Chapter 29:

Morioka Stadium

Purple Prose

Their work finally done, Secret Prose was allowed to go home early to prepare for some serious concert practice on the days following. Issei pulled up his phone while on the train home: having to perform a gig on her birthday might put a damper on things.

<Hey Murasaki. We just got our fresh new album right out of the oven! Did you hear about the concert we have to perform?>

Issei stared at his phone, anticipating her text as all he heard were the constant clicking of the train tracks and the muffled snoring of overworked salarymen. He was so glad their band got signed: Kanka would have been one of them, and Takao would have turned into one. Now they can spend their career days doing what they actually like.

Speaking of like, his phone lit up with a text from Murasaki.

<Good job, Issei! I’m so proud of you! <3 >

<Yeah, we’re gonna play a concert on my birthday…it’s okay.>

Issei sighed. Of course it wasn’t okay for her, and he didn’t have to be with her to know that it bothered her–the gloomy text was proof enough.

<We’ll have plenty of time in the day to make it up, and after we play, I can give your gift to you then.>

<It’s not all bad, I get to perform with you, and chasing my dream on my birthday is like a present in itself! Thanks though, seeing you try to cheer me up is already helping :D >

Issei counted down the days until the big moment. Every day Secret Prose had run-through after run-through, building up their musical tolerance and stamina. Issei’s voice became hoarse when the day was done, but each day he was able to control his strength–coupled with tips from other vocalists in the company–and soon he was able to go entire days without losing his voice.

Their final run-through of the final practice day over, Mr. Kiyabu stood in the “audience” of the practice venue and clapped, the sound echoing throughout the empty stage.

“Good work Secret Prose. I can say without a doubt you’re ready for tomorrow. I need you to represent The Garden Enterprises as you support Embryology, got it? I don’t need to remind you that you don’t want to screw up your first official gig. Are you ready for tomorrow?”

Secret Prose sounded out. “YESSIR!”

“Then get here at 1:00PM sharp. You’ll get on the bus with Purple Lotus and the crew, then we’ll drive to the venue and get set up. You’re doing me proud, gentlemen. It’s like watching fledgling birds leave the nest, except the fledglings come back.”

To say Issei was stressed out was an understatement. He lay there in bed, unable to sleep, his mind racing, knowing it was fine if he slept since the phone alarm would wake him up, but every time he closed his eyes, dozens of events happened in his mind, and they were all ways his gig would go wrong. None of the hypotheticals spoke of his band succeeding.

The big day arrived, and despite not getting enough hours of sleep, Issei felt ready to take it on. However, that didn’t stop him from frantically diving around his apartment, making sure he had everything he needed.

“Phone, phone, where’s my phone–”

It vibrated right when he needed it, and Issei found it between two layers of sheets.

<Good morning, issei <3 are you ready to rock out?>

<I think so, thanks to our late night chat. I’ll see you there!>

There was one more thing Issei had to get. He stood up in front of his band’s first portrait that hung on the ceiling and pulled it off. Behind the portrait was a small opening that, as he reached in, Issei pulled out an official-looking rectangular box. Inside was Murasaki’s birthday present. He took the box and placed it in his guitar case.

It seemed funny to Issei that he’d be taking a bus down to the studio just to take another bus back, but it was important to show up officially and in a group.

“You don’t look too good, Takao,” Issei said when he arrived. Kanka seemed fit for duty, but his bass guitarist was green in the face with his shoulders slumped.

“No…I’m raring to go…I’m just queasy.”

Mr. Kiyabu handed him a bottle. “Take this antacid–there’s bottles of water on the bus–then you can sleep on the way there. Let’s move, people!”

Issei watched as studio crew scrambled to fit equipment into and onto the bus, the black eighteen-wheeler’s back cargo opening as two men rolled the drum set over the installed ramp. Secret Prose hopped inside, then soon, the bus roared to life.

“You’re coming with, Sayoko?” Takao said, trying to smile through stomach pains as she just stepped on.

“I get free tickets to your shows, and I’m watching the debut of my new band–I’m excited.

Issei scratched his head. “So, uhh, when is Purple Lotus showing up?”

“We’re going to pick them up shortly,” Sayoko said.

Kanka nudged him in the ribs. “Don’t worry, you’ll see Murasaki soon!”

Mr. Kiyabu’s ears perked up like a cat’s as if he heard something he didn’t approve of, and he twisted his body to face him. “I caught wind of your relationship with Murasaki–I can’t stop you outside of work, but no fraternization with band members or crew during tours! Let’s keep this professional.”


The bus growled to life, and they set forth for Archipelago Records.

Issei thought he had enough energy to get through the day, but clearly his brain was just running on fumes, and as the bus whirred down the highway, Issei’s eyes lulled more and more with every bump the bus had run over, as though it were rocking him to sleep. He felt weightless for a time.


