Today marked the day when the 100 boys finally shot the first episode of "Rising Stars." Black vans with tinted windows drove through the driveway of the large venue, dropping off their precious trainees. Smaller companies had smaller cars, but at least they still had managers and trainers.

June had no choice but to take the bus since he was broke and had no money to pay for a taxi. He was already in his stage outfit—a simple black shirt, leather jacket, ripped jeans, and rubber shoes. His black outfit became the blank canvas for his pink cat mask.

The people whispered as they looked at June.

Is he a cosplayer? Or a busker? Or maybe he's part of a kid's show?

The kids all looked at him with wonder, and he was even approached by a little girl who tugged on his sleeve.

"What ya want?" he asked.

The little girl's eyes sparkled when the pink cat talked. She hugged his thighs, not planning to let go. He saw phone cameras being whipped out, directing them toward the scene. He sighed and let the girl be. June was sure she was going to get tired at one point.

On the other hand, trainees started walking inside the venue. They were given separate waiting rooms, proving Azure's wealth and power. The waiting rooms were filled with excitement and nervous energy. The trainees practiced while waiting for their turn to come in.

Even here, the favoritism couldn't be hidden. Big companies were given much larger rooms, while smaller, unknown companies barely had room to practice.

The independent trainees, which consisted of only four people, had a small hallway-like room. The three of them were going to perform a song together, so they were practicing in the small space. June entered the room, causing the three to halt.

They focused their attention on the guy with a pink cat mask. They were surprised, wondering if Azure was pranking them.

"Umm, hello?" Jiyong, a short guy with thick eyebrows, asked. He was handsome but not idol material.

June nodded in acknowledgment and sat on one of the seats.

The three trainees still felt awkward around him.

"Are you June? The other independent trainee?" Xin, a pale, thin guy with small eyes, asked.

June nodded his head, still not talking.

Hoon clicked his tongue. He already didn't like this brother's attitude. "Well, we're going to practice. Don't bother us," he said.

"Weird guy," he told the two other trainees. They nodded their heads in agreement.

On the other hand, June closed his eyes and decided to sleep. He stayed up all night to practice since he only got to decide his song after Minjun went to his apartment.

He only opened his eyes when he heard a commotion inside the room. The TV in the small room was turned on, and the first set of trainees started coming in.

A breathtaking spectacle unfolded before the boys' eyes. The stage for the "Rising Stars" competition showed a dazzling display of brilliance and modernization. It was a magnificent fusion of cutting-edge technology and artistic craftsmanship.

The vast stage stretched across the entire hall, adorned with towering LED screens that form a mesmerizing backdrop of ever-changing visuals. The screens came alive with vibrant colors and pulsating graphics, immersing the contestants in a world of endless possibilities.

Multiple tiers were strategically placed on the stage, creating dynamic levels for the boys to perform their talents. The stage's centerpiece is a colossal crystal chandelier suspended from the ceiling, casting a soft and ethereal glow over the entire space. One hundred seats were placed on varying platforms, with the top ten seats in the middle, the light slightly brighter on these seats. June was sure the trainees would scramble to get to the middle for more screen time.

Three trainees walked in, wearing boyish school outfits. They watched as the lights turned on one by one, their mouth agape and their reactions a bit exaggerated.

"Woah!" a guy with the name tag "Zachary" exclaimed loudly. He seemed to be mixed, and his blonde hair looked natural. "This is crazy!"

"I can't believe we get to see this first," a shy-looking guy named Bin said softly.

June recognized the last trainee to be the young guy who called him "handsome" during the preliminary interviews.

The three immediately reached the top ten seats, sitting on numbers five, six, and seven, respectively. June thought right. He was sure the seats would be filled up before their turn. June also wanted to sit on one of those seats. Not because he wanted to be noticed right away but because it looked more comfortable. It was padded, unlike the hard plastic seats of the 11th-100th seat.

Independent trainees were usually shown near the end before all the bigger companies and most handsome trainees were revealed.

One by one, group by group, the trainees come in. June was getting sleepy amidst all of it.

The double doors swung open, and the next contestant, Daeho, stepped into the hall. Unlike the other trainees, this guy exuded confidence, his sharp features and flawless smile turning heads. He walked with purpose, aware of the attention he garnered. He's definitely going to be one of the fan favorites.

He walked toward the first seat without any hesitation, sitting down confidently.

The trainees in the hall looked at him with admiration and envy, wanting to sit on the first-place seat too.

"Independent trainees. You're up next," the female intern went in. She saw the familiar pink cat and halted for a while. She couldn't believe Yena and Yejin had actually accepted such a trainee.

The three other trainees went to the front, feeling excited. They wanted to intimidate the trainees right away. June, on the other hand, stood at the back, waiting to enter the hall.

There was one advantage to his mask, too. He didn't have to manage his facial expression since it was covered.

The word "Independent Trainees" were shown on the giant LED screen, and the other trainees exclaimed in awe.

"Woah, so cool. Our independent brothers."

"Independent trainees don't belong in companies. They had a harder time getting here."

"Oh, quite handsome, eh? But I'm more handsome."

The room buzzed with multiple comments. June knew that independent trainees were popular among the contestants. Still, it was harder to capture the attention of the general public.

After the three boys, June entered through the double doors and scanned the crowd. He tuned out their comments and tried to find a nearby seat.

"What is that? Why does one of the trainees have a pink cat mask?"