Hey! Happy 2014! Sorry it's been a couple weeks since the last chapter; I'm still trying to recover from the holiday season messing up my writing schedule. Hopefully this marks my return to weekly updates!
This chapter was SO much fun to write! I really hope you guys like it; I've been looking forward to this world ever since I started this story.
Thank you so much to everyone who has followed, favorited, and/or reviewed! I really appreciate the support :) I know I always say that, but it's true! You guys make writing each chapter so rewarding, so thank you 3
Okay, enough of the sap. On with the story!
"There is a darkness in you. In all of us, probably. Beasts we keep chained. Ordinary men have to keep the chains strong, for if we let the beast loose then society will turn upon us with fiery vengeance. Kings though...well, who is there to turn upon them? So the chains are made of straw. It is the curse of kings, Helikaon, that they can become monsters. And they invariably do."
― David Gemmell, Shield of Thunder
Chapter 22: I Just Can't Wait…
"Heartless, ten o'clock!"
"I'm on it!"
Aila angled the laser she was controlling to the left and took out the approaching Heartless ship with a few quick blasts. The gang had found themselves in the middle of a Heartless swarm on their way to the next world, and it was all hands on deck. Aila and Goofy were manning the lasers, Goofy controlling the right-side laser and Aila the left, Sora was piloting, and Donald was watching the radar, calling out the locations of any ships that tried to sneak up on them.
It was high stakes, what with so many Heartless ships shooting at them, but Aila was having a hard time keeping a smile off her face. She'd found that this was probably her favorite thing to do nowadays, which was ironic since it was her least favorite thing to do in the games. She and Goofy each had a screen in front of them that showed crude, pixilated versions of the approaching ships, as well as the angle at which the lasers would fire. It reminded her of an old arcade game, like Asteroids or that game where you shoot bubbles and try to get three of the same color together or something. She loved old arcade games; she had to stop herself from cheering each time she took out an enemy ship – it was just so exciting! Of course, there were certain parts of these encounters that she could do without…
"Sora, asteroid belt!" Donald announced.
"Right. Hang on, everyone!" Sora replied, and he sent the ship into a nosedive.
"Whoa!" Aila and Goofy gasped, trying to keep their aim steady as Sora's maneuver slammed them back into their seats.
"Yeah!" Sora shouted excitedly as he weaved in and out of the asteroids, pulling some crazy stunts that Aila thought probably weren't absolutely necessary. "Is this the best flying you've ever seen or what!"
"What," Donald grumbled, shaking his head as he attempted to rid himself of dizziness. Suddenly, the ship lurched violently to the right, and everyone yelped.
"What was that?" Aila gasped.
"Darn it! A ship snuck up on us!" Donald grumbled, banging on his radar screen as if trying to get it to work better. "It must have been hiding behind one of those asteroids…"
The ship lurched again, and Aila grabbed her controls. "Sora!"
"On it!" Sora replied. He cut the thrusters and the Gummi Ship slowed, causing their attacker to pass them and come into range of the lasers.
"Take this, you sneak!" Aila shouted, firing at the enemy ship and destroying it. She laughed triumphantly.
"Somebody's enjoying herself," Sora said with a smirk. Aila blushed.
"Uh… it reminds me of a game I used to play on my world…" she muttered, rubbing the back of her neck sheepishly.
"I think that's the last of them," Donald said. "Looks like our shields took a lot of damage on that last hit though…"
"Is it serious?" Sora asked.
Donald shrugged. "Normally it might be, but since Aila and Cid added a second shield layer when we were on Hollow Bastion, it should be fine for now."
"Good thing ya did that, Aila!" Goofy said happily. Aila smiled.
"I'll take a look at it when we land on the next world and see if I can repair the outer shield," she said. "Even though we have the second one as a safety net, I'll feel better if we have both shields functioning."
"Yeah, me too," Donald agreed.
"Uh, that might be a problem," Sora said, furrowing his brow as he looked down at one of the screens in front of him.
"What's wrong, Sora?" Goofy asked.
"I'm not sure…" Sora began. "It looks like this next world has some sort of… barrier around it or something. At least according to the sensors…"
Aila furrowed her brow. "A barrier? Has that ever happened before?"
