Chapter 36:

The Warzone


Outside, Sophie and Nana are restless. Sophie bites her nails beside Nana, who's trying to get a signal on her phone.

“Dammit… We’re too far from the city… What’s even taking Franz so long?”

“Calm down, Miss Nana. Isn’t this a good thing? Master Franz is pretty cowardly, so if he’s taking his time, it means he’s looking for her quite thoroughly…”

“... I guess so… Huh?”

Nana turns toward the sound of motorcycles in the distance fast approaching down the empty street.

“Sophie! Something’s coming!”

“L-Let’s get in the car, Miss Nana! It’s bulletproof!”

“Good idea! Wait, why is it— never mind!!

They both hurry back inside the car, slamming the door just as the army of motorcycles pulls into the parking lot. They park haphazardly wherever they feel like, taking quick notice of the lone car in the otherwise empty space. A few curious riders hop off their bikes to press their faces against the tinted windows, whistling and admiring it wryly.

They’re all fairly young, wearing patches on their clothes with a ‘K’ on their chests and backs.

One of them taps the window.

“Heeey, we saw you go in there. Come out, come out!”

Sophie yelps and shakes her head frantically.

“D-Don’t listen to them, Miss Nana! They can’t see or hear us! They can’t break the window, either!”

The thugs suddenly start shaking the car and tapping it with blunt weapons, trying to get them out.

Nana frowns.

“Sorry, Sophie, let me deal with this,” she says, unbuttoning the front of her shirt partway and mussing up her hair a little before rolling down the window halfway, startling the guy whose face had been glued to it.

“... Yes? Can I help you?” Nana asks, annoyance clear on her face.

The guy blushes, not expecting Nana to just greet him like that. He stammers for a moment before finding the first words that come to mind.

“Uhh… Are you girls... from the Makai gang?”

Excuse me?”

“Oh, uh, sorry… are you from another gang? The Sombra gang? Acid Rain? Wait, you’re chicks, so you’re probably from the Needle gang, huh…”

“What are you mumbling about, idiot? Can’t you see me and my friend here are trying to have a moment alone?”

The guy blushes to his ears and wildly glances at Sophie, who is mortified and hiding her face in her palms. He raises his hands, stumbling back.

“Whoa, hoh… uhhh…. We’re… We’re all from the Kappore gang, y’see. We were told to come here and beat Makai once and for all, so we thought you guys, I mean, uh, girls, were also here for… that…”

“Well, we’re not, so,” Nana shoos him away with her hand. “Skedaddle!”

The guy gives Nana an apologetic gesture while she rolls the window back up.

Nana sighs and rests her head against the back of her seat. Sophie finally looks up, her face burning.

“M-Miss Nana, you’re reckless!

Nana shrugs and smiles at her.

“What can I say? I’m used to it. When the guy you like is exactly like one of these guys, you learn how to deal with them.”

Sophie shakes her head slowly, looking out the window at the army of Kappore thugs walking into the building.

“I wonder what that was about… It seems as if some sort of gang war is taking place here, huh…”

“I dunno. Gangs are stupid.”

“Yeah…” Sophie sighs as the last thug waltzes inside. “I feel like we’re forgetting something, though…”

After a few seconds of silence, they both look at each other with their eyes wide open.


* * *

“Romeooo, wait up!”

Romeo hadn't stopped running since he'd gotten off the train. Tama rushes after him, trying desperately to keep up. No matter how much Tama calls for him, Romeo doesn’t answer as his mind is racing still.

He skids into the parking lot of the abandoned shopping mall and gasps at the sheer amount of Kappore motorcycles parked outside.

“Whoa… Those are the Kappore gang’s bikes… What are they doing here?”

Romeo pauses for a moment, then walks towards them anyway.

As they pass through the sea of motorcycles, Nana spots him through the window, gasping and rolling it down again.

“Romeo! Hey!

Romeo stops in his tracks and turns towards the voice. Nana waves at him to come over. Romeo hesitates, feeling like he’s wasting precious time, but he recognizes Nana as Yuri’s friend. He approaches the car.

“Romeo,” Nana looks at him with concern. “Why are you here!? Is this about the gang thing!?”

Romeo frowns, placing his hands on either side of the window.

“Where’s Yuri?”


“Is she with you!? Where is she!?”


“Sh-She’s in there, we think…” Sophie speaks up from her seat. “We came looking for her…”

Romeo bangs his fist on the hood of the car, startling the girls.

“Dammit, Amon! This has his name written all over it…”

“Um… Mister Romeo…” Sophie speaks in a quiet, quivering voice, leaning towards the window. “Master Franz went in there, too…”

Romeo clicks his tongue.

“Stay in here. I’ll go find them.”

“Be careful!” Nana calls after them, only rolling the window back up when they've been left alone again. Tama catches up to him.

“Romeo, Jojo still can't get a hold of Meru, but he’s still trying. Do you know where he lives?”


“Ughhh… Okay, I’ll tell him to keep looking.”

