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Self Control

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Sunlight beamed through the blinds of Rider’s apartment. The familiar yet obnoxious cries of the cicadas blared across the city, reminding the teenager curled up on his bed that it was indeed, Summer. It was the first day of July, and recently an unbearable heat had settled down upon the residents of Inkopolis. Inklings had thankfully evolved to be accustomed to the dramatic weather that plagued their Earth, at this point of the year the temperature rarely ever dipped below 100°. But for whatever reason, today felt even more unaccommodating than usual.

“Above 120° again…?” Rider muttered, scrolling through the weather app on his phone. “Almost makes you wish it would rain.”

It was so hot, Rider didn’t even bother sleeping with any sheets last night. It was the kind of summer day that felt humid and dry at the same time. The AC was blasted on high, and all of his blinds were closed in a desperate attempt to stave the heat away.

Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, Rider managed to pull himself out of bed and drag his feet to the kitchen. He lived in a modest studio apartment, like most inklings around his age did. It wasn’t anything fancy or high class...but it suited his needs. Moderate rent, working utilities and a location that wasn’t too far away from the station. Most of all, Rider was grateful he was able to afford living on his own. He didn’t consider himself someone that got along well with other folks, and couldn’t see that low tolerance going away any time soon.

Mindlessly gnawing on a granola bar he found hiding in his cupboard, Rider peeked out his window through the fire escape. His neighborhood was just as bustling as it always was, the heat clearly not deterring the residents of Inkopolis from going about their business. Jellyfish and other sea life hurried along, leading their lives like they always do. What could possibly require so much urgency on a Saturday? Especially on a day as miserable like this.

“Goddamnit, it really is too fucking hot…”

Muttering to himself he lightly banged his head against the window. He was pleasantly surprised to find the glass was cool, thanks to the air conditioning being set to high, but his brief respite didn’t last long.

The weekend had finally arrived. But as Rider ruminated, he realized he wasn’t too interested in actually doing anything today. Maybe he could relax for once...forget about Turf Wars and constantly training for tournaments...maybe he could get some extra sleep...do some cleaning….

Bzzt. Bzzt. Bzzt.

Forget all that I guess.

Reluctantly, Rider lifts up his phone and squints at an overly cheery text.

>Hey Rider!!! Sure is hot today isn’t it??? Was wondering if you wanted to Turf War today!!!!!!! It’s been awhile!!!!! :DDDDDDD

Rider briefly entertains the thought of simply not responding, or instead chucking his phone straight out the window. Nothing was stopping him from just blatantly ignoring the message (like he’s done many times before). But the part of him that prioritized maintaining his social life won out in the end.

He had had to admit he hadn’t seen his friends in awhile, since unlike Rider, Goggles still attended public schooling. It was only Rider’s personal assumption that Goggles probably wasn’t the most diligent of students. But either way, classes still consumed most of Goggle’s social hours. That of which he usually devoted to after school practice with Blue Team.

>yeah, i don’t mind. meet up at the plaza around noon? bigger pool of ppl around that time too

>Yay!! See you then!!!!!!!!!

Rider caught himself smiling at his phone.

---

The trip to Inkopolis square wasn’t too eventful. Other than the absurd heat, of course.

Rider had a strict principle of not taking off his jacket if he can help it. One could argue it was a pride thing, or maybe the inkling secretly had a self conscious side. But today, he didn’t care what anyone had to say on the matter. This was a little ridiculous.

Rider noted that the train was fairly empty for a Saturday, it seems he managed to just miss the morning rush. He decided on a seat close to the door, across from a group of middle schoolers chatting loudly. They appeared to be in a passionate argument over which Off the Hook member was cooler, utterly unconcerned with disturbing any other passengers onboard.

He leans back into his seat and rests his eyes, tuning in on the conversation as a means to distract himself. Rider however couldn’t help but start thinking about his time back in grade-school...the heat of the summer pulling him back to his first memories of Turf War.

