The demo photoshoot ended late in the evening.
Minho was able to try on all the clothes he could want thanks to Manager Gong who brought a stack of T brand’s clothes from this quarter last year.
But still there weren’t too many shots that got an OK from the photographer.
‘I’m just tired from standing. So tired.’
The style of the advertisement photoshoot needed to be tailored according to the requests of the companies involved, so the styles would be taken up to President Sohee’s office early tomorrow morning for her approval.
“You too, Manager Gong.”
Minho waved to Manager Gong as he off in the van. Since Minho hadn’t finished his interview preparations, he would have to do that tomorrow after the photoshoot.
It felt like it was going to be a tough week. He would have to wait and see if this hardship would be worthwhile, like last week in Yulchiri.
“I should open up the gourd bottle, take a big glass of it and rest deeply.”
But it was only a drop he was going to drink.
‘My tolerance will increase some day if I keep drinking it, won’t it?’
He turned around and walked to the gaming house. Just as he reached the front door, Minho spotted a dim shadow next to the entrance.
There was someone dozing off leaning against the wall.
It was a young lady with a petite figure wearing a hat pulled down to her eyes. As he walked closer to her, it looked like she had a guitar on her back.
‘Is it someone who plays music?’
The face underneath the hat was revealed by the street lamp.
Iseol opened her eyes wide at Minho’s voice. She hastily stood up from the spot and gave a timid smile.
“Yeah, I’m here.”
Minho replied because she asked but it didn’t seem right.
“But what are you doing here at this time of night?”
Iseol stopped talking to yawn, and tapped the guitar she was wearing.
“I have something I want you to hear.”
“I just finished working on a new song today. I wanted you to be the first to hear it so I looked at the webpage of your gaming team and found the address.
Was it really so urgent that she had to come out here and wait for him so late at night?
“You should’ve called.”
“Then it wouldn’t be a surprise gift. At least I met you right before the curfew. I was going to try again tomorrow if you didn’t come by 10:30.”
Minho looked at Iseol who might have waited until it was close to 11 PM. Minho felt sorry on one hand but also thankful.
He had only helped her at the cafe because it was simply fun for him. But he had to contemplate whether that help was enough to make her wait for someone who might not arrive for a long time.
“It’s a relief I get to see you like this. Aren’t you happy you were surprised? Right?”
Iseol was first just happy she hadn’t traveled here in vain.
And Minho was content when he saw that. He had just thought she was cute, but now he felt a warmth toward her. He felt he would sing with joy on his commute back home if he had a younger sister like her waiting for him at home.
“Is it a new song?”
“Yes! I wrote it up in just a few days.”
Iseol bashfully smiled and the sleepiness disappeared from her eyes as passion for music took its place. Minho met her gaze and felt a corner of his heart become pure.
“It’s a bit weird playing the guitar in front of your team members.”
She gestured at the windows of the gaming house and shrugged her shoulders.
“Is there anywhere quiet?”
‘If it’s somewhere she can play, then…’
“There won’t be anyone at the playground near here.”
She clasped her hands together in delight and then took Minho’s arm.
It was a special outdoor stage with the streetlamps as dim stage lights. Iseol sat on top of the jungle gym and took a deep breath as she looked down at Minho, her audience of one, sitting on the swing.
“Ah, I’m getting nervous.”
“This isn’t a big deal. Take it easy since it’s not a stage where you’ll be evaluated like Once”
Iseol smiled at Minho when he said this.
“That’s why it’s more nerve-wracking. Thinking of you…I mean! I wrote it thanks to you!.”
“It’s because I’m in front of such a skillful producer as you.”
“It’s okay, It’s okay. Today I’ll just enjoy it.”
Minho had to go the cafe in order to give professional advice so he just left it at that. He thought to only genuinely enjoy the music this time.
Iseol put the guitar on top of her knees and fumbled with something in her pocket.
