Chapter 45:

The final challenge

Bonded by Music

Eloy had barely said Genta’s name aloud when Genta hugged him with such force that Eloy took a couple of steps backwards.

“I’m sorry,” Genta apologized with a guilty tone that made Eloy’s eyes snap open. “I’m sorry, Eloy. I was a jerk to you. I was so angry and focused on my own shit that I didn’t even think how important your PhD and that scholarship were for you, nor what would imply that you’d lose the second.”

Eloy felt a warmth spread inside him, returning the hug.

“Genta, listen–”

“So don’t worry about the contest, okay? Focus on your meeting, and I’ll handle the rest. Besides, if we use one of Cara’s recordings, maybe we have a chance because you’ll still be playing even if you aren’t physically there–” Genta finally pulled back at that moment, and he frowned as he looked at Eloy. “Wait, have you been crying?”

Eloy chuckled. “Yes, but it’s okay.” He rapidly continued when he saw that Genta looked like he wanted to apologize again. “Now that I’ve figured out what I really want to do, I’m fine.”

The concern on Genta’s face turned into confusion. “What do you mean?”

Eloy smiled. “I’m participating in the final challenge with you.”

Genta opened and closed his mouth a couple of times, clearly struggling to process the news. “But…But I thought that you’d lose the scholarship if you missed that meeting.”

“I’ll probably lose it, yes,” Eloy said with a matter-of-fact tone that made Genta’s eyes widen. “But if I renounce the contest now, I know I’ll regret it forever.”

“Eloy, if you’re doing just this because of the debt–”

“I’m not,” Eloy assured Genta, before correcting himself. “It’s true that wasting the chance of helping you settle it would make me feel guilty, but it’s not the only reason. The truth is that I really, really want to do this with you. We started this together, and I want to see it through to the end, no matter the outcome.”

Genta swallowed. “But if you forsake the scholarship, that means that you…”

Eloy smiled with acceptance. “I’ll have to go back to Spain, yes.” He saw Genta’s eyes turning brighter, so he approached him to place his hands on Genta’s shoulders. “But even if it’s not with this scholarship, I’ll find a way to come back. I promise you that."

Genta swallowed thickly, cursed, and cupped Eloy’s face in his hands to kiss him. Eloy set his hands on Genta’s hips, pulling his body closer as they continued kissing. Eloy had missed those moments with Genta during those days, but until then, he hadn’t realized how much.

“I promise it’ll be worth it,” Genta said when they finally pulled back, his eyes shining with determination. “We’re going to win. I’m sure of it.”

Eloy chuckled. “For me it’s already worth it, even if we don’t.”

“Well, one of the two have to be the ambitious one–wait, are those your parents and sister?”

“Oh, shit!

Eloy had completely forgotten that the video call was still on. Thankfully, the camera wasn’t facing the door, so his parents hadn’t seen them talk, although they had probably heard them.

“Laura, even if you move your head, you’re not going to see the other side of the room–oh, son, is everything okay?” his father asked when Eloy hurriedly put his headphones on.

“Is that Genta, sweetie? Can we finally meet him? Oh, but he won’t understand a word that we say. Quickly, Pedro, open Google Translate in a new tab.”

“Brother, you’re still in time to pretend the connection has failed, just saying.”

Eloy scratched his back awkwardly while his parents and sister talked to each other. He then turned to Genta, who hadn’t moved from his spot.

“They want to meet you,” he resumed, causing Genta to look at him in horror.

“Dressed like this? No way,” Genta snapped nervously while signaling at his completely normal clothes, which made Eloy hum while shrugging, suppressing the urge to smile with amusement.

“Okay, I’ll tell them that you're not interested in meeting them–”

“Shit, fine, but this is going to be awkward as hell.”

Indeed, it was a little awkward, but Eloy found himself unable to stop smiling during the whole conversation.

* * *

“Wow, this place is huge when you see it in person! I’ll take it as a reference if I even write a novel about a music contest.”

“Cara, wait, we were told that we weren’t supposed to take pictures inside.”

“Oh shoot, you’re right, Narumi. Thanks for the warning.”

“You two are wearing your lucky cranes with you, right? Although I have the materials inside my bag in case you need me to crochet a new one really quickly.”

While Genta started reassuring Hiromi that both Eloy and him hadn’t forgotten the mini-crocheted cranes that she had made them the night before, Eloy felt his phone vibrating in the pocket of his trousers.

“Is it her?” Genta asked when seeing Eloy looking at his phone.

“Yes,” Eloy said before refusing Cristina’s call. He had already explained everything to her in the email he had sent her the day before, and he didn’t think there was anything left to be said.

“What a pity,” Genta said with a playful smile before whispering the next bit in his ear. “I wouldn’t have minded hearing you angrily talking in Spanish.”

Eloy chuckled. “But you won’t even know what I’m saying.”

“Don’t need to. It still sounds hot.”

“I’m getting some vibes of ‘A Fish Called Wanda’ here.”

“...A fish called what?”

Eloy laughed at Genta’s utterly confused question. He was about to explain that he was talking about a movie when he spotted Ren and Ayaka, who had just entered the theater with their respective parents.

For that final challenge, each finalist could invite two guests that would occupy the best seats in the theater. That had allowed Genta and Eloy to bring Hiromi and the girls, after Ms. Yamane assured them that she would be perfectly okay with having her customers watch the finals at Harmony.

Also, they were allowed to show the guests around the place, including the backstage. Since that night there would only be five pairs participating, they had plenty of time to meet and talk to the guests that Electric Soul and The Cords Brothers had brought. It was really funny to see Genta getting along with Kota’s and Ryo’s younger brothers. They both looked rather curious of the tattoos on his arms, and Eloy had to suppress his chuckles when seeing Ryo rapidly interject when his little brother enthusiastically said that he wanted to get some too.

Around 7 PM, everyone had to say goodbye to the guests in order to get ready. This time, since they would be performing original songs, they talked to the stylist so that she could advise them what to wear. They ended up dressing in semi-formal attire: both wearing black suit pants and their respective light blue and red thin shirts, with the stylist strongly encouraging them to keep the sleeves slightly rolled up.

“Well, here we are,” Eloy thought aloud while waiting with the rest of the finalists in one of the sides of the backstage.

“Are you nervous?” Genta asked next to him, and though Eloy was about to answer affirmatively, out of habit, he discovered that this time, it was different.

“Actually, I’m not,” he said with an incredulous smile. “Maybe I’ll be nervous later, when I sit at the piano, but right now I’m not.”

Genta smiled playfully. “So you’re so confident that we’re going to win that you don’t even get nervous? That’s the spirit, Mr. Glasses.”

Before Eloy had time to reply, Ren spoke up behind them.

“Just for the record, don’t think that we’re going easy on you just because you were nice and gave us your vote,” he said with one of his foxy smiles. “So we’re going to give our best to win.”

“Sorry for the bad news, but statistically speaking, SevenEG has higher chances to win than you two,” Kota commented with his usual monotone voice.

“HAH?! Where the hell do those statistics come from, Kota?!” Ryo shouted so loud that some people in the audience - some good meters away from them - looked around, startled.

“Well, we have to promise that no matter the result, we still have to celebrate having reached this far,” Ayaka said with her usual optimistic attitude.

At that moment, the theater went dark, a spotlight illuminated the stage, and the host walked on from the other side, provoking a wide applause from the audience.

Eloy exchanged a glance with Genta and smiled when Genta winked at him confidently.

The Final challenge was, finally, about to start.

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