Chapter 21:

Bad timing

Bonded by Music

Eloy groaned in frustration and stopped after failing in the same cord.

“Shit. Sorry.”

“It’s okay. We can start from the previous verse,” Genta reassured him with an understanding tone, which only made Eloy feel worse.

“You already nail the song, and I’m still stuck at the first part of the score.”

Genta snorted. “Well, that only proves that what you’re doing is way more difficult than what I do.”

“No, it only proves that changing the original score was a bad idea, and that I stupidly wasted time that I could have invested in practicing.”

Genta sighed and moved away from the standing microphone to approach Eloy, who was now looking at the piano keys with his arms crossed and his jaw clenched.

“Listen, why don't you take a rest? Maybe it helps.”

Eloy was about to say that he would rest when he managed to play that first part right when the door of Harmony chimed, attracting both their attention.

“What the hell…” Genta exclaimed before rushing to help Mako and Narumi, who were struggling to enter the bar while carrying at least a dozen bags. “But I thought we agreed that you’d only buy a couple of things!”

“I know, I know, but all of this was on sale just for today,” Mako explained, “we couldn’t let the chance pass. Right Narumi?”

“How much did you go over the budget?” Genta asked with a defeated tone, but Mako simply waved her hand.

“Nothing because I’ll pay for the extra.”


“Believe me, seeing you try on all this stuff will be payment enough. Narumi, get the camera ready!” Mako looked at Eloy, who hadn’t paid much attention to the conversation since he was reviewing the score again, lost in his thoughts. “Eloy, come with us! This is going to be worth watching–”

“I can’t now.” Eloy regretted his cutting tone the moment the words left his mouth, so he looked at Mako, seeing the girl looking more concerned than anything. “Sorry, but I’ll lose focus if I stop now. I’ll join you later, okay?”

Since Eloy immediately came back to take notes on the score he missed the look the others exchanged. He managed to rewrite a couple of parts to simplify the song a little before his phone made that sound that he had been dreading to hear the entire week.

It was an email from Cristina.

We need to talk. Are you free now for an urgent video-call???

Eloy closed his eyes when seeing that the woman had also sent a link with a meeting.

Of course that Cristina would contact him when he was feeling stressed enough. Call it bad timing.

“Something wrong?”

Eloy opened his eyes again when hearing Genta, and realized that everyone was looking at him now.

“No, but I’d need a moment to do a video call.” He stood, hoping not to look as tense as he felt. “I’ll go to the storage room not to bother you.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Narumi intervened with her usual delicacy. “The wi-fi doesn’t work very well there.”

“Yes, if I were you, I would go to Ms. Yamane office,” Mako suggested, smiling when seeing Eloy’s unsure face. “Don’t worry, as long as you don’t touch her stuff, she wouldn't mind.”

When seeing Genta nod in agreement, Eloy thanked Mako and excused himself. Ms. Yamane’s office wasn’t very big but it was very well used and distributed. Almost all the walls were covered with shelves, there was a rather nice desk with a chair on one of the sides, and a small sofa and armchair with a coffee table between them.

Eloy sat on the sofa, exhaled a deep breath, and clicked on the email link.

He had barely time to notice that Cristina was smoking - a very bad signal - before Cristina talked.

Or rather, screamed.

“What on Earth were you thinking?!” Eloy rapidly lowered the volume of his phone, afraid that the others could hear the woman’s hysteric voice. “A music contest in the middle of your thesis?! And not just any contest, but one that would require you a time you don’t have!”

“Cristina, if you’d let me explain–”

“There’s nothing to explain, Eloy! You should have consulted me first before doing anything like that! How could you sign up for a music contest without telling me anything?”

‘Because you would have tried to forbid me from doing it’, Eloy thought, before taking a deep breath. He had to show the calm that Cristina was unable to, even if the disdain she used when spelling ‘music contest’ made him clench his left hand into a fist for a moment.

“Before participating, I carefully read the rules, Cristina.” he said. “What I’m doing in the contest isn’t in conflict with my stay here, so you don’t have to worry about it.”

“That’s not what worries me, Eloy.” Cristina sighed, looking at him with concern. “What worries me is that I don’t understand where this comes from! So far you’ve always been so diligent and hardworking, and I thought you really wanted to pursue your PhD–”

“And I still want that! I’m still working hard on the thesis. I haven’t missed a single deadline and I’ve never stopped working on the report. The contest isn’t going to change that.”

“Are you sure, Eloy?” Cristina said in a clearly unconvinced tone. “Because from where I’m standing, it seems that you have already forgotten that your scholarship is not any scholarship. It’s the best scholarship that a student can have to be in Japan, so you have to honor it. You can’t just waste that opportunity because of a music contest.”

Eloy gulped. He thought about all the time he spent studying Japanese both at the academy and specially at home; about all the nights he went to bed way past the normal sleeping hour to prepare articles and presentations; about all the trips his parents helped him pay for in order to participate in those conferences, so that his CV kept growing and he could prove that he was worth of receiving that scholarship.

Of course, he hadn’t forgotten. And he didn’t plan to waste all that effort.

“I know what I’m doing, Cristina,” he said, managing to speak with a calm voice despite the frustration he was feeling by her lack of confidence. “So don’t worry. I promise that the contest won’t interfere with my thesis.”

Cristina took a deep breath, then took a new drag, and after exhaling the smoke, she nodded.

“Alright, Eloy. I’ll trust in your judgment.” Eloy exhaled a relieved sigh, but then Cristina continued talking in a soft though warning tone. “But if you allow me a bit of advice, always remember there are a lot of people that have worked really hard to get you there. Not just me, but all the people who recommended you, and of course, your parents.” Eloy felt how his chest tightened at that last part. “Think about them, Eloy. Think about all the support they gave you throughout the years, and how proud they were when you finally got the scholarship. I’m sure that will be enough motivation to pursue your thesis if you ever feel like you’re losing it.”

Cristina then mentioned that from then on they would have more periodic meetings, and Eloy just found himself humming and nodding absentmindedly at that.

After the call finished, Eloy had barely time to gather his thoughts when there was a soft knock on the door, a second before it opened.


Eloy was surprised to see Genta there, as he had expected it to be Mako or Narumi.

“Hey,” he answered, regretting not having cleared his throat because his tone had sounded a bit strained.

“Is everything okay?” Genta asked with an unsure tone.

“Yes,” Eloy said rapidly, not giving himself time to hesitate. “It was just Cristina.”

Genta frowned. “You mean your tutor? The woman who wasn’t gonna like that you participated in the contest?”

Eloy exhaled a chuckle that sounded quite forced. “Exactly. She already knows.”

“And how was it?”

‘Even worse than I expected’, he thought.

“Not bad,” he lied instead, standing up from the sofa. “There are going to be a couple of changes in the schedule but nothing that I can’t handle. So come on, let’s go back to practice.”

Eloy quickly stored the phone in his pocket and walked towards the door.

He had assumed that Genta would simply let him pass, but Genta didn’t move.

He stayed there, with his inquisitive gaze fixed on Eloy.

“You’re pretending to be fine, but I know you’re not.”

Eloy’s heart skipped a beat while his eyes opened wider after hearing the unexpected, gentle comment. Among all the times Genta could be that direct, he chose the time when Eloy was feeling down enough to want to cry.

And that’s what he did.

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