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"This is it."

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The moon was still up, when Mark slowly turned to one side, while tossing around for hours now. He wanted to grab his phone, but remembered, that he had handed it over to one of the managers. The monthly evaluation was coming up in three days, he couldn’t let himself be distracted now. His eyes were used to the darkness by now, he sat up and looked around.

The other boys, he was sharing the room with: Sungjin, Jinyoung, Jaebeom, Younghyun and one of the newer ones were all fast asleep. They didn’t move much. Mark sighed internally: of course, they didn’t. They have been all training like maniacs these past weeks. There were rumours, that a great opportunity was nearing, as JYP PD-nim was discussing a lot with the different departments these past weeks. They all could feel the atmosphere of the managers, choreographers and other employees around them.

Like a rubberband, that’s been pulled nearly to ist limit, ready to go ‚snap!‘ any second. The thought made him nervous all of a sudden. What if he didn’t make it this time again? He had had many setbacks these past two years. Sometimes, he didn’t even know, why he kept walking on this unsteady and painful path. The food was horrible, the brraks and freetime non-existent and the expectations high as the sky.

A slight snore from Sungjin brought him back to reality. Mark shook the negative thoughts off: He was here now. He had chosen to do this until the end, left his school and family behind. Coming to a country, of which he didn’t even speak the language or knew the culture. Everything was strange, except… He waited another five minutes in complete silence, until he slowly got up. He stuffed a big pillow under his blanket, making it look like someone had curled up under it.

He cautiously grabbed one of his shirts from the floor and a pair of sneakers from the rack. Without waiting another second, he reached the door and closed it behind him. Everyone would be asleep at this time, so no one would know, if he took his skateboard and rode it some streets nearby, util he felt at least a little like falling asleep. He was too restless to try falling asleep right now, he needed some fresh air.

He was just putting on his shoes, when he heard another door opening. Mark froze, being ready to take the scolding of the manager-hyung or even his sunbae-trainees, but nothing came. Instead, the steps were dull and slowly. He turned around to see two rather familiar faces. Jackson and BamBam. Mark felt like bursting out into a laugh. They were blinking at him, confused, each a pair of shoes and a shirt in their hands. Without saying a word, Mark pointed towards the door, making them understand to follow him outside. He grabbed his skateboard and quietly opened the door of the small dorm.

„Jinja, Hyung! I can’t believe you are sneaking out in the middle of the night. What you doing?“ Mark remembered, that Jackson was Chinese, but went to an English high school, before becoming a trainee. He was also only learning Korean, trying to use words, he had just learned in every sentence, if it fit or not. They had walked down to the Yanghwa bridge to look at the water beneath it. Most of the shops were already closed.


Mark shook his head: „That coming from you? I know you have been sneaking out regularly with this cute little maknae here.“ He pointed at BamBam with his chin, making him look up in surprise: „What? I don’t did go out!“ BamBam was Thai and only spoke decent English, not knowing the exact grammar. Mark didn’t care mostly, but it could make communicating troublesome. BamBam was also only learning Korean together with them and all the other foreigners. 

Jackson laughed: „Okay, okay. I admit it. But seriously, how could we not? Training is just torture and we don’t get decent meals, and what we get, is sooo spicy, that I start to sweat, which makes me hungry all over again. You know?“ Mark chuckled. He had started to like Jackson after all this time. He was mostly loud and extra. Being dramatic as often as he could, making him the complete opposite of Mark. 

Still, Jackson had also sacrificed a lot. Leaving behind a career and scholarship as an athlete. He really wanted this. He had chosen this path as his and wanted to achieve his goal of becoming an artist through music. Mark saw him train at night sometimes, when he passed the dance studio. He was just like many of these young boys: passionate and full of burning dreams. Did Mark also have that? Passion? Was this really what he wanted to do? To his surprise, BamBam spoke up right away: „Hyung, don’t worry! This is just for now. When we are famous, we will eat Korean BBQ everyday!“ 

BamBam’s speech was honest and full of confidence, making the two older ones break out in hysterical laughter. Jackson shook his head: „You are damn right! I will only be eating expensive meat and healthy fish.“ BamBam nodded hard. That was the right mindset, they had to believe in themselves! 

Mark watched the two boys beside him go back and forth about what to eat, when they were fmaous one day. The conversation turned into a background noise, letting Mark watche the dark water in front of them in silence. Achievements. Success. Fame. These were all things, he had never thought about before. He was an introvert. Loving sleeping all day or playing games until his eyes hurt. When was it, that he had chosen this path? It truly didn’t fit a person like him… 

„…hyung. That was awesome. You looked so cool!“ Mark turned his face to the side, blinking at BamBam, who had just talked to him: „What?“ Jackson laughed: „The stage. We are talking about the stage we join every half year for the evaluation. You really looked amazing up there!“ Mark’s thoughts were instantly flooded with lights, cheering, music, a beat and his own voice following it. His arms were full of goosebumps just from the pictures and memories in his head. This is it, he had thought, this is what I want to do. Now and forever. Okay, forever may sound a little exaggerated, but it was no joke. 

He wanted to stay on that stage and on even bigger ones as long as he could. He had showed off his rapping skills and some martial arts tricking on the evaluation stage and the cheers were breathtaking. They had loved it and Mark had finally found the reason to stay. The reason to move on. 

Mark was smiling unconsciously, until Jackson nudged him from the side: „Remembering your awesomeness?“ BamBam looked confused: „What’s au-sum…? What does that mean?“ Jackson laughed once again. He loved this little kid. He was only three years younger than him, but looked like twelve. BamBam was the definition of ‚born cute‘ from his looks, but he didn’t act cute at all. 

He called himself a man and was the first to do something crazy in any situation. He was easy-going with a heart of gold. „It means: Mark-hyung feels sleepy from being so cool.“ BamBam joined his laugh, but nodded: „Hyung is so handsome and cool. I really want to be like you in a few years!“ Mark felt his heart warming up on that cold night by the river, just from those words. 

He couldn’t deny the thrill, he still felt, just thinking about being on stage. He really wanted to debut. He had to debut. 

„Uh-uh, Hyung…“ Jackson was holding up his watch showing it to Mark. Thanks to the glow-in-the-dark arms, he could see, that it was nearly 4AM. Mark cursed: „We need to get back, now. Kaja!“ BamBam and Jackson jumped up, and followed the eldest in a hurry. They were done with debuting, if they were caught twice a month of sneaking out after the curfew. They were running all the blocks down, Mark only realized now, how far they had walked before. He was breathing heavily, when he spoke up again. His voice was loud and clear: „Jackson-ah!“ The other one nearly tripped, looking at Mark: „What’s wrong?“ 

Mark was laughing now: „I am gonna debut this year!“ Now it was Jackson’s turn to laugh out loud: „Are you crazy? Are you sure? I mean, we are trying to debut since-“ He was cut off by Mark, who was running backwards to look at him: „I am debuting. This year.“ Jackson couldn’t answer as BamBam was trying to keep up with them:

„Hyung, Hyung! I am also going to debut. Let’s debut together.“ Jackson was looking from one to the other, both of them grinning wildly. How come, he was the normal one suddenly? They were crazy, if they thought they could debut that easily. Some of them even had already debuted, like Jaebeom and Jinyoung and now they were back with training even harder than before. Was it worth it? 


They all burst out into laughter, while trying to reach the building right in front of them. It was tiring. It was painful. But it would be so worth it one day.