Rohan woke up to a warm sensation filling his body. He was lying on the ground, grass blades poking uncomfortably through the clothes on his back. (Grass was never as soft as it looked. It was just itchy. Rohan made sure all the grass in his manga looked itchy instead of falsely soft.) When he opened his eyes and turned his head, that damned Higashikata Josuke was crouched over him with worried and hopeful eyes. He looked stupid. Almost as stupid as his Stand, which was next to him. Which was healing Rohan.
Rohan’s heart sped up, but it was only because of that gentle warmth and the fact that he was no longer on the precipice of death.
“Higashikata Josuke…” Rohan muttered, then turned away and sat upright.
The brat had dried blood streaks on his face and was looking away awkwardly. “Uhh, look, Rohan-sensei…” he said. His voice was soft with bashfulness and eagerness. “I know we have our differences, but I…”
He was obviously trying to make amends with Rohan. Trying to befriend Rohan.
But Rohan refused. ‘Friendship’ was a lie, just a convenient label people used to get things they wanted from others.
He interrupted. “Why did you heal me?”
Higashikata Josuke’s head jerked. He looked at Rohan with eyes that formed nearly perfect circles. A wonderful expression of surprised confusion. Rohan would draw it if he had his sketchpad with him. “Huh?” His bemusement made Rohan feel like messing with him.
“I didn’t ask for your help,” Rohan continued, closing his eyes and gesturing dramatically. “Death would have been preferable to being saved by the likes of you! I’m still flabbergasted that you chose to step into the enemy’s trap after I warned you to run. Are you really that stupid?”
“And to be clear, this is not a favor deserving of any repayment!” Rohan was indifferent to Josuke now (he was), but deep inside, wrapped around his guts, was an icy snake that hissed at the thought of Higashikata Josuke trapping him, Rohan, in an imprisonment of debt disguised as ‘friendship.’ Rohan refused to be part of such a lie.
He stood up, leaving the brat spluttering and Kujo Jotaro, standing a meter away by the tunnel entrance, lowering his hat with an exasperated sigh.
Rohan’s motorcycle was there by the side of the road, but Rohan refused to take it. Higashikata had ridden it, probably wrecked it and fixed it. Rohan didn’t want it anymore. He’d get a new bike.
There was a car next to the motorcycle, no doubt Kujo’s. Rohan could ask him for a ride, but he wouldn’t. He wouldn’t ask a near stranger to do something for him after seeing him so weak.
So Rohan started walking.
“Rohan-sensei, your bike!” Higashikata called after him.
“I don’t want it!” he snapped back. Then added, just to be petty: “It has your germs on it. I don’t want to be infected with stupidity.”
“You—!” The voice cut off before an insult could form. There was a pause; the brat was likely counting in his head or using some other calming exercise. “Are you planning to walk the whole way back?!”
“Yes.” Rohan kept walking.
Several meters later, after a hurried conversation behind him that Rohan only heard the murmurs of, footsteps came running up behind him.
Rohan didn’t turn around.
Higashikata fell into step next to him, hands laced behind his head and looking up at the sky. Rohan stopped and glared. “What are you doing.”
“I’m walking back to town,” Higashikata drawled. “I can’t take the motorcycle, it’s not mine—that would be stealing.”
“Then catch a ride with Kujo,” said Rohan flatly.
“I can’t ask my nephew for a ride, that’s embarrassing.” Higashikata was smirking now.
Rohan grit his teeth. “Don’t follow me.”
“I’m not following you.”
Rohan opened his mouth to reply, but just as quickly shut it again. He refused to participate in such childish behavior. He turned his head straight forward and forcefully ignored the menace baiting him.
Surprisingly, Higashikata didn’t try to reengage him immediately. They walked in silence.
Josuke watched Rohan out of the corner of his eyes. The manga artist’s face was set in a deep frown, his eyes narrowed and his lips, which were missing their characteristic green lipstick, pursed.
As they walked, Josuke thought. He wasn’t much prone to self-reflection, but he was self-aware enough to realize two things about himself: he was impulsive, and he was proud. Even when Josuke outsmarted his opponents, more often than not he was following instinct. As for his pride, well… part of his pride in himself was pride in his role model. The rest was in his ability to help people. Josuke couldn’t regret his pride one bit.
The problem with him and Rohan, Josuke thought, was that they were both too proud. Rohan wouldn’t give up his pride to thank Josuke. In fact, Josuke suspected, Rohan wouldn’t give up his pride for anyone or anything. He was certainly too proud to accept Josuke’s apology on the bus, and Josuke was too proud to grovel like Rohan had no doubt wanted him to. After all, Josuke didn’t give up his pride for anyone he didn’t respect or who didn’t respect him.