While the Splattershot Jr. treated him well, Rider personally didn’t have very much self confidence in his aim at the time. He took the first opportunity he could to use a more melee-oriented weapon. Though as it turned out, rollers were a line of weapon that required way more precision and skill then a basic splattershot. Rider wasn’t the type to back down from a challenge though, and managed to eventually crawl his way to the top of S+ with his treasured Gold Dynamo Roller.

Times certainly were simpler back then...he kind of missed it. Not that his life wasn’t laidback right now. But as time passed, a certain uncomfortable reality lurked in the back of his mind. Turf Wars and tournaments...messing around with Yellow-Green team and Blue Team...this was all going to have to end at some point.

Sure, Professional Turf War was an option, but did Rider really have the talent for that kind of lifestyle? As much as he’d love to play silly games for high schoolers for the rest of his life, it just didn’t seem realistic in his mind. He already felt himself getting worn out by his unfulfilling part-time job. Soon he would no longer be the feared and tyrannical Black Inky Rider, he’s just gonna be...another high school dropout.

“C’mon…” Rider pinched the bridge of his nose. “Snap out of it.”

He was going to be seeing one of his good friends soon after all, and here he was making himself all depressed for no reason. Rider turns his attention back to the window in an attempt to reorient himself, focusing on each individual telephone pole flying by. He couldn’t help but realize that’s how life has felt for him these days.

Taking a meditative breath, he closes his eyes again, letting the rhythmic clack, clack, clack of the train cradle him to sleep.

Ugh...it really was too hot today.

---

“Rider!”

Rider glanced up and was greeted with Goggles waving excitedly at him. Smiling like an idiot, the inkling rushed over, paying no mind at all to the people he consistently bumped into.

“Haha, I beat you here!” Goggles gloated.

“It’s not like we were racing in the first place…” Rider quickly excused, trying not to let his childish competitive side get to him.

“You’re not wearing your jacket either!! Limited edition Rider!”

“Wh-what are you even saying?” Rider was already getting flustered. “And forget that, why the hell are you still wearing that thing? It’s like a million degrees outside.”

Goggles looked down at his ski jacket, and rolled the sleeves up in an attempt to transform it into summer gear. “But I like it.” he simply stated, holding his arms out.

Seriously, what planet is this kid living on, Rider quietly thought to himself, before he felt Goggles suddenly grab his hand.

“C’mon, c’mon, let’s go! You know Saturday’s are always busy!!”

“G-Goggles! You need to seriously calm down…”

“But, it’s been so long since I’ve seen you!” Goggles beamed, giving Rider one of his typical smiles. “I’ve been looking forward to seeing you all week!”

Rider couldn’t help but get a little embarrassed at that one. I mean, to be fair, he always felt embarrassed around Goggles...but he especially isn’t used to having people admit they enjoy his company.

Giving in to Goggles’ enthusiasm, Rider let himself be dragged into the Deca Tower, his cumbersome weapon case trailing along with him.

They both step inside the elevator, and Rider immediately breathes a sigh of relief. Thankfully the inside of the building appeared to have proper ventilation. He really wasn’t sure how much more he could stand of that ridiculous heat.

The elevator swiftly rose to the main floor, and both squids were greeted by the hustle and bustle one should expect from the main entrance hall.

Saturday primetime always boasted an extremely large gathering of cephalopods, Squid and Octopi alike. Many pairs and groups of friends were idly chattering in various corners of the facility, assumedly to take a break from the scorching heat outside. Jellyfish were stationed at desks lining around the edge of the hall, waiting to help players get registered for set battles.

The deadly combination of the constant conversation and announcements echoing from the PA system managed to fill the entire hall, making it hard for Rider to even think. The mood seemed to have the opposite effect on Goggles however, as he doubled his efforts to single-handedly drag Rider to the Turf War gate.

“C’mon, c’mon, c’mon! You walk soooo slow Rider!”

