"Can we get any directions to the next Moja Kwa Moja stone?"
The monkey and deer looked at Kion warily. "Should we tell them?" The monkey murmured to the deer. "That lion looks..."
The deer quietly cut the monkey off. "He has the Mark of Evil like the old legend of Scar. He might try to cause trouble."
Kion, being a feline, had keen hearing and picked up what the monkey and deer were whispering about. Ugh... why does everyone have to judge me because of my scar? He sighed.
Beshte walked up to the two. "Hey guys, could you please give us directions. We really need to get to the next Moja Kwa Moja stone as soon as we can. So if you don't mind, can you please tell us where to go?"
The monkey and deer exchanged a glance and sighed. "Alright. It's through the forest over there." The monkey pointed to a forest that was thickly planted with trees, "and on top of the waterfall past it."
"Lemme see." Within a few heartbeats, Anga was flying through the air. She soon flew back down. "Got it. They're right."
"Ok! Thanks guys!" Bunga waved a paw at the monkey and deer as the Lion Guard started to walk away from them and into the forest.
Kion sighed. That wasn't the first time animals were wary of him on their journey to the Tree of Life. Why does everyone judge me because of my scar? He sighed again. Can't say I blame them though...
"Whew!" Bunga interrupted his thoughts with a loud sigh. "This forest sure is thick! I can barely see a thing!"
Kion looked at his surroundings and realized Bunga was right. The forest was so thick. Just then he noticed that the grass was more like vines. It just clung into him as he walked, each step bringing more grass up to get tangled on his legs.
"Agh..." Kion groaned. "This feels so.. uncomfortable." Even more grass got tangled in his legs. He groaned again when they came upon a muddy part of the forest.
"Ugh!" Fuli groaned in annoyance. "Why did we have to go this way?"
"Because it's like the only way for all of us to get to the next Moja Kwa Moja stone," Anga replied bluntly. Hints of sassiness were audible in her voice.
Mud squished under his paws, making him cringe. "Anga? How long till we're out of this forest?"
"Shouldn't be too long," she replied.
Thank goodness, Kion thought to himself. When he went to pick up a paw to walk faster, he found that he couldn't. The paw was stuck on all the thick grass and mud. "Wait, what?" He tried to pick up the other paw, but found the same result.
"Uh, guys." His pelt prickled with a hint of embarrassment. "A little help?"
"I'm stuck too!" A voice squeaked. Kion turned his head and saw Makini trying and failing to break the grass tied to her feet with her bakora staff.
"So am I." Kion looked to his side and saw Fuli also trying to pull her paws free of the grass and mud.
"Don't worry, I'll get ya free!" Bunga rushed to Kion and grabbed the grass tightly. He tugged it as hard as he could, but to no avail.
"Welp, that won't work." He turned to the members of the Guard who weren't stuck.
"I don't know," Ono replied.
"I would just cut the grass with my claws, but then my wings or feet might get stuck too," Anga said.
Beshte's face lit up. "Oh, maybe I can-"
"No need for that," a voice interrupted. The Guard turned to see a brown furred creature walked up to them. A beaver. "I can help y'all get free, if that's what ya want."
"Oh, that'd be great!" Makini squealed.
"Aight then." The beaver made his way over to Fuli. He dug his buck teeth into the grass she was stuck in and broke it. "There ya go."
He repeated the same with Makini. "Thanks!" She squeaked. "Now Kion's turn."
"Kion? The lion?" The beaver asked and walked over to him. He appeared.. wary.
Suddenly, Kion's scar began to sting. "Agh..." He groaned, digging his claws into the ground and lifting one paw to paw at the injury. He closed his eyes and tried to channel his anger into the ground. He didn't want to accidentally take his anger out on his friends or the beaver.
The beaver backed up. "That scar," he murmured to Fuli, Makini, and Bunga. "It's the Mark of Evil. Are you sure that lion's safe to be around?"
"Yeah!" Bunga said a little too loudly. "I know the scar might make him look really scary and it might give you evil and malicious vibes but-"
Fuli cut him off. "Bunga!"
"What?" Bunga asked obliviously, turning to her.
Fuli and Makini glared thorns into his fur. "Ugh, come over here." Fuli motioned with her tail to a spot a bit away from Kion and the rest of the Lion Guard.
"The beaver's gone." He pointed with his paw to the place where the beaver once stood. Paw-prints led away from that spot and deeper into the forest. "Guess he was a bit too scared of that scar."
"Bunga!" Fuli hissed.
Kion's ears flattened. My dumb scar... I wish I could just rub it off and forget about it. It always brings other animals discomfort around me... it makes them afraid of me...
"Don't worry Kion!" Bunga eagerly skipped back over to him, snapping him out of his thoughts. "We'll find a way to get you out!"
"Yeah," Fuli agreed.
