Chapter 71: The Most Important Thing in This Industry, Decision-Making (9)
TL: emptycube / ED: Isleidir
If someone was to ask me, “When were you the craziest?” I could reply in a heartbeat.
I was thinking about calling CEO Baek Hansung as soon as the team 3 leader finished talking and left his office. I wanted to do whatever I could.
When I resolved myself and tightly held my phone, my phone in my hand vibrated.
It was the team 3 leader. As soon as I answered the phone, he abruptly said.
-You, come up to the CEO’s office immediately.
This was my fourth time entering the CEO’s office.
However, I was the most nervous this time. I felt like I was on tenterhooks. The blinds were closed inside the office, making the shadows come down heavily.
Although the team 3 leader and the director were present, my gaze was fixed on CEO Baek Hansung.
I felt this every time I saw him, but he was difficult to talk to.
I felt this even though he wasn’t hostile or overbearing. I had never been told I was timid wherever I went, but when my eyes met with his, I felt like my energy was being sucked out of me. No, it felt like it was being crushed.
After greeting them and sitting next to the team 3 leader, CEO Baek Hansung said,
“This is the first time we’ve talked since the phone call last time, right?”
My cheeks burned. The team 3 leader was giving me a strange look from the side. His face seemed to ask if I had talked with the CEO on the phone.
“You guessed well that time.”
CEO Baek Hansung said with an odd smile.
The director added,
“Yeah, you really did choose well. Although Mermaid out of Water is sweeping through the drama charts in China right now, Cat Guardian Ghost is slowly crawling its way up, spreading through word of mouth.”
The director gave me a few more pieces of information while drinking tea. They were all good news. They really were great news, but while I nodded my head and reacted to his words, a different thought kept making its way in my mind.
Just as I glanced at CEO Baek Hansung to look for an opportunity, he suddenly went straight to the point.
“I heard you wanted to go for double title tracks for Neptune’s next album?”
He stared at me and asked again,
“I heard you passionately pushed the song a member made?”
That was because it was a song that was almost guaranteed success.
There was no way I could say that. I brought out what I had prepared to persuade the team 3 leader again.
When I looked at CEO Baek Hansung when I finished talking, he was still looking at me. However, his expression was different. He had previously been smiling pleasantly, but now, he was calm.
As if he found this boring.
Since his appearance was completely different from when he was smiling, my shoulders and waist unwittingly stiffened.
He tilted his head.
What do you mean ‘and’?
When I had already told you everything I could?
“Any other reason?”
“I understand what you mean, but that’s something anyone can say. I somehow feel like you have another reason why you are pushing that song. Am I wrong?”
A chill went down the back of my neck.
CEO Baek Hansung leaned forward. His eyes were still fixated on me, seemingly observing me. It felt as though he was reading my mind.
I swallowed dryly. I myself wanted to know what this person was thinking. Don’t tell me he truly thinks I have some supernatural ability?
Of course, I had acted suspiciously a few times, but they were acts that could be glossed over with having good luck, senses, or a discerning eye.
Even the employees who had looked for me previously had come with the thought of simply asking since they were curious. To them, it was like going to a 3000-won tarot stall on the streets.
Although I wasn’t sure what the ‘other reason’ CEO Baek Hansung was thinking of was, I would never tell him the truth. It would be a problem if he believed me and a problem if he didn’t.
“There are no other reasons besides the reasons I’ve told you.”
“There aren’t any?”
“Yes. There aren’t.”
Damn it. If my persuasion didn’t work, should I bring up the option I had due to the Son Chaeyoung incident last time again…
“Then that’s fine.”
“Let’s go with double title tracks for this album.”
It felt like a taut string had suddenly become loose. My mind, which had been churning furiously, became blank as my head jolted up.
What was this?
It wasn’t only me who was surprised, even the team 3 leader, who had been looking at me as though I was a child walking on thin ice, widened his eyes. The director was also taken aback.
The only one who kept his composure was CEO Baek Hansung.
With a serious voice, he said,
“I’ll trust you once more.”
Kim Hyunjo and the traitor seemed to be at loss for words.
After opening and closing his mouth a few times, Kim Hyunjo finally spoke.
“I’ll trust you? The CEO said that?”
“That’s what I’m saying.”
The team 3 leader said, astonished, as he looked at me.
“Lucky Charm here casually said everything he wanted to say in front of the CEO and the director. Now, really, I don’t know where he got his confidence from but he didn’t look even a bit nervous.”
It was completely nerve-wracking though.
“Hyunjo, are kids these days all like him? The spirit of the rookie, or something like that?”
“He’s just crazy. I only got to look around the sixth floor after working for over a year. Gunyoung, have you talked with the CEO before?”
“Yeah, this is normal.”
I secretly calmed my heart amidst their heated looks.
