Chapter 2:

Conviction of Love


The next week, Romeo is in a daze, spending most of his time lying on the roof of his high school, thinking back on that incident and replaying it in his head over and over.

You're like a prince!

This line echoes in his mind at least ten times an hour.

She completely misunderstood him; rather, he lied to her, and she believed him. That was what really happened. His mind keeps thinking of her beautiful, innocent smile, and guilt takes over almost immediately.

I'm a terrible person, aren't I?

And he was right. The truth was far worse than anything Yuri could even imagine.

Romeo wasn't just a delinquent. He was the strongest, most notoriously violent delinquent from the Makai gang. He had earned himself a three-word nickname, something only the worst of the worst ever got, and it instilled fear in the hearts of those who were unlucky enough to face him.

Bloody Bat Romeo.

But after meeting Yuri, he couldn't help but feel different. He didn't want to lie to her. He wanted to talk to her again, see her again, but how could he face her, being that kind of person?

He messes his hair roughly with his hands, frustrated.

There's no way I can take my lie back! Just like there's no way scum like me could ever meet with someone so pure again! Argh!

And just like that, a thought pops into his head.

But, I guess it doesn't have to be a lie, does it?

With his eyes wide open, he sits up immediately.

That's right. It doesn't have to be a lie! All I have to do is quit the gang, right? If I stop being a delinquent, then Yuri...

Yes! What a simple solution! Why didn't I think of it before!? If I weren't a delinquent, I could talk to Yuri again and get close to her, and then finally I could tell her how I feel!

The thought makes his heart skip a beat and his blood rush to his face.

A-A love confession...!

He looks at his hand, the same hand she had held between hers before, and balls it into a fist.

Of course, Romeo didn't normally go to class, but he'd been showing up on campus from time to time ever since Yuri told him she went to his school. He'd managed to catch sight of her a few times. Romeo never had any intention of approaching her, of course, but in his stalking, uh, observations, he figured out where her locker was, and as it turned out, she was also a second-year student like him.

He balls both fists and huffs with determination.

Okay. If I’m going to confess, I have to be serious about it. Yuri is too sweet to be entangled with someone like me, so the fact that I have to leave the Makai gang is absolutely a given. There's no way around it.

His nickname, which he worked so hard to achieve, has to go too. For the girl who stole his heart, Romeo must be reborn.

"Here you are, Boss!"

A loud, boisterous voice breaks Romeo out of his inner thoughts. Two boys approach him from the direction of the rooftop's door. The boy who called out to him looks very much like a delinquent. He's wearing the school uniform, except his jacket is short and reaching only to his ribcage, and modified pants to be baggier than usual. Peeking out from the dye job of his short hair are thick, black roots. A vertical scar runs across his left eye, leaving an impression on anyone who saw him. With one hand in his pocket, he excitedly waves to Romeo with the other.

"Don't call me that, Jojo," scoffs Romeo, leaning back on both his palms with a sigh. "Our real boss hates it when you do that."

"I don't care! He's not my boss— you are, Boss!"

Romeo grimaces. He goes through this with Jojo, so often that a slip-up in front of the Makai boss is only a matter of time. A death wish he doesn’t want on his agenda.

"Were you looking for me?"

"Hell yeah, we were! You haven't been comin' to the hideout the last few days, so we were worried somethin' bad had happened, or that the Kappore gang did ya in!"

Jojo's response is as energetic as always. It almost makes Romeo feel bad for ditching the gang for so long because he understands why Jojo would be worried.

The Kappore gang is the largest, strongest gang in the city, and it's at constant odds with the second strongest—the Makai gang, which slowly gained more territory over the years. It’s the gang Jojo and Romeo are loyal to.

Thinking that the Kappore might have found Romeo while he had his guard down, and taken him out, is not entirely a far-fetched thought.

"Well, I'm fine. So you can wipe that ugly expression off your face."

"But this is my normal face!!"

"Pftt. Haha."

The third boy, Meru, suddenly breaks his silence, with a quiet laugh at the scene. Unlike Jojo and Romeo, Meru is wearing his uniform the proper way. His shoulder-length, sky-blue hair is neatly combed in place. He keeps a hand behind his back and his other one in a fist over his mouth to hide his laughter.

No matter how you look at him, he has the feel of an honor student; not someone who should be hanging out with delinquents like this.

Romeo looks at him, annoyed.

"Sorry," Meru quickly apologizes. "It's just that it's very unlike you to disappear for so long, but it's very like you to show up where we least expect to find you Romeo."

Romeo's expression softens after hearing this. They're right. He had decided to abandon the gang to be alone with his thoughts, so it's only natural someone would come looking for him eventually. He sighs and waves dismissively at them.

"My bad, okay? I had a lot on my mind."

"Oh? Like what, exactly?" Meru asks and crouches next to him, holding his knees together.

Seeing this, Jojo does the same on the opposite side of Romeo, with his legs slightly open and an arm resting on each knee. Romeo makes a disgusted face.

"It's none of your business. I told you guys I'm fine—"

Ah. Wait a second.

He did have something to say to them, didn't he? Just before they arrived, he made up his mind about leaving the gang and quitting his life as a delinquent forever. Wasn't this as good a time as any to break the news?

He looks at Meru only, completely ignoring Jojo who keeps taking peeks at Romeo's face. Romeo looks serious, determined, even.

"No. The truth is, there is something you should know."