Lily visits a friend, and they shoot the breeze.
The air had grown colder by the time Lily had made her way to her next stop.
Leaping through the grate into the floating platform of Tentakeel Hideout, above the Octo Canyon, the inkling was carrying the backpack in which she held the old human laptop she played her mashups from. Also inside were her treasured Dualies set, a half-empty drink bottle, an iPhone 8 Plus, and the radio which connected her with the rest of the New Squidbeak Splatoon.
Lily took a moment to take in the change of environment. In an instant, the city environs had fallen away, the closed, sometimes claustrophobic spaces of the city falling away to open air. Though the Octarians formally owned this space, the area was empty, and felt devoid of people. For a moment she took comfort in the moments of solitary.
There was only a single light source here in the space, illuminating a small cabin, one that had been established at least a year ago - seemingly recent, but before her time. The only other lights belonged to the city, past the massive rocks a few kilometers away that marked the edge of the Octo Canyon, and the stars in the sky, which glimmered in the sky, even as they became less visible past the glow of Inkopolis City.
This place in particular, Tentakeel Hideout... This was the current base of operations for the New Squidbeak Splatoon.
Though nobody besides Lily had been around here for months.
She walked over to the Cuttlefish Cabin, and dropped the bag on the cabin bench, then sat down herself. There were a few moments of silence where she collected herself, letting the cool breeze wash over her, clearing her head. Without looking, she yawned, "Hello, Octavio."
"Nearly forgot about me tonight, didn't you?" replied a male, gurgly voice a few meters to her left.
"Nope. Not at all." She didn't look up to see him, but he knew he was there. "I'm just... so drained right now."
"Oh? The show didn't go well?"
"Heh... Quite the opposite, actually." Lily smiled, and closed her eyes for a few moments, letting them rest. "I spent so much emotional energy tonight... It was just... so, so perfect for what it was. Tavi, they're gonna let me play on the Splatfest stage in a few weeks. I finally got to tell the world today."
"Well deserved, my dear human." Octavio's voice was calm, relaxed. "Any moments in particular standing out to you?"
"Uh... a few. It's all a bit of a blur at the moment." She finally glanced up at him, and lifted herself from the bench toward his resting place. "But I think the whole club shouting the lyrics to 'Now or Never' is gonna be stuck in my brain for a while. Just... Just awesome."
"Heh. C'mere." Octavio gestured her toward him, and the inkling walked right up to his snowglobe. The two shared a 'fistbump' through the glass. "I think you'd do well in the underground, Lily."
"Yeah?" Lily shot a look at him. "From what I remember you telling me of your people, they seem quite kind."
Octavio nodded. "And loyal. The only issue with getting you there at the moment is the whole network of cities and towns and such... that'd be all unpowered."
"Why's that? What's Octopia run on?"
"Usually?" Octavio thought for a moment. "A few of your Zapfishes, to be honest. We wouldn't have any. Before you ask," he started, raising an eyebrow at her, "we have tried alternate energy sources. We're not deep enough underground to have access to geothermal energy, and while our nation has some access to coal and other resources, if I recall from our past experiments in the last hundred years the power plants we installed to process it polluted a few of our caves with horrible air."
Lily nodded. "Ours is about the same story, except a few countries stuck with it, mine included. So, Zapfishes... from the surface I assume?"
"We have no choice." Octavio waved the same tentacle at her. "You know as well as I do, it's clean, renewable energy."
"I get it. Though Inkopolis needs that energy too. Have you considered solar energy?"
"...Lily, that's the sun."
"...We are underground?"
"Tavi, where are we?" Lily gestured around at the Octo Canyon around them.
"Don't you dare tell me we still own this canyon!" The DJ snapped, jabbing a tentacle toward the Cuttlefish Cabin. "What's that cabin over there then?!"
"You misunderstand me. A flat panel with a bunch of photoelectric sensors that takes in sunlight and generates a little electricity. I'm no scientist, but - developed enough, a few panels like that on someone's house can produce enough power for them to live on. Look at all the unused space here." She gestured around at the walls of the canyon, off in the distance. "I bet you could power the entire underground with a large-scale solar farm just on the walls here."
