Any squid worth their salt has taken biology classes in school.
Despite the lack of a skeletal bone structure, Inklings are capable of maintaining their humanoid form through densely compacted skeletal muscle tissue. This muscle tissue is able to rapidly break down and reconstitute itself to allow Inklings to change from being a kid to a squid, and back again. When in humanoid form, the same ink-like matter that forms an Inkling’s muscular structure also forms several organs which are similar to those that humans had thousands of years ago. The most complex system of organs the humanoid form of an Inkling possesses is its digestive system.
Squid ancestors of the modern day Inkling already had rather complex digestive systems that were only made more complex as they evolved. This meant that not only do modern day Inklings have a stomach and an esophagus, but they also have a glottis, a thoracic diaphragm, and a pyloric antrum. These organs and body parts all came together to produce a very nasty reaction for an unfortunate Inkling named Arnick.
It all happened while Arnick was in the middle of swallowing a cup of tea. His glottis, the opening between the vocal folds near his larynx, was shut to prevent the tea from entering his respiratory system. At the same time, however, Arnick had just received a shock which traveled through his somatic nervous system to cause a sudden contraction in his thoracic diaphragm. In laymen terms, at the same time as he was swallowing his tea, this jolt to his nervous system forced him to take a rather sudden deep breath. This however could not be done because, as mentioned before, his glottis was closed.
As his lungs expanded in hopes of getting air that was not there, another action occurred in his pyloric antrum, an opening to the body of the stomach. Due to this sudden shock to Arnick’s nervous system, the antrum closed itself off entirely, leaving the contents of his stomach only one place left to go: up his esophagus. Combined with the difference in pressure caused by the sudden attempt to breathe at an inopportune time, and the lack of air necessary, the contents of Arnicks, mostly empty, stomach began to shoot straight up.
Normally, this would induce what is scientifically known as vomiting, but since Arnick’s stomach was mostly empty, there was nothing in him to vomit. The combined effect of these actions in his pharyngolaryngoesophagogastric apparatus resulted in Arnick doing something that no one really wants to do in public.
This is the reason why when Tetrox asked, “Hey Nicky? Do you think I’m pretty?” Arnick’s immediate response was as follows:
“WHAAHOOOHHAAACCKKK! BBLLAARRGGGHHKKK!!! GAAAACCCKKAAHHHUUURRRKKKK!”followed a very nasty coughing fit, a sensation of nausea, and him covering his mouth as he ran to the bathroom as fast as he could.
This was NOT the reaction Tetrox was hoping for.
Tetrox stared wide-eyed at the now empty booth seat where Arnick had been sitting just a moment ago. A few seconds later, she then face planted herself right into the table. To say that she was disappointed with Arnick’s response would be an understatement. She was crushed by it. First there was the incident this morning with Arnick leaping out of his futon to slam against the wall, then his extreme aversion to her walking around in a t-shirt and panties. Now with the reaction he just gave to her question, Tetrox came to what she believed to be the only conclusion.
She believed that Arnick must find her repulsive.
“Are you SQUIDDING ME?!” Tetrox thought back to herself, “Girl, that can’t be it! You know damn well you ain’t ugly, and if he has a problem with the way you look, then who give’s a flying fish about it!? He ain’t worth it! If butterin’ him up ain’t gonna get you the results you want, then you’ll just have to find some other way to do it!”
Tetrox leaned back and stared at the restaurant ceiling. She sighed and tried not to think about what she was doing here. She knew that she had a very specific reason and purpose to be part of this exchange program. She also knew what the alternatives were if she couldn’t get Arnick to like her. One part of her mind was right that whether Arnick found her attractive or not shouldn’t really bother her.
But it did.
It may have been one thing if he had just told her “no” and be done with it. Something like that she could have handled. But with Arnick’s behavior, it made Tetrox start to doubt herself. Was she really that repulsive? Did other Inklings see her the same way Arnick does? Are they also disgusted by her very presence?
