Chapter 38:

Take a risk

Bonded by Music

“Yes, it’s a mild sprain. You’re lucky, because it’s on the edge of being considered severe. When did it happen?”

Eloy fixed his gaze on Genta, who was seated on the gurney of the makeshift infirmary set up backstage. They had hurried there immediately after their performance, since Genta had needed to lean on Eloy for support to keep walking the moment the stage lights turned off, once the adrenaline faded away.

Genta had been avoiding Eloy’s eyes during the entire time, and also while the doctor inspected his foot.

“About three days ago,” Genta mumbled, causing Eloy’s eyes to widen when connecting the dots.

“And you’ve been treating it?” asked the doctor.

“Yeah, I applied ice, and I kept the foot elevated at home.”

“And what about taking proper rest?” the doctor asked next, in a tone that indicated that she anticipated the answer before Genta spoke.

“Not much,” Genta admitted.

Eloy took a deep breath. He felt really angry, both at Genta and himself, but he refrained himself from saying anything for the time being. He simply listened as the doctor finished giving Genta instructions about how to properly care for the injury.

They both thanked the doctor and left the infirmary, with Eloy supporting Genta. They had barely left the place when Genta tried to speak.


“Not yet,” Eloy simply said, with a calm that he was far from feeling.

Finding a secluded spot backstage was impossible, but Eloy deduced that the dressing area should be relatively empty by then. He was right, though staff members occasionally passed by. Eloy carefully helped Genta sit on one of the chairs scattered around before crossing his arms, staring at Genta from above.

Just then Genta met his eyes, before letting out a defeated sigh. “You’re gonna shout at me, aren’t you–”

“What the hell were you thinking?” Eloy snapped, in a tone loud enough so that anyone who passed by could hear their conversation. Not that he cared at the moment. “Did anyone else know about this?”

“No,” Genta rapidly said. “I didn’t tell anyone.”

Eloy sighed, feeling a little relieved. Because if Genta had told anyone but him, he would be even angrier.

“So that's why you suggested we spaced out practicing the final lift, right?” Eloy exhaled a humorless chuckle, since Genta’s silence was all the confirmation he needed. “I should’ve figured that something was wrong.”

“Hey, now don’t start blaming yourself now. I’m the one who–”

“–who’s the most at fault here? Oh don’t worry, I know you are,” Eloy sarcastically interrupted with frustration. “Damn it, Genta, you should have told me. If I had known that you were injured, we could have adjusted the choreography so that you–”

“That’s exactly why I didn’t tell you,” Genta softly interrupted Eloy this time. “At this point of the competition, we couldn’t afford to simplify things, or hold back. If you had known about the sprain, you’d have been more concerned about how I was instead of focusing on the dance.”

“Sure, because keeping that injury to yourself and ruining the performance as a result was a much better option.”

Eloy regretted his words as soon as they left his lips, especially because Genta didn’t snap back at him. Genta remained silent, looking at him while accepting Eloy’s reproach.

“I fucked up,” Genta admitted, and Eloy felt his heart clench when Genta’s tone sounded slightly wavering next. “I’m really sorry, Eloy. I…I miscalculated. I really thought that I could pull that off so I took a risk, but I was wrong. I messed up, and…and…”

Eloy didn’t let Genta finish the sentence. He bent down to hug Genta tightly just when Genta’s voice was about to crack, feeling his anger vanish as fast as it had appeared.

“It’s okay,” Eloy said, and he meant it. “You’re right. I’m a worrywart, so knowing about your sprain would have made me want to simplify everything.”

Genta snorted while hugging Eloy back. “Yeah, but we wouldn’t have ruined the performance like I did.”

“Well, but the judges would have fallen asleep if we went with the simplified version, which is even worse.” Eloy’s comment caused Genta to chuckle tremblingly. “In any case, what’s done is done, so let’s just hope that our stripper performance has been good enough so that they let that last fall slide.”

