A/N: I do not own the cover photo. It belongs to Katikut from deviantART.
A special thank you to my buddy Alpha Leonis for giving me a hand in writing the description of this story! Give his profile a look if you have the time, please!
Some souls suffer in silence. The silence of the victim, that is. Real silence; utter, rare and absolute silence, is sometimes the severest form of criticism.
Vitani slowly went over to her brother's side before turning to face her mother and the rest of her pride members. Every single one of them (and possibly the pridelanders, too, but she had her back turned on them) was staring directly at her. Some looked in shock and disbelief, but one specific pair of eyes looked at her with anger. "Enough…" said the worn out outsider, looking back into those two eyes.
Ever since the banishment she's done nothing but wonder why. Why couldn't she have grown up like a regular cub? Why did her mother have to believe that friends were for the weak? Why did she, and especially poor Nuka, grew up while barely getting any of Zira's attention, which wasn't even close to being the care a growing cub deserved to begin with? Why did she, who had lived in the Pridelands as a cub and grew to love absolutely everything about them, ended up following her mother absentmindedly as if the past never existed? Why did her older brother have to die? Lastly; why, why in the name of all the Great Kings of the Past had her mother done that horrible, unjustified act, ultimately leading to their exile?
All was silent. Surely Zira would listen to her own daughter, right? She was only ignoring Kovu because she was still angry about Nuka's death. Yes, that had to be it. The stillness lasted only for a few seconds before being interrupted by Zira, and yet it seemed to last forever. "If you will not fight," said the leader of the Outsiders, smiling ghastly at Vitani, "then you will die as well."
Vitani was shocked. She knew the possibility of Zira not listening to her was very likely, but to have her own mother threaten her with death - not for helping the pridelanders instead of the outlanders but for simply claiming to refuse to continue fighting for either side? Still rooted to the spot, she briefly looked at her pride members (or former pride members, by the looks of it). Not a single one of them seemed to be even slightly touched by the attempt of Kovu and Kiara, nor did they look like they would hesitate to operate with hostility towards her and Kovu.
"Y-you can't be serious…" said Vitani with pure astonishment, still looking at the outsiders. The last time she'd felt so confused and afraid was right before their banishment. "All this time we've been throwing lives away like dirt, and for what?!" She knew that Kiara was right. What was it that kept her pride members from understanding that their pointless feud with Simba's pride has gone too far and for too long? "Just because we disagree with one another?!" There Simba and the pridelanders were, seemingly willing to stop the fight and end the rivalry for good, and not a single outlander was going to even consider it?
Zira, who seemed to have heard quite enough from her treacherous daughter, snickered menacingly. "Attack!"
Vitani remained completely frozen as one of her former pride members roared and pounced directly in her direction. In any other situation she would fight back in order to defend herself, but she just couldn't get herself to even consider hurting one of her own. Just as the attacking lioness was about to collide with her she was struck by a blur of brown and black. Kovu. He did not attack the outsider, but simply tackled her away before she could reach his sister. "Stop!" he begged, but before he, Vitani and Kiara knew it, the pridelanders once again had no choice but to fight for their lives.
In what seemed like no time, Simba found himself once more face to face with Zira, who had that sinister, confident smile on her face. Why wouldn't she, though? She had the king of Pride Rock exactly where she wanted him. "Sorry, Simba, but your precious little daughter isn't going to save you!" she yelled with arrogance as she slowly approached her target, looking more than sure of herself. "The Pridelands are Scar's!"
Despite all the noise caused by the fighting around them Zira had somehow managed to catch the king's response. "What did you say?!" she asked, her voice a snarl. Somehow that very simple reply seemed to have more impact than any other choice of words would have had.
"I said no." Simba didn't need to growl or even bare his teeth in order for Zira to notice the resolute determination in his eyes. It enraged her.
With a loud roar the queen of the Outlands charged. The two fought for what seemed like ages. The fighting around them slowly ceased, with everyone's attention focusing on their battle. Nobody dared to interfere. Kiara and Kovu wanted to try to stop them, but they knew that any attempt would be pointless. Zira could not be reasoned with, and Simba couldn't stop fighting back because Zira wasn't going to leave him be. As horrible as watching their parents fight like that was, there wasn't anything they could do.
No matter what Zira tried to pull off she was simply unable to gain the upper hand. This infuriated her even more. She'd planned this out so carefully by attacking Pride Rock after the ambush on Simba earlier and she even waited for her lionesses to weaken him even more before taking him on herself. How come he was still able to stand, not to mention fend her off? Why couldn't he just drop and die already?! She could not understand. Of course she couldn't. A lioness like Zira would never understand.
Growing up believing he was responsible for his father's death only to find out that the uncle he's looked up to and admired as a cub was the one to blame… All the work he's put into the Pridelands after Scar's demise in order to rebuild them into the beautiful and prosperous kingdom Mufasa had left behind… Everything he's been through in his entire life… Did Zira truly believe that Simba was going to just let it all be for nothing? That he was going to let her hurt his family and pride members?
At some point the two of them broke apart and simply stood there, growling at each other and panting. Zira couldn't help but feel slightly satisfied with the fact that Simba looked more hurt and tired than she was (for obvious reasons). "Don't you see it's over, Simba?!" she exclaimed, her voice ringing out throughout the area now that the commotion around them no longer existed. "You can't keep going like this forever! This is the end of you!"
