Kraken shut the door behind her.
"Mom! I'm home!"
"Hey, Myrtle!" she could hear from the living room.
Kraken clenched her fists, yearning to retort. But no, not today. Such a petty matter was not going to ruin her mood. "How was your day?" she asked in response, slipping off her yellow high-tops.
There was a pause. "Wow, you must be in a really good mood!" she said. Kraken smiled. She was in a good mood, and nothing could change that.
"Yeah, school was great!" she talked, as she began to wander into the living room. "We got a new student today, and she's super nice. Her name's Rebecca, and she's from a town called Squidsville. Like, I've never heard of it, but apparently it's not very well-known—what?" Her mother had turned from the scarf she was crocheting to look at her daughter, and she suddenly became horrified. And Kraken hadn't any idea why. "Is there...uh, something wrong—" "Myrtle," her mother gaped, slowly rising from the sofa. "What happened to you?" Kraken was confused. "To me? W—what do you mean? What's wrong with me?" She absent-mindedly lifted her hand to her face, as if to feel what deformity she had apparently acquired. "...oh," she uttered, as she pushed at a bruise on her cheek. She had forgotten: she had been pummeled.
"Myrtle, what happened?!" her mom asked, moving with haste to her injured daughter. She took Kraken's head in her hands, inspecting the black spots and red lines that scattered about her face. "Oh, my poor baby," she muttered. "Who did this to you?"
Kraken hadn't thought about how she was going to explain her injuries. Of course, her first idea was to say that she had just fallen from a tree or something of that nature, but not even Kraken's mother was stupid enough to believe that so many ailments had resulted from one small plummet. But nonetheless, she didn't want anyone to make a big deal about it, least of all her mother. "Look, Mom," she attempted, setting her hands on her mother's shoulders, "it's not that bad, honest. It's just a few scra—"
"Oh my Lord! Look at your arms!" her mother exclaimed. Kraken wasn't helping her cause; her arms portrayed their bright red gashes like a display. "Oh. Oh my goodness. Oh, Dear God," she rambled.
"Mom, please don't worry about it!" Kraken begged. She couldn't stand to see her mother so distraught. "I feel fine, I swear!"
"Myrtle!" she blew, but paused to collect herself. "Myrtle, who did this to you? Please, just tell me who did this."
Kraken looked down, accidentally bringing attention to her skinned knees. Her mom put her hands over her mouth, trying with no avail to hide tears. "Was this the outcome of yesterday?" she asked. "Did that kid beat you up?" "Oh, no! No, he didn't!" Kraken assured, but paused for a moment. "But...he had an older brother..."
Kraken's mother squeezed her eyes shut and shook her head. "Oh, my baby girl," she cried, and wrapped her arms around her daughter, placing one hand on her head. Kraken instantly winced at the pressure on her tender spot, but she made sure not to show any indication of pain. "Mom, I'm serious; I'm alright," she said, as calmly as she could manage. Her mother pulled away and looked her daughter in the eye. "Don't try and defend this boy," she spoke firmly. "He assaulted you, and that needs to be reported. Do you understand?"
Kraken lowered her gaze. "But...I assaulted someone too. And I wasn't reported. That isn't fair."
Her mother's tears ceased flowing, and her eyebrows furrowed. "Do not say that, young lady. Yesterday is nothing compared to what happened to you. You look like you've been hit by a truck!"
"Yeah, but it's still assault, isn't it?"
Kraken's mother raised her index finger at her daughter. "Stop being so obstinate! That's that young man's parents' business; if they don't care, that's their problem. As for your parents, they care, and you can bet that we will report assault."
Kraken sighed. She knew that arguing with her mother was useless. "Okay," she gave in under her breath.
Her mother nodded. "Good," she said, giving Kraken's back a little pat. "Now, why don't you clean yourself up. There are bandages and ointment in the cabinet behind the mirror. Your father and I will talk about this later."
"Yes, Mom," Kraken obeyed. And she turned and walked to the bathroom.
