A couple of weeks later...

"KION! Look, if you don't do this, I have no choice," Rani growled.

"LEAVE HIM ALONE!" Fuli yelled. "HE WILL NEVER BECOME YOUR KING!"

"He's healed now, Nirmala said so. His body has healed from his weak, scrawny self and became more muscular. And he's strong and powerful now - he even killed Makucha, Chuluun, and Ora, no sweat. He can protect the Tree of Life."

"You will not use him for that," Fuli growled.

"Says who? I'm the queen now - I can do whatever I want."

"I thought we were friends!" Kion cried out.

"We could be, if you became my king and vowed to stay at the Tree of Life. If you don't, lets just say.. THIS will happen." The last part wasn't said by Rani, it was said by Jua. When Kion really looked, he saw that Rani's eyes weren't their usual chocolate brown.

They were gold.

Rani then pounced on Fuli with the strength of the Great Kings and Queens themselves. She held unsheathed claws to her neck. "So tell me, what's your choice, weakling?"

XXXX

A little while passed.

Kion was forced into marriage.

No one except Fuli, the former Lion Guard, and Makini knew that Kion wasn't willingly marrying Rani. Kion's family and friends back in the Pride Lands were sent invites to the wedding/coronation, but even they didn't know.

Kion cried himself to sleep every night, Rani always told everyone in a fake pitying way. She always told everyone she tries her best to help him and comfort him and that she loved him with all her heart.

Those lies made Fuli's soul burn with rage.

She rushed towards the Tree of Life where she knew Nirmala would be. Kion's family would arrive at the Tree of Life soon, using a special shortcut that the messenger bird told them about. Wish WE knew that shortcut, Fuli had thought bitterly

When Kion's family arrived, she knew Nala would be there.

She finally got to the Tree of Life and ran inside. "Nirmala, um, uh, there's a tiger that injured her leg severely and needs help now!" She quickly lied on her paws. "I came to tell you as fast as I could!" Fuli huffed and puffed, very out of breath.

Nirmala looked distressed. "Oh dear! Where?!"

"On the other side of the kingdom, near Imani Cliffs!" Fuli lied quickly.

"Oh dear. I'm sorry but I don't think I'll make it back in time for Kion's coronation," Nirmala apologized.

"Look, the tiger needs help! Go!" Fuli told her urgently. Nirmala briefly nodded and dashed away from the Tree of Life and in the direction of the supposed 'injured tiger'.

Fuli felt bad lying to Nirmala, but it was for the best.. wasn't it? She couldn't have Nala see her when she arrived for Kion's coronation.

She sighed. Stupid Rani. Stupid Jua. Frick them. They manipulated him again, putting me in danger to pull it off. It's not like Kion would even last a day as king... Fuli shook her head. No! Don't think like that, she silently scolded herself. Kion will be a good king. He'll try to make the best out of it while helping the lands.. right?

She hadn't seen him face to face in weeks. Rani wouldn't let her... or was it Jua who wouldn't let her?

She didn't know, but she knew Rani and even though she wasn't particularly likable, she wasn't evil. It was Jua possessing her... but how?

She would sometimes see Kion from a distance, trudging after Rani... Jua. His head and tail were always drooping and his paws moved slowly. He was miserable.

She guessed this was Jua's last ditch effort to break Kion.

And it was working.

The rain drizzled onto her fur as she looked back towards the Pass. A bunch of animals walked through there to eventually arrive at the Tree of Life for Kion's coronation.

She walked towards the back of the Tree of Life where Kion and Rani were waiting for their closest family and friends to wish them luck on their wedding day. Kion's family heard it too and were coming at the front of the group.

Even Nala.

She locked gazes with Kion. Rani hissed at him and cuffed him harshly over the ear, making him flinch back and direct his gaze downward.

How dare she treat Kion like that?! Fuli glared at Rani, though she knew she was powerless in terms of stopping her.

"Good luck," she forced herself to say, as is tradition. Rani smirked but then put on a frown as they embraced in a hug - also tradition.