“I am telling you, Girl, it DON’T MATTER!” the confidence in Tetrox’s mind yelled back, “There ain’t no reason why you should care about what anyone thinks about you. You could be as ugly as an OctoStriker at an All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet and it won’t mean Skipjack Squit! What matters most is that you be happy for who you are! And so long as you do what you need to do, then it don’t matter what anyone else thinks! ”
Tetrox knew the voice of confidence in her head was right. She really shouldn’t care and up until this moment, she never did. She had only been out of Octo Valley for a little over 24 hours. That shouldn’t have been enough time for an Octoling like her to become attached to anyone or anything. Yet, if that was the case, why was she feeling so heartbroken?
Meanwhile, in the restroom at the other end of the restaurant, Arnick was splashing water in his face as he took several deep breaths to try and get the air back in his lungs. He looked at himself in the mirror with water still dripping from his face. “Good one Arnick,” he said to himself, “That was some smooth move, Ex-Lax!”
Arnick was ashamed of himself. It was not very gentlemanly of him to react that way, but it couldn’t have been helped. When she asked him if he thought she was pretty, time virtually stopped for him. Memories of childhood crushes and awkward situations where he interacted with girls taught him that there are questions that must be answered very, very carefully. A wrong answer can severely change a person’s perception, and can make or break relationships even among acquaintances.
Despite Tetrox’s strange behavior today, Arnick had wanted to tell her that he thought that she was beautiful. That she looked great. He wouldn’t have gone into details unless she pressed him on it so that he didn’t voluntarily dig himself into a hole. And if she did, he was instantly thinking of various possible responses such as talking about her eyes, her smile, her laugh, etc. A right answer could have made the rest of their time together go much smoother.
Instead, he dug it involuntarily when he began retching uncontrollably at the sudden shock of being asked such a weighted question. He stared at the mirror for a couple of minutes trying to mentally brace himself for the fallout that was sure to come when he returned to the table. His mind raced as numerous thoughts came and went. “Maybe when I come back, she’ll ask if I’m okay?! She might be so concerned about my well being that she won’t be mad at me. Even though I bungled answering that question in the most spectacular way imaginable.” He then frowned, “Yeah, there is no way she is not going to be upset at me.”
Arnick stood up, took a deep breath, put his cap back on and adjusted it. “No choice but to face the music I guess,” he thought to himself as he exited the bathroom.
By the time he returned to the table, their orders had come up. Arnick was going to try to start up a conversation to try and apologize to Tetrox, but stopped when another wave of nausea swept over him as he looked at Tetrox. She was eating the Ika Geso Nigiri and had a squid tentacle poking out of her mouth as she chewed. Seeing her sharp teeth biting down and tearing the still fresh squid flesh to shreds made Arnick’s stomach turn.
Despite this, Arnick still sat down and began to eat. He snapped a pair of wooden chopsticks in half, poured a little soy sauce in a small dish for dipping, and began to eat. As he did, the rich flavor of fatty tuna filled his taste buds with joy as he finally got some nourishment that day. The combination of rice, soy sauce, the delicious tuna, a small hint of wasabi but not too much, and the crunchy tempura coating on the outside made for a sushi roll of pure bliss. Arnick couldn’t help but smile from how delicious it was.
Tetrox, however, was not smiling. She hadn’t looked Arnick in the eyes since he sat down. She was eating her sushi, but she wasn’t enjoying it. Or at least she didn’t look like she was. She was too lost in thought. The two ate in relative silence, but as the wave of flavor from the crunchy tuna roll passed, Arnick began to observe and notice Tetrox. He knew she was mad and he was trying to think of what to say to make things up to her. She had finished her Ika Geso Nigiri and was now eating her Ebi Maki. Arnick was going to get some edamame when he finally noticed a small bowl with small, breaded, golden brown, fried balls with a special sauce on them sitting at the edge of the table.
Arnick figured this was the Takoyaki; the special request that Tetrox had ordered specifically for him. There were only about 6 in the dish, and he still had no idea what it was. However, to try and make amends with Tetrox he decided that it wasn’t going to matter and that he should try them out. Grabbing a small toothpick, Arnick poked one of the Takoyaki and took a bite.
“Mmmmm!” Arnick hummed in joy, “These are good!”
