The sun cresting the dark golden grasslands sent long rays of light over the still blades. A dark figure moved past them, creating a solid shadow as he did.
So many days have passed, the lion thought as he moved through the grasses that had grown to cover the borders of the Pridelands in his absence. He took a moment to pause and raise his mane-curved head up to get a better look. Everything was dry and brittle from the passing summer and autumn showed itself in almost every inch of the Pridelands up to the trees.
Kion started to smile and the black of mohawk mane grew red at the tips. A rustle and he jerked his head back, a growl rippling out from between his teeth. He felt his eyes grow wide, shocked, then he composed himself as four figures appeared with the setting sun.
Well, five if you count Ono, Kion thought with a smirk, noting the tall bird perched on the largest form. A lion twice his size crouched forward with a cheetah and a badger making at his flanks. The large hippopotamus stood towards the center behind the lion, disapproval in his violet-blue eyes. Kion looked from side-to-side.
If tried for left, he'd have the strength over Fuli. Going backwards wasn't an option; the two fastest members would just cut him off. Forward...? No. If the new lion didn't get him, Besthe would. No, 15-month-old Kion knew this could happen. But he wouldn't surrender.
"Sizing us up, O' Forsaken leader?" Fuli asked.
He perked an ear her way, but didn't focus on her. She sounded so much older! Kion wondered how awkward it was for a hippo and egret to be out so late at night while taking care not to look at Bunga.
"Kion," Kopa rose out of the grass. His mane had thickened like his voice; it was so much like Dad's Kion almost gagged. "You've been warned that the penalty for another trespass is your life, a full year's passing makes no difference and you need to leave."
He suspected as much, but it was still hard to hear.
"Really?" Kion gave him a crooked grin in the settling dusk, the red sun melting into the trees glinting like pinpoints of rubies off of him. "I thought that was just a ploy to keep me from trying to run off with Tiifu," he almost laughed. "You gotta admit, that's kinda funny."
No one thought it was funny.
"You're trespassing on private property," Fuli said.
"And Simba made it clear, all Outlanders are out."
Kion wrinkled his muzzle at the egret.
"If wasn't for me, you wouldn't even be here."
"Having second thoughts?" Bunga stood up on his hind feet. Kion looked unsure as he acknowledged him for the first time. "Because we're not taking any new openings... but," he flashed his glinting claws, "I wouldn't mind giving you some new ones, old chum."
Kion gave him a guttural warning and was advanced on in the next moment. He stumbled over his paws to back away in time. You don't have the gall, he thought, but instead lowered his head slightly and inhaled deeply.
"I thought you guys might want to know something... something that's much more dangerous then a clan of kooky hyenas. That's why I need to talk to Dad..."
He inclined his head to the dark shape of Pride Rock.
The Guard immediately moved to cut off his line of vision. They would stand in his way until they died; the poor, diluted saps. Kion crinkled his red nose in distaste and arced his body away from them, trying with exaggerated casualness to view his southeast.
"You're not welcomed here." Kopa told him.
"That's never going to change," Besthe added.
"What about what I need to tell him?" Kion asked.
"Whatever it is, it'll be a LIE." Bunga lashed out.
Everyone looked at him questioningly, Kopa grunted.
As everyone got in place the bigger of the two lions approached his brother head on. Kion checked the faces of his old friends to see if they would stop him.
They just continued to glare at him.
Kion lowered his ears back and growled furiously at the older male. The midnight blue evening enveloped them and if Kopa killed him now, Kion knew without one single doubt where he would be going. He went into a half-submissive pose, never backing away but ready to lunge at the right moment for his throat; just like the hyenas had taught. His old friends would be on him in seconds, but Kopa would be the first to go.
The yearling cub felt his eyes sting as he readied himself.
Kopa stopped just over him and stared down coldly into the shivering child's bright red eyes. There was no love or hatred, just impassive understanding.
For one so young himself, Kopa had learned of the endless war that was paranoia and the inevitabilites that followed through misunderstanding. He closed his eyes. "Kion," the lion said as quietly and as tenuously as a levelheaded parent might say, "You need to leave."
Kion took a breath and backed away from him; his head barely cleared Kopa's chin. The lion was still stoic as he opened his eyes and watched him now.
"You need to leave," he said with implicit calmness as the rest of the Guard joined him again. "Forever."
"You'll regret this," Kion warned them as darkness completely fell. "Something's coming that's going to stop you all. You need to listen to me or you'll die!"
All the animals hissed and chattered.
Besthe bellowed out, "Leave... NOW."
Kion watched as he pumped out his chest.
"Fine," he spat. The lion looked at Bunga once.
"What?" He spat back.
"Zuka Zama?" Kion offered, not trying to be an ass.
The badger just wrinkled his own nose and looked away. He growled under his breath as Kion told him that this was one of the reasons why he left. The lion traitor then followed their advice and did this again. It was hard for two of them to make out, but soon they all saw Kion's scrawny form ambling up a tall slope.
"All the way!" Kopa called out.
As the last remnants of blue light faded into darkness over his image, Bunga puffed out his furry chest, "If I know Kion, he comes back fighting. Maybe I should-,"
"No," Kopa cut him off, "Even without his roar, if he's got the hyenas backing him, we'll still need to stand together. Divided..." he trailed off as they stared into the ominous gloom. This was the day they'd dreaded.
Because more then a year ago, they would've never believed this could happen. Everything had been different then:
Kion was still good.
To be continued...