She heard Kion's quiet sobbing as he embraced her. On a wedding day, those were supposed to be tears of joy. But no, those were tears of sorrow. She shed a tear as well. "Kion, I love you and I always will, no matter where the Circle of Life might take us," she whispered very quietly in his ear so Rani wouldn't hear. "Don't forget it."

Kion nodded, sniffling. "I love you too," he whispered back. "You've done so much for me, but that's not why I love you. I love you because you're you."

Fuli was touched at his words and flashed him a small smile.

"What are you two doing?! I see you're whispering," Rani growled harshly, baring her teeth. Kion flinched and quickly backed out of Fuli's embrace. "You're mine and don't forget it."

He belongs to himself and no one else! Not even me, Fuli's mind screamed.

Rani cuffed him over the ear once again with unsheathed claws. Kion flinched back and whimpered.

Fuli's heart flared with rage at this action. How dare she?!

The rest of their friends approached Kion solemnly, wishing him "good luck" and embracing him as is tradition. They knew what was going on and they too were powerless to stop it. Makini bowed to her queen and soon-to-be king before walked to the front of the Tree of Life and standing on the rock near it that was recently named Royal's Rock.

Rani and Kion followed not long after. Fuli and their friends scampered towards the audience. Fuli sat by Nala. It was the first time she had seen her in ages. Nala had a smile on her face, though didn't anymore when she looked down and saw Fuli frowning and with teary eyes.

"Fuli, sweetie, are you alright?" Nala whispered so no one else would hear.

"I can't tell you. She'll..." Fuli shifted closer to Nala, trying to hold her tears back.

"Fuli, lets go away from the crowd, over to those trees over there and you can tell me everything."

Fuli nodded gratefully. Nala glanced at Simba and Kiara. "I'll be back in a little bit. Fuli wants to talk."

"But our son's coronation is starting soon," Simba protested.

The words 'our son' struck right through Fuli's heart. She noticed Nala flinch. It must effect her too, Fuli thought.

Nala looked guilty. "Don't worry, I'll be right by those trees." The lioness motioned to a couple of trees not far from the Tree of Life.

Simba nodded reluctantly. "Alright then. But please be quick."

Nala nodded and swerved through the crowd, murmuring assurance to those who was concerned. They soon arrived at the trees and Nala sat down under them, motioning for Fuli to do the same.

"So what's wrong?" Nala asked gently after Fuli had sat down and eased herself into a comfortable position.

Tears streamed down Fuli's cheeks as she explained; "When we were journeying to the Tree of Life, we encountered a pride called Sun Pride. They trapped us there for a short time and their leader, Jua, stole Kion's Roar. We escaped and Jua used a power... the Power of the Spirits... to lock onto Kion's mind. She tortured him.. she hurt him badly. When we arrived he was still so miserable. I tried my best to help but he wouldn't open up... until something bad happened. He... he almost killed himself. When we thought Jua finally left, she possessed Rani. And now she's forcing Kion to marry her to break him forever!"

Nala gasped in horror, but faster than Fuli could run, her eyes lit with rage and a burning fire could be sensed from deep inside her soul.

Kion roared up into the stormy sky, trying to look happy as the onlooking crowd chanted; "Long live the king!"

Rani was by his side. Tears of misery pooled down his cheeks, though he knew the crowd watching wouldn't notice because of the rain.

He was replaced on the Lion Guard... just like he wanted, but he felt miserable nevertheless. It wasn't the fact that there was a new Lion Guard, it was the fact that his father and mother just replaced him... just like that. If he had actually told them before they replaced him, maybe he wouldn't feel as empty inside.

More tears raced down his face. I'll never be with the love of my life... We'll never have a day like this, getting married, the two of us... We'll never get to raise cubs... never grow old together... Oh, it was hopeless anyway. He sniffled at the thought. A lion and a cheetah could never be together... We could never be...

"EVERYONE! STOP THE CEREMONY!" A furious roar echoed throughout the area. Everyone turned their heads to see Nala tearing towards the Tree of Life, roaring in fury.

