Chapter 11:

On the same wavelength

Bonded by Music

“Oh my god, they didn’t hit a single correct note. I could barely hold back the laughter.”

“I think they noticed it, Candy. That’s why they were about to cry.”

“Mm I don’t know, Mai, maybe Mr. Shin saying ‘Enough’ in a way that could freeze the entire sea didn’t help.”

“It's not my fault that some people can't handle constructive criticism, King. But enough chatting, the next pair is here.”

Eloy had to suppress a gulp when the judges stopped talking among themselves and focused on Genta and him.

The judges were seated at four individual tables that had been arranged next to each other to form a larger rectangular table. Pink Candy occupied the leftmost seat, living up to her alias by chewing a pink lollipop that matched the color of her bob hairstyle.

Next to her sat Mai Shiratori ‘The Swan’. Despite being in her mid-fifties, she appeared much younger, with a fit physique and bright, inquisitive eyes. Unlike her mischievous female companion, Shiratori wore a serene smile that radiated calm.

To Shiratori's left sat King. Eloy had to resist the urge to stare at the former idol, as the open V-neck of his silky shirt practically exposed his entire chest, down to his abs. King sat in a relaxed manner, in contrast to Mr. Shin, who occupied the seat on his other side.

The Korean composer was dressed in a dark suit, and had his jacket on despite the hot weather. While the other judges fanned themselves, he maintained a piercing gaze that seemed to fixate on both Genta and Eloy, causing Eloy to suppress a gulp.

Mako had been right. Mr. Shin looked, without any doubt, the strictest member of the four.

“And here it is the last pair of the morning!” Pink Candy exclaimed while applauding, her long nails chiming a little together. “Come on, boys, don’t be shy and get closer~”

Eloy glanced at Genta, who looked surprisingly fine, as if he hadn’t been gasping for air a minute ago. It was quite impressive.

“So, pair 20th…” Shiratori said while consulting a paper on her table, after they left their backpacks on the floor close to the door and approached the judges. “Eloy and Genta.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Eloy managed to say while Genta nodded. His mouth was completely dry, so he was grateful that he wasn't the one tasked with singing.

“I was looking forward to seeing you two.” King looked at Eloy and smiled while casually setting his hands behind his head, unintentionally opening his shirt even further. “You are the only foreigner that passed the preselection.”

Before Eloy could decide if that was a good thing or not, Pink Candy interlaced her fingers together and spoke again.

“So, tell us a bit about yourselves. Why did you enter the contest?”

Out of fear that Genta said: ‘I did it for the money’ or something along those lines, he quickly spoke.

“Well, we met a month or so ago, and well, we found out that we both liked music, so here we are.”

Eloy had to suppress the urge to adjust his glasses out of embarrassment when he saw the judges' confused faces. The only one who hadn’t changed his expression was Mr. Shin, who was observing them in silence. Come on, he was a PhD Student. He was supposed to know how to speak in public, but he couldn’t have given a more boring, ambiguous answer.

Although, now that he thought about it, and as sad as it sounded, there wasn't much more that he could say about them.

“I see,” Shiratori said, obviously trying to fill the awkward silence. “Do you have anything to add, Genta?”

“No. It’s as he said.”

Genta’s blunt answer made Shiratori’s eyes widen slightly before Pink Candy spoke.

“You have quite a curious style, Genta. Just out of curiosity, is that mark on your face some kind of tattoo too?"

Eloy’s mouth fell open when hearing the woman ask what he hadn’t dared to yet, causing Genta to tense next to him, and Shiratori to look at the influencer with a reproachful expression, as if she disapproved of the question.

“No, it’s a scar.”

“Oh, and can I ask how you got it?”

“Yes, you can.” Genta didn't add anything else, which made Pink Candy purse her lips and chew on her lollipop harder, obviously displeased with the response.

“So, you said you paired up together because you liked music,” Shiratori changed the topic again, returning to reading the paper. “But according to your application, it’s been four…no, five years since you abandoned the piano classes, Eloy. And Genta doesn’t seem to have any training or jobs related to music. Is that correct?”

Eloy gulped, feeling his hands starting to sweat. He had been wrong before. They didn’t need luck. They needed a miracle.

“Yes, that’s correct,” Genta answered, looking far too calm given their current predicament. “It’s just that we’ve been too busy these past years and we haven’t had time to–”

“I think we’ve heard enough.”

Mr. Shin’s definitive and calm words caused a shocked silence to fill the room.

“Uhm…” King turned towards the composer with an unsure expression. “Do you mean that you want to hear them perform already or–?”

“I think we can all agree that it won’t be necessary.” Mr. Shin nodded towards Eloy and Genta. “Thank you for coming. Wish you the best for the future.”

Eloy blinked a few times, still assimilating what had just happened, when Genta broke the silence.

“Wait, is that it? You aren’t even going to listen to us?”

Genta's frown deepened, and he sounded on the verge of losing his temper, which contrasted with how calm Mr. Shin was.

“As I said, it won’t be necessary. I don’t know why you two signed up for this, but it’s evident that you lack both interest and passion to participate in this contest.”

“What the…” Before Eloy could react, Genta had walked towards Mr. Shin to stop just in front of him, hands tightened into fists on either side of his body. “You don’t know anything about us, sir. We have been working really hard for this audition. If you didn’t like us in the first place, why the hell did you make us pass the pre-selection?”

“Because you had a lot of potential,” Shiratori intervened with a soft tone. “Eloy's piano technique was really impressive, and Genta, your voice was one of the most unique we had heard in a while.”

“But that was all.” Mr. Shin continued, not averting his gaze from Genta’s angry one. “Technically, it was decent, but it lacked soul. We wanted to see if that would change today, but your responses betray that you are just two strangers who happened to meet, and you are far from being on the same wavelength to be considered a proper pair in this contest."

Eloy really feared that Genta would insult the composer, but to his surprise, Genta simply took a deep breath before bowing his head.

“Thank you for the opportunity,” Genta said, managing to sound genuinely polite despite his obvious anger. He then approached the door and retrieved his backpack with the intention to leave.

Initially, Eloy was going to do the same. But at the last second, he addressed the judges.

“You are right. We aren’t a proper pair, not yet. But we still have ten minutes left of the audition, so could you give us five minutes to talk, please? I promise that we'll figure things out and perform better this time.”

Despite his racing heart, Eloy’s words came out firm, and they caused the judges to exchange glances.

“Honestly, dear, do you think you can achieve that right now?” Shiratori asked with a gentle but unconvinced tone. However, Eloy nodded before taking a step forward.

“You said it yourselves. Potential wasn’t the problem, our lack of connection was. But we can fix that. I know we can. So please,” Eloy bowed his head and looked down as a sign of respect, “please, give us another chance.”

In that position Eloy couldn’t see the judges, but he heard Pink Candy sigh with impatience.

“Sorry, sweetie, but we’ve wasted enough time with you two and–”

“It’s fine by me.”

What? Mai?!”

“Me too. I already said I was curious about the foreigner.”

“You too, King?! Well, but I’m sure that Mr. Shin will agree with me on this–”

“You have three minutes.”

After hearing Mr. Shin's response, and the shocked 'Hah?!' that Pink Candy let out, Eloy released the breath he had been holding and raised his face to nod towards the judges.

“Thank you so much.”

Eloy then approached a shocked Genta, grabbed his arm, and practically dragged him towards the adjacent room, determined to put the cards on the table once and for all.

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