"That's if it's developed to your standard, human." Octavio rolled his eyes. "I see a flaw, however. During the night, or in bad weather here on the surface, how do you expect us to have power?!"
"Octavio..." Lily was confused and concerned. "Surely you guys have developed batteries."
"Of course we have batteries!" Octavio barked. "Those tiny little things can't hold an entire network's power system!"
"Come on, man! Take that technology and scale it up! Just build something to store the energy when it's not being used! Surely you can make 'that but bigger'!"
The two stared at each other for a moment, both slightly irritated, Lily beginning to feel frustrated with him. Fuckin' Octavio, I know you're smarter than that, she thought.
"...Hm." DJ Octavio eyed her carefully, the tinges of a frown behind his tentacle moustache. "I suppose I may have misunderstood. Then what do you propose we do for power while we built your... 'solar network'?"
"...I don't know," Lily acquiesced, sighing and looking away as she softly spoke. "It was just a thought I had had."
"I understand. I'm sorry, Lily." Octavio sighed, and a tentacle rubbed the glass between them. "I don't wish to be upset with you. Much as it's strange to admit, you're the closest thing I've had to a friend this past year."
"Aww, that warms my heart, Tavi." Lily smiled and blushed slightly at the compliment. "Is this another attempt to get me to let you out?"
"No! Not at all!" the octopus grumbled. "...Well, not this time."
Lily snorted. "Well I'm very flattered."
"Really, though... You kept coming back. You... actually talked to me, rather than just writing me off. Your inkling friends did just that. Much as I hate being stuck in here, I appreciate you coming back every week."
"W-wow, uh... thank you, Octavio." Lily let a slight blush of sky blue form on her cheeks.
There was a slight pause. Then Octavio decided to try his luck once more, a smirk forming. "You're about the only inkling I'd consider mating, too," he teased with a huge grin.
"Pff, you know I have a partner, right?" Lily grinned, trying to play it off, but her blush intensified.
"I'm tellin' ya. Once you try these tentacles, there's no going back, baby."
"Oh I-I'm sure." Lily's cheeks were deeply flushed now. "I'm well aware of what those tentacles are good for. I-I don't think I'm into getting intimate out here though, s-so uh, no thanks..."
"What kind of man do you take me for?" Octavio asked, still smirking. "I'd take you to my royal bedchambers, of course. Only the best for my mate."
"Tavi, you must have a lover back home." Lily began to pace aimlessly around his snowglobe, embarassed and nervous.
"None. Never. I don't need one, remember? Besides, I'm royalty. Nobody could stop me from taking after you.\~" To accentuate his point he began wiggling his eyebrows at her.
"O-oh my..." Lily turned away, trying to calm her thoughts. She was somewhat ashamed to feel just how much his words were exciting her - at least, the part of her that she more or less never acted on. Octavio had noticed that the inkling's left hand had drifted near her crotch, very briefly, and grinned to himself.
She glanced back at him, a light smirk on her face. "Just know, I'm not gonna make it easy on you to win me over, Tavi."
"Woe to me," Octavio said simply, smirking back. "One day I'll have you, Lily. I owe it to us to, dear."
"H-heh... well, one day, Octavio." Lily raised an eyebrow. "Hopefully if tensions ease between our people... Even then, I have a girlfriend already, so\~..."
"Pfeh. And what will you do without me in the meantime?" he asked, letting his smirk fade.
"W-well I don't know but right now I... I wanna just... be here, with you, for a bit." A slight pause. Lily's voice had become quieter. "No horniness, no bullshit, just...I just want to enjoy the night." She turned back toward him and knelt down onto the ground staring up into the night sky, partially through the octopus's snowglobe.
"...At least one of us can," Octavio snarked. He paused to think for a moment, then nodded. "Alright, dear human. Let's chill." For his part, he lowered himself down against the glass behind him, letting his tentacles relax as he adjusted himself to gaze upward. Where he noticed his appendages blocking the inkling's view, he adjusted them slightly, curling them inward.
Lily laid herself down, barely beneath the snowglobe, resting her hands beneath her head, relaxing her breathing. "Thanks..."
"You're quite welcome," came Octavio's gently spoken reply.
Lily and Octavio sat in silence as they stared up into the stars.
