Chapter 15:

Judgment Day Pt. 5: Purple Lotus's Counterattack

Purple Prose

Even after they retreated to the waiting room and wiped the sweat off their foreheads, the crowd still chanted “Secret Prose”. The feeling never goes away.

Yet chanting doesn’t last forever, and it didn’t take long for their praise to slowly be replaced by a new calling: Purple Lotus.

“Son of a bitch! Can someone get this damn skull off me?”

Kanka was leaning head-first into a couch with both arms straining around his head, but no amount of groaning could make that headpiece come off, not without help. Grinning, Takao pulled off his hood and soaked a cloth, clearly having more fun watching him struggle.

“I got ya.”

Issei obliged, and he seized both ends of the cow skull and heaved while Kanka planted himself to the ground. Then, with an audible suction cup noise, Kanka popped free, but Physics wanted some fun too: the sudden release made him tumble backwards and slam into the wall.

Takao burst out laughing. “Oh, I see the problem–you’re bald! All that sweat formed a seal around your head!”

Their spat was cut short when the loudspeaker came on.

“Acolytes of The Montauk! We hope tonight was as holy for you as it has been for us. Before the night ends, we have one final ritual for you, and I don’t think I need to explain who they are: PURPLE! LOTUS!”

The cheer was immediate–anyone who didn’t know a show was starting would have thought something tragic happened with all the chaos, but that’s just how popular–how amazing–Purple Lotus was. Word must have spread, and memories must have lingered, because how else would such a new, unknown band have gathered so much attention?

“Oi Issei, you gonna change?” Takao pointed with a thumb to the concession. “I was gonna get another beer afterwards and relax.”

Issei stared ahead. “I think I’ll sit here a while longer.”

He shrugged. “Figures–well, suit yourself.”

“Thanks…for hanging out with me, Takao.”

Takao leaned on the door. “Jeez, why so aloof, man?” He then clicked his tongue. “We rocked out as best we could. That card has our name on it.”

“Yeah…we really did our best. We did. So no matter what happens–”

“–They can’t say we didn’t try.” Takao finished his sentence. “You don’t sound convinced though. Come on, relax. You look like a zombie.”

Takao chased after Kanka, who had already left. Issei alone was the only one in the waiting lobby to watch Murasaki from above. He bit his lip with a feeling of unease: something about their performance was missing, but what? They didn’t make any mistakes, so what was eating at him so much?

Smoke billowed up from the basement, and the crowd renewed their cries of excitement. Purple Lotus was taking a tad longer to arrive than last week for some reason, but if the stage had started to work their magic, then they were sure to begin.

Right on cue, Murasaki dived out of the smoke and began her bass solo to the audience’s purest delight. She grinned from ear to ear as she plucked the strings like there was nothing in the world she loved more than entertaining her fans. Something about the entrance was familiar to him. Then when the drums and guitar joined in, Issei knew why: they were performing Just a Promise, the song they played last week, just like how Secret Prose began with Ebisu.

What would Purple Lotus’s next songs be like? Issei imagined Murasaki thought the same when she sat here not too long ago–at least, he liked to think so.

Just a Promise finished just as explosive as it had been last time. The crowd cheered with deafening applause, with hollering and whistling thrown in.

Then Ichiriki drew back, leaving Murasaki at the front by herself.

“Thank you for coming tonight, Montauk! We’re so glad you could join us.”

Whistles streamed from everywhere as several men shouted out and, thanks to the lack of music, Issei knew what they screamed: “Purple-chan! I love you!

Issei gripped the armrest and ground his teeth. Not only did the sudden confession of a random guy piss him off, the nickname “Purple-chan” was too close for comfort. If a certain man knew Purple Lotus’s frontwoman was actually named “Purple”, then Murasaki would be in deep trouble.

“Purple-chan?” she said sweetly, putting a finger to lips. “I just got a nickname. Thank you! That’s so much better than ‘Red-chan’!”

The crowd groaned, and Hamada shook his head and stuck two thumbs down from on top of his drum set.

Murasaki laughed. “Okay, I admit that was terrible–let me make it up to you with another song!”

