ShinHwa Manner was coming to life at the crack of 3 PM, and all the handsome men inside were beginning their day. Even the ugly ones were joining in.
Before Lio could even approach the couch, Minwoo held up a hand to hush him. It remained there as he and Eric watched TV until the commercial came on, then it beckoned Lio closer.
“What is it?” Minwoo asked.
“I wanted to know when Battle was going to debut.” Lio said with less patience then he practiced with.
“You’ll debut when you are ready to.” Minwoo said and then nodded as if approving the explanation.
“And what do we have to do to be ready?!”
Minwoo shot Lio got a sharp look for the out burst. “When you have as many members as ShinHwa does.” He explained.
“I thought they have five?” Eric asked.
“They do, but we have six.”
Eric thought for a moment, then shook his head. “What are you talking about? There are only five of us.” He reached down and pulled out the ‘State Of The Art’ album from under then table leg. “Look, five.”
Minwoo reached over and pulled the price tag off of Andy’s face on the cover. “Andy, six.”
“Who the fuck is Andy?”
“Well then when are you going to go FIND the last member?” Lio demanded, ignoring Eric.
“Look.” Minwoo snapped at him. “Im a little busy working here. You see this?” He pointed at the laptop on the short table before him. “That little webcam right now is paying for our food. Want to see what pays my car insurance?” He pulled his shirt off and the little counter on the screen went up 100 hits. “Want to see what your college education looks like?” He turned his head to the right wing. “DONG WAN, GET IN HERE AND MAKE OUT WITH ME!”
“Just a second!” Dong Wan called from far away.
Seeing that speaking to them was a waste of time, Lio stormed off into the East wing of ShinHwa Manner. It wasn’t long before he ran into Hye Sung who only hissed at him, but Lio knew he couldn’t talk to him anyway. The only person left who might be of some help was Jun Jin.
“You want to debut?”
“Of course!” Lio exclaimed. “We all do. Hwi Chan, Ryu, Chris, Tae Hwa, and I. We’ve been here forever waiting for you guys to do something with us.”
Jun Jin was silent for a moment, and then leaned forward in his leather office chair, exposing the Minwoo webcam he had logged into moments before Lio had entered the room. “When you debut is up to you, because the only debut that matters is within yourself. Having an album doesn’t make you a boy band. Nor does gay costumes or dancing. What’s in here,” He said, placing a hand on Lio’s stomach, “is what makes you a boy band member. The ability to put aside all self respect and act like an effeminate tool in front of the world. Being ambiguously gay despite any inner religious turmoil you might have going on. Walking into any public place and actually having to answer to ‘aren’t you that fag from that shitty band?’ without punching anyone. THAT’S what makes you a boy band member. ”
“...Fucking forget it. I’ll get someone else to join the band and then Minwoo will let us debut.” Lio barked
In an attempt to cool down, Lio went for a walk into town, but soon found himself in need.
“Oh shit!” He yelled at himself. “I dropped my durag into the fucking sewer! Now how will I be identifiable as a rapper?!”
“Did you drop something?” Asked a pathetic voice behind Lio.
Spinning to confront the voice, Lio found a homely young man about his age looking at the grate under Lio’s feet. “What’s it to you?” He asked, apprehensibly, because it was obvious this kid was feral.
“I can get it for you.” He said softly, and then looked up to meet Lio’s eyes. “If you can do something for me in return.”
Lio snorted. “If you can get it, Ill return the favor.”
The young man nodded and went to work immediately. Lifting the grate from the ground he sunk beneath the street and out of sight in no time, then surfaced just as fast with the durag in hand.
“Here.” He said, handing the filthy thing back to Lio.
“Thanks man, that was cool of you.” Lio said, putting it on regardless of its unsanitary state. “See you around.”
“Wait! What about my favor?”
Lio chuckled. “Me talking to you in public place is my favor to you dude, look at you, you look like a fucking frog. Listen, thanks for getting my durag back, but seriously, go away.” And with that, Lio left him.
Dinner in ShinHwa manner was never a humble or joyous event.
“Well, Lio bitched at me today, anyone else have any more shit to give me?” Minwoo demanded of the younger boys.
“Ya, how come we’re eating Top Ramen again?” Chris asked.
“If you want something better then learn to cook, cause I sure as hell am not.” Hye Sung retorted.
“I was not bitching!” Lio bitched. “Im just trying to do something with my life! Maybe one of YOU should try it.”
Minwoo lunged to take Lio’s throat in his fist but Dong Wan and Jun Jin grabbed him, holding him into his seat.
“I’ve been taking some investment courses.” Andy offered.
“Shut up Andy, no ones talking to you.” Hye Sung snapped.
“I’ve been visiting an old folks home on the weekends.” Andy added softly.
“I swear to God Andy.” Hye Sung said through his teeth. “If you say another fucking word I will kill you.”
“What the hell is that thing?!” Ryu screamed, jumping from his chair and pointing at the large bay windows.
Everyone turned to see a young boy pressed up against the window sorrowfully.
“Oh fuck, its that frog kid.” Lio mumbled.
“Ki Hyun! My name is Ki Hyun!” The boy at the window called.
“Well, let the frog boy in, he looks sad.” Dong Wan said, reaching over to unlatch the window himself.
Ki Hyun hurried inside and looked patient while they all looked him over in silence. Finally, Whi Chan spoke up. “What is it? Its horrible looking!”
“He’s this dude who helped me in the park today.” Lio explained.
“You owe me a favor! You can’t back out of a deal!” Ki Hyun insisted.
“What’s this now?” Jun Jin asked.
“Its nothing!” Lio insisted. “He just helped me this afternoon and I promised to return the favor.”
“And he didn’t!” Ki Hyun cried.
“Well what is it you want?” Jun Jin asked.
“Make me beautiful.”
“Impossible.” Jun Jin answered immediately.
“Maybe...” Tae Hwa spoke up, “Maybe he isn’t ugly. Maybe we’ll all just projecting our insecurities onto him?”
“No.” Minwoo answered. “I don’t have any insecurities and he’s hideous.”
“Then make it so it doesn’t matter that Im ugly!” Ki Hyun pleaded.
Jun Jin smiled slowly. “That I can do. Ki Hyun, welcome to Battle.”
And thats the story of how the ugly one from Battle joined the band.