King & Queen is a Kpop fan fiction drama that is released in an episodic format exclusively at Critical Kpop. Enjoy and keep tuning in for the continuing story! You can view the first episode here.
HyunA saw everything. She saw Zico grab Ailee by the wrist. She saw Ailee try to relinquish his grasp. That slap. That slap! HyunA heard that slap. The music stopping. The looks. From Suzy. IU. The antsy freshman, just waiting to see the upperclassman mess up. And then Ailee ran out, tears falling. How many Kpop High proms began in tears? It was as if it were a ceremony. A sacrifice. Instead of blood, Hpop High has to be bathed in tears.
HyunA finds herself, now, as the only one not murmuring about these events. She’s dancing by herself, no music, clutching her arms, shaking her butt to and fro, as if she held not a care in this whole world.
“Did you see Zico’s face?”
“He deserved it.”
“A slap like that? From her?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You didn’t hear?”
“How could you not know?”
Someone grabs HyunA by the shoulder, a friendly gesture, but HyunA, by reflex, hisses. She will be the first to admit that she is prone to extravagance.
“Easy, tiger,” says Taemin. He’s wearing a fedora, tilted above his right eye, covering it completely, an attempt to look dangerous, but HyunA sees through him. It’s cute. “You want to blow this dump?” he asks. He wants her to say yes so bad that his visible left eye twitches.
HyunA can’t help it. She gives a shrill laugh at the ceiling. “And miss the fun?” she asks.
“Fun? Here?” Taemin says, crushed.
“Fun is everywhere I am,” HyunA winks. She slaps her ass and twirls around and around and around, making her own music. The beat is in her heart.
Taemin shakes his head, maybe a little drunk. Maybe that’s why he asks, “HyunA, do you ever stop?”
She shrieks. “Stop when you’re dead,” she says. A demand. A code to live by. She kisses Taemin on the nose. Because why not? She’s done exactly what she planned, and Taemin has unwittingly helped her. The vile murmurs condemning Ailee have died down, and all eyes are on HyunA. She doesn’t look, she just knows. They’re waiting to see what salaciousness she’s up to now. Ailee is just a distant memory. Poor girl. HyunA knows too well how the cruelty of others can be crippling. In her freshman years, she let Cruelty manifest as an ugly monstrous shadow. Now a junior, HyunA will just laugh in Cruelty’s face. So let them stare, let them gawk. She can handle it. Better her than anyone else. From a table, she grabs a bottle of Apple Cider (in lieu of champagne), pouring it over her and Taemin’s heads, laughing maniacally. Stop? She will not stop.
But she can’t help but wonder where that poor Ailee has run off to.
Ailee is in the courtyard, just outside. The blue cafeteria doors of Kpop High clang behind her. She’s alone, finally. Or is she? She hears something emanating from a brick wall in the courtyard. Does she dare look? Or does she go to her dorm room, cry her eyes out, let the night take her? She wipes away a tear, takes a few steps forward, and looks. What’s the worst that could happen? Hasn’t the worst happened already?
She sees a young man rapping at the brick wall. Furiously thrusting his arms and punching at the air. There’s so much pain in his heart. She wonders why he’s so familiar to her. Is it the pain that she recognizes or the person?
Then she remembers. The first day of the semester. Boyfriend’s Jo Kwangmin in this very courtyard. There was a scene. His girlfriend, Janus, was laughing in his face, letting go of his hand. Jo fell to the ground, in tears. This was a breakup, and everyone was watching. Janus shook her head and left him. It was a pitiful scene and not even Jo’s Boyfriend friends would comfort him.
At lunch, Jo Kwangmin found himself sitting at a table, alone. This was before Ailee had faced her own misfortunes. She had no idea what true shame felt like. Did she feel sympathy for Jo? Any semblance of empathy? She’d like to think she did, but she can only remember herself thinking of how lucky she was to not be him.
But Rap Monster was different. She remembers how he casually sat across from Jo Kwangmin and offered him some of his mac and cheese. No condescension. No “Man up, bro.” Just a simple act of kindness, blink and you’ll miss it, that obviously meant the world to Jo Kwangmin, his big sad eyes shining bright with appreciation. The others in the cafeteria just sneered.
And here was that very same Rap Monster, screaming at the world. What had cut him so deeply? There was something painfully intimate about watching him, and Ailee realizes that she really shouldn’t be there. His eyes are closed and she could just leave and he would never know. But then - one eye opens. Another. He sees her. It’s too late. Shit.
