They stood in the back alley, the safest place they could have been.
"Are you sure you're able to do this?" he asked, fiddling with the collar of his trench coat.
She nodded. "Of course, sir," was her response.
She couldn't have noticed it, but under the shadow of his hat, he grinned.
He extended a gloved hand. "Good luck, soldier," he wished.
She saw his hand, but didn't pay any heed. Before he knew it, the girl's arms wrapped around him as tightly as she could manage.
"I'll do my best, I promise. You won't be sorry."
"C'mon guys! Cut it out!"
"Oh really?" Shove. "Who's gonna make us? Huh?"
The young Inkling fell to the ground for the dozenth time, resulting in yet another roar of laughter, and yet another bruise. But he just picked himself back up.
"Please, you guys, just leave me alone," he pleaded to his tormentors, a group of kids just his age. Again the boy tried to walk past them, but that strategy was not going to work, no matter how many times he tried it. Every attempt was the same, resulting in a body in front of him and a pair of mocking eyes staring directly into his own. And he knew that. He knew full well that there was no way to get by them, for him or for anybody. No one just walked by the freshest kids in school. There was no way to escape the scene that occurred once they saw one of their fellow classmates. And poor Danny was their next victim.
"No way, man," said the obvious leader, jabbing his prey’s chest with his fingers, forcing Danny to take a step backward. "First ya gotta tell me what idiot got ya to buy those shoes!" The whole group chuckled, and their victim looked down at his feet, seeing the knee-high brown boots he wore. "But I like these boots!" he said, as if his fashion sense would help his cause. "I think they look pretty fresh on me.” He stood a bit taller in confidence. “And they make me run faster."
The posse around him looked at each other in amusement, and another of the boys joined the attack. "You think they look fresh, huh? Well, obviously they got a different definition of ‘fresh’ on whatever planet you come from." And this was thought of as hilarious, and the degrading laughter continued once again. Danny didn't know what to do. He wouldn't dare try to run away again. He couldn't fight for himself either, not without his carbon-fiber roller anyway. He was completely helpless, as he usually was. He would have been the first to admit that he was a crybaby in situations such as this. And there were going to be streams of tears running down his cheeks if something didn’t happen fast.
Danny turned around.
And saw a girl. A girl he didn't know.
Neither did the others seem to recognize her. She appeared to be a little older than the boys, but not by much. She walked toward them, with her hands shoved into the pockets of her leather jacket. "What's going on here?" she spoke, standing next to Danny and examining his assailants. "Is there a problem?" The glares that fell on her were numerous. "None of your business, loser," the leader had the audacity to verbalize. The girl looked at the bearer of the words and stared. "Excuse me?" she said. The boy only folded his arms and looked at her with victorious eyes. Stupid kid. The girl walked over to where he stood and poised before him.
And she pushed him to the ground.
There was an audible gasp from the small gang, and one from Danny too. Did she just do that? Was she crazy? It took a moment for the boy on the ground to realize what had happened, and he sat up on the asphalt. "What was that for?!" he yelled threateningly, but the surprise was prominent in his voice. The girl shifted her weight to one leg, and her arms folded in front of her. "I don't like your attitude," she smirked, cocking her head a bit to the side. Oh no, Danny thought. She's in for it now. The humiliated Inkling rose from his seat on the asphalt and lunged at the girl. And he didn't expect her to be quick enough to dodge his attack.
But she did.
Not only that, but swiftly and precisely. And the boy found himself on the ground again. Another gasp was heard, and the group of inhalers braced themselves for a show. That was the last straw. Anyone who could have seen his downcast face would have seen fire in his eyes. Once again he arose and faced his opponent, but his advance was slow this time. And the girl didn't move at all. Didn't even raise her arms to shield herself. It wasn't until the boy was in front of her and waited...for the right moment...that he whipped out his fist as quickly as he could. And not surprisingly, he succeeded that time.
The girl grasped her stomach and wheezed, and the ring of boys around the rivals laughed and applauded. Danny winced, but then shook his head. She wasn't helping at all. The girl looked down while clutching her abdomen, and her opponent seemed pleased with himself. "What a wimp!" he declared, as he leaned toward his new prey. "It's just a fact: girls are nothing but a bunch a—"
And the boy fell to his seat on the asphalt once more. He cried in pain as he cradled his cheek in his hands. The girl looked at him with pride and flimsily waved the hand she had punched him with. "Now, what were you saying?" she asked the boy rhetorically. He turned his body around to see her, and his eyes spoke of a terror he had never experienced before. He hadn't ever feared anything to such a degree, and now he had something to be afraid of. And it was a girl. What am I going to tell him? he thought to himself, a thought that filled him with dread.