A few minutes passed. In the moment, the only sounds they heard were of the ocean far from them, their own breathing (her soft, light breaths and Tavi's deep, lightly-labored ones), and the breeze whistling through the trees and the floating platform.
"You must get tired of this view," Lily said quietly, watching the stars flicker above them.
"A bit," the octopus admitted. "There are worse sights I could be stuck with, though..."
The inkling gradually forced her thoughts away from the lewd activities Octavio's comments led her to think on, and shifted to more calming things. How relaxing this moment was to her. How comforting Tavi always seemed...
She felt comfortable, felt calmer. She stood up briefly, stretching her legs.
As she did so, Octavio began to speak softly to her. "Lily. If I may ask... This has been troubling me for a while. Your agent friends seem to have forgotten I'm here. I think I've learned my lesson. Do you think I've learned my lesson?"
"I... forget what you were even in there for, to be completely honest." Lily turned her head to look at him as she lifted and flexed her knees. "And it's been about a year now, right?"
"Something like that." Octavio met her gaze. "Hey, speaking of. It's been a year since you became part of our world, right? Happy anniversary."
"Thanks, Tavi." Lily smiled warmly at him. "Y'know, it's so nice that even you are celebrating me." She turned away again. "Yeah, I'd say you should be released by now. Y'know, assuming you're gonna be good and not do... whatever it was that got you locked up in here again."
"Heh. I sincerely appreciate your words, Lily. I'm more than ready to be released."
"I'm sure, just... I don't know how to do that. I guess the first step is, uh... I should probably let the NSS know that we--"
The brushing of something along her shoulder cut her off.
It was scarred, warm, fleshy, as the appendage slid along her right to her left shoulder, pulling Lily in towards the owner's body.
Finding herself face-to-face with the King.
Lily froze, falling silent as she realised just how big he was up close, as DJ Octavio's tentacles embraced her to him. A spicy scent filled her nostrils as she was held.
Something felt wrong. Even thought she had just said he should be freed... This put her at unease.
"Sshhhh..." One of his eight tentacles stroked over her head, leaning her gently into his. "Don't worry about them."
"H-how... did you free yourself?" Lily's breath was shallow, her movements careful. Her cheeks began to flush again. She caught a glimpse at his snowglobe - the glass dome had been easily lifted and pushed aside.
To be able to do that so swiftly...
"My dear, I've been able to escape for months." Tavi lied through his smirk, caressing her softly. "I only never left because doing so would mean not seeing you again."
"Tavi, I love you but I doubt that that's--"
"You love me? Did I hear that correctly\~?" His smirk widened and his tentacles held her tighter.
Lily's blush deepened. She hadn't meant to phrase it quite like that... Maybe more of a friend with benefits? She didn't feel like she could quite correct herself in this situation though. "U-uhm... I uh..."
"Well, consider me flattered, my dear." Octavio's tentacles brushed over her body once more, then loosened. "Come live with me, Lily. Share my bedchambers at the Palais Takowasa and put some of that human knowledge to use with us. And between you and me..." He leaned toward her ear. "...we have a lot of unfulfilled promises to work out\~"
Lily's cheeks burned, once again remembering all the flirting... After a moment, she pushed at him and extricated herself from his grasp. It sounded fun, and she wanted to see life in Octopia, but she'd established herself in Inkopolis, and she already had a partner, after all... "O-Octavio... I'm honored, I truly am, but I... I can't. I've got too much going for me in Inkopolis to just... drop everything." She dropped her head and sighed. "I would love to visit Octopia one day, I truly, truly would. And well, if things change there's no reason that that couldn't happen in the future... But right now... I'm... sorry, Octavio." She came back to him and gently hugged him.
"Ah..." DJ Octavio let out a deep sigh as she hugged him. He had expected her to back out, from all the talks that they had had - she seemed like the sort of person to back out, to need to be pushed into making a leap like that. With an odd little twirl of a tentacle, he nodded. "I cannot say I'm not disappointed... But I understand."
It hurt Lily to hurt him like this. But it just didn't feel right to just leave everything behind. She started to back away toward the grate. "L-look. I'd better get out of here... I won't say a word. You do what you need to. I'll just uh... 'discover you missing' sometime tomorrow or something. O-okay?"
