BLOODY BAT ROMEO
The day after Romeo visited Endo in the hospital, Jojo invited both Romeo and Meru to hang out at his place after school. He said he was inviting them over to play video games, but his real goal was to get Romeo to explain himself. As he kicks Romeo’s ass in his favorite fighting game, he prods Romeo for answers, never looking away from the screen.
“Hey… Are you really not gonna tell us why you decided to quit the Makai?”
“I told you to stop asking, didn’t I?”
“Sorry, Boss, I’m just worried, that's all! There’s rumors you were brainwashed and stuff, or that you suddenly got scared of the Kappore gang ‘cuz they’re gettin’ bigger.”
Romeo shakes his head, irritated, but he knows these fake rumors are better than the truth. Besides, if they found out why he really left, no one would believe him.
“I don’t care. If they wanna call me a coward, that’s fine by me.”
“Stop calling me that already!”
“S-Sorry, Boss! But what am I supposed to do now!? I only joined the Makai gang ‘cuz you were there, so what happens to me now?”
Jojo’s character on the screen KO’s Romeo’s once more, but Jojo doesn’t celebrate. Romeo sighs, settling himself better over the giant anime girl beanbag he’s sitting on, and picks a different character from the selection screen for the next round.
“I never asked you to join the Makai gang. You can just leave if you want.”
“Aw, man, you know it ain’t so easy. You can get away with it because you’re Bloody Bat Romeo, but what about me!?”
“What about you? You’re Mad Dog Jojo. You've made a pretty good name for yourself,” Romeo snickers.
Jojo cringes, making a pained noise as he picks his character— a cute magical girl in pigtails.
“Stop it, Boss. I hate that nickname...”
“Haha. Why? You earned it, didn’t you? You should be proud!”
“By accident!! My bike wouldn’t break downhill! I didn’t mean to run over all those Kappore thugs!!”
“Right, but you did. So if you talk to Amon about quitting I’m sure he'd let you leave if you want to that badly.”
Jojo doesn’t answer.
Meru, who had been sitting on the corner of Jojo’s bed behind them and snacking on a bag of potato chips while watching them both play, finally decides to chime in.
“Are you afraid you'll get picked on again if you leave the Makai gang?”
Romeo stops smashing buttons for a second to look at Jojo, who seems concentrated on the screen, pointedly ignoring Meru’s question. Romeo goes back to try to win at least one round by pressing as many buttons as possible.
“...Don’t be stupid. No one will dare mess with you now, y’know.”
“You don’t know that! I might not look like a nerd anymore, but that’s only ‘cuz I changed my clothes and dyed my hair to look like you, Boss!”
Meru snickers quietly.
“Ah, right. Romeo rescued you from your bullies, didn’t he? Back when you were the president of the Anime Club...”
“Damn right he did!” Jojo responds proudly. “He was so cool, too!! Took ‘em all out like nothing! Bang, bang!”
“Don’t make it sound like I shot them!!”
Another KO. Of course there’s no way Romeo would ever beat an ex-president of an Anime Club at a videogame, but he wants to believe his day will come. He grunts in disgust and throws the controller, which Jojo barely manages to catch.
“That seems to be a hobby of our Romeo, doesn’t it?” says Meru with his usual, gentle voice. “Saving people, that is.”
After hearing this, the image of Yuri in the alley flashes quickly through Romeo’s mind, and a chill runs down his spine. He leans his back on the bed and cranes his head back at an awkward angle to look at Meru, who gives him a knowing smile. He feels a drop of sweat roll down his forehead.
“...What are you talking about, Meru?”
“Oh? I’m talking about Jojo and me, of course?” Meru answers, confused.
...Ah, right. There’s no way Meru would know about Yuri, huh.
Romeo straightens up again and shrugs, facing forward once more, trying to hide just how scared he was for a second.
“I didn’t save you, I spared you. And I thought you said you didn’t want to talk about that time ever again anyway.”
“No. You saved me.”
Meru’s reply is uncharacteristically defiant, but his kind tone and smile soften the blow. Romeo doesn't know how to reply to that, so he just waves a dismissive hand at him without turning to look at Meru and decides to change the subject.
“Whatever. Anyway, I know I can’t hide from Amon forever, so I’m meeting with him tomorrow at the Makai hideout to give him the news myself.
Jojo perks up immediately.
“For real!? Freakin’ finally! You have no idea how the gang’s been houndin’ me for answers simply ‘cuz we’re best friends!”
Romeo gives Jojo an annoyed look.
“I still can’t believe you ran over to tell everyone in the gang like five seconds after I told you. You made my life hell.”
