"Aww," Jisung said in disappointment, causing Zeth to chuckle.

"Do you hate that I've won?" he chuckled.

Jisung blushed. "Oh, of course not, brother! I was just— umm, you know? Rooting for my friend...," he awkwardly tried to evade the situation.

"I get it," Zeth said, patting Jisung's back. "It was a close match, right?"

June stood up, and Zeth immediately went next to him.

"That was a good match, little brother," he smiled.

"We weren't even fighting," June said. "We're a team."

Zeth suddenly stopped, causing June to look at him.


"How come you always say the right things?" he exasperatedly asked.

June scoffed and shook his head before walking backstage. As he walked in, he was surprised to see the other trainees anticipating their return.

"Wooh!" he heard C-Jay and Jangmoon cheer from a distance. "That's our brother right there! He almost beat the first place, ya'll!"

June sighed and covered his face with his hand before standing over to where their team was supposed to be.

Akira was right beside him since the teams from the same categories were next to each other. Akira nudged June's shoulder. June raised his eyebrows in inquiry.

"You were so cool back there," Akira winked. "You made Jaeyong cry."

June glanced at Jaeyong, who was on the other side of the room, and shook his head.

June scoffed. "I don't believe you," he said. "That guy would never cry."

"He did," Akira chuckled. "Just wait until the show airs."

Their conversation was put to a halt when Kang Minho entered the room. With a confident smile, he trudged to the podium with cue cards in his hand. The trainees remained silent, each hoping for their respective teams to emerge victorious.

"I won't delay this any further," Minho said. "I know all of you are tired after the short preparations, but bear with me, my trainees. For 'Rap and Dance,' the team that impressed the audience the most is team 'Shake It!'"

Casper's team rejoiced while their competitors hung their heads low but accepted the outcomes.

"Moving on to the next category," Kang Minho continued, "Under the 'Vocal and Rap' category, the team that left an indelible mark was 'Forever Young.' Congratulations, you have won the 100,000-star benefit."

Once again, the room erupted in cheers as the winner was unveiled. The trainees, led by Hyunwoo, exchanged looks of elation. Hyunwoo smirked in victory, feeling like the most talented person in the room.

Anticipation was built for the final category, yet almost all of the trainees already knew who would win. June was a hundred percent sure of it too. It would be impossible for their team not to win.

He was wrong about his ranking a while ago, but now, he was a hundred percent sure.

June can even bet his right pinky for this.

"And finally, for the Vocal and Dance category," Minho announced, drawing out the suspense, "the team that truly captivated the audience and the judges with their performance is…"

"Team Aces who performed 'I Love You, Leave; I Don't Love You, Don't Leave.' Let us congratulate them for not only delivering an emotionally charged performance but also earning recognition from the original artist backstage," he added.

"They were watching?"

"Hwan actually liked the performance?

"There's no doubt. They did a really good job."

Amid the conversations, Minho had one more surprise up his sleeve. "But that's not all," he declared, his voice carrying an air of excitement. "The team that has earned the highest overall stars for their performances will receive an extra fifty thousand stars!"

A hushed silence fell over the room as the magnitude of the additional reward sank in. And then, with a dramatic pause, Minho announced, "And the team that has earned the overall highest stars is none other than… Team Aces!"

"Damn," Akira whispered by his side. "You just packed 150,000 stars. Give some to me, bro."

June chuckled as he looked at C-Jay and Jangmoon, who were cheering even louder than he was. "I think they'd need it more than you do."

After the announcement of the winners, it was now time for some auxiliary announcements.

Minho cleared his throat, and the room turned silent once more. "As you all know, after the missions, there's an inevitable event that comes right after — the eliminations."

A collective sigh was heard in the room, causing Minho to chuckle. "I know that all of you would like to stay in the competition, but I'm afraid that's not how it works. So, ready yourselves, trainees. The second mission will be airing for two weeks, so make sure to prepare yourselves for the live eliminations the week after. The production crew will contact you for the next events of the competition, but for now, you will be given a break."

"Yes! I've been dying to go home."

"I can't believe I'm saying this, but I really miss my mom."

"I'm going to miss the cafeteria ladies here. My mom's food tastes like shit."

"So, with that, we shall be seeing you after next week's episode for another mission. Make sure to stay tuned for updates. Thank you, trainees," Minho said, waving his hand goodbye.

"Thank you, Mentor," the trainees bowed their heads until Kang Minho was out of sight.

As soon as he was gone, his friends huddled over at June.

"What are you guys going to do on this break?"

"Nothing," June said.

He was telling the truth.

He wanted to do nothing at all.

Maybe he'd upgrade his skills from here and there, but he wants to relax after the tiring week.

"Oh, come on, brother! Why don't we go out, huh?" Akira asked. "Can we come to your place again?"

"That's right! Let's watch the next episode at your place," Jangmoon bounced.

June sighed. "You're not going."

C-Jay smirked and crossed his arms in front of his chest. "Too late. Expect us there, brother."

June shook his head. "I won't open the door for you. So, I'm serious. Don't come," he seriously said.

C-Jay raised his arms in surrender. "Gee, sorry, brother. We won't come."

Jisung checked his phone and smiled. "My parents are here to pick me up," he said. "I'll get going first."

"Sure," Akira said. "My uncle's on his way, too."

"Aww, good for you, guys," Jangmoon said. "My mom only called me a cab."

C-Jay stuck his tongue out. "Sucks for you. I'm going out for dinner with my family today."

Jangmoon rolled his eyes. "Whatever," he spat. "What about you, big brother? Is someone picking you up?"

June shook his head. "I'll go on my own."

"Oh, right," Minx said. "Your parents aren't from here, right?"

"Yeah," June nonchalantly said. They're in heaven…or hell. He didn't know, but they definitely weren't here.

"I need to take the bus, so I have to go," June said, robotically waving at them before leaving.

He didn't bother turning around as C-Jay called for him.

He just wanted to go home and have a good night's sleep. It's been a while since he's had an eight-hour sleep.

However, just as he was about to leave the building, somebody suddenly tugged on his arm and pulled him to a secluded area.