Kraken of the Reef

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1. Birth

         Light shone through the membrane of Kaito’s egg sac. Or he would have thought that had he known that’s what it was. But Kaito was not born yet, and he decided that had to change.
         Pressing his tiny arms against the yellowish skin, he broke through with just a bit of force, grunting softly against the gentle current of the water. The shimmering light just beneath the waves blinded him. He put up a tongue-like arm against the sun, growing used to it quickly.
         The water flowed through his gills and he felt a rush of energy. This was the world, and it was big. Just a few feet away, he saw the smiling face of the creature that was his mother, and all three of his hearts swelled.
         “Mama,” he said quietly, swimming toward her. His arms flowed out behind him, propelling him along. He wasn’t the only one that had this idea. Three hundred others of his siblings followed suit, each calling to their mother.
         “Children,” she cooed, wrapping them all in her eight arms. Kaito felt the warmth of his siblings and his mother, all their hearts beating together as they gathered for the first time together. It felt as if nothing could harm him, and they would be safe as long as their mother was near.
         He looked around at his tiny siblings all gathered in the tent of his mothers many arms. She cooed to them, and they answered back, a multitude of differently pitched coos and muddled words. 
Even as they floated there in the shallows of the reef, they were growing. Within minutes, they had already increased to twice their birth size.
“My children,” their mother said, releasing her protective grip. “Today is the day of your birth, and today is the day you begin to live. You will all grow to be strong octopi like your mother, Gaia Amaranth.”
         The voices of three hundred baby octopi echoed her name. Gaia smiled at her children and continued.
         “Thou art of Amaranth blood, and of the strongest in the sea. There is nothing that is able stop thou from becoming the greatest of all.”
         The baby octopi repeated the surname again, cooing it as if it were a mantra. Kaito repeated it to himself, liking how it sounded.
         “Amaranth. I am an Amaranth. I shall be the strongest in the sea,” he told himself. “I shall protect all those that are weak and those that cannot protect themselves, for I am an Amaranth.”
         Something in his hearts burned, and he felt a rush of pride. Though he was only a few minutes old, he was already expressing his own ambitions.
         “Thine other siblings that did not hatched are not strong enough. Though it is sad, it is the way of the world. Thou hast hatched, so thou art stronger than they, and thou shall survive for many a year to be protectors of this reef.”
The chorus of siblings echoed the word “protector” over and over. Kaito smiled and twirled in the water. He was an Amaranth, protector of the reef, and he would grow big and strong for all of them.
         Another chorus arose after Gaia’s words. This time it was of hunger instead of pride. The mother octopus smiled at her children and spoke again.
“Young Amaranth, it is time to eat,” she stated. She stretched out her arms and gathered a collection of small creatures for their meal with such ease, it was as if the creatures had volunteered their lives for this purpose. The shrimp of her catch tried desperately to escape, but the children of Gaia were much too hungry.
         The death cries of the small creatures might have been disturbing to any other living thing, but the young octopi ignored them to sate their hunger. They were not a violent species by nature, but when presented with their first meal, they ate willingly.
Gaia continued to capture more creatures for them to eat, but soon they had learned to hunt themselves, an impressive feat by most natural standards. Kaito was only an hour hold, and he’d already filled his belly through his own means.
         Now that he was full, the young male octopus looks for a means of entertainment. Though he didn’t know any of the names of his siblings, they already asked him to join them tossing various things around in play. Kaito joined his siblings popping bubbles that floated up from the reef and chasing minnows around. 
         News of the many birthdays spread quickly through the reef, and Gaia greeted many visitors throughout the day. Kaito was intrigued by the many different creatures that came by. There were fish of many colors, of which Kaito’s mother named as they swam away, teaching her children each of the species they were to protect. There was even a few eels, as she called them, that came to visit, each of bright colors as well.
         “It is your turn, brother!” he heard a voice from behind him say.
