Chapter 21:

Onward to the Music Festival!

Purple Prose

Sayoko pointed them back to the elevator, then Issei pressed the ‘one’ button as they got on, feeling that pulling sensation on his body as he pulled out his phone. He still hadn’t responded to her last text.

<Did that mean you wanted to take a walk somewhere, or go to a festival?>

Issei had no idea if there were any festivals going on.

“Who are you texting?” Takao asked. “You got this goofy look on your face.”

Kanka smirked. “Come on, you have to ask? You know it’s Murasaki.”

To their surprise, Issei smiled back and confidently put his phone in his pocket. “Yep, Kanka’s right.”

He laughed. “Figures. What’s she up to?”

“Well, her band just finished learning how to set up the studio–they got signed too.”

“Damn!” Takao clapped his forehead. “I thought for sure we got the jump on them, but you’re telling me they got signed along with us?”

“That’s exactly what happened,” Issei said, sparing the horrific detail that Purple Lotus could very well have been the only band signed. “So we’re gonna celebrate our new careers tomorrow.”

“Sweet–another outing! Where are we eating next?” Kanka asked, eyes shining.

“Ah–I meant to say ‘we’ as in the two of us.”

The light in his eyes fizzled, and his trunk-sized arms slumped.

“Sorry about that! We’ll do a proper outing as a band on Monday, how about that?”

“Screw that!” Takao blurted out. “Call it whatever you want, that is a date, my friend.”

Issei stared at him, deadpan. “Yeah, I know that.”

Takao wasn’t going to tease him this time and, realizing that, Takao stomped his foot. “Bro, don’t be gloating to my face about your date–we got band work to do.”

Issei put a hand on his shoulder, smirking. “And that’s where you come in, Buddy: remember what you said to our producer?” Issei put a finger to his forehead dramatically as he mimicked Takao’s voice. “You can count on me, Sayoko! I’ll make sure you recognize my band in no time!”

Takao growled, and his cheeks even blushed. “Using my own words to bite myself in the ass. Fine! You get one day off.”

Issei put his hands together. “Thanks a lot! You’re really saving my skin here.”

Takao and Kanka quickly found a new plan of attack, however, and heckled Issei as they left the building, only finding repose when they split paths.

“Send us pictures!”

“Remember, it’s impolite to kiss in public!”

“It’s only the first date, so no going to a love hotel!”

It’s bad enough to have his friends badger him about his newfound romance, but those thoughts lingered as he stood at the train station–he was in danger of dreaming up those exact scenarios, wondering how Murasaki would react, heat rising in his head as they stood in front of that very type of hotel–but the train finally came to pick him up and Issei could think straight.

Then as Issei got off, his phone buzzed twice. Murasaki gave him two texts!

<Sorry! I had to text something quickly because my friends were getting suspicious. They know about us now LOL>

<I still think a festival would be nice but if there isn’t one we can always take a walk if you’re still up for that.>

Issei wouldn’t mind doing anything with her, but it can’t be anything: it’s their first date, which means it has to be special.

At once, Issei went to his computer and searched ‘festivals’. There were no traditional festivals he could find, but one name stood out: Hagane Ono Fest. It was a huge open air event with dozens of big-name bands playing from dawn until twilight. The poster had a steel axe with the name branded in fire across the blade, with a list of bands playing below.

One caught his eye. 


Issei had to find out where the festival was right now: if there’s one other thing Issei knows about Murasaki, it’s that they both love the band.

His thumbs fired across the keypad.

<That’s funny, Takao and Kanka know about our first date too. Hagane Ono Fest is running, it’s a music festival and Catalot is playing. Do you want to go there?>

Issei flopped on his bed and waited for her to answer.

<I would love to go! And it’s great that Catalot is playing because you introduced me to them.>

Issei smiled.

<I’ll meet you at your train station then. Is 9:00 okay?>

<9:00 is perfect.>

Issei stood by Murasaki’s train station at 8:50, the sun’s rays creeping over the trees, giving the horizon a colorful shade of orange. Just in case she fell asleep on the train and needed woken up, he texted her “good morning”. But just as the train arrived and skidded to a halt, his phone buzzed.

<Good morning Issei <3 >

Their first ‘good morning’ as a couple…Issei’s face tingled.

He scanned around as people piled out of the train in droves, until he spotted a woman nervously looking around, wearing a tan pea coat, furry black boots, and dress pants. She looked similar to Murasaki, but her hair was shorter…what was he saying? That is Murasaki! She has her face.

Murasaki spotted him, and her boots clicked as she trotted over with a smile. “Thanks for waiting!”

He was stunned. “Murasaki, your hair…”

“Do you like it?” She put her fingers through her bangs, the sides barely touching her ears. “I had it trimmed a bit.”

“Yeah…it looks great.”

She breathed a sigh of relief. “I’m glad. So, are you ready to go?”

Issei nodded, grinning. “I’m so ready.”

They took off for their first stop: breakfast. Murasaki took his arm as they walked, letting go only when they sat across from each other at a booth. Is this still real?

Murasaki groaned. “I’m so glad we both get a day off. Even though it was fun, that first day at our studio was brutal and I’m sure the next week will be even tougher. Spending the whole day with you will really recharge my batteries.”

“I know what you mean.” Issei shook his head. “I just can’t believe this is happening.”

