BLOODY BAT ROMEO
Romeo is frozen there, shocked to his core by Franz’s words.
“F-fiancée…? You mean,… you’re engaged?”
Yuri simply averts her eyes. Franz pulls her even closer.
“That’s right. My beloved Yuri and I are to be wed when the time is right. Isn’t that so, darling?”
The more Franz speaks, the more uncomfortable Yuri looks. It fills Romeo with anger, but before he can say or do anything drastic, the maid girl snaps a picture of Franz embracing Yuri with her smartphone, and Franz finally lets go of Yuri.
“Indeed,” says the maid, blushing behind her glasses. “Master Franz and Miss Yuri have been engaged since they were kids.”
“Huh!? Since back then!? How!? Don’t tell me this was their parents’ idea?”
The maid looks down, fidgeting with her phone.
“No, it wasn’t their parents. It was actually—”
“It was my beloved Yuri who proposed to me, actually!”
Franz interrupts with a smug face, pressing a hand to his chest. The girls behind him go wild once more and are immediately shushed by the maid.
This time, Romeo is incredulous. Yuri waves her hands in front of her frantically, her face beet red.
“I-It’s not like that! Franz and I used to play together as kids all the time, you see, a-and… one day he told me he was a prince so, s-since I liked fairytales, I asked if he could turn me into a princess a-and he said yes, if we got married, s-so…!”
…… Ah. So, that’s how it happened?
Romeo immediately feels relieved and endearing at the same time. At its core, it’s a cute reason for a kid to propose to someone, but more importantly… Yuri is panicking over Romeo getting the wrong idea, isn’t she?
Franz, however, looks as haughty as ever.
“Fufu. My beloved is so shy— it’s simply adorable, don’t you think so?” He addresses the girls surrounding them, who all start talking over each other as they agree.
“... Okay, who are all these girls behind you?” Romeo finally has to ask. “They seem to be into you, but they get excited when you talk to Yuri, too. What gives? I thought they were your groupies or something.”
Franz covers his mouth with the back of his hand in exaggerated shock.
“Oh my. Don’t tell me you don’t know who I am?”
“Uh, obviously not? And you know I don’t, you introduced yourself to me.”
“Well, that’s because I thought you would recognize me, but not recognize me.”
If Yuri wasn’t here, Romeo would be cursing Franz out immediately and maybe give him a punch or two in that annoying face of his. A vein pops on his forehead, but he does his best to grit his teeth and reply as calmly as he can instead.
“What are you even talking about?”
“Sophie,” Franz says as he snaps his fingers.
The maid immediately rushes in front of him, scrolling through her phone quickly until she finds an app and opens it, shoving the screen straight at Romeo’s face with excitement.
The screenplays the opening sequence of a dating sim for girls, where many handsome 2D men, each with different romantic catchphrases, flash one by one. Sophie pauses the video when one, in particular, gets the spotlight: it’s a blond character, foreign-looking, dressed as a prince from a fairytale.
“This is Francis III, a magical prince and the default love interest in Pretty Prince, a very popular smartphone game for girls! Master Franz here was the model for him! You can see the resemblance, can’t you? Can’t you!?”
The girls all giggle quietly as they proudly flash some of the merch on their bags and outfits at Romeo. It’s all Francis III merchandise.
Franz flips his hair.
“That’s right. And sweet Yuri here looks and acts exactly as the faceless protagonist of Pretty Prince, which makes her perfect material for CG art, which is why my personal maid Sophie is tasked with taking plenty of pictures of us whenever we’re together. These girls are all Francis III fans, so naturally, they’re my fans, too.”
“... Huh. I see. That’s stupid.”
“I mean,… you’re not really a prince, are you?”
“Were you not listening? A popular prince is based on me! I am even allowed to manage Francis III’s online social media accounts! That’s how my fans knew I’d be here! He is basically me!”
Franz’s eyebrows twitch in desperation as he tries to stay as in character as possible, yet visibly fuming. Romeo mostly feels sorry for the guy now— or, he did until Yuri reaches for Franz’s hands again.
“Franz… I appreciate you coming all the way here for me and my brother, but would you mind waiting outside? The noise might be…”
Yuri trails off apologetically. Franz looks at her for a second, then sighs dramatically.
