1

Never in June's life was his voice compared to shit. Even as a gangster, he received compliments from those who heard him sing.

Even Mei Ling enjoyed his singing despite her unusually high standards. Not to mention, Lee Sik was also impressed when he first heard June sing! Heck, he was even able to capture the heart of one of the greatest actress-singers of all time, Jihyun!

How could this old woman call his voice shit when he had only sung a few lines of a song he didn't even prepare for?

"I'll sing again then," June said, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

Magic Mama stood from the piano chair and made her way to the couch, sitting with a loud thud while checking her dark blue nails.

"Nah, that's fine," she said. "Call your manager and ask him to take you home. I've heard enough."

June clicked his tongue. "You didn't even give me enough time to prepare!"

Magic Mama stopped looking at her nails and stared June in the eyes.

"A great singer will always be prepared," she smiled.

Then, June was taken aback when she suddenly started singing an opera song, her controlled voice resonating in the room. Even though she was sitting down with her feet propped up on the small table before her, it did not compromise the quality of her voice.

[Magic Mama

Vocals: SSS+]

June's eyes widened as he saw her stats paired with the sound of her amazing voice.

Lee Sik wasn't joking when he said she was the best singer he had ever met.

Her voice was out of this world! Almost like a siren and an angel combined!

She finished the song with a proud smile, looking at June like she wanted to teach him a lesson.

"That's how a great singer sounds," she boasted. "You sounded like a meek little sheep just now. I don't take little sheep as my students. So, go home and think about your career. Oh, wait? You're an idol, right? Then, I guess you don't have to worry. Just continue looking pretty for the camera, and your audience will continue supporting you."

June frowned at the old woman's discriminatory words.

"Being an idol is so much more than that," he defended.

"Yeah, convince me that idols don't just sexualize and infantalize themselves in front of the camera," she smirked. "It doesn't matter if you have talent anyway, you just need to look good and you're good to go! You have it easy, kid. Just admit it."

At first, he also had the same mindset as Magic Mama. However, after Rising Stars ended and he experienced the real life of an idol, he realized it was more than what the public deemed it to be.

"Idols need to sing well, dance well, look well, and always act well," June started off, looking into Magic Mama's eyes.

"We need to sing while dancing. We can't lip sync a word, but sometimes, people will say that it's better for us to lip sync. We can be good-looking but not too good-looking because then we would have gotten plastic surgery."

"We should always be thankful, but we also shouldn't show that we're too thankful because we seem boastful. We should enjoy the music we put out, but the public needs to enjoy it more."

"We can't fall in love. We can't freely walk down the streets. We can't smell even if we've practiced the entire day. We can't just be human!"

"They want us to be perfect—sing like angels, dance like it's magic, look like movie stars. And sure, we signed up for this, but sometimes it feels like we're juggling with a million expectations!"

"The pursuit of perfection? It's like chasing a rainbow—you never quite catch it no matter how hard you try! So, no, I can't just sit still and look pretty while waiting for my paycheck," he ended his speech with a deep breath.

June was expecting Magic Mama to apologize for his assumptions. However, he was surprised when he saw her picking her teeth.

"Were you even listening?" June asked, making her snap back to reality.

"Oh," she said, finally looking at June. "You're finally done?"

June's frown deepened. "What do you mean by finally?"

She smiled as she tilted her head to the side. "I didn't listen to any of that. It was too long. I'm happy for you, I guess…or I'm sorry that happened."

June looked at her with disbelief.

"Now that you're finished with your little boy rant, why don't you get going? This old woman will get herself some grapes, wine, and cheese!" she exclaimed, standing from the couch.

June pursed his lips in anger and remained in his position.

Magic Mama looked at him with raised eyebrows.

"You're not going to leave?" she asked.

June didn't respond and sat before the piano.

"Hey, don't touch my—"

June cut her off as he started playing the piano loudly. She halted as he continued angrily hitting the piano, his fingers not missing a single note.

Then, he started singing with his heart, trying to get rid of the frustrations he was currently feeling.

"I'm a canvas of dreams, but they paint their own,

Lost in the crowd, just a face unknown.

They say, "Be perfect," but perfect is a lie,

Struggling for attention, under the spotlight."

June glared at Magic Mama as he continued singing.

"A puppet on strings, they pull every chord,

In a world so loud, my voice is ignored.

They say, "Be grateful," but what for, I ask?

In this sea of neglect, I'm drowning, unmasked."

He ended the song with heavy breaths, still looking into the old woman's eyes.

The two of them were stuck in silence for quite some time before Magic Mama started clapping, a small smile creeping on her lips.

June's frown deepened.

"What are you clapping for?" he snapped.

"Did that feel good?" she asked.

June sighed in annoyance. "What do you mean?"

"You sounded very restricted during the first time you sang. I didn't see much potential in you. However, now I see why Lee Sik had recommended you."

June's frown lines slowly smoothened.

Seeing the smile on her face, June's heart felt more at ease. It was as if the scary woman's personality had dialed down by a fraction.

"Congratulations," she clapped, the smile not leaving her face. "Not many people make it to this part of the test."

"Test?" June asked.

She went closer to him and patted his back.

"You passed the test!"