Mom?! What are you doing?! Kion noticed Fuli running alongside her. Fuli?!

Nala rushed towards Royal's Rock and lunged for Rani, pinning her down and cursing furiously.

"Nala! What on earth are you doing?!" Simba rushed towards his mate, trying to break up the fight between her and Rani. Fuli followed.

"Everyone, I'm back! There was no injured tiger. I don't know what-" A voice cut itself off. Nirmala ran towards the front of the Tree of Life and halted, gasping in surprise when she came upon Nala and Simba.

"Nala?!" Nirmala screeched in surprise.

Nala looked up, holding Rani's head to the ground. Her eyes widened in shock. "Nirmala?!"

"You two know each other? Mom, what's going on?!" Kion looked at his mother, his eyes pleading for answers.

Nirmala gasped and stared at Kion, then staggered back. "No... no..! It can't be...! The curse was true..."

A curse?! What curse?!

"Oh no..." Kion heard Nala murmur.

"What curse?!" Kion asked, more confused than a newborn zebra.

"Kion! Look at me!" Fuli shouted, standing in front of him. "It's time you know the truth."

"The truth? Truth about what?"

Fuli took a deep breath. "Nala and Simba are not your parents."

Kion stared at her for a long moment. "What...?" His voice shook in disbelief and he staggered backwards.

"Fuli, what are you saying?" Simba walked closer to the cheetah, a puzzled expression on his face. "That's outrageous. Kion is our son. Right Nala?"

Nala approached him with shaking paws. "I-I'm sorry Simba. But remember you weren't there when Kion and Kiara were born?"

Simba nodded slowly.

"Well.. Kiara is ours... but Kion is Nirmala's cub with Roho. I sneaked out of Pride Rock in the middle of the night after Kiara was born and retrieved Kion from Nirmala."

Kion looked back at Nirmala. "Wh-what...?"

Simba's eyes widened. He growled. "NIRMALA's CUB WITH ROHO?! DO YOU MEAN TO TELL ME THAT KION IS THE SON OF SARABI'S MURDERER?!"

I'm the son of my grandmother's murderer?! WHAT?!

Simba whipped around to glare at Kion, advancing towards him. "Did you know about this?!" He hissed.

Kion backed up, shaking. "I'm so sorry Dad.. I didn't know."

"Don't. Call. Me. Dad."

Those words pierced through Kion's heart and made it shatter inside his chest. He looked up at the larger lion that towered above him. "But Dad I-"

"I SAID DON'T CALL ME DAD!" Simba shouted at the top of his lungs, hot tears racing down his fur.

Kion flinched and backed up, tears of his own falling as well. He ran towards Fuli. "How long did you know?" His voice broke as he said those words, tears streaming down his cheeks.

"Ever since we left for the Tree of Life," Fuli said guiltily. "I'm so sorry Kion." She lifted her paw and rested it on his shoulder. "I only wanted to protect you. I wanted to tell you at first but than I saw all you were going through.. and I was so afraid of your reaction that overtime... I became dedicated to keeping it a secret. I know you're upset.. and I know you're mad at me.. and I understand."

Kion looked down and took a deep breath, then looked back up at her, his eyes still teary. "I'm not mad at you, Fuli. All you've ever done was try to protect me and I'm grateful for that."

"You're not mad?" Nirmala interrupted.

"Not at her." Kion whipped around to glare at Nirmala. "Why was I adopted, Nirmala?"

"I... I'm sorry... I couldn't keep you. It'd be too dangerous to raise a cub as a rogue anyway. And you look exactly like Roho, your father. I couldn't keep you... you only reminded me of him."

"SO YOU ABANDONED ME JUST BECAUSE I LOOK LIKE MY REAL DAD?!" Kion screamed.

Nirmala quickly leapt to her own defense. "Look, Kion, I had a reason. And Jua would have harmed you anyway because of the curse she granted."

"WHAT CURSE?!" Kion screamed, hot tears rolling down his cheeks.

