Chapter 32:


Purple Prose

Colors and sounds flashed past him like an angry wind, and Issei slipped in and out of consciousness. When he was aware, only one question remained in his mind: did he manage to save Murasaki? That was all he cared about. Even if Issei lost the ability to sing or play guitar, even if his one-gig career came to an abrupt end, he’d gladly accept that over failing to save someone again–to grip with the idea that Murasaki had died because of him.

A surge of will snapped him to attention, and Issei opened his eyes.

White walls surrounded him with a clear window pane to his right and an open entryway to his left. Tacked to a cork noticeboard was a sheet of paper that asked “how much pain are you feeling?” with a scale of one to ten. Issei felt serious searing pain on the back of his head, and his hands were red and tender to the touch, but the rest of his body seemed okay. Issei was in a hospital room, resting on a flat, inclined bed.

A small television mounted in the top corner of the room was displaying the news, where a bubble-like building surrounded by pavement was burning as a crowd of people stood watching. An anchorwoman narrated the story.

“It’s been four days since the dreadful tragedy of the Morioka Stadium fire. While no one was killed, two band members who were set to perform on that stage were seriously injured. Miraculously, one of the band members had rescued the second from the burning venue but, after making it to safety, had fallen to the ground from exhaustion. The two band members are being hospitalized and are expected to make a full recovery. Reports from the Morioka police department’s interrogation have suggested the arsonist is thirty-four-year old Archipelago Records agent Naomi Namaguchi, who has admitted that she and three others were acting on the behalf of a VIP who we cannot disclose at this time.”

It was as if the television had told him Murasaki was in the room. Issei craned his head right–a thin cloth separated him from another bed, but the light from outside had cast a silhouette against the cloth wall, and Issei knew just from the outline that it was her.

Groaning, Issei struggled to lift his body off the bed, but his muscles clicked with friction like he hadn’t moved in years. His bare feet hit the cold floor and, limping, he made his way past the cloth wall.

Issei put a hand to his mouth, and tears welled in his eyes as a wave of anxiety hit him like a truck. “Oh my God…”

Murasaki was hooked up to machines as her arms, back, and forehead were wrapped in bandages. Her nostrils had tubes inserted, oxygen dispersing through her lungs as she took in breaths. The sheets over her chest rose stiffly as a heart monitor beeped to a slow rhythm: fifty-five beats per minute.

Her eyes were closed.

“Murasaki…” Issei approached her, his knees straining as he knelt over, and he placed a hand over her forehead. His index finger smoothed the bangs that lay over her bandaged forehead.

Issei hiccuped. “With everything I have, I hope I made it to you in time. Please say I wasn’t too late…”

His thumb brushed over her cheek, feeling the warmth and life still remaining in her bright, shining face. “I guess I…just want you to know that I’m here…and it looks like I’ll be staying in this hospital with you…so…”

Issei sniffed. “I’m just…so scared…show me, somehow, that you’re doing fine. I still got your birthday present, you know? But I’ll only give it to you when your…eyes open…”

Issei shuddered. He knelt further, and his hand stroked Murasaki’s silky smooth hair as he took in a breath.

I hold my fire…here…for you…

That choking smoke you swept away…

And in its place…you came to stay…

My fire rises…high…for you…

My hands are…longing…for…your rays…

I know…you are…my light...of…day…


He sucked in air: Murasaki’s eyes opened. Issei gripped her hand and petted it.

“I’m here Murasaki–I’m here–you’re okay!”

Her breathing increased, and the heart rate changed from fifty-five to seventy. “Where am I?”

“You’re in a hospital–with me–you’re hooked up to stuff, but you’re fine!”

Her head lulled to face him as she blinked. “Oh…How are you doing?”

Issei chuckled through his tears: he just let them run down his face.

“I could be better...I–I got burned, a-and my knees hurt–but I’m okay!”

He was glad to feel Murasaki’s hand squeeze back.

“I'm so happy you're alright...I remember…so much fire…I was back home, and I jumped out of the balcony, just barely escaping. Then my father caught me, but he wouldn’t let me look at Mom for some reason. I saw she was on the ground clutching her heart.”

He had never heard Murasaki tell this story before.

“Then…I saw you running after me…then it went dark. I don’t remember what happened after that.”

Issei sniffed. “Well, a giant-ass steel beam fell on you and knocked you unconscious.”

Murasaki giggled, but stopped when she began coughing. “A giant-ass steel beam, huh? And you saved me, didn’t you?”

He did, didn’t he?

Issei nodded, smiling. Murasaki smiled back.

“I’m glad that it was you.”

She rubbed her face, wincing when she felt her forehead and cheek. “I’m wrapped like a mummy, huh? I might get stitches…scars. You’ll still like me even when my face has scars, right Issei?”

Issei patted her hand. “Come on, what kind of question is that? Didn’t you know? Scars are incredibly sexy. They do nothing but add to the most beautiful face I’ve ever laid eyes on.”

Murasaki beamed. “It makes me so happy to hear you say that…”


A thought returned. Knees protesting, Issei sprung to action. “That reminds me. It’s late, but I still have your birthday present to give you.”

