"Faster! The signal song performances are about to premier soon," Soo-min, the most enthusiastic fangirl of the group, exclaimed.

"Wait! The popcorn is about to be finished," Na-ri called out from the kitchen. "Just camp on the channel first."

"I'm so excited!" Wei screeched. "I've been waiting for this for such a long time now. I can't believe Rising Stars is finally back!"

Jia sighed as she observed her excited friends. She was the only one not looking forward to the signal song performances. "Why are you making such a big deal out of this anyway? It's just a bunch of semi-good looking boys singing and dancing to an overly-edited pop song."

Her friends looked at her with wide eyes. Even Na-ri, who was still in the kitchen, popped her head out to glare at Jia.

"Have you watched Rising Stars before?" Wei asked.

"No," Jia said. "There's no reason for me to watch a rigged show."

"It's not rigged now," Na-ri defended, carrying a bowl of popcorn in her hands. "They hired a third-party vote-counting specialist to ensure that the voting will be fair."

"Yes! And I heard there are a lot of cute guys this season, too," Soo-min added. "Just give it a try, Jia. You're going to find someone you like eventually."

Jia sighed. "It's not like I have a choice. You'll force me to watch even though I don't want to. Let's just get this over with," she said, tossing some popcorn in her mouth.

"Ooh! Only one minute left," Wei exclaimed. "Whose video are we going to watch first?"

"The five-stars, of course!" Na-ri said. "Let's see if RAVEN is really going to participate. If they do, then let us watch where Jaeyong is."

Soo-min shook her head. "No, we definitely have to stream the one where Zeth is. He's also rumored to be joining the show."

"What if they're on the same team?" Wei asked.

"Then that'll be the best," Soo-min gave a thumbs up.

Jia frowned as she listened to her friends' conversation. "Five stars?"

The three other girls nodded. "Azure came out with a statement that the trainees will be divided through star levels. Today, they're going to show the five performance videos. The video with the most views will be aired on TV!"

Jia nodded in understanding.

It sounded stupid to her. With this concept, it's obvious the higher-level trainees are going to win.

"It's starting!" Na-ri exclaimed. Despite her reluctance, Jia focused on the huge screen.

Her friends screeched when they saw that the videos had been uploaded.

"Click the five-stars right away!" Soo-min urged.

The sound of enthusiastic music burst through the speakers, and a grand stage was shown. The lights were dim, and a spotlight shone on a group of trainees dressed in well-tailored schoolboy outfits. The music started, and they broke into a synchronized dance routine, showcasing their impeccable skills and fluid movements. The LED backdrop was illuminated with vibrant colors and patterns, enhancing the performance.

The camera panned across the trainees, and the girls immediately gasped.

"Zeth's here!" Na-ri said.

"Jaeyong's here too," Soo-min said. "Oh my goodness! This team is perfect. We should watch their video again after going through the other ones."

"Yes! I can recognize some other trainees, too," Wei said. "I wish I had multiple eyes so I can look at them one by one."

Jia nodded to the beat of the song. The song sounded quite nice. She knew of Rising Stars but never bothered to watch it. She's not into the idol culture, but her other friends are, so she's being strung along in their antics.

Jia continued to watch the performance. It wasn't too bad. Honestly, it was actually really good. These idols were definitely branded five–stars for a reason. Their dancing was good, and their vocals were stable.

However, Jia's still not convinced why her friends are so crazy about the idol culture.

As the performance concluded, the stage transformed into a serene setting, with a moonlit backdrop and soft lighting. The center, Zeth, took center stage, exuding elegance. The three girls squealed as he performed a solo dance.

"Ah! I'm becoming a Zeth fan," Na-ri exclaimed. "I'm going to give him some stars when the voting period starts!"

"This Leo and Casper guy are quite good, too," Wei said.

"And Jaeyong is still the best!" Soo-min concluded.

The five-star performance was finished, leaving the fangirls in undeniable glee.

"That was so good!" they clapped. "I can't wait to watch it again. I don't think I can watch the other levels now."

"Let's just do it," Jia said.

"Oooh, are you becoming a fan?" Wei asked.

Jia clicked her tongue and clicked the four-stars video. She just felt that it would be unfair to only watch the highest star level. She caught a glimpse of the view counts and saw that the five stars already had more than 100,000 views.

The scene changed as the video was played. This time, the four-star trainees were in front of paint-covered walls. They delivered an energetic performance, their lyrics and dance flowing seamlessly as they confidently commanded the stage. They also wore schoolboy outfits, but they had a more casual vibe than the five-stars.

