit I can think of when it came to the strawberry shortcake.” “Chaerin, do you realize the significance of what the lady boss told you?” “I don’t understand...”

283


“You go to the cafe alone but you will order for 2 of you. Even though he brought his girlfriends to the cafe, he bought the same thing, as if he’s at the cafe with you. By your account, you don’t remember Kiko eating the cake at all so he couldn’t have ordered it according to her preference. He does the same thing with the cake, eating only half of it, like he’s with you. And most importantly, he never brought the same girl back there twice.” “So?” “Every time he goes to the cafe, he is trying to feel like he’s there with you! With every new girlfriend, it’s like a ritual to see if his heart can feel the same way when he’s with you. And none of them passed the test. Which was why he never brought the same girl back to the cafe, except you.” Jay let the information sink in before he continued. This was going to be the difficult bit. “Chaerin, other than Big Bang becoming busy, why did you and Jiyong stop going to cafe together?” “I don’t know. We just stopped...” “When was the last time you went together then?” “4 January 2008.” “How can you remember the date so well and not remember why you guys stopped going together?” “I told you we wrote notes to each other when we go there together. We put the date on each note. We went to the cafe to celebrate the release of Big Bang’s first Japanese album, For The World.” “And you guys never went there together again?” “We wanted to when they came back from Japan after their concert at JCB Hall in Tokyo Dome City.” “What happened?”

284


Chaerin had tried to forget the event because that was when her relationship with Jiyong went downhill. April 2008 “Chaerin! We are back from Japan!” “Jingyo oppa!! I thought you were supposed to be back tomorrow?! I miss you so much!! Did you have fun in Japan?” Jiyong never let anyone know but he missed her voice so much. Because of the high phone bills, they only exchanged messages during the time he was gone. Even though it was only for 2 weeks, this had been the longest he had been away from his Hunchae. “Japan was fun, the food is delicious, the girls are pretty too~!” “Hul~! Oppa! Then you shouldn’t have come back!!” “But you are not in Japan.” “Aigooo~ You are such a sweet-talker~” “Where are you now?” That was when Chaerin panicked a little. She was actually preparing to go out on a date after her practice that day. She didn’t know that Jiyong was returning a day early. It was Jiyong’s surprise for her. “I’m at practice...” “Great! I’m heading back to the company after putting our luggage at the dorm. I’d see you at the company then.” “Oppa! Wait! I have something on after practice today. I don’t think I’d be able to see you today.” “What’s so important that you cannot put it off? I haven’t seen you for 2 weeks and I miss you so much!”

285


“Sorry oppa, I have to work on a school project and my project mates were already understanding enough to wait for me to finish my practice first. I’d see you tomorrow ok? I really thought you were coming back tomorrow which was why I cleared up my day tomorrow so I could spend some time with you.” “Should I go to the company and look for you now then?” “No! I mean I’m going to leave soon. Oppa, you should go back to the dorm and rest. It must have been a tiring 2 weeks.” “You have no idea. Alright then, I’d see you tomorrow then. Take care and do well for the project!” Thinking that she had managed to change Jiyong’s mind, Chaerin heaved a great sigh of relief. “Yup! Can’t wait to see you tomorrow!!” I can’t wait till tomorrow. Jiyong told his manager to drop him off at the company first because he really wanted to see Chaerin. When he arrived at the company, Chaerin happened to be walking out of the company. He wanted to sneak up on her but he saw her walking towards a guy who seemed to be waiting for her. At first, Jiyong thought nothing of it because she did mention that she was going to meet up with her project mates. But he noticed the shy mannerism that Chaerin was showing to the guy and he thought it was strange. When the two of them got into a cab together, Jiyong decided to follow them. “And so he caught you red-handed, telling him a lie?” “I really didn’t know that he was following behind and I don’t know what possessed me to suggest going to our cafe for the date. We even sat at our favorite table and I ordered our favorites even when I’m with the guy.” “So when did you realize that he was at the cafe too?” “When the guy tried to wipe the whipped cream from the cake off my face. He came up to us and flung his hands away. Then he grabbed my hand and 286


wanted me to leave with him. I was so embarrassed that I snatched back my hand.” As if remembering the look on Jiyong’s face on that day, Chaerin cringed. “It was the same look he had when he caught me with my boyfriend. Oh my... What have I done?” “Both of you kept trying to look for substitutes for each other. Jiyong didn’t have enough time for you so you started looking for anyone who paid you any attention. Did Jiyong start having relationships only after this incident?” “He had a few girlfriends before too but after this incident, they came and go much faster. Did I do that to him?” “Chaerin, put yourself in his shoes. He was away for 2 weeks, he missed you so much yet the first thing you did when he came back was lie to him. Not only that, you were going on dates behind his back. Granted, he didn’t need to know but suffice to say, you might have been the creator of ‘Playboy Jiyong’. What happened the next day?” “No one could contact him. I tried calling, messaging him, no answer. All the managers and Big Bang members tried calling him too, no response. Because that was supposed to be the day they came back from Japan, so they had no schedules. But the day after, he went back to practice like normal. When I tried to ask him out, he would give me excuses and only go out with me if we were in a group.” “Of course, you lost him as your Jingyo oppa. He was no longer exclusive to you because well, you broke that trust.” “But he had all those relationships before...” “Did he ever lie or try to hide that he was in a relationship?” “No...” “That’s why. He didn’t know if he could come back to you anymore after you lied to him. If you have been honest with him about going on that date, he might have been upset about it but he won’t have cut you off.” 287


Chaerin came to the realization that for their relationship to be where it is today, she has to take equal responsibility as well. “Chaerin, I hope you realize that when you walked away this time round, Jiyong is also beginning to see that he has handled his relationship with you wrongly. There are a lot of issues that both of you would probably have to work out when you see each other again. But don’t shut yourself out from him. The two of you are meant for each other.” “Jay oppa, how would you know that?” “Everyone around the two of you knows. Both of you shine very brightly on stage individually but when the two of you stand on the same stage together, it’s blinding but not uncomfortable. In fact, it gives people a warm feeling inside. I’m sure when you stand beside him, on or off stage, you feel the same and at the same time, there’s this comforting feeling that you are right where you belong.” Chaerin thought about what Jay said. While she felt exactly as Jay had described beside Jiyong, she never expect people around them to be able to see and feel it too. “If and when he comes knocking at this door, don’t close it on him. And most importantly don’t close your heart to him.” “Will he? I have hurt him so much without me realizing it.” “Both of you deny how much importance each of you holds in your heart, I would say both of you were hurting yourself, and each other without knowing it. He’s beginning to realize it now and you too. So I would think it’s a good start.” “I guess you are right. I hope you are. Thank you, Jay oppa.” Jay looked at her with a frown. “Why?” “Because you knocked some sense into me.” 288


“Great. The price for all these consultations would be a collaboration each time. So I believe you owed me 2 now.” “You would have to ask YG first.” “I would.” Silly girl... YG is not the hardest hurdle in collaborating with you. Your Jiyong oppa is.

289


Chapter 40 6 February 2013 Milan, 10.30am Chaerin was looking through her messages on her phone while Jay was helping himself to a second serving of the caramelized banana chocolate chips pancakes. “Oh yes, YG sajangnim called last night at around 2am. I was checking on you when your phone rang and seeing that it’s him, I picked up the call.” “Was it anything urgent?” “Not really. He just wanted to check on you and to tell you that the press conference is on 14 February. He mentioned that he wanted me to bring back your video recording for the press conference. Can you pass it to me later?” “Oh ok, I’d pass the video recorder to you later to extract the video file.” Chaerin had reviewed the video and knew that Jay had left the video running but since YGE would definitely edit her video, she wasn’t too worried about it. “Speaking of Valentines’ Day, can I request that you make me chocolate?” “Why? So that you can tweet about it?” “Why not? It’s Valentines! And I have not gotten chocolates from someone I know for a long time. Well, ok, the female staff at the office would buy a box for me and the rest of the guys in the office but that’s that. I just want the chocolate to be from someone I know and actually like.” “Jay oppa...” “Ok, wrong choice of word. Someone I know and admired. Is that better?” Chaerin chuckled. “So will you make me chocolates?” 290


Jay put on his best sad-puppy-without-a-home look and that made Chaerin laugh. “Fine, but you will have to be my deliveryman for more than just the video recording then.” “Who and what do you need me to deliver?” “You are already going to YGE so it’s not a bother. Since I’m making you chocolates, I should make it for my members and the Big Bang oppas. Otherwise, if you tweet the picture, I’m going to be in a lot more trouble.” Bingo! I didn’t even have to ask. Now I get chocolates and I get to fulfill the part about bringing gifts. “Thank you, oh generous angel~ Thank you~!” “What are you up to today?” “I’m just going to go shopping. My friends who know that I’m in Italy wanted me to bring back some limited edition bags for them. You want to come with me?” “Nope. I can’t be seen on the streets with you.” “Are you really that afraid of being caught with me?” “I’m afraid of being caught with anyone.” “Even Jiyong?” That got Chaerin’s attention. Am I afraid of being seen with Jiyong oppa? “Yes.” “Why?”

291


“Because there is no need to contribute to rumors and controversies?” “What if both of you eventually get together? Won’t you want to come forward and admit your relationship?” Chaerin thought about the questions and then she remembered her talks with her members and their fears. “I have had this talk with my members before. We never really go deep into it because it’s a frustrating topic. On the one hand, they want to be able to stand beside their man, holding their hands, showing their affections for each other openly but they are also aware that the backlash might be greater than they could handle. Each of us has reached a certain level of popularity that our actions would have the ripple effect that we might not have been able to see.” “Do you know why some couples are eventually accepted by their fans even if they met with great opposition in the beginning?” “Because they didn’t break in the face of pressure?” “Exactly. A lot of artistes do not admit their relationship and you realize that a lot of idols only admit to their relationship when iron-clad evidence is produced by the media. If we take away our baggage as ‘idols’ or ‘artistes’, why would we not tell our friends and family that we are in a relationship?” “Well, a few reasons. It could be because we know that our friends and family won’t approve of the relationship, or that we are just not sure about the relationship, or simply because we just want a bit of couple time to ourselves.” “Would you tell anyone when you get into a relationship with Jiyong?” “I would tell my close inner circle of friends and family. You have no idea how much my parents and younger sister adores Jiyong oppa. Sometimes I think they love him more than they love me.” “I would like to know when you are in a relationship with Jiyong. Because I want to feel like I’m in the inner circle~ Your family adores him for you. Because they know that you are the happiest when you are with him.” 292


Chaerin smiled and realized the truth in what Jay had just said about her family’s adoration for Jiyong. They would always ask about him when she’s going through a rough patch. “I’d be sure to let you know.” Jay grinned and stood up patting his stomach. “Now that this monkey has been fed, he needs to go do some monkey shopping for his monkey troop.” “Oh my, you just used the word ‘monkey’ 3 times in your sentence. Have I fed you too much bananas?!” “A monkey can never have too much bananas~ Never~! Do you need me to bring back anything?” “I don’t think so.” “What’s for dinner?” “What do you want to eat?” “How about something a little more Korean?” “BBQ? I think Shin-Yi unnie kept some Korean sauces around. We could do that. But you would have to buy the meats and some vegetables. I only have lettuce at home for salads.” “Sounds good. I’d be back by 5pm then. If you need anything else, call me~” “Alright!” Jay walked back to his room to get ready while Chaerin did the cleaning up. Halfway through, Jay came back to the kitchen. “I’d be gone now~ Enjoy your afternoon!! And thanks for breakfast!!”

293


“You’re welcomed! Have a good day too!” Jay gave Chaerin a hug before he left. He tipped his cap and then waved goodbye. Chaerin jokingly shooed him out of the way and continued cleaning. When she was finally done, she took her phone and went to the living room. She sat down on the couch and thought about what she had revealed to Jay and what he said to her. She thought back to those times when she would be so hurt by how Jiyong would very casually tell everyone that he’s attached. She had thought that she was the only who have been keeping her eyes on him but looking back, he had been there as well. All the times he went crazy calling her when she decided to drop off of everyone’s radar without notice. Maybe Jay oppa is right... Jiyong oppa is more afraid of losing me than I thought... She opened her message inbox to read through all the messages that he had been sending to her since she left. Or since he got hold of her number somehow. She read the last message again before scrolling back up to see the rest of the messages she had missed because she went to bed early the previous night. From: GD 5 February 2013 5.37pm CET

Chaerin... Sorry... Sorry for not seeing you all this while... I used ‘CL’ as a cover... To stop myself from seeing Lee Chaerin... To stop myself from seeing my Hunchae... Sorry... From today onwards, I would stop using ‘GD’ to hurt you, to hurt myself and the people who matters to me. Would you love Kwon Jiyong again? Would you love your Jingyo oppa again? Please?

294


To: My Jingyo Oppa<3 6 February 2013 11.18am CET

Oppa... I’m sorry too... I’m sorry for not seeing you all this while... I tried to pretend that you have become someone else, someone I do not know, but beyond all the layers that you have put on yourself, you are still my Jingyo oppa right? Oppa, Shed off all the unnecessary names and pretense, and come back to me, As Kwon Jiyong, As my Jingyo oppa. I love you. From: GD 5 February 2013 8.30pm CET

Baby, I might not be by your side now But I want to Would you let me stand by your side again? Please? I love you, very very much. Goodnight sweetheart. To: My Jingyo Oppa<3 6 February 2013 11.25am CET

Oppa, That’s where I’ve always wanted to be... By your side. Would you let me stand by your side again, After leaving you so suddenly, Without saying goodbye? I love you too, very very much. From: GD 6 February 2013 3.58am CET

Baby, I want to share a drink with you So I can kiss you indirectly.

295


I want to act like a baby So you would pat my head and give me a hug. There’s so many things I want to do with you, Let me be by your side again, Through the good and the bad. Love you sweetheart! The message made her smile. It has been a long time since Jiyong showed her any kind of aegyo. He must have been hanging out too much with Tabi oppa when he’s with Bommie unnie... Those two can make a video on how to show aegyo to your other half. To: My Jingyo Oppa<3 6 February 2013 11.28am CET

Oppa! You are becoming cheesy again! Have you been hanging out with Tabi oppa and Bommie unnie? Aigooo! You’ve always been a baby, to me anyway. We will be together again, right? You, by my side And me, by yours. Through the good and the bad. I love you too, oppa! From: GD 6 February 2013 8.30am CET

Baby, This is the last time I can step into this cafe. Lady boss will only let me in if I bring you with me the next time. Will you come back with me? Today, I realized that my heart has chosen its owner a long time ago. It’s you. It has always been you. Sorry, sweetheart of mine, Sorry for hurting you all these years.

296


I promise I would never hurt you again. Reading the last message again and seeing the picture, she thought of what she told Jay and how much it must have hurt him when she lied and flung his hand away, in front of a stranger, in front of someone who didn’t matter. She cried. But after shedding those tears, her heart was relieved, from the guilt of having lied to the most important person in her life. To: My Jingyo Oppa<3 6 February 2013 11.38am CET

Oppa, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. All these years, I have been concentrating so much on the pain you gave me that I forgot that I have hurt you very badly too. My heart has always been yours, Would you have it back again? Would you hold my hand in yours and one day walk into the cafe together again? I’m so sorry. But I love you, very much, with all my heart. Would that be enough? I hope so... I really hope my love for you would be enough. She dried her tears and sent a message to her boss. To: YG Sajangnim 6 February 2013 11.55am CET

Appa, I heard that you called from Jay oppa. I’d be watching the ‘LIVE’ broadcast of the press conference. If you need anything else from me before that, let me know. Will be sending gifts along with the video. Jay oppa will be my delivery man. YG’s reply was almost immediate. From: YG Sajangnim 6 February 2013 11.58am CET

I want your macadamia nut cookies. Thank you. :)

297


Chaerin rolled her eyes at the message. She remembered giving a canister of macadamia nut cookies to him last Valentines’ and he had been subtly hinting that he needed a refill. To: YG Sajangnim 6 February 2013 11.58am CET

Arraseo... -.-” Shouldn’t I be the one deciding what are the gifts? From: YG Sajangnim 6 February 2013 12.00pm CET

I’m your boss. You should gift me with what I want. To: YG Sajangnim 6 February 2013 12.03pm CET

I’m speechless. Please behave like a boss then. I will send you the macadamia nut cookies. Oh, by the way, when I go back to Seoul after my course, can I do a collaboration with Jay oppa? From: YG Sajangnim 6 February 2013 12.05pm CET

So you will come back after 6 months? In what capacity do you want to collaborate with Jay? Get him to feature in 2NE1’s next album? You feature in his album? Or him to feature in your solo album? To: YG Sajangnim 6 February 2013 12.07pm CET

After 6 months, I’d definitely go back to Seoul for a while before the start of another term in Milan if I choose to continue. As to how we can collaborate, I’d leave it up to you to discuss it with him and his company. From: YG Sajangnim 6 February 2013 12.09pm CET

What if Jiyong refuse to let you collaborate with Jay? To: YG Sajangnim 6 February 2013 12.11pm CET

Last I remembered, I called you boss. When did his word have more weight than yours? No matter what, I have to do the collaboration with Jay oppa. I owe him.

298


From: YG Sajangnim 6 February 2013 12.13pm CET

So if I refuse, you won’t come back to Seoul right? I may be the boss but I don’t want my artistes to be unhappy. And I know Jiyong would be pissed if I grant you a collaboration with Jay. So if your collaboration with Jay means that you would be back in Seoul, then that’s my bargaining chip. Jiyong would do anything to have you back in Seoul. To: YG Sajangnim 6 February 2013 12.16pm CET

Say whatever you need to say as long as the collaboration happens. And no, I don’t want Jiyong oppa in the mix. Just me and Jay oppa. From: YG Sajangnim 6 February 2013 12.20pm CET

Fine. The cost would be 2 canisters of macadamia nut cookies. Chaerin let out an exasperated laugh when she saw her boss’ message. To: YG Sajangnim 6 February 2013 12.22pm CET

Deal. Chaerin walked back to the kitchen to check the baking supplies. If she was going to make cookies for her boss, she might as well make more for her members and the Big Bang members. She would also need to buy the ingredients required for the chocolate. Checking the time, she decided that she had enough time to go to the store and get the ingredients and make it back to cook dinner for Jay. She went to her room to change. She made a list of all the items that she needed and off she went. Maybe it’s because of how she was feeling after her talk with Jay, the sky seemed brighter, everything looks more colorful and she was walking with a smile on her face. She felt good.

299


6 February 2013 Milan, 2pm Jay stopped at a nearby cafe for a snack after shopping for his friends. He was just checking his Twitter stream and he saw all the mentions from his fans and friends about the banana pancakes. But he didn’t see the mention that he had hope to see. The sudden beep from his phone gave him quite a surprise. He looked to see that there was a notification that he had received a DM on Twitter. He smiled, thinking that the tweet has struck again. But when he saw who the sender and what the message was, he was shocked. Direct Message From: @ForvictoRi Jay, you are with Chaerin, aren’t you? Don’t lie. She’s the only one I know who would put chocolate chip in her banana pancakes. Shit. Another beep. Jay saw that it was the Twitter notification for another DM. Direct Message From: @ForvictoRi And her Twitter account is @Cielo_Lealta right? How? How did he know? Beep. What now? Jay was almost afraid to open the DM but he knew he has to. Direct Message From: @ForvictoRi Convince her to add me and I will not say anything to Jiyong hyung. I just want to be able to contact her. That’s all. Please. There was nothing Jay could do. He typed in his reply. 300


Direct Message To: @ForvictoRi I would try to convince her. But how did you find out? From: @ForvictoRi Because she’s only following 8 people. Other than you and the official YG acct, the rest are BB and 2NE1 members. You are the only follower. From: @ForvictoRi And her username is ‘Sky’ and ‘Faith’ in Italian. She’s in Italy isn’t she? To: @ForvictoRi Fine, I’d show her these messages later and see what she says. But I cannot guarantee that she would agree. From: @ForvictoRi Fair enough. I hope to hear good news later. Sorry Jay, I just really want to be able to contact her in some way ok? From: @ForvictoRi Is she doing alright? To: @ForvictoRi A little lost but she’s getting back on her feet. Don’t worry. I would keep an eye on her till I leave. From: @ForvictoRi See you soon then. We have just been told of your collaboration with TOP hyung. To: @ForvictoRi :) See you soon. Remember, don’t let Jiyong know. I don’t think both of them are ready to see each other yet. Getting there though. From: @ForvictoRi It’s the same for Ji hyung. Getting there but not ready yet. Alright, I shan’t disturb you any further. Talk soon. 301


That was unexpected. Jay never expected that Seungri would pick up the hint and run with it, to the point of actually sniffing out her Twitter account. But since Chaerin did put him as the person she was closest to after Jiyong, it was not that surprising too. Still, it would be a shock to Chaerin as to how much Seungri has figured out. And of course, thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the nagging suspicion that thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s more between this pair of cat-dog friends.

