Chapter 112. Popularity Poll

"Hello, this is Kang Seol Hee!"

"This is Jeon Seong Gook."

Dungeon Conquering Man's third shoot had begun.

"Mr. Seong Gook."

"Yes, Ms. Seol Hee?"

"Did you vote for your favorite team?"

The writers had created a popularity poll in order to force teams to compete, and to garner interest. 

"Of course."

"Who did you vote for?"

"That's a secret."

"I voted for my favorite team too. Shall we see which team our viewers are most interested in?"

Once she was finished, the giant screen showed 'Team Rankings'.

"Du-du-du-du-du-du!" Jeon Seong Gook said.

This is probably where they'd add some sound effects.

"Now then, let's see who placed 4th!" Kang Seol Hee yelled.

Then, the last place team showed up on the screen.

"The 4th place team is Mr. Jake and Ms. Hye Yeon!"

Jake was Caucasian foreigner, but he was a broadcaster said to have a better Korean pronunciation than native Koreans.

Choi Hye Yeon was a new up-and-coming singer.

'I knew they'd be 4th.'

Though the team consisted of a popular broadcaster and a celebrity, they didn’t show anything particularly interesting while they conquered their dungeons. 

"Jake, you're dead last. You should work harder," Seong Gook said.

"Oh, what's 'last place' mean? Korean is hard, so... I'm not sure."

Jake shrugged his shoulders and spoke awkwardly, causing the others around him to laugh.

Normally, he would speak immaculate Korean, but he would occasionally act like a stereotypical foreigner that had trouble speaking the language. 

"Now then. Who's next?"

Seol Hee continued along.

A new team showed up on the screen.

"In 3rd place, Mr. Bae Shik and Ms. Lisa!"

In 3rd place was the streamer, Park Bae Shik and Lisa, a beautiful rapper. 

"Hmm. I voted for Mr. Bae Shik and Ms. Lisa, but you're in 3rd place," Jeon Seong Gook said regrettably. 

Then, he asked Bae Shik a question.

"Mr. Bae Shik. How do you feel about being in 3rd place?"

"Hoo, hoo. It's going just as planned."

"Just as planned?"

"At first, we'll be 3rd. Then we'll be 2nd. And at the end, we'll be 1st! Doesn't that sound good?" Bae Shik said.

However...!

"Hmm. Wouldn't it have been better to start from 4th place and work yourself up to 1st?" Jeon Seong Gook sharply pointed out.

"That's... Ahem. Anyway, it's going as planned. I'm looking at the big picture here."

"Hoo, hoo. I understand. I wonder if things will really go your way."

Seong Gook finished up, sporting a mischievous expression. 

He immediately passed the baton to Seol Hee.

"Now all that's left is 1st and 2nd place. Let's show 1st place first!"

The 1st place team showed up on the screen.

"In first place is... Mr. Oga and Ms. Soo Ah!"

Bum-pa-bum-bum!

'Oh. We're 1st place.'

His mouth, which wasn't covered up by the helmet, curled into a smile.

1st place only mattered at the end, but having a good start wasn’t bad. 

"Oppa, we got 1st place."

Soo Ah smiled.

"Apparently. This is all because of you, Ms. Popular Idol," Kang Oh said. 

"Of course. It's all because of me! Ahem!"

Soo Ah stood tall and put her hands on her waist.

Then...

"Ms. Soo Ah. How does it feel to be in 1st place?" Jeon Seong Gook asked.

"I'd like to thank all of the viewers who voted for us, and I promise to show you even more in the future. I love you!"

"Then, Mr. Oga."

Jeon Seong Gook sported a serious expression.

"Yes?"

"Are you still going to give me such short answers, even though you've come in 1st?"

"Yes."

"Ahem. Anyway, please tell us how you feel. Please make it a little longer. Please!"

Jeon Seong Gook begged exaggeratingly, causing the others to burst out laughing. Jae Woo just giggled.

"The true victor is the one who comes out on top at the end. I'll do my best to come out as the final victor."

Jae Woo stared at Jeon Seong Gook, seemingly saying, 'How's that? That's enough, right?'.

Of course, Jeon Seong Gook kept up the act.  

"It's still too short! Thank you," Jeon Seong Gook said sarcastically, causing the others to burst out laughing.

However...

There was one person who wasn't or couldn't laugh.

It was Yoon Se Hwa.

* * *

'Why are you above me?'

A persistent feeling rose up from the deep recesses of her heart.

Jealousy.

'Why are you more popular than me?'

Yoon Se Hwa gritted her teeth.

In the past, the two of them had been trainees at the same agency, and had a senior-junior relationship.

At the time, Yoon Se Hwa had been more popular than her.

After all, she had her debut ahead of her, while Soo Ah didn't know when she'd make her debut like many of the other trainees.

If her debut hadn't been cancelled, then she would've debuted as a part of Triple Lower, not Soo Ah.

However, several unfortunate circumstances piled up, forcing them to cancel Yoon Se Hwa's debut. 

Ultimately, she was forced to move agencies in order to make her debut, and had to make her debut in Fortune.

A short while later...

Soo Ah took her place, debuting as a part of Triple Lower.

Not only that, but she was extremely popular. So much so that their groups couldn't even be compared.

Whenever she saw Triple Lower on the music channel at number 1, she couldn't forget this feeling of jealousy.

