The months that followed the great exodus to the imperial lakes, the Koi population grew stronger. The Princess swam confidently at Akihitos side and the Emperor took great comfort in her new friends in the lake keeping her from harm.
Akihito and the Princess became very close and he was honoured with the title of the Water Guardian to the Princess, this meant that whenever she was in the lake he was ultimately responsible for her safety. Akihito took great pride in his responsibility and the fellow Koi respected his position in their world.
As with any Guardian, there must be a second in command, this honour was bestowed upon Naruhito, Akihitos life long and closest friend. Naruhito was a very patient and sympathetic Koi, he was known to be the negotiator …whenever Akihito was challenged by rogue fish, Naruhito was always there to use reason rather than strength to resolve the challenge.
The friendship began when they were very young Koi, as usual Akihito was going about his daily routines collecting food for his Mother from the only remaining source on the river, when he was faced with an aggressive river snake looking to take the scraps of food from the young unsuspecting Koi. No match against the large poisonous snake, Akihito stood strong and awaited the ensuing battle with the venomous river snake to protect his family and their source of food.
It was clear that the snake was prepared to fight and had settled into the area because of the abundance of food.
What was Akihiro to do? He could fight the strongest of Koi it was true, but a river snake could wrap itself around the young Koi and take squeeze the life from his gills in an instant!
As Akihiro contemplated his fate, he heard approaching Koi, the sound of a male and a female to the feeding ground, his gaze was on the snake and as much as he wanted to shout to warn off the approaching innocents he could not alert the snake to his presence.
The voices became louder as they approached, the snake hung from a tree above the feeding ground watching out for the unsuspecting prey. Suddenly a voice came from the tree top above the snake, ‘is this a branch or part of your
slimy tail?’, the snake raised his long neck to see what it was that was interrupting his afternoon snack, but there was nothing to see… ‘up here, you fool!’ the voice bellowed, the snake was angry at the impudence coming from the tree top and started winding its way to the top…’No..here!’ came another voice…’Over here!’ came another, it appeared that there were voices coming from everywhere in the tree, but nothing could be seen.
Akihiro looked on in disbelief as the snake wound itself around the tree, trying to find out the impudent tree dweller who was yelling insults at him from the left and then from the right, above and below…spiralling into a frenzied route through the trees, the snake eventually tied himself into a knot so tight that he could not release himself, the more he struggled the tighter it became!
Once the snake was imprisoned by his own curling body in the tree, the source of the voices became more of a mystery to Akihito,
‘hey you, the large Silver Koi, what are you doing just floating there?, come over here!’…
’over where?’ said a rather relieved Akihito now that the danger of the snake was over
‘We are at the bank of the river, down here!’ was the reply
Akihiro looked towards where the voice was coming from and he saw eight Koi heads just above the waterline, ‘how did you get up into the tree’ asked Akihiro?
‘A simple trick my silver friend you see, the roots of the tree are hollow, when we saw that you were in the sight of the river snake my Koi friends and I shouted into the roots, which carried our voices into the tops of the tree, the snake was curious by nature and had to slide to the top to find out where the voices were coming from, by shouting into the eight hollow roots we were able to tie the snake up into a knot…sometimes brain is better than bravery my silver friend!’
‘My name is Naruhito and these are my 7 fellow Koi, Noryuki, Jakehiro, Michiko, Eko, Etsuko, Juri and Ikumi…would you like to travel back to the lakes with us today?’
And so the long loyal friendship was born between Akihito, Naruhito and his seven friends.