Chapter 13:

Judgment Day Pt. 3: One Goal Became Two

Purple Prose

Murasaki squinted and pursed her lips when they returned, and Issei was somehow the one who ended up with her drink. When Issei, smiling guiltily, handed her a beer with a slice of lemon hooked on the edge, she pouted.

“Ichiriki, if my voice cracks because of this, the blame is all on you!” She turned towards him. “Thanks, I guess. You missed all of Red Nightingale’s performance! Where were you?”

Before Issei could think of something on the spot, Ichiriki already had a story in mind. “Hamada’s drink held up the line. Wouldn’t want him to drink expired milk would we? Big disaster.”

“We heard while in line anyway,” Issei added. “What did you think of them?”

Murasaki’s eyes pointed up with a suspicious smile. “They were, uhm, they were nice! I liked their costumes.”

He glanced in disbelief at Ichiriki, who raised his second cup to him as if saying ‘I told you so’.

Kanka and Hamada exchanged jokes–one made his strong cocktail come out his nose as he laughed. Mr. Matsuda called the bands to the stage one-by-one, and the waiting lobby thinned out as some bands went home or watched the acts in the crowd. This meant the couches were free, and Murasaki, seizing the opportunity, leapt into one on the spot and kicked up her legs with the recliner. She somehow managed not to spill any of her drink as she took a great sip.

“Ah… gotta relax before we go on. Issei, have you leaned back in these before? You gotta try it!”

Ichiriki and Takao gave knowing looks as he obliged without a second thought. The Montauk’s couches were comfy, but reclining in one felt like a bed with extra cushion, and Murasaki was in the next bed over, watching him, her face two feet from his.

“Hey,” she muttered, “you didn’t really get hung up at the drink stand did you? Was Ichiriki picking on you?”

Issei chuckled. “What makes you say that?”

She cocked her head and stared until he gave in. “Okay a little bit–but he’s a good guy.”

Murasaki groaned. “I knew it. That man loves getting reactions out of people. I swear it’s like his hobby. I thought he was taking you alone to size you up–he’s not a fan of competition.”

“That is kinda what we talked about.” Issei nodded. “He is dead set on getting his band signed: that’s what the agent’s here for.”

Her eyes went wide, and she pushed herself up without releasing the recliner. “Is that true? No wonder Ichiriki was pushing for practice every day! I mentioned that agent offhand and he hasn’t been himself since.”

“Nah, I get him. I got real antsy once the manager told me. Just the very thought of being signed to a record label makes me anxious.”

Issei bent to one side. “What will you do if you’re signed?”

Murasaki leaned back as far as the couch could go. It was as if she were gazing at the stars. “I want to travel the world, see as much as I can. A world tour with Purple Lotus would be amazing.” Then she turned to face him. “What about you?”

The overhead lights made her eyes sparkle, and staring at them almost caused Issei to forgo his old goal in favor of a new one. He looked away. “It’s not as exciting, but I just want to make a lot of music. Sell albums. Make everyone know how great my brother’s tastes were and how cool he was for teaching me music.”

“That’s not boring at all! Millions of people listening to your music everyday–seeing your albums in stores–that’s a wonderful goal to have! Tsukasa would be proud.”

Issei swallowed with an uneasy feeling in his chest. Murasaki remembered her brother’s name, even when he said it just once. He thought back to what Ichiriki said. Was it true? Even without words, could Murasaki understand him just from his skipping heart? Did she know what he actually wanted right now? But it’s been so long, and they all ended in disappointment. He couldn’t bear experiencing another one.

“Hey Murasaki…” his mouth trembled, and he didn’t have the strength to look in her eyes. “Whatever happens, even if none of us get signed, let’s celebrate tonight…like we did last week.”


He glanced back. To his delight, she replied instantly with a grin. For the first time in a long while, Issei felt lucky.

His moment was cut short: Takao tapped his shoulder, and when Issei sat up, he noticed Takao’s knees were wobbling.

“It’s time.”

Sure enough, the current band performing, Trash Parade, took a bow and left the stage. They were the band just before them.

The manager’s voice rang out. “Acolytes of The Montauk! It is my pleasure to present our first headliner of tonight, the showstopper that will have the media ranting and raving! I want you all to cry out their names! SECRET! PROSE!”

It was like the whole venue exploded in cheer.

Kanka wore a severe look as he donned his cow skull helmet. With one final fist bump, they left for Stage Right.

“Good luck, Boys!”

Murasaki waved, and Issei, gripping both an electric and acoustic guitar, nodded with an uneasy smile.

The stage was in darkness. Then smoke billowed up from below as the crowd chanted.

“Remember last week?” Issei said. “We showed them who we were then. Let’s knock that agent off their feet.”

They took their places as spotlights shone from the heavens. Issei sucked in air, then began with the band’s prototype song Ebisu.

It was just like before: the crowd whistled as he sang, then they roared with ecstasy as Takao and Kanka drove through the first verse. Laser lights flashed and weaved. Guitars wailed, and the drums battered.

The first wave of nerves melted away, but the lingering thoughts of that mysterious agent loomed in his mind. Issei’s eyes darted everywhere. Remembering Mr. Matsuda’s advice, he pivoted to the tables. They wouldn’t be in the crowd. He found one sitting down, a man who wore a flashy shirt and sunglasses, but he was chowing down on snacks. However, in the left corner, Issei spotted another, a woman in a casual slim dress, eyes intently focused on Secret Prose, hardly moving a muscle as Ebisu played on. It had to be her.

Ebisu’s instrumental before the big chorus arrived. With his head, Issei gestured in her direction. Takao must have spotted her too, because his eyes bulged out of his sockets.

Focus, man, Issei thought. Don’t get distracted.

The instrumental came to a dramatic climax, and when they belted out the chorus, amid the clamor, the woman put a hand to her chin with a smirk. It was like she was shouting “oho!” with rapt attention. This was a good sign–Secret Prose had hooked her.

Yet they had to reel her in, to keep that interest for the next two songs and be remembered even after Purple Lotus finished.

Takao leaned into the mic. “Montauk tech, please bring the light show down a tad. Lower. Good.” He threw a finger at Issei. “Acolytes! This man wrote a love song!”

The crowd whistled and chuckled in response. “I wonder who for? Who’d you write that love song for, Issei?”

Issei tensed up as if he were put on the spot, but he had to remember: this was all an act they rehearsed. “But Takao, if I confess, she’ll make lunches for me instead.”

The venue roared with laughter as Takao put on his fake scandalized look. “You cocky bastard! We’re gonna talk about this after the show. But let’s have fun anyway! Whether you have a significant other, or just a beer in your hand, hold them tight for this next one: Light of Day!”

As Issei traded his electric guitar for acoustic, he instinctively glanced up at the glass partition, and his heart fluttered when Murasaki planted herself right in the middle, her palms against the glass as she looked down with wonder. Perhaps it wasn’t so impossible to chase two goals at the same time.