Chapter 10:

Reality Check


“By the way, have you gone through his social media yet?”Bookmark here

Nana interrupts their boring phone call about some group assignment that afternoon, catching Yuri off-guard.Bookmark here

“—Huh?”Bookmark here

“That boy that walked us to the hospital that day. Your new friend?”Bookmark here

“Oh, Romeo!” Yuri perks up, then immediately deflates. “N-No, I didn’t get his information...”Bookmark here

What!? Why not!?”Bookmark here

Yuri blushes with mild embarrassment. “S-Should I have?”Bookmark here

Yuri! What if he’s a bad guy!?Bookmark here

“Romeo isn’t a bad guy…”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“How can you know that if you haven’t gone through his social media yet? Do it now!Bookmark here

“Nana…” Yuri laughs a little nervously at her sudden demand.Bookmark here

“I’m serious! Search for his email! Find out what sites he’s registered to! I want all his embarrassing usernames!” Bookmark here

“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…”Bookmark here

“Yeah, yeah, you told me he saved you from some delinquents or something, but I don’t think that automatically makes him trustworthy.”Bookmark here

“......”Bookmark here

Yuri doesn’t answer. Nana continues.Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“Oh… I do like bunnies…”Bookmark here

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.”Bookmark here

Yuri, safely brought back to reality, blinks at Nana’s observation.Bookmark here

“His type?”Bookmark here

“Yeah. He reminds me of your brother. Like, a lot.”Bookmark here

Yuri’s eyes sparkle with happiness at that comparison.Bookmark here

“Really!? You too!? Isn’t he so much like Endo? They’re both so kind and selfless…”Bookmark here

“Uh…”Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

“...Nana?”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

“He does? What is it?”Bookmark here

Nana stammers a little, wondering just how much she should censor her answer. Bookmark here

“It’s… It’s the same thing all boys want, probably!”Bookmark here

“Oh…” Yuri deflates, but thinks she knows what Nana’s talking about. “...Money.”Bookmark here

“No, not money! ...Actually, maybe!? But that’s not what I meant… I just think… he wants to take advantage of you…”Bookmark here

“.......”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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?” Bookmark here

“...I—”Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

“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...”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“...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?”Bookmark here

Yuri gasps.Bookmark here

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— Bookmark here

...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.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

“Yuri—” Nana grunts, impatient, but this time she’s the one that gets interrupted.Bookmark here

“I’d say no.”Bookmark here

“...Huh?”Bookmark here

Yuri breathes slowly on the other side of the line, taking a second to repeat herself.Bookmark here

“If… Romeo were to ask me out… I’d say no.”Bookmark here

* * *Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“Maaan… I still can’t believe you got attacked by a little girl, Boss…”Bookmark here

“I told you, that’s not what happened,” Romeo snaps with annoyance; his eyes still fixed on the screen, focused.Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

“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.”Bookmark here

Romeo scoffs.Bookmark here

“No way. The last thing I need right now is to give Amon more reasons to hate me.”Bookmark here

“Uh, I don’t think he’d care if anything happened to that neatfreak...”Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

Tch. I need to stop saving people…”Bookmark here

“...Boss?”Bookmark here

“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?”Bookmark here

Jojo's eyes go wide.Bookmark here

“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!”Bookmark here

“Yeah…” Romeo stares at the screen with building excitement. “This must be where Fire Jet Tamaya's hiding.”Bookmark here

Bookmark here

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