"Yeah, once," Sora said. "Atlantica. We couldn't land because nearly the entire world was covered in water."
"Is the next world Atlantica, then?" Aila asked, getting a little excited. Atlantica seemed like it would be a nice change, what with the lack of Heartless on that world and everything…
"Nope, it's something else," Sora said, shaking his head. "Look, it's there."
Aila looked out into the distance and saw that they were approaching what she at first thought was just an extra large asteroid. As they got closer, however, she realized that it was in fact a world, one that seemed to be mostly made of rock. In fact, there was a rather large, rocky mass jutting out at the top of the world that kind of looked like… her eyes widened.
"Gwarsh, what world is that?" Goofy asked, perplexed.
"Yeah, and why can't we land?! It looks solid enough to me!" Donald squawked in annoyance.
"There must be some other reason," Sora said, equally as confused.
"We wouldn't fit in," Aila whispered, a smile spreading across her face. Her favorite world was right in front of her; she could hardly believe her luck.
"Uh, did you say something, Aila?" Goofy asked. Aila jumped, having nearly forgotten where she was.
"Um, oh, uh, I just said that maybe we can't land because we wouldn't fit in or… something…" The boys stared at her blankly. "You know, like, maybe the people on this world are… in another form or… something?"
"Like Halloween Town?" Sora asked.
"But we were able to land there," Donald frowned.
"Well…" Aila said, realizing that she was getting dangerously close to revealing that she knew more than she should. "Maybe… they're in a form that can't… drive… a ship?"
"I guess that could be it…" Donald said, putting a finger to his beak thoughtfully. Goofy gave Aila a quizzical look, and she quickly busied herself with pulling pieces of fuzz off her pants so as not to make eye contact with him.
"Well, I guess we'll just have to beam down, then," Sora said with a shrug. "Let's get the ship set up for orbit."
"Uh, how do we do that?" Aila asked, happy to jump onto the subject change.
"It's pretty simple, but the ship won't be as safe as it would be if we landed," Sora said, pressing a few buttons.
"We have to keep the shields up the entire time in case any debris makes contact with the ship while it's in orbit," Donald said. "It's too bad they're weakened…"
"It'll be fine," Sora said dismissively. "We'll just take a look at the shields on the next world. The inner one's still at one hundred percent, anyway."
"Yeah, I'm sure it'll be okay!" Goofy said enthusiastically. "Come on, Aila, I'll show you where the transmorpher is."
"Transmitter," Donald corrected absentmindedly.
"Right," Goofy laughed. "Transmitter."
Aila followed Goofy over to the right side of the Control Room. He pushed a few buttons and secret compartment opened up before them, about the size of a walk-in closet. It had a circular platform in the middle, just big enough for maybe five people to stand on, and when Goofy pressed another button it suddenly sprang to life, emitting a bunch of shining, swirling bluish light, almost like some sort of liquid magic. It looked like a giant version of a save point in the game.
"Cool," Aila breathed.
"This here is state o' the art, designed by the King himself!" Goofy said proudly.
"Really?" Aila asked, intrigued.
"Yup!" Goofy nodded. "He's really good at that kinda stuff. Guess he'd have to be, what with all the traveling around the worlds he's done."
"Okay, we're all set!" Sora said, he and Donald walking over to join them. "Defenses are up, auto-orbit's on, cloaking's done, let's do this!"
"Wait, the ship is cloaked right now?" Aila asked.
"Sure is," Donald said proudly. "Can't you tell?"
"Um… should I be able to?" she asked, confused.
"Gee, I'm disappointed, Aila. I thought you noticed little details," Donald chastised as he waltzed into the Transmitter room.
"He's just messing with you," Sora assured quietly. "He's the only one who can tell when we're cloaked when we're inside the ship."
"Oh," Aila said, smiling slightly. "I was confused…"
Sora laughed and steered her onto the Transmitter. The four of them stood in a square formation in order to fit comfortably on the platform, and the door to the Control Room slid shut.