"So Fuli, what's the plan?" Bunga asked.
"Hmm..." She turned to Beshte. "Beshte, could you push him out?"
"I could but I'm a lot bigger then Kion. I might accidentally step on his paws and crush them," Beshte replied. "But it was a good idea though," he added.
"Okay, so we need someone small enough to not accidentally hurt him, but big enough to be able to push him out."
Everyone looked at Fuli.
"Okay fine, I'll do it," she said as if reading their minds. She walked over to Kion and began pushing him, not putting enough pressure to hurt him, but still pushing hard in hopes of freeing him from the vine-like grass and mud.
"Don't worry Fuli, I've got this." Anga swooped in above them and grabbed Kion scruff, giving it a few good tugs. The grass broke off and Anga set Kion down on the ground a few pawsteps away.
"Thanks Anga. Thanks Fuli," Kion thanked the cheetah and martial eagle.
"No problem," Fuli replied.
"Yep," came Anga's simple answer. "Now let's go to the next Moja Kwa Moja stone."
Suddenly, a wolf burst out of the bushes. He approached Kion and stared at him. His eyes widened. "Go no further!"
"Huh?" Kion was confused. "What do you mean?"
"I said go no further!" Out of the bushes came five more wolves, all getting into a defensive stance.
"Oh no!" Makini squealed. "Please don't hurt us!"
The wolves' face softened. "We're not here to harm you, young mandrill. We are the wolves who own the territory around the Moja Kwa Moja stone, and so we feel like we're obligated to protect it. We're here to stop the Mark of Evil from getting to the Moja Kwa Moja stone."
"M-Mark of Evil? What do you mean?" Kion asked, afraid of the answer. He means me... doesn't he?
"You," the wolf replied. "We know you're going to the Tree of Life, all travelers do when they pass this way. And we can't let any evil get to that destination."
"Hold it." Fuli walked forward, stopping when she was next to Kion. "Kion's not evil."
"The mark on his face says it all," the wolf growled. "He's evil."
"No he's not!" Fuli growled. "And he never will be! Now let us through."
"You DARE try to order US around?!" The wolf leaped at Fuli. Kion's eyes widened.
"No!" He quickly jumped in her direction and pushed her out of the way.
"Agh!" He yelped in pain when the stocky wolf landed on him. He bared his teeth and unsheathed his claws, ready to fight.
The wolf quickly scrambled off of him. "Sheath your claws. It was a test to make sure you're not evil like the legend of Scar was. I guess that'll do. But remember, if you try to cause any trouble, we'll be there."
Kion's ears flattened. They think I'm evil too... of course they do. "Yes. Understood."
"Good," the wolf growled. He and his pack walked out of the way, letting the Lion Guard pass.
Kion sighed as they walked out of the forest and up the rocky cliff towards the waterfall. When they look at me... they don't see me. They continued walking up the rocky cliff. Finally, the made it to the top of the waterfall.
"Ooh, here it is!" Makini squealed. She pointed with her bakora staff to a stone with a blue painting of water on it. "The next Moja Kwa Moja stone!"
"That's great." Kion forced a smile. "Now let's keep going."
"Kion, I think we should settle down for the night," Fuli reasoned. "The sun's already almost completely gone down."
Kion looked at the sky. She's right! He thought surprisingly. Didn't realize that much time has passed.
"Okay," he sighed. "We'll settle down for the night."
The rest of the Lion Guard all breathed a sigh of relief. The Lion Guard all found sleeping spots a little further away from the waterfall. They soon fell asleep.
But Kion didn't. He just laid there, sighing. This stupid scar, he thought. I hate having the Mark of Evil on my eye. I just hate it. When other animals look at me they immediately distrust me...
The night was still. The only sounds were the occasional cricket chirping and a bird flying by. He laid there for who knows how long. It must've been hours. Finally, he reached a solution.
If I cover it up, maybe they won't notice. He immediately began searching among the scattered elements of nature near the waterfall. The land was slightly slanted, things would be blown there because of the wind often. He soon came upon a large leaf. Perfect! He took it in his paw and held it over his eye. There. Now no one will notice...
Sooner than he knew it, dawn came. A noise sounded from behind him.
Fuli walked into view. "Kion? Why are you up this early?"
"Oh... hi Fuli."
Her expression immediately turned to concern. "Kion.. is your scar hurting again?"
"No? Why?" Kion asked.
"Well... you're holding a leaf over your eye... it looks like it's hurting again."
Kion sighed. "Don't worry, I'm fine."
"Then why are you doing that?" Fuli asked. She had become slightly overprotective of Kion during the time they've journeyed to the Tree of Life.
"Oh.. um.. that..." Kion immediately turned away, making sure the scarred side of his face wasn't facing her.
"Kion, is there something you want to talk about?" She asked.
"No," Kion mumbled.
"If there's something on your mind, you know you can tell me."
