BLOODY BAT ROMEO
“By the way, have you gone through his social media yet?”
Nana interrupts their boring phone call about some group assignment that afternoon, catching Yuri off-guard.
“That boy that walked us to the hospital that day. Your new friend?”
“Oh, Romeo!” Yuri perks up, then immediately deflates. “N-No, I didn’t get his information...”
“What!? Why not!?”
Yuri blushes with mild embarrassment. “S-Should I have?”
“Yuri! What if he’s a bad guy!?”
“Romeo isn’t a bad guy…”
Nana can feel the vein on her forehead about to pop out, her desire to shake the shoulders of her airheaded friend greater than ever before, but she sighs out exasperated instead.
“How can you know that if you haven’t gone through his social media yet? Do it now!”
“Nana…” Yuri laughs a little nervously at her sudden demand.
“I’m serious! Search for his email! Find out what sites he’s registered to! I want all his embarrassing usernames!”
“W-What’s wrong with trusting him as he is?” Yuri absently scrolls up and down the document on her screen, thinking back on the day she met Romeo. “He… saved me…”
“Yeah, yeah, you told me he saved you from some delinquents or something, but I don’t think that automatically makes him trustworthy.”
Yuri doesn’t answer. Nana continues.
“You always do this, you know. You’re too nice. Bad boys will try to take advantage of you one day. You’re like a delicious little bunny covered in sauce hopping without a care in the world through a lion-infested savanna.”
“Oh… I do like bunnies…”
“Yuri! Listen to me!” Nana taps her microphone to get Yuri’s attention, knowing full well her friend was about to dive into some strange, self-insert bunny fantasy. “Didn’t you think he was kinda weird!? His face was all messed up! He talked politely to us, but it was obvious that’s not how he really talks. I know his type.”
Yuri, safely brought back to reality, blinks at Nana’s observation.
“Yeah. He reminds me of your brother. Like, a lot.”
Yuri’s eyes sparkle with happiness at that comparison.
“Really!? You too!? Isn’t he so much like Endo? They’re both so kind and selfless…”
Although Endo had never let slip around Yuri that he was in a gang, Nana, who'd known both since childhood, picked up on it early on. Telling Yuri now wouldn’t do her any good, but it’s moments like these she wishes she could slap Yuri with the facts.
“Ah, yeah. That’s not what I meant. I just think it’s weird that a guy who came out of nowhere is suddenly all friendly with you. He wants something.”
“He does? What is it?”
Nana stammers a little, wondering just how much she should censor her answer.
“It’s… It’s the same thing all boys want, probably!”
“Oh…” Yuri deflates, but thinks she knows what Nana’s talking about. “...Money.”
“No, not money! ...Actually, maybe!? But that’s not what I meant… I just think… he wants to take advantage of you…”
Nana can sense her words are hurting Yuri, but she also knows Yuri needs to be told certain things. She’s gullible and trusts strangers easily. It’s up to Nana to play the role of the bad guy if it means it’ll keep Yuri safe and out of trouble. She sighs and softens her voice.
“Hey, I know you don’t want to hear this, but the truth is that you don’t know him, Yuri. I know you think he’s a good guy, but what will you do if he isn’t?”
“He asked to meet you alone on the roof that day,” Nana interrupts. “You like romance novels. I think even you know what that means.”
Yuri brushes past that “even you” comment to consider Nana's insinuation. She feels something tug at her heart, her face heating up and flushing red.
“W-We don’t know what he wanted to tell me… Maybe he just wanted to check on me after what happened that day in the alley...”
Nana can’t believe Yuri is trying to convince herself that Romeo wanted nothing personal out of that meeting he so clumsily arranged. She didn’t want to ask so bluntly, but Yuri leaves her no choice.
“...Yeah, maybe. But, Yuri…” Nana considers stopping here, hesitating to complete her question, but in the end, she decides that helping her best friend should take priority. “What would you do if he really were going to ask you out?”
Her mind slowly drifts back to that afternoon when Romeo rescued her: a scary situation that ended exactly like something out of a fairy tale. Romeo, who bravely fought while outnumbered— all for her sake— and asked for nothing in return. How warm his hands were when she held them in her own; his gentle tone of voice; his bloodied bat; the dark, sinister look in his eyes—
...Oh. She had forgotten about that part. Rather, she had tucked it away somewhere in her memories where she simply decided not to touch it ever again. She swallows.
Nana doesn’t press for an answer immediately. She knows Yuri. She knows she’s probably staring at the screen right now with a blank look in her eyes.
Unfortunately, she also knows what a sucker Yuri is for fairy tale-like romances, and Nana can see it now: Yuri slowly getting excited as the gears in her little brain turn as she begins picturing herself as the protagonist of one of those stories she loves so much, getting her happily ever after with this boy she just met.
“Yuri—” Nana grunts, impatient, but this time she’s the one that gets interrupted.
“I’d say no.”
Yuri breathes slowly on the other side of the line, taking a second to repeat herself.
“If… Romeo were to ask me out… I’d say no.”
* * *
Right at that moment, at the old park with the seesaw, Romeo sits across from Jojo on a small wooden picnic bench under a tree, shaded from the evening sun. He scrolls through on a map of the city on his phone, chewing on the straw of a juicebox he finished awhile ago.
“Maaan… I still can’t believe you got attacked by a little girl, Boss…”
“I told you, that’s not what happened,” Romeo snaps with annoyance; his eyes still fixed on the screen, focused.
After his fight with Cooking Pot and Cooking Pan, and after dropping off Oue at the entrance of the hospital, it dawned on Romeo just how little time he had to meet Amon’s goal before the next weirdo came along trying to take him down.
He didn't know when the clock would run out and Endo would regain his memories, so Romeo decided to go on the offensive and start his hunt for the Summer Fireworks sooner rather than later.
“E-Either way,” Jojo replies, a little intimidated by Romeo’s tone, “I’m glad you’re fine, but... you shoulda let Pain Killer Oue die.”
“No way. The last thing I need right now is to give Amon more reasons to hate me.”
“Uh, I don’t think he’d care if anything happened to that neatfreak...”
Romeo doesn’t reply because part of him knows it's true. But that would mean he saved Oue and almost got his ass kicked for nothing, so he’d rather not think about it. He sighs.
“Tch. I need to stop saving people…”
“Nothing. Ah, here it is.” Romeo straightens up and shows Jojo the map pin on his screen. “The abandoned arcade from the west side of town. This has to be it, right?”
Jojo's eyes go wide.
“Whoa, you’re right! This is right in the middle of the west circle on Pain Killer Oue’s map! This must be the hideout of one of the three Summer Fireworks!”
“Yeah…” Romeo stares at the screen with building excitement. “This must be where Fire Jet Tamaya's hiding.”