Chapter 17:

Is Temporary

Purple Prose

Issei lay in bed, unable to get any sleep. The events of last night played over and over in his mind, and he wondered how they would change if he played better, or if he didn’t tell Murasaki about the agent. Perhaps if Purple Lotus didn’t know, Secret Prose would be more prepared and, regardless of the agent’s feelings on the band, the card would have been in his hands instead. Would he feel any more disgusted with himself then as he did now?

But there was one thing he wouldn’t change for the world. Even if some kind of time-travel yokai gave him an agent’s card right now in exchange for erasing his moment with Murasaki, Issei would refuse outright.

Issei recalled that sweet, tender moment more than anything else as he rolled over in his bed, wishing Murasaki was here, knowing he’d sleep soundly for sure with her next to him, holding each other like they had that night.

After they had pulled away from the hug, their hands glanced each other’s shoulders, slowly grazing against their arms until their fingers smoothed down their palms. As if a switch was pressed, each hand clutched another, and fingers interlocked. Murasaki tilted her head and watched as their thumbs brushed over their hands. Then her eyes gazed into his, and that’s when she had poked his lips.

“There’s that smile I knew you had. Still, I feel bad stealing this from you.”

“Don’t be,” Issei said with an assuring look. “You deserve it.”

“I’ll text you everything that happens–I’ll show you pictures, I’ll video chat you so you know what it’s like–I’ll put in a good word for you, I’ll watch your every performance, and if you want, we can hang out–”

“–Murasaki.” Issei squeezed her hands. “You don’t have to do all that. You’re gonna be a busy woman after tonight.”

He winked. “How about we settle for hanging out?”

“Okay. I’ll make time for you.”

“And how about every day?”

Murasaki let out an airy laugh, and her cheeks turned pink. “What happened to me being a busy woman? That doesn’t sound like hanging out…that’s more like…going out.”

Issei remembered how rapidly his heart was drumming, each beat threatening to burst out of his chest. He remembered fighting to keep the lump in his throat down as sweat pooled in his forehead: that was the very idea he had in mind. Problem was, watching that thought about to happen was like a whole cache of explosives about to ignite. Would it be fireworks, or dynamite?

“That’s if…you’re okay with it. A-and if you have time of course.”

Murasaki gripped his hands tight, and Issei saw himself in her blue eyes as she leaned towards him.

“Going out with an amazing man brimming with talent? There’s nothing I’d rather do.”

There was a hint of nervousness in her voice–she meant every word, and it was in that instant Issei took Murasaki in his arms again. From out of the darkness came a single column of light, and all the smoke choking him was swept away. Issei never felt more alive.

She giggled as they embraced, and Issei felt her warmth radiating into his chest.

“You’re amazing too, Murasaki…your energy, your voice, your skill, your bright, cheerful face that always comes back no matter what happens…you’re so strong. I like you a lot.”

Murasaki patted his back. “Alright, I like you too! Now ease up, you’re gonna crush me with those muscles of yours!”

From where they stood, all the way to Murasaki’s stop, they held hands and never let go. Then when her train arrived, she leaned into Issei’s arm, one hand holding her phone, and took a surprise photo.

“I’ll still text you about our studio work,” she said, smiling. “And I’ll send you that selfie.”

When Murasaki waved him goodbye as she left, it was like Issei stepped in and out of a dream.

Maybe that was why he couldn’t sleep that night: he had already dreamed.

Issei woke up to his phone vibrating angrily against his wall. Somehow, it fell behind his nightstand. Rolling over, sunlight poking him in the corner of his eye, he fumbled about with his arm until he seized it.

It was 10:15AM–he had overslept.


He must have slept through his alarm, and the constant vibration had caused the phone to careen off the nightstand.

The Hark app blinked to life: Mr. Matsuda had texted him.

<Issei! You forgot to get paid again! It’s the second time in two weeks.>


He pulled his half-numbed arm over and began texting back.

<Sorry about that, we went out to get food again. I’ll stop by soon.>

Issei thought that was the end, but not even five seconds passed before the manager replied.

<You need to get this check right now! I don’t know why, but your parents are here.>

His eyes bulged out of his sockets. Why would they be here?

<That’s weird. Alright, I’ll come over right away.>

With a groan, Issei rolled out of bed and shambled to the closet to put something on.

Why would Mom and Dad board a train to Morioka to visit The Montauk when I’m not even playing?

Issei had never known Mr. Matsuda to lie, so something must be up. But then why not come to his apartment?