As she walked to school the next morning, Kraken was thinking about...honestly, Kraken wasn't thinking about anything. There was nothing to contemplate. The night before was no major affair. Her parents had discussed the matter at hand, and both agreed that it needed to be reported to the authorities. They asked Kraken for the name of her assailant and other details they desired to know, and she hesitantly obliged. She didn't argue, but needless to say, she wasn't very enthusiastic about it. She really did believe that it was no big deal, although her parents obviously weren't going to treat it as such.
Everything that Kraken had wanted to mentally rant about had been done the night before. As of now, she didn't feel like continuing it. Of course, she didn't want the word to go around. If anyone heard that she was pressing charges against John, the MVP of the wrestling team, that would definitely not do her reputation any good. She was already a "snobby rich kid" and a "spoiled brat"; she didn't need any more reasons to be picked on.
On her route to school, Kraken passed by the Turf War Lobby. She had seen this incredible monument countless times, but the structure of it was breathtaking every time. The tower started from the ground, gradually growing slimmer as it rose upward and came to a peak at the top. Spiraled around the middle of the edifice was lo and behold, the Great Zapfish. There it sat, day in and day out, excreting it's electricity into the conductors in the tower. Kraken looked up at the aquatic creature, and it looked down on her. Though, it wasn't really looking at her. It couldn't have been. As high up as it was, as small as the young Inkling was, and as crowded as the streets were, there was no way for it to notice her. It only stared blankly at the city it was powering, perhaps wondering how or why it was up there.
Gazing up at the giant fish, Kraken recalled the recent phenomenon that had occurred the past month: when the Great Zapfish was somehow stolen, along with its smaller kin. She remembered the city being in panic, every citizen trying to reserve as much power as they could, because nobody knew how long the fish would be gone. The Inkopolis News reassured everyone that it would be back on the tower before anyone knew it, and that the government was putting their best men to work retrieving it from these thieves. Until then though, the city was forced to ration the emergency power that had been stored for such a time as this. Every student at Kraken's school was completely distraught, worried that their beloved Turf Wars would have to be discontinued. Obviously, Kraken wasn't really affected by the crime; she didn't participate in Turf Wars anyway. So she had to sit through her classmates' whining and complaining for a nice, lengthy month. Throughout the weeks, rumors had been spread about who could have possibly snatched the Great Zapfish. Some thought that it was a conspiracy of the government, while a few others thought that it was a prank the Squid Sisters were pulling on everyone. However, there was one theory that no one wanted to believe. A theory that was quickly shut up once it was spewed. The idea that the crime was an act of revenge. Revenge from the dastardly Octarians. Of course, no one really believed it. And any idiot that did would certainly never admit it. The Octarians, the race that the Inklings had battled in the Great Turf War nearly a hundred years ago, were long gone. Nobody had heard of or seen the Octarians ever since the war. No one knew where they were, and no one could even confirm that they were still alive. It was simply a preposterous idea! It couldn't have been them. But sure enough, before the city could take any more of the electricity shortage, the Great Zapfish was returned, and so was Inkopolis's power. Although no information was shared on who took it and how it was taken back, the city seemed content despite. However, on occasion Kraken would wonder what had actually happened, and whether or not it could have been the Octarians...
Beneath the Great Zapfish was the waiting room to the Turf Wars, with sliding glass doors that led to a room lit up by screens on every wall, projecting colorful images and pictures. There the Inklings would wait for the next available match to take part in, as they were randomly placed on separate teams and given certain colors for their ink. Kraken used to go to the lobby almost every day when she was younger, whenever she was able. She knew that the Ranked Battles increased her Level more quickly than any other battle mode, but the simple Turf Wars were always her favorite. The easy concept of covering the most ground with her own color seemed more engaging than only covering one or two small areas of turf, luring a tower to one side of the arena, or being the first team to bring a golden weapon to the opposite base. Strange ideas for matches, Kraken considered them to be. But the thrill of the plain Turf War was what she enjoyed the most. It was the perfect battle mode to use her Krak-On-Splat Roller on, which she used for covering enemy turf when the other team was distracted. She felt like she was a secret agent, or maybe a ninja, carrying out an undercover mission. No one knew she was there, and she could use that to her advantage.
