If someone ever asked who was Kang Yuchan's first love... both the young man and any person who knew him well enough would answer the question without hesitating for a single second.
From his earliest childhood, Yuchan's whole life revolved around melodies and songs. His parents, who ran a recording studio, showed him the beauty behind the harmony of musical instruments at a very young age. Observing... and more specifically listening to the way feelings could be expressed by a human's own voice or hands... being part of something larger, more ethereal. That, was something that impressed and marked him for life.
Whether they were string or wind instruments. The music sheets, the composition. Everything. Everything fascinated him. There was literally nothing else in this world that could make him feel as devoted if it didn't have anything to do with music itself.
So yeah. Music was indeed his first love... and only love for now, to be honest.
Of course that this passion for melodies didn't go unnoticed by his parents, who helped him as much as they could so that he'd be able to develop that adoration more and more and thus, becoming something more than a simple hobby. They showed him how the world of recording and mixing songs worked. Later, when he just turned ten, they bought him his first acoustic guitar.
Yuchan remembered how much he used to practice with it, even though he had no idea of what he was doing at first. The long sleepless nights trying to read the music sheets and the complaints of his neighbors to his parents, since he made so much noise all the time with the instrument. It was such a fun time, and Yuchan was really fond of those memories.
Not much later, after learning how to play the guitar he felt the urge to start singing.
Shortly after that, he wanted to compose.
And from a hobby that he felt incredibly passionate about, a whole vocation was born.
For that very reason, several years after all that homemade music career, he tried his best to get into the Seoul National University College of Music. Knowing how difficult it was to enter in the SNU, being one of the most important colleges in the country and all, he spent three whole years doing his best in his studies to get into it. Yuchan had never been the best student in his high school years... but his dream was a thousand times more important.
Although his older brothers told him that it was okay if he got into a less important university as long as it had a music department, against all odds he managed to get through by the narrowest of margins.
That meant that he had to leave behind his beloved island, his family and friends. But again, following your dream always came with some sacrifices.
In the first instance moving from Jeju to Seoul was easy. Getting used to life in the big city though... not so much. Since renting a place for only him was too expensive and he was already making his parents pay enough for his studies, he chose the cheapest and most typical option for college students who came to the SNU from outside the capital. Getting into the residence of the university, placed in Gwanak, and sharing an apartment with other students.
He was an open-minded and extroverted person, so he had no problem getting along with his peers. In fact, due to the strange color he dyed his hair, a mix of platinum blonde and pink, and his habit of playing the guitar everywhere he went, he earned himself a small reputation as the 'troubadour' of his residence... and even his college.
However, in the second semester of his second year... his new roommate turned out to be a person who Yuchan was extremely not used to deal with.
A young man with a very peculiar attitude.
Three years older than him and, apparently, doing a master's degree. Yuchan wasn't sure how to deal with someone who was as quiet and calm as Hojung showed himself to be since the first day they got to know each other.
On the one hand that gave him... a rather peaceful state, after all he had never shared a room with anyone who made so little noise. But on the other one... he couldn't help but feel somewhat uncomfortable as the days passed. Yuchan didn't know if Hojung disliked him or something and that was the reason he behaved like that with him... if he was bothering the older boy with his noisy way of... acting.
That's why he made a plan to try and extract the maximum information he could from the other young man in the first month they began to share the room. Yuchan attacked him with all kind of questions every now and then. Questions like what was his department, what did he like, what was his family like, his friends, hobbies. Any topic worked as long as it allowed them to get to know each other a little better.
And then, one day, while they talked in an absent minded manner, he finally found it.
The common interest.
The interest that could make them grow closer and closer and thus, leave the awkward air between them behind.
And the fact was... that Hojung...
played the guitar too!
Although he wasn't studying anything related to music, Hojung told Yuchan that one of his favorite hobbies was playing that instrument. He even told the younger boy that he had his own band and he used to give concerts in small venues before.
