"As a child, I had a craving. I was starving for something, but I didn't know what it was. When I was 12 years old, I found it through 5year, the popular idol group with a member just like me. The twinkle in their eyes when they performed, the loud shouting of the crowd giving encouragement, the costumes, the music. I wanted all of it. For three years, I pretended I was one of them. Practicing my skills from singing and dancing to facial expressions and posing. But I couldn't have ever practiced or prepared for the road I was about to go down."
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"Minami! You know, there's an audition going on for a new group, I think you should go!" A perky brunette bounced up to Minami, starting the conversation before she even fully approached, a gleaming smile plastered on her face, reaching from ear to ear.
She grabbed onto the mint-colored lace of Minami's knee-length dress and swayed from side to side once she got face to face, "It's got your name written ALL over it!"
"Really?! What's the age range, Saki?" A wide, toothy grin exploded across Minami's face as she tucked a strand of her blondish brown hair behind her ear.
Her heart began to race at the mere thought of what could come from this audition and she began to excitedly bounce in place.
"Ages 12 to 16! You're in the running! Want to come to my house to practice? I can give you some pointers if you want!" Saki was now mimicking Minami's excitement as she began to bounce in sync with her.
Despite being two years younger than Minami, Saki was praised a lot by their friends Juri and Akina for her skills. She had a youthful charm and energy that was unmatched by anyone they knew, and just like Minami, she also had the dream of becoming a famous idol.
"If you're willing to, then let's go!" Minami grabbed hold of Saki's hand and began tugging her towards Saki's home.
The two had met online, along with Juri, Akina and Naoto and none of them went to the same school. Akina lived the farthest away and could only meet up during weekends, Juri was the next farthest, but she was still within a decent range to meet up fairly often, Naoto never said where he lived although he still managed to meet up with them all, but Saki was the closest with the two living just a few miles away from one another.
The way to Saki's house was one Minami was very familiar with as the two had cliqued upon meeting right away and often spent lots of time together.
Upon entering Saki's home, they immediately ran up to Saki's bedroom.
It was small with a twin-sized bed on the wall opposite the door. Her bed was covered with a pink bedspread with strawberries decorating it, big fluffy pink pillows to match and a few stuffed animals here and there.
A dresser with various hair accessories on top was next to the door and against the wall in between the two was a desk overlooking a large window which was home to a cheap computer and numerous stacks of 5year CDs.
Her walls were littered with overlapping posters of the girl group, 5year and Iwata Miyako – Saki's favorite 5year member.
5year was one of the biggest idol groups around at the moment. They were originally a project group that was supposed to be around for only a maximum of 5 years. However, their popularity was so large and unexpected that they became an official group.
It was because of them that Minami, Juri, Saki, Naoto and Akina had bonded and become friends in the first place, although that bond was cemented when Minami, Juri, Saki and Akina learned they had the same dream of debuting as idols as well.
"What song will you do?" Saki flopped on her bed and puffed out air, causing her straight-cut bangs to flap upwards and reveal her forehead. "You should probably decide on that first right?"
"I want to do The Dawn! It's my favorite song right now and I know it like the back of my hand! I even learned the choreography to it!" Minami dropped her bag on the floor, in between the door and the dresser, making sure it was out of the way. "I think it also suits me pretty well."
"Oh, I love that song! Let's see you do it!" Saki sat up immediately after hearing the song declaration.
It was 5year's newest single and was garnering attention for its difficult choreography – which was something 5year didn't typically attempt.
However, Minami's aunt was a famous ballerina and her mother had been a dancer in her younger years too, so dancing was in her blood, and she had no issue learning it.
With Saki's go ahead, Minami pulled out her phone and placed it on one of the CD piles, which was the only available space for it at the moment.
After hitting play, she quickly stepped to the middle of the room. It was actually quite cramped with very little free space in between the bed and the dresser, but that was no problem for Minami. 'I can make any stage work!' is something she would tell herself often.
She held one hand to her mouth, pretending that she was holding a microphone, and sang the song while nailing the choreography.
As the music played, the room suddenly shifted.
