Chapter 18:

The Contract

Purple Prose

“Thank you for all you’ve done, Mr. Matsuda.”

After he took a deep bow, Issei went straight for the locker room, grabbed his guitar and costume, and rushed out of The Montauk, then, with one arm, he immediately flipped to Secret Prose’s group chat on his phone, his thumb dancing over his keypad.

<EMERGENCY MEETING! Cancel all plans you have today and meet me here at 3PM. Get here early–not late!>

He transferred the address to the group chat, then sent the same message again.

Issei turned around and took in The Montauk in all its glory. This would quite possibly be the last time he would perform in this venue, and though his head was bursting with dopamine that an agent finally decided he was good enough, Issei couldn’t help but feel he was leaving part of himself behind, like he was saying farewell to an old friend.

He bowed as far as he could, then flipped to his phone and sent the message a third time. His thumb slipped, accidentally sending it a fourth time.


Issei: <Respond the first time then!>

Kanka: <Did Issei get hacked? What’s this all about anyway? I was gonna hang out with the wife and kid today.>

Issei: <You can hang out with them after we’re done. No spoilers, but Mr. Matsuda gave us a huge opportunity and we need to be at that place to do it.>

Issei figured since Mr. Matsuda lied to keep up the surprise, he’d do the same.

He looked at his card again, just to make sure it didn’t disappear. A smile was plastered to his face, and nothing could take it off. Not only did his band get signed, but Murasaki and he are…his heart felt like it was resting on a bed of feathers, and he took in the sweet, cool air with his arms spread out. He’ll remember this day for the rest of his life: the best day he’d ever had.

Despite having an uneasy sleep, a stockpile of raw energy was waiting to be spent. Passersby gasped and shouted at him as he flew to his house, but Issei was on top of the world.

He shoved some cup ramen in the microwave, then dialed his parents. If anyone needed to hear his progress, it was them.

“No way!” Issei’s father barked. “That’s incredible!” His dad kept laughing while his mother sobbed in the background.

“We didn’t sign the contract yet,” he said, “but after today, we’ll be the real deal.”

Issei’s mom stopped choking up and stole his dad’s phone. “I just want you to know how proud we are, and hope we see your name in lights very soon! Tsukasa would be proud too.”

“Yeah. He would. I was…also gonna tell him the news.”

“Tell us when your first concert is, and we’ll buy tickets immediately!”

“Oh you don’t have to do that–I’ll just give them to you for free.”

Issei slurped his ramen, then put on his workout clothes and headed straight for the gym. His livelihood may change, but nothing keeps him from breaking his promise to his brother–he might as well put his cache of energy to good use.

After finishing his bench press, Issei’s phone buzzed: he got an image from Murasaki, who now had a heart next to her name. Purple Lotus was behind a glass pane with a large desk filled with buttons and sliders, and in front of the glass was Hamada on the drum set with amps and guitars laying on chairs. Ichiriki was listening intently with studio headphones, while Murasaki smiled sweetly for the camera. Another photo to save and cherish.

Issei wanted to tell her so badly, but there was an order to things.

<Looks amazing! I’m at the gym right now>

<Really? Let me see!>

Issei chuckled, then he posted a photo of him wearing a tank top next to the squat rack. For some reason, it took Murasaki twenty seconds to text one word.


He replied.

<Do you want to get on video chat later? I have something to show you.>

After a moment, he got a response.

<Something else to show me? Well, we’re in the middle of learning how the studio works, but as soon as we’re done, I’ll video chat you right away!>

Having Murasaki talking to him–her smiling face brightening his phone’s wallpaper–helped Issei push his routine to the limit. He had to do it for him.

Issei cleaned up at home, then traveled to the cemetery, a wide, open meadow with rows upon rows of gravestones. Most were a small rectangular stamp in the ground, or a regular headstone, but some larger obelisks dotted the cemetery for military members and important people with some renown. The most important person in Issei’s heart was in row eight, column 12, an unassuming headstone placed over a small hill and under a singular tree:

Tsukasa Haramoto


May your music touch the heavens as it had touched Earth

He would have been twenty-six if Issei wasn’t so weak.

“Hey, Tsukasa,” Issei muttered. He put his hand on his gravestone. “I got some good news: my band finally got signed…it’s what we’ve always wanted, wasn’t it? It took a while, but…our dream can finally take off. Soon we’ll be mixing our first album, going on tours, signing autographs, designing merchandise…I just wish you were there with me. I know–you’re probably sick and tired of me saying that–but I can’t stop saying it. I’m really sorry I couldn’t save you.”

Issei took a deep breath, and put his hands together in prayer.

“Oh yeah, another thing.”

For some reason, he found it difficult to mention it to his parents, but with Tsukasa, he could say anything.

“I, uh, got a girlfriend now. It wasn’t planned or anything, it just sorta…happened. Her name’s Murasaki. She plays bass guitar, and we met while performing at The Montauk. She’s talented, cheerful…”

Then Issei had a glimpse of Murasaki’s first smile, the surprise on her face when she called his voice ‘badass’.

