Chapter 13:

That 7-year age gap

Bonded by Music

The cafeteria was completely full when Eloy and Genta arrived, not just with the students that attended the college, but also with the different contestants of the day. Luckily for them, a pair was just standing up from a table when they entered, so Genta quickly approached it.

“Genta, seriously, I’m okay already,” Eloy muttered, because Genta’s arm was still around his waist, as if he were afraid that he would collapse. However, Genta ignored him and kept holding him while starting to walk through the tables. A few more heads turned to look at them with curiosity, something that Genta didn’t notice, or didn’t seem to care about.

“What do you want?” Genta asked once Eloy was sitting at the table. Eloy took a quick look at the cafeteria counter. Because of the time, not much food remained aside from a few sandwiches and karaage. Eloy chose one of the former.

While waiting for Genta to go buy the food, Eloy checked his mobile. Cara had texted him, but what caught his attention was a message from Cristina. His heart skipped a beat before clicking on it. However, her message was just about a new chapter that she wanted him to add to his thesis.

“Sorry, the person before me picked the last egg sandwich, so it’s ham and cheese.”

Eloy raised his face from his phone when Genta placed the small tray on the table.

“It’s fine, thanks.” Eloy took a bite of the sandwich. He hadn’t realized how hungry he was until then. “How much do I owe you?”

“Nothing,” Genta said while taking a seat, causing Eloy to look at him.

“You sure?”

Genta deadpanned at him while crossing his arms on the table.

“What, do you think I can’t afford a ¥200 sandwich?” He snorted. “You better not start acting weird now because of the debt. I have enough with Mako.”

“It’s not that,” Eloy quickly said, adopting a more joking tone. “But I’m the eldest. I should be the one inviting you.”

Genta rolled his eyes, but Eloy could see that he wasn’t annoyed. They spent the following minutes in a comfortable silence while Eloy ate his sandwich. When he was two bites away from finishing it, he broke the silence.

“So…we’re in,” he said, not bothering to hide his satisfaction, which caused Genta to snort softly again.

“I still can’t believe it.” Genta looked at Eloy. “All thanks to you.”

Eloy stopped when he was about to take the last bite.

“Hey, we both did it.”

“Nope, I was about to give up and leave, remember?”

“Well, but you didn’t. You stayed, and we both performed the song you chose, so we both did it.”

Genta shook his head and leaned back against his chair.

“Well, we agree to disagree. But just for the record, I won’t give up from now on. I promise.” Eloy couldn’t hold back a soft chuckle, causing Genta to frown. “Hey, I mean it.”

“I know, sorry. It’s just that I wasn't expecting you to sound so formal.”

Genta raised an eyebrow.

“Well, people with tattoos and piercings can be formal too, you know?”

Eloy frowned slightly because Genta didn’t seem to have any visible piercings. He was about to ask about that when Genta’s mobile vibrated.

“Work again?” Eloy ventured, but Genta shook his head.

“It’s Mako, asking how we’re doing.”

While Genta texted the waitress, Eloy did the same with Elia and Cara. It was still too early for his sister to answer, but Cara’s enthusiastic answer was immediate, even if she was supposed to be working.

Genta then mentioned that the others wanted to meet at Harmony ASAP, something that didn’t surprise Eloy since the piano bar had officially become their meeting point.

The bar was a one-hour ride by public transport, and Eloy felt a bit depressed when Genta insisted that he should take the empty seat they came across, confirming his suspicions that Genta saw him as an old man.

All the staff, plus Cara, were already at the bar when they arrived. They were welcomed with cheers and applause, which felt a little awkward but also nice. They spent the following minutes answering questions. To Eloy’s surprise, Narumi finally dared to speak in front of him, her voice sounding deeper than he had expected, which made him understand why she had been reluctant to use it with people she didn't trust enough.

“So, now that you’re officially in, what’s the next step?” Narumi asked timidly from the stool where she was sitting, between Mako and Cara. Ms. Yamane was mostly silent behind the counter, listening to them, while Eloy and Genta occupied the same table where they had spent a considerable amount of time reviewing scores and songs during the past week.