302


Chapter 41 6 February 2013 Seoul, 10pm After Seungri’s confession in the nanny van, all 4 members sat in the nanny van and kept quiet. It was a shock to the 3 members while Seungri felt relief at finally confessing about his own emotions towards Chaerin. Even if he knew that it would forever be unrequited, being able to be there when she’s feeling down and even if he was regarded as an irritant, he knows that it’s worth it. Because if she could just take her mind off her hurt for a moment, he’s willing to take any kind of pain from her. Daesung was the first to break the silence. “It must have been difficult all these time to watch her going through the pain that Ji hyung had unknowingly inflicted on her.” Seungri looked at Daesung and smiled. “But you know what, what makes her even more endearing was the fact that through it all, she never once given up. Except for this time. Not to mention, I get to have her focus on me once in a while when I irritate her. I live for those short moments.” “What if Ji still do not wisen up this time? Would you make a stronger move on her then?” Youngbae had to ask because while it looked like Jiyong was heading towards a higher level of self-realization, it might not be enough. “I told Ji hyung the other day that if he doesn’t step up and sweep her off her feet this time, I’m going for it. I told him too that there are others who wouldn’t care 2 hoots about whether he opposes or not and would go ahead and court Chaerin if she even take her eyes off Ji hyung for 2 seconds. I think he’s really freaked out.” “But he should know that there are a lot of guys with eyes set on Chaerin.” “Oh he knows. Why do you think he gets super insecure whenever she’s out of touch? Every single time Chaerin does her disappearing act, we had to 303


endure a day of crazy Jiyong.” “It’s strange that he never realized how he felt about her until now.” Seungri shook his head. “No, he knew exactly how he felt about her but he’s been too prideful. I’m sure the two of them have been hurting each other unknowingly. Though Chaerin had never mentioned her relationships in front of us, I’m sure she had her share of dates which we might not know anything of. That girl is good at hiding such things.” “I guess it’s like how me and TOP hyung were afraid that Dara noona and Bom noona would reject us because we have heard about who their ideal type is. But I’m glad we finally asked.” “Daesung had it easiest among the three of us!” Hearing that, Daesung did his huge grin that was like his favorite Doraemon. “Yup! Indeed I had it easy. But I’m glad that Minzy didn’t give up even when I’m set on pushing her away. And because of that, I’m not going to let go. Ever.” “Seungri ah, don’t worry, one day, you would find someone who’s just your match.” “Thanks TOP hyung, I’m sure she’s out there somewhere. In the meantime, till Chaerin is safe in Jiyong hyung’s arms, or even when she is, I guess I’d hang around just a little more.” All of them got out of the nanny van and all of them gave Seungri an encouraging pat on the back. “Let’s go up, otherwise Ji hyung might think we have gone out without him. I don’t want him to start calling us like what he does to Chaerin whenever she goes missing.” Youngbae’s phone started to ring and when he looked at the caller ID, he turned to the rest. 304


“Speak of the devil!” Youngbae picked up the call and told Jiyong that they were downstairs on their way up. He teased him about his tendencies to act like a crazy insecure girlfriend whose boyfriend had barely been away for all of 5 minutes. Jiyong hung up on Youngbae unceremoniously, causing 3 of them to break into great laughter. Seungri, on the other hand, was checking his Twitter stream. And Jay’s tweet caught his eye. @JAYBUMAOM: I’m in HEAVEN! The angel could not decide between banana or chocolate chip pancakes so she decides to put both together! Upon seeing the picture attached to the tweet, Seungri was sure of one thing: Jay was with Chaerin somehow. Then why would he not let Ji hyung know when he had asked him before? Isn’t that the reason why he is being so obvious in his tweets? “Maknae! What are you looking at?” Youngbae asked all of a sudden. Seungri considered his options: Should he tell Youngbae and maybe Jiyong about it? But if Jiyong were to ask Jay, Jay might deny it again because Chaerin might not want Jiyong to know where she is and more importantly, that she’s with Jay. “Nothing much, just checking my Twitter that’s all.” Hearing Seungri’s answer, the rest thought nothing much of it. After all, Seungri does check his Twitter and his social media channels the most often. The 3 members were talking in the lift about how they would go up to Jiyong and give him a hug and apologize for making him wait so long, like how a boyfriend is sorry for making his girlfriend wait. When they reached their unit, they found Jiyong standing there, with his arms crossed, looking angry.

305


“What took you guys so long?!” The 3 looked at each other and tried to hide a smile. Daesung walked up to Jiyong first and gave him a hug. “Hyung, we are sorry. We will not make you wait again.” Jiyong was visibly shocked since Daesung was usually not such a touchy person. But he let that pass since it was just a hug. Then Youngbae went up to Jiyong, gave him a tight hug and a pat on his head. “Sorry darling, we won’t do that again.” “YA! Dong Youngbae, did you just call me ‘darling’?!” Youngbae just walked past him and went to Daesung, still trying to control their laughter because they knew TOP was going to be over the top. As soon as Youngbae walked past Jiyong, who just shouted at Youngbae, TOP walked up to Jiyong and cupped his face with both his hands. “Jiyong baby, don’t shout. It’s not a nice thing for a GIRL to do. And sorry for keeping you waiting.” And before Jiyong could fight back, TOP planted a quick kiss on Jiyong’s cheeks, let go of his face and went to join Daesung and Youngbae who were already laughing their heads off at what TOP had done. Jiyong walked towards them, huffing and puffing and wiping off TOP’s kiss on his cheek. “HOW DARE YOU GUYS GANG UP AGAINST ME?!! Especially when I showed consideration and gave you guys a day off so you can spend some time with your girlfriends!! No more! I will not let you guys have a day off from now on!!” “It’s ok. Our girls can visit us and then make a record of how you have been mistreating us. We will tell Chaerin about it.”

306


Jiyong went quiet and looked contemplative about what TOP just said. “I hope it would happen, hyung. I hope that your girls will be able to tell her how I have been mistreating you guys and then she’d come and talk to me about not to do something like that anymore. I just want her to be here again. I don’t even care about anything else anymore.” “She will be back, don’t worry. Just hang in there and let her know how much you love and miss her.” The 3 of them walked forward to console Jiyong. Seungri heard what Jiyong had said and once again, he was torn about whether he should tell them about what he had just saw on Twitter. Finally, he decided that he would confront Jay first before telling Jiyong of his findings, if there were any. Or he would keep it a secret, depending on the situation. “Hyungs, I’m tired. I’d go back to my room first. Ji hyung, thanks for dinner and all the cakes and pastries! I will work hard tomorrow!” Without waiting for a reply, Seungri went back to his room. He switched on his laptop and decided to do a little sleuthing on Twitter. He logged onto his account and clicked on Jay’s account. He then looked through his list of followers and one of the followers caught his eyes. @Cielo_Lealta Hmmmm, maybe it’s just another fan trying to pass off as CL... He clicked to see who Jay was following and he was surprised when he saw that Jay was following that particular user. Strange... He only started following this person 4 days ago... That was about when Chaerin left... He clicked on @Cielo_Lealta to go to the user’s profile page. He saw that the account was a private account and the only person following the account was Jay. When he clicked on the ‘Following’ tab, that was when he knew that this was most probably Chaerin’s Twitter account. Other than Jay, the only accounts that were followed were those of Big Bang and 2NE1 members and the official YG account. 307


This has got to be Chaerin’s account! He was going to send her a Direct Message but because it’s a private account, the user has to approve of his follower’s request before he can even follow her, not to mention send her a DM. He decided his next best strategy would be to enrol Jay’s help. He sent the DM to Jay instead. And he made it such that it would be impossible for Jay to deny. Then he waited. 6 February 2013 Milan, 5.30pm Chaerin came back to the apartment after she finished getting the ingredients that she needed for the chocolates and cookies. While shopping just now, she realized that she would probably be involved in this sudden Valentines’ project over the next 2 days. Instead of feeling burdened by it, she was actually happy about it. Because she had been too busy the past few years to actually do something for the people around her, she was glad to have this chance. She came back to find Jay mumbling and pacing in the living room. She was going to scare him when she realized the deep frown that he had on his face. She put down the items in the kitchen before approaching Jay. “Oppa...” “AH! Oh, it’s you, Chaerin. When did you get back?” “I just got back. Oppa, what’s wrong? You look like something is wrong. Is there anything I can help?” Jay debated with himself if he should let Chaerin know about Seungri’s request now or later. He decided that later would be better. He didn’t want to ruin Chaerin’s good mood. Jay smiled to reassure Chaerin. “I was just a little worried since I didn’t see you at home when I got back. 308


Why didn’t you message me to tell me that you were going out?” “Because you would have wanted to come meet me.” Jay was about to defend himself. But he realized that what Chaerin was right. He would have asked where she was and insisted on joining her. “You are too smart for me.” “It’s just predictable male behavior. Jiyong oppa used to do that all the time so I know.” “Improvement. You do not avoid saying his name now.” Chaerin looked away shyly and blushed a little. “Stop teasing me, Jay oppa.” “I should make Jiyong write me a song for free since I probably helped to bring you together.” “If we end up together.” “Lee Chaerin, right now, you are the one who left. I’m willing to bet if I let him know where you are, he would be here in the shortest time possible.” Chaerin just smiled and didn’t reply. “Jay oppa, did you buy the ingredients for dinner tonight?” “Of course I did! I can’t starve you, can I? Jiyong will have my head.” “Jay oppa, please don’t tell Jiyong oppa that you stayed in the same apartment as me. In fact, if it ever comes down to the point where you had to admit that you met me, just tell him that you met me briefly, in passing. Trust me, it would be for your good and mine.” “He won’t let you hear the end of it, would he? Don’t worry, if he ever bothers you about it, tell me. I’m still an oppa and if I’m not wrong, his hyung. He can’t do anything to me.”

309


“I’d hold you to it. Trust me, he won’t let me hear the end of it at all, so yes, you might actually have to come to my rescue.” “Somehow, I think you can handle him just fine.” Chaerin gave a confident smile that gave Jay an indication that she could handle Jiyong just fine if it comes down to it. “Let’s get dinner started shall we?” After marinating some of the meat and Jay helped with washing the vegetables and setting the table, Chaerin and Jay settled down to have dinner. As usual, Jay had to take a picture and tweet about it. @JAYBUMAOM: Dinner!! Korean BBQ! This is totally DAEBAK!!! “Oppa, you are tweeting again. This is just normal Korean food, why do you have to do that too?” “Chaerin, you have no idea how Social Media work, do you? Basically, it’s about closing the distance between yourself and the fans. They want to know what we are doing. Not to mention, what is considered ‘normal’ Korean meal, some of our fans might not have experienced it.” “That’s why I’m never the PR person in my group. I leave that to the more popular members in my group.” Jay gave an understanding smile, knowing what Chaerin meant exactly. Usually the one who is the most popular or the more neutral member would be chosen as the one to be the one to touch base with the fans. As the leader and how some people might consider her to not be pretty enough or capable enough would have probably gotten her more hate than love or it might start unnecessary fan wars that is just that, unnecessary. “Always 2 sides to a coin. Other than the love, we get the hate too. It must have been hard.” Looking like she wanted to avoid the subject, Chaerin turned their attention back to the meal. 310


“Let’s eat, oppa! I’ll eat well!” “Eat more!” With that, the two of them settled into their dinner, grilling the meat and sharing stories. Towards the end of the meal, Jay knew that he could not delay the inevitable any longer. “Chaerin, I need you to promise me that you would not be angry with me.” The look of alarm came to Chaerin’s eyes immediately. “No, it’s not Jiyong. But I think you should take a look at this.” Jay passed his phone over to Chaerin when he had opened up his Twitter DM inbox. Chaerin took a look and her eyes opened wide. She turned to look at Jay. “How did Seungri figure it out?” “If he took a closer look, it’s not difficult to figure it out. The fact that your account is private actually made it easier because you choose who can follow you. Since I’m the only one who you allowed to follow, it’s a dead giveaway that you are someone I know and not just some random fan. So?” “Oppa, if it’s as you said, the moment I approved Seungri’s request, I’m opening up a floodgate. This is why I didn’t want to get a Twitter account.” Chaerin was now berating her folly for starting the account. She thought putting it on private would mean that she was safe from prying eyes. She considered her options carefully. Finally she made a decision. She took out her phone.

311


Chapter 42 6 February 2013 Milan, 7pm Chaerin knew there was only one way to resolve the situation that she was in. Knowing Seungri’s personality, he was not one who she can just pacify and hope that he would let it rest. He can be more tenacious than Jiyong when he chooses to be and unfortunately, she knows that when it comes to anything to do with Big Bang, he wouldn’t rest until he made sure that the problem has been solved. She took out her phone and decide to send him a message through her Italian number. To: Seungrat >.< 6 February 2013 7.08pm CET

Seungri OPPA, (you know I only call you ‘Oppa’ because I’m at my wit’s end so don’t make me beg) I know you already know about my Twitter account and that Jay oppa is with me in Italy. All I’m asking is that you keep it a secret between us. While promotions for Big Bang is coming to an end, I’m sure you don’t want Jiyong oppa to leave suddenly to come and look for me. At a suitable time, I’d be back. I’m not just running away from Jiyong oppa, I’m chasing my dreams as well. You will know more when you watch the video I have recorded for the press conference. So keep it a secret between the two of us, ok? Promise? After sending the message, she went on Twitter, unfollowed all of Big Bang and 2NE1 members’ accounts and the YG official account. Once she had done that, she deactivated her account. She saw that other than Seungri’s request, there were other requests which could have been from anywhere but she couldn’t risk it. “Jay oppa, I have already deactivated my Twitter account. Can you unfollow me? You know how fans can be the moment their idols are discovered following someone who’s following them. They don’t really care who this person is, but like you said, they just want to feel closer to their idols and involved in their idols’ lives. Sometimes this kind of involvement borders on breach of privacy and we can’t do anything about it because as public

312


figures, privacy is regarded as a luxury.” “Alright, I’d do that. I’m sorry, Chaerin, though I admit that I did want to hint to Jiyong that you were with me, but I didn’t think how it would be a problem for you who wants your privacy.” “It’s alright. I know that you see social media as a way to keep in touch with your fans and I have seen how it had helped you during the difficult period when you were away. But it’s not the same for me and I hope you realized that. I’m somewhat relieved that it was Seungri who found out and confronted you. If it was Jiyong oppa, he would have just bought an air ticket and fly to Italy and when he’s here, I would have no choice but to let him know where I am.” Jay looked like a properly chastised little boy who just gotten a scolding from his mum for eating too much sweets. Sometimes, he really tend to forget that there are other people who might be affected by his action even on a virtual channel. He’s lucky that Chaerin was smart enough to take the precautions to make the account a private one. If not, he could have subjected her to a whole slew of scandals that was none of her doing. Looking at the sensible and calm girl sitting in front of him, he now knows why she was chosen as the leader. Other than the fact that she has a lot of talent and potential as an individual, 2NE1 needed someone like her to lead her group to be different and to stand strong in the ever-changing world of Kpop. If groups in Kpop find it difficult to survive, girl groups are worse because of the kind of value that Korea places on the outward appearance and how girls are seen as the more submissive gender. 2NE1 had made their stand by being different from the other girl groups and while there were others who tried to imitate their style, they have not been able to create a niche for themselves like 2NE1 did. 2NE1 has the perfect mix of the independent woman with the cuteness that is unique to each of the members. Instead of showing the initial anxiety that she did when she found out about Seungri, she continued grilling the meat and eating, like nothing had happened. To Chaerin, she had done everything she could on her side. There was no use fretting plus she knew that when she uses Big Bang as the

313


bargaining chip with Seungri, she would win. Seeing that Jay had stopped eating, Chaerin gave Jay some of the freshly grilled meat as ‘peace offering’. She grinned at Jay when he still looked at her with worried eyes. “Don’t worry, Jay oppa, I can still handle Seungri. If he doesn’t agree to keep it a secret, there’s always YG sajangnim who I can mobilize. So if he doesn’t agree to keep it a secret, I’d ask my boss to control him. So eat and don’t worry about a thing.” “Has anyone told you that you are an amazing woman?” “You just did.” Chaerin gave him her cute eye smile and again, Jay had to remind himself again, that she’s someone else’s angel. “How did you keep yourself single all this while? That eye smile alone would have ‘killed’ a lot of guys.” “My image as 2NE1’s leader didn’t help at all. It’s a novelty for a while but when they realized that I am different from most girls, it was easier to give up than to figure out how I work. Sometimes I tried to be like a normal girl but it didn’t work out as well. I felt like I was wearing someone’s clothes. So I decided that if the guy can’t like me when I’m wearing the clothes that I like, then he’s not quite worth my time.” “But maybe it’s because you never gave them the benefit of time. Maybe with time, they might be able to accept you for who you are.” “And time is somewhat the most precious commodity in our line no? Already as it is to go on those secret dates were like trying to squeeze water from a rock.” “The other thing would be your mindset. Have you gone with the mindset of actually accepting these guys who had taken the first step to ask you out?” Chaerin was quiet for a while as she considered Jay’s question while chewing on a piece of grilled-to-perfection marbled beef. 314


“I don’t think I’m obliged to accept them just because they asked. If they behaved obnoxiously or in a manner which I find offensive to my own senses, then there is no reason for me to accept them right? I’m sure you have gone on dates whereby at the end of the date, you question your own sanity as to why you asked the girl out in the first place. I had my fair share of those as well.” “Have you ever asked any guys out?” “For a date, no. Surprisingly, ‘the guy has to make the first move’ is something that I still believed in. Or maybe I have not met anyone who I want to ask out.” Jay just gave her a knowing look which she returned with a quiet questioning look, which says, ‘you know what I’m asking so answer’. “Maybe it’s because you already met the one who you want to ask out. And to even consider the possibility of you making the first move should tell you something.” “If you are thinking that someone is Jiyong oppa, then no. I have never thought of asking him out, romantically, until perhaps now. Because his rejection would have hurt much more than anyone else’s.” “But you are thinking about it now.” Chaerin just shook her head from side to side, her blonde ponytail following the movement, with a crazy grin on her face that seemed to say ‘maybe, maybe not’. “Still no reply from Seungri?” “Nope, but I’m not surprised. It’s about 4am in Seoul so he could have fallen asleep. I guess it would be a pleasant surprise when he woke up.” “Have you thought about what you would do if Jiyong comes knocking at the door?” “Well, I would have to let him in. I can’t possibly let him stand outside the 315


apartment. It would attract too much attention.” “And?” “And then I guess we would have a proper talk about us. I really haven’t thought about it though I know it would eventually happen.” “Would you go back to Seoul with him then?” “No. I will finish what I set out to do here. I don’t have a choice. I can’t go back without achieving something. I need it to justify why I left in the first place.” “So you would send him back to Seoul without you?” “I would have to right? He can’t stay here. There’s nothing for him to do other than distract me.” “That, I think, he can do well. But you cannot afford to be distracted.” “Exactly, which is why I’m adamant that he doesn’t know where I am. I’m even half-hearted about whether we should meet and talk because if we do decide to give us a try, I don’t think I can be separated from him.” “That’s a dilemma but I’m sure Jiyong will work something out.” “We’ll work something out when the time comes, I guess. There’s no point in worrying about that.” “Are you going to wait up for Seungri’s answer?” “Nope. The reply will eventually come. Seungri is smart enough to know that keeping it a secret would be the better option now because we can’t risk having Jiyong oppa suddenly leaving Korea, not when I’m missing as well. YG sajangnim will prevent them from going anywhere until after the press conference at least. Big Bang still has one last activity before they embark on their plans for the year.” Chaerin continued eating and then she suddenly remembered her messages with YG. She finished eating the meat that was in her mouth, had a drink of 316


water before she got Jay’s attention again. “Oh! By the way, I messaged my boss about our collaboration. He seemed to be alright with it, provided I go back to Seoul for it. He said that if he doesn’t use that as a bargaining chip with Jiyong oppa, he’s going to be pissed about our collaboration. Going back to Seoul for the collaboration is a sure thing. I never liked those collaborations where the artistes are in two different places. But I don’t understand why he has to use that as a bargaining chip. He’s the boss and he has the last say on who I work with.” Jay looked at the girl who had puffed up her cheeks and was frowning at the great mystery. He couldn’t resist. He took out his phone and took a picture of her. When she heard the shutter sound, she looked up to see that Jay was taking her pictures. She tried to block it. “Those are not going anywhere except in the trashcan of your phone I hope. I look terrible without my make-up.” “Girls always think that they have to be covered in chemicals before men would take notice of them. Excuse me, you seemed to have forgotten I have seen your face without make-up way before your Jiyong oppa had. And you look perfect without make-up, more real, more you, more like the Chaerin I know.” “I guess you represent the 1% of the male population who is alright with how girls look without some kind of ‘adjustment’, whether through surgery or make-up.” “You don’t look bad without make-up, just different. I like it this way and if that puts me in the minority, then so be it.” Chaerin decided not to comment on that because even if she thought that she looked alright without the make-up and the plastic surgery, she couldn’t quite get over the fact that there will always be people who would judge her by her physical appearance. “Anyway, about our collaboration, YG was asking how we would like to do it. Would it be you featuring for 2NE1’s next album or me featuring in your album?”