Genta chuckled again, took a deep breath, and nodded while pulling away. “Yeah, guess there’s no point in complaining now.” Genta quickly brushed away the tears and accepted Eloy’s help to stand up. “But if we don’t make it, I promise I’ll find a way to compensate you–”

Eloy cut Genta’s words with another hug. “Just promise me you'll let me know when you're hurt next time, okay? And forget about the compensation. I don’t need it.”

Genta exhaled a soft incredulous snort before cursing and returning the hug. They allowed themselves a moment before returning to the stage.

They managed to reach their seats in the benches positioned on either side of the stage when the last performance was taking place. Eloy felt a gentle pat on his shoulder and turned around. Ayaka and Kota were sitting behind them, a level up from their position.

“Are you both alright?” she whispered, and Eloy smiled while nodding, because they looked genuinely concerned.

Once the last performance concluded, the entire stage was illuminated, revealing all the contestants seated on the benches. The host reappeared on stage, his familiar wide smile in place, as he addressed the audience.

The host spent a few moments rambling about the night’s performances, also prompting the audience for a new round of applause for the contestants. Eventually, he moved on to the moment everyone had been anxiously awaiting.

“...and now, the time has come for the judges to deliver their verdict on this third challenge. However, before we proceed, there has been a last-minute change to the program schedule.” The host made a theatrical pause before continuing. “The forthcoming, fourth challenge will be our grand finale.”

“What?” Eloy muttered while shock fell upon all the contestants and the audience.

Although the specific number of challenges had never been explicitly confirmed, it had been widely assumed that there would be one challenge associated with each judge before culminating in a final one.

It seemed they had been mistaken.

“The details for the final challenge will be disclosed later by our esteemed Mr. Shin,” the host continued, obviously pleased by the impact of his announcement. “The only thing I’ll reveal now is that, out of the fifteen pairs that remain in the competition, our lovely judges will choose the top five to progress to the final stage.”

“Only five?” Genta whispered next to Eloy before letting out a defeated sigh. “Shit. We’re not gonna make it.”

Eloy exhaled deeply, forcing himself to push the negative thoughts away before placing a comforting hand on the top of Genta’s. “We don’t know that yet. Sure, we made a mistake, but let’s not give up yet. Besides, if we don’t think we deserve to pass, there’s no way the judges think we do”

Genta also took a deep breath and nodded with determination. “You’re right.” He snorted. “Sorry. I promised you I wouldn’t give up, and here I am moping.”

Eloy gently squeezed Genta's hand. “Hey now, I remind you that I had zero confidence in being able to play that score during the second challenge, or doing this dance half-decently. So there’s nothing wrong for being the ’moping one’ for once.”

His words made Genta smile at him with gratitude. “Thank you, Eloy.”

Eloy returned the smile and was about to withdraw his hand when Genta grasped it, interlacing their fingers. Eloy's heart skipped a beat at the unexpected touch.

“Wait, the cameras might catch us–”

“Good. That way everyone will know that I’m the lucky one to have you as a boyfriend.”

Eloy felt his whole face heat up when hearing Genta, who simply winked at him with affection. Eloy released a soft, disbelieving laugh before swallowing hard. It was selfish, but at that moment, losing the challenge didn’t bother him as much.

Finally, the verdict began, with the judges evaluating the contestants randomly instead of respecting the performance order, just to make things more interesting. Unsurprisingly, The Novas was the first pair chosen to advance to the Final, followed by the pair of girls that had opted for traditional music from the beginning. Eloy felt a little bad for secretly wishing that the remaining pairs wouldn’t advance before their turn, and sighing with relief when they didn’t.

SevenEG was the tenth pair to be named. Just as Eloy was about to stand up, Genta talked.

“Don’t help me walk. It’s a short distance. I can manage.”

Eloy nodded and walked with Genta to the center of the stage, both of them ready to face the judges' decision together.

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