Chapter 8:

Cooking Pot and Cooking Pan


The short assailant proudly puffs out his chest, hands on his hips, clearly anticipating Romeo's shock. The tall one stands behind him unmoving; silent.Bookmark here

“Uh… What?”Bookmark here

Romeo’s actual reaction is not impressed enough for their liking.Bookmark here

“I saaaaid! We’re Cooking Pot and Cooking Pan! The next leaders of the Kappore gang! Why aren’t you trembling with fear!?”Bookmark here

Oue staggers to his feet behind the two delinquents, placing a hand on his chest to calm his excited little heart down. Bookmark here

“Because Bloody Bat Romeo has never heard of you. No one in Makai has ever heard of you.”Bookmark here

The short delinquent gasps without so much as turning back to look at Oue.Bookmark here

“You’ve never heard of us? Even though we both have three-word nicknames!?”Bookmark here

Romeo grips his bat tightly again. Bookmark here

Only the most notorious delinquents get three-word nicknames, so if these guys are telling the truth, then they might be more dangerous than they look...Bookmark here

“Yeah? What are they?”Bookmark here

“What’s what!?Bookmark here

“Your nicknames. Let’s hear ‘em.”Bookmark here

“Buddy, are you deaf!? I told you! We’re Cooking Pot and Cooking Pan! I’m Cooking Pot, and this guy here is Cooking Pan!”Bookmark here

“.......”Bookmark here

“What!? Why are you looking at us like that!?”Bookmark here

“Uh, because… That's just two words. Cooking Pot and Cooking Pan… That’s two each.”Bookmark here

Romeo sees Cooking Pot go pale, as if his soul were about to leave his body. He tries to argue against Romeo’s observation, but his voice cracks every other word, clearly trying to keep himself from crying.Bookmark here

“N-No? ‘King’ is a word, isn’t it? S-So, there’s King, and, Cooking… and… and Pot, because of the pot on my head and Pan’s… pan… his pan…”Bookmark here

Oue covers his mouth, but he can't keep his laughter from escaping, loud and rude.Bookmark here

“So your nickname’s Coo King Pot? Like… a pigeon!? Hahaha!”Bookmark here

Cooking Pot’s eyes well up with tears.Bookmark here

“N-No, of course n-not! We earned them like everyone else!!” Cooking Pot lies.Bookmark here

Romeo lowers his bat again, sighing. Bookmark here

“Did you give yourselves your own nicknames? You can’t do that.”Bookmark here

“How laaaame…” Oue says while snickering, as if these two hadn’t been kicking his ass a moment ago. “You couldn’t even get three words right?”Bookmark here

In less than a second, Oue disappears. His body slams against the wall, thrown by a single kick from Cooking Pan and his monstrous speed. Romeo's eyes go wide.Bookmark here

What the— I didn’t even see that guy move!?Bookmark here

Paaan!” Cooking Pot rushes over to him, and Cooking Pan kneels down to pick him up, settling him on his shoulders without saying a word. Cooking Pan rises up to his full height, once again towering over everyone.Bookmark here

Romeo starts to realize that this guy is the muscle of the duo… and from the looks of it, probably the brains, too.Bookmark here

Owww...” Oue whines— slowly, painfully trying to sit up again. He brings a hand to his bleeding lip, trembling with excitement. “That… was pretty good, haha…”Bookmark here

As much as Romeo dislikes Oue, he recognizes him as the closest thing there is to a direct link to Amon within Makai. Leaving him here to be their punching bag would probably be a bad idea. He clicks his tongue, annoyed. Bookmark here

“Why were you guys looking for me? What’s this about?”Bookmark here

Cooking Pot answers through sniffles, but he clearly seems to be regaining confidence now that he’s sitting over Cooking Pan’s shoulders. He points a finger at Romeo— a gesture that goes almost unnoticed thanks to the floppy sleeves of his oversized uniform. Bookmark here