317


“What about me in your solo album?” Chaerin gave Jay a somewhat sad smile. “I doubt that would ever happen.” “Why?” “If there ever was a poll about the most popular female artiste in a Kpop group IN Korea, I doubt I would even make it to Top 10. And to push for a solo album when my popularity isn’t high, it would be like suicide for my ego and self-esteem. I don’t need that. Personally, if you ask me, I would like that my stage not be limited to just singing. Performance exists in many different realms. A fashion show is a performance too. So right now, if I have to stand on my stage, on my own, I would like it to be about my fashion designs. The singing stage, I would forever want to stand on it with my group and artistes that I admire. Standing on it solo used to be my dream but I know reality as well.” “I’m glad that you think of it in this manner. A lot of artistes, once they lost their former glory, become depressed. It’s a great perspective, one that I guess I have to learn from you. Dance, or B-Boying has always been my first love, then comes rapping then singing. I’m just glad that I’m able to put all three together.” “Oh! Jay oppa! How about this? Would you like to be a guest co-producer of 2NE1’s next album? I’ve been thinking that we need something fresh for our next concept. Let’s try to bring it back to more hip-hop core. I’ve always wanted to do more free-style rapping. Minzy is going to be doing dance lessons in Japan and other countries. I’m sure B-Boy might be an interesting mix and we already have you as a mentor. So it would be more than just the music. It’d be interesting to make it look like a musical production!! I could do the designs for the clothes!! OH!! I’m super excited!! How about it?” “I’m cool, if your boss is cool with it. I like the idea! And I like the excitement in your eyes. It’s been some time, hasn’t it, that being on stage excites you?”

318


“Being on stage always excites me but you are right. I’m getting a little tired of being on the same kind of stage. Which explains why I needed this time off to pursue fashion design without worrying about my group members, knowing that they are also running after different paths that they are interested in. This makes me excited!! Being involved and getting my hands dirty in the whole producing process. My forte is not in music production, so I think if we do make this happen, we would have to rely on your expertise.” “Why not do it with Jiyong?” “Jiyong oppa is busy. I’m not saying this with bitterness but while we have very similar dreams, how we want to attain it might be very different. What’s more, I really want something different. You won’t be the only one that I’d be approaching for help.” Thinking about the times where she had needed to talk to different artistes and producers about the possibility of working together, and being treated with some amount of disbelief because she was after all from YGE, and how all these connections she had made would finally be put to some kind of use, made Chaerin happy. She grinned as she put another piece of perfectly grilled meat into her mouth. Jay looked at her and smiled to himself. If I were your Jiyong oppa, I won’t allow anyone to collaborate with you too. At least not without being around to supervise. “I can understand why your boss would think that Jiyong would need persuasion in order for you to collaborate with other male artistes.” “Why?” “I’m sitting here thinking that if I’m Jiyong, I won’t allow you to collaborate with anyone and that’s minus all the lovey dovey emotions that he has for you.” “Why would you think that way?” “Because you are easy to fall in love with. The spark in your eyes when you are all excited about your ideas, your intelligence, your obvious love for 319


what you want to do. I’m almost glad that you suggest we should work together for 2NE1’s album. I really can’t guarantee that I won’t fall in love with you if we were to work together, on our own.” “You flatter me, Jay oppa. I would still like to work with you on your solo project, if you would have me.” “I would be stupid to reject you. I’d let you be in-charge of my fashion for my next album.” “You would do that?! Really? Aren’t you afraid that I’m going to make you wear something strange?” “I have seen your designs. They are unique, not strange. But it has to match the concept of my album.” “CALL! Matching the concept of your album is a sure thing. But you will also need stuff that would let people see you in a different light! I’m so excited! I’m going to have this written down in black and white so you won’t back out of it!” “Sure, no problem! If you think I’m worthy enough to wear your creation.” “Oh, please, I’m honored to have you willing to wear my creation.” “Let’s work well, Lee Chaerin-ssi!” “Neh!!” They toast each other with soft drinks and continued talking about different plans. At some point, Chaerin took out a writing pad and have Jay write down that he’s willing to use Chaerin’s fashion designs for his next album. Jay laughed but he went along with it. He wasn’t lying when he made the suggestion. He knew how difficult it is to run after one’s own dreams and if he could help Chaerin in whatever way he can, he would. Though at the back of his head, he could see Jiyong’s fuming face when he hears about all these plans. But that’s for a later time, a later day. Right now, he has to focus on bringing the two of them together.

320


Chapter 43 7 February 2013 Seoul, 10am Since Jiyong didn’t fix a time for their practice today and no one came to wake him up, Seungri decided to sleep in. When he finally woke up at 10am, he took out his phone to check if there was any response from Jay or Chaerin on Twitter. He was a little upset when he didn’t see any notification. However, there were 3 messages. He unlocked his phone and went to his inbox. There was a message from Daesung and Jiyong each and the last one was an unknown number from a different country. He decided to open the ones from his members first. From: Smiley Angel hyung! 7 February 2013 9.15am KST

Maknae ah! I have gone with Youngbae hyung to pick up Dara noona and Minzy. We are going to drop Bom noona at YGE, then switch to different cars to come back here. Letting you know, just in case. ^^ Aish~ These hyungs are forever finding ways to be with their girlfriends. Wait a minute... Don’t we have practice today? Seungri quickly opened the message from Jiyong and he got his answer to the last question. From: Almighty Ji Leader 7 February 2013 8.45am KST

Hello everyone! Slight change in plans today. I have to go to the company with TOP hyung to discuss and start recording for his solo album. Practice will start in the evening. I will call in the afternoon to confirm the timing. Bae, Bom noona will be needed at the company later. She might need to be picked up. You might want to go with Dae to erm, pick her up and see if the girls need anything. Just be discreet. If possible, get Dara noona to drive with Minzy sitting in front. I know it defeats the purpose but Dara and Minzy are free to do whatever after. :) I’m sure you guys can find something to do. Just don’t be late for practice. 321


OMG... I’m being surrounded by group members who are in love!! HELP!! Finally, he got to the last number and smiled, well more like grinned, when he saw the message. From: +39-02-9102-0226 7 February 2013 3.08am KST

Seungri OPPA, (you know I only call you ‘Oppa’ because I’m at my wit’s end so don’t make me beg) I know you already know about my Twitter account and that Jay oppa is with me in Italy. All I’m asking is that you keep it a secret between us. While promotions for Big Bang is coming to an end, I’m sure you don’t want Jiyong oppa to leave suddenly to come and look for me. At a suitable time, I’d be back. I’m not just running away from Jiyong oppa, I’m chasing my dreams as well. You will know more when you watch the video I have recorded for the press conference. So keep it a secret between the two of us, ok? Promise? She’s a smart little thing, isn’t she? Knowing exactly what to say to get me to agree? She already got my agreement by calling me ‘oppa’. I think in all my years of knowing her, she probably called me that like once a year, so she did pull out the big guns. I never had the intention of sharing the information with Ji hyung anyway because she’s right that he can’t leave all of a sudden now, it would be too much of a giveaway. But why is Jay in the picture? This is the only thing that puzzles me. Seungri went online to check the time difference between Korea and Italy and saw that they were 8 hours apart. Checking the time, he realized that it was 2.30am in Italy. Should I try sending a reply to see if she is still awake? He knows that Chaerin doesn’t usually sleep early and the more he think about what she and Jay might be doing all alone in Italy, the more uneasy he became. He needs to know, at least what’s happening with Jay. 322


Before he send the message, he has to save the number first. He can’t save it under ‘Chaerin’ or ‘CL’ because that might give him away should Jiyong decide to take his phone while he’s messaging her. He pondered for a while and then he smiled broadly at his ingenuity. He saved her contact as Su Hyung Nim. (A/N: Hyung Su Nim=sister-in-law in Korean. So in re-arranging the first 2 words, he made it look like a name. ‘Nim’ is a honorific for someone in a respected stature and is non-gender specific. Or it could be Su hyung nim, where this person is an older respected male.) He knew that he had to use codes in his messages as well, otherwise, there was still the risk of being found out. To: Su Hyung Nim 7 February 2013 10.35am KST

You are right. We can’t have the almighty leave his rule and flee to his lover’s side. I will keep it a secret. However, do explain your rendezvous with the messenger. How come he’s in your presence? Do we have to send secret service to kill him yet? Does Zeus know that he’s there with you? You have a lot of explaining to do, my Queen. He felt rather proud of his own encoding attempt and went off to shower. He decided that he didn’t really want to stay at home with the couples and since he didn’t have anything that he needed to do urgently, he might just go out to get some food for himself. He would have liked to get his friends from university to join him but it’s not nice to try to get people on such short notice. But truth be told, going anywhere sometimes is a chore because of the attention that they garnered. While he likes the attention and know that it’s part of being a star, sometimes he does feel like they were animals from the zoo that were being paraded on the streets. It’s flattering and disconcerting at the same time to know that there are cameras on them everywhere they go. And being a star comes a set of expectations that’s unfathomable at times. Suddenly, they can only eat at expensive restaurants, indulge in expensive 323


hobbies and they have to be walking fashion icons all the time. He would admit that Jiyong gets more of the ‘walking fashion icon’ expectations. It’s like if they are not dressed to expectations, there will be rumors that they are not getting along well with their staff. They can’t talk too loudly, they are expected to be smiling all the time, they can’t show their real emotions. They have to be always thankful to the fans when sometimes, they really are too close for comfort, especially at the airports. He felt the need to check that his nose hair is in place because some fans literally put their cameras next to their faces. He’s thankful, all the time, but it can be a bit burdensome too. He ended up staying at home. When he came out from the shower, there was still no reply from Chaerin and he was beginning to get antsy. That it was the middle of the night and Chaerin is half way round the globe, outside of his supervision, alone, with a guy was upsetting him in a way he never quite experienced. While he had expected to be this way because of his feelings for her, this uneasiness was causing some dizziness. Good thing I decided to keep it a secret. If I’m already reacting in this manner, how would Ji hyung react? Before he got to Jay, we would all have been dead meat. He now realized that knowing where Chaerin is and who she’s with was not the best piece of news he could have. Knowing where is good but the additional information about who she is with, that’s not good. Don’t kill the messenger, after all, without him, he won’t know. His phone beeped. He accessed the message inbox in record time but it was only Daesung telling him that they were on their way back to the dorm and if he wanted anything. He quickly sent a message for him to get food and got the positive reply fast as well. Come on, Chaerin, reply! He realized that it’s been 20 minutes since he sent the message. While he’s not sure if she was still awake, she does reply messages quite quickly. But he is also aware that the tone he had taken with Jay was almost like he was ‘blackmailing’ her. And he knows what happens when she feels that way.

324


It always happens. She always wins. Seungri picked up his phone and sent another message to Chaerin. 7 February 2013 Milan, 2.00am Jay and Chaerin were chatting in the living room after they cleared up the mess for dinner. They were talking about their collaboration plans and even started writing some song lyrics. It was easy to work with Jay because Chaerin felt at ease and she didn’t feel the need to get his approval. She helped him figure out some of the Korean lyrics while Jay added more flavor to her English rap. “Now I’m seriously convinced that we should work together more. This is amazing and fun!” “Oppa, we should do this more often, just writing and then exchanging pointers.” “Don’t you get to do this with Jiyong?” “I do, but pride gets in the way and between you and me, I always feel the need to get his approval on one hand, yet resists it when he gives me feedback.” “I guess it’s the need to always be good enough in the eyes of the person you admire and love.” “Maybe. But because we mainly work with Teddy oppa when it comes to producing 2NE1’s music so the interaction between me and Jiyong oppa is actually minimal. I would go to him when I’m stuck but that’s only when no one else can help me.” “I’m sure if the two of you work more closely together, you will learn much from him and he from you too.” Chaerin just shrugged and focused on the verse that Jay had written. Both 325


worked in silence which was broken by the phone beeping. Chaerin saw that it was her Italian number so she knew who to expect. She opened her inbox and then laughed at how Seungri had encoded his message. She showed the message to Jay and he burst out laughing too. From: SeungRat >.< 7 February 2013 2.35am CET

You are right. We can’t have the almighty leave his rule and flee to his lover’s side. I will keep it a secret. However, do explain your rendezvous with the messenger. How come he’s in your presence? Do we have to send secret service to kill him yet? Does Zeus know that he’s there with you? You have a lot of explaining to do, my Queen. “Should I be scared now? Secret service after my life, you have to be responsible, my Queen.” Jay did a mock bow. Chaerin put the phone aside and continue focusing on the verse, annotating some possible changes at the side. “Aren’t you going to reply?” “Oh, let him suffer a while. His imaginative mind must be going crazy thinking about what we are doing, all alone, halfway across the world. Let him realize how scary this piece of news he has is. If he ever have to become the messenger to the almighty that I’m with a guy, alone, he would get skinned first. So he should proceed with caution.” “Oh my, you are evil.” “That’s the kind of game me and Seungri like to play on each other. Needless to say, I always win. Only because he’s really afraid of Jiyong oppa.” That’s only because he’s aware how much you mean to Jiyong, you silly girl. “So when will you reply to him?”

326


“Right about now...” Her phone beeped again. She passed the phone to Jay after she read the message, her lips raised in a victorious smirk. From: SeungRat >.< 7 February 2013 2.55am CET

Ok, I concede defeat. I will not tell the almighty no matter what. He would skin me alive before he gets to you. But you’d better be careful as well. He’s going to tear down a few castles if he knows. Jay grinned, shaking his head and passed the phone back to her. He watched as she started typing a reply to Seungri. Her expression told him all he needed to know about the contents. She was going to make Seungri shake in fear. To: SeungRat >.< 7 February 2013 3.00am CET

Good, now that you are on my side, I would tell you more. The messenger is god-sent. Zeus knows about the messenger and gave his approval for me to stay with him. He will come bearing gifts soon, so be nice, or I’d tell him not to give you your share. My humble roof belongs to the messenger’s relative. Messenger was already residing here before I moved in. So, we are sharing until he goes back and I’d be alone. As for the almighty, I know he’s going to tear down a few castles if he knows. One, or a few of which would be yours, don’t you think? Which is why it’s important that he doesn’t know, right? When push comes to shove, I would know how to handle him, but in the meantime, I don’t need him flying all the way here to breathe down my neck. You know when I get flustered, I would tell more secrets. And oppa, you have more to lose than I do if this secret ever come out accidentally. If I were you, I would be careful. Very careful. I did want to stay under the radar but no, you have to go and be a smart detective. Well done, Watson. I’m going to bed. Don’t message me too often otherwise you are going to let the

327


almighty catch you in the act and you would be begging for my help. “Can I see what you sent to him?” “Sure.” Chaerin passed her phone over to Jay whose eyes widened after every sentence. He started shaking his head and just gave in to laughter towards the end of the message. “Remind me never to get in your bad books. Sheesh, that was cruel. I’m imagining how Seungri felt when he first realized that he holds important information and how he can use it against you to how he must be feeling now. You cut him to pieces and now, it feels like you are waiting for him to make one wrong move so you can throw him to the dogs.” “Well, I’m never one to beg and knowing where I am and who I’m with is really not the information he wants to have. YG is the boss and Jiyong can’t do anything to him but anyone below the management is fair game. He was just too full of himself.” “But you do realize he did it out of concern for you right?” “I know and I do appreciate it. But I know him. He crumbles under Jiyong oppa’s pressure interrogation. I have to let him know the dire consequences. Ignorance is sometimes bliss.” “This is your way of protecting him isn’t it?” “Yup~ Alright, I think we can call it a night. It’s been a fruitful night. Oppa, are you up to anything tomorrow?” “Not really. Why? Are you finally giving in and willing to be seen on the streets with me?” “Nope. I want to enrol your help with the cookies making. But if you are busy, then it’s alright. I can handle most of it on my own.” “And miss the chance of eating fresh cookies? You have got to be kidding. I’m in!” 328


“Great then! We’ll start after breakfast tomorrow!” Jay and Chaerin packed up the living room and went back to their own rooms. Each was satisfied with what they have accomplished that night. Jay got a taste of what working with Chaerin is like and Chaerin managed to solve the problem of Seungri knowing her whereabouts and writing lyrics. It has been a good night.

329


Chapter 44 7 February 2013 Seoul, 11.00am Seungri was anxiously waiting for his reply from Chaerin. He hated how he would always give in whenever he tried to ‘blackmail’ her with some information he had gotten. But he had to admit that the few times this was pulled on him, he realized the severity of the consequences if he did reveal the information and got himself into lesser trouble. Maybe it’s her way of protecting me. Seungri smiled at the thought. It’s nice to know that people look out for him, especially from unexpected sources. He always sees himself as Chaerin’s protector but never the other way round. His phone beeped. He quickly opened up the message and read it. After reading it, he shook his head in disbelief. From: Su Hyung Nim 7 February 2013 11.00am KST

Good, now that you are on my side, I would tell you more. The messenger is god-sent. Zeus knows about the messenger and gave his approval for me to stay with him. He will come bearing gifts soon, so be nice, or I’d tell him not to give you your share. My humble roof belongs to the messenger’s relative. Messenger was already residing here before I moved in. So, we are sharing until he goes back and I’d be alone. As for the almighty, I know he’s going to tear down a few castles if he knows. One, or a few of which would be yours, don’t you think? Which is why it’s important that he doesn’t know, right? When push comes to shove, I would know how to handle him, but in the meantime, I don’t need him flying all the way here to breathe down my neck. You know when I get flustered, I would tell more secrets. And oppa, you have more to lose than I do if this secret ever come out accidentally. If I were you, I would be careful. Very careful. I did want to stay under the radar but no, you have to go and be a smart detective.

330


Well done, Watson. I’m going to bed. Don’t message me too often otherwise you are going to let the almighty catch you in the act and you would be begging for my help. Yup~ She did it again. She’s the queen indeed. Seungri thought about the message. It’s true that he would be on the losing end if he choose to tell. If he goes to Jiyong with the information now, their last showcase would be ‘ruined’ because Jiyong would fly out to where Chaerin is, whether or not the boss agrees to it and they would have to deal with the questions or cancel the showcase which would reflect badly on Big Bang. If he went to him with the information after the showcase, he would be skinned for telling Jiyong so late and if he runs into Jay while he’s there, he might beat him up and that would cause more trouble. “Argh!!! Why?! Why can’t I just leave well alone alone?!!” Because I wanted to know where Chaerin is. But what’s the point of knowing when I can’t go and be with her? “ARGH!!!” “What are you bellowing about?” Seungri looked up to see Daesung and Minzy standing in front of him, hand in hand, as usual. Youngbae and Dara were in the kitchen, setting up the dining table for breakfast. “Nothing. I was just bored.” “Seungri oppa, come and have your breakfast!! We bought you your favorite! Bamboo shoots!” All of them, including Seungri, started laughing. Seungri stood up and messed up Minzy’s hair. 331


“You country bumpkin! Now that you have Dae hyung as your back up, you have become more daring haven’t you? Don’t forget you are still the maknae!” “Ya! Don’t call my girlfriend country bumpkin! If she’s a country bumpkin, so are you!” Minzy stuck out her tongue at Seungri. “I’d never win. Dara noona, don’t you think you need to discipline your maknae?” “Like you said, she’s got Daesung now. And she didn’t say anything wrong. Pandas do like bamboo shoots!” “Fine. I’d wait till Chaerin is back. She would tell you girls to be respectful.” “Hmmmm... It’d be interesting to see what she says.” They all sat down at the dining table and started eating the food they have brought back home. “I wonder what Jiyong would be like if and when he becomes Chaerin’s boyfriend. He keeps laughing at how the three of us are putty in our girlfriend’s hands.” “Seriously, you need to wonder? Chaerin would win, all the time. She would let him think that he has won but he would come to realize that he had played straight into her hands.” “Sound like you speak from experience, Seungri. Must have been all those times how she trumped you when you tried to irritate her.” “Oh I have learnt not to get into a scuffle with her. I’d never win. Never. I just like to see her all flustered and huffing and puffing.” “When she gets together with Jiyong, you had better stop. Otherwise your Ji hyung would burn you alive every time you disturb his queen.”

