Forward Squad Ceph escorts DJ Octavio back to his homeland, and they deal with their new captive.

The Respawn.

Just over a hundred years ago, it was the culmination of studies into Inkling and Octoling death, and the little flying squid (or octopus) that always emerged from the body after being killed, floating seemingly randomly, before disappearing into thin air, never to be seen again.

The studies had shown that these spirits were formed from a pouch of ink once thought to be part of the creatures' main supply. Nerves and neurons would pressurise and burst this special ink sac as their bodies took too much damage and gave in, bursting the body and preserving the mind in a small, near-ethereal squid/octopus form, so light as to be capable of flight.

These spirits were so light, in fact, that living for too long seemed to cause their end as the particles in the moving air would tear them apart, the spirit dissipating into nothingness. Later experiments, after the war, would confirm that places where the air did not move - like octo-made contraptions like the Preservation Jar, which was... a jar - would keep the spirit safe, but this was considered unethical until the Respawn technology was fully discovered.

They seemed to be drawn toward large, deep bodies of ink. If they reached these pools and submerged in the ink, they were able to return to life - given a few hours or even days to reform, depending on the extent of their wounds. The spirit would often be disoriented from the experience, and even after this their survival was not guaranteed.

Advancements in improving the speed and success rate of the Respawn process led to specialised 'high-pressure' ink pools and respawn points. These pools kept the supplied ink warm so that it flowed easier, which, combined with the pressurization, allowed an instant respawn with a virtually perfect success rate.

This technology completely changed the life of inklings and octolings, allowing them to live a full life - only passing on to the next when their elderly bodies had degraded, and their respawn sac was no longer functioning.

It was through the Octarians' ingenuity and technological aptitude, and the Inklings' stubbornness and curiosity, that both species reaped the benefits of a guaranteed long life.

And it was the Octarians' new understanding of death that made them a terrible foe in battle.

Negotiations over the slowly shrinking land mass that the Octarians and the Inklings lived on, between the Great General Octavio, of the Takowasa Clan, and representatives of the Inkling Coalition - including the Lord Jelly, Jelensi, and Captain Craig Cuttlefish of the soon-to-be legendary Squidbeak Splatoon - collapsed into all-out war, taking place over several awful years.

With the invention of the Respawn, and both sides of the fight making full use of it, it should have been a bloodless battle over territory.

Octarian creations - hybrids of tentacles and machines, called Great Octoweapons - descended upon Inkling bases and outposts. The mornings for inkling-kind brought despair as they often woke to find their bases overrun.

Each day brought new terrors on either side of the divide.

But during the war the Octarians, with General Octavio at the head, also used their new knowledge of respawning to fight an underhanded battle, throwing a wrench into the Inkling forces' plans. Developing devices to contaminate the ink in inkling respawn pools, replacing it with their own - or to disrupt the shifting of the enemy's form, and in doing so prevent the spirit from forming at the point of death.

Ensuring their target stayed dead.

They should have handily won ownership over the land.

And yet, the Octarians lost the war.

Their failure to secure the surface came down to several factors, historians agreed.

One: the non-octoling Octarians never evolved or grew a respawning sac, and so once they died, they were gone. And there were far more of those tentacled soldiers than humanoid fighters. And so, for each small victory the Inklings won over the Octarians, the size of the General's forces shrank more and more.

Two: The infamous onslaught on the Inklings' central military stronghold. Connecting the Great Octoweapon to a central power socket and allowing the machine to run rampant as the Octarians stormed the fortress should have made capturing it a piece of cake. But, due to a clueless inkling not paying attention to where he was running, the Octoweapon was disconnected from its power and, drained from the long march to the stronghold, shut down almost immediately, leaving the Octarians to bear the full brunt of the defenders.

Three: Inklings just... had more limbs.

And four: The Squidbeak Splatoon.

Captain Craig Cuttlefish (or Cap'n, his preference), Ammoses Shellendorf, and two handpicked inklings - and the splatoon's mascot, Judd the cat - quickly gained a reputation among the Octarians for sneaking through their defenses, or breaking their way in with weapons they had not seen before. They would compromise installations, and clear a path for other forces to take territory, and assassinate key figures in the Octarian military.

They were punishing in a way most inklings weren't.

And when the Octarians had been pushed back as far as they could, and were pinned between the inklings and the ocean...

...Then, and only then, did General Octavio Takowasa admit defeat, through gritted teeth.

