Chapter 12:

Judgment Day Pt. 2: Murasaki's Secret

Purple Prose

Ichiriki opened the lobby’s door and the once-muffled volume blasted through the cracks, and Issei’s eardrums were raided by Thundersquall’s war-like rhythm. Ichiriki called out over the noise. “Hamada, want anything?” Surely he should have asked before opening the door?

Their drummer yelled back. “The hardest they got!”

“Murasaki, what about you? Murasaki!”

She was watching the performance so intently, she hadn’t heard him, which forced him to close the door–muffling the sound again–and jostle her shoulder.

Murasaki turned around as if woken from a dream. “Huh?”

Ichiriki ground his teeth. “Do you. Want anything. From the stand?”

“Oh! I want hot tea.”

He slapped his forehead. “How about a Long Island iced tea?”

She puffed her cheeks. “Beer isn’t good for your voice! I want hot tea!”

“Okay, I’ll get you a nice, cold beer.”

“I said tea!”

“Beer it is.”

Ichiriki winked at Issei as they left, the maelstrom of noise once again flooding his ears. The last thing Issei saw before he closed the door was Murasaki ranting with an arm flailing in the air.

Thundersquall finished with a flurry of blast beats and wailing of guitar as the crowd cheered with red-hot zeal. As soon as it began, they bowed and left before the manager came on the intercom again.

“Do we have Red Nightingale in the house? Of course we do! The music gods demand your presence! RED! NIGHTINGALE!”

They swam through dozens of people going every which way, some also heading for the concession stand. “So what kinda beer you like?” Ichiriki asked.

“I like stouts, but they’re out of season, so any beer will do.”

Three cashiers, one of them with a chevron medal pinned to his vest, leapfrogged from register to the taps and from register to microwaves. The Montauk had everything from beer and sake, to fried food and snacks.

“I’ll pay,” Ichiriki said, and when he caught Issei’s surprise, added “it’s a present.”

A present? What for? He didn’t remember doing anything gift-worthy.

The cashier in training brought their plastic cups full of amber drink and bowed. Ichiriki then pointed at the bathrooms.

“Somewhere quiet, I think.” He shifted to his side as a group of Metal fans moved at once and blocked their way.

Issei raised an eyebrow. “What’s this all about?”

He flashed a grin. “Come on–I just want to talk without having to shout. Bad for your voice, you know?”

Once they entered the men’s bathroom, Ichiriki promptly checked every stall. Then, when each one was vacant, he breathed a sigh of relief. For some reason, he wanted no one else to be inside.

He took a sip of his beer, then stood directly in front of Issei. “I heard Murasaki talk about home with you back in the lobby. Had she told you?”

Issei’s mouth hung open, his eyes narrowing. He knew he'd bring this up. Murasaki had said not to tell anyone…but what about people who already know? Surely her guitarist has a stronger inkling. Slowly, he nodded.

He took another swig. “Then she trusts you outright. That’s good. But she didn’t tell you everything, did she?” He paced around the small bathroom, making sure not to graze the grimy walls. “Drink that beer, man–warm beer sucks. Anyway, you must be confused why her dad would put her through such pain just for a damn college degree.”

Issei finally drank his light, crisp Pilsner. Less flavor than stout, and it tasted more like watery bread than anything, but he never turned down free alcohol. “She only said what her father would do if she quit–he would disown her.”

Ichiriki scoffed. “A huge bluff. But I believe it, coming from him. After all, it never was what Murasaki wanted. It’s what he wants. What that bastard wants is fame: to be the father of a Nobel Prize winner, nothing more.”

Issei opened his mouth, but before he could ask why her dad would pin all his hopes on such a weird way to gain fame, Ichiriki cut him off.

“What did you think of Thundersquall? What do you think of Red Nightingale right now?”

He listened closely through the bathroom walls. Nightingale was a J-Metal band, more brooding than their popular counterparts. Their draw was mostly for their costumes: solid ruby red, with wings and beak masks as though they were red eagles, but they were a solid band–probably one of the top five bands Mr. Matsuda had mentioned.