332


“Oh my! I’m really going to be the only single member here! You guys won’t make me feel like a third-wheel right?” “Theoretically, you would be the ninth-wheel but we will be nice to you. After all, you are an endangered species.” “Gong Mingji!! Watch it!” “Dae oppa!” “Maknae ah, why are you finding fault with my Minzy? To call you by the nickname that your fans have given to you is a kind of endearment, isn’t it? If you don’t allow her to call you that, does that mean you don’t like this nickname that your fans have given to you?” “Argh! I’d never win. Never!” “Then just shut up and eat! You really talk too much sometimes!” Seungri ate a few mouthful of the fried noodles that they have brought back. “Did Ji hyung mention what time we would have to go for practice? What are we going to do for the rest of the afternoon?” “Nope~ TOP hyung came down to fetch Bom noona when we arrived at the company. He said that they were just starting and it might take the whole day. They want to finalize the tracklist and decide which songs Bom noona would be taking part in. If we are lucky, they would try to end by 8pm.” “As for what we are going to do for the rest of the afternoon, we would probably finish the movie we didn’t get to finish yesterday. What are you going to do?” “Is that a hint for me to get out of the house and leave you guys alone? Hyung, I’m sad. How can you do that?!” “Aish~ Can you not be so sensitive? You can stay and watch the movie with us if you want. It was just an innocent question. You could have made plans after you saw Ji’s message. Don’t turn into a girl like Jiyong.”

333


“Excuse me, Dong Youngbae, what’s wrong with being a girl?” “Nothing wrong babe~ But can you imagine Seungri being a girl?” “Seungri oppa looks quite pretty as a girl, maybe prettier than I am.” “Ya! Country bumpkin!! Are you insulting me?” “How is that an insult, oppa? I paid you a compliment.” “OK. STOP! Seungri, come and help me with setting up the movie. Minzy darling, would you mind getting the snacks that we bought just now from the kitchen?” “Alright! Dae oppa, you are the best!” Minzy went to Daesung and gave him a peck on the lips. Daesung caught her and prolonged the peck into a real kiss. “Ew! Dae hyung~!!!” Youngbae came up behind Seungri and smacked his head. “Keep quiet! It’s just them kissing. What’s wrong with you?” Seungri rubbed his head and just went back to setting up the movie for the couples, knowing that whatever he says would be of no use. After he was done, he saw how the couples have gotten comfortable with each other. Youngbae and Dara were on the long couch. Dara was sitting up while Youngbae laid with his head on her lap. She was running her hands through his newly-cut hair. Daesung had pulled out a blanket from his room and the couple was sitting on the floor. Minzy was sitting in front of Daesung and he had wrapped his arms around her, his head resting lightly on her shoulders. Minzy leaned back comfortably on Daesung’s chest and their intertwined hands were place on her stomach. I feel so out of place here.

334


But if I go to YGE, he would encounter the King and Queen of Aegyo. ARGH!! He went to shut the balcony doors and drew the curtains in the living room because they can never be too sure who might be watching outside. “I’d be in my room.” “Don’t you want to watch the movie?” “You guys are watching a romantic comedy and that’s fine for all of you. For me, it’s like double blow. So no, I’d give it a miss. Thanks for asking.” “Suit yourself.” Without another word, he walked into his room. He was wondering if he should send Chaerin another message when he remembered that she said she was going to bed. Looking at the time difference, the only time that they would both be awake would be between 4pm to 12 midnight, give and take an hour or two. Seungri’s mind drifted and he started thinking how tough it would be for 2 person in 2 different countries to be in a relationship. He wondered if Chaerin and Jiyong get together, how are they going to cope. And without him realizing it, he drifted off back to dreamland. 7 February 2013 Milan, 8am Chaerin woke up at 7am and got ready for her morning jog. Since she was not in Korea and does not have the luxury of a gym and personal trainer, she would have to do simple exercises to keep herself in shape. It’s better to get into a routine before school starts. After her usual run round the neighborhood, she went to the bakery for some fresh croissant. She has been craving for good buttery pastries and fluffy scrambled eggs. She went to the grocery store next and got some back bacon so there won’t be too much fats. She picked up some rocket greens to go with the leftover greens from last night’s BBQ. When she got back to the apartment, she was taken aback by the flashlight. 335


Instinctively, she lifted the bag of grocery to cover her face. “Chaerin ah, it’s just me. Man, your natural instincts when you see a flashlight is to hide, even when it’s in your own space?” Upon hearing Jay’s voice, Chaerin took deep breaths to calm her racing heart. She went straight to the kitchen without second word. Jay, sensing something was not right, followed her to the kitchen. Chaerin stood by the sink and after a few seconds, bent down to freshen her face with the water. For a moment there, the nightmare of finding strangers in her apartment, came back to her and she had cried. Jay went to her and took her into his embrace. “I’m sorry. Bad memory?” Chaerin simply nodded and held onto Jay a little tighter. “It’s alright to cry if you want to. I won’t tell anyone.” “It was just scary. I went back to my own apartment one day after our overseas schedule and when I opened the door, the camera flashlights just went off. My own apartment, my haven, breached. It was scary. They pushed past me and I fell. When I recovered enough to stand up, they were gone. I went to my bedroom door and I saw a lock pick. They were trying to open the door when I came back. I can’t imagine if I came back a little later...” “Who were these people? Did you report them?” “Jiyong oppa’s die-hard fans.” “How did you know?” “They left a message on my living room walls.” “Were they caught?” “No. I didn’t report them. I left my apartment and went to the cafe that

336


Jiyong oppa and I used to go to after getting my Polaroid camera. The lady boss called me to tell me they were going to renovate and I wanted to preserve our memories in that place. I had my whole apartment repainted and new locks and security system installed the next day. But truthfully, I have not been back to my apartment ever since our tour ended.” “Why didn’t you report them?” “Since there wasn’t anything going on between me and Jiyong oppa, there was no need to blow up the matter.” “Chaerin, that’s not a light matter. It’s invasion of privacy, it’s trespassing. Your life could have been in danger! I’m going to tell YG when I see him.” “Jay oppa...” “No, you are not talking me out of it. Don’t be so strong and stubborn all the time. You call me oppa and I intend to act like one.” “Alright, fine. You can tell YG but...” “But not Jiyong. I won’t. You would have to tell him yourself at some point in time. He would hate himself if you were hurt because of his fans. But if you don’t tell him at some point, I will.” “Oppa...” “Or I can tell him when I see him at YGE this week, your call, Miss Lee.” “Ok, I will tell him.” Jay released her but continued to hold her shoulders. “Remember, if you ever need anything or just someone to talk to, you can come to me, alright?” Chaerin nodded and Jay patted her head. “So, Chef Lee, what are we going to have for breakfast today?”

337


“I have the most horrible craving for scrambled eggs and croissants so I went ahead and got some. If you need to wash up, go ahead. I’d get started on the scrambled eggs.” “I’m good. Do you need any help?” “You can help me beat these eggs first. Are you a fan of eggs?” “I’m a fan of anything you cook.” “Ok then, beat 8 of these eggs. Luckily I went for my morning jog otherwise, these would make me fat.” “In all honesty, I think you would do good to have some flesh on you. The world tour and the promotion period immediately after took its toil on you. So you can afford to put on a few pounds.” “So says the man with perfect abs who hits the gym everyday.” “But I don’t starve myself.” “Not going to argue. Get started on those eggs while I start on the bacon. I bought back bacon so it would not be too fatty. Do you want the normal ones we had yesterday instead?” “I’m not picky, just do what is convenient.” And so the two of them worked in harmony to put breakfast together. In 30 minutes, the scrambled eggs and bacon were cooked to perfection, the rocket greens and the other vegetables were put together in a salad with simple vinaigrette dressing. “I still can’t believe I made this! And it’s not even that difficult. Alright, no more cornflakes!” “I give you 3 days.” “You underestimate my willpower. The next time you are back in Seoul, you will get to taste the pancakes, and the scrambled eggs I cook.”

338


“Call! You are making going back to Seoul very attractive.” “I have to redeem myself in Jiyong’s eyes. You back in Seoul would be my best gift to him.” Chaerin just shook her head and rolled her eyes. The oven dinged, signaling that the croissants have been warmed up. Chaerin went to the oven and took them out. She brought them over to the dining table and both of them tucked in. Jay put the scrambled eggs, the salad and the bacon onto the croissant to make a sandwich. He took a photo and sent a tweet.

@JAYBUMAOM: No more cornflakes! An angel taught me that this isn’t that difficult to make! “I’ll eat well!!” Jay said excitedly before taking a bite of the sandwich. Chaerin choose to have each of the ingredients separately. Just as she was putting her first mouthful of scrambled eggs into her mouth, her phone beeped. She rolled her eyes and then continued eating.

339


“Seungri?” “Yup. Don’t worry about it. He probably saw your tweet and is demanding that I cook for him when I get back.” “Your relationship with the co-artistes in your company is enviable.” “We are YG Family after all. We really do get along well that way. Because most of the artistes take charge of their own music production process, there is really no bias like why does so and so get a better song than me. The company does what it can to support the artistes in terms of marketing and public relations. It’s a well-oiled machine, driven well by men with vision.” “So I guess you never regretted leaving JYPE then?” “I valued the lessons I have learnt in JYPE but I can also see that I don’t fit into their general outlook when it comes to talent management. The 2 companies are very different and each has their own strengths but if you are making that question one that only allow yes/no answers, then the answer is yes, I never regretted leaving JYPE.” “I’m glad then. You were one of the few people that I got along with and it helped that you spoke English. But I could see you weren’t happy there. They were trying to make you into their idea of a marketable artiste and it went against every molecule in your body. So while I hate to see you go, I’m glad you did.” “I guess everyone has their own paths to walk. I made some good friends while I was training at JYPE.” “Like me! It’s a pity when we couldn’t really keep in touch and by the time 2NE1 debuted, I was back in USA.” “But here we are, thousands of miles away from Korea and staying under the same roof, for a limited time no doubt, but who would have thought? Life works in mysterious ways~” “Indeed!”

340


They continued eating in silence when Chaerin’s other phone beeped. She took out the phone immediately to check who had just sent the message, although there’s only 2 person who would do that. “Poor Seungri.” It was a message from Jiyong and Chaerin smiled then laughed at the content of the message. Jay raised an eyebrow in silent questioning. “Here, see for yourself.” Chaerin handed the phone over and Jay, upon reading the message, laughed out loud too. From: GD 7 February 2013 9.00am CET

Chaerin! HELP! I think I need a new pair of eyes and ears!! Your Bommie unnie and TOP oppa!! They are testing my patience!! How do you deal with Bom noona? She has like 10,000 thoughts going on in her head at the same time. TOP hyung is usually ok especially when it comes to work, but today I find myself wanting to throw my chair at him!! He’s like a 5-year-old. And because it’s just the 3 of us in the recording studio, they have been stealing kisses and touching each other whenever and wherever possible!!! ARGH!! My eyes! My ears! HELP!!!! “Your company is made up of weird people.” “Nah, those two are the aliens. Only they would think to do something like this. But that’s what makes being around them so fun. Their minds are not like ours.” “Looks like a call for help from Jiyong if you ask me.” 341


“Jiyong oppa knows how to handle each of them separately. It’s just that he’s new to handling them TOGETHER. He would be fine after a while. TOP oppa is usually quite serious when it comes to work, so’s Bom unnie. But they distract each other. If Jiyong oppa is smart enough, he would have at least one other member with him who can distract the other. Plus he doesn’t like shouting, at least he won’t do that to Bom unnie.” As if struck by a sudden idea, Chaerin took out her other phone and check the message that Seungri sent. “Told you he just wanted me to cook the EXACT same things I have been cooking for you. Oppa, do me a favor, stop posting pictures of the food I make, otherwise I’d be very busy in the kitchen.” “Nope, that I can’t promise. I only have 2 more days, including today, with you. All of this is part of my memories in Italy!” “Aish!” Chaerin pouted but she knew what Jay meant as well. She typed in a message to Seungri. To: SeungRat >.< 7 February 2013 9.10am CET

If you go help the Almighty with the aliens, I would cook you 2 of the dishes. No bargain. And if you want a peaceful practice with the Almighty, I suggest you move fast. He’s about to blow up. Do what you do best. Distract. “You are sending Seungri on a rescue mission aren’t you? The manipulative queen at work.” “I merely suggested with suitable bribes. I’m guessing he’s stuck at home with the other 2 couples. Since Daesung oppa and Youngbae oppa didn’t get the weird unnie and maknae, he’s better off helping Jiyong oppa with the alien couple.” “It’s true. Behind every successful man, there is a woman.”

342


“Just doing what I can. If YG get to hear about how the aliens have been acting, they would be reprimanded. Bommie unnie might not look it, but she’s very sensitive to YG’s reprimands and she might do stupid things like break up with TOP oppa, which will not do anyone any good. So better to nip it in the bud.” “And every officer-in-command needs an advisor. I’m sure you even told Seungri what to do right?” Chaerin just smiled as she took another bite of her scrambled eggs. As Jay looked at Chaerin, he remembered how young she was when he first met her at JYPE and how much she has grown since. Everyone at JYPE was surprised when she debuted as the leader of YGE’s newest girl group, touted as the female version of Big Bang. No one, except a handful of people, had thought that she could go that far. Chaerin ah, you have definitely come a long way. I’m glad to have known you then, as a young girl chasing and never giving up, And now, as a matured, smart young lady who knows what she wants out of life.

343


Chapter 45 7 February 2013 Seoul, 4.30pm Big Bang Dorm Seungri woke up from his nap at 3pm and was just rolling around in his bed. Such days were a luxury and he’s not going to complain. Doing the calculation in time difference in his head, he realized that it’s now morning in Milan. Chaerin would not message him out of her own free will. He decided not to become too much of a nuisance even though he’s itching to send her another message. He decided to check his social media channels and do some updating on his Seung-chan’s blog. It’s important to keep in touch even when it’s his off days. He left Twitter for last since he was hoping that Jay would tweet something, like what they were having for breakfast. That would give him an excuse to send Chaerin a message. As he scrolled through his Twitter stream, he found exactly what he was looking for. @JAYBUMAOM: No more cornflakes! An angel taught me that this isn’t that difficult to make! Damn~ If I can have that for breakfast, I won’t be eating cornflakes too. Jay, you lucky bastard! 2 days in a row, breakfast by Chaerin. You must have done something right in your previous life! Although he had tasted Chaerin’s cooking before, it was infrequent and looked nothing like what she’s cooking for Jay. Jealousy began to bubble up within him and he sent Chaerin a message. To: Su Hyung Nim 7 February 2013 4.45pm KST

Dear Queen! It’s so unfair! How come you cook for the messenger such great delicacies and none for us?

344


I don’t care! I demand that you cook me the same things you cooked for the messenger when you are back!!! He didn’t really expect an immediate reply. Knowing her, she would take her time in replying to the message. It was nothing of real importance. Or I’m not important enough in her life to render an immediate response. That thought made him sad. But he consoled himself by remembering that right now, other than YG, he’s the only one with direct contact to her. He would enjoy the moments while it lasted. Seungri decided to check on the other couples. He walked out to the living room to find it empty. He checked the entryway and saw that the girls’ shoes were still around. The TV has been switched off so he guessed that they finished the movie and went back into their rooms for some privacy. He switched on the TV and started channel surfing. He checked his phone every 5 minutes. Back to square one. Bored. Alone at home. Argh! Sad life of mine!! His phone beeped. He sent a silent prayer, hoping that it’s Chaerin. It was but the content of the message didn’t make him very happy. From: Su Hyung Nim 7 February 2013 5.10pm CET

If you go help the Almighty with the aliens, I would cook you 2 of the dishes. No bargain. And if you want a peaceful practice with the Almighty, I suggest you move fast. He’s about to blow up. Do what you do best. Distract. Tch! You are sending me on a mission to save your beloved! Selfish brat! Even though Seungri was a little reluctant to go to the company to deal with 345


the Aegyo Alien couple and the Grouchy Dragon, he knew he had to. She was right again. If Jiyong gets into a sour mood, they could all kiss a peaceful practice goodbye. He got up, switched off the TV and went back to his room to get ready for his trip to the company. The 2 meals had better be worth the effort! Before he left, he wrote a quick note and slipped it under Youngbae’s door. 7 February 2013 Milan, 10am After Jay and Chaerin were done with breakfast, they started getting the ingredients for the cookies ready. Unknown to Chaerin, while she was gone in the morning for her morning jog, Jay had set up his camcorder in the kitchen to record her in action during breakfast and during the cookies and chocolate-making session. When Chaerin excused herself to go to the toilet, he quickly checked to make sure there was enough memory and he put in a new battery. He hit ‘Record’ when he heard footsteps coming from the toilet. “Are you ready to start, oppa?” “Whenever you are ready!” “The cookies are not difficult to make but because of the quantity, we would need to make a few batches.” “How many are we looking at making?” “About 6 canisters? 2 for my boss and 2 each for Big Bang and 2NE1 members.” “What about me?!!” “You get to eat it here!!” “No! I want 1 canister too!!” “Fine! But don’t forget you are the one bringing them back.”

346


“It’s ok, I don’t have much luggage anyway. If not, I can send some of my clothes back by post. Not going to miss out on your cookies.” “Alright then, Can you chop the macadamia nuts? 6-8 chucks per nut is good enough. We would need 4 cups of them. I would start chopping some of the white chocolate.” The two of them worked in silence for a while, then Jay started singing Jiyong’s Missing You. Though Chaerin looked at him strangely at first but she still came in during the female parts. When it was done, they hi-fived each other, just like when they did the impromptu collaboration for “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You”. “That was random.” “It’s a good song and it just popped into my head suddenly.” “I like the song too, especially the chorus. It’s really kind of painful isn’t it? To have so much to say, yet not being able to say it.” “You can come tell me in the future, I would like that. And then I can tell you what’s bothering me too. It’s like what best friends do for each other. But I reserve the rights to discern what I should tell Jiyong. I know you will hide things from him because you don’t want to be seen as weak, but you have to learn to be weak in front of him too. He would want to take care of you, in any way possible.” “I know that but it’s difficult for me. I don’t know if I can trust him to be always there. I want to believe that he can but I don’t want to have too high hopes in case I get disappointed when he can’t.” “Give it in stages then. If you can’t give him 100% trust right from the getgo, tell him. Tell him that he needs to earn your trust. Remember that Jiyong also needs to know that he can trust you not to run and to be able to tell him how you really feel. Don’t let uncertainties into the relationship, that’s when a lot of problems start.” “I would try. Even though I have been to a few dates, I’ve not been in a real relationship before, at least none that last for more than 6 months.”