Due to the bloodshed committed by his people, they were allotted a few square miles on the coast for which the Octarians could decide what to do. Obviously they couldn't swim, and they couldn't fly... but with their machines, they could dig.

So dig they did.

Under the watchful eyes of inkling and jellyfish guards, the Octarians shamefully filtered underground.

Until the Octarians were gone from the surface entirely.

General Octavio and his two Clan Elders, greatly intelligent octopi that had symbolically forgone the 'octoling' evolution, had decided on a plan early on: dig deep, to dig large.

Living deep underground, deeper than perhaps the inklings expected, afforded them the space to grow again as a species. To build the communities, towns and cities that they needed to thrive. They could expand as much as their civilization needed, and the surface dwellers would be none the wiser.

In later years, as their technology advanced, they would (accidentally) come across two great artificial structures in the ocean, somewhere outside of what was rapidly becoming Inkopolis City on the surface. Satisfied that this technically wasn't owned land on the surface that the Inklings would cry foul about, Octarians set about colonizing these areas too - using them as gateways, miniature hubs for their new transport system, as well as just a mesmerizing destination to visit.

The years went by and the new land (underland) of Octopia grew and reestablished itself, but it was said that General Octavio became more unhinged, often thinking about the surface that should have rightfully been his, and fantasising about a war that the Octarians would win.

Five octopi leapt from the open kettle at the other end of their transit from the Octo Canyon's surface.

Four pairs of Octoling boots thumped on the ground by the defeated Octo Oven's platform as they shifted back to an evolved form.

And a large fleshy 'whump' reverberated throughout the arena as DJ Octavio landed behind them.

The Great Octoweapon's arena was empty. As it had been for a year.

It floated above Tentakeel, a quiet Octarian town in the cave it was situated in which was connected to the surface. Below, buildings carved of clay and rock rose up into the air, small but two, sometimes three stories tall.

But the soldiers weren't here to socialize with a machine.

"Right, so, your plan was...?" The DJ asked the squad's leader in Octarian, with a raised eyebrow. "We're trying to get home?"

"Don't mind my saying so, boss," Lux, the leader of Forward Squad Ceph, replied. "But without your flying transport, Mori's figured this out as the fastest, safest route back home."

"That's right," Mori chipped in, carrying her Charger in one hand as she inspected the town below. "We descend from the platform into Tentakeel and head north to their kettle. We take it to North Station, from there hop to Central and from there you should know the way to the HQ. Easy."

"That's rather pedestrian, isn't it?" Octavio grumbled. "Isn't there a faster way?"

"If you could Super Jump, boss, we could have just gone straight to Cephalon HQ..." Mori shook her head. "In the meantime, as Lux said, this is the fastest way."

"I don't like your tone, Mori." Regardless, the king followed as the octoling squad proceeded onto the platform and walked across to an edge, where Lux pressed on a hidden button in the concrete with her boot.

Two metal rails hydraulically lifted away from the side of the wall pivoting on an axis as it lifted above the lip of the platform. From the ends hung metal ropes on pulleys, trembling as the service elevator it was connected to unlatched from beneath the arena and rose to meet them.

Kae strode over to the gate of the elevator platform and held it open with her offhand, a huge smirk on her face. "For you, king."

"And what about you lot?" Octavio grumbled, looking over the four octolings. "There's not room for all of us on this thing."

In response, Lux and Mori grinned and changed forms, Super Jumping as octopi off the edge of the platform into the city below. The Roller girl gave the king a brief glance, then followed after her leader.

"Oh that's real nice," Octavio grumbled again, rolling his eyes as he resigned himself to slither onto the elevator. "Leaving your leader to ride on this old thing."

"Sorry, DJ. Them's the breaks." Mori grinned. "You want me to ride down with you?"

"I'll meet you down at the bottom," the octopus sighed, and jabbed a tentacle at one of two buttons on the panel that started lowering the elevator. "Since when did you lot become so mean?"

"We've always been the way we are, you know that." Mori watched him from the lip of the platform. "We must be doing something right, you still love us."

Then she too, shifted forms and launched downward into the buildings below, leaving the octopus to ride alone for several minutes.

Damn brats, he thought.

If only they weren't so good.

In the late evening at the dimly-lit Cephalon Central Transport Hub, two Octarian guards that watched over a locked door were barely able to keep their eyes open, or the spears held in their singular tentacles upright.