“You know you’re not supposed to run in here right…” Rider scolds, shifting his weight backwards in an attempt to slow down the blue inkling.

As the two of them bumbled their way over to the glowing green gate, they didn’t notice a lone inkling’s head snap up from his phone as they passed by.

“Huh, wasn’t expecting to see those two here today.”

---

“It’s like, waaaaay too hot today.”

“Weren’t you arguing with me about this earlier…?”

“But don’t you agree?”

He did. Rider really did. It didn’t need to be this ridiculously fucking hot. But constantly complaining about it wasn’t going to help anything.

The stage rotation at the moment happened to be The Reef and New Albacore Hotel, the half hour time slot set on the latter. Rider silently wished to himself that they were playing in an air-conditioned Mako Mart instead, but thankfully the high up rise and large quantity of water managed to somewhat bring the temperature down.

Rider was also grateful the ticket decided to pair him and Goggles up together for this round. While he didn’t mind occasionally being on the opposite team of his friends, he didn’t savor the thought of having to splat someone as nice as Goggles over and over.....he wouldn’t want to let his team down over something as trivial as that. Or as embarrassing either.

The assigned colors were Pink vs. Light Blue, a Dualie Squelcher and Kensa Splattershot had joined them together on the spawn point.

Goggles meanwhile couldn’t resist the urge to tease Rider about his new hair color. “Haha Rider! You almost have the same hair color as I usually do! But I think you’ll always look best with lime!”

Clearly taken off guard by the sudden compliment, Rider turns his head attempting to hide his blush. “Light blue looks a little flashy on you, though...” he mumbles.

“What’s wrong with that? Like bright lime-green isn’t flashy!”

Rider smirked at that. “Then keep it, maybe girls will pay more attention to you.”

“Heheh, maybe then, if you like it that much.”

While their teammates rolled their eyes at their obnoxious flirting, the intercom suddenly crackled on, and everyone hurried into their proper positions.

“3, 2, 1,”

“GO!”

“Good luck Rider! Booyah! Booyah!” Goggles yelled before immediately rushing ahead, carving a path along the right route.

The other two members rushed out as well, both heading through the middle enclave. It appeared they were making a beeline for the middle platform, in an attempt to get an upper hand on the opposing team.

Rider decided then he would take care of the left route, his Dynamo suited for covering the narrow walkways with ease. With a couple of well aimed flicks, he managed to get the rest of the base covered in no time at all.

Naturally, conflict was already occurring on the main platform. From what he could tell, the other team had two close-range users along with a charger. Rider spied an enemy Octobrush furiously painting towards the bridge located on Blue Team’s side. Rider quickly hid in the ink, and managed to successfully take the Brush by surprise, dispatching them swiftly. He continued his trek to the middle, using the range of his weapon to his advantage and kept the left side of the platform covered.

Rider quickly swiveled his head to try and catch a peek at Goggles, but couldn’t spot him anywhere on the middle portion. He swam over to the right side of the map, and decided to buy some time by inking what he could of the enemy’s base. Tossing a splat bomb across the railing to make sure no one was waiting for him, he makes his dash across the bridge. Unfortunately, he soon found himself immediately regretting that decision.

“Found you Rider~”

Before Rider could even turn around to see who was taunting him, he found himself splatted from behind in an instant. That voice...that...obnoxious, sing-songy voice, that could only mean…

“Alohaaaaaa!”

Appearing out of thin air, Goggles waved his splattershot like a mad man, excitedly calling out to the S4 member. Subsequently remembering where he was, he instantly dived back into his ink as the enemy charger took a potshot at him. Getting cooked didn’t seem to be of any concern for Goggles however, as he quickly swam over to the edge of the bridge to say hello.

Aloha playfully blew on the barrel of his .52 Gal before lifting it back to battle stance. He was donning a camo baseball cap and a Black Polo shirt as means for a disguise, explaining why neither Goggles or Rider recognized him in the match briefing.