347


“So, if you are in a relationship, what would you want to do with your boyfriend?” Chaerin gave the question some serious thought. “I think because my life has been so hectic the last couple of years, I really won’t mind a change of pace in my personal life. Long chats by the fireplace, walks down the beach, cooking and sharing a meal together, watching movies at home, the normal things you know. I don’t need to go to crowded places and do things that I can do at home. If it’s someone I’m seriously considering as my other half for the rest of my life, then I would like to do the whole home searching, interior design and decor together with him. I want to be able to come home and feel peace. If I had a bad day, I want to be able to come home into my boyfriend’s embrace and just be comforted. Am I asking for too much?” “I think it’s attainable if there’s proper communication between the two parties. Communication is key. I’m sure your other half would want the same things as you. Sometimes, it’s not about the things you do but the person you are with.” “Oppa, are you sure you are a guy? How come you are so sensitive and know so well?” “YA! Just because I’m more sensitive than most guys doesn’t make me less of one!!” Chaerin laughed at his reaction. “Nope, you are definitely a guy. You react the way a guy would when their masculinity is questioned. Are you done with the macadamia nuts? I’m going to show you the difficult part of the mixing process so you can help me with the other batches.” “Bring it on! Is this ok?” Jay showed the chopped macadamia nuts to Chaerin and got a thumbs up from her. “Well done!” 348


The camcorder caught all the conversation and visuals. Jay intends to use parts in the video for Jiyong’s exclusive copy and keeps the rest for himself. These are all his memories of the days he got to spend with Chaerin. Something he probably won’t get again once he’s back in Seoul. 7 February 2013 Seoul, 5.30pm Seungri got out of the dorm as quickly as he could and arrived at YGE at the earliest time he could. Alright Lee Seunghyun, you can do this. Just remember not to say anything to do with Chaerin. And Jay. He walked quickly to Jiyong’s recording studio, the one that is exclusive for his use. The moment he walked in, Jiyong looked up and without a second word went to him and gave him a hug. He urgently whispered in Seungri’s ears. “I have never been this glad to see you. Whatever or whoever prompted you to come rescue me deserves my life. Please, do something, anything. I’m about to go crazy.” “How much time do you need?” “Give me at least an hour with TOP hyung.” Jiyong held onto Seungri for a few more seconds and then let him go. Seungri patted him on his back. I’ve got your back, Ji hyung. “TOP hyung, Bom noona!! How’s it going?!” “Seungri-kun, it’s bad. I think Jiyong-kun is angry with us!” You think? You are lucky that you are older than he is otherwise, he would have blown his top a long time ago. 349


“Bommie noona, I have not eaten anything since lunch, want to accompany me to the cafeteria to grab a bite?” “I want to...” “TOP hyung, I’ve heard you have to finish recording a song by today. I saw our boss in the dance studio next door on my way here. I’m sure you don’t want him to think that you are skiving with Bom noona right? Don’t worry, I’d make sure she has her corn.” “Tabi~ Be good and stay here. I’d bring you your favorite when I come back. Let’s go! Now that you mentioned food, I just realized I have not eaten since this morning too.” Seungri left with Bom, keeping in mind that he had to distract her for at least an hour. But seeing that it’s Bom, it shouldn’t be too difficult. “Noona, what do you want to eat, other than corn?” “Anything and everything! I’m so hungry right now!” “Alright, I’d get all the delicious food for you. You wait here for me ok? And since TOP hyung is recording, try not to send him any messages alright?” “Sure...” Bom was already engrossed in her game on her iPad. Seungri grinned at her short attention span. It was actually not such a difficult task. Distracting people is what he does very well because there are times where the tension in the group can be very high especially if the recording doesn’t go as smoothly as Jiyong has hoped. He’s quite surprised that he had not snapped at the Aegyo Alien couple yet. He didn’t realize that he was actually quite hungry. He got food for himself and for Bom. He made sure to get her favorite corn then made his way back to her. After he set the food in front of her, he got her attention and asked her to start eating. She put aside her iPad and grabbed the burger and corn. “Seungri-kun, thank you~” 350


“You’re welcome! Eat more!” Seungri took a picture of Bom eating so that he can send it to Chaerin to show that he had accomplished his mission. To: Su Hyung Nim 7 February 2013 5.40pm KST

Dear Queen, I have accomplished my mission. Princess Spring had been successfully distracted. Her prince is currently being held captive by the Almighty. Keep your promise. Seungri was beginning to enjoy this secret code game. This made him somewhat happy, since this was going to be a secret between him and Chaerin, something unique to the both of them. I’d take whatever memories I can have. Before the Queen is back in her rightful place. Beside the Almighty King.

351


Seungri also started eating and he was surprised to hear the beep of his phone. He quickly checked and saw that it was Chaerin. From: Su Hyung Nim 7 February 2013 5.45pm KST

Well done Watson! Now try to keep as much of the food on your tray as possible. The Hulk would walk around during dinner time to check that his minions are not eating too much. If he sees Princess Spring eating so much, she won’t hear the end of it. Thanks! I owe you 2 dishes. “Bom noona, I’m going to put some of the food on my tray so that Hwangssabu can’t catch you eating and order more gym hours for you.” “OMG! I almost forgot that he’s about to make his evening round. Thank you Seungri-kun! You saved my life!” Seungri was actually really amazed at how much Chaerin protect her members. He started moving some of the high carbohydrates food onto his tray. And like clockwork, the moment he put the bag of french fries, which was the last of the food item on Bom’s tray, Hwangssabu’s voice rang loud behind him. “PARK BOM! YOU ARE EATING CORN AGAIN!!!” Seungri sent a silent prayer of thanks that he made it just in time. The only thing on Bom’s tray was a cup of orange juice and the corn she’s holding in her hands. “Hwangssabu~ I’m only eating corn and having orange juice! Is that still too much? Hul~ I have not eaten anything since this morning.” “Ok, that’s fine. Seungri ah, you are eating a little too much.” “Oh, these are for Ji and TOP hyung. They are recording so they sent me to get food for them.” 352


“Ok, good good. I’m glad that you guys are not skipping meals. See you at the gym tomorrow then.” “Yes, see you tomorrow!” “You too, Bom! Bring Dara and Minzy with you. I have not seen them since Chaerin left. Just because your leader left doesn’t mean you can skive!” “Yes sir! I’d bring Dara and Minzy with me tomorrow!” Bom saluted Hwangssabu and seemingly satisfied at how compliant Bom was that day, he gave Seungri a pat on the back before walking away.” “Hoo~ That was close! Thank you!” Seungri gave Bom a hi-five. Thank you Chaerin! If not for your warning, I would have been caught ‘eating too much’. To: Su Hyung Nim 7 February 2013 5.55pm KST

Dear Queen, Did you have your crystal ball with you? We barely made it in time before the Hulk came to us. Because of you, we managed to escape endless hours at the hamster’s wheel. You are truly amazing. Thanks! I look forward to tasting them! Looking at the few messages that he had exchanged with Chaerin, Seungri’s heart ached a little. At how easily he’s content just to share something with her, at how quickly this might come to pass. If I can’t have her for the rest of my life, at least I have this. However short it might be, it belongs to US, to me. Even if she doesn’t know how much I treasure this, it’s mine to hold, Till the day I could let her go.

353


Chapter 46 7 February 2013 Seoul, 7.30pm Seungri managed to keep Bom away from the recording studio until Jiyong sent him a message to tell him that the coast was clear. But he needed him to bring TOP away so he could get Bom’s part done. Jiyong knew he was being ambitious but he really wanted to have the song done. Seungri brought Bom back to the recording studio and the two aliens behaved like they have been separated for too long and they were too far away, when in reality it has been less than 90 minutes and the cafeteria was just down the corridor. “Tabi~ I missed you!! Did you get any recording done?” TOP was actually aware that Bom was a distraction once he started proper recording. Jiyong told him very frankly that if it had been with the other boys, he would have punched TOP in the face for delaying the whole day. But now that his goddess was back within his reach, he forgot everything again. “I missed you too! But I did manage to get the song recorded.” “Oh, that’s great! Ji-kun, are we going to do my part now?” Jiyong looked over at Seungri and he knew he had to now bring the prince away. “TOP hyung, I saw Teddy hyung walk in just now with a big box. It seemed like he got himself some new Bearbrick. Let’s go take a look?” TOP didn’t want to leave Bom but remembering what Jiyong told him and seeing the pleading look that Seungri threw his way, he decided to play along. He needed dinner and he knew nothing would get done if he didn’t go away. “Yes, let’s go check it out. Darling, I’d be back soon. Be good and listen to Jiyong so you can go home early alright? Ji, are we still having practice tonight?” 354


“I’d see how’s the progress. I might call it a day after I get Bom noona’s part down.” “Alright then, you let us know when you know. See you later.” TOP and Seungri walked out of the recording studio and Seungri was wondering how to tell him that it’s a lie. He decided to be honest about it. “Hyung, actually...” “I know, you were just trying to get me out of the recording studio. Jiyong gave me an earful when you took Bom away. I should have been focused, we could have done so much more but I can’t help it. She just makes me lose my focus.” “Good that you know. Are you hungry? Do you want to get something to eat?” “Yes, I’m famished! Let’s go to the cafeteria and grab something. I’d buy you a drink. You probably had lots to eat when you came out with Bom. She would always say she wants to eat EVERYTHING but end up nibbling on everything and finishing just the corn.” “Exactly. You really know her well huh?” “I have been out here at the cafeteria with her enough times to know her habits by now. You take a seat and I’d be right back.” “Thanks hyung!” TOP went to get his own food and an additional drink for Seungri. While waiting, he got a message from Youngbae. From: Bae hyung 7 February 2013 7.43pm KST

Maknae! How’s it going at the recording studio? Did Jiyong say if we are practicing tonight? To: Bae hyung 7 February 2013 7.45pm KST

355


They just finished TOP hyung’s part and doing noona’s part now. Ji hyung mentioned that he might call it a day depending on the recording process. From: Bae hyung 7 February 2013 7.48pm KST

Bad day huh? Maybe we would just head over to the company. Bom noona would need a ride back. The girls can take her back then Ji can decide if we are practicing tonight. If yes, at least we won’t waste time waiting for his message and getting there. If he decides not to practice, then maybe we can go out for supper. To: Bae hyung 7 February 2013 7.50pm KST

Indeed the ‘mum’ of the group! Great idea! See you soon then! We are at the cafeteria now. Maybe it’s a good idea if you guys split up from the girls some distance away and take a cab in. From: Bae hyung 7 February 2013 7.52pm KST

Thanks for the reminder. Yea, walking in together would raise one too many eyebrow. See you soon then. “Are you messaging some mysterious girl again?” “Nope, that was Bae hyung. They are on their way over with the girls. they figured Bom noona would need a ride home later. If we are doing practice, it’d be good if the girls are here to send her back. If we are not doing practice, then we can go for supper together.” “Sounds like a good plan.” TOP gave Seungri his drink and started eating the food he had gotten for himself. The eldest and the maknae sat there in silence. But being one who can’t stand being silent for too long, Seungri asked the first question off the top of his head. “Hyung, what is it like? Being in a relationship? I mean you were quite the playboy before you finally approached Bom noona and settled down into a relationship with her.”

356


“We had it easy. We had the fame from being Big Bang and that makes girls flock to us like bees to honey. Being in the presence of many pretty girls and having their company was great. But gradually, each encounter just got more empty. Sometimes, I don’t even remember the girl’s face, not to mention the name and where I knew them from. I got a burn-out from being a playboy, if there’s such a thing.” TOP took another mouthful of his food before continuing. “To compare those days to what I have with Bom now is like trying to compare a real meat and vegetables and those dried up substitutes we get in our ramen packs. I don’t know how to describe it. With Bom, everything feels real, I can see a future, I can put a face to my future. She makes me whole. I can’t live without her.” “Wow... That’s quite something. Do you think it’s the same with Bae hyung and Dae hyung?” TOP looked up and was about to answer when he spotted the people in question. He waved and Seungri turned to see the other 2 couples walking in, with a safe distance between them. “Why don’t you ask them yourself? They are quite safe since they were not the wild ones in our group. So it might be a different point of view.” Youngbae and Daesung sat down at the table with them while Dara and Minzy went to get food for all of them. Seungri looked at the two members who just sat down and asked them the same question that he asked TOP. “Hyungs, what is it like? Being in a relationship?” Seungri saw how his 2 hyungs’ eyes went directly in search of their girlfriends and when they spot them, they smiled. “It’s like seeing 55,000 fans gathered in one place. The joy and gratefulness in the heart is indescribable. My heart is always filled with joy and gladness when I’m with Dara.” “It’s hearing the elusive click in your life that tells you your life is now 357


complete and you can do anything. When I finally opened my eyes and saw Minzy standing there through it all and accepted her, I heard it. Every time I hug her close, there’s a soft comforting voice that calms my heart. It sounds corny but she makes my heart excited and calm at the same time.” “Ok, wow, I think I need to look harder for that girl who’s the real thing huh?” “When it’s time, she will appear. Then you remember what we tell you today. It might be a different sign for you but the feeling of rightness would be the same.” The girls came back with trays laden with food. They started to put the food they have gotten for their guy in front of them. It was all their favorites. Though no verbal ‘thank you’ or any kind of endearments were heard at the table, each of them communicate in a language that was exclusive to them. A smile, a touch, a look, no one can deny the love they feel for the other. “Seriously, if anyone were to see you guys like that, how can they reject your relationship? It’s so obviously right.” “We are actually quite ok with it. We get a little normalcy like today without having to worry about anything. If there are rumors about us, then we would just come out and admit it. We are in this for the long haul so nothing would actually stop us from being together.” Just as they started on their meal, all the Big Bang members got a message from their leader. Seungri checked his message while his hyungs continued eating. From: Almighty Ji Leader 7 February 2013 8.57pm KST

Hello~ Hooo... I’m finally done. Are you guys up to doing practice tonight? Let’s meet at 9.30pm. “Hyungs, Ji hyung just messaged to ask if we are up to doing practice tonight. Meeting time is 9.30pm.” “When did he start asking? I don’t know if I like this new Ji. He used to just demand that we be in the practice studio at the stipulated time.” 358


“Nah, he’s becoming more like Chaerin. Chaerin asks but to be honest, it’s done in such a way you can’t refuse.” “Even before they are together? And he laughs at us? Sheesh~ Maknae, just let him know that we are at the cafeteria and ask him if he wants to join us or does he want us to bring food for him.” “Ok.” To: Almight Ji Leader 7 February 2013 8.59pm KST

Ji hyung~ Congratulations! All the hyungs are here in the cafeteria. Do you want to join us or do you want us to bring food up for you? There was no reply from Jiyong but he appeared with Bom at the cafeteria 10 minutes later. The look of relief on his face was a first-ever for the Big Bang members too, especially for Youngbae and Daesung. “TOP hyung, you guys really put him through the torture chambers today huh?” Youngbae whispered to TOP and the latter just laughed. “He was incredibly patient today. We were definitely testing his limits and I’m surprised he didn’t blow up. He did go outside for a while though, probably to vent to Chaerin. I’m surprised he’s keeping up with his messages to Chaerin when he’s not getting a response from her.” Seungri smirked at what TOP just said. She gets them, she just not responding to them directly. Instead she sent me as the substitute for now. “It’s his only outlet right now. I kind of like him this way, at least it shows that he’s serious about her and perhaps ready to lean on her at times too. Sometimes watching the two of them together is like watching a lion and a lioness at loggerheads. The prideful ones, not backing down especially when there is an audience.”

359


Before Youngbae could continue, Jiyong sat down beside Seungri and Bom took her rightful place beside TOP. “Did Jiyong torture you?” Jiyong rolled his eyes and sighed loudly, causing everyone to sniggle. “Ji hyung, what do you want to eat, let me go get it for you?” “Thank goodness for Seungri today, otherwise my brain would turn to mush and smoke would be coming out of my ears. Seungri ah, I owe you a meal! Just get me anything that’s edible and my favorite vitamin drink. Thanks!” “TOP hyung and Bom noona, with all due respect, we won’t do this again. I will have both of you down separately to do the recording. We completed a song within 4 hours. If we didn’t have all those delays and distractions, we could have finished more. I tried to see if it can work with both of you in the same space but nope, didn’t work. Sorry, I have to bring you in separately for the next song. And I would have to deny entry to the practice later. Minzy, please make sure that your unnies leave this building and arrive home safely within the next hour. Send me a picture message taken INSIDE the dorm when you arrive. Practice starts at 9.30pm sharp. Don’t be late if you need to go and say your farewells.” “And then he’s back...” Seungri mumbled under his breath. But he was with Jiyong on this. Couples tend to distract each other and in the end would just frustrate the singles. The three couples got up upon hearing what Jiyong said. They have less than 15 minutes before the practice starts. The girls said their goodbyes to Jiyong and Seungri and left with their boyfriends. “Seungri, you be the time-checker. 5 minutes before the practice, please send them a message. I’m going up to the dance studio first. Stay around the lobby so that you can monitor them. If they are late, I’d hold you responsible.” “Hyung!” 360


“Seungri, please, just go and don’t argue with me? I really had a long day with Bom noona and TOP hyung.” “I was just going to ask if you are going to finish your food?” “I’m bringing it with me and eating on the way. Just give me a few minutes of quiet. My ears are still buzzing with all the sweet nothings and my eyes, oh my eyes~!!” “Alright, alright, I got it. I’d be at the lobby. If you need more time...” “No, let’s just finish the practice as early as we can and then go back.” “YES SIR!” Seungri said as he stood up and saluted him. As he walked away, he sent Chaerin a message. To: Su Hyung Nim 7 February 2013 9.18pm KST

Dear Queen, Your King is still upset. What can I do? The reply came relatively fast. How come I’m not surprised? After all, it’s about her beloved. From: Su Hyung Nim 7 February 2013 9.21pm KST

Just keep his favorite vitamin drink within his reach. One for each song you are scheduled to sing. Add two more bottles just in case you need to give him some on your way back. That should keep him happy. He banned the princesses from entering and sent them back where they belong right? Keep an eye on him. No matter what you do, make sure he doesn’t get to the lip-biting

361


stage. The moment he starts biting his fingers, alert the other warriors. FIGHTING! ‘Wow’ was all Seungri could think about when he saw the reply. He knows that Chaerin knows Jiyong’s habits but he never knew to what extent. Thinking back, Chaerin always had a bottle of the vitamin drink in her bag and whenever Jiyong started showing signs of being upset, the drink would miraculously appear in his hand. He did a quick turn back to the cafeteria and got 10 bottles of the drink. Though they were only doing 5 songs for the showcase, it always pays to be more prepared. He walked to the lobby, sending the text to all his other members, alerting them of the time. Within the next 3 minutes, the 3 members turned up at the lobby and Seungri greeted them, giving them each a bottle of the drink. Though they raised an eyebrow to Seungri’s gesture, they took it and went to the practice studio. “Hyungs, Ji hyung is still a little upset about today, so if you guys see him biting his fingers, we need to be alert and do better ok? Otherwise he might really blow up on us.” The 3 members looked at Seungri strangely. “Seungri, I know you like Jiyong a lot but I didn’t know you observe him so closely. Don’t develop any deeper feelings, you would only be hurt.” TOP said that in a teasing manner and that made Youngbae and Daesung laugh. Seungri was about to explain himself when he remembered he can’t say anything about where he got the tips from. He took a deep breath and just pretended he didn’t hear anything. As soon as the elevator door opened, he walked out ahead of them. “Oh, now he can’t wait to see him! I think we need to warn Jiyong about it!” Youngbae joined in the teasing. Seungri heard him but just decided to bear with it since reaching the practice studio on time was the most important thing. The other 3 members continued joking about Seungri’s infatuation for Jiyong until they reached the practice studio.

362


A loud cry caused the 4 members to rush inside immediately. All they saw was Jiyong on the floor, hitting himself in the chest hard and crying out loud. “AHHHHHH!!! CHAERIN AH!!!!! CHAERIN!!! I’M SORRY!!!!” The 4 members looked at each other, wondering what had triggered off the breakdown. They rushed forward to calm Jiyong down. On the floor next to Jiyong was the photo Youngbae and Seungri had hoped he would never see again. But what must come would come after all.

363


Chapter 47 7 February 2013 Seoul, 9.30pm YGE TOP and Youngbae rushed to Jiyong’s side and tried to stop him for hitting himself any further. “Ji, calm down.” Jiyong looked up at Youngbae and his tear-streaked face made him look like a broken child. Gone was the commanding leader who gave them orders mere 15 minutes ago. “Bae... I do not remember this incident at all. What did I do? What did I say to her that day? What happened to this cake that she mentioned in the letter?” “Ji, calm down. What’s past is past. I’m sure Chaerin doesn’t hold it against you anymore.” “Ji hyung, you mentioned a letter, where is it?” Jiyong looked up at Seungri who asked the question. He blinked and more tears flowed down his cheeks. He handed over the letter he was holding close to his chest to Seungri. Seungri took a quick look at the letter and finally what happened that day will have to be revealed to the person concerned. 2012.08.15 To: Jiyong oppa... Oppa, I’m sorry. I should have picked up your calls but I had my hands full making the surprise birthday cake for you. But in the end, I didn’t get to pass the cake to you and you didn’t get to taste it. Maybe I’d make you another one next year. Or maybe you won’t even want to spend your birthday with me anymore. Luckily, I took a picture of the cake when it was done. So, all I can give to you this birthday is this photo. Sorry...