Every day, they watched the citizens of Octopia enter and exit this large circular building from the kettles lined around the walls, or through the large doorway leading out into Cephalon City itself, the capital of Octopia.

The nights, however, were much quieter. Occasionally an Octarian would walk by and say hello on their way to their destination, but a lot of the night shift was silence. Occasionally the travellers would stop and ask, "what's behind the door?" or make some sort of smalltalk.

The door the two guards looked after led to kettles leading to military-restricted areas. For example, with the right access one could access the central military command centre Cephalon HQ, or the munitions depot of Weaponsmaster Beaker, or several defensive and offensive outposts dotted throughout the underground network.

Under additional security measures, one could also access Palais Takowasa directly. Specifically, areas restricted to only the King himself, and his retinue.

Ergo, only DJ Octavio, the Octobot King, could access this particular kettle.

But why would he?

Yes, his Octobot Mk II airborne DJ booth-turned-missile craft had been badly damaged in an assault by the New Squidbeak Splatoon a year ago, and the King himself captured - but there were easier ways for him to access his home than--

"Excuse me, we need to access the palace."

The Octarian soldier snapped out of his deep daydreaming state, and his tentacle lifted the helmet on its head to better see who had arrived.

It was Lux - the leader of Forward Squad Ceph - leaning over the creature. She led a team well-reknowned for its prowess in battle. Octavio's chosen few - acknowledged as the 'best of the best'.

Behind her were the rest of FSC, waiting patiently.

"Ahem!" The soldier made a loud noise, startling their partner into waking up, and both knocked the butts of their spears on the ground. "Sorry, ladies. You know the backrooms of the palace are accessible to the king only. You're free to access the barracks--"

"Just let us in, bozo," said a deeper male voice behind them.

The soldier's brow creased and he tried to look around the girls at who had replied to him - only to squeak and shrink back as the unmistakeable head of Octavio Takowasa raised up from behind Ceph Squad to peer down at him.

"Eek! I-I'm sorry, my liege!" The soldier shivered in fear, as did his friend. "I-I'll get that for you right away!"

The spears clattered to the ground as the soldier's tentacles grasped the rungs on the large door, pulling it open. As soon as it was, they, and the group of Ceph Squad and Octavio, strode in to the restricted room.

The gold-plated kettle caught everyone's eye immediately, sitting in the center of the array of destinations before them. Its lid was still on - affixed to a hinge controlled by some authentication mechanism to the side of the kettle.

The second soldier ran up to the machine, turning to face the group. "N-now, my king, if you would just present your tenta--"

"I know how this works," Octavio said dismissively, slithering forward and sliding his tentacle into the cylindrical hole in the machine. Inside, a series of lasers and cameras began to measure and compare the presented appendage to its records.

"Y-yes, sorry sir." With a short bow, both soldiers scurried away, out of the room.

"Wow, you're short tonight," Lux noted once the soldiers were gone. "Is it cause we fired on your girlfriend?"

"Lux, I will crush you." Octavio removed his tentacle from the machine as the lid began to open for them. "I'm mostly short with you lot. That exchange didn't have to go the way it did."

"Blame the inkling, sire." Lux tapped at the jar tucked into her belt with a clawed finger, spooking the little blue spirit inside, and with her other hand gestured for her team to proceed. "She could have come quietly, but she chose to fight. If I remember right, you were the one to dispatch her."

"Yes, well... once it started I needed to stop it."

Lux smirked. "What's your plan with her, then?"

"You know exactly the plan with her," Octavio replied, allowing himself a small grin as he watched the other three octolings proceed into the kettle. "I'll explain further when we actually get there. I've got big plans for her and her history as a human."

"Hm. They're twelve thousand years dead, boss. Are you sure anything she or they have to offer will be beneficial? Octarian scientists have already deciphered the human language and alphabet."

"Have we? Since when?" Octavio raised an eyebrow, and gestured toward the kettle, moving toward and then dropping inside.

"Surface spies smuggled that initial research down, from what I understand," Lux continued once she and Octavio arrived on the other side. "Teams down here did the rest."

The kettle had taken them to an 'exterior' space carved into the rock. An ornate doorway opposite the team led into the private areas of Palais Takowasa itself - kitchens, sleeping quarters, bathing areas, meeting rooms, and of course the King's private quarters.

"Ahaaa," Octavio said with an air of realisation, nodding. He gestured the team forward into the palace, looking relieved now that he was finally home. "Lily must have given that information to the Inklings, then."