“She’s got short black hair, wide blue eyes, small round ears, and a short stubby nose. She’s beautiful. Maybe…when we get closer…I’ll bring her along, and you can meet her. I’ll see you later, Brother.”

The cup ramen did little to feed him, so Issei decided to sit down at a rowdy donburi restaurant. He was wondering how long Purple Lotus would be held up at the studio, then right after a waitress served his steaming bowl of oyakodon, Murasaki texted him.

<Hi! We just finished up, is it okay to talk now?>

<Yeah, it’s a bit noisy in here, so I guess they wouldn’t mind us talking.>

Hark’s jingle came on, and when Issei pressed the video icon, Murasaki’s face appeared on the screen. She seemed to be sitting somewhere in her room, and though it was hard to tell what was in the background, seeing Murasaki stare into the camera was all he wanted.

“Hey there.”

Murasaki smiled and waved in response, which only made Issei smile back: eating food is much more fun when someone you like is with you.

“What the–are you having lunch?” She puffed her cheeks and pouted. “Where’s mine!?”

Issei laughed and waved a hand. “Sorry–I barely had any food today. Plus, I didn’t know when you were going to be free. I’ll make it up to you!”

“Oh I was just joking, I haven’t eaten much either. But…” Murasaki put a hand to her chin, and she cooed into the mic. “It would be nice to have our first date soon, don’t you think?”

Their first date. Just hearing those words made him soar. At this rate, his heart’s going to be warmer than his food.

“Consider it done–you’re gonna want to celebrate anyway after you see this.”

Murasaki perked up as he fished through his pockets. He flashed the business card, and when she realized just what he held in his hand, she squealed with joy and clapped her hands.

“Oh my God no way! Congratulations! I knew someone would acknowledge you soon, but I couldn’t imagine the very next day! I’m so happy for you, Issei.”

He put it back in his pocket. “It turns out there were two agents, and he was looking exactly for a band like ours.”

“See? I told you! I knew you had talent!” She suddenly became stern. “Never forget that moment. I don’t want you thinking you’re not good enough ever again, okay?”

“Okay, I promise.”

“Do you feel better now with all that weight off you?”

“I felt better since that night.”

“Oh…” Murasaki went red as she started brushing her hair with her free hand. “The studio’s closed on Sunday, so tomorrow…do you want to spend the whole day together?”

Issei was expecting a dinner date, but a whole day with Murasaki? Even better.

“Sounds like a plan to me.”

“Great! I’ll let you eat, then we’ll talk later, okay?”

She gazed into the camera, then in an instant, the call ended. Issei closed his phone, then dug into his oyakodon. As warm as the bowl remained, his chest still felt warmer.

Finally, the time to arrive at The Garden Enterprises was nigh, and Issei, true to his word, showed up next to the unassuming gray building ten minutes early. Takao was dropped off a nearby bus, his face buried in his phone, while Kanka rode in on his bike.

“Alright Issei,” Takao began, “you’ve been silent all day. Why are we even here?”

Issei smirked. “What, did you not even read what the directions led you to? We’re at The Garden Enterprises.”

He flashed the business card: Takao dropped his jaw, and Kanka nearly tripped over his bike while trying to secure it.

His bass player nearly had a panic attack. “Oh my God–Issei, you can’t be telling me these things at the last minute! That agent, it was her who gave it to you wasn’t it?”

Issei frowned. “No, there was a second agent.”

Kanka puffed out his chest and sniffed. “Well, let’s go meet that agent so I can hug him with tears in my eyes!”

“Please don’t,” Takao said. “You’ll get us fired on Day One.”

The Garden Enterprises had a tall, wide lobby with glass-walled cubicles everywhere they looked, each group sectioned off by the division they worked in. Issei leading the group, they walked up to the receptionist to find Mr. Kiyabu’s office: third floor, room D.

They had just gotten off the elevator when Mr. Kiyabu was in the hallway holding a stack of papers in his hands.

“Aha! There you are. Good to see you again, Issei, and this is Kanka and Takao, correct?”

Takao was stiff as a board, so much so that Issei thought he snapped when he took a bow. “N-Nice to m-meet you, Mr. Kiyabu.”

“Likewise! Remember that you’re here because you guys have potential, and I want to see that potential through. My office is this way.”

Being an agent, Mr. Kiyabu had a whole room to himself accompanied by a computer, a large wooden desk, and five chairs. Once they shook hands, he had them sit down.

“Now it goes without saying that you should read this over carefully–not just for our sake, but yours.” He pulled the middle drawer in his desk and unwrapped a donut. “There’s more than legalese in here: it’s also what we come to expect from our music community. Given that you’re a fresh band, and that we’ll soon utilize our funds to advertise your very name, we need you up to speed pronto.”

Issei filed through the contract, listening to papers shuffling on either side of him. Regular tours, a constant schedule, a social media presence, nothing he saw stood out as too outlandish or ridiculous. There was nothing to consider. It was his dream–his brother’s dream–to be a rockstar.

Then his eyes glanced to the bottom of the contract.

Upfront advance: 10,000,000 yen

Recoupment applies

Chest tightening, Issei fished a pen out of the cup, and he promptly signed his career into motion.