364


Happy birthday, oppa! Good luck for your solo album! Good luck for the rest of the tour! Take care of yourself and rest when you need to. Chaerin “Let me take a look.” Youngbae, who was the other witness to the scene that day, took the letter from Seungri and read the short note. After reading, he looked up at Seungri. “Can someone please tell us what happened? Bae? Maknae?” TOP could not help it anymore. Jiyong was crying and howling in pain while he and Daesung were totally not aware of what happened to cause him to be in that state. Jiyong also wanted an answer because the memory of that event was very vague in his head. “Well, long story short, Jiyong was looking for Chaerin the whole day on 15 August last year because he had not seen her for quite some time and knew that she was flying off the next day for 2NE1’s next stop in their tour and won’t be back till after his birthday. You know how he gets when Chaerin drops off everyone’s radar and not answer his calls. No one knew where she was, he kept calling but she didn’t pick up his call. When I finally asked Dara, she told me that Chaerin went out with her senior that morning without saying where she was going. So I passed on the information to Jiyong and he rushed out of the recording studio. We chased after him and found him in the lobby staring at something happening outside. When we reached his side, we saw Chaerin and her senior hugging. Jiyong probably jumped to the worst conclusion. When Chaerin saw us standing inside the lobby, looking at her, she waved at us and pulled apart from her senior and said her goodbye. She came into the lobby, all smiles and ran over to greet us. She lifted the box that contained the birthday cake she made for Jiyong, wanting to give it to him. But before she could say anything, he knocked the box out of her hand and called her a slut.” “I called her what?”

365


â&#x20AC;&#x153;You called her a slut and almost hit her when she tried to explain. You left without hearing her out. The cake she painstakingly spent a good part of the day making, was ruined when you knocked it out of her hands. After you walked away, she knelt down, opened the box only to see the cream and strawberries she had tried her hardest to arrange like the ring you gave her, all messed up. Her tears literally flew out from her eyes. Chaerin isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t one to give in to her tears because you have always told her that leaders donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t cry. To give you that birthday surprise, she had to find time between their tour and promotions to ask her senior for help. In the end, she was the one who got the surprise. She was hugging her senior to thank him for lending her his kitchen and for his guidance in making the cake. You let your anger and jealousy rule your head, you didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t give her a chance to explain. Bae hyung and I were going to stay and console her but you called and asked us to go back to the recording studio. She just gave us a sad smile and told us to go.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Bad Boyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; started playing in the background. ꡸ë&#x201A;    밤ě?&#x20AC;   ë&#x201A;´ę°&#x20AC;   ë&#x201E;&#x2C6;돴   ě&#x2039;Źí&#x2013;&#x2C6;ě&#x2013;´   ë&#x2039;&#x2C6;ę°&#x20AC;   ě§&#x201E;ě§&#x153;ëĄ&#x153;   ë&#x2013; ë&#x201A;&#x2DC;ę°&#x2C6;   ě¤&#x201E;ě?&#x20AC;   몰ë&#x17E;?ě&#x2013;´       â&#x20AC;&#x153;ë&#x201A;´ę°&#x20AC;   미ě&#x2022;&#x2C6;í&#x2022;´â&#x20AC;?   ě?´   ë§?   í&#x2022;&#x153;ë§&#x2C6;ë&#x201D;&#x201D;   ě&#x2013;´ë ¤ě&#x203A;&#x152;ě&#x201E;&#x153;   ě&#x161;°ëŚ°   ë ?ęš&#x152;ě§&#x20AC;   ę°&#x20AC;   ë&#x201A;´   ě&#x201E;ąę˛Šě?´   ë?&#x201D;ë&#x;Źě&#x203A;&#x152;ě&#x201E;&#x153;       ë§?ë?&#x201E;   ě&#x2022;&#x2C6;   ë?&#x2DC;ë&#x160;&#x201D;   ě?źëĄ&#x153;   ë&#x2039;¤í&#x2C6;Źę¸°ëĽź   í&#x2022;&#x2DC;루ě&#x2014;?ë?&#x201E;   ě&#x2C6;&#x2DC;ě&#x2039;­   ë˛&#x2C6;       ë&#x201E;&#x152;   ě&#x161;¸ëŠ´ě&#x201E;&#x153;   ë&#x203A;°ěł?ë&#x201A;&#x2DC;ę°&#x20AC;   ë&#x201A;&#x153;   죟ě&#x153;&#x201E;뼟   ë&#x2018;?댏ë˛&#x2C6;       ë&#x2039;¤ě&#x2039;&#x153;   ë?&#x152;ě&#x2022;&#x201E;ě&#x2DC;¤ę˛ ě§&#x20AC;   ë&#x201A;´ě?źě?´ëŠ´   ëś&#x201E;ëŞ&#x2026;   먟ě &#x20AC;   ě&#x2014;°ë?˝ě?´   ě&#x2DC;¤ę˛ ě§&#x20AC;   ě&#x2022;&#x201E;욨ě?´ëŠ´    Seungri paused, letting the music in the background registered. Then he smirked before saying. â&#x20AC;&#x153;And ironically, that was the day we recorded this song. And every single word you sang, I thought of how appropriate it was for what happened that day.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Then what about this photo and the letter?â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Looks like she either came here after she was done dealing with the cake or came back here the next day to put it inside your locker before the girls flew off to the States.â&#x20AC;?

366


Youngbae looked up at TOP and Daesung after he answered Jiyong and both of them nodded their heads. “The girls told us that the moment the airplane took off, she cried the entire flight to the States. She would cry herself to sleep and then wake up crying more.” “Their Newark concert didn’t go well because there were a lot of technical difficulties. She wasn’t in her best state and she snapped at one of the US staff members who went on to post about how rude she was. She also got an earful from her manager after hearing about the incident from the US tour organizer. YG called her in after they came back from LA too.” “Not many people saw her crying on stage during that show but the girls did. While it was 17th August in USA, it’s actually your birthday in Korea. She had to apologize repeatedly that night to the fans who had to wait outside for 2 hours before there were allowed into the venue. The reviews for that concert were mixed. While people loved their performance, waiting for 2 hours left a bad taste in some of the fans’ mouths. She knew she had disappointed the fans and YG. She was worried about how it would affect us when we hold our concerts in the States.” “The girls tried to talk to her and cheer her up but she avoided them too. Other than attending meetings and practices, she pretty much locked herself up in her hotel room the entire time they were in the States.” Seungri was already upset when he was recalling the story. Hearing what the other 3 members were saying made his blood boil even more. “Sometimes I get very upset that the only person she goes to when she’s upset is you. Because as the years passed, you became distant and she got more and more insecure, with no one she can lean on. Sometimes, when I sit down beside her, all I can feel is sadness. Yet she never allow herself to show weakness in front of others. Because of your words: Leaders don’t cry.” Daesung looked around after Seungri’s outburst and wondered if he should say what he’s about to say.

367


“Dae, you look like you have something to say. What is it?” “Chaerin was on anti-depressant during the Japan leg of their tour.” “WHAT?! How come no one said anything before?” Jiyong looked at Daesung, as if hoping that what he just heard was not true. Daesung nodded his head to confirm what he just said happened and went on to tell how he got to know about it. “Minzy caught her with the pills one day and she made Minzy swear not to tell anyone. I’m the only other person who knows. After that, Minzy made sure to stay by her side as much as she can because she saw sleeping pills in Chaerin’s bag as well. I could remember how alarmed I was when Minzy called me up crying. This was why when Chaerin left, she was very affected.” Letting the new pieces of information that Daesung and the rest just revealed sink in, Jiyong withdrew a little more into himself. He was still trying to recall the incident but it’s not coming back to him. He couldn’t believe that Chaerin was on anti-depressant and no one was none the wiser about it. Has everyone neglected to check on her because she was always putting on the strong front? You did that too. You thought that she was doing alright. You thought that she didn’t need you. Wasn’t that why you asked her to leave the last time when she came to see you before she left? “Other than sorry, what else can I say to her to redeem myself?” Jiyong whispered so softly that if the rest hasn’t been paying attention, they would have missed his question. “‘I love you and I will promise to trust you from now on. I might make mistakes from time to time, please be honest and let me know if I’m hurting you without me being aware of it. I love you.’ I told you before that Chaerin never cared much for your apologies. The only way you can redeem yourself

368


is to love her and trust her. We do not know what she might have done to cause you to react so violently when you saw her with her senior, or any male persons for that matter, but if you cannot get past that, she would never be able to be truthful to you.” “Or maybe it won’t matter especially if she meets someone new who would take care of her much better than you do!” Seungri didn’t know where he got the courage from to talk back to Jiyong. But while recalling all the times when he had seen Chaerin being hurt by Jiyong, he couldn’t help getting angrier and angrier. “Maknae, why are you provoking Ji unnecessarily? He might be in the wrong but this is no way to speak to him.” “It’s ok, Bae, Seungri is making a valid point which I have been thinking about for a while now. The reason why I’m hoping to finish up TOP hyung’s album as soon as possible is so that I can leave when I finally know where she is. I want to give her no reason for me to come back to Seoul until she’s ready to come back as well. If I have to fly to and fro, I would. Since we are on this topic, please be prepared. I don’t intend to have a long distance relationship. I trust her but I don’t want to be away from her any longer than I can help it.” He turned to look at each of his members. “Although TOP hyung and Bom noona were distracting each other the whole day, I find myself being envious of them. They are so open in showing their affections and they are not afraid to be vulnerable in front of each other. Or when I see how each of you communicate without any verbal language with your girlfriend, it’s like you are so in tuned with each other, that you know what the other person is asking for without speaking a single word. The only feeling I get whenever I see you with your girlfriends is how right you look beside each other and I longed for that.” “If you only knew how much we envied you for having the right one right beside you all these years, with an unyielding focus on you. Before we got into our own relationships, we all yearned for someone like Chaerin who would look only at us. If you feel that you have to be there with her and

369


leave everything here behind, then do that. No one can stop you, especially not us. If you worry about the fans...” “I have spent too much of my life worrying about the fans. Worrying about how I might not be good enough, how I have to constantly reinvent myself just to keep their eyes on me, I’m done with that. If they like me, all fine and dandy, if they want to move on to the next new flavor in town, so be it. Sean hyung is right, they are not the people I’m going to go home to at the end of the day. The fans have their own life and we should have our own lives too. And my life is with Chaerin.” “Well, her birthday is coming soon so you’d better start praying that you find her whereabout before that happens, otherwise you’d have to wait another year. You have not been spending any of her birthdays with her since 2009, haven’t you?” All turned to Seungri who just reminded everyone of Chaerin’s birthday. “Oh dear me! I almost forgot about that. I have less than 3 weeks to find her!” “You can go beg YG to tell you where she is.” “Knowing YG, he won’t. You guys might think that he probably scolded her when she was called in by YG, you guys are wrong. She means more to him than we give him credit for. It might not seem like it especially when he makes her do more than her other members but it’s what she needs to grow as an individual. So he’s on her side.” “Maybe you will get some answers when the press conference happens. We just need to focus on the showcase for Sketchbook first and then try to get as much as TOP hyung’s album done. Then you are all set.” Youngbae tried to console his best friend. Jiyong looked over at Youngbae and smiled. “Ji hyung, did YG tell you when you are meeting up with Jay?” At Seungri’s question, Jiyong frowned because he had forgotten that Jay was supposed to be involved in TOP’s album. 370


“Shit! I totally forgot about Jay’s involvement in the album. Now I have to factor that in as well. I hope it’s before the press conference.” “Guess we’ll have to ask YG when we see him tomorrow.” Jiyong nodded at what TOP said. “One last question...” “Maknae! Why can’t you just ask everything at one go?” “It creates suspense. But no, I wanted to ask if we are still practicing. It’s 10.30pm.” “Let’s just pack up and go home. We’ll practice tomorrow morning before I work on TOP hyung’s album more. At least the practice session won’t go on and on if we stay focused. And NO, the girls can’t come before they are supposed to bring Bom noona over.” “Hwangssabu wants the girls at the gym tomorrow. So I guess that’s where you can find Bae hyung and Dae hyung. In fact, TOP hyung, let’s go to the gym too when Ji hyung is working with Bom noona. That’s the schedule for tomorrow.” “Agree!” “NO!” “TOP hyung, you are overruled. Maknae, good plan. So after practice tomorrow, we will call the girls over to the company. TOP hyung, Youngbae, Daesung, Dara, Minzy and Seungri will go to the gym. I would work with Bom noona first. 2 hours should be enough to get her parts for the next song down. Then TOP hyung will come in for the recording. Our aim is to let YG listen to the 2 songs that Bom noona would be featured in tomorrow. Let’s meet for practice at 8am tomorrow then.” “Ji, you alright?” “Even if I’m not, I have to get over it myself. It’s good I’m remembering all these events so I can make sure that I don’t do it again. Now I have to keep 371


my eyes on the future that I would have with Chaerin.” “That’s good. Alright, let’s go.” Jiyong picked up the photo of the cake and the letter and put it inside his pockets. He took out his phone to send Chaerin a message. To: CL (all 3 numbers) 7 February 2013 10.35pm KST

Chaerin baby, I would never want to spend a day without you by my side. Every day of my life, Every hour of the day, Every minute of the hour, Every second of the minute, I want to be with you, Just you. I love you. In the other corner, Seungri was also busy messaging someone. To: Su Hyung Nim 7 February 2013 10.35pm KST

Dear Queen, Your secret 818 mission has just been found out by the Almighty. Your messenger sent a dove message before of the strawberry shortcake you made while with him. You might want to ask him to retrieve that message if you don’t want the messenger to be hurt the moment he stepped into our kingdom.

372


Chapter 48 7 February 2013 Milan, 2.15pm Jay and Chaerin were into their 2nd batch of cookies, well, 3rd batch but since Jay finished up almost the entire 1st batch, they were 1 batch down. “Oppa, you can’t eat any more of the cookies! I only have enough for 8 batches!” “But they are delicious!” “I know they are but if you keep eating them, you are going to get a tummy ache and I’m going to run out of ingredients for the cookies!” After a quick tuna pasta salad that Chaerin had put together for lunch, they had gone back to work on the cookies. Just as they put in the 2nd batch of cookies into the oven, both of Chaerin’s phones beeped. “Busy woman~ You are in high demand today!” “I knew that letting Seungri know my contact number wasn’t the best move. But Jiyong oppa is having a bad day at work, so I’ve got to help the Big Bang members out as much as possible.” Chaerin washed her hands before checking her phones. Because Seungri was handling a situation, she checked his message first. From: SeungRat >.< 7 February 2013 2.36pm CET

Dear Queen, Your secret 818 mission has just been found out by the Almighty. Your messenger sent a dove message before of the strawberry shortcake you made while with him. You might want to ask him to retrieve that message if you don’t want the messenger to be hurt the moment he stepped into our kingdom. “Jay oppa, this is urgent. I need you to take down the tweet about the strawberry shortcake we made the other day now.” 373


“Why?” “I’d explain later. You have to delete it now. It concerns your safety.” “Woah ok. I’d do it right away.” Chaerin knew that the message from Jiyong was probably related to the birthday cake and she took a deep breath to prepare herself for the message. From: GD 7 February 2013 10.35pm KST

Chaerin baby, I would never want to spend a day without you by my side. Every day of my life, Every hour of every day, Every minute of every hour, Every second of every minute, I want to be with you, Just you. I love you. Chaerin smiled and tried to hold back the tears unsuccessfully. Not tears of sadness but tears of joy. The messages that he had been sending were slowly healing her heart and reaffirming the love she has for him. She has never stopped loving him but she needed the time away. She hoped that Jiyong was also slowly healing and that by the time they meet again, both of them would be ready to talk about their feelings and what they want to do with them. “You know, you said you do reply to Jiyong’s messages but from the looks of it, he never receives them. So where do all these messages go to?” “His first phone number.” “Does he know that it exists?” “He might have forgotten that he handed it to me to safekeep. Our first phone numbers were special. Without us discussing it, we both used our 374


birth dates in the phone number. This number I’m using is actually my first phone number. When he had to change his phone number, he told me to keep it for him. So I did until I left for Italy. I packed some of the items that I have collected over the years of Big Bang and memories of me and him, including the phone, in a box and left it with YG.” “And Jiyong has no access to this box?” “Nope. When I am ready, I would let YG know to pass him the box. But knowing my boss, he might already have opened it. He’s a very curious man. He obviously haven’t given him the box otherwise he would have known about the phone. Right now, he’s probably messaging all of my past numbers, which he got from Seungri. It’s kind of freaky thinking how he had kept all my numbers through the years. I kept 5 of them alive. So he should be sending messages to at least 5 phones each time.” At the back of Jay’s head, he registered the information that Seungri had kept all of Chaerin’s numbers. Interesting... Two person in the same group interested in the same girl. “You left him with so many unknowns and he’s still ploughing ahead, got to respect him. I think you did the right thing by leaving. Without you leaving, he would not have had time to think back on his actions and know how much you mean to him.” “This was a test for myself too, to see if there is a future with Jiyong oppa. However much I love him, if he didn’t feel the same way, a relationship can’t happen. I’m glad that he’s showing that a future with him is not just my wishful dream.” “I’m happy for you so why is my life being threatened by the picture of the strawberry shortcake?” Chaerin took a deep breath and got ready to tell Jay about that particularly painful episode which was the beginning of a series of rather unfortunate events leading her into mild depression.