To be honest, CEO Baek Hansung’s face still lingered in my head.
His voice that simply said to go with double title tracks…
I had spent all night agonizing over it, and even when I stuck next to the team 3 leader to try and persuade him, I was still pulling my hair as things weren’t going my way, yet it all reversed with CEO Baek Hansung’s words.
When would I be able to climb up to that level?
When I looked up, the top looked distant, but I was relieved right now. It felt like something that had been heavily bearing down on me had dropped since, in the end, the train, that had broken away from the rails and had been rushing into a fog, had now returned to its original path.
A smile of relief hung on my lips.
“Don’t smile, you crazy guy.”
With a dumbfounded expression, Kim Hyunjo shook his head.
The team 3 leader said,
“Lucky Charm, you should directly tell Taehee the news since this is the same as you grabbing what shouldn’t have happened by the collar and lifting it up.”
“Hey, but how…”
The team 3 leader scratched the back of his disheveled hair before cautiously saying,
“How can you push for such things so confidently? What are you going to do if it fails?”
“Then he’s screwed.”
Kim Hyunjo said while gesturing a sword striking his neck with his hand before patting my shoulder.
“Well, if you get fired, I’ll introduce you to other companies. Since you now have 3 months of experience, you should be able to get a job.”
He was being serious. 100% serious!
Shaking his head side to side, Kim Hyunjo left with the team 3 leader. Now only the traitor and I remained.
The traitor said,
“Do you have something with Taehee?”
Just what nonsense was this now?
“It looked like you would focus on the acting side, and I thought that the production of their album was beyond pretty much outside your- Ah, sorry.”
He grimaced slightly before correcting himself.
“You didn’t look like you were interested in it. Instead, this was my area of interest. That’s why I can’t understand why you are pushing so hard at all. Like the team leader said, all the contributions you accumulated until now might fade if this fails. Well, that’s why I thought there might be something up with you and Taehee.”
“What would there be? Taehee’s song was good, and that’s why I felt it was a waste to miss this opportunity. If it’s like this, is there something between you and Simon Lee?”
“… No way there is.”
At my joking words, the traitor smiled as he shook his head.
I felt this when I talked with him before, but it seemed like he was confident Simon Lee’s song would be a hit. Which was why he wanted to push for an exclusive title track. But why did he push for Taehee’s song in the future?
Was it because he secretly liked her song better?
Or maybe he felt unpleasant that this song was in my hands?
The traitor said,
“If it’s like this, then it’s like we brought a song each.”
“Although what’s important is for any of the two songs to do well and make this album a success, still, do you want to make a small bet since things turned out this way?”
To others, this might seem like a normal conversation. However, I could see it with my eyes. The bridge that connected the two of us was splitting apart and collapsing. It looked like it would break apart any moment.
I readily nodded my head.
“A bet seems nice.”
That night, I told Lee Taehee the news in front of her residence door.
Lee Taehee was at loss for words for a while then showed off a perplexed expression that I was seeing for the first time. Since she asked a few more times, seemingly in disbelief, I too answered her slowly every time.
She tried her best to control her expression before glancing towards the living room.
The other girls were looking in our direction as if they were dying to hear what we were talking about. The only one who was calm was Lee Songha… Or so I thought, but only her body was still while her head and neck gradually leaned closer towards us like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Lee Taehee came out and closed the door.
When she shut the door, it looked like there were earthquakes going off in Lee Songha’s eyes.
“It’s really a title track?”
“Yeah, there’ll be double title tracks. You’re going to be busier now that you have to record and mix.”
“Oh my god.”
Lee Taehee covered her face with one hand. What would that do when your ears were red and your lips were wriggling beneath your hand? Although I expected her to be happy, her reaction was bigger than I had thought.
Haha. It was worth going around like a crazy person.
Calming her excitement after a few minutes, Lee Taehee said,
“Thank you for constantly taking care of me. From now on, I’ll-“
“No need to thank me.”
“Practice hard like a dog.”
“No, don’t do that.”
You already had more than enough practice time. Was she thinking of performing their comeback on an IV?
“Anyways, tell the girls as well.”
I said while glancing at my wristwatch when Lee Taehee suddenly held onto me.
“Have a beer before you go. There are still a few left from what you bought last time.”
“Huh? There are only you girls and without the chief or Gunyoung, that’s a bit…”
“It’ll be a secret.”
Lee Taehee made a ‘zipping her lips’ gesture.
I thought about it while my arm was being held onto.
First, I had stayed up all night yesterday.
As I used up a lot of my mental energy today due to various reasons, my shoulders felt stiff. There also was a schedule I had to take Lee Songha to early tomorrow.
My reasoning told me to stop thinking about drinking and to go home and sleep, yet my body simply nodded its head and entered their residence.
After that, well.