Nirmala started breaking down into tears. "Roho's relationship with me was forbidden. She said that love made one of her strongest pride members weak. So using the Power of the Spirits -which you all obviously know about- she put a curse on our cub when I became pregnant. The cursed said that the cub was destined to suffer and go through the worst pain imaginable... and one day, she would use the Power of the Spirits to make sure it suffers it's whole life, and the curse can only be lifted by one thing that she has never told us."

Kion stared at her in disbelief and staggered backwards. "So you're saying that YOU CAUSED ME TO SUFFER THIS WHOLE TIME?!"

"No-"

"THIS WHOLE TIME IT WAS BECAUSE OF YOUR STUPID ROMANCE THAT I SUFFERED MY WHOLE LIFE! AND NOW I'LL CONTINUE TO SUFFER MY WHOLE LIFE UNLESS YOU CAN FIND THE WAY TO GET RID OF IT!"

Nirmala flinched back, but quickly recovered. "Kion, if it weren't for our 'stupid romance' you wouldn't have been born," Nirmala hissed.

"I hate that about it too," Kion growled lowly. "You gave me life and then made me destined to suffer. I'd rather not have life in the first place."

Nala ran in front of him. "Son..."

"DON'T CALL ME 'SON', NALA!" He screamed and started running as fast as he could away from everyone. He didn't look back - he didn't care if they were following. He had been living a lie his whole life.

I'm not the prince of the Pride Lands. Instead I'm just some random orphaned cub that Mo- Nala rescued. I never should've been leader of the Lion Guard. And they all LIED to me. Even Fuli.

I shouldn't be mad... she was just trying to protect me, he kept telling himself. But still...

Fuli lied to me.

All his thoughts and emotions collided. Where am I gonna go?! I can't go back there. I can't face them. Not Nala. Not Nirmala. Not Simba.

I can't even face Fuli.

X

Fuli stared after Kion as he ran, trying to catch her shaky breath. I did it. I finally told him. The secret's finally out.

She looked back at the others. Resting her gaze on Simba, fury built up inside her. "How could you say that to the lion you raised?" She growled.

"He is the son of my mother's murderer," Simba hissed, his strained voice thick with grief.

"Simba, don't you remember you once thought he was your son?" Nala walked up to him on shaky paws.

"His father killed my mother." His voice thickened with grief. "I can't live with that."

Nirmala walked closer to them. "Simba, King of the Pride Lands, Your Majesty." She bowed her head respectfully. "I am so sorry about what happened to Sarabi, but none of this was Kion's fault."

"Roho was easily broken, easily manipulated. This is the father of the cub I raised."

"D-daddy," a voice cut through their exchange. They turned to see Kiara trudging over to them, shaking. "Is Kion really not my brother?"

Simba looked at Kiara with an expression holding nothing but pain and regret. "He's not, daughter."

Everyone flinched back and said nothing until Simba realized his poor choice of words. "Oh, I didn't mean to-"

"How could you be so insensitive and clueless?!" Nala snapped.

"How could YOU indirectly cause ROHO TO LEAVE?!" Nirmala screamed, turning Nala and Simba's attention to her.

"YOU KNOW WHAT EVERYONE?!" Fuli screamed at the top of her lungs until everyone turned to her. "I think we all need to be alone," she finished, lowering her voice a lot compared to her previous screaming.

When she was just about to walk away without looking back, something caught her eye. Something utterly horrifying and sickening.

Rani's body was splayed out on the ground, motionless. Her eyes were glazed over and her neck was twisted in a direction it definitely shouldn't be. Everyone else followed her gaze and gasped.

Nala staggered back. "I.. I did that?" She looked down at her paws and her eyes widened in horror. Her claws were still unsheathed and covered in blood, also staining the fur on her paws.

Nirmala gasped and stared at her old friend in disbelief. "Nala... she was..."

"I.. I didn't mean to!" Nala said quickly. "Fuli told me Jua was possessing Rani... I only meant to attack Jua."