“Kanka! How’s the family?”

“Good, yours?”

“Doing swell!”

Issei felt a shift in his side, rather, his side was being massaged.

“You fall asleep?”

Issei stirred, and glanced out of the left corner of his eyes. Murasaki was there, gently rubbing his arm and shoulder, and she smiled when he noticed her.

“Hey there Issei.”

He smiled back. “Hey…caught me sleeping again.”

“That’s not such a bad thing is it?”

Then she leaned against his shoulder and took his hand in hers. “Might as well get comfortable while we can, because I can’t help but feel I’ll be a nervous wreck when we get off.”

He rose his hand from the seat so they were better able to interlock fingers. “That’s surprising,” Issei said, chuckling. “Usually you’re the one telling me I’ll be fine. Is it the big crowd that’s scaring you?”

“I’m okay with crowds. It’s more the outcome, how our performance will leave an impression on the crowd.”

Issei brushed his thumb over her fingers. “I get you. I’m the same way. But we’ll do great–we’ve always managed to woo the crowd in the end.”

Murasaki playfully punched his shoulder. “There you go! That’s the attitude I was hoping you’d get. Now I just need to…get it myself.”

Issei pulled her close, feeling her warmth radiate into his side. “Come on, you’ll do fine.”

Whether intentionally or not, having Murasaki lean into him caused Issei to fall asleep again, and since he hadn’t heard a peep out of her, she must have slept too, but Issei was soon awoken by distant cheering. Murasaki stirred as he looked out the window, and it was like he was teleported to a new place.

Morioka Stadium was a huge, balloon-like enclosed arena with bus parking and pedestrian lanes surrounding it, easily taking up a grove of trees in space. People–their future crowd–snaked around the arena as they waited in line for their tickets, and as their bus pulled up to an exclusive parking lot, they pointed and cheered.

“This is it, boys and girls,” Mr. Kiyabu said. Even he was grinning. “Glory awaits! Let’s have the crew get our stuff out, then we can mix in with them so we don’t draw too much attention.”

However, even as they followed his advice, there was no stopping some of the crowd from rushing beyond what was restricted to them, forcing the security to push them back.

“Purple-chan! It’s Purple-chan isn’t it?”

Looks like the name stuck.

Issei craned his head behind him as Murasaki held her face, blushing between her fingers. “What was that about making an impression on the crowd? The impression was there before you even arrived!”

The crew danced inside and outside Morioka Stadium with equipment and props like worker ants, while Secret Prose and Purple Lotus were led backstage to the waiting room. It was half lounge, half preparation, as not only were there couches, large televisions, game systems hooked up to the TVs, and even a minibar, there were mirrors lined up on the far end of the wall for the band to do their makeup.

Makeup was definitely on the agenda, as two attendants approached Murasaki and led her to a seat. “Alright, ‘Purple-chan’, let’s get you dolled up for the cameras.”

She was beside herself as her head pivoted left and right. “Huh? Cameras!?”

“Of course, darling! You’re gonna be on the internet and news after today!”

“You too, buddy.” One of them had clapped Issei’s back and pointed him to a seat. “We’re gonna clear up your face and make it nice and shiny for the lights.”

Hamada, Ichiriki, Kanka, and Takao sat on the couch and played a racing game while Issei and Murasaki relaxed in the makeup chairs, feeling the attendants dabbing and prodding their faces, but it wasn’t soon after that when they had finished doing their makeup when a technician burst through the door.

“Secret Prose on in five minutes!”

Waves of stress washed over Issei like a tidal pool swept him up. The same looks were on Takao and Kanka’s faces too, as their hands simply let go of their controllers.

“I need a pick-me-up,” Kanka said as he clambered for the minibar. Takao traced the character for Man on his palm. “It’s okay, it’s okay, everything will be fine.”

Synth music played in the stadium to the expectant cheer of the crowd. One minute, and they’d be out there playing what Issei hoped would be their best.

“Alright, stick to the plan, boys,” Issei said, trying to hype them up. “Remember the routine we practiced.”

Kanka slammed down a shot of something clear, but his eyes were even clearer. “Alright. Let’s do this.”

They seized their equipment, and as Issei was about to walk towards Stage Right, Murasaki grabbed his hand.

“Here–some good luck for you.” She put her warm hands on his face as she pecked him on the lips, sending a surge of tender feelings through his body.”

“Thanks Murasaki,” Issei said, smiling through his fear. “I’ll be sure to give you the same luck.”

“Here we go!” Kanka charged through Stage Right with his cow skull helmet on. The crowd erupted in cheer, dozens of times louder than The Montauk’s crowd, and Issei watched as the drummer immediately thundered with some rallying blast beats, and right as he brought the hammer down, Takao sprinted on-stage and raked his bass guitar with great speed.

A technician handed him a hot mic. It’s do or die.