Chapter 12:


Bonded by Music

Eloy barely waited for the door to close behind them before facing Genta, who was still looking rather surprised by the turn of events.

“Okay, so we have,” Eloy checked his watch, “2 minutes and 54 seconds to convince them, so I’m going to go straight to the point: why did you sign up for the contest?”

Genta looked at Eloy with confusion.

“Again? I already told you that I did it for the prize–”

“That can’t be the only reason,” Eloy cut Genta out. “There are easier ways to get money, so there has to be something else, what is it?”

Genta tensed and grabbed his backpack with more force, but didn’t say a word. Eloy had to suppress the urge to curse because time was ticking, and they really needed to figure things out.

“Look, I know that opening up is not always easy, but for this to work, we have to act as a team. And we can’t do that if we don’t even know what our goals are–”

“My mother will lose her house if we don’t pay off our debt by the end of this year.”

Eloy’s eyes widened after Genta blurted out those words. The thought of Genta having money problems had crossed his mind, but he hadn’t expected it was that serious.

“Damn, I’m really sorry, Genta–”

“And that’s why I didn’t want to say anything,” Genta interrupted Eloy’s apology, frustration evident in both his tone and expression. “I didn’t want your pity, or that you felt pressured to participate because of me. It’s true that the prize would help us settle the debt, but if this is as far as we go, then so be it. I’ll find another way.”

Eloy nodded, finally understanding many of Genta’s past behaviors.

“Okay. Thank you for telling me.” He checked his watch again. Almost a minute had passed, so they needed to start thinking about the song they were going to perform.

“Now it's your turn," Genta suddenly said, interrupting Eloy's thoughts. "Why do you want to participate in this? You never got to answer me that day.”

Eloy had honestly forgotten about that. He would have liked to think about his reply more thoroughly, but they didn't have time to waste at that moment.

“Well, it’s going to sound silly, but what were the chances that two people, who happen to really enjoy music, would cross paths just days before the deadline of a music contest? I mean, call me crazy, but it almost feels like…”

“...fate?” Genta finished, his tone more surprised than skeptical. “Do you really believe in that?”

Eloy shrugged.

“Until now, I didn’t. But the timing was just too perfect to simply let the opportunity pass, even if, just like you, I had my doubts that it took us anywhere”. Eloy fixed his eyes in Genta. “But now that we are here, and after the time we’ve spent practicing, I really want to see how far we can go. Together.”

The last sentence had sounded more romantic than intended when said aloud, but Genta didn’t look bothered by it, since the hint of a smile appeared in his lips.

“Damn, when you speak like that, I kinda feel that we can actually make it.”

Eloy let out a soft chuckle.

“Good. Now we just need to choose the correct piece to prove to the judges they have underestimated us.”

“Yeah, and about that,” Genta grimaced, “it’s just me, or the pieces that we have prepared…?”

“...won’t be enough?” Eloy sighed and crossed his arms. “I know what you mean. They are good, and we can play them decently.”

“But they don’t really speak to us,” Genta added, this time with a resigned tone. They spent a few precious seconds in silence before Genta continued, sounding uncertain. “Okay, there’s this one song that is special to me, but it’s not in the list we practiced.”

“It doesn’t matter. What is it?”

“It’s called Tegami by–”

“Angela Aki.” Eloy felt his heart beat race. “I know that song. I've played it before, so it could work!”.

“But wait, are you sure about this?” Genta insisted as Eloy quickly searched for the song on his phone. “We can try to find another that you’ve played more recently–”

“I need paper and a pen. Now.”

Eloy didn’t even notice how commanding he sounded, since he was exclusively focused on reading the score, trying to burn the notes in his memory. With only a minute remaining, Genta handed Eloy some blank papers and a pen that he retrieved from his backpack. Eloy quickly approached the nearest table and hurriedly began jotting down the sections of the score that he would have more trouble memorizing.

During the following seconds Eloy wrote without pause, his eyes darting back and forth between his mobile screen and the blank papers, filling them with speed and precision. When only 5 seconds remained, Eloy exhaled a hurried “Let’s go” toward Genta, who had remained silent and attentive during the whole process, and started walking towards the door.

Eloy swung the door open with such force that he accidentally bumped into King, who was standing there, presumably to signal that time was up.

“Wow, such energy! I like it,” King said with an amused grin while Eloy bowed his head briefly.

“Sorry.” Eloy then turned towards the judges and raised the recently written score. “We’re ready.”

Eloy didn’t wait for the judges' approval, nor did he pay attention to King coming back to his seat, or the new impatient snort that Pink Candy let out. He simply approached the grand piano, placed the score on the rack, and turned towards Genta, who looked quite nervous.

“Are you sure about this?” Genta muttered, speaking low enough so that just Eloy heard him. Somehow, Eloy really felt confident, and didn’t need to pretend calmness as he placed his hands on Genta's shoulders.

“I am. Just focus on singing and leave the music to me, okay? I’ll follow your lead.”

Genta gulped but his eyes shined with determination when nodding. Eloy sat at the piano while Genta positioned himself next to it. Genta dropped his backpack, shook his hands a couple of times, and after exhaling a deep breath, he looked at Eloy.

Eloy nodded once, letting Genta know that he was ready. Genta nodded back, and once Genta faced the judges, Eloy began to play.

Objectively speaking, it was far from being their best performance. Eloy had to improvise several times, and Genta’s voice wasn’t in perfect shape after working the entire morning, not to mention that the stress they had experienced throughout the day had taken a toll on them.

However, out of all the songs they had practiced during the past week, that was the one Eloy felt more at ease while playing. And he knew it was the same for Genta. It was evident that Genta connected with the song because there were certain parts, specifically the ones where he addressed his younger self, where his voice trembled ever so slightly, as if he could truly relate.

Due to time limitations, Eloy played the final chord after Genta repeated the last verse of "Keep on believing."

Silence filled the room after they finished, and Eloy began to feel all the nervousness he had managed to suppress before. He stood up on slightly wobbly legs and situated next to Genta.

Just then he dared to look at the judges. Eloy had barely noticed that Pink Candy had her lips pursed in a thin line, holding back tears, when Shiratori and King started to applaud enthusiastically.

“Wonderful,” Shiratori said, her eyes shining with emotion. King had a broader smile on his face, his eyes fixed on Eloy with a newfound spark of interest. Pink Candy was blowing her nose, stubbornly refusing to look at them, while Mr. Shin acknowledged them with a nod.

“Well done, though I hope to see you improve even more in the next challenges.”

After hearing those words that confirmed their official entry into the contest, Eloy felt all the accumulated stress hit him at once. He only realized his legs were failing him when he felt Genta's arm wrapping around his waist, keeping him upright without apparent effort.

“Are you okay, dear?” Shiratori asked with concern, making a gesture to stand up.

“Do you need us to call a doctor?” King added, but Eloy shook his head.

“I’m fine, thank you. I think it was just the tension.”

Assuring the judges once again that he was alright, they both left the room, with Genta still supporting Eloy.

“I guess that happens when you enter the zone like that.” Genta said with a wide smirk. “It was impressive, Eloy.”

Eloy smiled back. It was the first time that Genta called him by his name, and for some reason, it made him feel quite happy.

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