King and Queen, Episode 7


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! Catch up on previous episodes here!


“I said Choreography A.” Rap Monster is shoved forward, up the stairs and down the hall, by a beefy police officer, lips set in a grim frown. “Where are you taking me?”

They pass the opaque glass doors of classroom after classroom. The lights are off, he can tell, but he can hear the whispers of conversation from several rooms. He’s about to stop, to put his foot down and demand that he be taken to Choreography A like Detective Gary agreed, when the nameless police officer clamps a hand to his shoulder and forces him in front of room 220.

“220? Why are you bringing me here?”

Instead of an answer, the police officer gives him a smirk. He opens the door and shoves Rap Monster through, into a room of expectant eyes.

Rap Monster does a quick survey of the room. It’s Jay Park’s classroom, he knows, an English classroom with pictures of scantily-clad American pop stars covering the walls. He sees Jay Park, of course, monitoring the door and giving him a once-over, unimpressed. Girls’ Generation is here, in full, and so are U-Kiss and most of Secret. A crowd begins to circle around him, and out of that crowd emerge several members of Block B, Zico front and center.

“It’s him!” Rap Monster points wildly, facing the now closed door. He reaches for the handle, but Jay Park puts a firm hand to his chest, blocking him. He turns, frustrated. “Zico is the one!”

He hears murmurs from the crowd. Several members of SNSD cover their mouths, but it is obvious what they are saying about him. He knows the words they form: crazy, insane, disrespectful. Why was he brought here? He told Detective Gary what he knew.

“What’s wrong, Rap Monster.” Zico steps forward, and for a moment they are in the center of a ring of eyes. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

Several people snicker, and he can’t take it anymore. He’s had enough for one day. “You son of a bitch!” he yells. He takes quick steps toward Rap Monster before he finds his way impeded by members of Block B and U-Kiss. His neck is noosed by a bicep and his knees thrown forward until he can hardly breathe. He is dragged back to the door.

Yes, he thinks, let me out of this room, take me out of here, but a voice whispers in his ear.

“Chill out, man.” A voice he takes to be Jay Park. “Think happy thoughts.”

The bicep tightens, blocking his airway completely for long seconds until he is released, coughing and choking to the floor.

He forgets about the room. He forgets the faces and what they are saying about him. Rap Monster catches his breath with only one thought on his mind. He straightens, slowly, before pointing at Zico once more. “He’s got a gun.”

As soon as he says it, the door behind him bursts open, two cops spilling into the room, looking for trouble. They follow Rap Monster’s outstretched arm, leading them right to Zico. They search him cursorily, patting him down, before backing away, the tension gone.

“What are you doing,” Rap Monster croaks, his voice nearly gone. “He has a gun.”

But the officers only back away, exiting the room, leaving Rap Monster alone with his humiliation, laughter escaping from behind the hands that cover their faces.

***

Ailee doesn’t want to believe it. Rap Monster wouldn’t be so stupid, would he? But everyones’ fingers are clicking against their smartphones, rapid fire to this breaking news. The whispers fill the room: “Rap Monster jumped Zico.”

And for what? To defend her honor? To prove something to Zico or to himself? She thought Rap Monster was beyond that male machismo. But all guys are the same.

To her right, BTS high-fives each other. “Wasn’t he in 104?” one of them asks. “He snuck out of there,” one speculates. “Represent!” another says, emphatically. She hears the beginnings of a plot to jump Block B as a preemptive measure to their retaliation. “They have it coming,” they murmur to each other. “In the hallway,” they scheme, “right after lockdown,” they calculate, and they laugh with masculine glee. She can’t even tell them apart anymore. They are BTS like she is Ailee, one solidified unit, a raw, naked singularity. And Rap Monster is a part of that.

She doesn’t even realize how disappointed she is, how much she wears that hurt on her face, until Jonghyun lightly taps her shoulder.

“Are you okay?” he asks.

Her first reaction is to say, “Why do you care?” but she immediately feels guilty. Has her isolation made her this cold? This mean? So instead, she smiles, wearily. “Just worried.”

“About Rap Monster?” Jonghyun asks. He’s always trying to help. Always trying to fix everyone’s problems. That’s why he was checking on her, wasn’t it? “I’m sure he’s going to be fine,” he adds.

She thinks aloud, “How could he be so…”

“Reckless?” Jonghyun says.

“I was going to say stupid.”

“I’m sure he had his reasons.”

“Guys always have their reasons. Always trying to prove something to someone.” She realizes how bitter she must sound, so Ailee adds, “Most of them.”

Which makes Jonghyun laugh. “No, all of them,” he says with an affable resignation. “Don’t be too hard on Rap Monster. He’s just a guy. An idiot.”

“I just thought he was different.”

“Do you hear BTS? Do you know why they’re planning some stupid battle with Block B? Over very little provocation?”

“Because they’re idiots?” Ailee says.

“Well, yes. But also because Rap Monster was involved. And because they love Rap Monster.”

Ailee didn’t understand where Jonghyun was going with this. “So?” she asks, some of that meanness sneaking through yet again.

But Jonghyun laughs it off, always immovable. “That makes you wonder, doesn’t it?” Ailee gets it now, but waits for him to say it anyway. “Who could Rap Monster love that much to do something that stupid?”

And before she can answer, Jonghyun is gone, already with BTS, already trying to extinguish their fire, trying to fix yet another problem. “Think this through,” he says, and they snicker and shrug, their anger already beginning to be pacified.