“In the middle of this song, there’s a harmonica instrumental that goes in.”
Minho abruptly stood up from the swing as soon as Iseol put the harmonica around her neck. It was because the harmonica she was holding was glowing with the light of a cherished object.
Iseol’s eyes grew wide at Minho’s sudden movements.
“Nothing. Go on.”
Minho composed his expression as if nothing had happened and pointed at Iseol’s harmonica.
“Is that yours, Iseol?”
“Yes. My grandpa used to use it but the sound is still good.”
Iseol who finished prepping began to tap her foot to the beat and strummed the guitar right away. Her face lit up as the first chord sounded.
“The title of the song is ‘Sparkling Star’.”
Clap clap clap.
After Minho’s applause finished, Iseol’s song began with humming.
Minho quietly burst out in appreciation at the clean tone of the introduction. This was what pleasing to the ears meant. It was a captivating melody that made every emotion-triggering cell in his body quiver the moment he heard it.
Someone once said that the most beautiful instrument a person can play is their voice. Iseol was that instrument that warmed up the silent playground.
Minho was certain that this was a good song even though he wasn’t able to professionally evaluate it. His eyes even closed when the bridge with only the harmonica and guitar played after the first verse finished.
The night of the falling stars.
The playground was the exotic small theater.
Minho was greatly intoxicated by the beautiful ensemble that lingered in his ears. He was finally able to escape from the melody he was sinking into after the second verse had finished.
“Ho-how is it?”
“I like it.”
Iseol made a gesture with her fist, saying ‘Yes!’ She put down her guitar and took a turn around the top of the jungle gym, giggling happily. Then she began to hum another melody and it seemed like she was sinking into thinking about a new composition.
‘Did she think of a new idea? She’s really talented singer songwriter.’
She smiled brightly then covered her cheeks timidly and held her laughter till her shoulders shook. Minho felt like he was seeing a small bird and naturally felt euphoric.
It was a glitter that no one else could see. It was magical since the harmonica’s faint glow vibrated from Iseol’s neck.
It felt as if the harmonica were calling him saying ‘Come here. Aren’t you curious about me?’
Iseol was anxious to hear what Minho had to say after calling her tenderly, but then she was shocked to see him staring right at her chest.
“Can I try to blow on it once?”
“Wha-what do you mean, blow on what!”
“Haha. Sorry, I meant–your grandpa’s precious item.”
Iseol’s face grew red as she realized that his gaze was on the harmonica hanging around her neck.
“Here. Here it is. It’s fine if you try to blow on it once.”
She squirmed to quickly take off the harmonica and give it to him. Minho brightened up.
“Ahem. It’s no big deal.”
Iseol asked Minho who was briefly closing his eyes after receiving the harmonica.
“But do you know how to play the harmonica?”
“Maybe limited to this one.”
She was going to ask another question in response to that ridiculous answer but then she touched the harmonica with her right hand and her lips with her left hand.
She licked her lips which had gone dry.
Meanwhile, Minho was searching for the power of the cherished object in the harmonica. He checked that the faint glow had disappeared and motionlessly felt for the ability of this cherished object.
It felt like the ability simply had to do with playing the instrument, since he didn’t feel any musical visualization. However he was able to know that Iseol’s grandfather had cherished her very much from the cozy feeling towards Iseol that he hadn’t felt before.
Minho brought the harmonica to his lips and gave himself to it to see if it would turn out like Sanggun’s guitar.
It was a small musical box that made sounds as he breathed in and out.
Iseol’s ears perked up at the lyrical sounding music from the palm-sized instrument.
“That’s the song I just sang.”
The melody of the intro to the song that Iseol had hummed was flowing out through the harmonica.
“Huh? How did you know that you had to be careful when playing the ‘F’ because it’s flat?”
Minho was already sinking into his own world, inebriated by playing the harmonica. Iseol stared at Minho blankly then took her seat next to him and started to play the guitar, matching the harmonica’s tone.
