Chapter 23:

Chaotic preparation

Bonded by Music

Apparently, the organizers had decided to establish a first-come-first served policy for the participants to get ready for the second challenge. It would have been a good and fair idea if it weren't for the fact that there was literally no one to keep watch. As a result, most of the contestants completely ignored the order of arrival and were lunging at the first spot that ended up being free.

“Damn, this looks like a battle royal,” Eloy muttered when a young woman rushed next to him to secure a spot, almost pushing another one to the floor, which ended in a exchange of insults.

“Okay, forget it. We can go without makeup.” Genta pointed towards the exit with his head. “Let’s see if we’re luckier with the dressing room.”

They made their way to the dressing rooms, carefully carrying the clothes that Genta’s mother had ironed the previous night. Luckily for them, the area with the changing rooms was slightly less crowded.

“Great, one just got free. Let’s go!”

Suddenly, Eloy found himself dragged by Genta towards one of the changing stalls.

“Uhm,” Eloy started while Genta closed the curtain, leaving them inches apart from each other. “I think this is supposed to be for one person only.”

“Well, we both fit inside, so it doesn’t matter.”

And indeed, it seemed that Genta didn’t mind as he began to undress right then and there. Eloy discreetly gulped when Genta ended up shirtless in front of him, confirming his suspicions that the guy had a rather well-built physique, which wasn't apparent due to the loose clothes he usually wore.

Automatically Eloy averted his gaze, which caused Genta to snort. “Seriously, Eloy, I doubt I have something you haven’t seen before.”

Eloy merely hummed at the mocking comment but kept with his eyes focused on the curtain. He blindly lent Genta a hand for support when this one needed help removing his jeans after discarding his sneakers.

“Okay, now comes the funny part. Can you help me put this on?”

Thankfully, the outfit that Genta had to wear was rather tricky to adjust, so Eloy didn’t have time to be nervous about Genta being practically naked in front of him - and neither to feel rather stupid for not handling that whole crush situation like the adult he supposedly was.

“You’ve managed to zip it?” Genta asked after a few minutes, looking at Eloy over his shoulder.

“Almost,” Eloy said, making an effort so that his thoughts didn’t wander on what an amazing back Genta had. “Okay. Done.”

Genta exhaled a relieved sigh.

“Finally.” Genta turned and looked at his clothes while frowning. “It’s okay, right? It doesn’t have wrinkles or anything?”

Eloy suppressed a new gulp. He had already seen Genta wear that outfit in Harmony and practice with it, but that didn’t make it any easier for him not to react to how damn good it looked on him.

“You’re fine, trust me,” Eloy eventually said, hoping not to sound too effusive. “Come on, let’s cover it up not to ruin the surprise.”

Once Genta was ready they left the changing room, since Eloy was already dressed with the suit that he would use in the performance. They were about to head back to the makeup area when Eloy noticed movement out of the corner of his eye, at a nearby table where people were discarding clothes.

“Ryo, can you please stay put? It’s just eyeliner: it’s not going to kill you.”

“Damn, Ren, you know that I panic when things get too close to my eyes!”

“Are you sure that the color is the same in both eyes, Kota?”

“Yes, both eyes are blue.”

“But I mean, is it the same shade of blue?”

“...Both eyes are blue.”

“...I guess it will have to be enough.” At that moment Ayaka noticed Eloy and Genta and waved towards them, while Kota continued trying to fix the color of the woman’s right eyelid. “Oh, hello there! The makeup room is still the jungle, in case you were thinking of entering it.”

“But we have managed to secure some ‘stuff’,” Ren said with a foxy grin, gesturing towards different makeup products. “We’ll return them later, of course, but in the meantime, feel free to use them–Ryo, don’t you dare run away and let me put that on you!”

Sssh, Ren, don’t say it like that, you bastard! It sounds dirty!”

“I said on you. Not inside you~.”


“I think we’re good,” Genta was about to leave, but stopped when seeing that Eloy had approached the table and was checking the products. “Wait, do you want to use them?”

“Oh, I do,” Eloy grabbed a pink lipstick and faced Genta with a wide smirk. “But not on me.”

Genta widened his eyes and looked about to protest, but eventually barked a laugh and nodded.

“Why the hell not. If we’re doing this, we’re doing it properly.”

At the end Ayaka also offered to apply some light makeup on Eloy, and in the meantime Genta miraculously managed to convince Ryo that it would be very manly to stay put while Ren used some makeup on him so that his small eyes were more noticeable on stage.

Both Eloy and Ayaka were having quite a hard time suppressing their laughs when Ryo started cursing non-stop while grabbing Genta’s hand as Ren applied the eyeliner. Even Kota, who was engrossed in his mobile playing some kind of game, had the hint of a smile on his face. The sight they all presented attracted the attention of ‘The Novas’, who at that moment were exiting the makeup room.

The model pair looked at each one of them, then rolled their eyes at the same time in a condescending way before continuing their way.

“It wouldn’t hurt them to be a little bit nicer,” Ayaka commented while continuing to give the last touches to Eloy’s makeup.

“Why should they? They’re still the most famous around, even with that high-and-mighty attitude,” Ren commented, finally separating from Ryo, who exhaled a loud relieved sigh. “In fact there are several pairs in this contest that follow them like puppies and fight for their attention.”

“Why?” Genta asked with confusion, finally releasing Ryo’s hand while this muttered an almost inaudible ‘thank you’. “I mean, they’re rivals. They’re going to end up facing each other.”

“Well, my guess is that even if they end up losing in the contest, they are trying to keep that contact in case it’s helpful for them.”

“Like moths drawn to a flame,” Kota muttered without averting his eyes from his phone, causing Ren to chuckle.

“I couldn’t have expressed it better.”

Genta snorted and leaned on the table with his arms crossed. “People are really stupid sometimes. It’s obvious that those two aren’t planning to keep any friends from here.”

“Well, by following that logic, people may also think that we’re stupid for being helping each other right now,” Eloy commented while Ayaka grabbed his chin softly and made him tilt his head, examining her work.

“Maybe we are,” Ayaka agreed, just before nodding once with a smile and releasing Eloy. “But honestly, I prefer not being at each other's throats, and simply focusing on doing my performance the best I can.”

“Amen to that,” Ren commented, just before showing a mischievous smile. “Although to be 100% honest, just with these interactions I have managed to come up with some weak points that may come in handy if you end up being too good for your own good.”

“Really?” Genta said with an unimpressed tone. “Like what?”

Ren shook his index finger before smiling cryptically. “If we all pass this challenge, maybe I’ll let you know.”

Genta snorted and shook his head while Ren and Ryo took their leave. He then approached Eloy, who was looking at himself with the camera of his mobile.

“Wow, you did an awesome job, Ayaka. Thank you so much,” Ayaka smiled happily before waving her hand goodbye, also leaving with Kota towards the dressing room. Eloy then turned towards Genta with a smile, not noticing that Genta was a bit too serious. “Now you can’t say that I look artificial. She did a great job making it look natural–”

Eloy didn’t see the hard kiss on his cheek coming.

He stared at Genta with his eyes opened wide after Genta separated, feeling warm all over.

“Why did you do that?” Eloy blurted out, softly touching the lipstick on his cheek.

Genta looked at him in silence before shrugging. “One of the keywords was ‘Shameless’, right? I just thought that mark could fit with the topic.”

Eloy was still with his mouth open wide when Genta said a too conversational ‘Let’s get going’ and started walking towards the stage. Needless to say, it took a while for his heart to recover its normal beating.

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