After drinking and toasting with the girls until early morning, I took a short nap in the van parked in front of their residence.
Then, for the first time in my life, I had sleep paralysis.
I realized the reason why when I woke up. There was something heavy on top of me. The thick parka Lee Songha wore on every film set, a microfiber blanket, as well as another blanket, covered me in three layers.
It looked like someone put them on me so that I didn’t freeze to death, but I was lucky I didn’t die of suffocation.
Either way, we all agreed to keep this a secret from Kim Hyunjo.
If he knew, he’d kill me.
Once the title tracks were determined, the album production sped up.
When audio recording was added to the already busy schedule of Next K-Star and Cat Guardian Ghost film shoots, each passing day felt like an hour. However, even though my body was exhausted, I could endure it since my efforts weren’t for naught.
“Looking at the progress of our ratings, it’s only a matter of time before it reaches 10%.”
Chief Lee Bongjoon said while yawning.
Infected, I too yawned as I replied,
“Looks like it. The PR Team is already preparing our viewership ratings pledge.”
The third episode, which aired two days ago, and the fourth consecutively beat our previous peak ratings. Those involved were focused on how much higher it would go beyond 10%. Food trucks, presents, and food continuously arrived on film sets. Because of them, the Cat Guardian Ghost team was always in a festive mood.
“They both are sleeping well. Poor things.”
Chief Lee Bongjoon clicked his tongue as he looked to his side.
With earphones on, Seo Jijoon had buried himself on the sofa and was sleeping. Of course, Lee Songha was nodding off next to me while holding onto my coat. I didn’t know what kind of dream she was having but she tightly held onto my coat.
Since the film shoot started early in the morning and ended at night, I wanted to head straight home and lie down on my bed, but we still had a schedule left. Apparently, they were producing a short video of New Year’s greetings from W&U celebrities. This was why we had come back to work and were waiting for the film crew in a break room.
Although Neptune had already done it, they scheduled an additional one for Songha to air on PBS. Well, this meant that Neptune wasn’t at the level of giving New Year’s greetings on public networks yet.
To be honest, it was only possible for Lee Songha to make a greeting alongside Seo Jijoon because their currently airing drama was trending right now. She was still considered a rookie.
“Right, are there any commercial offers coming in for Songha?”
“Although it’s not certain yet, we are in the talks with some.”
I was already awaiting it. Once things were confirmed, it would probably be Lee Songha’s first commercial.
“I heard that there were a ton of offers for Jijoon.”
I heard that he was almost sweeping them up. I felt that, once Cat Guardian Ghost ended, I would see Seo Jijoon’s face all the time on TV for a while. Since this role suited him like well-fitted clothes, his acting spectrum and fandom had increased drastically.
When he heard me, Seo Jijoon opened one eye.
“To be honest, I wanted to repay you somehow since this was all due to you. I’ll repay with my body. Do you need me for anything?”
When a terrifyingly good-looking person said so in such a polite manner, it was even more spine-chilling.
Do I need him for anything…?
While I thinking, Seo Jijoon asked again,
“What about the program that Neptune’s on, Next K-Star or something? I heard I received a casting call from them, should I go on there?”
So who can be happy?
“It’s good if you don’t associate with that program.”
When I replied seriously, Chief Lee Bongjoon, who knew my situation, giggled.
After the event last time, Producer Go Joontae’s acts of using Lee Songha as kindling for ratings had stopped. What a detestable man. He stuck next to me and tried to persuade me during every recording session, but I kept dragging it on.
‘We’re still discussing it, he’s thinking about it, I’m trying to persuade him.’
I kept talking in circles. This was what I learned the most while working. In any case, every time I saw Producer Go Joontae suppressing his temper, I felt refreshed. Should I say he became somewhat of an energy drink for me?
Recently, I began happily thinking about the best way to tell him that I tried to persuade him but that it didn’t work out in the end so that he would burst into a fit of rage.
But to add Seo Jijoon in there? Never.
“Then next time. I’ll repay you.”
Just as Seo Jijoon said this while shrugging his shoulders, the break room door opened.
I shook Lee Songha awake thinking it was the film crew, but the people who entered were those who I didn’t want to associate with as much as Producer Go Joontae.
The crazy bitch of this region, plus one.
Son Chaeyoung and Chief Jo.
As soon as she saw us, Son Chaeyoung glared at us. Her gaze seemed to stab at Seo Jijoon, Lee Songha and me.
It felt like the time she glared at me was especially long.
Lee Songha, absentminded since she had just awoken, fumbled around before grabbing the gummy bears she had been eating before. If Son Chaeyoung charged at us again, it seemed she would throw the jellies at least.
Of course, I had no thoughts on stopping her. She needed to grow up strong.
“I’m going crazy. Oppa, how did you set my schedule?”
