BLOODY BAT ROMEO
With the setting sun at his back, Romeo continues down the sidewalk at a leisurely pace, hands in his pockets. Jojo chases after him frantically, calling for him over and over again, but Romeo doesn't seem to hear him.
I did it… I gave up my bat for the first time… I’m free… So then… Why doesn’t it feel like I am?
“Boss, please wait up!”
Jojo's hand on his shoulder finally startles Romeo out of his thoughts.
Jojo looks at him with concern.
“Boss… A-Are you sure about leaving your bat behind like that!? What if Amon comes after you!?”
Romeo pauses for a moment, then turns to look at him.
“...That bat... is the reason for my nickname and my reputation. If I’m really going to stop being a delinquent, I can’t keep carrying it around with me.”
Jojo doesn’t say anything, but his scared face gives away his thoughts. Romeo turns away again, taking a deep breath.
“I’m— doing this because I met someone that... I can’t get close to, if I stay as I am.”
Romeo feels his face heat up slightly, looking away.
“...I know it’s a selfish reason, and it never shoulda been anyone’s business, but I ended up dragging more people into it than I wanted.”
Jojo takes a cautious step forward, surprised, but mostly confused at this sudden candor.
“...Who… is this person?”
Romeo stays quiet for a long while, avoiding Jojo’s gaze. He considers not answering, but Kagiya's words haunt his thoughts, calling him out for never opening up to anyone, chiding him for letting this weakness define him.
“—Bloody Bat Romeo.”
A deep voice suddenly calls to him from behind. Romeo and Jojo turn around, and their eyes grow wide at the sight of Raging Fist Endo before them, hands in his pockets, looking as dangerous as ever.
“AH!! R-R-Raging Fist Endo!?” Jojo scrambles backwards, nearly tripping on his feet. Romeo swallows, but stands his ground, his voice quiet when he finally speaks.
“...Endo… When did you—”
“I remember everything now.”
Endo tilts his chin towards a parking lot nearby.
* * *
Romeo and Endo stand a good few feet apart, facing each other, in the empty parking lot. Though Jojo so desperately wanted to come with him, Romeo insisted he stay behind; genuinely, for once.
Romeo speaks first.
“Are you here to get back at me for what I did?”
“What for?” Endo scoffs. “So you can kick my ass again? Nah. I wanna talk to ya about somethin’ else.”
“Huh?” Romeo blinks. “I find it hard to believe that Raging Fist Endo doesn’t want to bash my head in after putting him in the hospital for so long.”
“Yeah, about that… I’m done with that shit.”
“Done…!?” Romeo echoes, surprised.
“Yeah. After finding out the kind of scum I was in the past and all the shit I let the Kappore gang get away with, I decided I ain’t going back to that again. I’m gettin’ out.”
Romeo raises his eyebrows, completely taken aback by Endo’s words.
“Huh… That’s— pretty admirable, I guess…?”
Endo doesn’t react to the compliment. He keeps his eyes glued on Romeo instead and shrugs.
“It’s not. I remembered you sayin' you’re gettin’ out, too. And, for me, it’s the least a thug with a bad rep like mine can do to redeem himself, ain’t it? My sister depends on me since our parents divorced, so stayin’ in the Kappore gang would be stupid when she’s countin’ on me to protect her.”
In a moment, flashes of Yuri’s smile and their meeting in the alley rush through Romeo’s mind again, and he falls quiet for a second. No one else understands Endo's conviction to leave delinquent life behind for Yuri's sake better than Romeo, so he doesn't know what he should say.
Still, before he knows it, his mouth is moving on it’s own.
“Endo… I’m… I’m going to confess to your sister.”
Endo raises an eyebrow, thinking maybe he misheard. Romeo continues, averting his eyes as a massive drop of sweat drips down his forehead.
“She’s the reason I decided to leave the Makai gang. I already made up my mind, so if you try to stop me—”
Although Romeo gives Endo an opening in case he wants to chime in, Endo doesn’t respond. He simply listens, hands still in his pockets, then sighs when Romeo doesn’t continue.
“Why’re you gonna confess to my sister?”
“Eh? That’s…” Romeo can feel his face flare up. “Why is that even a question!?”
Rghh… What’s this all of a sudden!? Huh!?
Romeo stammers for a moment, trying to find the words. The answer to Endo’s inquiry should be obvious enough, and yet, the question rattles him. He tries to mask his discomfort with a stoic expression before he answers.
All he can muster is the most obvious, generic response a person can make when asked something like that.
“...Because I love her.”
Endo stares at him for what feels like forever. Romeo doesn’t dare move or breathe, as if waiting for Endo to pounce. Endo rubs the back of his neck.
“I see. Do you know who Yuri’s favorite magical girl is?”
Romeo’s silent panic is interrupted by Endo’s strange follow-up. And then it gets worse. Endo keeps talking, and, with every question, he takes another slow step forward.
“Do you know what her favorite animal is? Her favorite fruit? Do you know what she does when she’s stuck at home with nowhere to go? Ah, do you at least know her birthday?”
“W-What are you talking about?”
Every step Endo takes forward, Romeo takes a step back, until they're only a few inches apart. Endo stands there, looking down at him. Then, he scoffs.
“...You don’t know Yuri. You know nothin’ about her. How can you claim you love her if you don’t know shit about my sister, huh?”
Endo's words feel like a brick dropped on his skull and settled in his stomach. He looks up at Endo, lips parted but unable to form words. But his pride is quick to kick in, and he frowns, glaring at him.
“I don’t know her yet, but I plan to. I'm just making sure I'm completely free from the Makai gang, first.”
Endo takes one step back.
“Hah. Yeah, right.”
“What’s so funny?” Romeo growls.
“Romeo.” Endo shakes his head. “Stop acting like Amon or the Makai gang are what’s holdin’ you back. We both know that’s bullshit. It’s not Makai, and it’s not Amon. It’s you.”
Romeo’s eyebrow twitches, taken by surprise.
“You’re using my sister as an excuse to change who you are ‘cause you can’t stand being your shitty self, can you? You know you’re scum, and now you've found yourself a nice lil’ tool to help scrape you off the ground. I know that, ‘cause I'm the same— but at least I have the balls to admit it.”
Romeo's legs feel like lead weights, a cold sweat breaking out across his body.
“That’s… That’s not…”
“Face it, Bloody Bat Romeo. You could just as easily replace my sister in your head with any other girl in the world and nothing would change. Shit would stay the same for ya. ‘Cause this little stunt you’re pullin’ was never about my sister, and if you really cared about her being happy, you’d realize this already and back the hell off.”
Romeo's gaze drops to the concrete, his trembling hands tightening into fists. He doesn't have the guts to look at Endo. He feels humiliated and naked, as if Endo had seen a part of him that not even Romeoever dared look at.
“I’m retiring from the Kappore gang for her sake, and if thinkin’ you’re doing’ the same helps you sleep at night, then do whatever the hell you want.” He shrugs. “I’m not tellin’ her you’re a delinquent, ‘cause I’m not tellin’ her about me, neither. Just to prove I’m serious about leavin’ the past behind.”
Romeo's gaze stays glued to the ground, all his words dead in his throat.
“...Goes without sayin’, but I can’t let my sister be with some loser who doesn’t love her for real. You better think long and hard about that before you go makin’ any weird confessions, y’hear?”
Romeo simply nods without raising his head.