Chapter 11:

Bad Liar


“What’s the plan, Boss?”Bookmark here

Jojo leans forward on the table with excitement, happy that Romeo looks just as pleased over this new discovery.Bookmark here

“Ideally, I’d like to strike as soon as possible, but it’s getting late. He’s probably not there right now, anyway.”Bookmark here

Romeo takes a screenshot of the map and the streets surrounding it, then puts his phone back in his pocket. When he finally looks back up at Jojo, he’s met with his shiny, puppy dog eyes.Bookmark here

“Sweet! So we strike tomorrow, then!?”Bookmark here

“Uh, there is no ‘we’ here.”Bookmark here

“—Huh!? What do you mean!?”Bookmark here

Romeo puts his phone back inside his pocket and slumps back on the bench, resting his hands on the table.Bookmark here

“Amon told me to take them down by myself, didn’t he? This has nothing to do with you. Besides—”Bookmark here

Jojo reaches all across the table for Romeo’s wrists, gripping them tightly and surprising Romeo.Bookmark here

“Who cares about that!? Amon isn’t gonna be there, is he!? He’ll never know!”Bookmark here

Romeo frowns and tugs his hands away from Jojo’s hold immediately.Bookmark here

“...Besides,” he continues, annoyed. “You’re really weak. You don’t know how to fight. You only look like a delinquent, but you’re still just a nerd.”Bookmark here

Romeo can almost hear Jojo’s soul crushing the moment his words hit.Bookmark here

“Boss…”Bookmark here

...Ugh. Not that look again.Bookmark here

“Listen, these guys are crazy strong, okay? You’d get pummeled in three seconds flat.”Bookmark here

“I’m tougher than I look!”Bookmark here

“No, you’re not. If you come with me you’ll only get in my way, or worse.”Bookmark here

Worse!?Bookmark here

“Yeah, worse. I might even have to rescue you. Again.”Bookmark here

Jojo’s face flushes with embarrassment.Bookmark here

“N-No, you won’t have to, I promise! I’ll go there as support, to watch your back!” He reaches forward to hold one of his hands despite Romeo’s clear discomfort. “We’re friends, aren’t we? I won’t let you go all by yourself!”Bookmark here

Romeo scoffs at Jojo’s earnest reply and squeezes his hand hard enough to make Jojo grit his teeth and hiss in pain. Romeo roughly releases his grip a moment after. Bookmark here

“Stop being a dumbass. Do you want to die that badly? You have no idea what we’re up against.” Bookmark here

“......”Bookmark here

Jojo offers no reply, only a look of concern as he cradles his crushed hand. The look does nothing to move Romeo’s heart, and he continues in a calmer tone. Bookmark here

“The Summer Fireworks… They made a name for themselves because they’re all crazy. They use strange weapons and listen to no one.”Bookmark here

“...Strange weapons?”Bookmark here

“Yeah. Fire Jet Tamaya, Thorn Whip Kagiya, and Cutter Knife Matsuri. I’ve only fought one of them in the past, so I couldn’t tell you if they’re all just as weird.”Bookmark here

“Damn, what’s up with those nicknames!? Oh, and which one did you fight?”Bookmark here

Romeo immediately forces back the memories of that day, sighing with exasperation. Bookmark here

“Thorn Whip Kagiya. He’ll be the easiest to spot ‘cause he dresses in very flashy costumes.”Bookmark here

“What the…?” Jojo blinks, confused, but he can tell Romeo doesn’t want to talk about it, so he decides not to pry and moves along instead. “Okay, and what about the other two?”Bookmark here

Romeo shrugs. “Never fought them, only heard of them.”Bookmark here

Jojo’s eyes open wide and he gasps. “Are they that scary?”Bookmark here

“The hell? Do you think I didn’t fight them because I’m afraid of them?”Bookmark here

“N-No, I mean, I dunno, Boss. I know you’re super strong and everything but—”Bookmark here

“Well, I’m not afraid.” Romeo cuts in. “They’re just not near our turf, so if I wanted to fight them I’d have to go look for them all the way to the other side of town, smack in the middle of Kappore territory, so I never bothered.”Bookmark here

“But you fought one…”Bookmark here

Romeo cringes.Bookmark here

“That… was different. Anyway, they each have their own set of followers for different reasons, and as you know, Kappore doesn’t play by the rules. They won’t hesitate to hurt you just because you’re much weaker than they are.”Bookmark here

Jojo gulps with an obvious look of fear in his face, averting his eyes. Bookmark here

Sigh... I knew it. He’s the scared one now.Bookmark here

Romeo starts to shake his head at this display, but he's surprised when Jojo turns to look at him again with renewed determination. He reaches to grip Romeo's wrist once more with his hurt hand.Bookmark here

“I-I’m not afraid,” Jojo’s voice cracks, afraid. “If it means helping my best friend, I’ll put my life on the line anytime!”Bookmark here

...Ah.Bookmark here

Out of all the things Jojo could have said, this in particular upsets Romeo more than anything. Instead of simply tugging his hand back, he stands up, brusquely freeing himself from Jojo's needy hold now and forever, glaring at Jojo.Bookmark here

“Shut up! You’re a bad liar. You’re scared shitless and don't even know how to hide it. Why the hell do you want to come and drag me down!? I said I don’t want you there!”Bookmark here

A loud gust of wind blows through the leaves of the tree they sat under. It rustles Romeo's coat and swallows the silence that comes after. Jojo lowers his head and balls his hands into fists, frustrated.Bookmark here

“...It’s not fair, Boss.”Bookmark here

“........”Bookmark here

“You’re always helping people, but you never let anyone help you…”Bookmark here

“......That’s—”Bookmark here

Romeo wants to say that’s not true, simply because no part of him thinks Jojo is right about anything in this conversation, but he can’t argue against this. Jojo interrupts him before he can manage a response.Bookmark here

“I know I’m nowhere near as strong as you or other Makai members, but I’ve been in fights before, haven’t I? When Kappore or the other gangs target us, I know how to handle myself. A-And if these guys are are crazy as you say they are, then going alone is suicide!”Bookmark here

“...I can handle them.”Bookmark here

No, Boss!!” Jojo’s heart races as he yells at Romeo for the first time in forever. Romeo raises an eyebrow. “Maybe you can handle them alone, but you don’t have to! Why are you being so stubborn!?”Bookmark here

Romeo can’t believe he’s hearing this from Jojo of all people. He’s the infamous Bloody Bat Romeo, and yet here’s some nobody telling him he’s worried about him. Bookmark here

...Unfortunately, it’s a nobody that Romeo doesn’t want to see get hurt because of him. He clicks his tongue and looks away.Bookmark here

Tch. Whatever. I don’t want your help. I don’t need it. And if you come… I will kill you myself.”Bookmark here

Jojo feels a shiver run down his spine, lifting his head to look at Romeo who's staring him down with a cold look in his eyes that Jojo has never seen directed at him before.Bookmark here

“Boss....”Bookmark here

Romeo keeps eye contact for only a second longer before turning around and walking away as the sun sets behind them. Bookmark here

Jojo watches his back and can feel himself choking back tears, reaching uselessly with his hurt hand towards him for a long moment before lowering it again, speaking in a quiet tone that no one could ever hear.Bookmark here

“...You’re the bad liar, Boss.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.