Lin Zhi stood at the center, and Jia immediately felt that something was off. However, her friends seem to think he's quite handsome. The stage transformed into a pyramid, and Lin Zhi stood at the very top, showcasing his charisma and skills.

"These trainees are good too!" Na-ri said. "I thought the five-stars were going to win by a lot. But, they're pretty close in skill."

"Yeah," Soo-min said. "Their stage has a different vibe. I still think the five-stars are going to win, though. Their stage was much more extravagant."

"Agreed," Wei said. "But I think I'm falling in love with the tall guy with a shy smile. Let's look at their profiles after this one. I think they're going to upload it soon too!"

The four-star video finished, and Soo-min immediately clicked the three-star video. It had a similar vibe to the other two performances, but it was clear that they didn't have much stage effects. Their outfits looked a bit cheaper too.

"They're good," Soo-min said. "They definitely won't win, though. It's nothing special."

"Agreed," Wei said. "The center's pretty good, though. Let's look him up too."

"It's bad," Jia suddenly interrupted. "Some of them are not in sync."

Na-ri clicked her tongue. "They're still cute! And I'm sure they're going to improve later on. Let's watch their video again later since I see some handsome trainees."

"Azure really brought it up a notch," Soo-min said. "There are a lot of handsome trainees."

"We're almost done," Wei said, causing Jia to internally rejoice.


The two stars' performance was shown on screen, and the ladies watched with lukewarm reactions. It's true that they were wearing schoolboy outfits, but it was the tackiest of them all.

It's like they just gave up.

"I feel bad for these trainees," Soo-min commented. "I think they're not happy with their level."

"Who would be?" Wei asked. "There are some good trainees I'm seeing, though," she added.

"They should have done a better job," Jia retorted. "It's shit."

The three girls gasped.

"Don't say that! They're doing their best," Na-ri defended.

Jia sighed. These girls and their rose-colored lenses. They already love the trainees when the first episode hasn't even aired yet.

It seemed like Jia wasn't the only one who didn't like the two-stars performance, though. Countless comments from netizens criticized them for looking bored and committing mistakes.

By the time the two-stars performance was finished, Jia already felt quite tired. She knew she wanted to give everyone a chance just moments ago, but now all she wanted was to lie down in bed.

"Is it finally over?" she asked, leaning against the couch. "I'm going to sleep now."

"Wait!" Soo-min exclaimed. "There's still one video left—the zero stars."

Jia scoffed. "Zero stars? That's the worst. Why would you even join the show when you have zero skills?"

"I don't know," Wei said. "But let's give them a chance. They only have 5,000 views so far."

Jia wanted to laugh. Well, they're definitely not going to win. She could already imagine what kind of performance they would pull off since the two-stars already did quite badly.

The video played, and it was obvious that the four girls were less interested in the zero-star performance compared to anyone else. The first scene was black, creating a sense of mystery.

Then, the flat stage was illuminated, showing the small bundle of zero-star trainees.

The girls looked at the TV in shock as the camera panned closer to the trainees. Even Jia, who was just about to sleep a while ago, straightened her back and looked at the scene with disbelief.

Unlike the other levels, they weren't wearing schoolboy outfits.

Instead, they wore animal onesies? There's a dinosaur, a fox, a dog, an alligator and even an ant?

The room was silent as they started to dance, their skills showing that they were indeed zero-stars. However, much to their surprise, it appeared like they weren't making any mistakes. Their moves were lousy but they were in sync!

The four girls didn't know how to react as the beginning dance was finished. Then, they burst into laughter.

"I can't believe this!"

"This is genius!"

"Fuck, I've never seen something so funny in Rising Stars."

The camera focused on the middle, and June, who was the only one wearing a mask, was shown. The girls burst into laughter once again. His moves were lousy like the other trainees, but they appeared better compared to the other ones. A group shot was shown, and all of them looked like fish out of water. Even Jia let out a tiny chuckle.

"Who the hell is that?" Jia asked. "Why did they allow a trainee to wear a mask?"

"Ah, my stomach hurts," Wei continued to laugh.

However, as the first line was sung by the trainee with a mask, they all became silent.

Jia's eyes widened in surprise.

This funny guy could actually sing?

The girls had never been so engrossed in watching a performance. It was filled with laughter, disbelief, and more laughter.

And before they even knew it, they replayed the video once again.