“Hey now, hey now, we’re enemies right now, remember?” Aloha playfully jested before aiming his .52 at the splashes moving towards him. Goggles had no interest in fighting, and simply splashed around in the ink, effortlessly avoiding his shots.

“I can’t believe we got paired up together! What are the chances!!”

At this point Rider had respawned, and was now gawking at the strange display of Goggles playing footsies with a highly skilled opponent, while trying to hold a conversation at the same time. Why couldn’t he apply that freakish ability of his to ranked matches...

“Tch, can’t believe he got me like that…” Rider angrily grumbled, before pushing his way back to the center.

While this wasn’t news to anyone, Rider wasn’t particularly fond of the the oh-so-popular Aloha. Well...he didn’t hate him. But he certainly talked too much, showed off too much, and had a non-existent concept of what personal space was supposed to be.

Don’t get him wrong though, he was just as surprised to see Aloha here as Goggles was. He assumed the S4 players wouldn’t want to waste their time on something as casual as Turf War. Everyone had their own way of letting off steam he supposed.
“Goggles! Stop messing around and focus on taking the middle!” Rider yelled from the top of the ramp, visibly annoyed.

“Soooorrrryyyy!!” Goggles chimed and tossed a couple burst bombs at Aloha before running off.

Knowing he was out-matched by Aloha’s .52 gal in terms of speed, Rider decided to play defensively for now. Both teams were still having a fairly even fight, so he decided to join Goggles again on the middle platform.

Keeping tabs on his other teammates, he noted the Dualies attempting to cut a path through the enemy base, while the Kensa splattershot played gatekeeper on the far right ramp.

“We’ve got a little less than a minute left, keep your cool Goggles.”

“Haha! I should be saying that to you Rid--AUGH!” Before he could finish his sentence, Goggles was immediately was silenced by the enemy team’s charger.

Rider shut his eyes in frustration, his thoughts immediately rushing back to the goofy dance he saw Goggles doing 10-seconds ago. Nonetheless he readied his roller, knowing he was gonna have to start playing for keeps now.

Tossing a splat bomb up to the platform to scare the charger away, Rider quickly did a 180 and inked his way back over the middle section. The Dualies had appeared to have made it across the bridge safely, but was shortly thereafter dispatched by Aloha, who also decided to make his advance to the middle at the last minute.

Still ticked off by their earlier encounter, Rider had to hold himself back from doing anything reckless. Burning through his Ink Armor and crushing Aloha with his Dynamo sounded like a great idea at the time, but he knew a rash tactic like that would only end up backfiring on him. Banking on Goggles respawning soon and hopefully flanking him from the back, he bought time by zoning Aloha with splat bombs.

“Ooh, nice try!” Aloha shouted before throwing a Splash Wall out, giving him the chance he needed to quickly shoot a path by Rider and swim to the middle.

Shit. Rider was even more agitated now, chastising himself for forgetting his earlier note about weapon speed. While the tide of the battle was still unclear, Aloha planting himself in the center stage gave Pink Team the advantage. He knew one mistake could cost him the whole match.

Acting on instinct, he spun around slamming his Dynamo down with all the strength he could muster, in a desperate attempt to tail end Aloha. Rider’s plan was for naught however, as he watched his ink fling uselessly off his target.

Aloha always seemed to have a trick up his sleeve.

“You’re gonna have to do better than that Rider!” Aloha shouted, before raising his arm up and shouting out a hearty ‘Booyah!’ The cheers from his teammates began to gradually swirl around him.

Booyah Bomb? When did Aloha start use Booyah Bomb? Rider’s mind suddenly flashes to the splash wall he threw out during their earlier encounter, and curses himself for not being as familiar with shooters as he should.

Rider felt himself starting to panic. With only 30 seconds left on the clock, he knew this would tip the scales in Pink Team’s favor. As a last resort, he began flicking his roller as a means to burn through his ink armor, but he knew it wouldn’t accomplish much.