Soo Ah in the spotlight, laughing with her past colleagues!

'That was my spot!'

She wanted to yell.

Yoon Se Hwa also couldn't stop thinking that she was 'damaged goods'. 

They'd only swapped her with Soo Ah, yet Triple Lower was able to make their debut and were doing so well lately!

Wasn't that like saying she was damaged goods?

Whenever she saw Soo Ah on TV or encountered her, she would be weighed down by feelings of failure, jealousy, hate, envy, etc. Persistent feelings that would make her feel wretched, but would never go away.

Ultimately, she would be swept up by these negative feelings, causing her to feel angry and bully Soo Ah whenever she saw her.

The popularity poll wasn't a big deal, but seeing Soo Ah beat her in something made her unable to laugh.

Those negative emotions welled up within her once more. She wanted to unleash all these feelings onto her.

Then...

Seong Gook, who'd finished speaking with Jae Woo, approached her.

"Ah, Ms. Se Hwa. Unfortunately, you only placed 2nd. How do you feel?"

"..."

Her face was as stiff as a rock. She couldn't smile like an idol right now.

"Ms. Se Hwa?" he called.

"Yes..."

"Could you tell us how you feel?"

"It's unfortunate, but I'll have to do better... to reach 1st place."

Yoon Se Hwa forced herself to speak. That's why she was barely able to smile. But to everyone else, it looked like she wanted to cry.

"Yes, I understand. Then, Mr. Tae Gyu..."

Seon Gook realized that something was off with her, and quickly switched to Tae Gyu.

After that, the shoot continued.

* * *

"Let's move on to choosing dungeons. Please show us the level 3 dungeons!" Kang Seol Hee said.

A short while later...

All the teams had finished picking their dungeons.

Jae Woo and Soo Ah had picked Ingrit Outpost. 

Their mission was to kill the three named monsters there.

"Now then, everyone please show us some amazing plays so that our viewers vote for you."

Kang Seol Hee clenched her fists.

"Good luck!" Jeon Seong Gook added.

"Cut."

"Participants, we'll gather in the capsule room in 30 minutes."

"Phew, we're finally done."

Jae Woo stood up.

"Good job."

"It's a lot more tiring than I thought it would be."

Jae Woo massaged his shoulder.

Just breathing felt tiring to him, perhaps because of the intense lightning and the countless people watching.

"You're only like that because you've never had a hard shoot. This is really comfortable; it's like we're in our beds at home."

Soo Ah spoke to him like he was an outsider.

"Really?"

"Yes. It's a lot tougher when you're filming outside. In comparison, shooting in a studio is much easier."

Jae Woo nodded his head.

Then...

Yoon Se Hwa came over.

"Hey, you."

Yoon Se Hwa pointed her finger in Soo Ah's face.

Jae Woo and Soo Ah couldn't help but scowl.

"Don't you dare act all high and mighty just because you beat me in a stupid popularity poll! If you do, then I won't let you off the hook!" Yoon Se Hwa said angrily.

What she'd just said was completely groundless.

It made sense though, since Yoon Se Hwa just wanted to get all that off her chest.

"Unni."

Soo Ah stared at her with an expression as cold as ice.

"W-What?"

She was taken aback; this was the first time she'd seen Soo Ah like this.

"I told you last time. That you're acting unseemly."

"H-How dare you tell your senior..."

"Then start acting like one," Soo Ah snapped.

'You're doing good!'

Jae Woo wanted to clap at her performance.

"What?"

"Let's go, Oppa."

Soo Ah dragged him away.

Yoon Se Hwa stared at Soo Ah's retreating figure, but all she could do was bite her lip.

* * *

"Why is she like that anyway?" Jae Woo asked after they'd gotten away from Yoon Se Hwa.

He'd been curious about Soo Ah and Yoon Se Hwa's relationship, but he'd restrained himself from asking her thus far. He finally caved and just asked her.

"I think she's... jealous," Soo Ah said carefully.

It felt like she wasn't sure, but was making an assumption.

"Jealous?"

"Yes. She must think that I stole her spot."

"Stole her spot?"

Jae Woo tilted his head.

"Originally, she was supposed to debut as a part of Triple Lower. However, the debut was cancelled, and Unni moved to another agency..."

"So you became a member of Triple Lower."

"Yes."

"But that's not stealing. She left on her own volition."

"Whatever the case, she may feel that I've stolen from her."

"Were you at all connected to the cancellation of Yoon Se Hwa's debut?" Jae Woo asked carefully.

"No, not at all. I had nothing to do with it. Back then, I had just entered as a trainee."

"That's it?"

"Yes. After I debuted, she acts like that whenever we meet. So that must mean it happened before my debut... I can't think of anything else."

"Really? Then she's just making a fuss over nothing."

‘What a bitch!’

"In any case, please don't worry about it. Once we're finished with the program, we won't have a chance to meet anyway."

"We'll see."

Jae Woo nodded his head.

If he got a chance to make her suffer, then he'd do it without hesitation.

He wouldn't hold back just because she was a woman.

"Thank you."

Soo Ah smiled, but it looked like she was doing it to mask her fatigue. 

Jae Woo wanted to comfort her, so he patted her head.

"Huh?"

"You did good. Keep it up."

"Ok," Soo Ah said, bowing her head to hide her blush.

"Good. Let's head over to the capsule room."

"Ok."

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