BLOODY BAT ROMEO
Meru’s voice brings Romeo back to his senses. Romeo normally kept the memory of his shameful loss to Amon locked away in his mind, but it all came rushing back to him once Meru opened the floodgates. But now, he's back in Jojo's room, unable to hide it while sitting right beside Meru, who looks at him with concern.
Romeo rubs his temples.
“... Sorry. What did you say about the alley?”
After realizing Romeo had probably just entered a state of shock, given what Meru revealed, Meru smiles.
“I said I know about the girl you saved. It’s not important how. I just want to know why you kept it a secret.”
Romeo groans and gives Meru a look of annoyance.
“What’s it to you? I can do whatever I want.”
“Haha. No need to be so defensive. It’s just— well, I don’t think I should be giving you any warnings at this point, should I?”
“Someone like you getting involved with a civilian… I fear that it might not end well.”
Romeo feels his heart wrench.
“... I know. That’s why I need to get out of Makai as soon as possible.”
Meru observes him for a second, then places a hand on his shoulder.
“... Romeo, I’m sorry. This is all my—”
“Don’t. I told you I don’t want to hear it again, didn’t I? I did what I did back then because I wanted to, okay? Nothing I'm dealing with now is your fault.”
Meru grips Romeo’s shoulder a little tighter, trembling.
“... Why did you save me? All I did was pass my leash onto you. You would have been better off never helping me at all.”
Romeo can feel Meru’s regret in his grip, but he says nothing about it. He shrugs instead.
“... Because it really looked like you wanted to die. So, I decided not to kill you.”
Romeo gently takes Meru’s hand away from his shoulder as he feels his face heat up.
“Don’t look at me like that. I was being petty. That’s all.”
Meru laughs quietly and decides not to mention Romeo’s blush.
* * *
“Oue! Isn’t that enough!?”
Franz yells in horror as Endo’s grip tightens around Oue’s neck, the veins on his arms bulging the harder he squeezes. He has Oue shoved up against the wall so high that his feet dangle far from the floor. Seconds pass without Endo letting up until Oue shakily taps Endo's arm. Endo lets go without a second thought, as Oue crumbles to the ground in a fit of coughs.
“Oue!! Are you all right!?” Franz rushes to his side and kneels next to him, placing a hand on his back. Oue gasps for air as he clutches his throat.
Endo looks at both of them with disgust.
“There. I did what you wanted, freak. Now it’s your turn.”
Between coughs, Oue starts to laugh, slowly regaining all the air he lost. His face is flush from the rush of blood and adrenaline, but instead of pained, he looks elated.
“Thanks… Endo… I really needed that…”
Franz helps Oue back on his feet, still in disbelief over what had just happened.
“Are you mad!? Why did you ask him to choke you like that!?”
“Oh, zip it, Franz.” Oue staggers to his feet, holding on to Franz. “Can’t a guy just enjoy feeling alive once in a while!?”
Endo shakes his head.
“Come on, hurry up. Tell me about Cooking Pot and the other Cooking Guy. Who are they and why did they call me to tell me they got all beat up?”
Oue holds on to the wall, taking deep breaths.
“It’s Cooking Pot and Cooking Pan. How hard is it to remember?” He coughs. “Eh, I’m not part of your gang, so I don’t know too much… I do know they look up to you and want to become the next Kappore leaders because you promised them they could, or something.”
“... I did?”
“Well, yes. Under certain circumstances. If they’re calling you now to tell you, they got beat up, I don’t suppose this is about the same incident that got me sent here. My guess is something else happened to them. Did they tell you who did it?”
“Thorn Whip Kagiya, they said.”
Oue’s eyes open wide in shock.
Franz looks at Oue, then at Endo, completely lost.
“What are you two even talking about?”
Oue ignores him and covers his mouth as he begins to laugh.
“The Kappore are cannibalizing each other for control, huh? Hehe. I knew this would happen, but it’s so much fun to see it in real-time!”
Endo frowns. “Does that mean Thorn Whip Kagiya’s part of my gang, too? And he did this? That Cooking Pot person sounded real young, though.”
Oue catches his breath again and shakes his head.
“Oh, yeah. That little one is definitely not in high school. But don’t feel bad, they’re both pretty annoying and had it coming, anyway.”
“I let a little kid join the gang? And I let ‘em get beat up, too?”
Oue, surprised with Endo suddenly hatching a conscience, crosses his arms.
“My dear Endo, you did so much worse than that. Your crew had pickpockets, bullies, and people who loved targeting civilians… The Kappore gang is nothing more than a playground for bad guys all around the city, and you were its king.”
Endo winces, then looks away. Only the sound of the hospital TV droning on about local sports matches fills the room. Oue sighs.
“I suppose it's easier to be a bad person that pretends to be a good person in front of his family than to accept that you’re a much more horrible person than you thought you were.”
Franz slowly steps back.
“I get the feeling this conversation is getting too dangerous for me…”
A baseball player on the TV suddenly smashes the ball with a distinctive noise that cuts right through Endo’s thoughts. His eyes widen as he turns toward the screen.
Almost as if mesmerized, he takes a step forward, watching the snippet of yesterday's game. Oue follows his gaze instinctively.
“...You like baseball?”
“No…” Endo’s eyes flitter back and forth as he recalls something. “Romeo…”
Oue snaps his head towards Endo, unsure if he heard that right.
“Y-Yes, Endo? Sorry? Did you say something?”
Franz, who had almost made it to the door, stops in his tracks when he hears that name. He takes a sudden interest in the name that is all too familiar to him.
“Huh? Did he just say…?”
Endo’s not listening to them. His eyes are wide open and unblinking, looking at the screen as he opens his mouth again.
“Bloody... Bat... Romeo…”