While throwing a fit at Chief Jo, Son Chaeyoung clenched the paper in her hand.
No matter how you looked at it, it was a short 1-2-page script.
Last week, Mermaid out of Water’s rating had continuously shot up until their third episode. They maintained their ratings on their fourth. Perhaps it was because of this, but Son Chaeyoung’s complexion was lively like a poisonous flower in full bloom even though she had been suffering from the short, rewritten scripts. Her temper was lively as well.
“Don’t you know that I can’t do anything if something’s bothering me?”
“Yeah, Chaeyoung. Since the drama filming schedules have been all over the place, things might have… We can go as soon as you do a 30-second greeting.”
“I have to spend all night memorizing the script after this, but do you think I’ll be able to like this? When the top 3 people I consider eyesores are gathered in front of me?”
Who was first?
I seemed to be sleep deprived since that was what I was curious about in this situation.
Instead, it was Seo Jijoon who asked while shaking one of his crossed legs up and down.
Son Chaeyoung snorted.
“Why? Do you want to be first?”
“If it’s a ranking of people who you consider an eyesore, then, of course, I want to be first.”
After a few exchanges, they began to bicker more severely. I did hear that they didn’t have a good relationship. Well, I did wonder who else would be on friendly terms with Son Chaeyoung besides Teacher Shim Kyungtaek.
While the two fought each other, Chief Lee Bongjoon didn’t seem to have any thoughts on stopping them. Chief Jo looked pitiful, nervously trying to stop them by himself. I remained a spectator, and Lee Songha snacked on jellies instead of popcorn as she watched.
“Chaeyoung. Chaeyoung. The broadcast, your drama began airing.”
Just then, Chief Jo was successful in gaining Son Chaeyoung’s attention.
Since it was 10:15 pm right now, the fifth episode of Mermaid out of Water started 15 minutes ago.
It seemed she had forgotten her bickering with Seo Jijoon as Son Chaeyoung grumbled about how he didn’t tell her sooner.
Then she sat on the sofa in front of us, crossing her legs.
“Put the episode on your phone.”
“Uh, one sec.”
Chief Jo tapped his phone with his thick fingers.
During this time, Son Chaeyoung raised her chin as she looked at us. Her eyes narrowed and her lips curved upwards in a slant. It was a familiar expression. Ah, it was the expression the quadruplets would make when they wanted to brag about something.
Damn it, how could I have recalled the quadruplets while looking at Son Chaeyoung?
“I don’t know if you guys saw the progress of my drama’s ratings?”
Son Chaeyoung said in a passing tone.
“I didn’t see it.”
“Why would I watch that? I’m already busy checking mine.”
Seo Jijoon and Lee Songha replied one after each other.
“Who asked you? I didn’t check your ratings either!”
Snorting, Son Chaeyoung asked again.
“Did you see it?”
Why was this woman acting like this towards me since last time? For some reason, I thought that the first on her ranking of eyesores was me. It was the same for me as well.
Although I was checking Mermaid out of Water’s ratings every time, I acted as though I didn’t and shook my head. Chief Jo mouthed that I reply that I saw it, but I didn’t see him. I didn’t.
“I didn’t see it either.”
I thought she would shout like last time, but she was unexpectedly calm.
Instead, Son Chaeyoung even crossed her arms and smiled.
“Well, not looking at it will be good for your mental health. When the difference is so large, you’d only feel sad if you saw it. Since we reached 15% in metropolitan areas in four episodes, we’ll definitely hit 20% at this rate. There’s already more than 5% difference from the cat or rat thing so it’s obvious what will happen in the future.”
Then she started talking for a long while about things we never asked like how the times when 10% on cable being equal to multiple times that of public networks had passed, that there weren’t any TVs not connected to cable these days, and that we had to consider cable and public networks on the same level.
But you said that you didn’t know Cat Guardian Ghost’s ratings.
I made a dumbfounded expression, and as if just remembering, Son Chaeyoung swiftly turned to Chief Jo.
“Oppa, what are you doing? Aren’t you going to give it to me?!”
“No, um, Chaeyoung. Let’s watch this after we film your greeting.”
Chief Jo, who had been looking at his phone, stuttered.
“Why? Since we were hastily filming the adjusted parts, I didn’t have time to properly monitor it on set. I have to check it.”
“Uh, but I think it’ll be good if you watched it from start to finish after this episode airs.”
“That’s why I’m asking, why?! Is there a problem? Was my scene cut out?!”
“No, that’s not it. The viewers’ reactions right now are a bit…”
Chief Jo’s face was pale as if he was watching a horror movie. As if trying to not show his phone to Son Chaeyoung at all costs, he slowly backed away.
Ah, I had a strong intuition.
Mermaid out of Water finally slipped up.
 Approximately 2.66 USD.