"No! It is not over, Zira!" Silence followed. It took everybody a second to realize that the voice they'd just heard was not Simba's. The king's aggressive expression, which was directed at Zira, was replaced by a look of confusion. That voice, the source of which was somewhere behind him, couldn't possibly belong to a lioness. However, it wasn't Kovu's either. In the corners of his eyes he could see that all the lionesses surrounding him and Zira, pridelanders and outsiders alike, were looking at the speaker with shocked expressions on their faces. Only Zira still had her gaze fixed directly at Simba. It was possible that she wasn't paying attention, or maybe he was blocking her view.
Then, in his curiosity, the king of Pride Rock ended up doing the one thing he'd always warned Kiara to never do. He turned his back on an outsider. Before he could even focus well enough in order to figure out who he was looking at he found himself being forced down to the ground, his injured legs easily giving in under Zira's weight. The last thing he remembered before everything turned black was a sharp pain in his throat followed by a roar of rage as a blurry figure leaped over his head and shoved Zira away.
The first sense Simba regained was his sense of hearing. He could make out a few faint voices around him. A few seconds passed and he could suddenly tell he was lying on his side. The floor was very cold. The words spoken around him slowly became louder and clearer as the king of the Pridelands slowly drifted back into consciousness. Where was he? What was going on? Only after concentrating really hard for a few seconds he was able to recall what had happened.
Simba slowly breathed through his nose, smelling the air that surrounded him. The fragrance of rain after a long period of dry days was present, but it was very faint. A possible explanation to that was that it's been about a day since it last rained and, therefore, about a day since the attack of the outlanders. The more logical explanation, seeing how there was no wind, was that he was no longer outside in the open where the battle against Zira and her followers had taken place. Was he inside the den?
The king tried to move, but his limbs refused to respond to his will. Eventually, after what felt like eternity but was actually a long moment filled with fear and uncertainty, he was finally able to understand what was being said somewhere near him.
"Well?" Nala's voice... Thank the Great Kings of the Past! She sounded impatient and quite worried to say the least, but her voice assured Simba that he was safe now and that the outlanders were gone. If he could have shown any signs of panic at that moment, then he would have. After all, while Nala sounded okay, he had no idea whether the same could be said about their daughter.
"Rafiki did all that he could do." Simba immediately recognized the mandrill's voice and accent. "The king was very lucky, but… You must prepare yourselves for anything… There is a chance that-"
"That what?" came Kiara's unstable voice, cutting Rafiki short. It was a huge relief to find out that she was okay, too.
"There's no way to know for sure at the moment." continued the mandrill, his voice filled with concern. "There is a chance that your father will not live through this…" As he said this Kiara burst into tears. "The next few days are going to be crucial… I am very sorry…"
"Kiara, please don't cry…" said Kovu quietly. He couldn't bear to see his loved one like this.
"Thank you for coming all this way, Rafiki." said Nala as calmly as she could.
"It was all Rafiki's pleasure, my queen."
"How are you holding up?" Nala asked. Simba couldn't tell, but he assumed that she talking to their daughter. It was absolutely typical of his mate – making sure that others were okay despite how worried she was herself. That was one of the many traits Nala had which Simba valued so much.
However, to the king's surprise, Kiara wasn't the one who answered her. "I…" The den became silent, the only other noise being Kiara's weeping. "I don't know…" The voice was filled with doubt, but what caught Simba's attention the most was the fact that, while his initial thought was that he's never heard it before, it sounded somehow familiar. It had to be the same voice from before. That was the only reasonable explanation. The speaker stuttered incomprehensibly for a few seconds before carrying on. "He… He can't die…" He let out a long and heavy sigh. "Not now… I came all this way…"
"I know the situation doesn't look well," said Rafiki reassuringly, "but there is hope. You must remain optimistic. All of you."
"I know…" continued the same voice.
"For the time being, though, on a happier note…" said the mandrill, his words followed by the sound of him slowly making his way outside, "Welcome back."
Simba couldn't take it anymore. Just who was this mysterious stranger? As if right on cue, his eyelids suddenly decided to obey him and open. But, to his dismay, everyone who was present inside the den was standing behind him. He was going to have to stand up and turn around in order to get a better view because, as soon as he attempted to move his neck, the result was great pain. Still determined, the king slowly rolled onto his stomach, the den becoming completely silent as he did.
After a lot of effort and what felt like forever to Simba, he finally managed to rise. His vision was out of focus and he felt very weak, but he didn't care. As soon as he turned around he lost his balance, but he didn't hit the ground. Somebody was standing next to him, providing Simba's exhausted body with something to lean against for support. "Hey, it's okay… I got you, don't worry..."
Simba's eyes went wide in surprise. The lion he was trying to identify was standing right by him. Ignoring his aching neck, he managed to somehow raise his gaze to meet with that of the one supporting him and was met with a golden furred face which was crowned with a reddish brown colored mane. The small smile on the lion's face was a mixture of relief, concern and sadness. What amazed Simba the most was his eyes. He recognized them.
"Hello dad…" said the lion.