As they quiet down, Ailee notices Suzy and Jiyeon, in their own little corner. She hears Jiyeon say, “IU,” and then Suzy pushing her against the wall, telling her to shut the hell up.

***

Can anything more happen today? Is it physically, emotionally, spiritually possible, for a single other thing to happen today? Amber crosses her arms before putting them back at her side, remembering, even now, her training. Hands at your side. Don’t slouch. Smile.

Not exactly instructions for the apocalypse. Is that what this is?

Room 220 is a madhouse. Except that it’s completely normal, also, a microcosm of the macro Kpop universe. This group is shunning that group, these women are ignoring that woman, one person is holding court in the center. The actors have changed, the details are different, but otherwise it’s Kpop High as usual.

True, she wasn’t expecting Rap Monster to freak out and accuse Zico of having a gun. He had always seemed like a down-to-earth guy, focused on his music. She could respect him for that. But this?

“Oh my God, what do I even tell Victoria and Luna?” Krystal is next to her, furiously typing away at her phone, and Amber wants to say, for once, that it seems like she knows exactly what it is she’s going to say. “I’m saying that Rap Monster tried to kill Zico and after that he accused Zico of murdering JYP. Emoticon, sad face. Emoticon, gun.” Amber sighs. “Can you text that to Sulli for me?”

Amber takes out her phone, mashing random buttons without ever leaving the lock screen. It’s already eleven pm. When will the night end? She can’t believe she wore a skirt for this.

It’s then that Amber notices the door to 220 open, once more. She looks around her, but no one else seems to see it. Principal Hyori has poked her head through, and she’s talking to Jay Park. The pair of them leave the classroom.

They are leaderless. Without regulation. The blind leading the blind. They will have to form a new society, a society of unready youths, like The Lord of the Flies. Which one of them is Piggy?

“Did you text her?”

“Hey, is that your sister?” Amber points out Jessica, sitting alone in a corner, her legs and arms crossed, a scowl on her face.

“That? Yes, that’s a member of the Jung family.” Krystal rolls her eyes theatrically. “Okay, I’ll go talk to her.”

***

Before Jiyeon and Suzy notice her, Ailee catches only bits of their conversation, specifically three things: “IU,” “Sorry,” and “Dungeon.” Dungeon? Did she really hear Jiyeon say dungeon? She could have heard more if it wasn’t for the watchful eye of Tony An, who can smell trouble a mile away.

“Girls,” he says, as Suzy pushes Jiyeon back against the wall. “Is everything okay over there?”

Suzy turns, and to both Ailee and Tony An’s surprise, is smiling. “We’re just playing around,” she says. And Jiyeon, in turn, smiles with her.

“We’re just bored,” Jiyeon says. Jiyeon notices Ailee staring at them. That’s what blows her cover.

“Just keep it civil,” Tony An says, clearly not quite believing them, but seeing only so many disasters he can stall.

“We’ll be good,” Suzy smiles, with a sincerity that can warm the heart of the deepest cynic. Everyone’s girl next door, Suzy could be the nation’s sweetheart, if given the chance. That thought makes Ailee shiver.

“Why don’t you join us, Ailee?” Jiyeon says. “Keep us in check.”

Ailee nods, plays it off with them, ignoring the near-altercation between the two. Why was Jiyeon getting her involved with this? Did Jiyeon want Ailee there for protection somehow?

Suzy and Jiyeon keep smiling, performing their very best aegyo as Tony An turns away, their years of practicing and perfecting the Gwiyomi Song in front of the mirror, with each other, having finally paid off. Ailee had seen them reciting the song during lunch in the girl’s bathroom once, walking in on them, feeling as if she had interrupted some intimate activity. But Suzy and Jiyeon just laughed then, not even embarrassed. They had laughed at her.

Their smiles immediately die when Tony An goes back to the door, more worried about BTS and the erratic Chanhyuk. Someone from BTS just said that people are changing rooms by talking to the police, which prompted both Chanhyuk and Jungkook to volunteer information immediately.

“No,” Tony An says, to Chanhyuk’s horror. “You’re lying and I’m not letting you leave the room.”

“But I know who the murderer is!” he screams.

“Tell me then,” Tony An says.

Jungkook, not to be outdone, screams, “I know who did it too!” And his BTS friends roll their eyes. “Anything to get to Hyosung,” one of them says.

Jiyeon snaps her finger, “Hey, back to us here.”

Suzy grabs Ailee by the shoulders, massages her back. “Why so tense?” she whispers in Ailee’s ear.

“What did you hear?” Jiyeon asks.

“Nothing,” Ailee says, which is basically true. A name, a dungeon, and an apology don’t constitute a thing.

“I help you out and this is how you repay me?” Jiyeon asks.

“How did you help me?”

“She brought you to this room, remember?” Suzy asks. She tightens her grip on Ailee’s shoulders. “But not because she wanted to.”

“I don’t know what you two are talking about.”

“How much did IU tell you?” Jiyeon asks. “If you don’t tell us, you’ll regret it later.”

What did IU tell her? It was only a few hours ago, but it feels like a different lifetime. Ailee remembers their conversation in the cafeteria: Everyone wants to be on the top. Whoever is in the way, is an enemy. Can’t you see? She remembers: Whoever gets King and Queen are really getting bullseyes.

“Nothing,” she tells them. “She was just tired,” and Jiyeon reads her face, and nods.

“IU didn’t tell her anything,” she says.

But IU did tell Ailee, just enough. Bullseye. But who would believe her? Who could Ailee trust now?



To Be Continued...


-C

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