Chapter 7:

Let’s do it

Bonded by Music

It took Eloy a while to fall asleep that night, and just as he was fearing, when he woke up the next day, the reasons why he should not participate in the contest surpassed the advantages to do it.

For starters, his scholarship stipulated very clearly that he had to devote all his time to research during his stay. Not even part-time jobs were allowed, even though he knew that several other students did them anyway, like Cara, for example.

Also, he foresaw that the next summer months were going to be busy, filled with preparing even more articles, his thesis report, and presentations for upcoming conferences. In fact, the first one was in just two weeks.

And finally, his parents had always hated that kind of show. They thought they were fake and orchestrated, so imagining their disappointed faces was enough to make him want to abandon the whole idea.

Eloy spent the entire morning in the campus library. He hoped that focusing on his study of the Sengoku period would help him take that crazy idea out of his head. He then paused to have a quick lunch in the cafeteria, and continued working until it was 6 o’clock.

He sighed while starting to pick up his things. The prospect of telling Mako - and especially Genta - that he wouldn’t be participating wasn’t very appealing, but he had kinda promised that he would go to Harmony no matter his decision, and he planned to stick to that.

It was a one hour walk to the bar, and Eloy preferred that option over the subway despite having to carry his laptop. He wanted to make the most of the good weather while it lasted, as they would be entering June the next day, and rain would be frequent throughout the entire month.

It was a little past seven when he finally was in front of Harmony. Through the glass Eloy saw that there were more customers than the other day. All of them were looking to the other side of the bar where the stage was, even if Eloy couldn’t see it from his position.

He entered the bar, curious to see what was happening to attract everyone’s collective attention. He had barely time to notice both Mako and Narumi behind the counter, since his eyes rapidly traveled to the person sitting at the piano, who was none other than Genta.

Genta was playing a simplified version of ‘Demons’ by Imagine Dragons, but what left Eloy’s mouth half-opened was the way Genta was singing the lyrics. Given Genta’s usual way of talking, always bordering brusque, Eloy would have expected his voice to be somewhat gruff, but it was the complete opposite. It was clear and melodious, with such charisma that Eloy was certain he would recognize it anywhere.

Eloy’s mouth was still open in awe when Genta finished and some people applauded. A couple of teenage girls sitting at the table closest to the piano did so quite enthusiastically. Genta nodded once towards the girls as a thank you without changing his serious expression, causing these ones to giggle.

Genta’s gaze stopped then on Eloy, who hadn’t moved yet from the door. At least he remembered to close his mouth as Genta walked towards him.

The other customers had already resumed their conversations when Genta stopped in front of him, his hands now inside the pockets of his jeans and his expression knowing.

“Let me guess: since you’re so close to the door, I guess that you’ve come here to say that you’ve thought about it better and–”

“Let’s do it.”

Now it was Genta’s mouth that fell open after hearing Eloy’s hurried interruption.

"Wait, are you serious about this?" Genta asked in a tone that still sounded unsure, as if he didn't want to get his hopes up.

However, Eloy couldn’t be more sure. Of course, he knew it was a crazy idea. He knew that participating in the contest was going to increase even more his workload, and that his parents were probably going to freak out, thinking that their eldest son had finally lost his mind while pursuing his PhD.

But he wanted to do it. He had spent the whole day trying to convince himself it was a bad idea, but he really wanted to. Besides, he had re-read the conditions of his scholarship and hadn't found anything that forbade students from participating in that kind of contest...

Okay, sure, maybe that clause didn’t exist because it wasn’t a common situation, but the fact remained that he wasn't breaking any rules, so Cristina had nothing to say about it. Not that she was going to learn about it anyway, given that the program was just going to be broadcast in Japan. Eloy had also made sure to check that.

“Yes.” Eloy exhaled a laugh that trembled a little due to the emotion and nodded. “Yes, I’m dead serious.”

Genta stared at him in disbelief for a few seconds before letting his head fall back with his eyes closed.

"Shit," he muttered before turning around and heading towards the counter, where Narumi and Mako had been staring at them without bothering to hide their curiosity.

Eloy frowned, slightly offended. He followed Genta, but before he could say anything about his unenthusiastic reaction, he realized that the guy was gesturing towards some point under the counter.

“Can you pass me my backpack, please?”

“Wait, wait a minute,” Mako’s smile widened while looking at Genta and Eloy alternatively. “Does that mean–?”

“Yes, Mako, you won again.”

Mako laughed triumphantly while bending down to recover Genta’s backpack. Narumi was also smiling, looking rather happy with the situation.

“I’m so glad that you didn’t ‘chicken out’!” Mako said after leaving Genta’s backpack on the counter. “Okay, in that case you should fill the application ASAP. You only have until tomorrow to do it, after all.”

“I can’t do it now. I have a night shift today,” Genta replied, offering a new ¥1000 bill to the woman, who accepted it with a singsongy ‘thank you’. “But I can make some time tomorrow in the morning, around 11:00. Does that work for you?”

Eloy realized that the last question was directed at him.

“Ah, yes. Yes, it works for me.”

Genta nodded. “Okay. See you tomorrow then. And think about a song you want to play. We have to record it and send it with the application.”

Genta said goodbye then, his intention to disappear evident as it had been in their previous encounters. But this time, Eloy was prepared and positioned himself in front of Genta, blocking his escape route.

“Wait, before you leave, can I ask you something?” Genta didn’t nod, but didn’t shake his head either, so Eloy took it as a sign to continue. “Why do you want to participate in a contest like this? I have a feeling there's more to it than simply liking it."

Genta held Eloy's gaze in silence before speaking.

“If we pass the preselection, I’ll tell you.”

Eloy hummed and tilted his head. "So you're the mysterious type?" he said in a joking tone, but Genta remained serious and shrugged.

"More like I don't see the point in telling my life to someone I'm not sure I'll see again."

Eloy let out a surprised chuckle. "Wow, you're quite direct."

Genta shrugged again. “I like to be clear about things. And honestly, if we aren't accepted in the contest, I'm not sure if we'll keep running into each other."

“Well, in that case you only have to bet that I won’t be coming back.”

Genta frowned. “Why?”

“Because you’ve lost all the bets you’ve made so far, so I see no reason to break the tradition.”

It took Genta a moment to react, and once again Eloy couldn't quite decipher the guy's response. He had anticipated a snort or a protest, but instead, Genta let out a surprised chuckle. It was the first time Eloy had heard him laugh, he realized.

“Maybe I should make the most of my shitty luck then, and bet that we won’t make the cut,” Genta replied with irony, causing Eloy to smile.

"It's a bet then. But let's go with ¥500. I'm a bit broke.”

It was meant as a lighthearted comment, but Eloy noticed a brief moment of hesitation in Genta's demeanor before the guy snorted softly.

"Okay, ¥500," Genta agreed, readjusting his backpack and gesturing towards the door. "I've got to go now. Think about the song."

“I will,” Eloy affirmed, and as Genta left the bar, two things became apparent to Eloy.

First, he didn't need to think of a song because the one Genta had sung that night would be amazing if he could play a more complex version.

And second, despite having interacted with Genta several times already, Eloy hadn't even asked for his phone number. He would have to rectify that the next day.

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