"Oh, and my name's not 'loser,'" the girl said. "It's Kraken."
The boys that still stood around them were in shock. Did they just see that they thought they saw?
And then Kraken turned to them with one last taunt. "Anyone else?"
The door to the apartment building slammed shut.
"Mom! I'm home!" Kraken yelled. She threw her backpack on a hook by the door and tramped into the small living room.
Her mother was sitting on the couch, watching the Inkopolis News, which was nothing unusual. The flatscreen that hung on the wall displayed the Squid Sisters, informing their audience of the new battle turf being opened. Of course, Kraken had already heard about it from the kids at school, and she was very excited to try out her roller on it. Mahi Mahi Resort? It was an interesting name, and it did intrigue Kraken. She wondered what the map would be like: flat ground or varied terrain, straightforward or complicated, sniper-friendly or roller-happy. Though, as it was the only weapon she could use, she hoped that it was a kind turf for rollers. Of course, not that she visited the Turf War Lobby often. That was definitely not the case...
But Kraken knew that her mother couldn't care the least bit about anything turf war related. She only participated in "old-people" activities, like crocheting, cooking, et cetera. At least, that was what Kraken considered them to be. She was certainly not anticipating the day when she became an adult. Just the thought—her as old—made her shutter.
Her mother’s head turned to her, and she smiled. "Hey, Myrtle!" she greeted happily. “How was school?”
Kraken let out an exaggerated sigh. "Mom! I told you not to call me that!" she reminded. It was getting old having to correct her mother every day. The woman on the couch only raised her eyebrows. "What? And use that ridiculous nickname of yours?” She let out a small snort. “No thanks." Kraken growled and stomped her foot before she sped down the hallway. "I don't understand why you don't like your name," her mom called after her. "I think it's beautiful." Kraken didn't stop to respond. "Of course you'd think so!" she yelled loud enough for anyone in the apartment to hear. And her bedroom door slammed just as loud.
Kraken reached for the light switch to the right of her and flicked it upwards. Her room lit up to reveal the rose-colored walls and the various objects scattered about the carpet: school papers, items of clothing, magazines, and whatnot. The pig sty that was her floor didn't bother her. As long as the bed was clean, she was happy.
And it wasn't.
Kraken huffed. The clothes she had contemplated wearing to school that morning were sprawled all over it, along with a couple magazines she had read while getting ready. But that was no major issue. She hopped onto her mattress and merely pushed the many items off the edge. I'll pick them up later, she told herself, although she knew full well that she wouldn't.
Kraken plopped on her back and looked up at the ceiling. Of course, not before turning her SquidPod on and sticking her earbuds in her ears. She ramped up the volume to MAX, and let herself get lost in her own world.
I can’t believe what I’m feeling when I’m right near,
Your vibrant colors makes the sadness disappear.
Such is love, makes me happy we’re both artists,
We changed the world together, more than we first started.
The lyrics of the song blasted into her ears and straight to her brain. And she loved it. The world dissolved around her, and her imagination was all there was. Images and colors flashed and swirled with the melodies she heard, and happiness overtook her. Ah, the bliss. No problems. No distractions. Nothing but her music.
Although not even that could make her forget what she did earlier.
She had just wanted to help that kid earlier. He was about to be humiliated, and she had tried to save him. And technically, she had. The gang that was about to pummel him fled as fast as an Inkling with raised Run Speed. Meaning, they fled as quickly as Danny did. The fear in his eyes as he ran was a surprise to Kraken. Why would he be scared? She had saved him, hadn’t she?
Well, of course, she had just punch a little boy. That may have been the problem.
Kraken realized this now, but she wished she would have before she had gotten angry. She had a tendency to do unwise things when she became mad, and she had known that she needed to gain control over it for years now. But that day was only an urgent reminder of what needed to be fixed. Upsetting it was though that it had to involve a little kid. Although he wasn’t that young. He may have been fourteen years or so, but that was still a bit younger than Kraken. And now, all she could think was when he would tell his parents about what happened, and then they would tell their friends, and then their friends would tell their friends, and then she will be known as the sixteen-year-old that beat up a defenseless little kid. What if she was put in jail? How much time could she even get for that? And if the news got hold of this…
Kraken curled up in a ball on her bed. She was now scared. What had she done?
Your drawings are like heaven to me.
Such piece of art makes a lovely gift to see.
I hope one day we will sha—
Kraken tore the earbuds from her ears. She couldn’t listen to music. Not now. She grabbed her pillow and hugged it to her chest, and the lime colored fabric turned a shade of forest green as her tears soaked it.