Chapter 2:

Issei's Gambit

Purple Prose

The door swung open and Purple Lotus entered, breathing heavily, their drummer soaking from sweat. Yet all were beaming with delight and relief as they sat down. They absolutely crushed their performance, and the crowd let them know.

“Do you hear that, Murasaki?” Their guitarist said, inhaling from his mouth as if taking all the crowd’s praise into himself. “They love us. They want us.”

“Thank goodness!” she cried, and her shoulders drooped as she sank deeper into the sofa.

Their drummer, gasping for air, grabbed a towel, poured water from a nearby faucet, and draped it over his head. “But…at what cost?"

Issei couldn’t believe it. A new band, yet they brought the house down like it was nothing...and the bass guitarist Murasaki, her voice was a cut above the was art.

“What did you think?”

Issei blinked. Murasaki leaned over the armrest with a confident smile–she caught him staring like a deer blinded by headlights.

“Honestly, I’m impressed,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. “Your style, your moves, your voice–you sure you’re new to this?”

She shook her head. “Our band is new, but we’re from different bands that split up. Ichiriki over there’s been playing guitar since he was a kid.”

Issei raised his eyebrows. “Now that makes sense! We all thought you were greenhorns. Poor Takao was losing his mind.”

Murasaki laughed. “We’re not disguised as pros or anything, but thanks. I’m glad you liked our gig.”

Issei found himself smiling with her. As much talent as Murasaki had, she didn’t seem to flaunt it or think highly of herself.

Their pleasant conversation ended abruptly: at once, Issei heard scattered bouts of shouting at a level that even overtook the waiting room.

“Sorry Boys,” Murasaki said, pursing her lips, “sounds like they aren’t ready for the next act.”

That was putting it lightly, Issei thought. Kanka was nodding off while standing up, and Takao was staring at his hands as though his effort was all in vain. He had to pull them together somehow, if only to regain their dignity as musicians.

Issei fetched the sheet music from his locker, then patted it with a grin. “I think we can still make the crowd swoon.”

Murasaki’s eyes widened as she gazed at the mysterious contents. “Oh really?” She sat up. “Looking forward to it.”

Issei shoved the sheet music into Takao and Kanka’s chests, his booming voice carrying. “Shore up and make sure you know your part! We got five minutes.”

Kanka snorted awake. “Huh? What’s this?”

“Gentlemen: we’re playing our new song.”

Takao waved the papers in his face. “Oh, so you want us to dig our graves deeper than it already is? We screw up and we’re dog food!”

Issei caught his hand. “We won’t screw up.” From the corner of his eye he saw Murasaki watching intently. “This new song has all our experience put into it.”


Kanka hummed as he mimed playing the drums in the air. “It’s got merit. You’re the founders, so I’ll follow whatever you decide.”

Takao groaned. “Issei, you better know what you’re doing.”

The chaos grew, and Kanka ran to the glass partition. “It’s not looking good, guys: they’re getting real antsy!”

“Nothing we can do about that,” Issei said. “All we can do is kill it on the stage. Grab your things. Kanka, make sure there’s three mics.”

Murasaki cooed. “Three mics! Now I’m really interested.”

Ichiriki packed his axe, and as he zipped his case, he said “come on. Let’s find the manager, get paid, and go home.”

She crossed her arms. “No way! I wanna see what they can do.”

He shrugged. “Suit yourself.”

Issei kept his head forward, grinning as Secret Prose stepped out to defend their honor. A surge of confidence welled within him. His band might not have faith in him, but Murasaki did, and that’s all Issei needed.

That didn’t stop Issei’s heart from pounding out of his chest, though. He hadn’t been this nervous since his first foray on the stage, and the crowd sure wasn’t letting up.

Secret Prose stood ready on Stage Right, a raised hallway with a number of machinery and stagehands operating behind the scenes and in the dark: they were the veins and nerves that gave The Montauk life.

