The Honda Center was packed for the SM Town concert. It was 6:30 PM local time, and the concert was going to start in a half hour.
"Go in through that entrance," Key said, and Kori turned left and drove through a huge gate. There was an American guard there with a clipboard. "Stop the car," Key said. "I'll talk to him."
Kori did so, and Key jumped out of the car and started to talk with the man in English. They were able to go straight through and drove through the parking lot to the loading area. Kori parked the car, and SHINee jumped out. As they did, they were surrounded by managers, stylists, and hairdressers.
"We're late," Key yelled back. "We'll see you both in a bit! We have to get ready!"
One of the managers walked up to Kori and Karen. "You are the two girls who helped them, correct?" she asked in accented but sturdy English.
Kori nodded. "Yes, we are."
Karen watched the guys disappear through a door. "Did they get here in time?"
"Yes," the manager said, handing Kori and Karen two lanyards with cards on them. "These are your backstage passes. Please wear them at all times."
Both Kori and Karen thanked the manager in Korean and followed her through a separate door. They were led through a hallway and then through a door on their right.
The SM Town stage panned out in front of them. The crowd was all around them, and they were right next to the stage. And right in front was f(x), kicking off the concert with LA chA TA right as the door was opening.
"If you stand here, you can catch the entire concert," the manager said before leaving.
Kori and Karen smiled at each other and tried not to squeal too loudly. This was a dream come true!
f(x) performed Electric Shock and Hot Summer, and then the lights dimmed as a video played that Kori and Karen couldn't see from their vantage point. They couldn't hear it, either, over the screaming fans. Then, out of nowhere, the spotlights were back on the stage and on Girls' Generation, as they performed The Boys. This set list was longer, as they sang Oh!, Run, Devil, Run, and Tell Me Your Wish. Taeyeon, Tiffany, and Seohyun sang Twinkle before everybody launched into a super-long, spectacular version of Gee. Everybody sang along and did the choreography, including Kori and Karen.
The stage darkened again and stayed that way for a couple of minutes. "Is SHINee up next?" Karen asked Kori.
Kori nodded. "I think so."
Then, the crowd exploded into screams. Kori and Karen looked up, and there were Onew, Jonghyun, Key, Minho, and Taemin, posed and ready. Kori had to bite her lip not to squeal again. Karen felt nervous, even though she wasn't on stage. Her eyes went to Minho, the cool, calm, extremely good looking guy whom she had liked ever since she had found out about SHINee.
She blinked, and they snapped into Sherlock, lost in the music. Each member shone on their own as the crowd sang along and chanted with the music. Taemin looked as if he was having so much fun, and Jonghyun was in front, even more sassy and sure than he had been in real life. Everybody screamed louder when the Almighty Key took center stage. Onew was his confident self, and Karen sneaked a look at her best friend. True to form, Kori's eyes hadn't left the singer. Karen had to smile inside. Onew was Kori's number one bias, even though she kept it a secret from everybody except Karen herself.
She suddenly got an idea, but filed it in the back of her head. If everything worked according to plan, it would be an excellent surprise, one that Kori very much deserved.
Her eyes then went to Minho...sweet, perfect Minho, the same boy she had watched ten thousand times over in promotional videos and Inkigayo concerts and fun YouTube shorts and in To The Beautiful You, which she had gobbled up the previous summer. And he was here. And there was a possibility that he might even go with her to prom tomorrow, if they worked it out with her school. They wanted to, as thanks for Kori getting them to the show on time. All five of them.
Karen loved them all, but she loved Minho the most.
It was over in a blur -- Hello, Dream Girl, Why So Serious?, Replay, and then Lucifer to end. SHINee traded places with EXO, and Karen found the same manager as before by her side.
"Would you like to speak with the boys now?" she asked.
Karen tugged on Kori's sleeve. She would love to stay for EXO's set, but she would give anything to have a chance to talk to Minho again.
Kori and Karen were led out of the Honda Center and down another hallway, to another room. The room was painted green, and everything in it was green: the couches, the tables, the chairs, everything. "This is one of the green rooms," the manager said.
"No kidding," Kori muttered under her breath. She nervously tugged on her backstage pass lanyard.
No sooner did she tug than the door opened again and all five boys of SHINee came into the room. They all saw Kori and Karen and smiles flashed across their faces, and they came around the two girls in a circle.
"We would have never done it if it weren't for the two of you," Key said.
"We have to go on later as part of the final act," Jonghyun explained in Korean. "But until then, we can all hang out in this room. Is that okay?"
"More than okay!" Kori said with a smile.
A couple of caterers brought in some food for the band members: finger sandwiches, American hot dogs, and an entire bucket of chicken with the words "Onew Only" written on it. Kori sat on a couch between Onew and Taemin and chatted with the maknae in Korean, content to just be by her idol while he scarfed down pieces of chicken. Karen was about to grab some food when she felt someone's hand on her shoulder. When she turned, it was Minho, in the stylish blue shirt, black vest, and dark jeans he had been wearing on stage.
She tried not to stammer. "Um...um..."
"Are you having fun?" Minho asked in Korean, a smile on his face.
Karen nodded. "I am. Thank you for asking."
"You don't have to be so formal. You and your friend helped us out. Therefore, you are our friends now."
Karen nodded, then remembered her secret. She leaned in closer to Minho, not scared or nervous because she was doing this for Kori. "My best friend is awesome," she said to Minho. "She always helps people like that, and she never thinks of herself. You know that dance we're going to tomorrow?"
For the first time, Karen could see somewhat of a blush on Minho's face. He nodded.
"Well, she thinks it's okay for her to just go by herself and not make it special...but she's my best friend. I want to make it as special as I can for her."
"I understand," Minho said to Karen, putting his hand on Karen's shoulder. "We're shining SHINee. We'll do everything we can to make the dance perfect for Kori. And for you, as well."
Karen now felt the blush flood her face. "There's one more thing," she squeaked.
Minho's head cocked like a puppy. "What's that?"
"Um...if it's not too much to ask." Then she became filled with confidence again. She was asking this for her best friend, not for herself. "Kori's favorite SHINee member is Onew. It's always been that way." She looked at where Kori was sitting on the couch between Onew and Taemin, all three of them deep in a conversation about -- what else? -- the chicken Onew had just had. "I don't know if Onew would be able to help, or even if he would do anything special, but..."
Minho chuckled and gave Karen another sweet smile. "Onew-hyung is the sweetest person ever. I'll let him know. I assume you want this to be kept a secret from your friend?"
Karen nodded. "At all costs."
Minho nodded back as they both heard a crash. Looking over, they saw that Jonghyun had knocked over the finger sandwiches by accident. His hands were up in the air. "I didn't do it!" he said, looking around the room for someone else to 'blame.'
Minho looked at Karen, and they both shrugged. "We might want to go fix that."