As she turned to face the grate, she saw the face of someone else straightening up from behind the Squid Sisters' couch, by the lone tree in the Hideout, and walk around to block her path to the grate with their Octo Shot pointed at her. Revealing herself at Octavio's visual signal.
An Octoling. Lily frowned. Why was she here? She swore she remembered her from somewhere...
"I'm sorry, Lily," Octavio said softly behind her. "It isn't quite going to work out that way."
The sound of more rustling and footsteps behind her made her turn around again, and three other Octolings stepped out from various hiding spots. Lily quickly found herself surrounded by the Octo Shot user, a Roller, a Blaster and a Charger, as well as Octavio himself. "T-Tavi...?"
"Lily..." The great octopus sighed. "Please understand. Your friends won't just simply let me go. I'd already spent two more years in that damned prison before I was freed. I've just spent a third year. Do you really not think that the moment they find out I've returned home, they won't come after me again?"
"T-then I won't say anything. I promise. Please--"
"I'm sorry." Octavio's tentacle extended toward her. "I can't chance that. I'll have to ask you to come with us."
Lily stared at him, and fear started to settle in. She slowly turned to get a look at the other Octolings that kept her pinned in, frantically, silently trying to come up with an idea.
Are... they're... they're about to take me away, aren't they?
She finally turned back toward Octavio, and as he saw the look in her eyes he began to frown. "Lily, please don't do what I think you're about to do..."
Lily shook her head, only having come up with one idea. "I'm sorry, DJ. I won't go."
Then she quickly turned squid, her form rushing to the ground.
Above her, startled by the sudden movement, the Octo Shot and Charger loosed ink in her direction.
And as the Octarian ink started to fall, Lily rushed back upward - becoming an inkling again as she shoulder-bashed into the Blaster, knocking her away and getting out of the path of the Roller's ink as it flung itself in her direction.
Lily sprinted for the Cuttlefish Cabin bench, where she'd set her backpack down earlier. If she could just get it open, her Dualies were in there. She yanked the bag from its seat and pulled it along with her as she sprinted down through the archway toward the kettles, the Octarians beginning their pursuit, firing and moving quickly.
Octavio bellowed something in Octarian to his troops. Hearing the tinge of anger in his voice shook Lily - it was something she had not heard in him before. It really solidified in her the reality of what was happening.
She needed those dualies.
First order of business, Lily thought to herself as she ran. I have to let the girls know he's free. Her head whipped around constantly as she looked for a spot where she could take a few seconds to get a message out, knowing the Octolings were hot on her tail.
Thinking about it, running from four Octolings felt familiar to her for some reason...
She leapt down from a ledge down onto the grassy area of the Hideout and ducked behind it, slamming her bag down and yanking the zipper open. She quickly pulled out her Dualies, and the radio she had been provided long ago by Marie. She swung the bag onto her back and began to transmit a few beeps first before coming on. "Crai--"
She was knocked sideways as an Octoling boot connected with her head, and the radio was knocked out of her hand. She rolled on the ground and got up quickly, holding tight onto the single Dualie she had held onto as her Blaster assailant said something in Octarian. Lily backed away, jamming her finger on the Dualie trigger--
And noticed the Charger beam pointed at her from above--
Lily dove to the side as a loud 'crack!' sounded from the Octo Charger and a blast of pressurised ink shot in her direction. A brief glance told her she'd at least hit the Blaster octoling, but not enough to dispatch her. She knew she was outmatched.
She had to escape back to Inkopolis, somehow.
The Blaster drew her attention for another brief moment as she was fired upon again. Firing a few more shots toward her, Lily noticed the empty space to the left of the Charger above, a place where she could perhaps get an edge on these attackers.
The inkling charged toward the Blaster, making her pause for just a moment in confusion. Lily then turned squid as another Charger blast covered the ground behind her, and swam between the octoling's legs - popping up immediately after and swinging an elbow at her head, then firing her Dualie point blank into her.
The subsequent burst of her opponent gave her some ease. Okay, this is doable. I just have to fight my way back. She used the jet on the grip of her singular Dualie to awkwardly dash up against the wall, above which the Charger was perched. She could already hear the other three communicating between each other, quickly, angrily.