He reached for his pockets, but he had none–Issei was in a blue hospital gown. They must have set the belongings down on the table.

 “Found it!”

There, next to Issei’s bed, was the rectangular box.

“Here–happy birthday, Murasaki.”

She couldn’t help but grin as she accepted the box, anticipating what may be underneath, and as she pulled the top off the box, she gasped.

“It’s beautiful…”

Murasaki reached in and pulled out a gold necklace that had a bass guitar and lead guitar intertwined in the shape of two hearts. “How did you even get something like this?”

His heart skipped. “Kanka knows a guy who knows a jeweler, so he helped me set up a custom-made necklace for us.”

She unwrapped the necklace and tried to wear it, but winced as doing so required the use of her back.

“Let your back rest. I’ll put it on.”

Issei took the hoop and slid it over her head, and the guitar hearts dangled over the center of her chest.

“Perfect spot,” Issei said, not noticing Murasaki’s top half rising from her bed. She planted her lips into his, and a familiar rush of tender feelings wrapped around him.

“Thank you Issei,” she said, their faces nearly touching. “I love your gift. It’s the best birthday present ever.”

The tender feelings swelled to a celestial peak, and words escaped from his lips without him realizing.

“I love you, Murasaki.”

As if it took her a moment to process the words, Murasaki sniffled, and tears welled in her eyes.

Issei panicked. “Oh no–are you in pain? Should I get the nurse?”

She giggled and pulled him close for another kiss. “No, Issei…I just love you too. I love you so much, you wonderful man.”

It would be another three days before Murasaki was cleared for dismissal, and Issei did the honors of leading her out of the hospital by wheelchair.

She leaned back, gazing at Issei from below. “Since we both love each other, does that mean we can move in together?”

Issei’s heart fluttered in response–he wanted her to move in with him a long time ago, but there was no way in Hell he’d say that.

“I’m surprised you stayed in your own apartment all that time, given what we know."

“Yeah…I guess…despite everything, I just wanted to live on my own for a while, to not be under the thumb of my father all the time. It was challenging, but I at least got to make my own rules.”

She caressed his left arm as the hospital doors opened, inviting them both to the great outdoors as they welcomed a burst of fresh air. “But I think the challenge will be much easier with the two of us together.”

Issei felt his ears get warm. “Yeah…I’d love to move in with you.”


Murasaki sighed. “What’s gonna happen to Purple Lotus? I had no idea our agent was the one responsible for this. I hope nothing happens to our band.”

Takao and Kanka met them at the door, followed by Ichiriki, Hamada, and Mr. Kiyabu. Murasaki stood up from the wheelchair, and she walked for the first time in a week.

Takao grinned. “Are you kidding? What will Archipelago Records do without you? If anything, the stadium fire just made our bands even more notable!”

Ichiriki nodded. “To think he’d try and stop you all this time, just to make your presence more known. What a fool he is.”

“Purple Lotus isn’t going anywhere,” Mr. Kiyabu said, stroking his chin. “In fact, this whole event made me wonder about this idea I’ve been having.”

“What kind of idea, Boss Man?” Kanka asked.

“Collaboration bands exist, of course. Sometimes they’re from old members who get together from time to time, or they’re true fusion bands who combine members and make music together. That gives me an idea to rummage around with in this brain of mine.”

“Purple Lotus and Secret Prose collaboration band?” Issei asked, blinking.

“Yeah. It will be called Purple Prose or something like that, once both bands have gotten more experience and notoriety of course. Just something to think about. Don’t worry your heads over it.”

Then Mr. Kiyabu stopped and faced them. “Alright, Secret Prose, seeing as how this whole business needs smoothing over, you get a whole week off. But starting next week, I want you at the studio bright and early so we can plan our next tour. You’re still wet behind the ears, and hardly anyone in the prefecture knows you, but we’re seeing progress! Your first albums have sales.”

Secret Prose, their agent, and Purple Lotus went their separate ways, except for Issei and Murasaki.

“A whole week off,” Issei pondered. “It’s been a while since I’ve had one of those. I won’t know what to do with myself.”

He felt Murasaki clutch his arm, her head resting on his shoulder as she cooed. “Why don’t we spend some time looking for a house together? We can’t just move into that single apartment and sleep in that dinky bed of yours.”

Issei blushed. “I mean…we can…”

She laughed. “Oh no you don’t–we are going to move into a proper house and own a large bed like a family.”

Then his head went numb. “Like...a family?”

Murasaki put a finger to his lips and smirked. “Just something to think about. Don’t worry your head over it.”

However, it was something Issei thought about constantly as they boarded the train for his apartment. As he and Murasaki climbed into that ‘dinky bed of his’, he gazed up at his band’s first portrait–the place no one would ever think to look. Memories of when they first met and when they confessed their feelings to each other danced through his mind. Murasaki was simply a one-of-a-kind woman, someone he would cherish for the rest of his life if possible.

The necklace was not the only present that lurked within that portrait. When the time was right–when Issei was ready–there was another present he had bought. They were made by the same jeweler and were also custom-made: a bass guitar and a lead guitar. One Murasaki would wear, and one Issei would wear.