Chapter 15:

An impossible task

Bonded by Music

“Okay, this isn’t working,” Genta snapped while standing next to the whiteboard where Mako was currently writing. “It’s already been three days, and we’ve only managed to gather 500 followers.”

“476 to be exact,” Narumi corrected apologetically from behind the counter.

“Well, there's still time before the deadline. You still can make it,” Cara commented, trying to sound encouraging. She was sitting next to Eloy, whose eyes were glued to his phone, checking the accounts of the other contestants. Most of them were still far from reaching the required number of followers, but it was also true that, among the fifty pairs, they were close to the bottom.

“You say we can make it?” Genta repeated, snorting loudly. “We only have another fucking three days to gather practically all the followers, and you think we can make it?”

Eloy sighed and lifted his face from the screen to address Genta. “And do you think that protesting non-stop will help?”

“No, it won’t, but it’ll stop me from starting breaking things because it’s not fair!” Genta crossed his arms and slumped onto the nearby table. “This challenge has nothing to do with music. It’s obvious that that bitc–lady is bitter because she wasn't taken seriously at first, and now she's taking it out on us. Well, guess what, lady? We already get that being an influencer isn’t easy, so you didn’t need to give us an impossible task like trying to gather 10,000 fucking followers in a week when most part of us are complete strangers!”

A silence fell after Genta’s frustrated speech, only broken by his heavy breathing.

“I think this is the first time I've heard you talk so much.”

Eloy’s genuinely surprised comment caused the girls to chuckle, and though Genta narrowed his eyes at Eloy, his tension had eased, as well as the overall one that had been invading the room.

“Okay, now that there’s no risk of Genta destroying the place out of anger, let’s do a quick review.” Mako pointed at the whiteboard where they had been writing ideas during the past days. “It’s clear that our initial strategy of uploading performance videos isn’t going to work, no matter how well you do it. So, it’s time to revisit what the most popular contestants are doing–”

“We’re not going to appear shirtless,” Eloy and Genta said almost simultaneously, referring to 'The Novas,' the model couple who were all about fake smiles and laughter at the hotel event. They had uploaded practically all their videos dressed in revealing swimsuits, using the excuse that the weather was hot. In fact, they had more than 50,000 followers and counting.

“Tsk, what a shame,” Cara said mockingly. “For sure you’d gain some extra followers.”

“Maybe, but I prefer to maintain my dignity, thank you,” Genta interjected, causing Mako to shrug.

“Well, dignity doesn’t win contests or pay off debts, but it’s your call.”

Eloy’s eyes widened at the casual mention of Genta’s debt, but Genta simply chuckled, not looking bothered at all. Once again, Eloy thought that those two were really close for the woman to risk making that kind of joke so lightly. He wondered if they were actually dating, and why that prospect didn’t sit entirely well with him, considering how nice they both were...

No. He perfectly knew why it bothered him, but it wasn’t something he intended to focus on at the moment. They had a challenge to overcome first.

“In that case, since none of us have an adorable pet to boost your popularity, we’re left with only one option: TikTok music challenges!” Mako chuckled softly as both Eloy and Genta grunted in annoyance. “Sorry, guys, but we’ve already reached out to everyone we know to get followers, so it’s your only chance now.”

Eloy discreetly swallowed while the rest nodded. He debated whether to speak up or not when Genta clapped his hands and stood up.

“Okay, let’s get on with it then. Pick a challenge, Eloy.”

Eloy’s eyes opened more. “What? Why me?”

“Because you already had Instagram before all this, so you’ll know about this stuff.”

“Sorry, but people in their early twenties are supposed to know how this works.”

“Oh, so now you are playing the age card in your favor, huh? How convenient, Mr. Glasses.”

Eloy felt his heart skip a small beat when Genta said those ironic words while his eyes glinted playfully. He tried to self-convince himself again that his reaction was because he wasn’t used to Genta teasing him back like that yet. But he wasn’t very successful.

“I just found a trend that’s pretty popular right now,” Narumi said, showing her phone to the rest. The reactions after watching the video were quite different: Mako and Cara gasped at the same time and insisted that they had to do it, Eloy vehemently shook his head, and Genta remained in a pensive expression.

“I think we can pull that off,” Genta said after a while, making Eloy stare at him in disbelief.

“Are you serious?”


“So you really think that I can lift you in the air like that, drop you, and change the hold in your arm and leg just before you hit the floor?”

“Who says you’re gonna lift me?”

“Well, I’m taller.”

“And I’m stronger.”

“Hey, I may spend a lot of time sitting at the computer, but I’m not weak!”

"Okay, do you wanna settle it with an arm wrestle then?"

No matter how much Cara cheered for Eloy, the latter ended up losing lamely fast against Genta. Mako recorded the entire challenge, and continued doing so while Eloy positioned himself with an unconvinced expression on his face, facing away from Genta.

“Here, I don’t want them to break,” Eloy said, handing his glasses to Cara, who was also recording everything from another angle.

“Okay, on my signal, Narumi, start the song,” Mako said, raising the hand that wasn’t sustaining the mobile in the air. “3, 2, 1…now!”

They had to repeat the shot several times because it took them a few attempts to understand how to execute the hold properly. By the time Genta finally managed to lift Eloy horizontally in the air, everyone was struggling to hold back their laughter. And although Genta executed the drop move correctly and in sync with the verse of the song, "Tonight I gotta cut loose, footloose," Eloy's squawk when he was dropped caused everyone's efforts to go to waste.

“Damnit, Eloy!” Genta protested between laughs. “We almost had it!”

They were still in that position, with Eloy writhing in laughter on the floor and the others also bent over, when Ms. Yamane entered the bar. Thanks to the woman’s suggestions, they managed to quickly find other trends to replicate. They recorded quite a lot of them until it was time to open the bar, when Genta and Eloy announced their departure.

“Which is it today? Store, restaurant, deliveries…?” Eloy asked after the door of Harmony closed behind them.

“Restaurant, but I might do some deliveries later at night. What about you? Didn't you have a conference coming up?”

“Yes, I have to finish the presentation.”

“Make sure to rest. I think we’ll need to keep creating trends like crazy tomorrow.”

“As long as they don’t involve dropping people, I’ll be fine with it.”

“Hey, we managed to do it in the end,” Genta said with a smile. “It was pretty fun.”

Eloy nodded, also smiling. “Yes, it was.”

After a pause, Genta said the 'But...' that Eloy had been thinking.

“Honestly, I don’t think we can win the challenge, but let’s keep trying our best.”

Eloy felt guilt invading him. Ms. Yamane, Mako and Narumi had even spoken to all the customers at the bar to get them to follow them, and Genta had also contacted his former coworkers from the past three years for support.

On the contrary, Eloy hadn’t told his friends or people at the University. He had only told Elia about it, but had made her promise not to tell anyone else, not even their parents. The thought of Cristina finding out was unsettling, as he was sure she would demand more meetings to ensure he was still working on his thesis. But telling his parents and seeing their confused and disappointed faces was even worse.

“I’ll be going then. See you tomorrow.”

Genta's farewell snapped Eloy out of his thoughts. He bid farewell and returned to the share house.

It took him a while to fall asleep as he intermittently checked his phone, hoping to see an increase in the number of followers. It did grow, but the progress was slow. Too slow.

When the next morning arrived and he saw that they had only reached 936 followers, Eloy took a deep breath. He ignored the pounding of his heart and texted Elia, resolved to truly do everything he could, consequences be damned.

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