Grabbing the other Dualie from the backpack that was still discarded by the wall, she fired upon the wall itself, creating a path upwards for her. She glanced behind her at the sound of a Roller behind her, having seemed to have come down the ramp to flank her.
With a cheeky salute, Lily flung herself into the ink as she heard the Roller call out, swimming upward toward the ledge.
This is my chance.
But as she leapt up into the air, above the Charger, she heard a male grunt and her eyes flicked up to see saw DJ Octavio ten, perhaps fifteen meters away from them.
DJ Octavio, who had flung something large and transparent in her direction.
Time seemed to slow down for a second as she tried to parse what she was seeing.
Then the heavy glass dome from the snowglobe slammed into her in mid-air, knocking the breath out of her. Momentum carried the dome along and she was hurled backwards with it and suddenly the Charger, Octavio, and the archway leading back to Inkopolis was shrinking--
And as she and the snowglobe smashed into a wall behind her - the glass shattering into and around her - her body burst, and her vision blurred. She felt light, floating, and quite shocked.
She had been splatted and had become a spirit, seeking a respawn point.
Leaving a sky blue ink stain behind.
Something inside her seemed to sense that respawn point, and she felt drawn toward the grate, as shouts in Octarian erupted somewhere around her.
As she started to float in that direction though, something rushed up toward her blurry vision and a glass wall seemed to rush up in front of her, seemingly out of nowhere. She bounced harmlessly off of it, and tried to find a way around.
But she was completely surrounded.
She heard a yell of joy from one of the Octolings.
For the wall on which she had run into curved around her such that it enclosed the sides and bottom, and a cap of some kind blocked the top. The whole contraption was barely bigger than her. And what looked like a giant hand was holding tightly onto it.
If Lily's heart could sink at this moment, it would.
As she realised she had been caught. Held in a jar.
The Octarians had caught her.
I have to get free, she thought as she floated in the tight space. Or my friends might never see me again.
Lily flung herself against the lid, trying to knock it off, trying desperately to break out and escape - but it just wouldn't budge, even when she tried to run herself counterclockwise against the lid edges.
It had been fastened tightly, and it seemed to her that she would not be able to escape while she was trapped in here.
Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck--
The massive face of DJ Octavio loomed into view from the deep blur somewhere past the walls of her prison as whoever was carrying her brought her to him. She tensed as his tentacle latched onto the jar, and the hand that had held it relinquished its grasp. His piercing unusual eyes watched her, and as she continued to panic and try to somehow push through the glass, he seemed to be feeling a mixture of relief and sadness.
"I deeply apologise for the heavy-handedness, Lily," he said softly to the spirit in the jar. "I will explain further in due time, I promise. Your co-operation is for the betterment of both of us."
He then said something in Octarian to one of his octolings as the remaining team members gathered around her, and Lily heard a few small beeps, a code transmitted from a radio like she had done before. As the group began to chat, Lily couldn't make out anything of what they were saying now. She wondered if it was to do with her, or of something else
Octavio handed back her jar to one of the Octolings - the leader, she thought, judging by the seaweed she'd seen attached to her glasses like an ornament - and the squad started to move around her as the leader slid her jar into place in their belt. She was held against the side of the octoling's hips as they all moved.
She started to struggle again to push the lid out of the way in a last-ditch effort to escape, hoping that they weren't paying as much attention anymore, but before long she felt Octavio's eyes upon her again.
"I highly recommend against doing that." He laid a tentacle tip on the lid as the spirit turned to face him again. "Much as I want to show you that things will be better with us... If you do somehow manage to escape, you've got no anchor. Spend too long in the air and you will expire. And I really wouldn't want to see that happen to you, Lily."
Lily's spirit paused, staring out at him. Was that true? ...Do I really want to find out?
...No, I don't...
The spirit floated down in defeat, and slumped at the bottom of her jar.
"Good girl. Let's go."
Then they all seemed to shift forms, and the black shorts Lily's jar was brushing against became a mass of red ink and flesh, her carrier becoming an octopus, and the light around her seemed to vanish, rushing upwards out of sight.
The Octolings were dropping into one of the kettles leading away from the Canyon.
And Lily watched through the wall of the jar as the night sky shrank away above her, as her captors fell through the pitch-black tunnels, and she got the sinking feeling she would not see the surface for a long, long time.