Hamada led with a short and sweet drum solo before Ichiriki and Murasaki replied with an ear-tingling blend of melodic harmony. It was impressive, and the way Hamada hit the snare on every beat to the rush of guitar made Issei feel that The Montauk itself was running after something. Murasaki swayed and danced while providing rhythm support, then she took a breath and sang in a mellow, yet bright tone.

Beads of water floating along the desert dunes.

Oh, with all my strength I pray,

will the drought I’ve suffered be washed away

with the pleas of my carmine tunes?

But evermore, does my vision blur, in this vain color

Then, with my fist full of clay, the gray became clear as day

And a glass-cast road had forked to two

Ah, gold ribbons fluttered o’er Right

So how could they fault me for ending my plight

For Left was something completely new!

Ichiriki picked up the song with his swelling, upbeat solo while Kanka communicated with complex beats as though their instruments were talking. Murasaki, delegated to the simpler role of rhythm keeper, glanced up at Issei and beamed. She did a trick. In the middle of spinning her bass guitar, she pointed down–did she want him to come to the stage?

He gave a thumbs up, and she threw her bass guitar in the air and jumped as if yelling “hooray!”

Issei hurried downstairs, not seeing any of his bandmates, and waded through the audience. People clapped his back and said “good work” as he passed; however, it was like half the venue was pushed to the front, as though The Montauk wanted to be as close to Murasaki as possible. He had to settle for the fourth row.

For I found you, oh I found you

And every day has been sweet as morning dew

One door closed to open another

And on the other side was my desert lover

Woh oh, my desert lover

It didn’t matter where he was so long as she saw him, and when her blue eyes spotted him, her dance with the bass guitar suddenly froze. Her cheeks turning pink, she quickly lunged to the right and continued as though pretending that was part of the plan.

The harmony with guitar and bass returned, and with a quick instrumental from the band, Desert Lover ended.

This meant the show as a whole was nearly over. Issei’s fun was coming to an end.

Murasaki went up to the mic. “Thank you so much, Montauk! We have one final song, and then we must say goodbye.”

The crowd booed, and several people cried out.

“I know, I know, but it’s only for a little while! We’ll be back soon, I promise. What should our last song be?”

She looked behind her. “Hamada, do you want to–Hamada?”

Her head shot left and right. “Hamada! Where did you go?”

Murasaki pivoted back to the crowd, who began chuckling.

“Did he just walk off the stage–Hamada, what are you doing? Is that a contrabass!?”

The drummer returned, carrying a large cello with both arms. Then he promptly set the instrument down in the middle of the stage.

Ichiriki raised an eyebrow. “Hamada, where the hell did you get a contrabass?”

“Found it,” he said, deadpan.

The crowd roared with laughter.

“Well put it back.”

“No, I wanna play it.”

Murasaki puffed her cheeks. “Hamada, you can’t play contrabass! Besides, I’m the bass player.”

“Well, now I’m the bass player.”

She threw her head back and growled. “Fine! You wanna be like that, I’m getting something too.”

Murasaki stormed off while the venue clapped and chuckled to their pretend fight. Moments later she came back, and they roared with cheer as she pushed a gold harp to the stage.

As they stood there staring each other down, Ichiriki, looking dumbfounded, glanced left and right before slowly pulling a triangle out of his pocket.

They yelled “don’t you dare!” in unison.

Yet, despite Purple Lotus’s act, the instruments were there for a reason, and as Hamada plucked the contrabass’s strings one-by-one to a steady tempo, Issei–and the crowd–realized they could actually play them. A stagehand dropped a stool in front of the harp, then Issei’s jaw dropped to the floor as Murasaki sat down and, with her delicate fingers, caressed the harp’s strings effortlessly. The strings seemed to move with the lightest touch. It was picturesque. Murasaki leaned back and closed her eyes, and now she was in her own world.

