Chapter 19:

Unasked advice

Bonded by Music

Even though Eloy had researched information about Ex Theater Roppongi, the place where the upcoming contest challenges were going to be held, seeing the stage in person still left his mouth half-opened in awe. When he studied piano, he had given a couple of piano festivals with his academy, but obviously, those events couldn’t compare to a venue that could accommodate more than 1500 people.

Genta whistled next to him. This time they had arrived together directly from Harmony, since it was just a thirty-minute ride from there.

“Damn, this place is huge,” Genta commented, impressed.

“And it’s still empty,” Eloy added, because the programme wouldn’t start until 9 PM, but the contestants had been summoned there two hours and half earlier to get ready. “I guess it will be even more impressive when it’s full.”

At that moment, a woman carrying a folder against her chest stopped giving instructions to the workers mounting benches at different levels on the stage, and threw an impatient look at Eloy and Genta.

“You are contestants, right? Come on, go backstage right now; there’s no time to waste!”

They rapidly obeyed the frantic woman. They had barely set foot in the backstage before two staff members approached them in a hurry. They were then dragged to the makeup room, where eight people were already about to have their makeup done.

Eloy couldn’t exchange a word with Genta during the fifteen minutes that followed. It was evident that the makeup artist and the hairdresser were working against the clock, and he didn’t want to hinder their job in any way. He only managed a quick look at himself in the mirror before he was instructed to go to the dressing room, as the next ten people were already entering.

Genta was already there when he arrived, standing stiffly in front of a mirror while one of the stylists selected and discarded suits from the overflowing racks at a vertiginous speed. Eloy only managed to offer Genta a reassuring smile through the mirror, which caused him to relax a bit, before he himself was called by another stylist.

After ten minutes, Eloy finally came back to the main backstage area, dressed in a black shirt under a vibrant garnet suit that he would have never dared to pick for himself. Genta was already there, awkwardly standing with his arms crossed, and Eloy couldn’t help but chuckle when seeing that Genta was wearing the same colors but in reverse – a garnet shirt and a black suit.

“Do you think they did it on purpose?” Eloy commented when he stood next to Genta, but the latter shook his head.

“I don’t think so. They didn’t even talk.” Genta scanned at Eloy from head to toe with his eyes and eventually frowned. “You look weird.”

Eloy chuckled at the sincere, definitive conclusion. “I guess you're not used to seeing me without the bags under my eyes.”

Genta looked at him in silence before speaking again. “I mean, you still look handsome like this, but it’s more artificial. You look way better without all that stuff, bags included.”

Once again, Genta’s skill of delivering compliments so casually left Eloy a little speechless. He was thinking in a way of complimenting Genta back without sounding too cliché - or lame - in comparison when several girls started to squeal, attracting their attention.

It seemed that the judges had already arrived, and that Pink Candy and King had decided to check on the contestants.

“Great,” muttered Genta next to Eloy, who chuckled softly, knowing that Pink Candy was the reason for his discontent.

“Well, the good news is that we passed her challenge, so we won’t have to do more influencer stuff for the contest.”

“Yeah, that’s a relief–oh shit, is she looking at us?”

Eloy turned in the woman's direction, and sure enough, Pink Candy was approaching them, closely followed by King.

“Sweetie, please, you’re ruining your suit crossing your arms like that!” Pink Candy said when she reached them. She placed her manicured hands on Genta’s crossed arms, effectively making him uncross them as if that brief contact burned.

By then King had also reached them, and surprised Eloy by standing in front of him.

“Jeez, your stylist was a newbie or what?” Eloy’s eyes opened wider with surprise when King got even closer in order to start fixing his hair, rearranging some strands here and there. “Also, a small piece of advice: showing a bit more skin with that shirt will make you look hotter. Just saying.”

Before Eloy had time to react to King’s seductive wink, Pink Candy addressed Genta again.

“And did they do your make up already? Because they could conceal that scar for sure.”

It had been a while since the last time Eloy felt his blood boil like at that moment. He didn’t even give Genta time to say anything before staring at Pink Candy.

“Ms. Candy, that comment is out of place.”

His definitive, serious tone made the woman’s mouth fall open.

“Hey, I never said there was something wrong with it!” she exclaimed. “But makeup is to cover up imperfections–”

“He’s perfect as he is,” interrupted Eloy with a firm tone, the words easily falling from his mouth without even thinking about them. “So thank you for your advice, but no one asked you for one.”

Pink Candy opened and closed her mouth a couple of times, at a loss of words. Then she exhaled a shocked, offended gasp and proceeded her way, her heels resounding on the floor.

“Forget about displaying skin,” King said, breaking the tense silence that had fallen after Pink Candy's angry departure. “That attitude is all you need.”

The former idol patted Eloy’s shoulder a couple of times approvingly before winking again and following his offended companion. Eloy finally turned to look at Genta, and nervousness invaded him when seeing tension surrounding Genta’s body, and the intensity that Genta’s gaze held at that moment.

Now he regretted having confronted Pink Candy like that. Maybe Genta thought that he believed that the guy couldn’t defend himself, when that couldn’t be further than the truth.

“Sorry,” Eloy rapidly said. “I probably was out of line too, but what she said made me so angry that I talked without thinking–”

Genta grabbed his hand, took a step towards him, and Eloy found himself holding his breath when Genta’s dark eyes dug in his clearer ones.

“Thank you,” Genta simply said, before a genuinely grateful smile appeared on his face.

Eloy swallowed, feeling his heart pounding in his chest.

“You’re welcome,” Eloy muttered back, and he really had to make an effort so that his eyes didn’t betray him by traveling from Genta’s eyes to his lips.

“Uhm…” The moment was broken when a rather young member of the staff, who was probably a volunteer, addressed them from a prudent distance, looking half-awkward and half-apologetic. “S-Sorry for the interruption, but I’ve been told to warn the pairs that are ready to go to the stage so that they start practicing for the program.”

“Okay, thank you for the warning,” Eloy said, feeling a little disappointed when Genta released his hand.

The young volunteer bowed and apologized again before going to call another pair.

“We should probably go,” Eloy said then with a tone that tried to be casual, but that sounded forced in his ears.

“Yeah, we should.” Genta threw an ironic glance at Eloy. “But before that, are you sure you don’t want to ‘display more skin to look hotter’?”

Genta mimicked King’s voice quite accurately, which caused Eloy to chuckle. “I’m fine, thank you.”

Genta nodded. “Good. Although he was right about one thing.” Genta dug his eyes on Eloy again. “You’ve looked pretty cool defending me.”

Eloy’s mouth was still half-opened when Genta started walking towards the stage. He closed his eyes for a moment, took a deep breath, and then followed Genta, hoping that the upcoming practice would prevent his thoughts from spiraling into dangerous territories.

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