I.

His head peered over the tall grass, jade green eyes scanning the brightening horizon for any sign of okapi. "Hmm," Kartajak wrinkled his spotted muzzle and lowered down his red-brown body back into cover. Blending in with the red sun reflecting off the dark mud and yellow-gray grass, the animal continued his stalk.

Kartajak feared no creature; most who approached were put off by his incredible if not appalling appearance. Those who weren't were in for a surprise... it wasn't his unusual looks that were what drove the rest away. He sniffed at the air for a scent:

Gazelle, a few giraffe...

His half-closed eyes widened. Okapi.

Licking his black lips, Kartajak continued his prowling.

...

"Besthe! I can't tell you how much I've blossomed since I came here!"

"Haha," the hippo chuckled good-naturedly. "You just did, Ajabu."

"No hyenas... no, no leopards. No jackals. DID I MENTION NO LEOPARDS?"

"Only about a thousand times," Besthe was a little exhausted but never put out.

It was only to be expected when you were one of the Prideland's-,

"Besthe, we got a live one!"

Kion and the others suddenly showed up. Ono and Bunga weren't too enthused...

Or awake.

"Oh, okay guys." the hippo turned to Ajabu. "You gonna be okay, big guy?"

"Hehe, big guy. I'll be fine. I'll be fine! Go on ahead without me."

"Okay," Besthe accepted this and faced Kion. "Lead the way!"

...

'Rip. Tear.'

If Kartajak kept this up, there'd be no room for the okapi.

The mane-fringed cat tore up a long, stretchy piece of pink flesh and gobbled down quickly on the chewy meat so he could return to the gazelle's fleshy hip. Most didn't consider this, but when you bordered on three-hundred pounds you ate everything.

He was calmly gnawing down to the thigh when a rather ragtag band of youngsters in a sort of organized chaos militia came rushing at him. Kartajak didn't get up but instead laid where he was in the grass, watching their approach with a steady glint.

"That's enough, leopard!" Barked an ear-grating youth.

Kartajak's mint-green eyes sized up the group in a practiced, almost unnoticeable skim. They were definitely young... and inexperienced. He slowly rose to his paws despite the unbelievably bold and irritating demands from the arrogant cub. When the rest of the animals saw his size they backed up; he shook his spiky and spotted mane out a bit for emphasis and looked the young leader straight in his brash eyes.

"And just who are you to tell me what to do?" he asked with quiet intensity.

The cub was surprised as the sun broke fully over the grass, casting everything into yellow as the big cat elipsed the orb with his head. Suddenly, as if realizing they were not dealing with juveniles or something predictable even, they stepped back.

"Guys, don't be afraid!" Their leader chastised.

"You're very foolish." Kartajak didn't blink. He was right on the cub now.

"Kion," A honey badger whispered.

Kion looked up at the bigger cat with wide eyes and folded back ears. He jumped back and positioned himself in a fighting crouch; his friends mirrored him. Kartajak squared his large shoulders and started a slink towards Kion. Instead of retreating, instead of a mother who came to defend him, four strange young animals came up.

Kartajak stopped and Kion rooted himself in defense.

The leopon's brows went down. "Why are you risking your life over a little gazelle?"

"You killed him!" Kion snarled. Lions appeared in the sky that accompanied him.

So this was that kind of situation.

A crookedness came to the cat's features. "And what, am I going to stand on trial?"

"You're going to LEAVE!" A young hippo shouted.

"Oh, and will you be joining me?"

The child was bewildered.

"Or you, little cheetah? If a leopard or any of it's counterparts aren't allowed, surely a fellow predator such as yourself isn't allowed either." He challenged. "But lions..."

Kion lowered his brows.

"Lions are something special, aren't they?" Kartajak's eyes pierced, his voice turned soft and quiet. The cub stared as he became locked haplessly in his faze "You never know anymore..." Kartajak helpfully lowered his face down. "Who's a lion, do you?"

His intense eyes flickered to the group's matching forearms.

The leopan cracked another grin. "Wish I'd had me an identifying mark as a cub."

Shaking out his mane again, Kartajak turned and sunk his canines into the gazelle.

Kion's intake of breath was enough. He ripped out what was left of the leg.

He swallowed.

"I'll be back for the okapi," Kartajak warned. "Make no mistake, I will have him."

The leopan left the rest of his meal behind and skirted out into the grass.

...

Bunga joined up with Kion to watch the sun rise into the sky, visoring his eyes.

"Uh... what just happened?"

Kion's ears lowered. "I think I just met a leopard who was a lion."

When he turned to her Fuli didn't say anything. Even when the rest of the team did too, she still didn't. No. Kion thought, there was no way that strange cat was right.

He looked up into the rising gold and fading red.

Could he?

The End.

Or... if you want more, say so! XD

~ Lavenderpaw ~