“Huh!? What!? Whaddya mean, Boss!?”
“What do I mean?” Romeo looks like he’s about to snap before continuing. “Did you already forget you bawled your eyes out the moment you opened the door and saw my face all messed up!? It’s your fault Raging Fist Endo and his lackeys ganged up on me, obviously. You were the only two people I told, so after you ran crying to them, someone at the Makai must have spilled the beans to some Kappore trash and the news traveled upwards directly to him, idiot.”
Jojo looks at Romeo with big, wide eyes. Shocked. Speechless. Even trembling a little.
“I— It was my fault…?”
Meru’s eyes are wide too, blinking at the two of them in surprise.
“Oh, my, Jojo. What did you do?”
Romeo keeps his glare fixed on Jojo for a few more seconds, then sighs and slumps back against the beanbag, facing the magical girl posters plastered on the ceiling.
“I mean, I took care of it, so it doesn’t matter. As long as Raging Fist Endo doesn’t remember me, I think the Kappore gang will steer clear from me and Makai for a good while. They’re like headless chickens without him. They won’t make a move.”
Despite Romeo’s reassuring words, Jojo remains mortified, holding his head in his hands, and immediately messes his hair up frantically.
“AAARGH!!! I’M SO STUPID!! I screwed up, Boss! You saved my life and this is how I repay you! I’m a traitor! I’m disgusting! You probably super hate me noooow!!”
“Shut up, Jojo. I don’t hate you. You’re just stupid and I should have seen it coming.”
“...Headless chickens can still run,” Meru says, suddenly.
Romeo tilts his head, trying to look at him. Jojo is so taken aback by that comment he stops his dramatic outburst with both hands still tangled in his hair, looking in his direction. Meru crunches another potato chip and continues.
“You said the Kappore gang are like ‘headless chickens’ without Raging Fist Endo. But headless chickens can still run. They live quite a long time too, actually. The record is eighteen months!”
They’re all completely quiet for the next few seconds. Romeo breaks the silence eventually.
“...How the hell do you even know that?”
Meru smiles at them, pleased.
“What I’m trying to say is... maybe you shouldn’t stop carrying your bat just yet, Romeo. Just because Raging Fist Endo is out of commission it doesn’t mean the entire Kappore gang will sit idly, right? They’re probably very upset at you, too.”
Yeah, I bet.
Romeo shifts to the other side of the beanbag so he can sit facing Meru. He crosses his arms and rests his cheek against the edge of the bed, close to Meru’s knees.
“Maybe. But I took down their leader. I think they’re gonna try to stay away from me instead. All they have going for them is their numbers; they’re all weak. And they won’t make a move without that ugly troll.”
“Boss... “ Jojo inches uncomfortably close to Romeo. “I just got a great idea! You should go into hiding! Then you can stay at my place for as long as you’d— Agh!?”
Romeo shoves Jojo's face, causing him to topple back.
“You don’t have to get so close!” Romeo huffs. “I said I don’t care if they think I’m a coward, but I’m not actually a coward.”
“S-Sorry, Boss… I was just trying to help...” Jojo whimpers dejectedly, looking like a kicked puppy as he sits up, rubbing his nose.
“Perhaps you’re right. Perhaps they’ll be more afraid of Bloody Bat Romeo than ever,” says Meru, unfazed by Jojo and Romeo’s antics. “But what will you do if you’re wrong?”
“...Hah? What do you mean?”
“I mean, what would you do if, instead, you’ve only managed to light a fire under them? The remaining members might not be as strong as Raging Fist Endo, sure, but the Kappore gang—much like the Makai gang, thrives on revenge, after all.”
The atmosphere stays tense for just long enough that Jojo opens his mouth to start saying something stupid, but Romeo speaks first.
“...I dunno yet.”
“That’s why I need to talk to our boss— err, Amon, and tell him I’m out. If the Kappore gang has personal beef with me, that’s one thing. But if they’re gonna make this into a gang thing, then I want nothing to do with it.”
Romeo turns around on the beanbag to face the screen, the KO message still flashing. He wiggles into a proper sitting position and stretches his arms before picking up the controller again.
“Come on, Jojo. I’ll kick your ass this time.”
“Oh! Sure thing, Boss!”
Jojo happily sits on the carpet next to where Romeo sits on the beanbag, grabbing his own controller, too. They start playing again like nothing happened. The fighting sounds from the screen, the clicking of the controllers, and Meru’s loud crunching of potato chips stave off the silence.
Eventually Romeo has to ask one thing that has been bothering him:
“.......Eighteen months? Really?”