Chapter 17:

Bad Liar


“What’s the plan, Boss?”

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

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

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.

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

“Uh, there is no ‘we’ here.”

“—Huh!? What do you mean!?”

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

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

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

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

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

“... 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.”

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


... Ugh. Not that look again.

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

“I’m tougher than I look!”

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


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

Jojo’s face flushes with embarrassment.

“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!”

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 let’s go and shoves it aside roughly a moment after.

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


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

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

“... Strange weapons?”

“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.”

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

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

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

“What the…?” Jojo blinks in confusion, 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?”

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

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

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

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

“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 on the other side of town. Right smack in the middle of Kappore territory, so I never bothered.”

“But you fought one…”

Romeo cringes.

“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.”

Jojo gulps, averting his eyes that have a clear look of fear upon them.

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

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.

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

... Ah.

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

“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!”

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.

“... It’s not fair, Boss.”


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

“... That’s—”

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.

“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!”

“... I can handle them.”

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!?”

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.

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

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

Jojo feels a shiver run down his spine. He lifts his head to look at Romeo, who's staring him down with a cold look in his eyes never before cast upon him.


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

Jojo watches his back as he feels himself choking back tears. He reaches out pointlessly with his hurt hand for a long moment before lowering it again. In a quiet tone that no one else can hear, he responds.

“... You’re the bad liar, Boss.”