"SHE WAS MY NIECE IN LAW!" Nirmala screamed.

Nala staggered back. "I.. I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to!" She ran off Royal's Rock and in the direction of the Pass, not looking back.

Suddenly, something knocked into her, knocking the breath out of her. She looked up and a wave of shock shot through her at the cheetah she saw.

"Hello, daughter."

XXXX

Kion kept running, not bothering to brush away the tears that raced down his cheeks. Why did it have to be this way? Why... why was I abandoned? Didn't Nirmala want me? Did anyone want me... or was Nala adopting me just out of pity?

If Nala wasn't there... would I have died?

A scream cut through his thoughts. Kion froze in his tracks. Fuli!

"KION RUN! THEY'RE AFTER US!" Fuli's shouts got louder.

What?! Who's after me?! Kion swerved around, trying to pin point where her voice was coming from.

"KION RUN!"

He whipped around and saw Fuli being dragged across the ground. He barely had time to react before something pounced on him. He looked up and gasped. Shock pulsed through him at the sight of it.

Mwepesi!

Suddenly, pain seared through his neck and all went dark.

He drifted between unconicous and barely concious, seeing light and sometimes not. Pain seared through him, though he didn't have the energy to move... not even flinch. He heard voices around him as he drifted.

"...no!"

"Fuli... for the best... waste of food and fur."

"Spare him... Do it for... daughter!"

"For now... spared. But over the... suffer badly."

After what seemed like ages, suddenly a voice softly called him back to conciousness.

"Kion, wake up."

Kion forced himself to groggily blink open his eyes. He tried to lift himself up, but couldn't. Pain seared all throughout his neck, head, belly, and backside. He was in a small den, the moonlight giving it a subtle glow.

He saw a pretty cheetah next to him with emerald eyes, staring at him with a concerned expression.

"Fuli.. what happened..." He rasped, dizziness making his world spin.

"I don't think you even want to know," Fuli answered solemnly, resting her head on his side.

Suddenly, memories of earlier flooded through him. He looked up at Fuli. "Fuli... why?"

"Why what?" She asked gently.

"Why was I adopted? Why didn't Nirmala want to keep me?"

Fuli's eyes glowed with pain and she shook her head. "I don't know, Kion. But it was for the best. Nirmala probably wasn't too emotionally stable back when you were born. It's good Nala took you in. If she didn't.. Nirmala might have put..." Fuli trailed off. She had realized her mistake too late and Kion had caught on to what she was going to say.

"You mean she would've..." Kion lowered his voice, "put me out of my misery?"

Fuli sighed sadly. "Maybe. It's good Nala took you in."

"But why did she lie to me?" Kion's voice was thick with pain and a feeling of betrayal. "Why did you lie to me?"

"I can't answer for Nala because I'm not her. But why I kept it from you..." The cheetah sighed. "You see, when we were about to leave for the Tree of Life, Nala pulled me aside..."

So that's why Fuli suddenly went to the back of Pride Rock with my mom before we left!

"...and she started crying and venting about her feelings. I guess she needed someone to talk to about it, but didn't have that someone. She was so sad about you leaving and she told me about another cub she once had, Kopa."

Kion didn't know how to react. "Another secret kept from me?" The lion looked down and scowled.

Fuli nodded and reached out a paw to stroke his cheek gently. He pulled away and she flinched back. A few silent, grief filled and emotional moments passed before Fuli continued. "And then she said; 'I can't lose another son, Fuli. Adopted or not.' It was clear that part just slipped out unintentionally in the emotion, but then I somehow convinced her to tell me. When she did..."

Mom- I mean Nala... she was worried about me that bad?

"...I didn't know what to think. At first I was furious and I was going to tell you, but in front of all those Pride Landers, I knew it wasn't the time. As the journey went on, I saw you suffering so much. I still wanted to tell you.. but something kept me from doing so. The more I saw you suffer, the more I told myself 'don't tell him now, you'll only make it worse.'"

So... she did want to tell me?