"Mhm," the lion mumbled. "Let's wake the others and continue on." Kion started walking forward, still using one paw to hold the leaf over his eye. Suddenly, he stepped on a loose stone and fell forward. "Agh!" He grunted as he hit the ground. A gust of wind suddenly blew by, blowing the leaf away before he could catch it.
"Okay Kion, what's going on?" Fuli asked, walking to the place where he fell. "What's the big deal about that leaf?"
"Nothing," Kion mumbled. "I just wanted to cover it up."
"Cover what up?" Fuli asked.
"Well, y'know, the scar."
"Your scar? Why?" Fuli questioned.
"Haven't you seen the way everyone looks at me?" Kion asked frustratedly. "They all distrust me... they all see the Mark of Evil on me... and when they look at me that's all they see. I just hate it..."
Fuli's face softened. "Oh Kion..." She leaned down to help him back up. "You don't need to cover it up." Her voice was caring and concerned.
"Why?" Kion asked, his ears drooping. "If I don't... they'll just all think I'm evil at first glance. That I cause no good. I just hate the way everyone always looks at me Fuli! They all seem to disapprove of me... I hate this stupid scar. It makes me look... like him." He made a face at the ground.
"I still think you look like you," Fuli said, shifting closer to him.
"How do you know?"
"Come." Fuli walked, motioning with her tail for Kion to follow. She led the way to a calmer section of water near the waterfall. They sat down there, looking at the water.
"Look in your reflection," Fuli encouraged. Kion did as he was told and looked. He frowned. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't distract himself from the Mark of Evil that was plastered on his face, no way of removing it.
"I still see the Mark of Evil." Kion frowned and splashed to water, disorienting it and breaking the reflection for a few seconds.
"It doesn't have to be the Mark of Evil, you know," Fuli said softly. "It's just a scar. You don't have to see it as a mark that represents evil. Instead you can see it as a reminder of how hard you fought to save the Pride Lands." She managed a small smile.
"But still... all the other animals think it's a sign of evil... I wish I could just get rid of it. It makes me look bad.. evil. I wish.. I wish I could change it." He rubbed his eye with his paw, subconsciously hoping that the scar would somehow rub off. Sadly, it didn't.
"I don't think you need to change anything," Fuli murmured softly. "I think you're beautiful... just the way you are. That never changed, and never will." She nuzzled him, catching him by surprise. "So what if you got a scar? I still see you, Kion, my best friend."
Kion leaned into the nuzzle. "But what about the other-"
"It doesn't matter what others think," she murmured. "I know you're beautiful the way you are. You just need to see that too. You don't have to hide your scar, Kion. If others refuse to see who you really are, that's their problem."
"Thanks Fuli... but..."
"Look in the water," she told him. He looked into the water once more. Fuli pointed with her paw to his reflection. "Look, it's you. Despite everything, it's still you."
Kion looked deep into his reflection. "But... I don't see me. I just see... this. How will I ever get back to the me I was before?"
Fuli sighed. "These next words might not be the most positive, but I think it has to be said. You might not get back to who you were once before."
These words seemed to shock Kion.
"But," she continued, "when one thing dies, another grows. Maybe not the same as it was before, but still beautiful and wonderful all the same. A flower may have died inside of you, but a new one will grow and blossom.. in time."
"When?" Kion asked.
"When you are ready to accept yourself and move forward," Fuli replied calmly. "But no matter what I say, I cannot force you to do that. You must do that on your own."
"You will find out in time." She began to walk off in the direction of the rest of the Guard, leaving Kion there. She turned back. "You coming?"
"Oh.. uh... yeah." Kion trotted up to her drowsily. He yawned but tried to cover it up.
"Kion?" Fuli looked as if the was suspicious of something. She looked worried. "Were you up all night again?"
Kion nodded. No point in lying. Even if I did, she'd pick up the truth right away.
Fuli sighed. "You should get some rest."
For once, Kion didn't have the drive to protest. "Okay.." He walked back to his chosen sleeping spot. He groaned in frustration when he saw it. It was completely messed up! The wind had blown stuff all over it and mixed everything up! "Ugh."
"What is it Kion?" Fuli walked over to him and laid eyes on his sleeping spot. "Oh."
Kion laid down. "Agh!" He yelped as a rock poked him in the back. "Ugh..." He groaned as a stick stabbed him in the leg.
"You can rest in my sleeping spot if you want," Fuli offered.
Kion immediately brightened up. "Thank you."
They walked over to Fuli's sleeping spot and laid down in it. Almost immediately Kion fell asleep. Coincidentally, Kion's scarred eye was facing a way where she could see it. She frowned. It might take a while for him to accept himself...
"I'll be with you the whole way," she murmured, nuzzling him. Obviously still asleep, a small smile spread across his face.
Fuli smiled. "I promise..."