The walls became large seating areas filled with fans holding up baby blue blight sticks and shouting her name, a plain white ceiling transformed into large spotlights that shone only on her.
As she turned around with one of the dance moves, a large screen appeared on the back wall, displaying Minami's image digitally in large scale, while the door to the outside was now the road to backstage.
She added in various winks and waves, interacting with the pretend crowd, and twists on certain moves to make them unique to her performance.
Beads of sweat rolled down her temples as she froze in place with the ending pose, her chest rapidly moved up and down as she fought to catch her breath, and her lips remained upcurved.
Saki clapped vigorously. "Oh my god! That was SOOOOO good! Minami, you really did that so good! I would make it a little cuter though. Try to be EXTRA cute, like extra EXTRA cute. Really play up your cuteness and be more upbeat! Then I think they won't be able to say no to you at all."
"Like this?" Minami replayed the song and continued the performance, over acting certain cute movements and playing up her facial expressions and adding a little more bounce in her step.
She changed her voice to sound even cuter as well, hoping to bring the whole thing together. By the end of the second round, she felt sticky from sweat and sat down crisscross on the floor.
"That was PERFECT! L-O-V-E! LOVELY MINAMI!" Saki fist pumped in the air and shouted out as if she were a fan in the audience.
"Do you…..really think I'll get it?" Minami gasped for air, trying hard to keep the smile on her face low-key, but it was fighting its way back up to her ears again pretty hard.
"I DO! No, actually, I don't think, I KNOW you're going to pass! If you do it just like you did it right now, you're going to pass for sure!" Saki jumped up and sat next to Minami, leaning over and wrapping her arms around her tightly, "Oh my gosh, you're gonna be so famous!"
Since Saki had informed Minami late, the last day of walk-in auditions was only three days away from when they had started practicing.
Every day, during school lunch hour, before and after class, Minami practiced her audition, exactly the way Saki had told her each and every time. Now the day had finally come. It had only been three days away, but it felt more like a lifetime, and Minami nervously entered the audition room.
So much was riding on this for her. Today, her dream would either come true or it would be ripped out from under her and she'd have to wait again for another opportunity.
The panel of judges sat sternly in the sterile room; arms crossed against their chests. They'd seen thousands of auditions throughout the two weeks they were holding walk-ins, and that wasn't even including the private auditions that had happened prior to that.
The thought of having to stand out above everyone else was daunting no doubt, but Minami had faith she could do it.
She wore a white tank-top with frills decorating the front of it and a black skater skirt with white thigh high socks and white mary-janes.
She wore her hair in high side pony with a big black ribbon and a star clip on the side. It was her favorite outfit currently and she felt like a star in it, and she definitely needed the confidence boost.
"Ishihara Minami, age 15?" one of the judge's voices echoed throughout the room as they read a document on the table.
Minami nodded, "Yes, that's me."
"Why are you auditioning today?" Another one of the judges inquired.
Minami stared for a moment in surprise. That was a question they'd already asked on her audition form and she was quite sure why they were asking again.
"Why are you auditioning today?" They repeated, and louder this time to make sure the delay in response wasn't due to a hearing issue.
She jumped, startled at the sudden volume, but quickly composed herself. "I love music and I love performing.
The music and performances that an idol gives is full of energy, love and encouragement. I've received those feelings as an audience member and as a fan, and I want to pass that on and give it to someone else. I belong on the stage. I have to be there."
The judges raised their eyebrows and each began writing things down on their respective documents, nodded and "mm"-ing as they wrote.
"And you'll be auditioning with 'The Dawn' by 5year, correct?"
"Yes! That is correct!"
"Okay, please tell us when you're ready to start."
Minami jumped to the black X on the floor, a marker for where the cameras could properly film her audition and just like what had happened in Saki's room, the audition area changed into a large stage with thousands of adoring fans.
She thought of Saki's encouraging words and how passionately she'd chanted and cheered for her. It gave her energy, it gave her the confidence and the drive to say, 'There is no other Minami in this world, I am the only one you'll ever get in your life,' through her performance.
So it began, her first taste of her dream, her audition of The Dawn by 5year.