A technician wearing headphones pushed a button on her console, and she gave Issei a thumbs up as smoke billowed onto the stage. Takao kept cursing. Kanka hopped in place like a boxer until Issei pushed him.

“Three mics, dumbass!”

Then the manager came on the intercom. “Acolytes of The Montauk! Before our ritual ends, we have one last rite for tonight. They are the very bishops of this temple, the veterans of The Montauk, the priests of Progressive. Chant their names: Secret! Prose!”


The smoke cleared, and as they marched onstage, Issei’s worst fears were realized. They weren’t just jeering–they were leaving! This was bad. If Issei couldn’t corral the crowd soon, he’d be playing to an empty house, and they might as well call it quits.

“No way! I wanna see what they can do.”

It was all he needed. Issei’s heart jumped into his throat as if trying to escape, but he had to be calm. Success hitched on the intro of Ebisu.

Issei took a breath and led the intro with his voice. For now, all instruments were still.

Oh Ebisu, don’t you cry,

your ship is sunk, but your feet are dry

So take one step left and another right

Cast your line, fly, cast your line far,

Issei glanced at Takao and Kanka as their chests rose.

Cast your line high

Secret Prose swelled with bass and guitar in a steady harmony, while the drums slowly thumped the bass pedal as though the band was walking. The Japanese deity Ebisu was walking.

Issei caught a man turning on his heel to return.

They will succeed and he will prove it, because Secret Prose had a secret weapon: Takao and Kanka could sing too.

Should you stop because you fell,

or when the line you cast is dead?

A step back ain’t forever,

but a giant leap ahead

Kanka, spinning his drumsticks, picked up the song with in-between hits of the snare, Takao following his lead. The three joined in.

Ebisu grab onto my cane

Hold fast and we shall

tether our thread over and over

Our ship shall dance again

Dance again

Now came the part Issei was sure of: the one chorus at the end.

For this to work, Secret Prose needed that rushing feeling he felt before. Issei spun and faced Kanka while bobbing his head to the quickening pace. Takao’s bass fluttered like a train picking up speed. Fingers crawled, skipped, and leapt from string to string. Kanka battered the snare.

He heard cheering. Slowly, the jeers and boos turned to applause and whistles, and the overwhelming dread melted away as they sang in unity.

Waves high and low,

and Hell down below

Ebisu fell off his boat

Brothers help him stay afloat

Thread through the cane,

And cast away the pain

When the demons are screaming out

Ebisu just wash away your doubt

Oh, grab onto my cane

Hold fast and we shall

Tether our thread over and over

And your line will cast again

Our ship will dance again

Now for the big finish. Secret Prose went silent, but Issei pressed his lungs like a pair of bellows.


With one last great riff, Issei and Takao strummed, their guitars shoved to the sky as they rang out.

The Montauk roared in ecstasy. Takao held an ear to the audience in defiance as they finally chanted their name.

"Secret Prose! Secret Prose! Secret Prose!"

Their ordeal was over. Despite the crowd’s nonsense, they took a bow and promptly left.

Murasaki had her hands on the glass partition, and when they returned, her head pivoted with a look of pure amazement.

“Badass!” she called out. “Your voice is so good! I had a hunch you could do it, but wow! I didn’t expect that.”

Issei chuckled breathlessly as he plopped onto the sofa, feeling his legs turn to mush. “I didn’t expect that either.”

Kanka let out a low whistle before laughing. “Now that was a performance.”

“I don’t want to hear it!” Takao yelled, his face inside the corner of the sofa’s other side. Issei heard whimpering.

“Dude, are you crying?”

“No! I’m just trying to keep my soul from leaving my body. I’m demanding a week off, I don’t care what anyone says.”

Murasaki hopped onto the sofa’s armrest next to Issei, which was unexpected. She tapped her cheek with a finger. “I’ll have to figure something out, but if this is how fun The Montauk will be, then we’ll have to play every week. Do you guys play every week?”

“Every week,” Issei said.

Takao groaned.

“I said every week!”

Pope Evaristus
Kya Hon