"And your scientific contacts brought it down to HQ." Lux grinned. "I suppose your human could have her uses, then. Besides the usual," she added with a smirk and a wink.

"I'll pretend I didn't hear that," the DJ commented, but grinned back at her.

The group turned a corner in the elaborate hallways of the palace, and Octavio stopped by a seemingly random door. This door, looking just like the others they had passed in their short walk, led into Octavio's bedroom.

"Right, I need to freshen up," he said to them, "so I'll leave you here. Respawn Lily out in the compound and put her in holding for a bit while I sort things out here and, well, figure out what we're going to do with her."

"Will do, boss." Lux saluted him, and her team behind her did the same. Her other hand curled around the jar at her hip. "Welcome home."

"Thank you. Thanks for breaking me out, team. I'll have your orders in the morning. Dismissed." Saluting them with a tentacle, Octavio then deftly opened the door into his quarters and disappeared inside.

The Cephalon HQ compound, lined with rock-solid brick walls, housed three separate yet integrated entities.

Fort Cephalon - the primary training grounds of high-ranking Octarians (mostly Octolings) and rising stars in the Octarian military.

Central Intelligence - the 'home of information'. The forward squads' eye in the sky, and the link between the individuals on the surface stealing or copying secrets from the Inklings, and their counterparts back home.

And the Palais Takowasa - home of the ruler of Octopia, its general... and its entertainment.

Though the area around the three entities was walled off - save for a gate leading into Cephalon City which was overseen by two Octotroopers - the area between them was often used as a social space between members of one establishment or another. It seemed the only lit area in the city - bathed in the glow of the palace. Often one walking through would see many different Octarians walking about, talking, or engaging in training exercises.

At this very late hour, barely anyone was around as Forward Squad Ceph strode from the front doors of the Palais and down the steps into the courtyard, with Lux now actively holding Lily's jar in her clawed hand as they headed toward a respawn point - a sickly purple color, the ink color of the Octarians.

"Now remember, team," Lux said in Octarian as they strode toward their goal. "This girl speaks in Inklish, though she has been known to speak the human English language. You want to speak to her, use one of those dialects."

"And if we don't?" Mori asked with a small chuckle.

"More power to you," was Lux's reply.

They reached the respawn point and glanced over the flowing ink's surface inside.

"Alright. Respawning her in 5."

Lux took the jar in both hands, glancing down at the little spirit that had been trapped inside that had endured its journey. The squid inside was clearly fearful, worried for what her captors would do to her.

With a smirk, the octoling took the jar's lid in her other hand and spun it open, the lid clattering to the floor.

And before the spirit could attempt to escape from the jar, Lux knelt by the respawning pool and dunked the jar into the flowing ink. She removed the now-empty jar from the pool and placed it on the ground.

And she, and her team, waited.

Lily could feel almost immediately that something was wrong as she was reformed.

She felt ill. Was that the fear? She wasn't sure. But as her hands gripped the lip of the respawn point and she pulled herself from the Octarian ink, a series of awful sensations washed through her body.

She suddenly felt as if her insides were burning. The ink that she had ingested through the reforming process was not as pleasant as that from the surface. It was like she had been poisoned. Surely they had intended this. God, her insides felt as if they were on fire, it was-- oh god--

The inkling had barely managed to climb out of the pool before she was sick.

On all fours, trembling, her captors had flinched and backed away as the pool of sickly blue and bright purple ink, immiscible, never quite blending, grew beneath her.

The octolings hadn't quite expected that reaction. They'd never seen respawning have an effect like that on a creature.

It took a minute for the initial wave of illness to pass, and Lily stayed in that position, taking deep breaths of the stale-tasting underground air and attempting to cough out the awful taste in her mouth. She still felt a fire inside of her, consuming her body, but after the initial flash, it no longer felt like something simply too hot for her body to contain.

For now.

Ceph Squad inched closer as they watched to see if she would be sick again. After a minute of two, when it seemed that she wouldn't, Lily was hauled up to her feet.

The ill feeling intensified as a Disruptor was quickly placed on her back - vibrating her entire being and preventing her from changing into a squid to attempt escape. "Ggghh... P-please, where are you taking me..." she asked, woozy and tired.

"Holding," said Lux simply in Inklish. "Until the King needs you."

She moved ahead as two of her team grabbed her arms on either side and roughly led her into the fort barracks. The roller octoling followed along from behind them.