“Well, next weekend there will be some kind of event where the first challenge will be announced, but we still don’t know the details,” Eloy explained.

“And we also have to come up with a name for ourselves,” Genta added, grimacing. “We've been having quite a bit of trouble with that.”

Eloy nodded. They had spent the entire ride trying to figure one out, but with no success.

“Oh, I have one!” Mako said, raising her hand. “What about ‘Glaring Dude & Mr. Glasses?’” She frowned when both Eloy and Genta blinked at her in perfect synchrony. “What? It’s original.”

“Yes, and also awful. It sounds like a lame comedy duo,” Genta snapped, causing Mako to click her tongue in disappointment.

“Mmm,” Cara started, lost in her thoughts, “And what about Genloy? Or Elta? Nah, I like Genloy more.”

“Wait, are you seriously suggesting mixing our names?” Eloy said in disbelief, making Cara shrug.

“Why not? That’s something that people do a lot nowadays.”

“Yes, when they want to ship people,” Eloy exclaimed, his eyes widening when Cara shrugged again with a mischievous smile.

“Well, it’s a fact that you two would make a really cute couple.”

Eloy mentally noted to have a conversation with Cara about these unnecessary innuendos when he realized that Ms. Yamane, Mako, and Narumi - meaning, everyone - were nodding in agreement.

“I personally like Genloy,” Ms. Yamane intervened. “It has a nice ring to it.”

Eloy gasped in disbelief before adjusting his glasses.

“Well, thanks for the suggestion, but I doubt that Genta here likes to be paired up with an old dude–”

“Seriously, man, what’s with you and your age?” Genta interrupted, causing Eloy to focus his attention on him. “You aren’t that old, jeez. Or that’s your way of saying that you think I’m a kid, huh?”

“What? No, no, it’s not that,” Eloy rapidly said, because Genta now looked actually annoyed.

“Good, because that nine-year age gap doesn’t mean anything.”

“...Seven-year age gap.”

Genta’s eyes widened. “Wait, you're only 27? Damn, I take back what I said: you really look older.”

Eloy’s mouth fell open, speechless. But then he noticed that Mako and Narumi were struggling to hold back the laughter, while Genta's shocked expression slowly transformed into a playful one, making him realize that he was being mocked.

“Ha ha ha, very funny,” Eloy commented, crossing his arms, but he couldn't hide the smile that was tugging at his lips as Genta burst out laughing. It was a nice change to see Genta relaxed enough to tease him like that.

At that moment, Genta stopped laughing and snapped his fingers once.

“Hey, I think I have it.” Genta paused, his tone becoming slightly theatrical before he continued. “SevenEG.”

Eloy frowned with confusion.

“SevenEG,” he repeated, causing Genta to exhale an impatient sigh, as if the meaning of the name was obvious.

“Yes, ‘seven’ because of the seven-year age gap, ‘E’ for your name, and ‘G’ for mine. SevenEG.” Genta pointed at Eloy with his chin. “So, anything to say against it?”

Eloy chuckled at Genta’s daring tone.

“Well, it sounds pretty good, actually.” Eloy's eyes lit up. “Besides, we met for the first time at a 7-Eleven, which matches the first part too.”

Genta’s mouth fell open.

“Damn, I hadn’t noticed that! But then we need to find a meaning for that second ‘G’–” Genta stopped, smiled widely, and clapped his hands once before pointing between them. “That’s it. We’re the 7-Eleven Guys. It’s decided.”

Eloy smiled too, finding Genta’s uncharacteristic enthusiasm contagious.

SevenEG. He really liked it.

“Uhm, do you think they remember we’re still here?”

Mako’s amused comment made both Eloy and Genta snap out of their conversation and look at the rest.

“Wait, Cara, are you recording us? Stop!” Eloy exclaimed, raising his hand towards her phone to cover the camera.

“Well, stop being so damn cute, and I will!”

Eloy pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed with patience, but he was really making an effort not to laugh along with the others.

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