I can hear the trouble in your heart

A beat without a hope, a dream without a part

Yet the zeal in your eyes pierce through the noise

They pierce through the noise

So darling let me see the color of your voice

Let me see the color of your voice

The way Murasaki sang was enchanting. No one in the crowd dared to make noise, or breathe too loud. They had to hear every bit of her, uninterrupted. At first, her voice was soft and soothing, then in the next moment, she pushed out her belting register, and her voice carried like a message.

And let it ring out

Let it ring out, oh

Issei shivered.

Just as quickly as it came, Murasaki sang quietly with the same rhythm as the harp.

Your power is true, and I know it’s true

Your strength will renew, and I know it too

Ichiriki brought the crowd out of their trance with a single power chord as if the guitar itself was yawning. Hamada’s thick fingers curled over each string, and pulling them sent wave-after-wave of rumbling bass. Purple Lotus was leading them somewhere, to some place yet untapped.

Then Hamada snuck back to his drum set, and Murasaki took up her bass guitar. He hammered the snare with such force, it sounded like The Montauk let off fireworks, but the venue had its own stage magic happening: laser lights waved up and down the audience while streamers sparkled along the edge of the stage.

Turn over your hands

Can’t you see the will they had fed?

But where has your will gone

When your eyes are so puffy and red?

How can you see through the mirror

When you can’t even raise your head?

So let it ring out

Let it ring out, oh

Your power is true, and I know it’s true

Your strength will renew, and I know it too

So long as you have breath in your lungs

So long as you find the will to stand

Ah, so long as you can clench your fist

Let me see the color of your voice

Oh, let me see the color of your voice

The spotlights shone on the whole stage, and just like that, the song ended.

“Thank you Montauk!”

It was like they didn’t know it was over, and it took them a couple seconds to realize it.

Issei was the first to clap, breaking the spell, and the rest followed suit with joyous, raucous cheer. Purple Lotus took a bow and, when Murasaki looked in Issei’s direction, he mouthed “Wow!” causing her to rub the back of her neck with a shy smile.

With that, the night was over, and The Montauk crew began cleaning up with a last-minute call for drinks and snacks, but Issei went straight to the locker rooms; his back was coated with sweat, and even though he should have changed immediately, he didn’t want to miss a single second of Murasaki’s performance.

“Simply beautiful,” Issei said to himself. He had the confidence to say that only because no one else was in the locker rooms. The rest of Secret Prose was nowhere to be seen, but he supposed they were sitting down at one of the tables drinking away.

It took effort, but Issei managed to pull his black leather jacket off and, knowing the stage would be hot while they headlined, he did not wear anything underneath.

Issei heard voices in the distance. “Well done, everyone.”

“That agent has our name written on it for sure!”

“I don’t think that’s how the phrase works, Hamada.”

Issei continued taking the rest of his costume off: Hamada and Ichiriki were coming. Then, when the door opened and footsteps grew louder, Issei summoned his courage and called out.

“Good job, guys, that was impressive.”


That third voice couldn’t have been…Issei slowly turned his neck just as Murasaki spun with her hands in her face.

Ichiriki pointed at her. “Ah–did you forget that your locker is on the other side?”

“Well thanks for telling me after we walk in!”

He fired back. “Oh no you don’t–you follow two men into a locker room and don't think about going to yours? This is all on you.”

Murasaki, red as a cherry, flew out the door after sputtering out an apology.

Issei froze in place as Hamada chuckled.

“Did she just–” he began to ask, but couldn’t finish.

Ichiriki could not contain his grin. “Yep. A front-row seat to your backside–thankfully, you had shorts on.”

The two promptly changed out of their costumes and left, but that’s because nothing embarrassing happened to them. Issei, despite being alone again, was changing at a snail’s pace. He didn’t do anything wrong, yet Issei felt if he walked out of that room too soon, he would turn as red as she had. No, he just had to pretend nothing happened. Issei quickly changed back into his casual clothes and left, keeping his face rigid.

The Montauk was empty, save for a small crowd at the table. When Issei wondered why there was still a crowd after hours, his eyes widened: there, surrounding the agent, was Purple Lotus and a few fans. Murasaki buckled down to the floor, sobbing, while Ichiriki patted her back with a warm smile.

She was holding a card in both hands.