Chapter 21:

The First Hideout


“No way,” says one of the thugs with dyed orange hair, spreading his arms in excitement. “Is that the Bloody Bat Romeo I see? What’s the most famous delinquent in the city doing on our little side of town, huh?”

Romeo lowers the bat he had pointed at Jojo.

“... Are you Kappore?”

“Yeah,” the thug grins, cracking his knuckles. “We’re not too fond of Makai trash around these parts, either.”

Romeo grimaces then exhale. He hates being reminded of Amon’s leash on him.

“I’m looking for Fire Jet Tamaya. Take me to him, and I won’t hurt any of you.”

The thugs all look at each other and cackle, turning their faces back to Romeo.

“You won’t hurt us, huh? Even though we outnumber you twenty to one? Hahaha! You’re one ballsy idiot. Whaddya want with our boss, anyway?”

Jojo steps closer to Romeo and swallows nervously, keeping an eye on the colorful array of enemies around them.


“I see,” Romeo smirks, ignoring Jojo. “So you’re part of his gang, aren’t you?”

“Oh, it’s more complicated than that,” says the orange-haired delinquent. “We’re all friends here!”

Romeo taps his bat on the concrete a couple of times before bringing it back to his shoulder. Jojo recognizes that pose and immediately backs away from him.

“I take it that means you and your friends won’t back down quietly, huh?”

“Hah!” The orange-haired delinquent scoffs, this time cracking his neck. “Not a chance.”

* * *

What was once a quiet, dirty street quickly turned into a pile of defeated delinquents strewn across the pavement and sidewalks. Blood pooled around their bodies. Some of them were just barely conscious enough to still groan in pain.

Romeo, with barely a scratch on him, wipes away a few drops of sweat from his forehead while Jojo watches from a safe distance around a corner, biting his nails.


Romeo fixes his crooked sweatband, then quickly swings his bat to flick the fresh blood off. On the ground in front of him is the orange-haired delinquent, trying to sit up but clearly in a great deal of pain.

Shit… Y-You’re the real deal, alright…”

Romeo steps closer, gazing at him coldly as the thug hacks up some blood.

“Where’s Fire Jet Tamaya?”

The question seems to bother the delinquent, his eyebrow twitching as he frowns.

“... Since you’re here, I guess you already know where our hideout is, huh.” He coughs again, continuing in a raspier voice with a grin. “He’s there, but I wouldn’t go if I were you. You think you’re strong? Haha. Our boss will kick your ass in no time flat.”

Romeo frowns. “We’ll see about that.” He circles around the orange-haired delinquent and continues walking down the street.

Jojo panics for a second before coming out from his hiding place. He quickly follows from a safe distance, sidestepping the stream of unconscious delinquents on his path.

He feels guilty like he should have done something to help, but he couldn't so much as lift a finger with Romeo in total control from start to finish. But even if Romeo hadn’t, even if Romeo had been in danger at any point… Jojo isn’t sure that he would've had the guts to spring into action.

They walk in silence until Romeo speaks without turning to look back at Jojo.

“I told you, didn’t I? You're useless in a real fight.”

His cold words pierce straight through Jojo’s heart, stopping him in his tracks.

“Boss, I…”

Romeo grimaces.

Dammit… Why won’t he leave? What do I have to say to make him go away?

“Shut up. Go home.”

Don’t look back, me. He’s gonna have that kicked puppy look in his eyes, and it’ll all be over if you look at him.

Romeo keeps walking, no longer hearing Jojo’s steps trailing after his own. He wants to turn around and make sure Jojo isn’t there anymore, but a burst of footsteps behind him race to catch up again. He sighs.

“Boss…” Jojo’s voice is quiet. Romeo doesn’t stop walking despite that. He turns a corner and there he sees it: a burnt-down arcade.

“Here it is,” Romeo says to himself.

Jojo looks over in that same direction, listless and sad, but the moment he sees the building, something clicks inside his head. He slowly, very slowly, opens his eyes wide as saucers, murmuring to himself.

“This place…”

Romeo heads toward the entrance. There’s no door, only a pair of two-by-fours in the shape of an X sloppily nailed over each other to prevent entry. Easy enough to enter for anyone who crouches down— which is exactly what Romeo does. Jojo follows closely after, fired up by his own curiosity.

Inside is a large maze of arcade machines, all badly burnt and unusable. The floor and the walls are black, dyed with smoke and soot. Dozens of metal paint cans litter the floor. The only thing left of the windows is sharp remnants of glass jutting out from the edges. The air inside feels thick and almost unbreathable.

Despite the apparently deserted state of the arcade, Jojo hears a familiar song playing loudly, deeper inside. Lights flicker in the distance. A string of mechanical dings and whimsical battle cries play over the song, and even from this distance, he can hear someone mashing buttons at an alarming speed.

Romeo follows the direction of all this down an aisle made of arcade machines on either side, but he stops midway to turn around and look at Jojo, startling him.

“Are you gonna keep following me? Even knowing you're just gonna be a burden?”

“...Huh? Ah, n-no, Boss… Actually, I wanted to check some—”

Romeo slams his bat loudly against one of the machines, its echo resonating throughout the entire building.


Jojo gasps, staring at Romeo’s infuriated face. His hands are trembling, so he balls them into fists, swallowing and lowering his head.

Romeo doesn’t move. Jojo doesn't either. The sound of that single arcade game is the only thing interrupting the awkward silence, but even that suddenly stops after a sad game over jingle plays, followed by a character select song.

“Aw, maaan! I got distracted!” says a voice in the distance.

Romeo turns away from Jojo and toward the direction of that voice. They hear the echo of footsteps getting closer and closer, from that direction.

Eventually, the figure turns the corner, stepping into their aisle.

Red hair, little cuts on his face, jagged sleeves and pants, and a Macaron keychain hanging from his belt. Jojo feels his heart sink the moment he lays eyes on him.

The boy only notices Romeo, however. Resting his elbow on the tall machine next to him, he tilts his head to the side with a smile.

Heeey, aren’t you Bloody Bat Romeo? What are you doing all the way here?”

Romeo stares at him, resting the bat on his shoulder. “I’m looking for Fire Jet Tamaya. Is that you?”

The boy blinks at him, then grins widely. He points a finger cutely at his cheek.

“I prefer Tama, though! Nice to meetcha, Romeo!”