“Oh, my. I have inconvenienced you yet again, haven’t I? Seeing you in such low spirits has truly turned me into a beast, I see. I apologize, I will have all my princesses leave at once, and I shall meet with you again when you’ve had time to gather yourself. Sophie?”
Sophie stops snapping pictures and raises her head quickly.
Without missing a beat, she raises her hand, commanding the attention of all the girls there. They step aside to make room through the hall, and Sophie immediately starts marching out with her arm still in the air like a beacon. The rest of the girls follow obediently.
“... Thank you, Franz,” says Yuri quietly, letting go of him and stepping back with her arms behind her.
“Anything for you, darling Yuri.”
“I’ll go tell my brother you’re here if you want.”
“I don’t care about that ug— ah, uh, I mean, there is no need. I shall return once he’s had more time to rest.”
Yuri, who somehow completely missed what Franz was very obviously trying to say, nods with a smile.
“Thank you. I’m sure it’ll make him really happy to hear that.”
Yeah, I don’t think I need to know what their relationship is like to know that Raging Fist Endo will not be happy to hear that.
“Do you want to come back in, Romeo?”
Romeo shakes his head.
“I’m good. I don’t wanna disturb your time with your brother any more than I already have. It would be incredibly rude, after all.”
He says with a pointed jab at Franz, looking at him. Franz in turn glares back at Romeo, clearly holding something back.
“I see… Well, my parents are coming to visit in a little bit, so you don’t need to walk us back, but if you both need to leave now, I understand.”
“Don’t worry about us, my dear Yuri. You can go back to your brother. This time, I shall escort your male friend back myself.”
“I don’t need a fake ‘prince’ to escort me.”
Yuri smiles at how they seem to be getting along. She bows her head, then quietly disappears back inside the room.
When the door is closed, Franz crosses his arms and looks at Romeo from head to toe with a condescending look.
“So. Romeo, huh.”
“... Can I be frank with you?”
“Why do I have the feeling you will do whatever you want no matter how I—”
“I don’t think you should be friends with Yuri anymore.”
Romeo sputters the rest of his sentence.
Franz simply shrugs.
“I told you. We’re engaged. I don’t think it’s a good idea for her to get close to anyone that isn’t me.”
Romeo scoffs, unsure if he’s hearing this correctly. He scratches the back of his neck.
“Man, get over it. She was a kid and thought you were a real prince. I don’t even think it counts.”
“IT COUNTS!” Franz blurts out, uncrossing his arms to ball them into fists, which makes him look less like a threat and more like a child throwing a tantrum.
“It counts, it counts! She said it, and she’s never taken it back! So it counts!!”
Romeo is startled by his sudden change of personality, looking at him with surprise and disgust.
Franz catches this and gasps, straightening himself and clearing his throat before flipping his hair again to continue in a calmer tone.
“... Fufufu. I can tell, you know. You have that look in your eyes.”
“You’re after my Yuri, aren’t you?”
“... You’re a creep.”
Franz grins at Romeo’s vague answer, with no doubt in his mind that he hit the nail on the head. He shakes his head with a shrug.
“I would back down if I were you. She’s way out of your league, and... if you truly cared for her, you’d agree she deserves to be with someone as amazing as she is.”
Ouch. Romeo struggles to not let his face show just how much that stung.
“Besides,” Franz continues, more solemnly this time, “Yuri has liked fairytale princes ever since she was little. That’s why, after her proposal, I decided I would turn myself into a prince for her. I changed everything about me just so I could be with Yuri one day. Everything. You have no idea how hard I’ve worked to better myself, but I keep reminding myself she’s worth it. So now that you know how committed I am to this, it should be obvious, yes? That you don’t stand a chance, Romeo.”
For a very brief moment, Romeo feels some connection towards Franz. Yuri made both of them decide to be better people, but Franz went about it in a very bizarre way.
You’re like a prince!
“... Oh. Right.”
Romeo mutters to himself after he recalls that line from Yuri in the alley, illuminated under a completely different light this time. A heavy, painful light.
... Maybe that really is what she wants?
“Did you say something?”
“... I said you’re a clown.”