Chapter 20:

The road to success

Bonded by Music

Finally.” The young woman with curled hair sitting right next to Eloy and Genta in the second level of the benches exhaled a relieved sigh. After five attempts, it seemed that the frantic folder-lady was satisfied with how they had walked the stage and taken their respective seats. “These heels are killing me already. I’m not used to wearing them.”

“And why didn’t you tell that to the stylist?” Her partner said with a monotone tone.

“I did! But she looked at me as if I was saying something heretical, and I was afraid to insist.”

“I feel you,” one of the guys sitting on the first level of the benches agreed, joining the conversation. “Mine insisted that yellow was my color and here I am, looking like a lemon.”

“Ren, don’t you dare to complain,” the bigger guy sitting next to the ‘lemon guy’ said with a warning, annoyed tone. “At least you aren’t dressed in pink. I have lost several masculinity points with this.”

Eloy’s eyes opened more in alert when Genta snorted next to him, loud enough for the big guy to turn around slowly and glare at them.

“Do you have something to say?” the guy said in a menacing tone.

“Just that associating masculinity to colors is a little stupid,” Genta said without blinking an eye or looking intimidated, causing a vein to appear in the guy’s temple. Eloy had to admit that he was a bit concerned when the guy made an attempt to stand up, which prompted Ren, the 'lemon guy,' to quickly place a hand on the guy's shoulder.

“Wow, you don’t need that yakuza attitude here, Ryo,” Ren said with an easy going tone, and Eloy noticed that despite his thin build, Ren was managing to prevent Ryo from standing up with no apparent effort. “Also, the guy has a point.”

“I agree,” the young woman chimed in. “Besides, pink is becoming quite popular among men lately. Right, Kota?”

Kota simply hummed, and since Genta and Ryo were still glaring at each other, Eloy decided he couldn't be any less assertive.

“And also, the people that dressed us are professionals, so we should believe that they know what they’re doing.”

The big guy sustained Genta’s gaze for a few more seconds but eventually grunted in what seemed to be agreement.

“Okay, you all have a point,” the big guy pointed a finger at Genta, “but you better not call me stupid again, mohawk-guy, or I’ll have a few words with you outside.”

“I never said you were stupid, just that your reasoning–”

“Drop it,” Eloy muttered while placing a hand on Genta’s shoulder, causing this one to snort softly but obey. Eloy’s eyes met Ren’s, who nodded once with a smile, as if he related to having a slightly combative partner.

“By the way, are you the pair that was interviewed by a foreign TV?” The young woman suddenly asked Eloy with curiosity, causing him to chuckle.

“Yes, we are. I’m Eloy, and this is Genta.”

“Ayaka,” she said with a smile. “I have to admit that it was a good move. We were lucky because Kota has won several video game competitions and has a lot of followers on twitch, right Kota?”


“Well, I’m not sure we should share how we made it,” Ren intervened as well, with a playful smile that indicated that he was going to do just that. “But let’s say that moving in certain environments really comes in handy, right Ryo?”

“Wait, so are you really a yakuza?” Genta asked in disbelief, which made Eloy’s eyes about to pop out their sockets when Ryo turned around with an outraged expression.

“What the–No! Our families share a confectionery business that provides for high-luxury hotels, so we have contacts.” That vein was back, popping even more in the guy’s temple. “Why, are you suggesting that I look like a Yakuza, hah?!”


Don’t answer that,” Eloy rapidly interrupted Genta while Ren poorly suppressed his laughter after having started that misunderstanding. Luckily, Ayaka intervened again with a cheery tone, managing to successfully divert the topic.

They looked rather nice overall, even if Kota didn’t talk much, and they had to be careful how to phrase the questions so that Ryo didn’t take them too personally. They chatted for a few more minutes before the frantic folder-lady reappeared, announcing that the practice was over and they should get into their previous positions.

While standing in line on one of the sides of the backstage, Eloy could hear the increasing noise and conversations filling the theater as the audience started occupying their seats. Almost twenty minutes passed until the theater became dark for a moment before the whole stage illuminated.

The histrionic host of ‘Tune it Up’ made its flashy apparition from the other side of the stage, provoking a wave of applause. After the initial welcome and starting speech, the host continued with the presentation of the judges. And finally, it was the contestants' turn to walk on the stage to occupy their place in the benches.

Eloy’s heart was beating a little faster when they had to salute the camera as the host shouted the name of their group. Luckily, they had the freedom to greet as they wanted - as long as it wasn’t offensive - so Genta nodded and Eloy waved briefly. The good news was that the lights of the stage were so blinding that Eloy didn’t notice that the theater was completely full until he and Genta were sitting on the bench. It made him aware that they were indeed participating in a really popular contest, something that he sometimes forgot about.

Once all the contestants were sitting, the host announced that they would perform once again the songs that made them pass the audition. They all had been warned beforehand about it, but still, when it was their turn, Eloy could feel his hands sweating as he sat at the stage piano.

However, as every time they practiced, seeing Genta nod at him with calm and confidence was enough to put Eloy at ease. The ovation they got after they finished was considerable. Eloy also noticed that Mr. Shin nodded in their direction approvingly from the rectangular table where the judges were, looking satisfied with their improvement.

Although, so far, The Novas seemed to be the ultimate favorites in both popularity and skill, Eloy was also impressed with the performances of Electric Soul, with Ayaka as the singer and Kota joining her with electronic music, and The Cords Brothers, with Ren playing the guitar and doing the singing, and Ryo accompanying him with the violin.

“They’re going to be tough to beat,” Genta commented then, expressing what Eloy was also thinking.

The thirty performances lasted for almost two hours. After that, there was a very brief recess to prepare for what was coming next. Once the four judges were standing on the stage, Shiratori was in charge of the final part of the program.

“So, the moment that you all, and especially the contestants, were waiting for has come: the announcement of the second challenge.”

As Shiratori talked, two members of the staff entered the stage, transporting a spin wheel that they placed standing next to Shiratori.

“I guess no one will be surprised if I say that hard work is crucial if you want to succeed in life,” Shiratori continued. “However, there is something that I’ve learned throughout my career. Hard work is important, yes; but there is another skill that is also key on that road to success: adaptability. You must be able to adjust your knowledge and skills to the circumstances surrounding you, to improvise in situations you weren’t ready for. Because I guarantee you that hard work alone won't always be enough.”

Shiratori spun the wheel, and everyone focused on the screen that was hanging above the middle set of benches. Eloy realized then that there was a word written in each one of the wheel slots. The wheel stopped after a few seconds, in the word ‘Change’.

The process was repeated by the rest of the judges, with each of them obtaining a different work: Pink Candy got ‘Love’, Mr. Shin obtained ‘Tragic’, and King finished with ‘Shameless’, which prompted the former idol to pretend to open his already considerably opened shirt, provoking loud squeals from the ladies - and a few gentlemen - in the audience.

“Show off,” muttered Genta with annoyance, causing Eloy to bite his lower lip not to chuckle.

“So, here goes the second challenge: on July the 15th, you will have to offer us a performance in this same stage that conveys those four words while keeping your originality and uniqueness.” Shiratori looked towards the different benches with an encouraging smile. “Good luck, dear contestants. We’re eager to be impressed with your capacity for adaptation.”

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