They did not at all trust her not to make a run for it.

The nearest cell door inside was opened and Lily was shoved in, and before she could stop stumbling from the momentum, it had shut with a metal clang.

As she faced them again, still feeling ill, three of them were already walking off. One had lit a candle opposite her cell, providing her with a minimal light, dancing, flickering. The remaining octo, the leader, eyed her through her glasses. "Someone will retrieve you," she said.

As she began to walk off, Lily had a flash as she remembered something about them. "Hey!" she yelled at the exiting octoling, slightly slurred as she held her stomach. "You look familiar. Did I fight you last year?"

The leader paused, and after a moment slowly turned towards her. Examining her silently.

"Hey," Lily repeated.

The octoling's eyes reached her own. Lily could feel her gaze on her through the black shades, the slowly pulsing red light over its red eye staring right into her.

And then the octoling smirked at her.

Without a further sound, she left the room.

Lily was alone. Left to herself.

Trapped in a small cell with no lights, no windows, three solid rock walls...

She sighed deeply, and slumped down on the small metal bed provided, holding her stomach and burying her head in her other hand. She still felt as if she had been poisoned, and though purging had helped, her body still felt hot and she still felt weak. And the constant hum of the Disruptor meant that nothing was quite settling down.

How on earth had the simple act of respawning done this to her?

It's not like ink pools had done this to her before. She'd shared an ink pool with her octoling colleague Agent Eight, even - and had no ill effects. Why now?

...I suppose if I'm going to be down here, I'll find out eventually.

Lily took a deep breath of the cool air, trying to calm her mind. There was no point trying to soothe her body - whatever ink was flowing in her veins was going to be there for a while.

Well... first thing's first. Now that I have a second, I need to radio in.

She didn't have the radio on her anymore, but she did have her phones. As she reached in her pocket for her squid-shaped phone, she hoped that she--

Her pocket was empty.

She bit her lip and tried her other pocket. Empty too. Uh oh.

She didn't usually keep anything in her butt pocket, but she tried anyway. Nada.


This is bad. Really bad.

It seemed then she had no access to the outside world.

Lily hoped desparately that her attempted distress call earlier, back on the surface, had reached someone.

Because if not... how long would it take for one of her friends to realise she was missing?

Forget that - how long to find out Octavio was free?

She wondered what his plan was. Was it simply to return home? Why the secrecy around his departure? Was he that concerned that the New Squidbeak Splatoon would come after him?

Even so - did he really not trust that she would keep her mouth shut? Why did these octolings get involved? Why were they treating her so roughly? What was up with the respawning pool?

What had he done to warrant him being stuck in that snowglobe in the first place, anyway?

She began to pace nervously about the cell.

I think I might have been told once... The memory of what she had been told though was difficult to recall - lost somewhere in the blur of time between the period of her arrival in the world of Inkopolis, and that business with Commander Tartar.

Whatever had happened before must have been real serious...

Just what is he going to do with me?

Lily became aware that there was no other noise in the jail. Am I alone? She stood slowly, and walked up to the cell bars. "Anyone else here?" she asked the darkness beyond her cell.

She waited a few seconds, but got nothing in reply. No voices, no footsteps not even the quiet breaths of someone trying not to be discovered.

Besides herself, she was truly alone.

And all she could do was wait until she was called for.

Someone came to retrieve her an hour or so later. Two more Octarians, one an Octoling, broke the silence inside the holding area as they walked in and arrived at her cell.

"Get up," the Octoling said, in simple Inklish. Like the squad that had captured her, she wore the black shades with the red light over her eye. "The King will see you."

Lily was placed into cuffs and led through several corridors. They left the building they were in, and Lily could now see that they were in the midst of an underground city - albeit one were the only lights were provided by the massive globe in the ceiling of this particular cave pocket... and the grand building her captors seemed were leading her toward.

She found this odd, but it hadn't quite clicked why to her yet.

It wasn't long before she was marched into DJ Octavio's throne room, before the King. He was in the middle of conversation, again in the Octarian language, with one of the guards at his side, but his eyes lit up at the sight of Lily.

Octavio looked tired, noted Lily. As she was. She estimated nearly two hours had passed since she had gone to visit him on the surface, making it about 11PM.

He called out to the group surrounding Lily, and after he had spoken they had dispersed and left the room.

