BLOODY BAT ROMEO
A tall, young high school boy with spiky, black hair smashes a Kappore thug's face against the brick wall of an alley, ignoring his muffled whines of pain. With one hand crushing the thug's face against the wall, he keeps his other casually tucked inside the pocket of his black leather jacket, barely putting any effort into this.
A Makai gang lackey wearing a red headband over his curly, messy dyed hair, rushes over, stopping immediately in surprise. He's met with the sight of the Kappore thug desperately trying to push himself free and away from the wall while the tall boy in the leather jacket— the one the lackey called ‘Boss’, keeps him nicely pinned in place. With complete indifference to how much his victim struggles under his hold, the tall boy turns his head slowly to look at him.
“Uwah, Boss. If I'd known we were being followed I woulda taken care of that guy for you...”
The Makai lackey’s words contradict how excited he looks watching the violent scene. The tall boy turns his head away from him and peels the Kappore thug away from the wall… only to slam his face against it a second time. The thug’s cry of pain disappears almost as soon as it comes, as he loses consciousness in a matter of seconds. The tall boy finally lets go of his head and lets him slide down the wall and crumple to the ground.
“...You let him get close to us on purpose.”
The curly-haired lackey laughs, busted. He watches his boss take out a lighter and light up a cigarette, casually walking back towards the exit of the alley. His lackey quickly joins him as they turn the corner, looking up at him with a slight blush and sparkles in his eyes. The tall guy blows out some smoke.
“Nothing! It’s just so rare to see you in action, Boss! My heart was pounding so fast! And I got to see you do it, too!”
“You know, your signature move! The one that got you your three-word nickname!”
“That... is where it came from, right?”
“Not gonna lie, it made me a little jealous— I mean, nothing!!”
The tall boy just keeps walking, looking forward, without sparing a single glance at his follower's increasingly excited face.
They reach an abandoned building a moment later, its windows boarded up by uneven wooden planks and its dilapidated walls covered in graffiti. They step over some rubble, left over from a past attempt to demolish it, as they head inside. The inside is dimly-lit, with very little light filtering in, but it’s enough to illuminate the massive pile of broken chairs piled high near the center.
The tall figure takes one last drag of his cigarette before flicking away the rest, grinding the heel of his combat boot into the ground to extinguish it. The Makai lackey scrambles, trying to quickly slide on the latex gloves he had in his pocket and immediately drops on all fours, head lowered, to gather the ash, looking just like a footstool— which is exactly what he becomes.
The tall male steps onto his lackey’s back casually, using him as a stepping stone to climb up the rest of the pile of chairs. He ascends languidly, with his hands in his pockets, reaching the top where a single chair sits upright. He takes a seat like a king on his throne and crosses his arms, exhaling the rest of the smoke still in his lungs.
The lackey stands up and dusts himself off, removing his gloves. From atop the pile, his boss glares down at him, but the lackey simply shrugs with a guilty look on his face.
“I don’t like dirt, Boss, I told you… I’m happy to be your slave, but I have some limits…”
“.......Where is he?”
“Bloody Bat Romeo. He’s late.”
“Ohh, that! Yeah, he sure is late, huh! I told Mad Dog Jojo to bring him over but he’s as duuumb as they come. Definitely wouldn’t let him step on me.”
A loud sound from the entrance followed by a yelp of pain catches their attention, and from the shadows emerge Romeo and Jojo— Romeo, walking as casually as always with his bandaged-up bat dragging behind him, and Jojo, limping after him and cursing under his breath.
“Dammit! When are y’all gonna clean this rubble!? It’s impossible to walk around here without stubbing your toes!”
The curly-haired lackey scoffs, crossing his arms.
“Well, well, well. So Mad Dog Jojo finally did something right, didn’t he. Good boy, you know how to play fetch.”
Jojo and Romeo stop once they’re close enough to the mountain of chairs, and Jojo glares at the other lackey in a ridiculous attempt at intimidation.
“Pain Killer Oue. Your hair is still as stupid as your nickname.”
“Hey! I earned my nickname with lotsa effort, just like everyone else!”