But now a days, Kraken didn't visit the Turf War Lobby as often. Not because she didn't want to. But with her increased schoolwork and no one to go with, she basically had lost the time and motivation to walk the ten blocks to the yellowish tower. And with the days that passed, her Roller only collected dust, as did her Rank.
Huh? Suddenly, Kraken saw something. Out of the corner of her eye, she could have sworn that something was there, something out of the ordinary. Kraken turned her head around in a flash, and found herself gazing at a sewer grate. Nothing was there, but she felt slightly unnerved. There was no abnormality to be found, but a small feeling in the back of her mind told her that something was there. Somewhere lurking, unable to be seen. But Kraken knew that she was being silly. There certainly wasn't anything there! Why would there be? Who would be insane enough to hide in a sewer grate anyway? Don't be stupid, she reminded herself, and continued her walk. She turned away from the manhole, just before a shadowy figure lifted it up, and peered at her.
After about ten minutes of strolling, Kraken finally arrived at the school building. Dozens of children and teens were already there, chatting and loitering about the premise. Kraken reached for her backpack's side pocket and pulled out her SquidPod. It was only 7:43. She had a good half-hour until homeroom started. And with that, Kraken walked over to one of the benches to the side of the courtyard and sat down. Setting her backpack beside her, she pulled her earbuds out of the front pocket. Though before she could plug them into her SquidPod and pull up her playlist, Kraken heard from across the courtyard what she had prayed she wouldn't hear.
Her heartbeat went into hyperspeed, and she grabbed the back of the bench. Pointing in her direction, and already advancing, was John. He wore the same outfit that she saw him in the day before, with the only new feature being a bandage in his cheek. "Stay right where you are, you pest!" he commanded. Kraken, on the contrary, was fully prepared to get up and run away. Where she would run, she didn't care. Just anywhere that he wasn't.
Though it turned out that she needed not to prepare for an escape. For in front of her suddenly appeared a familiar figure, still wearing the black beanie.
"Hey, John!" she greeted. "How ya feeling today?"
John stopped in his tracks. And he refused to move any further. He only pointed.
"You! You're gonna pay for what you did!"
Rebecca placed her hands on her hips. "Oh, am I?" she teased. "Would you like to try and make me?"
The fury burned in John's eyes. And he made an attempt to advance again.
"Are you sure you wanna do it here?" Rebecca asked. "There are so many people here watching. And with what happened yesterday...are you prepared to fail again in front of another audience?"
"I mean, I dunno if your reputation can take any more of this," she stated, closing her eyes and shrugging conspicuously. "You've already been beaten once! You think adding another one to your record is gonna help you out any?"
John put his fists at his sides, and if he had clenched them any harder, it looked as if his hands would break. He knew that he was being watched. Around him were countless faces staring at him, waiting to see what he would do. He was definitely thinking, and he didn't seem content with the solution he had concluded.
Wielding his overused pointer finger, he leered at Rebecca. "You better watch your back, kid," he threatened. He peered over at Kraken, who was peeking past her knees behind Rebecca. "You too, pest!" Kraken brought her face closer to her legs as she hugged them more tightly. And with that, John lumbered away, and he disappeared into the school building. The staring faces vanished. No one dared look at him, fearing that he was angry enough to do something very desperate. He was certainly like a car hanging off the edge of a cliff, like in those early-morning cartoons, ready to plummet down to the earth at the landfall of a butterfly. And no one was willing to test the analogy.
Rebecca turned to see her damsel-in-distress, and Kraken looked back up at her knight-in-a-black-beanie. "You okay?" she asked, seeing the terror in her face. "Y—yeah, I'm fine," Kraken responded.