As Hojung talked to him about his experience as a member of a band, Yuchan's eyes sparkled. It was amazingly exciting to hear about it.
Apparently, in his musical group, they used to have their own composer. A young man named Park Daewon who made arrangements of popular songs for the band with its personal touch and created new melodies too.
With the drummer's amazing power, Kim Kyoungjae (also called Eli by the members), the still inexperienced but with lots of potential bass of Kim Kijoong, his own guitar and the voice of the singer, rapper and leader Lee Junyoung they had a considerable success. Especially considering that his band was nothing more than a hobby for all the members, Hojung explained. Something they took seriously because they liked to make music, but not as much as to go a step further.
"Although... since Daewon left the group we stopped giving concerts..." Hojung said, thoughtfully. "And that happened months ago, in May more or less. Now we only play on our own, but it's still fun anyway.
Upon hearing all of that exciting story, Yuchan was obviously amazed. He didn't hesitate for a second to ask Hojung for more information, to get to know much more about the band. The older boy showed him pictures and videos people recorded of their concerts and uploaded on the internet. When Yuchan listened to their performances he realized that while it was true that some melodies sounded familiar since they were playing covers of well-known songs, the arrangement of that man, Daewon, made them seem completely different at the same time. It was an astonishing work.
Yuchan wished for a moment that he could have attended their concerts while they still gave them. He also wished he could talk to that great composer... but as Hojung explained to him, Daewon decided to go a step further and enter an agency. Every member of the band was very proud of him since he made it, but they still missed him a lot.
From then on, as Yuchan had wanted, his relationship with Hojung improved greatly and both of them became quite good friends. The older boy taught him certain techniques with the guitar that Yuchan didn't know about, and the latter also shared his knowledge with Hojung. They helped each other to develop their abilities.
When they had free time and weren't exhausted from their classes, they got into the habit of playing some melodies in their room. Guitar covers of Bollbbalgan4 or DEAN's songs. They used to play their guitars in the afternoon after lunch since at that time it was least likely that they could disturb the other students in the residence. But well... sometimes they were so immersed while playing the instruments that they didn't realize when night came. And they earned some complaints…
But oh well. That couldn’t be helped.
One night in mid-October, in their room. While Yuchan was tunning his guitar with the help of an app from his phone, Hojung watched him closely. As if he wanted to tell him something...
In the end, the older boy, who had been silent for quite a long time, looking more thoughtful than usual, asked him the question that would possibly change Yuchan's life forever.
"Would you be willing to play in my band?"
"The other day I was talking to Junyoung, you know, the leader," Yuchan nodded. Hojung had already talked so much about his group that he knew the name of the members and how they were, more or less. "And he told me that he wanted to go back to play in venues and give concerts, but that we need a second guitarist," he paused. "So I told him about you."
"Are you serious?"
"Of course I am. I also told him that you were studying composition in the SNU. Although he didn't like it that much because he's met tons of music students from there that were very snobbish," Hojung smiled. "But I assured him that you weren't like that and well, he wants to know what are you capable of."
After hearing that, Yuchan started to feel somewhat nervous. It was so sudden that he...
But still, at the same time... it was a perfect way to test himself. He had never been part of a band, much less played or sung with an audience. Maybe he could even try to compose and make arrangements for the group like Park Daewon... although he didn't feel ready for such a responsibility. Besides, he was afraid to be compared to someone who was a professional by now.
"Okay. If you don't mind an amateur like me..."
After saying this, Hojung shook his head and told him that even if Yuchan had never been part of a band before, he was no amateur. After all, the older man already listened to his guitar and it was evident that he had years of experience behind his back.
Later, he said that he would talk to the members of the band to decide on a day where they could all meet each other and decide if Yuchan would enter the band or not.
Yuchan hugged his guitar, somewhat happy and somewhat nervous with that sudden turn of events. Maybe he would be part of a band. Maybe he could even compose for them. His whole body trembled with excitement just thinking about it.