He turned to see one of his sisters holding a small shell with a spiral center. They had been taking turns throwing the shell in the air to get it higher than the others had.
         “What is thine name, sister?” Kaito asked, taking the shell.
The female frowned, then giggled. “Did I not tell thee already, brother?” Seeing Kaito’s confused expression made her giggle more. “I am Nami!”
“Nami,” Kaito repeated as if testing the name on his tongue.
“Silly brother, throw the shell,” she encouraged. “See if thee can make it reach higher than Etsuko!”
         Kaito grinned, tossing the shell into the air. He threw one of his arms back in preparation and gave the shell a great strike, sending it flying up and out of the reef waters. His sisters gasped, and his brothers gathered nearby cheered. 
The shell came to land just a few feet away and Nami raced over to retrieve it. But instead of a shell, she found a very angry snail that began yelling at her for abusing him.
         “Darn kids!” he snapped. “All I wanna do is take a darn nap and you all throw me around!”
         “I am sorry, kind sir,” Nami said, feeling awful. “I did not realize that there was an inhabitant of this shell.”
The snail glanced around, then spotted Gaia not far off. He gasped, then turned back to the young octopi.
         “I apologize,” he said, bowing slightly. “I didn’t realize that you were just born today. I’ll let this pass because you’re new to the reef, but tomorrow I won’t be so forgiving. After all, we do need more Amaranths around to keep the boats away.”
         “What is boats?” Kaito asked, tilting his head.
         “Oh, you’ll learn eventually,” the snail said with a grin. “Be more careful about the shells you pick up. Not all the snails around here are so kind as Mr. Briney.”
         As the first day progressed, he ate many times and played even more. There was lots to explore on the reef, and everything was so big and new, bright and shining.
Kaito, having decided that Nami and Etsuko were fun to be around, decided the join them in every activity they participated in. Soon he learned that, like him, they had chosen their own names as if by some instinct carried by the waves had told them what their names were. 
         He understood that there was no way Gaia could have chosen so many names, so Mother Nature must have decided to take care of it herself. He thought about this for only a moment before his stomach growled again and his sisters called him over to a particularly large school of minnows nearby.
         He didn’t realize it, but he had more than quadrupled his original birth size in one day. He and his many siblings appeared to be about the size of green pea now, much larger than they were this morning.
         His mother noticed, though, and smiled, watching them play in the reef. She made sure they stayed out of trouble and apologized to any neighbors they disturbed. Most of them were rather tolerant of the noise and activity, though, as the Amaranth family had been protecting the reef for many generations. To the other residents of the reef, this was just an annual event, more celebration than disturbance.
         Soon the sun began to set, and the shimmering light from above the water began to fade. Kaito was confused. Where was the light going?
         It appeared he wasn’t the only newborn to be concerned. A chorus of worried questions were shot at Gaia and she grinned at their concern.
         “Children, calm thyselves. It is just the bright orb of light going beneath the waves. It will return on the morrow, and you shall not need to worry.”
Kaito relaxed, and turned to make sure Nami and Etsuko were assured of the light’s return as well. But only Etsuko was there.
         “Where is Nami?” Kaito asked his sister.
Etsuko turned around amid the crowd of siblings that surrounded them, assured that her sister was just behind her. There were sisters alright, and brothers, too, but no Nami.
         “Nami?” she called. She turned back to Kaito, her eyes filled with concern. “She was right behind me just moments ago,” she said.
         “Nami!” Kaito called, but his voice was lost in the crowd. “Nami!” He pushed through the crowd, ignoring the confused expressions, one arm clinging to Etsuko so they, too, would not get separated.
         “Nami?” Etsuko called.
         “Sorry, I’m Iami,” another sibling replied.
         “Nope, I havn’t seen Llami,” another chimed in.
         “I think Dami’s over there,” yet another answered.
         “No,” Etsuko inisted after many answering voices. “We are seeing Nami.”
         But Nami was nowhere near her searching siblings. In fact, she didn’t know where she was, and she didn’t know when she would get back, or if should even would.

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