Suddenly Rebecca let out a hearty laugh. "Girl, we gotta stop meeting like this!" she joked.
Kraken chuckled. "Yeah, I know. But thanks again for helping me again."
Rebecca puffed and flicked her hand downwards. "Don't mention it."
She stood there for a moment, and then motioned to the bench with a nod of her head. "Can I sit with you?" she asked.
Kraken paused. Nobody had asked to sit...with her...in a long time. "Uh, well...I guess," she shrugged.
Rebecca smiled, and eagerly ran to the bench and sat down. She sat up straight and propped her hands on her lap. Why is she so excited? Kraken wondered.
"So," Rebecca started, "how ya feeling?"
"Uh," Kraken responded, scratching the back of her neck, "I think I'm feeling alright."
"Well that's good. How did your parents take it?"
"I—I'd rather not discuss that."
There was a momentary silence. Rebecca had been left with a discussion ender.
"Well," she attempted again, "how was your day yesterday?"
"Um, it was okay."
"Did ya do anything exciting?"
"Uh...no, not really."
"You seem kinda down today, hon. Something the matter?"
Kraken paused. "No, I'm okay," she said. "I'm just not feeling very talkative, that's all."
"Ah," Rebecca understood. "I see."
The momentary silence returned once again, but Kraken was the one to break it.
"Why are you so excited to talk to me?" she asked.
Rebecca turned to her. "What? What do you mean?"
"Well, like, why do you seem excited to be around me?"
Rebecca furrowed her brow. "'Cause I'm happy to see you! I enjoyed talking to you the other day. And I was excited to see you today."
Kraken looked down. Excited to...see me?
Rebecca smiled. "I haven't had a friend in a long time. It's kinda cool to have one."
Kraken looked back up, shock plastered on her face. "F—f—friend?"
"Well...yeah. I mean...that's what I thought..."
Kraken had really liked Rebecca. She too had enjoyed their walk together. But she hadn't thought so far as to think...that they were...friends.
"You mean," Kraken asked shyly, "that w—we...are..."
Rebecca lifted her chin, edging for her to finish her sentence. "Yeah, keep going," she goaded, making a circle-motion with her hand.
"Well...you mean...we are...are..."
"C'mon, girl! Spit it out already!" Rebecca yelled.
Kraken leaned back at the outburst. "We're f—friends?"
Rebecca's smile grew even larger. "Yeah! There you go!"
But Kraken didn't smile back, and that concerned her. "What's the matter?" she asked.
Kraken lowered her gaze to her fiddling hands. "I've—I've never had a—I mean, I used to, but they—they weren't really—"
Rebecca rolled her eyes and groaned. "Kraken, are we gonna do this all day?"
Kraken squeezed her eyes shut and ceased her hand-fiddling. "I'm sorry, Rebecca. I get kinda stupid when I talk about stuff like this."
"What? Stuff like what?"
Rebecca was officially confused. "Um, explanation, please?"
Kraken winced. "Sorry. The thing is...I used to have friends. But they kinda, for lack of a better word, dumped me. And so...I kinda have a hard time with friendship, if...that makes sense..."
Rebecca understood, and she was not happy about it. "Dump?" she questioned. "Dump you? Why would they dump you?"
Kraken commenced with her hand-fiddling. "It's kinda a long story."
Rebecca nodded with a frown.
"I'll tell you later, okay?"
Rebecca looked back up at her friend. And her smile returned. "You know you don't have to, right?" she asked. "I'm not forcing you or anything."
Kraken shrugged. "Well, isn't that what you're supposed to do in a friendship? Trust each other with secrets? I mean, not that I'm an expert or anything."
Rebecca chuckled. "I guess so. So does that mean you'll tell me your real name too?"
Kraken jumped. "What? My real name?"
"C'mon, did you really expect me to believe that your real name is Kraken?"
Kraken blushed. "I...kinda did..."
Rebecca laughed. "So are you gonna?"
Kraken thought for a second, and then nodded. "Sure, I will. But later, okay?"