Chapter 47:

And the winner is…

Bonded by Music

The following fifteen minutes felt eternal as they waited for the judges to finish deliberating. In fact, Eloy had to place his hands on his knees to stop them from bouncing. Finally, the stage lights turned on and the host reappeared.

"Well, everyone, thank you very much for your patience! Now, finally, the moment we've all been waiting for is here: it's time to decide the winner of the 8th season of 'Tune it Up'!"

The host spent a few minutes explaining how the winner would be decided: all the challenges except the first one had been evaluated and scored between 1 and 10. The three pairs with the highest scores would move on to the last stage, in which the final winner would be determined by the audience and viewers' votes.

The host asked the finalists to stand up to hear the results. The lights dimmed, leaving only the stage and the large screens hanging around the venue illuminated. Also, tense music began to play in the background.

“So, let’s begin.” The host said, clearing his throat. “So, the results of the second challenge are: 8 points for The Biwa Girls, 10 points for The Novas, 10 points for Electric Soul, 9 points for The Cords Brothers, and 10 points for SevenEG.”

Applause filled the room as Eloy took a deep breath. The second challenge wasn't a problem, given the positive response from the judges at the time. It was the third challenge that worried them the most.

“For now there’s a triple tie between three pairs, but two challenges still remain!” The host created the usual nerve-wrecking pause before continuing. “The results of the third challenge are: 9 points for The Biwa Girls, 9 points for The Novas, 9 points for Electric Soul, 8 points for The Cords Brothers, and 8 points for SevenEG.”

Eloy made some rapid estimations while the screens updated the results. He concluded that they needed at least a 9 to have a chance to be among the top three, even if it meant tying with others. Based on the performances of the other pairs, it seemed unlikely for them to score less than a 9.

“And now, for the final challenge, we’re going to do things a little differently. We will first announce the two pairs that will not proceed to the audience vote, though by a very narrow margin, I must say. So, the first pair that will not proceed to the audience vote, with a score of 8 in the final challenge, is…” There was another dramatic pause, accompanied by the intensifying tension in the background music, before the host continued. “...The Biwa Girls, who end up in fifth position with a total of 25 points out of 30.”

“Damn, all this shitty tension is really necessary?” Genta muttered grumpily next to Eloy.

“I suppose that's the part some people enjoy the most.”

“Well, I guess the world is full of masochists.”

Eloy had to hold back a laugh at Genta's frustrated tone.

“And now, the second pair that will not proceed to the final voting, with a score of 9 in the final challenge, is… The Cords Brothers, who finish in fourth position with a total of 26 points out of 30.”

There were a few disappointed murmurs in the audience, and Eloy was surprised to see that, this time, it was Ryo the one who looked pretty calm while placing a comforting hand on Ren’s shoulder, since Ren’s fake smile looked about to break at any moment.

In the end, both SevenEG and The Novas received a 10 in the final challenge, while Electric Soul received a 9. This left The Novas with a total score of 29 out of 30, and a draw between SevenEG and Electric Soul, both with 28 points.

However, for this final part, those scores were irrelevant. What mattered now was the audience vote. That would be what decided everything.

The following 10 minutes of waiting, while the audience and viewers would be able to vote, passed even more slowly than when they were waiting for the judges’ final evaluation.

Eloy also realized that he had been wrong: he was definitely more nervous than in any previous challenge.

“Hey,” Eloy jumped startled when Genta suddenly grasped his hand. “We’re going to make it. Trust me.”

Eloy swallowed and pressed Genta’s hand back.

He hadn’t been lying. He had really felt that participating in the final challenge was enough.

But now that they were among the top third finalists, he really wanted to win.

He remembered his father’s words, when he first told them about the contest: ‘They’re always unfair, and there are always talented people who are left out even if they deserved to win as well’.

The man couldn’t be more right.

The thought that they could leave empty-handed after all the hard work they had put into it was beyond frustrating.

“And the time for the audience voting is over now!”

The host then prompted the six finalists to get close. Eloy didn’t release Genta’s hand while walking towards the center of the stage, and neither when they stayed there, close to the host.

Once again, the host said that he would first announce the pair that would end in third position, with a 12% of the audience vote. And after a new pause - that managed to be even longer and more dramatic than the others - Electric Soul was announced.

Kota looked resigned but mostly fine, while Ayaka was clearly suppressing tears as she wished them both luck before returning to the benches.

By then, Eloy’s heart was racing so fast that he could hear it in his ears. With only two pairs left, his eyes met The Novas' gaze, finding them as nervous as he was.

Honestly, anything could happen now, since even if the audience reaction to SevenEG had always been really positive, the Novas had a lot of followers and people that supported them.

Any pair could win.

Again, it was a matter of luck.

“And now, finally, the climax of the night! Sound, give me a drumroll, please! Among the 88% remaining, the pair that has emerged victorious with 57% of the votes, is…”

Silence fell in the theater.

An utter and complete silence, during which Eloy would swear that everyone was holding their breaths.

And then, after a few agonizing seconds, the host spoke.


Eloy had never been a competitive person, and the times where he had needed to compete, was because he had had no choice.

Therefore, he had never experienced what it was like to win a highly competitive contest like ‘Tune it Up’.

So, he remained mostly in a shocked frozen state as a raging ovation filled the place, and while confetti started to fall from the ceiling, and the other finalists approached to congratulate them, with Ryo palming Genta’s back effusively and Ren even admitting that he didn’t mind losing that much if it was against them.

Until Genta jumped in his arms in order to hug him tightly, Eloy didn’t react, nor assimilated what had just happened.

“We made it,” Genta was saying while burying his face in his neck, in a tone that sounded about to break at any moment. “Holy shit, we actually made it!”

Eloy started to laugh out of nervousness and happiness before finally hugging Genta back.

“So you weren’t that confident that we were going to win.”

“Oi, I was! Maybe just at 80-90%, but I was more confident than you anyway,” Genta said, half-laughing and half-crying.

Eloy laughed again before a lump formed in his throat.

In the background, he could hear the host prompting the judges to get close, but Eloy didn’t pay attention to it.

There was something more important in his mind right then.

“Just promise me something,” Eloy gulped and whispered the next bit in Genta’s ear. “That until I find a way to come back, you’d save some money of the prize to come visit me in Spain, okay?”

Genta snorted, a little tremblingly. “You can bet I will.”

Bitterness didn’t have time to settle in Eloy, since Hiromi, Cara, Mako and Narumi rapidly joined them on stage, surrounding them both in a warm, excited group hug.

And among laughter, hugs, congratulations, and a good dose of happy tears, Eloy found himself immensely grateful for having chosen that path.

Because even if the outcome wasn’t perfect, and even if he would inevitably need to say goodbye to that new family he had happened to find, there was no doubt in his heart that sharing that experience with Genta was worth forsaking a thousand scholarships.

MyAnimeList iconMyAnimeList icon