"You might feel a little disoriented the first time you do this," Sora warned Aila. "I felt pretty sick after my first Transmitter trip, but it wears off pretty fast."
"Uh, okay," Aila said, suddenly feeling rather nervous. "How exactly does this work…?"
"Everyone stay completely on the platform," Donald instructed, ignoring Aila's question. He raised his staff above his head. "Here we go!"
The blue light or magic or whatever it was rose from the platform and engulfed the four of them, making Aila's skin tingle and obstructing her vision. 'This isn't so bad,' she thought in relief. From the way Sora had been talking, she was expecting something that at the very least made her like, seasick or something. Just as she was letting out a sigh of relief, she suddenly felt was as if she was being sucked down a tube at a ridiculously high speed, and she screamed. Her mind couldn't seem to decide whether she was being crushed or pulled apart, and so any attempts to fight the sensation failed as her limbs weren't sure whether to pull in close or try to push away from her body. Her stomach jumped into her throat and she shut her eyes, sure that something had gone wrong and that she was moments away from a horrible, Transmitter induced death. Moments later her feet hit solid land and Aila collapsed onto the floor, feeling like she'd been released from some horrible torture device. She gasped for air as she lay dizzily on her back for a few seconds, trying to get her bearings.
"You okay, Aila?" she heard Goofy ask.
"Let's… not do that again," Aila panted, opening her eyes and trying to make the sky above her stop spinning.
"Yeah, that's why we only do that when we have to," Sora said with a small laugh.
"Walk it off," Donald said dismissively; Aila could practically hear the smirk in his voice, and she frowned. She'd have to get him back for not preparing her for this…
"Hey, check us out!" Sora said excitedly, and Aila finally looked over to the group. She gasped and rolled onto her stomach, looking down at what used to be her hands in front of her; she'd nearly forgotten what world they'd just beamed down to.
"Looks like you were right, Aila!" Goofy, who was now in the form of a turtle, said with a laugh.
"Yeah," the bird version of Donald agreed, flapping his wings and flying a little higher into the air. "This is kinda neat!"
"This is even weirder than Atlantica," Sora said, examining his tail. He looked like a slightly older lion cub than the game portrayed, which made his spikey half-mane make a little more sense. He was fifteen, after all – still a kid, but Aila had always thought that the cub version of him that the game portrayed seemed a little too young. "Looks like you and I got a similar transformation, Aila," Sora said with a grin.
It was true – Aila appeared to be in a lion cub form as well, albeit a little smaller than Sora. Much like how Sora's fur was brown like his hair, her fur was jet black, like her hair. She put a paw to her head and felt a tuft of fur that seemed to resemble her human form's somewhat jagged bangs, and when she looked down she noticed that the Moon Amulet that Riku had given her was still hanging around her neck.
"This place is kinda creepy, though," Sora said nervously as he examined the area they'd beamed down to. They were surrounded by steep, grey walls of rock, with bubbling green liquid pooling in various craters nearby. Steam rose up through cracks in the earth, emitting an unpleasant odor; sulfur, Aila guessed. She shivered; they were definitely in some part of the Elephant Graveyard.
Goofy gasped, and they all looked in his direction to see a hyena, whom Aila recognized as Shenzi, standing in front of him. As they looked around, they realized that they were suddenly surrounded by dozens of hyenas, some circling in toward them, some up on the nearby rocky cliffs, all of them looking highly amused by the group's presence. A hyena near Donald, clearly Ed, laughed excitedly.
"Heartless?" Sora asked as he, Donald, Goofy, and Aila all bunched together in a circular formation, back to back to back to back.
"I dunno, Sora. I get the feelin' they might live here," Goofy said.
"Hyenas," Aila whispered nervously.
"Oh, our reputation precedes us!" Banzai sneered, getting in Aila's face. She recoiled nervously, and Ed laughed again.
"Don't mind us!" Donald said quickly. "Just passing through. We won't be any trouble."
"Yeah, that's right," Sora said, glaring at Banzai, who was still inching toward Aila.
"Don't be silly," Shenzi said, beginning to circle the group. "We'd love you to stick around for lunch." Banzai and Ed began to circle around them as well, and the group backed up a little closer together.