It was just their duet that no one was listening to.
But Iseol was more satisfied with this performance than any other. She naturally began to feel good because she was as happy as she was when performing together at ‘Once’.
“So good. It’s really good, oppa.”
Minho, who was playing the climatic part of the melody with the harmonica, nodded at Iseol’s words. Her music was definitely good.
The two of them enjoyed the lingering feeling together. They sat still and even the squeaking sound of the swing felt like they were whispering melodies back and forth to each other.
They conversed about many different things as if they were sitting face to face with a candle between them in their own space. Then a small greed came over Minho.
This song was so good. It was beautiful as is but what would i be like if it was performed more greater and awesomer? It was impossible here but it was possible if they went there.
Minho hailed a taxi for Iseol, and just before they parted he hinted at his desire.
“I’ll be in Hongdae next week. So can I hear this again at Once? If it’s okay I’ll tell you about it for certain then.”
Iseol got in the taxi only after pinky promising with Minho and stamping their thumbs together a few times. Minho waved his hands at Iseol as she left.
Minho kept thinking about the harmonica as he returned to the gaming house. Like playing air guitar, he held his hands as if cupping the harmonica and whistled.
‘That was fun.’
The harmonica was as charming an instrument as the guitar. It’s about the size of your hand but makes 50 notes as you breathe in and out.
Iseol said she had inherited the harmonica when she was very young and developed her musical sensibility. If he had started at a young age, would he also have been able to play like Sanggun or Iseol?
“Forget it, forget it.”
Minho shook his head.
Playing an instrument was one thing but he couldn’t do much about singing. He wasn’t as tone deaf as Garam but he wasn’t at the level where anyone would say he sang well.
‘Either way, today was another fruitful day.’
It was a night that Minho could pass out right after he lay down on his bed.
He was humming as he arrived at the front entrance of the gaming house.
A text message arrived on his cell phone.
Minho opened up his messages and discovered that multiple texts had arrived in his inbox.
[I’m on my way back to Seoul after the event. And today was awesome thanks to you, oppa! I was so popular. See you next week at the interview. I’ll boost you up a bunch in return.]
It was Sora’s text message. He was reminded of the the nightmare of the lion hairstyle that he couldn’t fix; it was like misfortune brought upon more misfortune. It was certain that Minho would be able to get some airtime if Sora, who did so many interviews, would help him.
Minho sent the reply [I’ll trust in you, comrade] and checked the next message.
[Did the demo photoshoot go well? This is the male model from last year’s photoshoot. Look at it as a reference.]
It was a photo of Eunha and a male model posing. Eunha was beautiful as always but the male model didn’t have the same impact.
‘That’s probably why he was changed out.’
Minho got into a similar pose as he was walking, and took a selfie.
“Emm..I probably might be changed out too .”
Minho felt a sense of crisis thinking he might be put in the same position as the model if he didn’t try hard during the photoshoot. With great sincerity he wrote, [I look forward to our cooperation, great sunbaenim! Please poke me right away if I get into a weird pose!]
Another message came in during that time.
It was Iseol’s text, along with with a pinky swear emoji. She was definitely a genius when it came to music but was still a clumsy young girl. So when Minho saw her, with his wide knowledge of girl groups, he was certain she had the potential to rise as the nation’s younger sister.
As soon as Minho sent the message [Get home safe. And make sure to bring your harmonica on that day.] a reply saying [Yessir!] came right back.
Minho realized one truth as he gripped the door handle to the gaming house. He was going to meet these three during his busy schedule all next week. His eyes definitely would be pleased but he still didn’t know how much his body would struggle with the work.
‘Well, everything will turn out well if I try hard.’
He was completely exhausted after such a long day. He opened the doors to the gaming house leaving these worries as homework for the next week.
Object: The harmonica imbued with love for the owner’s granddaughter.
Effect: Enables one to freely play the songs by Iseol Yoon.