"Lily! Ayo!" Octavio called to her, fluidly switching to Inklish. "Welcome to my digs! How ya settlin' in?"

Lily watched him as she carefully stepped closer. He looked more relaxed here than she'd ever seen him. She supposed, after all, that was because they were on his turf now. "I, uh... I didn't realise I was coming with you," she replied bluntly.

"Gahahah! You thought, after all the music, chat and even the flirting," the Octobot King waggled his eyebrows at her, "that I would leave you behind? You'll make an excellent addition to our music scene! Your knowledge could advance Octarian research even further forward! And besides..." His face took on a very smug, smirky quality. "Don't think I'm not going to make good on your various 'offers', my dear."

Lily's face flushed beet red and she turned away in embarassment, to the laughter of Octavio and his guards.

"I must admit though... As glad as I am to have you here with us, you being here is... for my safety."

Lily blinked, turning back to him. "For... your safety?"

"While we may be friends, I am still painfully aware that you are one of those blasted Squidbeak Agents first." Octavio's glance shifted, staring off into the distance.

"And...?" Lily was still somewhat confused. "Yeah, I understand you probably did bad things before I even got here, but---"

"Oh, Lily, you naive soul..." He sighed. "Even if you had just let me leave... I imagine as soon as your friends found out they would be down here massacring my people again, and I wouldn't have a chance to enjoy my freedom before they were back at my door..." Octavio looked away for a moment, thinking of other things.

But, after a moment, he shook himself, and his usual self had returned. "Anyway, we'll not dwell on that! You will be under my employ for the time being. I will arrange for lodgings and an induction." His eyes lit up, thinking forward. "First things first, we'll need to bring power back to the rest of Octopia. Then I think a grand concert at the Amphitheater should raise morale. You and me. It's time we collaborated on something big, Lily."

Lily stared at him, considering the plan. Considering where she was, and that the guards posted in this room having spears and doubtless other weaponry, and the fact that she was locked out of her squid form, she didn't have many options. "I mean... if I have to stay, then... that all sounds well and good. But just... Octavio. DJ. Please consider the 'solar' conversation we had before. Alright? I know power's a priority, but... you're just going to give... us, the Squidbeaks, a reason to come back down here if you try to take Inkopolis's power."

"I know, but we can't just take your word for it and hope for the best, human! We need some sort of power injection in the meantime! That Great Zapfish they have up on the surface is one of the best power sources we know of right now and the longer our people go without a larger power source, the worse off they'll be!"

Lily stopped. He had a point - she didn't know how big Octopia actually was. Surely places like this were powered by regular Zapfishes, right? Ones they'd stolen - maybe had to steal - and she supposed Inkopolis found it managed just fine without one missing here or there. They had to operate without battery storage though, where they clearly needed something, perhaps multiple somethings... Lily found herself struggling with how to reply.

"I... I don't have an answer for that. Just please try to avoid it. We will find you something, promise. If I have to trust you, Tavi, then you need to trust me."

Octavio sighed, and shared a roll of his eyes with his guards while Lily wasn't looking. "Very well, my dear Lily. For now, we should get you acquainted with your new home. Tonight you will share my quarters, and I'll arrange for guest quarters in this palace to be made available to you come the morning. Okay?"

Lily looked up at him, and with a sigh, nodded. "Understood, Octavio."

"Good, good!" Octavio grinned at her. "Now then, I'll have you escorted there. I'm sure you, like I, are very tired. I'll be with you shortly, I have a bit more business to attend to." He then spoke to one of his guards in Octarian, and after his instruction the tentacle creature departed its post and moved toward Lily, pointing her toward one of the doorways with the tip of its head.

Lily obediently began moving along.

"Hey! Hang on a second." Both of them looked towards Octavio, who was searching around his throne for something. "Gotta get those cuffs off... ah, here we are. Catch!" He lobbed a small key in the direction of the Octarian, who caught it in its tentacle. It pulled Lily's arms toward its body, but then stopped and glanced toward the King with a concerned look.

The King nodded, and said something in response in Octarian. Lily wished she could understand the language.

With a nod, the guard deftly inserted the key into the handcuffs' lock, and turned. Immediately Lily felt the cuffs open, and she pulled them off, nervously watching the creatures around her as she rubbed her sore wrists. They tensed, but otherwise didn't react - only the guard behind her, who again pointed Lily in the direction of the doorway.

She quietly followed the guard's order.