Tetrox finally looked at Arnick for the first time since he returned from the bathroom. She saw him happily eat up the Takoyaki with a genuinely happy smile on his face. This made Tetrox herself smile. She had ordered the Takoyaki for a very specific purpose. She wanted to know if Arnick was truly repulsed by any and all things Octarian or Octopus and decided to put that to the test with the Takoyaki. She wanted to know how he reacted. It wasn’t just important for what she was trying to do, but she felt it was important for her well being too. Feeling a little better, Tetrox continued eating the rest of her sushi without the sour look she had on before.
Indigo¹ stopped by the table as she made her rounds, “And how is everything today?” she said with best customer-forward tone of voice.
Arnick looked at her and smiled, “Very good! My compliments to the chef!”
“Thank you! I’ll be sure to pass that on,” she replied with a smile, “Will there be anything else for you today?”
Tetrox shook her head, “Nah, honey, I’m good. I gotta say though, I definitely need to come back here again sometime!”
Indigo responded with a cheerful, “Wonderful!” and then dropped the bomb on Arnick through her next comment to Tetrox. “You’re so lucky to have a boyfriend who loves Octopus so much! I didn’t think he’d be the kind of person for octopus balls!” Arnick froze in his seat. Once again in so many hours he felt the color draining from his body. The nausea from before was starting to return. Arnick did his best to try not to let it overwhelm him. “I’ll go get your check,” Indigo said as she walked away.
Tetrox now turned to Arnick and saw the queasy look on his face. His mouth was puckered inward and small beads of sweat could be seen forming on his forehead. For reasons that she couldn’t explain, seeing Arnick acting like this now that he knew what he was eating made Tetrox…
“Are you for real, darlin’? You were eatin’ them up like a kid in a candy store just a second ago. So what’s wrong?” Tetrox said with a very defiant and upset tone of voice. Arnick didn’t respond. He was trying his hardest to get his nerves and stomach under control. He couldn’t speak as he was focusing all his effort on keeping the takoyaki down. But Tetrox was not going to give him any time to recover.
“You know, you’ve been making me mad all day today, sugar!”
Arnick looked at Tetrox with a stunned look on his face, “HMM!?” was all he could muster for a response.
“I’ve been getting bad vibes off of you ever since you got up this morning, honey. Does octopus really disgust you that much? Do you hate octopus so much that even when it tastes good, it tastes bad as soon as you find out what it is? Is that what this is?” Tetrox practically slammed her fist into the table, “Answer me, dangit!”
Arnick was now finally starting to put together why Tetrox had such a bad attitude. He frantically shook his head and gave as serious a “MM-MM!” as possible.
“Oh is that right? Sure could have fooled me, sugar. I mean look at you. I can tell just by looking at your face! You got cheeks so swollen they’d put a frog at a fly festival to shame!” Tetrox started to remember the look on Arnick’s face from several times earlier that day. She recalled how freaked out he looked each and every time she was close or somewhat even remotely intimate with him. It was a far cry from how he acted the night before.
Tetrox sighed, “You know, Nicky, I gotta tell you something. You really know how to make a girl feel bad, you know that?”
Arnick had no clue what she was talking about and responded with a, “MMM?”
“Last night,” Tetrox said in a somewhat distant tone, “I got the impression that you really cared for me, y'know? You were being so sweet, and now… looking at you today… I don’t think you really meant any of it, did you?”
Arnick looked away to the corner of his eyes. He wasn’t sure if he should respond with a “MM-HMM!” for yes or “MM-MM!” for no. This situation was not helping him at all with getting his nerves settled. He was still battling his digestive system for control. All he had to do was swallow and he’d be able to speak properly.
Tetrox had enough of this one-sided conversation, “I don’t think this whole exchange thing’s gonna work out. I thought maybe, just maybe, it could, but now…”
FINALLY! Arnick took a breath and spoke as quickly as he could, “If I could just get a word in edge-”
“Here’s your check!” Indigo interrupted Arnick as she dropped the small plastic tray with the bill on the table. She then turned around to head to the other tables and had her back turned to both Arnick and Tetrox. For Arnick, time seemed to slow down to a crawl as he watched Tetrox do the unthinkable. With speed, stealth, grace, and agility, Tetrox reached her arm out towards Indigo. To be more specific, she was reaching for Indigo’s butt.