"...Eventually it got to the point where I became so paranoid about it, it affected my everyday life. That's why I ran away from you sometimes whenever you accidentally mentioned something that reminded me of the secret."

So that's why she always ran away!

"...And Janna kept appearing to me, even before we met her..."

What?! She did?!

"...She appeared to me in dreams. I heard her voice in the wind, even in the flames of fire. She kept telling me this; 'When water and flames meet, scars and secrets will bleed, and the trees will blaze with fire.'"

Kion's eyes widened.

"And I was just so stressed and eventually..." She just sighed. "I'm so sorry, Kion." The cheetah bent her head down in shame. "I hope you can forgive me."

Kion looked at her thoughtfully. "Like I said, I'm not mad, Fuli."

Fuli took a moment to stare at him in disbelief. "But you're..." She didn't finish, though Kion knew what she was about to say.

"I'm not mad. I know you meant the best and were always trying to protect me, even at your own expense.. and like I said before, I am grateful for you doing that for me. But that doesn't mean it doesn't hurt." He sniffled and ducked his head away to sob.

Fuli awkwardly laid down next to him. "Is it okay with you if I stay or...?"

Kion sniffled once more and shrugged. "Don't got a problem with it.

"Okay." She stroked her tail against his back in a comforting manner as he sobbed in her forepaws.

"I want my mom and my dad..." Kion murmured. "No, not my dad, he hates me now..."

"He doesn't hate you. He's just in shock and he's grieving."

"Then why did he say all those things?" Kion sniffled.

"He's grieving, sweetie."

Kion blinked in surprise when he heard the last word. He decided to change the topic. "Where are we anyway?"

"We're trapped in a cave on the farther edge of the Tree of Life's lands... Mwepesi's taken over the Tree of Life."

"He what?!" Kion paused and coughed. "He can't have."

"He has. And we gotta get outta here." Fuli got to her paws and nudged Kion. "C'mon, you gotta get up."

Kion tried and pain seared through him. He immediately dropped to the ground once more. "I can't."

Fuli gently grabbed his scruff in her teeth and tried to lift him back up, but dropped him back to the ground when he let out a yelp of pain. "It won't work Fuli. It isn't gonna work... I don't have the energy left in me anymore."

"We will make things work. We always do," Fuli said desperately, her voice strained. Kion shook his head. She then turned away and gave a frustrated scowl. "You know what? If you're always going to be like that, I can make it without you."

"Go ahead." Kion sighed and laid his head down. "I don't want to slow you down."

Fuli sighed and dug her claws into the ground. "Ugh. Just pick yourself up for once. At least I'm still going after all that's happened to me."

Kion looked at her, both shame and pain burning his pelt. That was the difference between him and Fuli. No matter what happened to her, Fuli always kept on going.

Kion looked away in shame - he however just... gave up until she practically forced him to keep going.

He swallowed, blinking thoughtfully. "I don't have a reason to."

"Does it look like I do either?" Fuli snapped, then sighed tiredly. "I want to give up just as much as you," she admitted. "I'm tired, hurt, sad, and angry. My muscles ache and my head hurts. But the reason I keep going is because of you."

"Me?"

"Yes. I keep going because I want to see the smile on your face every day. I want to see you happy. That's what makes me happy too." Fuli looked down with a pained expression. "I thought you'd do the same."

I'm sorry. I'm not as strong as you Fuli, though I wish I was...

But the pained look in her eyes before she began to walk away pierced through his soul enough to set a fire ablaze inside his heart.

Fuli turned back around when she heard grunting behind her. Her eyes widened in surprise when she saw Kion getting to his paws.

"Let's get out of here," he said, forcing a smile. He began to take a step forward, but an immense pain seared through his gut and he froze, taking deep breaths. Fuli rushed to support him, encouraging deep breaths while she sobbed as well, Kion murmuring comfort to her. When the pain subsided, they took another step. "Now let's go."

"And I'm so sorry if that seemed like a guilt trip or-"

Kion cut her off. "It's fine Fuli. What matters now is that we get out of here."

"And we'll do it together."