“You turned Kappore upside down the day you defeated Raging Fist Endo. We no longer had a captain. Before news spread to our other divisions, there was a ton of infighting to decide who'd be our temporary leader.”Bookmark here

Other divisions, huh. Must be talking about the Summer Fireworks.Bookmark here

“But!” Cooking Pot raises his voice suddenly. “Cooking Pan and I were already promised that position a long time ago!”Bookmark here

Romeo raises an eyebrow. No matter how he spins it, there’s no way Raging Fist Endo would entrust his entire army to guys like these. As if reading his mind, Cooking Pot puffs out his cheeks.Bookmark here

“He did! He told us a long time ago that if we defeated Bloody Bat Romeo he'd make both of us his second-in-command!”Bookmark here

...Oh. So it was a ‘when pigs fly’ kind of deal.Bookmark here

Oue laughs out loud, blood spilling from his nose. Bookmark here

“No waaay! And you guys just believed—GAH!Bookmark here

Cooking Pan sends him flying into the wall with another swift kick. This time, Oue doesn’t get back up or make a sound. Romeo growls under his breath.Bookmark here

That tall guy— Cooking Pan, huh? He moves pretty fast even while carrying that short one on his shoulders.Bookmark here

“Hey, you.” Romeo addresses him, and Cooking Pan looks at Romeo impassively. “You seem pretty strong. Why are you hanging out with this… middle schooler?”Bookmark here

Cooking Pot jolts in surprise, shocked, and he tries to lower the pot on his head to cover even more of his face.Bookmark here

“W-What? I’m no middle schooler! I’m in high school just like you! I-I’m just very, very short!”Bookmark here

…Wait, he really is a middle schooler!?Bookmark here

Romeo takes a few more steps closer, looking in Oue’s direction. From what he can see, he's not bleeding from anywhere new, and he appears to be breathing. He turns his gaze back to Cooking Pot.Bookmark here

“As far as I know, the Kappore gang only lets high schoolers in. Is that why you’re wearing a high school uniform? You wanna be part of the Kappore that badly?” Bookmark here

Shut up!” Cooking Pot yells at the top of his lungs. “You don’t know anything!Bookmark here

“Yeah, guess I don’t. I don’t really care, though.”Bookmark here

Romeo taps his bat a few times on the concrete before swinging it over his shoulder again with a determined look in his eyes.Bookmark here

“If you leave now, I’ll pretend this didn’t happen and just take Pain Killer Oue back with me, but…” He shifts his gaze slowly from Cooking Pot to Cooking Pan, who has been staring at Romeo with a strange, quiet intensity. “...something tells me you guys won’t let me go that easily.”Bookmark here

“Hah!” Scoffs Cooking Pot. “We tracked down Pain Killer Oue so he would tell us where you are, but he didn’t know anything. We ended up chasing him all the way here— Looks like we got lucky!”Bookmark here

Romeo tries to think of an excuse for why he himself came to this place. Yuri was probably in class, so it’s not like he expected to run into her, and the only person he knows that’s staying here is Endo. He takes a deep breath.Bookmark here

“If you’re serious about fighting me, I’ll take you on— but only the tall one. I don’t fight little boys.”Bookmark here

Little boys!?” Cooking Pot yells, offended. “Put me down, Pan! Put me down!!”Bookmark here

“Pot…” says Cooking Pan, sternly, speaking for the first time. Bookmark here

“So you can talk,” remarks Romeo. Cooking Pan doesn't seem to acknowledge him.Bookmark here

Cooking Pan obeys, settling Cooking Pot back down on the ground. As soon as his feet hit the concrete, he rushes at Romeo with a shrill battlecry, waving his little arms around and his uniform flapping in the wind. Bookmark here

Romeo points the rounded end of his bat—where there are no nails embedded—right at where Cooking Pot's forehead would be, clanging against the pot on his head. Cooking Pot keeps trying to charge at him, flailing his arms, but unable to get any closer with the bat holding him back. Romeo sighs. Bookmark here

“Listen… You’re still a kid. You should stay away from guys like us. Whatever reasons you have to wanna take over a gang are probably—”Bookmark here

Romeo’s bat disappears from his grip right in front of his eyes. It reappears a second later when it hits the wall with a loud crash.Bookmark here

Cooking Pan stands between the two of them with his leg raised, slowly lowering it back down to the ground. Romeo’s eyes are wide in shock as his brain tries to process what just happened.Bookmark here

This guy… When did he get so close!? And he kicked my bat straight out of my hands like it was nothing!?Bookmark here

Cooking Pan crouches down and reaches under Cooking Pot's arms to pick him up, gently stepping aside to place him a safe distance away.Bookmark here

“Stay here.”Bookmark here

Pannnn!” whines Cooking Pot, wiping the tears rolling down his cheeks. “He called me a boy!Bookmark here

“Huh…?” Romeo blinks. “Wait, the little one’s a girl!?”Bookmark here

“I’ll handle this.” Bookmark here

Romeo barely has time to catch what Cooking Pan said before instinctively whipping up his arms in front of him to block Cooking Pan's heavy kick, skidding back from the impact.Bookmark here

Tch… that hurt…”Bookmark here

With Romeo's head still ringing from the heavy impact, Cooking Pan dashes at him, kicks raining down on all sides. Romeo blocks every kick with his arms carried only by instinct, but the power behind each blow is so intense he feels himself losing balance. Bookmark here

Cooking Pan leaps back, apparently recognizing he needs to change his strategy to take down Romeo. Romeo grunts, his arms burning in pain, but keeps them raised in case Cooking Pan comes at him again.Bookmark here

“Cooking Pan... You could take over Kappore's central division if you wanted, I’m sure. Why are you hanging around a little girl instead?”Bookmark here

“.......”Bookmark here

“You don’t like talking, do you. That’s fine with me.”Bookmark here

Instinctively Romeo reaches towards his back, then realizes his bat isn’t there.Bookmark here

Right, he sent it flying… Shit.Bookmark here

His eyes dart for a second towards the place where his bat rests on the floor— And in that split-second lapse of attention, Cooking Pan whips around with a roundhouse kick.Bookmark here

His kick strikes Romeo's side, blocked by Romeo's last second counter, forcing them into a deadlock— But Cooking Pan just keeps adding more and more pressure until the sheer force slams Romeo against the ground.Bookmark here

Ugh—!!Bookmark here

Dammit! How!? This guy only uses his legs and yet he’s this strong!? I’ve never heard of anyone in Kappore with this kind of power…Bookmark here

Cooking Pan slowly steps closer, looking down at Romeo with the same, calm demeanor he’s had since the start. Romeo sweats.Bookmark here

I don’t have my bat… I have to think of something fast...Bookmark here

“Finish him, Pan!” Cooking Pot yells from the sideliness, waving invisible pom-poms in her hands. Romeo gets an idea.Bookmark here

“…You’re not helping her at all, you know. Getting her involved in a gang. You must really hate her.”Bookmark here

Cooking Pan’s eyebrow twitches. His face darkens with visible anger. He swings his leg back, kicking Romeo like a football in a singular, intense motion. It slams directly into Romeo's side, sending Romeo's body skidding across the uneven concrete.Bookmark here

Gah—!! Hack!!Bookmark here

“Yaaaaay!” Cooking Pot jumps with joy. “You did it, Pan! You won! You defeated Bloody Bat Romeo!” Bookmark here

Cooking Pan doesn’t look at her. His eyes stay fixed on Romeo, as if doubting that defeating him could have been that easy. But Romeo's coughs die off, and Romeo doesn't move from where he lands. Cooking Pan observes him for a good few seconds in silence. Bookmark here

“Pan? What’s wrong?”Bookmark here

Cooking Pan finally snaps out of it, looking over at Cooking Pot’s direction.Bookmark here

“...Nothing. Let’s go.”Bookmark here

Cooking Pot’s mouth opens suddenly with a sharp gasp, pointing her long sleeve at him.Bookmark here