375


15 August 2012 Chaerin was outside their dorm, waiting for her senior, Tae Hyun, to pick her up. She was excited because she was going to surprise her Jiyong oppa by making a cake for his birthday. Yo ma heart heart heart heart heart breaker What did I do wrong Yo ma heart heart heart heart heart breaker No way no way She didn’t have to look at her phone to know who’s calling. After all, this was the ringtone reserved exclusively for him. She fought with herself whether she should answer the call but she would have to lie to him about her whereabouts. To tell the truth would ruin the surprise. The appearance of Tae Hyun’s car helped her make the decision. She took out her phone and switched it to silent mode. She got into the car and said her greetings. “Tae Hyun oppa, thank you for helping me out! You are a saint! How’s Han Joo unnie?” “Too pregnant! We are expecting twins! And no worries about it, it’s no bother. You were a great help at the wedding last year!” “Twins?!! OMG!! That’s so amazing!! When are the babies due?” Buzzzz... Buzzzz... Buzzzz... Chaerin took her phone out of her bag just to check who it was. Though it wasn’t a surprise to see the familiar name on her screen. “GD?” Chaerin just smiled and put the phone back in her bag. “You sure you don’t want to answer that? He’s not going to stop calling if my memory serves me right.” 376


“If I answer the call, he’s going to ask where I am. And if I say I’m alone, he would find a way to join me. If I say I’m with someone, he would bombard me with 1001 questions about who, where and what and then turn up at the venue anyway. I really want this surprise to be good for him.” “Why are the two of you not together yet? I thought it was something that was bound to happen.” “Oppa, it’s complicated. As artistes, our lives are not our own majority of the time. I have the dating ban and he is an easy target for rumors and scandals because of how successful he is.” “Chaerin ah, a relationship is between 2 people. It shouldn’t be this complicated.” “Not for us, oppa, not for us. There’s always the fans. And for the two of us, our group members. If we are meant to be, one day, we will be together.” “You will. He loves you very much, he’s just not saying it.” Buzzz... Buzzz... Buzzz... “Really not picking up? He must be very anxious to see you.” “As much as I would love to see him now, I have a cake to bake.” For the rest of the morning and early afternoon, Chaerin worked hard to create the one and only birthday cake for Jiyong. Her phone had since rang at least 50 times more but the only thing she could do and hope was that the cake would be enough to appease the dragon when she showed it to him. When the cake was finally done to her liking, she heaved a sigh of relief. She took out her Polaroid camera and took a picture of it. She started to write the message on the picture. 2012-08-15 Jingyo Oppa!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

377


This is the first time I’m baking a cake! Thank goodness it turned out well! Hopefully it tastes as good as it looks!! Stay happy and cheerful always!! Love, Chaerin “I’m sure he will like it. Want a lift back? I’m going home to your Han Joo unnie. She wanted me to bring you back so she could complain to you about how I’m making her suffer through the pregnancy. But I told her about your surprise birthday mission and she said she would let you off this time but expects you to be baking our twins their first birthday cake.” “Would it be too much bother to send me to YGE instead? I want to go and see Jiyong oppa with the cake.” “Can’t wait to see your lover boy huh?” “Tae Hyun oppa! Stop teasing me! He’s not my lover boy!” “But you wish he is.” Chaerin could only grin in reply. Yes, I wish he is. But it’s only a wish, that I hope would come true some day. Buzzz... Buzzz... Buzzz... “Let’s go then. Your phone is ringing again. I don’t even have to guess to know who it is.” Tae Hyun drove Chaerin back to YGE. He got out of his car to help Chaerin with her bag and the cake. Once she was out of the car and took over her bag and the cake, she gave Tae Hyun a hug and thanked him again for helping her with the surprise. “Now, go give your dragon the surprise! Have fun!” Chaerin looked up from the embrace and saw her dragon standing inside the lobby. Seeing the look on his face, she knew that she had to go in and 378


placate the raging dragon. She saw Youngbae and Seungri just arriving beside Jiyong. She waved at them and released Tae Hyun from her hug. “Thank you, oppa! I would! You take care and send my regards to Han Joo unnie. I’d go visit when I’m back from Japan.” Tae Hyun patted her head like she’s a little kid and waved goodbye. As he drove away, he saw Jiyong and 2 of the members in the lobby. Jiyong didn’t look too happy. Hope everything would be alright. He looked like he’s about to murder someone. Chaerin walked into the building with a smile on her face. She knew if she were to show anxiety or nervousness on her face, Jiyong might get the wrong idea. She hoped the cake would bring a smile to that fuming face. “Jiyong oppa, I’ve got...” Before she could finish her sentence, the cake she had raised as a peace offering was knocked out of her hands. “Oppa...” “Slut.” Chaerin was shocked at the one word that Jiyong uttered. No matter how angry he’s with her, he had never called her names. Tears gathered in her eyes but she refused to let them fall in front of Jiyong. “Oppa, I...” Jiyong turned and walked away. Staring at his back, her tears blurring her vision more and more. She knelt down and opened the box. When she saw that the cake was ruined, she couldn’t hold her tears back anymore. She didn’t even notice that Seungri and Youngbae were beside her until Seungri opened his mouth. “Chaerin ah, are you alright? Ji hyung didn’t mean what he said. And what’s this?” 379


Chaerin kept quiet but the Polaroid photo on top of the cake box caught Youngbae’s eyes. “You made Jiyong a birthday cake? I’m going to go kick his ass for saying what he did.” Seungri saw the photo and the tears on Chaerin’s face made his heart ache. Why can’t you see me? I would never hurt you like this... “Youngbae oppa, don’t! I don’t want to let him know about this now that the cake is ruined. Maybe it’s a sign... Just forget it alright?” “But...” Seungri’s phone rang just as Youngbae was going to reason it out with Chaerin. “Yes, hyung, we’ll go back now.” Seungri looked over at Youngbae. “He wants us to go back to the recording studio? I’m not going back...” “Youngbae oppa, Jiyong oppa is already upset enough, let’s not make him more upset. Go and look after him. I’m sorry for upsetting him. It’s going to be a horrible day for all of you. Please send my apologies to...” “YOU DON’T HAVE TO APOLOGIZE FOR HIM!” “Seungri, oppa, please, don’t shout. People would be asking why. Just let it go. I’d be fine. You guys go ahead. But please promise me you won’t tell him about the cake. Please?” “You never call me ‘oppa’ unless it’s absolutely necessary. Chaerin, don’t. Don’t do this, it breaks my heart.” “I’m alright. Go, if not he’s going to be more upset. Remember not to tell

380


him about the cake. I don’t want to hinder the recording process. Just go along with what he wants. He would be fine after a while. Here, give him this.” Chaerin took out Jiyong’s favorite vitamin drink from her bag and handed it over to Youngbae. “Chaerin ah...” “Bae oppa, it’s ok. I’m ok. Just go. You know how he gets when he has to wait too long. Go.” “What are you going to do about the cake?” Hearing mention of the cake made the tears pool in her eyes again but she knew she can’t let them run amok, not in front of Youngbae and Seungri. She put on a smile and said in as cheerful a voice she could manage. “I’d bring it home and throw it away. Can’t have people finding the cake and wondering what happened.” “Chaerin...” “Seungri OPPA.” “Alright, fine. We’ll go now” “I’m sorr...” “DON’T YOU EVEN DARE.” Youngbae held Seungri’s shoulders because he could see that Seungri was angry. He rarely shows his anger but when he does, it could be worse than Jiyong. He didn’t want to leave Chaerin’s side. She looked so broken yet she was trying to be strong. But he knew Chaerin was right. “Let’s go, maknae. We are just making it more difficult for Chaerin if we stay.” “Youngbae oppa, thanks. I’d see you guys when we come back from the

381


States then. Don’t miss Dara unnie too much. She can’t leave USA just to fly back to you.” At the mention of Dara’s name, Youngbae broke into a smile. Seeing the smile made Chaerin blink back fresh tears. Will hearing my name ever bring such a smile on Jiyong oppa’s face? “I’ll call you later and don’t you dare not answer it, understand?” “Ya! Just because I called you oppa just now, don’t think you can order me around!” “Good, at least you still have some of that spirit left. We’ll go now but I’m definitely going to call you later to check on you. And I won’t stop until you talk to me.” “Ok, ok! Just go! I don’t want to see your face!” After she was sure that Seungri and Youngbae had walked away, she closed the lid of the box and picked it up from the floor. She walked to the locker room that connects Big Bang and 2NE1’s practice studios, locked the doors of both practice studios so no one could come in. And she finally let her tears fall freely. “The strawberry shortcake that we baked was an exact replica of the birthday cake I made for Jiyong oppa last year. The only thing is I never got to give it to him and he never got to see it. But Seungri just messaged me to tell me that Jiyong oppa just found the photo I took of the cake then and the letter I left for him after the cake was ruined.” “Who’s this Tae Hyun oppa?” “Tae Hyun oppa is the guy I brought to our cafe. Though we didn’t become a couple, we kept in touch. He’s married to another senior of mine now. Their babies are adorable!” “So he thought you were out on a rendezvous with the guy and brought him an offering at the end of it.”

382


“Is that how guys would interpret the situation?” “Think about it. You were off the radar, even the girls didn’t know where you were. You refused to answer his calls. I’m taking this to mean he had not seen you for a long time, given how busy both of you were with your tours, his solo album preparations. He wanted to see you yet when he did, he saw you with the last guy he ever wanted to see again in his entire life because he tainted your memories in your cafe. And you were hugging him. Yes, if I were Jiyong, that’s what I would think and I would be royally pissed too. But calling you a ‘slut’ was uncalled for.” Chaerin cringed at hearing the word. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said the word again. But he must have been both upset and hurt to have said it.” “Hurt? I can get the upset part but hurt?” “Chaerin, put yourself in his shoes, imagine you are the one to go through what he did. I’m quite sure he wasn’t at the lobby because he was going out to meet a girl. Someone must have finally gave him some kind of information about your whereabouts. His head was all about you and then he sees the last thing he wants to see, you with another guy. He probably didn’t even remember that he was the guy from the cafe. Any guy would have set him off. He saw his greatest fear: you with another guy. Even though a hug might be a friendly gesture but to him, everything that concerns you is magnified. A hug equals to the possibility of a kiss that might be the beginning of something else. Surely, you have observed how he is when you have guys around you, even if they are mutual acquaintances. So he lashed out at you, wanting you to hurt as much as he did.” Chaerin thought about what Jay said. It was true that whenever she’s talking with a guy and Jiyong happened to be around, he would always try to find a way to get into the conversation. Even if she was talking to his members, even if it was Teddy, even if it was Se7en who’s happily attached. Hell, sometimes, even when she’s talking to YG, Sean and Jinu. She would be talking to them and suddenly he would be right beside her. She remembered how the guys would just shake their heads and excused themselves after a

383


while. She smiled at the memories and how she had always thought he was being silly. “He’s always hovering around right?” “I’ve always thought that it was very silly. And endearing, but silly mostly.” “I’m almost afraid to ask, but I think it would be an interesting note for me since I’m going to be working with you. How does he react when you bring a guy to any of your YG functions?” “Like a grizzly bear forced awake from his winter hibernation.” Jay laughed though he expected the answer to be something along that line. “It only happened once and YG refused to let me bring anyone to our YG functions anymore. Well, in fact, he made it a general rule: Non-Family members not allowed. This means essentially, unless this person is going to enter the ranks as family acknowledged by the entire company, he or she is not allowed.” “When was this?” “2009, at the celebration for Jiyong oppa’s Heartbreaker album.” “Oh man, you are quite the Heartbreaker aren’t you?” “After my birthday that year, I thought I need a break from him and that I can’t have my eyes on him always. Though we had our debut and was really busy, this guy was our dancers’ manager so we got to work quite closely. I really didn’t think that Jiyong oppa would be so affected. After all, he knows him too.” “Sometimes, it’s worse. Trust me, if you had gone out with any of his members, he would probably have killed him.” “Pity, I’ve always wondered how it would be like to date TOP oppa.” “You are joking right?”

384


“No, I’m not. TOP oppa is a really sweet guy and a child beneath all those fierce eyes. But Bommie unnie would have my head in a karate chop faster than I can ask.” The oven dinged, signaling that the 2nd batch of cookies was done. Chaerin took the cookies out from the oven. “No eating!” “But someone has to taste the cookies.” “NO! And we have to get started on the next batch. Keep your hands busy, Jay oppa and keep them where I can see it.” “Yes, Madam! Does Jiyong know how bossy you are?” “I’m the leader of the ahjummas, so yes, he knows how bossy I can be.” “I would really like to see the dragon being tamed. It must be quite a sight. Remember to invite me.” Chaerin shook her head at how ridiculous Jay’s comment just sounded. The Dragon tamed? Not a chance. But I guess I would have fun trying. “You don’t look like you believe me.” “Oppa, I don’t want Jiyong tamed, I like him the way he is. He can tone down a little on the drinking and smoking but that’s about it.” “That’s what all of you girls say. But then at the first chance, you would be demanding him to change something, like pick up his socks or boxers.” “Trust me, if you think I’m meticulous and a clean freak, Jiyong oppa is worse.” “Perfect match. We would be sure to clean ourselves well before we ever step into your house.”

385


“Ha ha, very funny.” “On a serious note, I want to be there. The engagement, the wedding, the birth of your first child. I’d bake the birthday cake.” “You are getting ahead of yourself.” “Oh, trust me. After this experience, Jiyong won’t let you out of his sight. I know that you had wanted to send him back to Seoul. I can tell you something right now. It’s not going to happen. He’s going to do everything within his means to not have a reason to go back.” “YG won’t allow him to leave. What about Big Bang activities or any of his solo activities or his members’ activities? Not to mention, he’s supposed to help Bommie unnie with her album.” “Do you think he would care? Having him in Seoul and not being able to do anything because he’s pining away for you isn’t going to help YG one bit. YG would let him do what he wants to do. If he really needs to go back, he would but he would fly back the moment he’s done. So you’d better be prepared.” “Thanks for the warning then. If he does stay, I would have to let Shin-Yi unnie know. He would have to take the room you are using now.” Jay considered, as he was preparing the dough for the next batch of cookies, if he should tell her that Jiyong is not going to sleep in a separate room from her, especially once they are officially a couple. But he decided that it’s something that Chaerin would have to find out for herself. Though it would be so much fun to try and see Chaerin fight with him over that, he knew he won’t be able to see it firsthand. But he would definitely want to hear about it.

386


Chapter 49 7 February 2013 Seoul, 11.30pm After the revelation of the birthday cake incident, everyone was solemn on the ride back to the dorm. The supper was an uncomfortable affair which they ended as quickly as possible. Seungri was reminded of his own emotions that day. He was fiddling with his phone, wondering if he should send another message to Chaerin. Just to find out if she’s ok. To: Su Hyung Nim 7 February 2013 11.30pm KST

Dear Queen, Are you alright? I know your memory of 818 mission isn’t the best but it’s not your fault. You could bake a cake for MY birthday. I would be so touched. It’s going to take forever for her to reply to my message. Seungri sighed loudly, attracting Youngbae’s attention. He knew how Seungri was very affected by the birthday incident. Coupled with the knowledge that Seungri has feelings for Chaerin for a long time, Youngbae couldn’t help being nervous. He leaned over and whispered in Seungri’s ears. “You alright?” “Don’t worry, hyung. I’m good.” Seungri tried to smile but it didn’t quite reach his eyes. Daesung looked over with concern as well. Seungri gave him the thumbs up sign. Jiyong had been staring out of the window since they got into the nanny van. Ever so often, he would frown and bite his stumpy fingers. The fingernails were almost non-existent.

387


“Kwon Jiyong, stop biting your nails! They are unsightly enough!” “TOP hyung...” Jiyong tried to use his aegyo on TOP but it seemed like everyone was pissed off with him. “Don’t pull that on me, it doesn’t work. What’s bothering you?” “You mean other than the fact that I called Chaerin ‘slut’? I don’t know if she would ever forgive me for that. Hell, I don’t even know if I can forgive myself for that.” “You should have listened to her explanation. You could have the perfect birthday last year but no, you jumped 3000 steps ahead of everyone and assumed the stupidest things. Serves you right. You totally deserve not to be able to spend any more of your birthdays with her.” “Hyung, you are not helping.” “I’m not supposed to soothe your soul when you choose to hurt it so badly. We should find out where she is, keep it from you and go give her a splendid birthday surprise. I’m sure the girls will be delighted. Maybe YG won’t tell you where Chaerin is but he might tell us.” “HYUNG!” “You are not invited. We are not even going to go behind your back. You are simply not invited. In fact, from now on, we are not going to celebrate anything with you.” “TOP hyung, you are sounding a little harsh now.” “Daesung, are you siding with Jiyong now?” Daesung looked at Jiyong who was frowning and looking really sad and upset and he took pity on him. “Hyung, I’m sure there were times when you overreacted when it comes to Bom noona. I know I have. Every time Minzy gets within 3 metres of the 388


Kwon twins, my imagination runs wild. Even when she assures me that there’s nothing going on there and she had let them know that she wasn’t interested in a relationship with any of them, I can’t help it. Insecurity is part and parcel of being in a relationship. We all feel it because it just feels too good to be true that we are with our dream girl. So give Ji hyung a break, and think of it as he loves Chaerin a lot and couldn’t bear to see her with another guy. Come on, we all tease him about it all the time. Whenever Chaerin is talking to ANY guy, Ji hyung would always find a way to get into the conversation. He has done that to us so many times and we belong to the same team and know about his feelings towards Chaerin.” Daesung turned to Jiyong and only continued when Jiyong looked at him. “But Ji hyung, you have to stop letting this insecurity get to you every single time. The other side of the coin shows how much you do not trust her when all she ever does is show how much she loves you, all the time. You keep showing her that you do not trust her that she lost sight of the love you have for her. That’s why she left. It’s not because she loves you any lesser than the first day she decided to love you. It’s because she’s not sure how much you love her anymore, or if you have ever loved her.” Jiyong pondered over what Daesung had just said. Has his insecurities prevented him from showing Chaerin how much he loves her? He has never thought about the matter in this manner. He had always thought that the insecurities should show her how much she matters to him. But it’s true, all these acts triggered off by the insecurities pushed her further and further away, to the point where she’s in a place he doesn’t know and that was driving him crazy. Somewhere in the van, a beep was heard. Seungri reached for his phone immediately and true enough, it was a message from the queen. From: Su Hyung Nim 7 February 2013 11.42pm KST

I’m alright. The messenger delivers great messages to ease the pain. I’m getting a better understanding of why the Almighty acted the way he did, so all’s good. :) How’s things on your side?

389


Seungri couldn’t explain the uneasiness he felt knowing that Jay was helping Chaerin deal with the pain that she had gotten from Jiyong. Maybe it’s the idea that Jay was the nearest to her right now and in easing her pain, he might become more than just a friend. He’s afraid that his role as Chaerin’s protector would be taken by Jay. To: Su Hyung Nim 7 February 2013 11.45pm KST

Dear Queen, When is the messenger coming back to our country? And what are you doing now? Gawd, I sounded like a jealous boyfriend! But how do you actually balance the tone when you are anxious and worried that someone might come and take away the one you love? “I think I can understand how Ji hyung feels.” That coming from Seungri shocked everyone. Jiyong was a tad wary because he knows how the maknae feels about Chaerin. He just didn’t know that everyone else knows. “How would you know? You have never been in a relationship before.” “You are never been in a relationship with Chaerin before and you behave in such a manner. As long as you feel something for the other person, insecurities will arise. You get nervous and worried about who she’s with and how she might fall in love with the other person if they get too close.” Images of Jay getting closer and closer to Chaerin, the skinship they might have caused Seungri to shake his head, chasing away each of the images. “Maknae, do you know something we don’t know? Like where Chaerin is and who she’s with?” Youngbae had seen Seungri messaging just now. The change in emotions, from happy at receiving the message to frowning as he typed a reply, made him wonder. Because he had seen the expression on himself, and the other 2 attached members before. 390


Seungri was a tad shocked but he managed to hide it well. He can’t let them find out because that would mean this ‘affair’ he’s having with Chaerin would end as soon as he’s found out. “Bae hyung, why would you think that? No such thing. I would be the last person she would contact.” Voluntarily. Seungri added silently in his head. The thought upset him more than he thought it would. “Then who were you messaging that caused that worried frown on your face?” “It’s my younger sister. She just sent me a message saying that she’s going home late and needed my help to cover up for her in case my parents ask.” “Well, you’d better ask her to be careful. Check who she’s with and such. She’s still very young.” Though Youngbae’s mind was set at ease, but there was still a lingering suspicion. The excuse was too quick, too smooth. Seungri’s phone beeped. All eyes were on him. From: Su Hyung Nim 7 February 2013 11.50pm KST

He’s going back 2 days later. We’re baking cookies to offer to Zeus and whoever he deemed fit. I’d have you taken off the list of deserving folks if you message me nothing urgent again. Chaerin attached the picture of their most recent batch of cookies and that caused Seungri to swallow his saliva. Oh shit! It’s her macadamia nut cookies! Now I have a craving for it.