Feeling at a loss to do, he then notices out of the corner of his eye that Goggles happened to be super jumping over to him.

“Took him long enough…” he muttered, not sure what backup could accomplish in such a short amount of time. But Rider really should have learned a long time ago not to misunderestimate his idiot teammate.

Aloha wasn’t even allowed the privilege to shout his last Booyah, before suddenly being crushed by a Splashdown from 20 feet above.

Rider could barely even hear the announcer shout “Game!” as his vision was obscured by a whirlpool of blue ink. Being so close the sight of impact was enough to knock him flat on his ass, Aloha being similarly flung a couple feet away.

“Did we do it!?” Goggles’ head snapped up at the leaderboard, completely oblivious of his two companions sprawled out on the ground next to him.

Groaning, Rider mustered the strength to sit up. He looked on up over at the screen as well, trying to hide his nervousness about the results.

“Aaaaand…...Light Blue Team wins!” the announcer shouts, Judd victoriously holding his flag up high. They had somehow managed to take the match by 5%.

“Yaaay! We did it Rider!” Goggles exclaims, quickly springing to his feet.

“Maybe if you didn’t let your guard down, that match wouldn’t have been so stressful…” Rider couldn’t help but grumble out. He slowly managed to pick himself up off the ground, using his Dynamo as leverage.

He then wastes no time in lecturing Goggles. “What took you so long to respawn anyway?” he sharply accused, jabbing a finger at Goggles’ chest.

“I-I was inking our base, heheh…” Goggles sheepishly admitted, yelping as Rider pinched one his cheeks and began to tug out of pure frustration.

“I was waiting for you to back me up…” he growled.

“B-But I needed to fill my super meteeeerrrrr!”

“Go easy on him Rider!” They both stopped their play fighting and turned to see Aloha walking towards them, fanning himself with his cap. “Isn’t it more interesting this way? You won because of him after all.”

Rider huffs at the comment, but let’s go of Goggles anyways. “Yeah...I guess….”

“I have to say Goggles, you really did me in with that last one~”

“Thanks! But you were great too Aloha!! That one-on-one you had with Rider was sooooo cool!”

“Ha! so you say. Even though Rider didn’t manage to even splat me once~” Aloha said smirking, peeking over at Rider to gauge his reaction.

Aloha wasn’t ignorant of the S+ Tyrant’s opinion of him, he was in fact extremely aware that Rider found him painfully annoying. He even made an attempt to tone back the more obnoxious qualities of his personality, the first time they met. He was quick on the come up however that Rider seemed to have a distaste for people in general.

So naturally, he went ahead and made it his personal goal to get under Rider’s skin as much as possible.

“Shut up...this isn’t a good stage for rollers, that’s all.” Rider retorted, not even bothering to look at him.

“Hmmm?” Aloha spun his cap on his finger a few times before flipping it back on his head. “We should pair up some time then, we’d make a good team don’t ya think?”

“Like I’d ever pair up with a weirdo like you.” Rider stated, still with his back turned. He slung his Dynamo over his shoulder, and began walking back towards the storage room to retrieve his case.

Aloha laughed, a little disappointed Rider wouldn’t play along with his game. “That’s implying Goggles is any less of a weirdo than I am!” he shouted back.

“Then that makes you a weirdo too Rider!” Goggles chimed in.

“Can it, idiot.”

---

“It’s so hot today, so hot!”

“Then take your coat off already…”

It was nearing 6PM and the blazing heat hadn’t seemed to settle down one degree. Goggles and Riders got a couple more Turf War matches in, but Aloha instead decided to play Ranked for the rest of the day.

They stepped out together back into the city square, worn out by their long day of battling.

“Well...I guess it’s time I start heading home. I had a good time. Cya.”

Rider re-adjusted the strap on his weapons case before starting his trek back to the station. He didn’t make it too far though, as he felt Goggles grab his arm.

“You’re going home already?”, disappointment obvious in his voice.

Rider tried to mask his frustration and turns to face him. “I mean...yeah? I’m tired. This heat is seriously draining the life out of me.”

“But don’t you wanna hang out more? Let’s get a meal somewhere together!” Goggles begs, hope twinkling in his eyes.

A feeling of conflict arose in Rider again. He genuinely felt exhausted, by the heat, by the trip to the square and from having to keep up with Goggles’ antics all day. Not to mention his encounter with Aloha managed to successfully put a damper on his mood.

But on the other hand...he also liked Goggles. A lot. You know, as a friend. And he also knew this was a chance to have some genuine one-on-one time with him...So he supposes he could...It’s just a meal right…? There wasn’t any food at home either...Nothing good anyways...

“Going out to eat huh~?”

Rider instinctively flinched as he felt a hand clutch his shoulder. He turned to find Aloha, still in his goofy disguise, beaming at the two of them.

“Sounds like a good time, I can pay!” Aloha offered.

“Really!?” Goggles openly gasped.

“I’ll pass.”

Rider lugged the strap of his weapon’s case up on his shoulder again, and executed his escape. So much for that plan...maybe he could text Goggles about it next weekend.

But Aloha didn’t want to take no for an answer, and managed to get in front of Rider before he could disappear into the crowd. Rider was having a difficult time telling if the dramatic expression on Aloha’s face was genuine, or another one of his famous routines to guilt trip Rider into doing something stupid for him.

“For such a hot day, you sure are acting cold towards me, Rider.”

“Get out of my way.” Rider attempts to shove past him again but is unsuccessful. “Do you think I have time for this? I said move it.”

“I’m serious too.” Aloha’s gaze unwavering. “What in the world did I do to make you hate me this much?”

Goggles, overhearing the conversation started getting nervous. Rider and Aloha fight a lot, sure, you couldn’t leave them in the same room together for 10 minutes before someone lost an arm. But he’s never seen Aloha use this tone of voice before.

Rider glares back, feeling himself get pissed off. “I don’t know, Aloha. Maybe cause it’s 5,000 fucking degrees outside and you insist on dancing in front of me like a squidling goalie at his first soccer game.”

“Oooh, I get it now!” Aloha lifts the brim of his cap up, bearing a nasty grin.
“Mad I knocked you down a few pegs in front of your boyfriend, huh?”

Okay, that did it. Rider quickly slid his bag off his shoulder, fully prepared to smash this asshole’s face in, but was stopped in his tracks by Aloha bursting out in sudden laughter. All Rider could do was stare blankly at him like an idiot.

“Hoo boy, sorry. It’s just way too much fun to mess with you.” Aloha giggled, pulling his hat back down. Rider was still debating in his head whether it was worth it or not to break this guy’s nose.

Aloha suddenly thrust his hand out. “What do you say Rider, truce?”

Why did this guy have to be such a such a fucking nutcase.

“No way.”

“C’mon, don't be like that! I said I was sorry! I know I’ve teased you a lot in the past but I can’t help it!” Aloha begged, still grinning.

Then suddenly he made his voice real quiet, and moved in a bit closer, just loud enough for Rider to hear.

“You’re just so cute when you get all worked up, you know that right?”

Rider felt his entire face change 8 different shades of red, unsure whether it was out of embarrassment or anger. Maybe both. After about 30 seconds of stunned silence, he finally got a hold of his senses and roughly shoved himself past Aloha.

“O-Oh! Bye Rider! Thanks for playing with me today!” Goggles quickly called out, slightly confused by why Rider suddenly stormed off like that.

Rider, not forgetting his manners, managed a quick wave to Goggles before continuing to book it to the fence entrance. He could still feel Aloha staring a hole through his back as he ran away.

God, he couldn't stand that guy.