“I prefer Thundersquall…but they’re both strong contenders, don’t you think? They’ll get signed soon.”

For a moment, Ichiriki glared, then he went back to his drink. “Perhaps. But how did Murasaki react to Thundersquall? Sure, we don’t know what she thinks of Red Nightingale, but being her band mate all this time, I can make a good guess: if Murasaki was an agent, she’d pick Thundersquall every time.”

Issei’s eyes went wide. “But she didn’t even know of Thrash Metal until tonight!”

His cup hand held up a finger. “It has nothing to do with her knowledge of Metal, but her immaculate sense of hearing: Murasaki is a natural-born audiophile.”

Issei folded his arms. From what he heard, audiophiles are people who settle for nothing less than the best quality tech for music, enthusiasts who study the essence of sound and the science of how music works. He couldn't imagine Murasaki being so finicky.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Ichiriki said, “and for her, it goes further than just buying the best gadgets. Murasaki has perfect pitch and perfect hearing–no, more than perfect hearing: she can hear people’s heartbeats clear across a room.”

He downed the rest of his beer. “I’ve seen it happen myself. One day, that ability sealed her fate. Murasaki and her family were eating at a restaurant with me. That twelve-year-old girl was happily eating like all was well in the world–then she stopped and sharply turned her head. A woman across the aisle was dabbing her sweaty forehead with a cloth. Suddenly, Murasaki said ‘that lady’s heart doesn’t sound good.’ Next thing we know, when we look over, the woman clutches her chest and collapses on the floor.”

Issei’s mouth hung open. “That’s insane! No, that’s just ridiculous.” He swept his hand as though swatting a fly. “It’s pure coincidence!”

“You think so, do you?” Ichiriki turned and tossed his cup in the trash can. “Her father disagrees. From that moment on, he had locked her away in her room, face in the books, barely any contact with her friends, all but ensuring she enrolled in the best high school and the best university. Why? Because if she can detect heart failures before they happen, she can make a discovery and become one of the most celebrated scientists of her time.”

He stood there, stunned. All this just for a hunch? Could Murasaki’s father really be that stupid? Issei felt blood rise in his head.

“Even if all this was true…it’s not worth forcing Murasaki to be someone she’s not!”

Ichiriki flashed a grin and nodded. “That’s what I want to hear.”

He held out his fist, and Issei fist-bumped. “That’s why I’ll do whatever it takes: I’ll make sure Murasaki achieves her dreams so that she’ll never once think of going back.”

“Ah.” Ichiriki turned on his heel and faced the bathroom door. “Speaking of, they’re probably wondering where we are. I forgot Hamada and Murasaki’s beers too.”

In an instant, Issei felt an all-too-familiar strain in his chest–that sickening tug where the feelings he had developed were suddenly teetering on the edge of a broken toothpick. Who was Ichiriki? He had dined with Murasaki when she was younger. Were they childhood friends who grew closer as adults? A lump was lodged in his throat.

“Are you just a bandmate to her?”

Ichiriki glanced back as his hand gripped the handle. “Ah. I’m her cousin.” Then he smiled. “I think you would like to know that Murasaki doesn’t just hear when peoples’ tickers give out. Heartbeats also emit good vibes–and she can tell.”

He slapped the bathroom door. “Just to help you out. Rootin for ya, Prince Charming.”


Issei felt toyed as he ran after him, beer dripping down his wrist. At least Ichiriki meant well. His emotions kept flying and sinking like a roller coaster, feelings that thankfully ended at the top of a mountain. If what Ichiriki said was true, then did Murasaki know all along that his heart drummed like a drunk Kanka every time their eyes met?

Yet thanks to their talk, that incredible elation was body slammed by a foreboding guilt. Issei wanted nothing more than for Murasaki to leave her old life behind, but where did that leave his band? If Purple Lotus was signed, she’d be free to pursue her dreams of being a rock star, free from the iron fist of her father’s oppressive, domineering demands. If Secret Prose was chosen…