"Um… we didn't bring anything to eat," Sora said hesitantly.
Banzai laughed. "That's not gonna be a problem," he sneered.
Goofy gulped. "Gwarsh, Sora – I think we're the lunch!" he said nervously. Ed laughed psychotically and licked his lips.
"Wahh!" Donald screamed, flying off as fast as his wings could carry him in an attempt to escape the horde of hyenas. Goofy seemed to have the same idea, and he bolted away as well, as fast as his little turtle legs could carry him, which really wasn't all that fast.
"Come on!" Sora said urgently to Aila, and they both ran as fast as they could to try and get around the hyenas on their side. Unfortunately for them, having four legs was very different from having two; Aila fell flat on her face after just a few steps, and Sora tripped and somersaulted onto his back about half a second later.
"Going somewhere?" Banzai taunted as he trotted up to them, grinning down at the two of them menacingly. Aila stumbled to her feet and scurried over next to Sora, noticing that Donald and Goofy had been cornered by a bunch of hyenas against the opposite wall.
"Sora…" Aila whispered nervously, not sure what to do. She couldn't remember what stopped the hyenas from killing the gang in the game, but what if it didn't happen this time? What if this world was different enough from the game that nothing was going to save them? Should they fight? But how? She crouched down, pressing her ears down flat against her head and baring her teeth, trying her best to look threatening.
"Ooh, what a scary lion!" Shenzi mocked, laughing. "I'm shaking in my boots. What about you, Banzai?"
"Most definitely," Banzai agreed with a nod. "Maybe we should just give up! What do you think, Ed?" Ed stared blankly for a moment and then shook his head violently, laughing hysterically and licking his lips once again.
"Looks like Ed thinks we can take you," Shenzi said with a shrug.
Banzai got really close to Aila's face once again. "Don't worry, kitty cat. It'll all be over soon," he said darkly. She growled, but it was like her body was too paralyzed with fear for her to make a move. Banzai opened his mouth and began to lunge toward her, and she shut her eyes.
A loud, angry sounding lion roar echoed through the cliffs, and Banzai paused centimeters before chomping down on Aila's face.
"Man, that Scar's got the worst timing!" he grumbled, looking in the direction the roar had come from.
"Just let him roar," Shenzi said, rolling her eyes.
"Nah, we better go see what he wants," Banzai sighed. "Sounds like he's grumpy enough already."
Shenzi sighed, clearly annoyed. "Fine."
The other hyenas began to run off in the direction the roar had originated from, much to the gang's relief.
"We'll have to postpone our lunch date for now, kiddies," Shenzi said. "Hope you can make it next time."
Ed sat staring at Aila and Sora, seeming confused about why everyone was leaving. "Come on, you idiot!" Banzai growled, grabbing Ed and dragging him off after the rest of the hyenas. Soon they were all gone, and the gang simultaneously sighed in relief.
"I dunno what that was about," Sora said, getting to his feet, "but I'm glad it's over."
"Me too," Goofy agreed nervously.
"Everything's harder on four legs," Sora said, furrowing his brow and taking a few tentative steps.
"Yeah," Aila agreed with a frown. "I didn't expect it to be so confusing… I mean, it should be like crawling, right?"
"Better start practicing," Donald said.
"I found a trick to it," Goofy said, walking over to Sora and Aila. "Here, lemme show ya."
It took Sora and Aila a good twenty minutes to get the whole walking thing down enough for them to not fall on their faces whenever they started running, but eventually they got the hang of it. Donald seemed to be getting more comfortable with flying as well (though Aila noticed that he seemed a little hesitant to go more than a few feet off the ground) and so they decided to move out in search of a more pleasant section of this world.
"Okay everyone, remember where we landed!" Goofy said happily.
"But… we didn't land…" Aila said, confused.
"Yeah, but we gotta remember where we beamed down," Sora clarified. "We'll need to come back here to get back to the ship."
"Oh," Aila said, thinking about the swarm of hyenas that almost definitely lived here, or at the very least hung out here a lot. "That's unfortunate…"
"You know, if Kairi saw you in this form, I bet she'd think you were cute," Donald said to Sora with a smirk as they began to head out.