“PAN!! BEHIND YOU!!Bookmark here

CLANK!!Bookmark here

Romeo’s bat hits the pan hanging from his neck with a loud, metallic noise, the incredible impact forcing Cooking Pan back. Maybe it was just that Romeo took him off-guard, but Cooking Pan understands for the first time just how hard Romeo can hit when armed with a weapon. Bookmark here

With blood trickling down his forehead, Romeo stands again, this time gripping his bat tightly in his hands. He spits out some blood before he speaks.Bookmark here

“...You got lucky, huh. Thanks for reuniting me with my bat.”Bookmark here

It’s at this moment that Cooking Pan realizes Romeo merely provoked him so he’d send him flying closer to his bat. He scowls, angry at himself for falling for such an obvious trick.Bookmark here

Romeo taps his bat on the concrete a couple times again before positioning himself, ready to swing again. “I’m tired of this. I’ll finish both of you right now.”Bookmark here

Cooking Pan’s eyes narrow into something dark and menacing.Bookmark here

Waaaaait!!” Cooking Pot yells, running over to stand between the both of them, arms extended to her sides, She then proceeds to hit the pot on her head repeatedly, making loud, ringing sounds like a gong. Cooking Pan gasps, as if regaining his senses.Bookmark here

“Don’t hurt him! He’s only doing what I tell him to do! Hit me instead!”Bookmark here

Pot…!?Bookmark here

Romeo doesn’t move or answer. Cooking Pot stops hitting the pot and continues with her voice breaking through tears.Bookmark here

“If you tell him you’re gonna hurt me, Cooking Pan will get all upset and then he’ll attack you with his real strength, and then… and then he won’t listen to anyone, not even me!”Bookmark here

Real strength…? You mean he’s been holding back? Is that why he only uses his legs?Bookmark here

Cooking Pot lowers her arms, bringing a hand under the pot on her head to wipe at her tears.Bookmark here

“My brother— I mean, Cooking Pan, is very strong, you see… So people always pick fights with him, but when he fights for a long time, it’s like he turns into a different person…”Bookmark here

...Oh. Bookmark here

That story has an all-too-familiar ring to Romeo. He decides to ignore the ‘brother’ part. Bookmark here

“...But he’s a good guy!” continues Cooking Pot. “He never wanted to join the Kappore gang at all… I made him join so people would stop getting all up in his face. He didn’t want to, so I said I’d join on my own. He had no choice but to follow me. Of course they didn’t wanna let me in ‘cause I’m too young, but they all wanted Pan to join so badly… I told them we’re a package deal and they had no choice but to let me in, as long as I wear this uniform...”Bookmark here

As Cooking Pot talks, Cooking Pan’s expression gradually changes from bloodlust into something calmer, and he breathes out, looking at the ground with shame.Bookmark here

“Sorry, Pot. But I can’t take out Bloody Bat Romeo without my full strength…”Bookmark here

Cooking Pot turns around to face him, shaking her head.Bookmark here

“Then you don’t have to. We’ll get him next time, yeah?”Bookmark here

Romeo looks at both, unimpressed, tapping his bat over his shoulder. Bookmark here

“So you’re just gonna bail out, huh. What happened to your talk about being the next Kappore leaders? What was that all about?”Bookmark here

Pot turns to look at him with her cheeks puffed out.Bookmark here

“That’s different! We're still gonna take over so not even Kappore’s enemies will mess with Cooking Pan! Isn’t that right, Pan!?”Bookmark here

“.....”Bookmark here

Cooking Pan remains quiet as usual. Cooking Pot approaches her brother, who picks her up and sets her over his shoulders again. Bookmark here

“We’ll leave for now, but you know we didn’t lose. I’ll help Pan learn how to control himself better and then you’ll see. You were the one who got lucky this time, Bloody Bat Romeo.”Bookmark here

As they walk away, Romeo glares at their direction with no retort... because he knows they’re right.Bookmark here

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