If he really made it into the group, he was determined to give his best.
Days later, Hojung told Yuchan that he and his members agreed on the next Friday to meet him since everyone was free in the afternoon. It was important that all of them could be present to the meeting, that way everybody could get to know him in one go.
Him getting into the group wasn’t completely confirmed yet. Both Yuchan and the members had to know each other first and see if they could get along well enough to be part of the same group. Not to mention that, in addition, he had to demonstrate his ability with the guitar. In any case, Hojung said there would be no problem.
"The only one who could say anything against it is Junyoung. But don't let him intimidate you," Hojung said, shaking his head and smiling to himself. "At first it may not seem like it, but he's a complete idiot... and I mean it in the good sense of the word. I'm sure you'll get along very well."
Even if Hojung had tried to calm him down... the truth was that he still felt pretty damn agitated. His hyung told Yuchan that he would accompany him to the studio where they used to practice so he would be more relaxed when he arrived at the place.
And so, it didn't take too long for that special Friday to come. Hojung, who met some of his friends from college in the morning, explained to Yuchan that the best they could do would be to meet each other in the afternoon, directly on the subway station closer to their residence, and then they would go together to the studio.
On Fridays, Yuchan didn't have many classes so he practiced with his guitar all day. His nervousness was pretty evident at that point. He was afraid that this uneasiness of his would betray him at the worst timing, in front of the other members of the band and just at the exact same time where they'd be testing his abilities...
For that very reason, the more ready he felt, the better. He didn't want to embarrass himself.
When the afternoon arrived Yuchan went to the subway station where he and Hojung decided to meet in. Even though they agreed on a specific hour to see each other, Yuchan decided to call his hyung just in case.
"Hojung hyung, where are you? I'm arriving at the station."
"Ah, Yuchan... listen," Hojung said, on the other end of the line. "I had to buy something so I've gone ahead."
"Don't worry," Hojung calmly said, noticing the nervousness in Yuchan's voice. "You only have to get off at the Sindorim stop and I'll pick you up there, all right? We'll go together."
As long as Hojung accompanied him to the studio, he didn't care about going to the subway stop on his own... but Yuchan had to admit that the longer he was with him, the calmer he would be once he arrived the place. The presence of his hyung was very comforting after all.
Upon reaching the subway station, the young man left his guitar case on the floor for a while so he could rest his shoulders and lean his back on a column while waiting for the subway to arrive. He looked around and observed that there were plenty of empty spaces to sit...
As he had to wait for several minutes for the train to reach that station, in the end, he decided to sit next to a young woman.
The girl next to him kept coughing, it seemed like she had a cold. Yuchan himself was having a sore throat at the moment... since it was October, there were some changes in the weather, sometimes it was hot, sometimes it was cold, and in between that confusing temperature... it was normal to catch a cold.
Fortunately, he didn't have to sing to show his worth as a member for the band, they were looking for a guitarist, not a singer. So it was okay if he had a sore throat at the moment.
While he also loved singing and it was something that he did a lot in his childhood, practicing for months and even years... since he started composing...
Well, let's say he had his own reasons to leave the singing behind...
The continuous coughing of the girl by his side kept getting stronger and it took him out of his thoughts. He could hear how the train was about to arrive, so he got up and took his guitar.
As the malaise of that red-headed girl who was still sitting there didn't stop, Yuchan took one last look at her, slightly worried...
Her coughs were too much for it to be a slight cold. He knew he shouldn't stick his nose into other people's business but... seeing as the girl didn't get up to take the subway while the other passengers were already doing so and the way she kept coughing more and more...
It made him feel too uneasy, so he decided to ask her if she was okay.
"Excuse me... I'm not trying to bother you but are you all rig...?"
He couldn't finish the whole question. As soon as the young woman noticed how someone was speaking to her, she raised her head slightly. She looked at him with tearful eyes and her face was almost as red as the dye in her hair.