"Shut up," Sora said, embarrassed. Aila giggled.
After a few minutes of walking, they found themselves surrounded by reddish colored rocks rather than the super depressing grey rocks at their landing point, which was a nice change. But that didn't mean that this new area was any less creepy, what with the huge elephant skeletons littering the ground.
"Seriously, where are we?!" Sora asked. "This world is super dark."
"It's probably just the section we're in," Aila assured.
"Hey, look over there," Goofy said. They all looked to the left and saw a lioness being chased by what appeared to be two enormous Heartless: two Living Bones, to be exact. The lioness was clearly outmatched, unsure of how to shake the two beasts.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" Sora asked.
"Heartless!?" Donald asked.
"What do we do?" Goofy asked. "I mean, how're we gonna fight in these forms?"
Sora ran off toward the lioness at full speed, ignoring Goofy's question. He leapt between the Heartless and the lioness and took an offensive stance. "Stay back!" he said to the lioness, who looked shocked to see him intervene. Aila smiled slightly as she realized who the lioness was: Nala.
Donald sighed. "I guess we'll have to improvise…" he grumbled before flying off after Sora. Aila and Goofy followed his lead, and the fight was on. Donald summoned his staff and held it in his taloned feet, Sora and Aila summoning their weapons and holding them in their mouths. It wasn't exactly comfortable, and Aila wondered if maybe her weapon would be more hindrance than help in this situation. She, Donald, and Goofy attacked the two Heartless from behind as Sora leapt at them from the front, catching the beasts off guard.
Donald decided that it was easier to cast spells at the enemies from a distance in his current form, while Goofy quickly realized that if he spun into the Heartless, he was able to do similar damage to what his shield would generally do in his normal form. Sora and Aila were trying to hit the Heartless with their weapons clamped between their jaws, but it was tough, not to mention painful; it hurt Aila's teeth whenever her weapon came in contact with something. She huffed, frustrated, and decided to try a different approach. She dropped her weapon on the ground and grabbed it with both her front paws, trying to aim it at one of the Living Bones. Very carefully, she pushed herself up so she was standing on her hind legs, pointing her weapon unsteadily at the closest Heartless.
"Bliz-aaahhhhrd!" Aila cried, losing her balance and falling onto her back halfway through the spell. Ice erupted from her staff and shot straight up into the air, sprinkling her with a dusting of snow on its way down. She sputtered and leapt to her feet, trying to shake herself dry. "That was unpleasant…" she mumbled. "Okay, Plan C." Her weapon vanished and she glared at the rampaging Living Bones, trying to find an opening. She ran up onto a ledge nearby, not taking her eyes off the nearest Heartless. "I hope this works…" she whispered before taking a deep breath. "Hey! Bone… face! Over here!"
"Boh fah?" Sora said around the Keyblade in his mouth, raising a brow at her in amusement.
"I dunno, I couldn't think of anything good," she said with a frown. Her less than stellar taunt seemed to work though, catching the attention of the Living Bone closest to her. The large Heartless hurdled toward her, and she crouched down, preparing to pounce. When the Living Bone was about two feet away from her, she jumped toward it, extending her claws and digging them into the Heartless's back. The Heartless roared in pain and began bucking around wildly as it tried to shake Aila off. She bit down on the Heartless as hard as she could in an attempt to stay on, which seemed to anger the Heartless even more. In its rampage, it slammed itself into nearby walls and rocks, doing major damage to itself as Aila held on for dear life.
"Good thinking, Aila!" Sora said, and Aila saw him leap onto the other Heartless out of the corner of her eye. "Yeehaw!" he cried as his Heartless began to rampage as well.
"Fire!" Donald shouted, shooting a fireball at Aila's Heartless and finishing it off. Aila dropped to the ground as the Living Bone vanished, landing surprisingly gracefully on her padded paws.
"Okay, I'm so fighting weaponless on this world," she said with a grin, proud of how successful her plan had been. A few moments later, Sora's Heartless was taken out as well, and the battle was over.
"Definitely Heartless," Sora said with a nod.