Arnick’s eyes began to grow as wide as dinner plates as he realized exactly what Tetrox was about to do. He leaned forward, reaching an arm out trying to catch Tetrox’s arm. But Arnick wasn’t fast enough. Tetrox placed her thumb and index finger firmly on one of Indigo’s butt cheeks and…
Arnick’s blood ran cold. Before he could say or do anything, Tetrox had already retracted her arm to safety, and as he feared, Indigo turned to look straight at him. Worse still, his arm was still stretched out from his attempt to try and catch Tetrox. Amidst all this there was only one thought going through Arnick’s head:
“I can’t believe you, Nicky! You’re a real scum suckin’ lowlife, you know that?” Tetrox called out with her arms folded across her chest.
Arnick practically shouted, “NO NO NO! WAIT! THIS ISN’T-” but nearly choked on his own ink when he saw their waitress.
Indigo’s eyes were practically glowing with a fiery rage. Her smile, kindness, and customer friendly demeanor had vanished completely. The phrase “Hell Hath No Fury Like A Woman Scorned” didn’t even come close to describing the look on her face as she began to crack her knuckles. (It is worth noting that when cracking knuckles, it’s not the bones that make the cracking sound, but rather air being released from between folds of muscle tissue.)
“A real slimy sea snake in the grass! Toying with a girl’s feelings and then you go and pull a stunt like that!”
“IT WASN’T ME I SWEAR!” Arnick knew he was in hot water. He had no idea why Tetrox seemed so hell bent on making him miserable, but she had clearly upped her game from the last time she had messed with him. He knew he had fouled up with answering her question. He knew his reaction to finding out he was eating octopus happened at the worst possible time. He had even pieced together why Tetrox was angry from earlier this morning. But all that together, he thought, didn’t merit a punishment such as this…
“You take care of the check, honey. I’m outta here.” Tetrox solemnly stood up and walked out of the restaurant. She was hunched forward and had her hands in her pockets.
Arnick jumped out of his seat, “TETROX, WA- GAAAACCCKKKK!!!!”
Arnick’s first mistake was to have his back turned to Indigo. In his concentrated focus on Tetrox, he had almost forgotten the growing aura of horror that was standing right next to his table. All he could think of at the time was Tetrox. But it wasn’t until Indigo put him in a choke hold that Arnick finally began to notice what everyone else in the restaurant had noticed minutes ago.
Arnick was only able to respond with, “AHACKCAN’T-” while flailing his arms around. He reached up to try and pry her arms away, but by the time his hands reached where they were, Indigo had already grasped Arnick around the waist. Using her entire body weight, Indigo leaned back, lifted Arnick right off the ground and…
…slammed him right onto the floor with a German Suplex.
Arnick cried out with, “DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!”
Indigo’s fury was far from sated. “Who do you think you are, huh?” she quickly moved and rolled Arnick around so he was lying on his stomach. Indigo promptly sat right down on his back, reached her arms around his neck, and pulled back as hard as she could to put Arnick into a Camel Clutch. “Think you can just treat women any way you want, you FREAK?!”
Arnick was trying to breath as the clutch was practically closing off his windpipe. If he had a spinal column, Arnick would have been concerned about Indigo snapping it in half. After what felt like forever, Indigo finally released the clutch leaving Arnick gasping for air. Arnick didn’t have time to form a single word before he felt his extremely sore body being picked up.
Indigo now had Arnick in an Argentinian Back Breaker. “I… am getting SICK… And TIRED… OF ALL THIS… SQUIT!” Indigo dropped to her knee, causing a very nasty cracking sound to come from Arnick’s back.
“GAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!” was all Arnick could say at the time.
At this point, Arnick would have had a broken spine, some dislocated ribs, and extreme joint pain if he had any bones. While he didn’t have any of those, just about every single muscle in his body was screaming in agony. And Indigo wasn’t finished with him yet. With him still in her grasp, she twisted him around so that his head rested on her shoulder while he was upside down. His legs were held in place by her hands as she climbed the table.
Then she jumped off of it.
This was going to hurt.
“BUUUUSSSTEEEEERRRRRRRRR!” shouted Indigo.
The last sound that Arnick heard before he passed out was some smart alack in the restaurant hollering out: