Both John and Kraken were surprised at the threat. And at the one who threatened it.
About five feet away was another girl. She seemed to be near Kraken's age, but one couldn't know for sure. She wore black boots and a red t-shirt, and upon her head sat a black beanie. Her stance was one such that it could be called "sassy", as her hands were propped on her hips and her weight shifted to one leg.
"And just who do you think you are?" asked John, still holding Kraken by her pained arm.
"That's none of your business, bub," she said. "Now put her down. Or I'll make ya!"
John raised his eyebrows and looked around at his entourage, who were happily InkBooking the exciting battle that had just taken place, and were preparing for more news to share. He merely laughed, and some of them followed suit.
Then he did put Kraken down. Though more like dropped.
Kraken plopped into a pile on the concrete, banging her head pretty hard. The girl gave a look of concern, but then spied the boy she had intimidated. John wore a smug grin on his face, and was slowly sauntering toward his next victim. "You think you're so big n' bad, doncha, new kid?" he taunted. "Well, this is how we treat bad little girls around here." "Stop it, John!" his little brother pleaded again, but it was of no use. John already stood less than a foot away from her, and the two were as comparable as a crawdad and a whale. He towered above the girl, but she amazingly seemed unphazed. He apparently didn't appreciate the cool composure, so his fist was quick to fix that.
But the girl was quicker.
John jabbed his clenched hand at her, but she swiftly moved to the side and grabbed his arm. The momentary surprise shone in his face before she twisted the limb behind him in an instant.
"Agck!" John spat out. Every spectator looked up from their mobile devices and watched in amazement. Not even Kraken could miss out on this. She had been able to just barely lift her head to see the unbelievable sight. A girl—a girl younger than him—had inflicted pain on the school's strongest student.
"Say uncle!" the girl taunted back at John, whose face had distorted with pain. A few seconds passed by, but it felt like hours to the onlookers. The tension was undeniable, but no one could look away. This was history in the making.
The girl didn't hear the word she wished to hear, so she twisted his arm even farther back. John sputtered unidentifiable curses. Kraken was astonished at her savior. And ever so thankful.
Hour-like seconds passed again, and everyone waited. The girl leaned over to John's ear to whisper, "So, what was that little word that I wanted to hear?" He scrunched his face to conceal the agony, but anyone could see that he was about to break.
And that was that. The girl let go of his arm, and John fell.
Everyone's jaw dropped down to their feet. Except for Kraken, of course; hers was too sore. The girl loomed over John, who was gripping his shoulder in shame. And suddenly, their animal comparisons seemed to swap. "Ya see?" she teased, resting her hands on her hips. "That wasn't so hard, now was it?" He looked up at her with anger flaming in his eyes, but indignity in his deposition. He had been humiliated, just like his little brother had. He was supposed to be teaching him how to defend himself. How could this happen to him?
Kraken gave a sigh of relief, but cringed at her throbbing everything. And suddenly she realized, she was no longer the villain. No one would be spreading rumors about her, no one would turn her in for assault, and no one was going to send her to prison! The Inkopolis News would rather tell the story of a girl beating down a bully than report a measly jab in the face. She was safe, both her body and her reputation! Though as she lay there on the asphalt, she wished that her redemption didn't have to involve so much pain.
It was then that Kraken saw a pair of boots in her line of view. She looked up to see the girl that had just saved her. From the ground, she looked like a giant, about to smash its victims beneath its feet. "Are you okay?" she asked. "You took quite a beating." Kraken let her bruised head sink back to the ground, accidentally hitting her tender spot. "Yeah," she managed to say, but that was all, as she lifted her hand to feel her head. She was not really okay, but she was alive. The girl laughed. "Well, that's goo—"
The sentence remained unfinished, and Kraken heard unintelligible gasps above her, followed by a "No, John!" She lifted her head in puzzlement to see John behind the girl, his arms around her neck, trapping her in a headlock. "I don't appreciate the sass you've been giving me, kid," he muttered through gritted teeth. "There are certain rules we follow 'round here. You may not know them yet, but you'll learn them soon enough. I'll give ya a tip—" He tightened his grasp, and the girl kicked and squirmed even more. "You just broke one. And breaking the rules deserves a punishment." The girl grunted through her own gritted teeth, trying to keep breathing the life-giving air that she needed to survive. Kraken panicked. Her hero was done for. Finished. What could she have done? She was completely trapped.
And before Kraken knew it, or anyone for that matter, the girl let out a shriek and pulled John's arm downward, with both her arm strength and her body weight. And he took to the air like a dolphin leaping from the ocean and plunging back to the water. Just like how John smacked the concrete.
The audience gasped. Kraken's eyes grew wide. The girl slumped over and breathed heavily. And John laid on the sidewalk.