391


To: Su Hyung Nim 7 February 2013 11.52pm KST

Dear Queen, Ok, I will not send unnecessary messages anymore. Don’t take me off the list. I want cookies!! When they arrived at the dorm, all the members got out. “Er... Hyungs, I’m going to the convenience store. I’m feeling a little hungry.” “We just ate!” “I have a craving for cookies!” “We have cookies upstairs.” “I want macadamia nut cookies. I’d be right back. You guys want anything?” “You are not sneaking out to meet some girl are you?” “No, I promise. I’m just going to go to the convenience store to get macadamia nut cookies.” “Ok then. See you later.” Seungri walked away while the rest went to the lift lobby. TOP randomly made a comment. “Seungri’s mention of macadamia nut cookies reminded me of the ones Chaerin made for us last Valentines’. Those were... out of this world yummy! I wonder if we would get some this year.” “Chaerin made us cookies? How come I didn’t know about it?” Both Daesung and Youngbae looked at TOP crossly for spilling the beans. “TOP hyung! We thought we said we won’t mention it.” “Won’t mention what? Answer me, how come I didn’t know about the 392


cookies?” “Wefinishedthembeforeyougothomefromrecording.” Daesung mumbled a response with his head down. “What?” “We finished them before you got home from recording. We tried to stop ourselves. It was no use. They were just too good. Sorry Ji.” “How many did she give us?” “2 canisters which was close to 100 pieces.” “And the 4 of you finished them all?” The 3 guilty ones nodded. “We paid for our sins by having to gym for extra hours that week.” “If she made them for us this year, I’m keeping all of it for myself!!” “That’s not fair!!!!” “You guys didn’t share last year! And it was Valentines’ cookies! For all we know, it was meant for me!!” “Nah, she made them for almost everyone. YG, Teddy and the girls all got some.” “WHAT?! Am I the only who didn’t get to taste the cookies then?” “It seems like it. YG kept making subtle requests for refills. Teddy hyung must have kept his out of your sight. His lasted the longest. He told us that he would break the cookie into two and swore to eat only half. Never succeeded. He finished them 3 days later.” “NOT FAIR NOT FAIR NOT FAIR!!!!” “Oh come on, once you find her, you can get her to bake cookies for you 393


every day! Or you could join her making cookies. Just be sure to keep your hands on the dough and not on her.” “TOP HYUNG!!” “What? It’s the truth. Seriously, you guys think he’s going to keep his hands off her when they meet? He barely keeps them off now whenever she’s around. You can almost see him fighting with himself not to touch her.” TOP turned to Jiyong suddenly with a very serious look on his face. “Ji, no matter what, you have to control yourself. She’s still very young and I’m sure you don’t want to burden her with an illegitimate child at her age.” “TOP hyung, what are you talking about? If we have a child, that child is going to be legal and will bear my surname.” “No, seriously we know you can get quite wild when you are at it. Just make sure you don’t hurt her.” “STOP! Stop thinking of her in that way! Hyung, say one more word and I’d punch you!” TOP broke out in laughter. “OMG! Did you see his face?” “TOP hyung, that wasn’t funny. But Ji, hyung’s right, you can get a little wild so handle her with care.” By this time, Jiyong was blushing because now he knew all those nights when he had brought his ex-girlfriends home, the others knew exactly what they were doing inside his room. And to think they are imagining his Chaerin in that manner. “TOP hyung, look what you have done. He’s blushing. You got him thinking about Chaerin in that way.” “Pfft, he probably thought of her in that way every time he’s having sex with those girls. A couple of times, I’m pretty sure I heard ‘Chaerin’ instead of 394


whoever he’s doing the horizontal pole dance with.” “Maybe that’s why they never came back a second time.” “STOP!” This time it was Daesung who stopped TOP and Youngbae from continuing. They all looked at Daesung questioningly. “Hyungs, all of you are not helping. I can’t think of that. If I start thinking, I would want that with Minzy and I don’t think she’s ready.” “Ok. No more bedroom talk. Guys, it’s awkward. So stop it.” “It’s only awkward because you are not getting any.” “TOP hyung!” “Ok, ok! I’d stop.” “Wait, you and Bom noona didn’t do anything in the studio while I was out for that 5 minutes, did you?” Thank goodness, the lift door opened at that exact moment and TOP hurried out of the door. “I think that’s a ‘yes’.” “Argh!! Now I have to clean the entire studio!!” Jiyong ran after TOP, leaving Youngbae and Daesung trailing behind, laughing. When they entered the dorm, they found TOP hugging the very life out of Jiyong. Jiyong’s arms were just flailing weakly, hoping TOP would release him. “So, would you forgive me for what I did in the studio with my lady?” “You...*cough*...are *cough* not giving me much of a *cough* choice. Just let go of me now.” TOP let go of Jiyong but not before bestowing him with a kiss on his cheeks.

395


“ARGH!! HYUNG!!! Stop kissing everyone!!” “But you look so cute, I couldn’t resist.” With that, TOP walked away back to his room. But before he closed the door, he suddenly blurted out. “Oh yes! We finished the chocolates that Chaerin gave to us too. So we were all her Valentines’ last year, except you!” After dropping the bomb, TOP closed and locked his door. Jiyong turned to look at Youngbae and Daesung who were trying to escape back to their rooms. “Don’t move another muscle until you explain what TOP hyung had just said. So other than the cookies, there were chocolates too?” The two who were caught cursed TOP silently in their head. They would have gotten away with the cookies but the chocolates were a little more special because only Big Bang and 2NE1 members got them. “We got carried away seriously. She gave us each a tray of 5 chocolates so we went back to our room with ours and left yours on the kitchen counter. But again, it was really good, so we all messaged each other to say we will all eat one each from your tray and leave you with one. Then we decided that to leave you with just one was rather pathetic so we did ‘Scissor, Paper, Stone’ to decide who would eat the last piece. That was quite a game.” “So, who ate my chocolate?” “Seungri.” Both Youngbae and Daesung said in unison. At that moment, Seungri was opening the door and walking in. The moment Jiyong’s attention was diverted towards Seungri, Youngbae and Daesung ran. “Lee Seunghyun.” Seungri was just stepping into the living room when he realized something 396


was terribly wrong. No one was around and Jiyong just called him by his full name. “Yes, hyung?” “How did MY chocolate from Chaerin taste?” “It was deli...” Seungri’s eyes shot wide open when he realized what he had just been asked. He quickly knelt down in a bid to ask for forgiveness. “Ji hyung, I’m sorry. But everyone took a share from yours.” “But you had 2.” “Iwonitfairandsquare...” “What? I can’t hear you.” Seungri pouted and pulled his cute maknae look to try to pacify Jiyong. “Hyung~~~ You have to forgive me. I promise I won’t eat any of your chocolates this year.” “You can have all the chocolates given to me by anyone this year, I won’t even care, but you can’t give me back MY chocolate from Chaerin.” “I know I have sinned greatly against you. I won’t do it again.” “I don’t even know if there’s an ‘again’. She’s not even here.” “You will get the video from the 2NE1 press conference. That might be more meaningful than chocolates.” “But it would be something everyone have seen. It’s not exclusive.” Seungri got up from the floor and faced Jiyong. “The chocolates weren’t exclusive either. We all got the same thing. Ji hyung, be it chocolates or cookies, they come into our possession, we eat 397


them and that’s the end of it. Of course the effort that went into making it is commendable but it’s not something you can keep either. What you can keep are the memories of the two of you. Those are exclusively yours, no one can take them away from you. Find her, make her yours and start making the memories that’s going to stay with you for a lifetime. Isn’t that more meaningful?” “Does that mean you would forfeit her cookies and chocolate, if by some miracle, she does send them?” “Hyung, that’s all I would ever get from her. Surely you can allow me that right?” Seungri’s soft voice made Jiyong take a good look at his maknae. Then he saw it, the tears that was making his eyes unnaturally brighter and the pain that’s there, reminding Seungri of what he couldn’t have. “Seungri ah...” “Ji hyung, just promise me that you would give her nothing but happiness for the rest of her life. That’s the only way I can bear it. Please.” “I will. Promise. She’s going to be the happiest girl in the world.” “I’m only letting go when I see it. So be warned, any time I see her sad and crying, you are out. I hope I have made it clear enough.” “I know I won’t get another chance so I’m going to make sure I do everything right this time.” “You’d better. You don’t know how many people are waiting in line.” “I do. Which is why it’s driving me crazy thinking about where is she and who she is with.” Seungri just kept quiet. He was determined not to let Jiyong know about Chaerin until it’s time. Now that he knew Jay was going to leave Chaerin’s side in 2 days, he was a little relieved. At the same time, he wondered what would Jay bring them other than cookies.

398


“Ji hyung, I’m going back to my room first. See you tomorrow morning. Get a good rest tonight. Everything will be alright.” “Thanks maknae. You have a good rest too.” Jiyong walked back to his own room and sat down on his bed. He took out the photo of the cake and the note and stared blankly at them. If I hadn’t acted on impulse, my birthday last year would be so perfect. I can’t even remember what I did last year. Probably just a night of drinking and getting drunk. This year, it’s going to be perfect, Starting from Chaerin’s birthday. He put the photo and the note together with the other items that he had gotten the last couple of days: the dream card and note, the photo album from the cafe, the file folders and photo albums of everything to do with Big Bang. Seungri was right. Their memories would be the only thing that’s exclusive to them and he can’t wait to start creating new ones with her. As her boyfriend As her husband As the father of her children. Just thinking of his future with her made him happy. The feeling of peace and rightness is amazing. Now, all he’s got to do is find her.

399


Chapter 50 7 February 2013 Milan, 11pm After making cookies the whole day, Chaerin finally got some time to herself. She was happy with the amount they made. She had enough to pack the Big Bang and 2NE1 members each a medium size canister and 2 large ones for YG. Jay squandered away another large canister but well since he helped in making them, Chaerin didn’t mind so much. She had a good day with him, filled with more singing and talking. Tomorrow she will have her hands full with the chocolates. She decided to make personalized chocolates for the Big Bang and 2NE1 members, on top of the generic ones that she would be making just to give out to the other people at YGE. Right now, she was sketching out the designs for each of the personalized chocolates. She started with her own members. Each of them would be getting a set of 4 chocolates. The queens of each of the 4 suits in the poker card, and each member’s symbol would be done in white chocolate. For example for Dara, her symbol is Queen of Diamonds, so that chocolate would be done white chocolate. And inside the diamond, there’s a symbol of the sun. That’s to represent Youngbae. Bom’s symbol is Queen of Hearts and inside the heart, there’s a symbol of a bear. That’s to show TOP’s child-like nature and his love for BearBrick Minzy’s symbol is Queen of Clover and inside the clover, is a pair of angel’s wing. That’s for Daesung and his angelic nature and smile. For the Big Bang members, she decided on the following: Youngbae: Sun with a cap on it. Within the sun, there will be a sparkling diamond to represent Dara. TOP: Bear wearing a heart-shape necklace. Daesung: Angel’s wings with clover on the left wing. Seungri: Panda with a loud speaker.

400


For Jiyong, she decided she would make him a heart with a crown on top of it. And within the heart, the spade which is her symbol. But the heart is also an inverted spade and the crown symbolized he’s the king, and the king of her heart. For Jay, she had decided on just using his name and adding ‘AOM’ to it because that’s essentially who he is about. After she was done with the sketches, she put her sketchbook aside. She took her phone and read the messages that Jiyong had sent to her that day. She realized that there was a new message. But she decided to read them in order. From: GD 7 February 2013 2.35pm CET

Chaerin baby, I would never want to spend a day without you by my side. Every day of my life, Every hour of every day, Every minute of every hour, Every second of every minute, I want to be with you, Just you. I love you. To: My Jingyo Oppa<3 8 February 2013 12.30am CET

Jiyong Oppa, Every second to every minute, Every minute to every hour, Every hour to every day, Every day of my life I want to be with you, Just you. I would never want to spend a day without you by my side. I love you, too. Chaerin smiled at her reply and she knows that it’s true. She never want to be without her Jiyong oppa for the rest of her life. But right now, it might seemed improbable. But if both of them wants the same thing, they can 401


wait. She went to the newest message and her eyes bulged out when she saw the message. From: GD 7 February 2013 6.45pm CET

Chaerin baby, Where do you want to hold our wedding? I think we should get married before I go to the army, what do you think? Do you want to design your own wedding gown or do you want to engage a designer of your choice? What kind of house should we get? What should our children’s names be? What do you think of Ae-Rin for a girl? I want our first-born to be a girl so I can spoil her rotten. Then we’ll have 2 boys to protect our princess. What should we name the boys? Would 3 kids be enough? Should we have more? I know I’m getting ahead of myself but I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you. I love you. She didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry so she did both. She laughed at the absurdity of Jiyong’s statements about their children but cried tears of happiness when she realized that he is so sure about spending the rest of his life with her. She especially loved the name he has thought of for their daughter. To: My Jingyo Oppa<3 8 February 2013 12.40am CET

Oppa! I do not remember agreeing to marry you. Where’s my romantic proposal? If we get married before you go to the army, I’d be living like a widow for 2 years! Nope, I don’t want that. Can we have a house with a garden? Should we even have kids? You are always so busy.

402


And I would be busy with my own career too. Who’s going to look after them? Ae-Rin is a beautiful name. You are getting ahead of yourself but I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you too. I love you, too. After sending the message, Chaerin got ready for bed. That night, she had a wonderful dream of her in the most beautiful wedding gown she has ever seen in her whole life and her Jiyong oppa was waiting at the end of the red carpet for her. He was smiling so happily, his eyes were focused entirely on her. In the next room, Jay was busy with extracting the video that he had taken of their entire cookie-making day, peppered with singing and both lighthearted and serious conversations. He extracted the audio of all the songs they sang that day and saved it in a folder. He watched the video and did cuts of the various conversations. He stopped the video at a particular shot when Chaerin was smiling so beautifully. He did a screen capture and sync the picture to his phone and made that her contact picture. He prepared the camcorder for another long day of recording. He could hardly wait to start on the chocolate making tomorrow. Yet at the same time, he was sad because tomorrow is the last full day he gets to spend with her. Although they have talked about their collaboration and he knows that they would get to spend time together, it won’t be the same. And if he isn’t wrong about Jiyong’s possessiveness, he would be following Chaerin around as much as he can. Actually, he kind of looks forward to seeing that happen. He pulled out a notepad from his bag and started planning the video he was going to edit exclusively for Jiyong. Starting with the video that Chaerin had recorded for the press conference, he added in other details like which conversations to put into the video, accompanied by which song that Chaerin had either sang on her own or together with him. He also uploaded the photos that he had taken of her when they are having their meals, making the cookies, and when they were discussing about their collaboration. Jay realized that Chaerin is someone who stay very focused on a task once she started on it. Whether it was writing out lyrics for their rap ‘battles’ or 403


making the cookies, her attentions will be totally focused on the task at hand. Jiyong is going to have his job cut out for him if he is insistent that Chaerin returns to Seoul with him this time round. After having an outline of the video, he started work on it. Because he still wanted to add in other footage from their day tomorrow, he left the video unfinished but the basic skeleton is there. After that, he viewed the video of their day together one more time. He was happy that he got to spend this time with her, however short it may be. He then got to packing his bag, otherwise he would have to take time off tomorrow to do it and he really didn’t want to leave Chaerin’s side even for a minute. And also he knows that she was going to monitor his packing like a mother hen. After he was done packing, he went to bed with mixed feelings. He looks forward to spending time with Chaerin the next day but at the same time knowing that it was going to be the last made him sad. But I had fun and memories, that’s all it matters. It’s been great while it lasted. 8 February 2013 Seoul, 7am Big Bang Dorm Youngbae was in the kitchen cooking pancakes for breakfast for everyone while on the phone with Dara. He was letting her know that they would be meeting the girls in the afternoon after practice that day in the gym while Bom would work with Jiyong in the studio. Dara told him that she would pass the message on to the other girls and that she’s looking forward to seeing him later that day. The two ended the call just as Jiyong walked into the kitchen. The first thing Youngbae did was check the time. It was 7am, an hour before their practice but here was Jiyong, looking perfectly awake and ready to start his day. “Did you sleep last night?” Jiyong looked at Youngbae strangely, like he was asking him the weirdest

404


question in the world. “Yes, why?” ‘You are awake and ready an hour before the schedule is supposed to start. That’s why.” “I smelled breakfast and I slept early last night, well at least according to my own standards. I was thinking about my future with Chaerin, as a family man and I don’t think late hours is going to do family life any good. So I thought I should start waking up when I should and going to bed when I should.” Youngbae raised an eyebrow and continued to look at Jiyong like he never knew him. “Kwon Jiyong, are you Kwon Jiyong? Has an alien abducted my best friend?” Jiyong laughed at the absurdity of what Youngbae just said. He shook his head and went to the stove. “Do you need my help?” “Ok, go back to your room. No, wait, get out of our apartment. You came to the wrong house. Go and then bring my best friend back.” Jiyong laughed then and seeing that the pancakes were almost done, started to set the tables. Daesung came into the kitchen and saw what Jiyong was doing. He looked at Youngbae with questions and alarm in his eyes. “I don’t know, Dae. I think Jiyong has been kidnapped.” “Oh stop being over dramatic. I’m just setting the table, what’s wrong with that?” “You have never done it before.” “So I’m doing it now. Relax, nothing is going on. I have not been abducted by aliens or whatever. Sit down, I think Youngbae’s almost done with breakfast preparation. Or you can go wake the other two up?” 405


TOP and Seungri walked into the kitchen then and were surprised to even hear Jiyong’s voice, much less see him setting the table for breakfast. “Don’t ask. Just sit down and eat your breakfast. We are definitely starting our schedule on time today.” Youngbae scooped out the last of the stack of pancakes he had made that morning and brought over the bacon he had left to drain the oil out to the table. “I miss Chaerin’s caramelized banana chocolate chip pancakes!” TOP mentioned in passing as he took the first bite of Youngbae’s pancakes. “And before you go crazy, you were the one who missed the breakfast session we had with the girls before they flew off to Taiwan.” “Chaerin cooked that time?” “Well, we didn’t really set a schedule of who cooks when but since she was the one who messaged all of us about the breakfast, she took it upon herself to decide the menu once the number of people were decided. She did send those of us who were going her decided menu.” “It was heavenly. The combination of bananas and chocolate chip, two of my favorite food in the world! We even had vanilla ice-cream by the side if we decide to have it. It was sinful but totally worth every single mile I had to do on the treadmill.” “TOP hyung, stop talking about it. Now I’m sad that I missed that!” “Well, your loss. I hope you were doing something more interesting than caramelized banana chocolate chip pancakes by Chaerin.” Seungri was hoping that this would not come out in any conversation because of Jay’s tweet. He had thought since Jiyong didn’t attend that particular breakfast gathering, it would be ok. Now he had to warn Chaerin again.

406


“I’m writing a list of things I want her to cook for me. When I see her again, I’m going to make sure that she makes them all for me.” “Good for you. She’s an excellent cook. But I thought your ideal type of girl is one who can’t cook? You thought it would be funny to see the girl stumble in the kitchen.” Jiyong shrugged and thought nothing of it. What he did think of was seeing Chaerin in the kitchen, cooking for him. He smiled just picturing himself walking up to her and wrapping his arms around her just to see what she was cooking. “Stop having strange thoughts in your head. You don’t want the food to be burned.” “HYUNG!!!” “I can see it, Kwon Jiyong. You and your perverted mind. Never distract a woman while she’s cooking. Never.” “Speaking from experience aren’t you, TOP hyung? Was it that time when Bom noona tried to cook us dinner but we had to order delivery in the end?” TOP blushed and concentrated on his pancakes and bacon. The others laughed at his expense and once again, Jiyong felt how he had became a stranger in his own group. He seemed to have missed all these events in the last 2 years or so. “I’m not going to be excluded in my own group anymore!!” “Oh but you are not going to be here when you fly to wherever Chaerin is.” “But Chaerin is part of the group, so by default, he’s in as well.” “She’s on hiatus from the group.” “Let’s not be mean. Jiyong was never out of the group. At least not by our decree. He just didn’t participate actively in the past 2 years. Give him a break.”

407


“No one is nice to me except Youngbae. Youngbae, you’re the best!” “So can we have the next 2 days free while you work on TOP hyung’s album? I want to surprise Dara noona with a trip to Jeju.” “Bae hyung, can I bring Minzy and go together?” “NOT FAIR! I want to go on a holiday with my Bommie too!” “NO. No holiday. Sorry Bae, you can’t. Until after the press conference. It’s ok for you guys to meet at the company or at our dorm or their dorms but anywhere outside of the ‘safe’ zone, it’s not allowed.” Youngbae sighed. He knew Jiyong wouldn’t allow it but he thought he would try anyway. Nonetheless, he’s going to see Dara in the afternoon, so that’s all fine. “I think we need to look for a girl for our dear maknae. Otherwise, it would be so weird when we are all doing couple things.” “I’m good, TOP hyung. Thanks for thinking about me.” “Nah, I just don’t want you to be whining when we are all off doing our own things, if you know what I mean.” “Don’t worry, just give me the heads up. I know how to scram since I really don’t want to hear strange noises.” “Alright, let’s finish up breakfast and head for practice. The faster we are done there, the faster you guys can see the girls. Well, at least for Bae and Daesung. Please make sure that TOP hyung is NOT allowed to leave the gym during the time that Bom noona is with me. Seungri, that’s your task. You are the watch-panda today.” “Yes SIR!” “Since I set the table and Youngbae cooked the food, the 3 of you can decide who’s going to wash the dishes. You have 15 minutes before we leave.”

408


TOP looked at the two maknaes. “Thanks maknaes!” He got up and went to his room to get his bag. Daesung and Seungri looked at each other and with lightening speed went into a game of ‘Scissors, Paper, Stone’. Seungri lost and Daesung walked away from the kitchen, happy that he managed to get out of kitchen duty. Seungri knew there was no point in arguing. So he quickly gathered the dishes and got to cleaning them. After he was done, he went to gather his things. And at 15 minutes to 8am, Big Bang left to arrive at YGE to start their practice on time. END OF PART I

409


410

[FAN FIC] Give Me Back My Song Part 1 (Chapter 1 to Chapter 50)  

A Fan Fiction Inspired by Big Bang's G-Dragon (Kwon Jiyong) and 2NE1's CL (Lee Chaerin)