She reached over and patted his arm. “Why not? You remember what I said, right? Be confident! I said I liked you and I meant it.”

He nodded, smiling reflexively when their eyes met. “Yeah, you’re right.”

Her hand slid across his arm, and Issei felt her hand’s warmth as she held his, her thumb brushing over his fingers. She pulled back immediately, however, when a waitress arrived with their orders, and as the waitress set the plates down and left, she glanced knowingly at them.

Murasaki drooped. “Sorry…still not used to doing this in public.”

Issei chuckled. “No worries. It’s the first date–we’ll get better at this soon enough.”

She somehow just noticed her breakfast in front of her.


Eyes lit up, she grabbed a fork and promptly dug in. Issei’s stomach grumbled as if telling him to hurry up with his own food, but it was fun watching her demolish the wall of fluffy pancakes bite after bite, gasping for air like she forgot to breathe.

She paused to glance at Issei’s plate. “Where’s your sugar? It’s all protein–you gotta have sugar in your breakfast.”

He chewed on his bacon while thinking. “It’s been a while since I’ve had sugary foods. I think the last time was my birthday.”

She frowned. “Come on, that’s so unfair–I have something sugary every day. Is it a fitness thing? You’re not really selling me on this ‘working out’ business.”

“Well even the biggest bodybuilders have cheat days, but I just haven’t had that craving lately.”

“Then here’s your cheat day: this is so good, you have to try some.”

Before Issei knew it, Murasaki placed a fork with a wedge of pancakes in front of his mouth, syrup dripping from the fork and trickling across her finger. She was feeding him…not overthinking it, Issei leaned forward and placed his mouth over the fork, closing his lips around it as he tasted the sticky syrup and sweet goodness of the powdered sugar before swallowing.

Issei coughed. “Wow, that's too sweet! It was tasty, but I don’t think I could eat a whole pancake.”

“I guess you’re not used to sugar anymore.” Murasaki’s hand rested on her chin, and she gazed into him as she took her next bite the same way he had.

Feeling his cheeks getting hot, Issei distracted himself by cutting a piece of salmon with his chopsticks.

“Your turn,” he said. “You can’t go a whole day with just sugar. You need some longer-lasting energy or you’re gonna crash in the middle of the day.”

“I guess I won’t refuse if you’re feeding me.”

Murasaki smiled as she leaned her head forward, but when her mouth seized the piece of salmon, she remained there, her lips over the tips of his chopsticks for several seconds. She can’t be attacking him this early in the day.

Bellies full, they traveled from the diner to the next train station. Murasaki wouldn’t let Issei pay for her, because “it would be the third time”, and she was looking for an opportunity to repay him.

“But now that we’re…together, you don’t have to repay me anymore,” Issei said.

“Alright, but you’re not getting away so easily! It’s nice to buy your boyfriend something every once in a while–holidays, birthdays, or even surprise presents.”

She poked him in the arm. “Speaking of birthdays, mine is on September twenty-four. You got that, Mister?”

“Yep–and mine is on April twelve.”

“Shoot, I have to wait a while.”

Murasaki sighed sweetly as they took hands this time, their fingers interlocked as the sun now blanketed them in warm light. “Sugary pancakes for breakfast, and arm candy for later.”

They watched the birds chirp as they flocked from tree to tree. There were no clouds, it wasn’t too hot, and the wind helped their arms swing happily. It was truly the perfect day for a first date.

The weatherman showcased what they were up against in the coming week as they boarded the train for Odate in the Akita prefecture, a cartoon map of neighboring regions about to be assaulted by a wave of green, yellow, and spots of red rolling in from the West. “Expect some heavy thunderstorms later this evening.”

Issei felt something inside him sink. How can there be such a fierce storm on the date they planned out? “I hope the festival doesn’t end too soon.”

“We’ll at least get to enjoy some of it,” Murasaki said, watching the TV, “and we can always find something else to do if we have to run. Maybe we can hang out at your house again.”

It was an enticing thought as Issei remembered what they did last time. What would it be like to have Murasaki hang out at his house without the worries of her father looming over her?

“I think that would be fun.”

The train rocked to and fro, clicking as it crossed each section of rail. His eyes felt heavy. He couldn’t help it, after all: so many things spiraled in his head about their date and how it could go wrong–what Issei feared would happen when it did go wrong–the stress kept him awake all night. A little shuteye before they arrive will do him some good. Issei leaned back and closed his eyes.

He jumped awake when something fell into his side. Issei looked to his left and found Murasaki’s body leaning against him, her head resting on his shoulder, eyes fighting to stay open.

“Sorry Issei,” she muttered. “I was just so nervous about today that I could barely get any sleep.”

Issei chuckled. “Yeah, me too. I maybe got two hours of sleep, because I was so sure that I’d mess something up, like instead of heading to the music festival, I’d accidentally take us to a monster truck rally.”

Murasaki sputtered a laugh. “Monster truck rally!? That would definitely be an interesting first date. At least I wasn’t the only one who was worried over nothing.”

“Yeah. So far, today has been perfect.”

She nuzzled into his shoulder, her soft voice closer than ever. “It has. Wake me up when we get there, okay?”

Issei leaned his head next to hers, feeling her silky hair mat against his cheek, and with one arm holding her waist, they took a much-needed nap together before their big day truly began.