So they were at an impasse. In order to make amends, one of them would have to suspend their pride. And it certainly wouldn’t be Rohan.
Which meant it would have to be Josuke.
He didn’t have to make amends, Josuke reminded himself. But really… he wanted to. He didn’t like being hated by a good person for stupid mistakes Josuke had made. And Rohan was a pretty okay person. Josuke respected him a little, after today.
“Kishibe Rohan… I can’t believe you actually saved me…. It’s hard to believe, but I feel weirdly moved!
“Hang in there for me, Rohan!”
So. Making amends. Swallowing his pride and apologizing sincerely. Josuke breathed deep, let it out through his mouth, and mustered his courage and resolve.
“Rohan,” he began, not looking at the manga artist but wearing a serious expression. “I’m sorry for trying to trick you out of money. It was really immature of me, and I promise that I’ll never do it again.”
Rohan stopped walking and stared at Josuke. His gaze was penetrating, his expression unreadable. Josuke tried not to fidget, though he felt like Rohan was peeling back his skin and reading his thoughts without even using Heaven’s Door.
After a long moment of silence, during which Rohan stared and Josuke shifted and sweated nervously, Rohan sighed and closed his eyes. Josuke sighed in relief, but that feeling quickly flitted away like a bird in fright when Rohan opened his eyes again to glare.
“I know what you’re trying to do here, Higashikata Josuke,” the manga artist said. “You are trying to make amends with me. Why? Because you like me? No—because you need to categorize me in your head.”
“I am not your enemy,” continued Rohan, steamrolling over Josuke’s confused sputtering, “and I am not your friend. You can’t stand a relationship you don’t understand, so you are trying to put me in one of those categories. You can no longer think of me as an enemy after we faced a common enemy together, so you are trying to make me your ‘friend.’ ” Rohan spat that last word with so much disdain and disgust that it sounded like a profanity. “Don’t make the mistake of thinking what you want is friendship.”
Josuke scowled, confusion mixing with defensiveness. “That’s not what I’m—!”
“It is,” Rohan cut him off. “And I refuse to be trapped in such a false ‘friendship,’ knowing that you would be satisfied just with having leverage over me. But even if you did sincerely want to be my friend, it would never work out. We are diametrically opposed, completely incompatible. Because you are a liar, and I am not.”
Rohan suddenly stepped into Josuke’s space and jabbed a finger at the younger’s nose. “Listen well, Higashikata Josuke. My job is to describe and evoke reality through my manga. Lies do nothing but muddle reality. I hate lies, and I despise liars.
“And you, Josuke, are a compulsive liar. You never do what you say you will. You never do what I expect you to do.
“But worst of all,” Rohan said, his voice lowering to a hiss, and Josuke felt his insides go cold; “you had the gall to accuse me of lying. I do not lie. Do I manipulate? Yes. Do I put on acts? Of course. But I refuse to outright lie.
“You were rightfully wary on that bus, I’ll admit. I did plan on making you pay for the humiliation of tricking me. But I never would have done it by lying.”
Leaving Josuke frozen and gaping in shock, Rohan turned sharply on his heel, white half-jacket flaring, and power-walked toward Morioh.
Josuke, meanwhile, felt like his brain was collapsing a little. Rohan’s words were echoing in his head, bringing to mind their recent interactions.
At Rohan’s house, during the dice game:
“I’ve held back the anger I feel toward you for the sake of Joestar-san and Koichi up until now… but I refuse to sit here and do nothing while you make a complete fool of me! The thought of you laughing on the inside at my expense is unbearable!”
On the bus, as Rohan was leaving:
“You of all people don’t believe me, Higashikata Josuke? Even after lying about cheating while we played dice and never doing what you claim you will, you have the gall to accuse me of lying? You and I will clearly never get along. I suppose nothing good could come of you joining me, anyway.”
And what Rohan had yelled in the tunnel, after Josuke had stepped into Highway Star’s trap:
“You always do the exact opposite of what I expect you to do. And that’s why I hate your guts! That’s why you infuriate me beyond all belief!”
Josuke hung his head down and heaved a deep sigh. “Oh man, what a mess… Just great.”
It had become clear that Josuke couldn’t expect Rohan to forgive him with a simple apology, no matter how sincere. What more could he do? Did he even want to make amends with Rohan anymore? Josuke didn’t have to fix his relationship with Rohan. And Rohan certainly didn’t want anything to do with him. What point was there in trying? Josuke thought hard and couldn’t come up with a single reason to befriend Rohan that wasn’t easing his own conscience. There was simply no point in it.
But Josuke found he couldn’t give up on it anyway.
Laughing a little at himself, Josuke closed his eyes and tilted his head back to the sky. “Sorry, Rohan. I’m not done defying your expectations yet.”