However, it wasn't her face what caught Yuchan's attention. No. He was too horrified to see that the girl had blood in her hands…
The boy hurried to kneel down and watch her situation better. She kept coughing, not being able to stop herself. Yuchan could feel his own hands trembling.
It had been so long. So many years had passed since that happened. But he still...
The blood, the pain of his friend, the hysterical screams of both his family and his own crying when he saw the whole scene. The terrible sound of the ambulance... the way to the hospital...
"Mom!!! Junhee hyung is...!!
"He's coughing petals and spitting blood..."
"Everything is full of them... and he doesn't stop bleeding, I don't know what to do...!!!"
That traumatic experience that was so far behind the depths of his memory was awakened after watching that young girl going through the same. He knew what it was. Of course he did. Everyone knew about that disease perfectly.
A disease as dangerous and unpredictable as cancer itself.
"Are you okay?!" He asked, giving her small pats on her back. "Can you breathe?!"
After a few minutes, the young woman got to compose herself a bit, and after using a handkerchief to wipe her hands and shaking her head, she spoke with some difficulty.
"I'm sorry. This... is fine, don't worry," the young woman, even after bleeding and spitting petals from deep inside of her, managed to smile at him, although her smile didn't reach her eyes at all.
She tried to get up, but Yuchan didn't let her.
"No. It's NOT fine. Is it the first time that it happens to you?"
She just nodded. Although she kept smiling, little by little her own gaze betrayed her and she ended up covering her face so that a stranger like him couldn't see her cry. She obviously knew what those symptoms meant...
and they meant...
"I'll take you to the hospital," Yuchan said, ignoring the fact that his plans for the day would fall apart if he did. The girl's health was more important.
"You don't really have t...."
"I know I'm a stranger, but please trust me, I'll call a taxi."
Being a young woman who was at a vulnerable state at the moment, Yuchan wasn't surprised that she didn't want to go anywhere with a stranger like him. But she wasn't in the position of going alone... and he couldn't afford to leave her just like that.
Especially when he had seen himself how hard that illness could get.
"Hojung! Why are you this late?"
The question was asked by Eli, while he pointed to the young man who just opened the door with his drumsticks. Hojung just shrugged and moved closer to the center of the room.
The oldest of them all spoke again.
"Oh, and where's the other kid? I thought he was coming with you."
Junyoung, who was reviewing some music sheets, looked at Hojung and raised an eyebrow. Everyone was there to meet the possible candidate to be the second guitarist of the band. They wanted to start rehearsing as soon as possible...
But there was no sign of anybody else entering the studio besides Hojung...
"He called me, something urgent came in so he couldn't come today."
After hearing that Kijoong made a sad face.
"I was so excited to meet the new guy..."
" Something urgent huh, doesn't that sound familiar," Eli continued as he sighed.
"Sounds like the excuses of our former bassist, you know, the one before we found Kijoong," Junyoung said, as he face-palmed. Then, he adjusted his silver hair slightly and crossed his arms. "If the new one starts like this... well this doesn't look too good..."
"Yuchan is not one of those," Hojung intervened, defending his roommate. "When he called... well, he didn't go into details of what happened... but I know that if it wasn't really urgent he would be here. He really wanted to come."
Junyoung looked at him for a couple of seconds and then shrugged.
"...It's okay, I trust in your judgement, hyung. I just hope he appears next time... if not we'll have to keep looking for another person."
"I'm telling you, it won't be necessary. I think he is exactly what we need."
Junyoung kept looking at him as if he wasn't that convinced by it. What they really needed was Daewon... but oh well, it wasn't like they did this because they wanted to be famous or something. They just wanted to have fun.
And perform in venues again, of course.
"Well, as long as he knows how to play the guitar and doesn't slope off, he'll do."
Hojung smiled at him and then he opened his guitar case, ready to start playing whatever song Junyoung wanted to perform that day first.