“Only ‘cuz you can take a beating like no one else!”
“Damn right I can!” Oue says proudly.
“Hey...” Romeo interrupts, disgusted. “Knock it off.”
Oue claps his hands and immediately turns to look at Romeo, giddy.
“Or else? Or else…!?”
“I’m not gonna beat you up, Oue. Quit it. I’m just here to talk to Amon.”
The tall boy sitting high above them on his chair hasn’t taken his eyes off Romeo since he walked in, but he hasn't said a word. When he finally speaks, his voice is as calm as it is commanding.
“...You better have a good reason for walking out on Makai.”
Jojo and Oue look at each other and wordlessly agree to take a step back. Romeo doesn’t move, keeping his eyes fixed on the boy on the chair— Amon, the leader of the Makai gang. Romeo shrugs.
“I didn’t think I’d need a reason to quit. I’ve been your best fighter for years. I should be allowed to retire whenever I want.”
“Going on the straight and narrow isn’t like you, Bloody Bat Romeo.”
Amon rests his chin on his hand. His gaze pierces Romeo wordlessly. It's hard to ignore Amon's presence, even for someone as strong as Romeo. Romeo would never admit it, but Amon's crushing aura is keeping him nailed in place.
I can’t tell him about Yuri, but... lying to him always ends up badly...
Amon finally speaks.
Romeo turns his gaze away from him and towards his bandaged bat.
“...I can’t change if I stay here.”
“The more time I spend with this reputation, the less time I’ll have to straighten up and be normal. You said it yourself, didn’t you? Everyone who graduates high school has to leave the Makai gang, no exceptions. So what’s wrong with early retirement?”
“Because I say so.”
Jojo and Oue hold each other immediately, sensing the atmosphere turning tense— but Oue quickly catches himself and shoves Jojo away, taking out a small bottle of disinfectant spray and spritzing it all over.
Romeo glares at Amon, frustrated, knowing there’s nothing he can say to retort to that. Ever since he joined the Makai gang, Amon has sat at the top, defeating anyone who tried to dethrone him with his bare hands… including Romeo himself, once upon a time. That’s why Romeo already knows all the violent ideas welling up inside his head would be fruitless, no matter how bad he wants to act on them.
“Besides," Amon continues, breaking the tense silence. “Makai needs you now more than ever.”
Oue laughs a haughty little laugh, as if the question had been addressed to him.
“Oh, you. Do you really think we didn’t hear, Bloody Bat Romeo? You took down Raging Fist Endo aaall by yourself! Super impressive! Our Boss here even cracked a tiny little smile when he found out!”
It’s not like Romeo expected them to not know about it, but just thinking about how it's elevated his reputation when he's been trying to quit makes him cringe.
“That… was a mistake. I didn’t mean to do it. He just challenged me out of nowhere and I got worked up after dealing with his lackeys.”
“So you turned bloodthirsty again,” Amon claims, a faint glint in his eye. Romeo looks away without replying, but that’s all the confirmation Amon needs.
“It’s not gonna happen again.”
“Bloody Bat Romeo. I let you keep your nickname all these years despite challenging me and losing because you were just that strong. But it seems your edge has been slowly rusting ever since. What happened to the guy who wanted control of the Makai so badly he would use any violent means necessary?”
Romeo stays silent, keeping his eyes away from the one he no longer considered his leader.
“You say you want to change, but you’ve already been changing for a long time, haven’t you.”
Romeo finally looks at him.
Amon was right. Romeo used to be more bloodthirsty and careless when he first joined Makai, but when you’re so strong that all your enemies avoid you, you simply stop caring. Romeo sighs.
“I’m burnt out, Amon. My bat is no good to you anymore, so why does it matter if I quit?”
“You’re still my strongest fighter.”
“So? I already took out Endo for you. What more do you want from me?”
“I want you to prepare yourself for war.”
Amon’s reply is as serious as his face. Romeo blinks at him, confused.
“Hah? What war?”
“The war you began when you took out the leader of our enemies: the war between the Makai gang and the Kappore gang.”