BLOODY BAT ROMEO
“It’s hard to believe only your family has contacted you, Endo. It’s like you have no friends or anything!”
Oue speaks from his hospital bed, digging his spoon into a small cup of pudding as he watches Endo do push-ups on the floor.
Endo doesn’t look at him. Oue shrugs.
“Sorry for bringing it up again, it’s just… You know, I told you you were a popular guy before, right? You seemed to have lots of followe—friends, so I’m just surprised no one has tried to contact you at all to check on your health!”
“It’s fine. I don’t remember shit about any of them anyway, so what’s the point?”
“Yes, but aren’t you saaad? Aren’t you loooonely?”
Endo finally glares in Oue’s direction.
“You wanna frickin’ die, permhead!?”
Oue, used to Endo’s sudden violent bursts by now, carries on eating his pudding.
“I said you were a delinquent just like me, did I not? You had your own little entourage. I've been bracing myself for a bunch of them to show up here and drag you away one day.”
Endo is quiet for a couple more push-ups before he speaks.
“...I checked my phone for clues from before I got sent here. Other than my sister, it doesn’t look like I was much of a texter.”
“Ohh, you can read! How talented! Haha, I’m kidding, I’m kidding!”
“...Stop tryin’ to provoke me, dumbass. You ain’t gonna like it when it works.”
“Well, now, you can’t be sure about that unless you try it— eek!”
Oue startles when it looks like like Endo's started getting to his feet, but it's only Endo turning his body to continue his push-ups with one hand.
“...I did get a text from someone earlier, though. Some unknown number, so I deleted it.”
“Why do you think? If I ain’t got their number, I don’t give a shit who they are.”
“But you don’t remember anything! What if it’s someone that knows you who just found out you’re hospitalized!?”
“They can ask my family about it, then. I don’t care.”
“Ugh. This doesn’t help me…”
“What did you say?” Endo glares at him, and Oue looks away to clear his throat before facing him again.
“My, Endo. You’re colder than I thought. I kind of like it.”
“I don’t wanna hear that from someone with shit taste like you.”
Oue snickers. “Fair enough. You have been keeping your end of the deal, I suppose. So, you can ask me anything else you want to know. If I know the answer, I’ll be happy to tell you.”
Endo changes arms for his push-ups and stays quiet for a moment, save for a few grunts.
“...You know who did this to me?”
“No,” Oue lies, immediately. Endo scoffs.
“You said I was the leader of the Kappore gang, huh? If I’m really that strong, how come I was taken down just like that?”
Oue takes one last spoonful of his pudding before setting the cup aside, next to yet another empty pudding cup. He reaches for the tissue box on the night table and carefully wipes each one of his fingers.
“...I’ll tell you a little secret, Endo. In our world, just because you’re the leader, it doesn’t mean you’re the strongest. It either means you’re charismatic and naturally draw people to follow you, or it means that everyone around you is so much weaker than you.”
“By the looks of it,” he adds, glancing at Endo’s smartphone on the table, “you’re not the charismatic type.”
“Oh, I’m not trying to offend you! I’m being sincere. Since you got ‘taken down’ so easily, as you put it, I don’t suppose you’re the strongest, either. Which leaves us with only one option: everyone around you is either weaker than you or intimidated by you. Those aren’t bad things at all! ...Well, not the intimidation bit, at least.”
“Hah? What’s wrong with being stronger than all those losers in my turf!?”
Oue scoffs at Endo’s rude interruption.
“If you’re the king of the weaklings, they won’t feel any obligation to come visit you, nor will they even want you back. They’ll try to take your place, which is exactly what’s happening right now.”
“Yeah? How do you know?”
“Oh, sweet summer child, how do you think?”
Endo looks at him with a confused look but doesn’t answer. Oue responds to himself instead.
“You see, unlike you, I have people in my gang that care about me and keep me posted about these things!”
“How do you know?” Endo asks again. Oue winces.
“Ugh, fine. I heard it from two of your lackeys the day I got sent here. I was looking through every hospital in the city trying to find you to make sure you weren’t dead, as that would be pretty bad for my gang, getting the police involved and all that, you know? I needed to know just how much you had spilled about the incident, and—”
“Stop rambling, get to the point!”
“I was getting there! Sheesh. Where was I? Oh, yes. Anyway, on my way to this hospital I was ambushed by two of your lackeys, who had, coincidentally, been looking for you, too. I thought they might have been dear friends of yours from the Kappore gang, but as it turns out, they were trying to overtake you as leader! Funny how that goes, huh?”
Endo turns away from him again and stops his push-ups.
Oue waits for him to say something, but as the seconds pass with yet no answer, he sighs.
“Are you upset? Are you sad that nobody likes you and that you’re gonna die alone?”
Endo finally stands up and marches over to where Oue is, who immediately shrieks, picks up a pillow to protect himself, and backs onto the metal headboard in fear. Endo simply wipes some sweat from his forehead and reaches for his phone, looking at the two empty pudding cups next to it.
“Where’s my pudding?”
“H-Huh…?” Oue peeks out from the side of the pillow and meets Endo’s terrifying gaze glaring at him from the corner of his eye.
“You frickin' little rat! You ate my cup, too!?”
“O-Oh!” Oue perks up. “They didn’t have names on them! Nobody said it was one for each!!”
“Go get me another one!”
“You wanna die!?”
“Shut up!” Endo barks back, completely off-put by his reply. “Go get it right now!”
“Y-Yes!” Oue responds on instinct, clumsily scrambling off the bed and rushing towards the door. As soon as he’s out, Oue closes it behind him, fixing the bandages on his head and exhaling.
“Phew. Well, that wasn’t very friendly of him,” Oue says to himself as he heads over to a vending machine, looking through the bland options for patients to find the pudding cups. “Both my boss and Bloody Bat Romeo better be super thankful about all the trouble I’m going through for the gang. Hmph! As if it weren’t torture enough to watch a ripped ogre like him work out day and night in front of my eyes, leaving the floor all sweaty and disgusting…”
“An ogre, you say?” asks a voice beside him.
Oue blinks at the blond foreigner-looking boy holding a bouquet next to him. The stranger takes a step closer to Oue and continues. “Are you, perhaps, sharing a room with Endo?”
Oue’s eyes open wide in disbelief.
“...Yes? Are you… a… family member?”
“God, no— I mean, I-I am not exactly his family, yet, though I am engaged to his sister. My name is Franz.”
“Oh, what an unexpected thing to hear.”
“Would you mind showing me to his room? I’ve been here once before, but I have a terrible sense of direction.”
“Yeah, no problem. Just let me get this pudding he asked for, first.”
“Yes, pudding. It’s the most edible thing in this hospital for us patients—” Oue pauses, and has a terrible idea. “...Oh, shoot. I forgot my wallet in our room! No! How could I be this clumsy! Curse this stupid head injury of mine!”
“Oh! Allow me!” Franz steps in front of the machine and offers the bouquet to a very pleased Oue. “Please hold on to these. I’ll be happy to get it for you!”
“Really, you don’t mind?”
“Of course not. I need to start trying to get on my brother-in-law’s good side, after all.”
“Haha. I see. You’re quite calculating, Franz.”
“Please, that makes me sound like a villain.” Franz takes out his wallet and selects the pudding from the vending machine, then turns to look at Oue with a smile. “Would you care for a cup too, um…?”
“Oue. And only if you’re sure you don’t mind. I haven’t had pudding once since I got here…”