No one moved for a long time. It had been a good minute before someone finally started clapping. Slowly more and more joined in, and soon their was a round of applause. All for the girl. She had done the impossible. Simply amazing! Everyone wore a look of shock mixed with content. They had witnessed history, and had gotten video proof.
The girl walked over to Kraken again and grabbed her arm to bring her to her feet. Kraken let out a yelp, for she had clutched her injured arm. "Oh! I'm sorry, hon!" she immediately apologized, and lifted Kraken from her underarms instead. She had difficulty standing, but was able to manage. Her legs ached as she set her weight on them, and her head pulsed as it was held upright. She turned her gaze to her savior, and found that she was already looking back at her. "You feel alright?" she asked. "Um, well," Kraken started, about to describe how much her body hurt, but decided against it. "I'm alright," she responded, not wanting her to worry. The girl nodded, although she already knew that Kraken was in pain. The two looked over at John lying on the ground, who was moaning nonsense. His brother had by that time rushed over to him and tried to arouse him into consciousness. Kraken honestly felt bad for him; he was brought into a situation that he didn't need to be in. "Hey kid?" she said. He looked at Kraken, and she saw the black smudge on his cheek that she had created the day before. "Look, man, I really am sorry for what I did yesterday. I really shouldn't have done that. Can you forgive me?" He gazed down at the sidewalk for a moment, and then back up at Kraken again. "Yeah, it's okay." Kraken didn't show it, but she could have broken out into a happy-dance. She wasn't guilty of anything anymore. She felt as if a burden had been lifted off of her shoulders, like she could finally breathe again
"Oh yeah, and sorry about your brother," the other girl mentioned. "He's not unconscious or anything. He'll be fine in, like, five minutes or so." The boy didn't say anything more. He just turned back to his brother again, and waited for him to wake up.
"Ya sure you're okay, hon?" the girl asked again.
"Yeah, I'll be fine." Kraken said.
Kraken had been about to head home after the electrifying battle, not exactly sure how of she would hide her wounds. But before she was able to leave the scene of the crime, the girl that had saved her asked if she could walk her home. "Um," Kraken had responded skeptically, "why?" "Well, what if that guy wakes up, and he comes after you again?" she suggested. "I mean, if he tries to hurt you again, you'll definitely end up in the hospital or something. So if that happens, I can fight him off for you. Whadaya say?" And after much careful thought—meaning after thinking about it for two seconds—Kraken replied, "Sure, you can come. Besides, I wouldn't mind someone to talk to." The girl smiled, and they walked off.
"So," she started, "I didn't catch your name."
"Oh. Um, my name is Kraken," Kraken responded.
The girl's eyebrows rose, and she grinned slyly. "Really? That's your name?"
Kraken glanced at everything around her that wasn't the girl. "Uh, yeah. Of course it is. Why would I even lie about something like that?"
"Alright, alright, Kraken! No need to get defensive," she said.
It took a second, but Kraken was able to rest her gaze on the girl again. "So what's your name?"
She looked at her for a moment, and then answered, "Rebecca. My name's Rebecca."
Kraken nodded. "Cool! Nice to meet you, Rebecca. Um, I wanted to say thanks for helping me back there. I don't know how I could make it up to you."
"Oh, no! You don't need to do that," Rebecca pleaded. "It was nothing, honest."
"What are you kidding?!" Kraken exclaimed. "That was amazing! You freaking flipped him over your shoulder! How did you even do that?!"
Rebecca turned her head to the street, seeming to find a blue car passing by very intriguing. "Uh, well, I...I took some martial arts lessons at a dojo in my hometown. I mean, it's not that impressive really; I only learned the basics and stuff."
"Basics?" Kraken questioned. "Ha! I'm no expert, but that didn't look very basic."
Rebecca shrugged. "Okay, maybe it was a little impressive, I guess." She looked straight at Kraken. "But please, don't' feel like you have to repay me or anything."
"Okay, I won't," Kraken promised. They continued their stroll with a moment of silence, but was suddenly broken by, "Wait...hometown? Are you the new student?"
Rebecca tore her eyes away. "Uh, yeah." she said shyly.
"Oh, sweet!" Kraken remarked. "Where ya from?"
Rebecca didn't cease her inspection of the sidewalk. "Well, i—it's kinda a small town. You probably don't know it: Squidsville?"
Kraken furrowed her brow. "Um," she mindlessly verbalized, trying to recall. "I'm sorry, I don't think I've heard of it."
"Oh, w—well that's okay," Rebecca reassured, scratching the back of her neck. "It's not a very well-known place."
Kraken knew her acquaintance was trying very hard not to make eye-contact. She leaned over to peek at her downcast face. "Ya know, you don't haveta be so shy. I'm not judging or anything."
