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“It’s okay. No one’s gonna catch me or miss me if I’m gone, what with Lord Octavio being captured and all. I can do this.”

Despite Marina’s assurances to herself, every heart in her body was pounding, a subtle warning that reminded her that if she got caught, she was done for. Her rank and social status would be gone, evaporated like an Octoling in water. But it didn’t matter. She was attempting to escape from that anyways; no matter the outcome, she would no longer be held under the society that had bound her to its will for so long. She was going to be free.

At the thought of potential freedom, her hearts began to pound faster, creating the impression of a consistent beat like the ones she liked to make on her prized keyboard. She felt a little silly bringing it with her along with some food she managed to scavenge, but it was this first thing she ever owned that was of actual value. Of course, after moving up to the highest ranks and earning a part in Octavio’s inner circle, she had many more things, but nothing quite as sentimental as an old keyboard that served as her first introduction to music making.

Ugh. She was getting off track. You need to focus on this, Marina! Your entire future depends on it! She told herself. Right. This was more important than a silly old keyboard she bought with some money she saved up from working day and night as a young child.

As she became closer and closer to the usually heavily-guarded exit kettle, she found herself becoming nauseous. What will the surface be like? I’ve heard rumors, but I don’t know if they’re accurate…And more importantly, what am I going to do? This is the first time I’ve been outside the domes. I don’t know anything about how to take care of myself out there. As she thought about it more and more, it became more clear that she should just stay and stick to what she was used to. But she couldn’t make herself do it.

For there was still a rhythmic echo that told her That isn’t right. You can’t stay there when you know how oppressive and forceful it is. You can’t stand there watching your friends’ lives being controlled by the hand of a king who you know is brainwashing and controlling their every movement. You can’t stay in a society that lives in poverty and fear, the only hope they have is their hatred of the inklings who their leader claims to have ‘betrayed’ them. You can’t. And the echo only seemed to get louder and louder as she got closer to the kettle, the reminder of the bonds of the society she had accepted as normal getting stronger, the words etched in her brain as a familiar melody of the sea and it’s bounty.

The echo reassuring her, she continued on with confidence, knowing that she could do this. She would make it out there. For the voice inside her was singing through every core of her being, and had been ever since that fateful night when it had first awakened (or reawakened?) inside her. She knew that as long as that voice still sang, the grip of the one who had once held her hostage could no longer grasp her.

Finally, the hour had come; she could see the entrance to the mini-dome that held the exit kettle. Marina began to make her way past the usual hustle and bustle of Octarians heading in and out of smaller, less important kettles on their way to fulfill the duties despite the uncertainty of what was going to happen next without their faithful leader there to manipulate every little aspect of their lives with his aggressive, rebounding music that made its way into their brains until they couldn’t object. It was unfortunate--many of them hadn’t been present during the ‘concert’ that had changed Marina’s life for what was undoubtedly the better. But she knew, that among them there were still others that had heard what she had; the recent disappearances of octarians that were present during that event was proof enough.

Just a dozen feet away from the kettle leading to the larger, more secured exit kettle, Marina stopped. But only for a second. For the song was ringing in her ears again, motivating her to move towards it, and she mustered up the courage to do so. Cautiously, Marina examined the kettle. It wasn’t as rusted and beaten-up as the others that the octarian people used constantly to get to and fro, probably because it was mainly used only by Octavio’s elite to guard the entrance in case anyone like Marina attempted to escape. Fortunately enough, Marina was so high-ranking that she could go almost anywhere she pleased without so much a raised eyebrow from any possibly suspecting guard. But it turned out it didn’t matter, anyways.

Because after Marina transformed in her octo form and slid through the kettle pipes in a wave of ink before finally coming up inside the mini-dome, she discovered that there were no guards-- the kettle was completely unguarded, most likely due to domes being in chaos after Octavio’s capture and imprisonment. Makes sense, I guess, She thought to herself. That would explain the disappearances of lower-ranking Octosoldiers that were present during the inkantation. It’s not like they could just walk freely past the guards like I could. But nevertheless, Marina wasn’t complaining.
Okay, time to do this. Marina stared down the enormous kettle; it was intimidating, but it had no power over her with that fateful melody reverberating in her head louder than ever before. Taking a deep breath, she felt her body liquefy into ink before solidifying again into her octo form. Hesitantly, she squeezed her tentacles into the small holes inside the opening, pushing herself through the kettle and into the pipes.

-----

As soon as found herself on the surface, she was instantly blinded by the sudden light in her eyes. What...what was this? Even in the domes, it was never this bright. Squinting, Marina placed her hand above her head to block out the light. Slowly opening her eyes, Marina’s hearts stopped.

The sky was painted in brilliant shades of multicolored hues, each complementing each other better than even the most striking of paintings. It gently transitioned from a golden amber color to an intimidating yet reassuring indigo, bringing Marina quaking from head to toe. Faint, tiny pinpricks of light could be seen swimming in the sea of indigo, heralded by stroke of dazzling silver, almost overshadowed by the brilliant radiance being emitted from the glowing orb of light that Marina was at first dazed by. It was...beautiful. The rumors about what the real sun and moon and stars were like compared to the dull, counterfeit illuminators that dotted octo valley’s dome were nothing in the wake of this angelic composition that the young, shaking elite octosoldier could’ve only pictured in her wildest dreams.

“Oh...oh my cod.” Marina was dumbstruck, staring at the scene around her (or at least as much as her eyes would allow her anyways; she found that her eyes began to hurt if she looked at the glowing ball of light for more than a few seconds). Trembling, she found herself close to tears. But her shocked reverence was soon interrupted by a high-pitched voice speaking what could only be described as utter nonsense.

Marina jumped, and quickly turned to see a young inkling girl with a ripped leather outfit and a chain along her neck staring at her. She began to talk again; however, her tone of voice seemed inquisitive, not hostile like Marina worried she would be. Fortunately, Marina picked up a few words of what she was saying this time; her Inkling Study and How to Defend Yourself From Them class was coming in handy after all.

Trying to recall all she could from the class, Marina spoke the best Inkling she could, although her Inkling wasn’t quite...the best. Asking where this was, Marina hoped that she was at least somewhat coherent. However, the girl’s laughter in response showed that Marina probably wasn’t exactly fluent.

“I guess, you’re new around here, then. Cool,” The Inkling said (or at least that’s what Marina picked up). “Hey, I’ll be around here tomorrow. Why don’t I show you the ropes, then, m’kay? I don’t know where you’re from, but it shouldn’t be to hard. Anyways, gotta go now. Peace out!” The Inkling ended the conversation with a wave, leaving Marina standing there, the sky becoming darker as the octosoldier watched the girl walk off, quietly humming to herself.