He drank a quick glass of water then left without eating. Water, however, wasn’t enough to start his day. He needed something more invigorating while on the move, so Issei held out his phone and went to his pictures, where one had been saved just a few hours ago. There, they stood next to each other under a streetlight while Murasaki held his arm, eternally smiling for the camera for any time Issei needed to see her face. He smiled back.

It was so early, no bands were playing at the venue, and the ceiling lights were kicked on to full brightness. Techs knelt over wires, speakers, and stood up on ladders, and two cashiers looked through inventory while a janitor cruised around the tables with a vacuum. Issei promptly headed towards the manager’s office, though he half-expected his parents to be sitting at a table waiting for him. He knocked on the door, then opened.

Issei’s parents weren’t inside.

Mr. Matsuda wheeled around. “Ah, there he is.”

“Good morning–uhm, where’s my parents?”

Mt. Matsuda laughed as he pulled open the desk drawer to his earnings.

“I lied! There is someone here to see you, though.”

The man was observing the cameras overlooking the venue with a hotdog in hand, and when he turned around, Issei recognized him immediately.

“Ah–you’re the guy last night who likes to eat food!”

The man chuckled as he smoothed his swept-back hair. “The man who likes food. Well, if that’s all you had to go on, that’s fair.” Proving Issei’s point, he promptly chomped down half his hotdog in one bite.

Mr. Matsuda closed his desk drawer and flipped through his money before handing Issei a portion. “There you are–twenty thousand yen for the best damn performance I’ve seen in years.”

Issei put out his hand and accepted the money with a bow. “Thank you, sir.”

“And something from me.”

The man had something between his fingers. It wasn’t cash.

It was a small, thin, white card.

Issei glanced left and right, watching their expressions. They didn’t waver. Mr. Matsuda nodded.

“Go ahead, Issei. Take it.”

His arm trembled as he reached out, every inch of his mind frightened that, if he took the card and flipped it over, he’d wake up and the realistic, more-believable day would start.

But Issei flipped the card over, and instead of his alarm going off, words appeared on the back.

Shoku Kiyabu


The Garden Enterprises

N-N-N Subarea, Morioka

Iwate 020-8530

Issei must have flipped the card a dozen times.

“Nice to meet you, Issei–the name is Shoku Kiyabu, and I represent The Garden Enterprises.”

“Is this…what I think it is?”

Mr. Kiyabu brushed the crumbs off his blazer, and he leaned his head over the card. “Wait, did I grab the wrong card? No, it’s got my name on it. Yep. It’s a real business card from a real agent.”

At that moment, the card felt as if it weighed a hundred pounds heavier. Issei’s mind spun wildly. It didn’t make sense.

“But I thought–”

“Was my chowing down that unprofessional? You didn’t think there was just one agent last night, did ya?”

“But that is what I thought!” Issei spun towards Mr. Matsuda, who just shrugged with a toothy grin.

“I guess one more showed up! Mr. Kiyabu here was the one I saw last week. Word must have spread, though, because I didn’t see that lady agent before. When she gave Miss Murasaki her card, I was pretty stunned.”

The other agent. Issei didn’t want to, but all he could think back to were her crushing words, the singular reason why she picked Purple Lotus over his band.

He hung his head. “Are you sure you want us? We’re Progressive Metal…we aren’t a popular genre.”

Mr. Kiyabu scoffed. “You see that card in your hand? We know you’re Progressive Metal–hell, we even know your inspiration is Catalot, which is Symphonic Metal. That’s what my record company wants, young man. We want niche. We want flowery. We want complex. We want you. Your style, your lyrics, and especially your voice, they would be a perfect fit at The Garden Enterprise. What do you say?

His eyes were sincere–he meant every word. His voice, a perfect fit?

“Oh my God…oh my God…”

Issei sniffed. “It’s all we ever wanted.”

Mr. Kiyabu chuckled, and he patted Issei on the shoulder. “Best part of my job: scouting new talent and watching them cry. Alright, what I want you to do is get your band together and meet me at the address on the card at 3:00PM, alright? Don’t lose this. In the meantime, we’ll get your contract ready.”

They shook hands, and just as soon as he met him, Mr. Kiyabu left the venue with a satisfied look on his face.

After a moment, Issei turned to Mr. Matsuda and asked “It’s not a joke?”

He leaned back in his chair. “Personally, I wish it was–but I know that’s selfish of me. It’s been a great, long year, having you and Secret Prose here. Your band was a real draw. Don’t forget where you came from, alright?”

Issei shook his head. “Never in a million years, Sir.”

Mr. Matsuda grinned. “Come back and visit sometime for our Alumni Meet.” Then he waved his hand. “Now get out of here–you got a career to start.”

A career…

“Yes, Sir!”