Rebecca turned her eyes to see Kraken bent down to see her, and she tried to hide a smile. "I know. It's just...I'm kinda awkward around people I don't know, and I tend to weird 'em out, ya know?" she said. "Where I'm from, everyone knows everybody, but I don't know anyone here. In a city like this, you could go, like, your entire life and never meet everybody. I guess it's just not what I'm used to."
Kraken nodded. "Yeah, I get it," she understood. "In the city, ya got your family and your close friends, and everyone else it just kinda there. I think it really is just what you're used to. I can't imagine a place where everyone knows each other. It sounds completely strange to me!"
The two giggled a little, but another silence engulfed them yet again.
"So where you staying?" Kraken began again.
"Uh, there's an apartment we're renting," Rebecca answered. "We're only staying here for a little while, though."
"Huh," Kraken commented. "Cool. I hope ya guys enjoy your stay. Are you on vacation or here for a job or something?"
Rebecca looked back at the concrete. "Uh, my dad is looking for a job. He...thought he'd have a good chance of finding one if he searched in the city."
"Oh," Kraken said. "What does your mom do?"
"She doesn't work," Rebecca answered. "She stays at home."
"Oh. Okay. You got any siblings?"
"Why are you asking me so many questions?"
Kraken's eyes became wide. She wasn't aware that she was interrogating Rebecca. "Oh, I'm so sorry! I didn't realize it! I...I have a hard time with silence. Not that I'm super talkative, but...I just get uneasy when there's a long silence. I was just trying to start a conversation. I'm really sorry if I creeped you out."
It was a strange thing to see, but Rebecca raised her head and smiled. "It's alright," she forgave. "I understand. I don't like silence all that much either. It get's super awkward, and I get really jittery."
"I know, right?" Kraken said. "Everyone tells me all the time that 'It's only awkward if you make it awkward,' but I seriously can't prevent a silence from being awkward. It just is."
"Oh my gosh, I totally feel you, hon!" Rebecca said. "It's, like, completely out of my control. And then I wanna break the awkwardness by starting up a conversation, but then my brain is all like, 'Nah, I don't got any idea. Try again later.'"
"No way! That's literally me!" Kraken exclaimed. "You're literally the first person I've met who actually understands it!"
"Well, that's weird. I feel like everybody's gotta feel something like that at least once in their life."
"I know. It is weird.
"I mean, no one's perfect."
And that was how the conversation started.
As the two girls were in the middle of talking about narwhals ("They're, like, my favorite animal ever!" "Oh my gosh, no way! They're mine too!" "They're so adorable! With their cute little horns...") they walked upon a tall, brick building, bearing countless windows and a dozen patios. And Kraken was saddened.
Rebecca noticed that her acquaintance had ceased movement, and saw the unhappy look in her eyes. "What's wrong?" she asked. Kraken sighed. "This is my apartment," she muttered. Rebecca was saddened too. "Aww."
Kraken turned to her. "Hey, thanks again for, ya know, saving me 'n all. And thanks for walking home with me. I don't usually have someone to talk to. I'm kinda alone a lot—" Kraken froze. "Oh! I'm sorry. I kinda got a little personal there..." "Nah, it's alright," Rebecca pardoned. "Thanks for letting me tag along. I haven't talked to a lot of people lately, and I've been a bit lonely the past few days." Kraken smiled. "Yeah, I understand. No problem."
Rebecca smiled too, but looked to the ground, as if she was pondering something risky.
But next thing she knew, Kraken felt a pair of arms around her shoulders.
Is she...hugging me?
She most definitely was. But Kraken didn't know how to respond. It was all so sudden, and it took much too long for her to realize that Rebecca was embracing her.
She pulled away after a few seconds, and she was blushing. "I—I'm sorry, Kraken," she said. "I don't know why I did that. I didn't mean to weird you ou—" Kraken had known immediately that she was going to apologize. And she had no reason to do so. So she hugged her back.
"No no. Don't apologize please," she pleaded over Rebecca's shoulder. "You didn't weird me out. It was cool, so don't worry 'bout it, 'kay?"
"Um," Rebecca said, and then promised, "I...okay. I won't."
Kraken pulled away, and she smiled. "Well," she said, pulling her tentacle-hair back behind her pointed ear, "I guess I'll see you tomorrow then." Rebecca nodded. "Yeah, I guess so," she confirmed.
Kraken smiled, and she rushed to the door to buzz herself in. As she turned to close the door behind her, she noticed Rebecca, staring at the building. Her eyes narrow, as if she were meticulously studying its architecture. "Uh, Rebecca? You a'right?"
Rebecca suddenly became conscious, but she momentarily looked like a mess. "Oh, yeah! I'm okay. I just dozed off for a moment there."
Curious. She hadn't really looked "dozed-off".
But no matter.
Kraken only showed a grin, and closed the door.