Outside the stars burn fiercely. Rap Monster closes his eyes.
A beat starts, a massive thumping beat that shakes the auditorium. His audience is hidden by bright lights, but they cheer when he moves to center stage. This is his song, and they know it. They’re ready for him. They scream and they stomp their feet, and their energy becomes a part of him, transforms him into something more than a man, something greater that he cannot contain. He raps for them. He performs. He gives them Rap Monster, and they love him for it. They jump up and down with the beat, all of them united in a solitary longing until a girl in the front row trips and falls to her knees and everything goes silent.
The auditorium recedes.
Rap Monster brings his arms back to his sides. He slowly opens one eye--no one there--then the other. Shit.
“Oh. Uh, hi, Ailee.”
She stares at him for a long time before speaking. “Hello.”
A million thoughts barge through his brain, nearly knocking him unconscious. How much did Ailee see? Did he rap about something that offended her? Why does she look so sad? Where is Zico?
“It’s just you?” What a stupid thing to say. Just you?
Ailee nods. A quick scan of the courtyard reveals that they are, indeed, alone. He can hear Big Bang’s “Monster” from inside the cafeteria. How appropriate.
“I’m sorry. My name is--”
“Do you always perform in front of brick walls?”
He laughs nervously. “Yeah. I mean, no. I’m one of the rappers for BTS. I was just--sorry.” All he sees is sadness. He would do anything to make her smile. “You know, I’m done with this wall if you want to give it a shot.”
Ailee looks at him skeptically.
“Wait, can you hear that?” He puts a hand to his ear, and to his surprise she leans in with him. He can feel her breath on the back of his neck. “They’re calling for you, do you hear it? Ailee, Ailee.” Rap Monster points to the wall. “They’re ready for you to go on stage.”
“Come on, I warmed them up for you.” He mimes handing her microphone. “Don’t keep your fans waiting!”
No sooner does he say it than he senses he’s done something wrong. Ailee’s face betrays a sadness that he does not want to call familiar, but that he’s seen too many times before.
“Nothing.” Ailee looks at him with a forced smile. “I’m just tired. I think I’m going to turn in for the night.” She gives him a practiced wave and takes two steps toward the women’s dorm before he stops her.
She turns and raises her eyebrows expectantly.
“Um.” He has nothing. His mind is blank, a canvas whiter than white. “You can’t leave yet.”
Ailee leans on one hip. “And why is that?”
“Because.” In the cafeteria, the music changes over to Fin.K.L. He can’t place the song, but he’s sure all eyes are searching for Principal Hyori at that moment. “Because you can’t leave your fans hanging like that.” Rap Monster points hopefully at the brick wall in front of them.
“I think they’ll understand.”
“Are you kidding? They’ve been waiting for you to perform for months. You at least need to tell them why you’re not going on.”
There’s a silence between them, but it is not uncomfortable. And he realizes that, somehow, his gambit is successful.
After a glance in his direction, Ailee steps in front of the brick wall to face her audience. Rap Monster is behind her, but he can tell she is smiling. What is it that she sees?
She waves, then bows low. “Thank you all,” she emphasizes the word, “for coming to see me perform. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen ill. I’m sorry to disappoint you. Please enjoy a special encore performance by Rap Monster.”
Ailee bows once more to the wall, then gives a slight bow to Rap Monster before turning toward the dorms again.
He cups his hands to his mouth and makes the hissing noise of a crowd. “But we want to see Ailee! We bought tickets!”
She stops. When she turns, her hands are on her hips. “You bought tickets?”
Rap Monster kicks at a rock, his hands in his pockets. “We all did. You can’t just leave like that.”
“Fine. But I don’t think I can go back in there.” She nods toward the cafeteria.
“You think Principal Hyori is singing ‘Everlasting Love?’”
She laughs, and for a moment, everything is right.
“I doubt it,” Ailee says, “considering that this is ‘Sad Tears.’”
“I never was a fan.” And like magic, the song fades, and the evocative whistles of “Troublemaker” begin. “Hey, you want to dance?”
“I don’t know.”
“If you won’t sing…”
Ailee looks at the ground.
“What’s stopping you? Is it Zico?”
“No.” She says it with force. “There’s just. There’s so many people watching in there.”
“Forget them.” Rap Monster bobs his head with the music. He holds out his hand to her. She takes it, and together they walk up the steps. through the hallway, and open the cafeteria door. The energy of all those eyes on them. “Come on, Ailee, we about to set this room on fire.”