Lily was shoved through the door into DJ Octavio's private quarters. Immediately after, she heard the door shut and lock behind her.

The room was, quite simply, magnificent.

It was quite a grand bedroom - gold marble columns in the corners, polished rock checkerboard flooring, and a white chiseled ceiling converged around a large four-poster bed, atop a soft red shag carpet - strangely off-center, leaving plenty of blank space to the right side - filled only with a few chairs to one corner.

A lot of space where 'fun' could be had, Lily bet herself.

On the left wall was an open doorway into what looked like the King's private bathroom, similarly grandiose. She walked over to it and peered inside, seeing the usual amenities and quite a large bathtub inside - more of a tub than a bath. Lily supposed it had to be, for an octopus of his size.

There was no other doorways to leave the room, and because she was underground, no windows.

She walked back to the door she had been pushed through, and experimentally tried the door. Of course, it wouldn't open. "Anyone there?" she said to nobody in particular.

A few angry, muffled Octarian wahs and burbles sounded in response.

The door was being watched.

She well and truly was in the trap.


Lily stepped away from the door, lifting her hands to her face and letting out a deep sigh. Nothing left but to eat the cheese.

She sat down on the King's bed and waited.

About fifteen minutes passed of pacing about the lavish bedroom before she heard activity outside of the door, and DJ Octavio slid into the room. "Good evening, my dear," he said as his demeanor visibly changed, becoming more relaxed.

Lily heard the door lock behind him.

He crossed the floor to her, and his tentacles wrapped up around her and pulled her to his body. "You have no idea how much it means to me, to have you here," he softly spoke.

"Again, Octavio, you brought me here. Against my will, might I add." Lily's emotions were conflicted, but she felt cold toward him as she spoke.

"Aw, c'mon kiddo..." The octopus held her tighter. "I told you, I don't have a choice in the matter. What about all the time we've spent together?"

"That's one thing, this is another!" Lily snapped at him, pushing against him, but his thick appendages prevented her from escaping his hold. "Tonight you're asking me to throw away everything I had before! Don't you see?!"

"Lily, I am not, why would--"

"'Come live with me, Lily'! 'Put your knowledge to use for us'!" Lily struggled angrily against him, prompting Octavio to only hold her tighter, the tip of another tentacle rubbing over her head. "You know I live with my partner! You know it's taken me a year to settle into living in this world!"

"I know!" Octavio released her from his embrace, holding her at tentacles' length with two of the appendages, trying to project a reassuring expression. "But I've been trapped in the one spot for a year, and I want to return home, and I don't want to lose you and everything we've built!"

"Why would you think I wouldn't keep coming to visit you?!"

"Because your friends would put two and two together and forbid you once they realised I was gone!"

Lily paused, silent for a few seconds before creasing her brow. "The hell are you talking about...?"

"...Lily..." Octavio's expression shifted, and his eyes seemed to show worry. That was different, Lily thought to herself. "Did your friends ever know that you were seeing me...?"

"...Not so regularly, I think..."

"...Listen to me, Lily. Suppose they found out I left to return home. And then they find out you were seeing me on the reg. Who do you think they'd blame for letting me go...?"

"...No way..." Lily's expression began to fall.

"What do you think they'd do, thinking you'd freed me, an enemy of your New Squidbeak Splatoon...?"

Lily was silent. She was confused, but just the thought of her friends abandoning or hurting her over a misunderstanding like that...

Because she kept quiet...

"Lily..." Octavio started again, speaking carefully. "I know things are scary right now. This isn't what either of us wanted. And I know my soldiers are a little overzealous. But we'll figure this out. You and me."

"...Are you sure?" Lily stepped toward him again, now nervous and afraid.

"I'm sure, my dear. I have to get my kingdom back in order, but I promise you: I will return you to the surface, and I will find some way to make our relationship work, and keep your friends happy. It will be difficult, it might take time, but you and I will find a way through this."

The inkling slowly nodded. "...O-okay..."

And after a few moments, she leaned into his embrace. Octavio slowly wrapped his warm tentacles around her again, and this time she reciprocated, still nervous but more willing this time. His words seemed to comfort her.

Octavio, too, relaxed as he felt that the inkling girl had been pacified. Part of him felt some guilt about having to lie to her like this, to get her to come on board. He hated to admit it, but he did have some feelings for her...

In the end though, he'd ensure that she didn't have to hide her feelings from him.

He'd ensure that she would stay.

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