"But those other guys definitely weren't," Goofy said. "What'd you call 'em, Aila? 'Hyenas'?"
"Yeah," Aila said. "They, uh, exist on my world. They're really dangerous."
"Thank you," Nala said, walking up to the group. They turned to look at her, and she smiled. "You really saved me." Aila smiled back nervously, wanting to make a good impression on one of her favorite characters ever.
"We're just glad you're okay," Goofy replied.
Nala smiled. "I'm Nala. I don't think I've seen you around, have I?"
"No," Sora said, shaking his head. "We're not from around here." He grinned. "I'm Sora. This is Donald, Goofy, and Aila."
"It's very nice to meet you all," Nala said kindly.
"Did you see any other Heartless around here?" Sora asked.
"Heartless…? Is that what they're called?" Nala said, confused. "I'm not sure if there are any others… I don't usually hunt outside the Pride Lands."
"Pride Lands?" Donald asked.
"Must be her home," Goofy whispered. Aila smiled and nodded at them in agreement.
"Hey, do you know if a guy named Riku is there?" Sora asked, approaching Nala. "Or some bad guys in black hoods? Or maybe this really big bully named Pete? Or a girl named Alex?" Nala shook her head no, and Sora sighed. He turned back to Aila, Donald, and Goofy. "Oh well, we might as well go take a look anyway."
"Wait – the Pride Lands are dangerous," Nala interrupted quickly. "Scar and the hyenas have made things unbearable for everyone. There's no food left. They've driven off the prey. We're about to starve."
"We can handle a little danger," Sora said confidently. "You just saw us beat those Heartless, didn't you?"
"I guess you're right…" Nala said, still seeming a little unsure. The thought for a minute, studying Sora. "You could be just what the kingdom needs. Maybe you can help us."
"Ya mean take on this Scar guy and all those hyenas?" Goofy asked nervously.
"Scar?" Donald asked, still confused. Aila put a paw over her mouth to stop herself from laughing at his inability to keep up.
"He took over when our last king, Mufasa, died," Nala said sadly.
"So you're saying this guy is your king?" Sora asked, seeming a little taken aback. He blinked. "You want us to take down your king?!" Nala nodded, and Sora looked back at the group hesitantly. "Wait just a minute," he said to her before running back over to Aila, Donald, and Goofy. They huddled up. "We can't just go around knocking kings off their thrones," Sora whispered.
"Yeah, it would disrupt the World Order," Donald said seriously, crossing his wings as he thought.
"Then again," Sora said, a thoughtful look on his face, "if they see that I'm stronger than their king, maybe they'll ask me to be their next king!"
"Sora…" Goofy began worriedly. Aila sighed, but couldn't help but smile a little.
"I'd have to refuse, of course," Sora assured. "Still, I'd like to see the Pride Lands, so you guys don't mind lending 'em a paw, do you?"
"Uh… Well, I guess if they're in trouble…" Goofy said slowly.
"Great!" Sora exclaimed, bounding back over to Nala excitedly to tell her their decision.
"Uh-oh, there he goes again…" Donald sighed.
"He's just having fun," Aila giggled. "I think Sora'd make a good king someday."
"Maybe so, but he can't be one here!" Donald squawked.
"Yeah, and if he dethrones their king and then can't his place, the kingdom'll just be, well, kingless," Goofy said.
"Good point," Aila said. She shrugged. "I wouldn't worry about it. I'm sure it'll all work out in the end."
"Gwarsh Aila, you sure are optimistic! You're always sayin' that everything'll work out," Goofy said with a laugh.
Aila smiled nervously. "Am I? Oh, well, you know… I like to look on the bright side, I guess…"
Nala ran past them, looking quite excited, and Sora returned to the group. "She's gonna go on ahead and tell the other lionesses," he said. "We're supposed to meet her at a place called Pride Rock."
"Okay, let's go then!" Aila said, having some trouble hiding her excitement. She was going to see Pride Rock in person! Er, or… in lion, at least. She took a few steps in the direction that Nala had gone and then paused, looking back at Sora. "…I'm hoping she gave you directions."