Romeo starts heading towards the glass door, but Tama grabs his arm.


Romeo turns around and glares at him. Tama simply smiles.

“... Stop making that scary face. You’ll get your friend back. You’re not alone here, you know?”

Romeo blinks, surprised. It dawns on him that he’s been worrying Tama and Jojo all this time with his selfish bravado. Suddenly, he feels ashamed of himself.

“... Thanks, Tamaya.”

* * *

Back in the city, Jojo's out of ideas. He's checked the handful of places Meru frequents with Romeo and Jojo, but beyond those, he comes to the grim realization that he really doesn't know much else about him.

“Dammit, Meru. You just have to be all mysterious and shit, don’cha?”

Tama had been keeping him updated on Romeo's mental state and new developments via text. But what was gnawing at Jojo most was the picture Tama described— the disturbing photo Meru had sent Romeo. He looks at his phone and the long chain of texts he’s been sending Meru throughout the day, sighing.

“Meru… You idiot… What did you do?

He stares at the screen for a second, then immediately starts typing another text to him.

“You… Stupid… Idiot… I… Will… Kill - in capital letters - you! ... Send!”


He hears a phone chime from somewhere nearby.

“... Huh?”

Thinking he imagined it, he lets a second pass, then sends another insulting text to Meru. He hears the ding again.

“... Meru!?”

He turns the corner and finds himself face to face with the Makai hideout. He gasps.

“Oh… that’s right… I walked over here for a reason— Wait, is Meru inside!?”

Jojo rushes through the familiar entrance, avoiding the rubble on the floor while whipping his head from side to side. The inside is unusually empty.

“Meru!? Are you in here!?”

“Hello, Jojo.”

Resting against the wall near the entrance behind him, Meru greets Jojo with his hands behind his back. Jojo jerks around to look at him, startled.

“M-Meru! What are you doing here!? Do you even know what this place is!?”

Meru gives him one of his usual smiles, shrugging.

“Unfortunately, I do. I’m intimately familiar with it.”

Jojo swallows.

“Meru… W-What’s going on? Are you part of the Makai gang? ... Did you kidnap that girl in the photo?”

Meru’s smile turns bitter, and he averts his eyes.

“... I used to be Amon’s secret weapon, you know? I was chained to him, forced to do his bidding— until Romeo took my place, for no real reason. He never blamed me, nor did he try to force the leash back onto me. He simply took it all upon himself to save me.”


Meru turns his gaze back towards Jojo.

“... The truth is, Amon never really let me go. He kept my leash and put one on Romeo, too. He said he would hurt him if I ever told him anything, so I had to stay quiet. I was already acquainted with Cutter Knife Matsuri, so Amon had me take him down just to keep Romeo from defeating all three of the Summer Fireworks.”

“So it was you,” Jojo’s hands tremble as he speaks, trying to process everything Meru just said. “You got in his way… for Amon? That… makes no sense! Amon was the one that ordered him to defeat all three!”

Meru laughs quietly.

“I know, right? Amon is one messed up guy.”

“I’m serious here! Why is he doing this!? Who is that girl!? What happened to her!?”

“... Her name is Yuri. She’s Raging Fist Endo’s sister. Romeo took a liking to her, and unfortunately, Amon found out, so he’s using her to lure Romeo into the warzone.”

“Huh!? Romeo likes a girl!? Wait, warzone!?”

Meru nods.

“Amon challenged the Kappore gang to an all-out fight for the entire Makai turf, using the defeat of Endo as an excuse, and it’s happening as we speak. He knows he needs Romeo by his side to win, so he plans to take advantage of this opportunity and let the girl see him at his worst. That way, Romeo will change his mind about leaving the Makai gang for good.”

“That— That’s crazy! What the hell!”

“Jojo,” Meru gives him a serious look. “You came back for this, didn’t you?”

Meru brandishes the familiar blood-stained metal bat with nails. Jojo's eyes open wide.

“Boss’s bat! Yeah!!”

He rushes over to take it from a smiling Meru with excitement but then pauses cautiously before it.

“... You’re just gonna give it to me?”

Meru laughs.

“Are you surprised? I want Romeo to win this just as much as you. I’m tired of being tied up, unable to help. I know in my heart that he's going to win this time.”

“...Won’t you come with me, Meru?”

Meru's eyes widen for a split second before a pained look overtakes it. He turns his head away from Jojo to conceal it a little too late, letting his hair cascade down his face.

“I can’t. If Amon sees me helping Romeo, I’m afraid of what could happen to him… or any of you.”

Jojo feels his heart wrench. Meru looks at him again with a forced smile, taking on a knowing tone.

“Besides, you’re his best friend, aren’t you? You should be the one to bring it to him.”

Jojo immediately perks up.

“Y-Yeah! Yeah!!! I am!” He clutches the base of the bat tightly in his hands, raising it up to look at it.

“Sit tight, Boss! I'll be over before you know it!” 

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