"Yep! Follow me!" Sora said confidently, leading the way.
They weaved their way through the rocky terrain and massive elephant skeletons, running into quite a few Heartless along the way. Aila and Sora were getting better and better at fighting like lions rather than fighting like people; in fact, Aila was beginning to find that sinking her teeth and claws into an enemy was strangely satisfying. What wasn't satisfying was walking around in this maze of an Elephant Graveyard for what was beginning to feel like forever. Aila hadn't expected it to take them this long; in fact, she was pretty sure she was starting to see the same landmarks over and over…
"We're lost, aren't we?" she sighed as they walked past a particularly large elephant skull for the fifth time.
"Ummm…" Sora said hesitantly, looking back and forth between two possible routes. "Did we just take a left or a right…?"
Aila, Donald, and Goofy groaned.
"Great. It woulda been nice if Nala had shown us the way," Donald grumbled. "Or at least drawn us a map…"
"Uh, can lions draw maps?" Goofy asked, cocking his head curiously.
"I'm sure we're almost there," Sora insisted, though he seemed less confident than he had before. "She said we couldn't miss it."
"Well, apparently she was wrong," Donald said, annoyed.
"Come on, we must have just made a wrong turn somewhere," Sora said. "Help me look."
"This wouldn't have happened if you'd just followed her directions better."
"Hey, don't get mad at me! It's not my fault this place is confusing!"
Aila sighed and looked around at the elephant bones around them while Sora and Donald bickered. She was wracking her brain to try and remember how exactly they got to Pride Rock from here, but everything looked different and unfamiliar from her first person lion cub view. She padded toward one of the walls and walked along it, trying to see if there was some angle that might spark her memory. There were two bones that looked like they were part of a smaller elephant's ribcage sticking out of the ground at a lower part of the wall, and Aila trotted a little closer to inspect them. She was amazed at how huge the bones were; and these were from a smaller elephant! "Wow," she whispered as she examined them; she understood why Simba and Nala had found this place so alluring when they were cubs.
As she contemplated how gigantic the elephants must be on this world and decided to try and avoid them at all costs for fear of being stepped on, something in the distance caught her eye. She climbed up onto the low section of the wall she was next to and squinted into the distance. There, across a vast expanse of flat land, was what looked like a very large rock formation. She gasped.
"Come on, fellas, don't fight," Goofy was saying, standing between Sora and Donald as the two glared at one another.
"We're not fighting!" they yelled at the same time. Goofy looked confused.
"Really? Oh, well good then!" he said with a laugh.
"Uh, guys?" Aila said. "You can stop 'not' fighting now." She ushered the boys over to the wall and pointed to the rock in the distance. "Da da da daaa! Pride Rock!" she sang proudly, happy that she'd been able to do something helpful.
"Are you sure that's Pride Rock?" Donald asked skeptically.
'Yes, positive,' Aila wished she could say. "Pretty sure…" she said instead. "It's the only big rock around that isn't, well… here."
"That must be it," Sora said with a nod. "See? Told you I knew where I was going."
Donald opened his mouth to retort, but then seemed to think better of it and just grumbled something under his breath and shook his head instead.
"Gwarsh, it's really far away," Goofy said as they exited the Elephant Graveyard.
"And really dead," Donald said, looking at the grassless Savannah before them distastefully.
"Yeah," Sora said sadly. "No wonder the lionesses need to hunt in such dangerous places. There's nothing left out here for them."
"Mmm," Aila agreed absentmindedly, her eyes trained on Pride Rock and her mind occupied with the fact that she was literally in her favorite movie ever. "Well, we'd better hurry up and help them, right?" she said abruptly, looking at the boys and grinning. "No use keeping them waiting!" She took off at a run, unable to contain her excitement any longer.
"Hey, slow down, Aila!" Sora said as he, Donald, and Goofy rushed to catch up to her.
"What's wrong? Can't keep up?" Aila taunted playfully, grinning back at the three of them.
Sora grinned back. "Oh, it's on." He nodded to Donald and Goofy, and the three of them started running, spinning, and flying as fast as they could.
Aila laughed and picked up her own speed as well, determined to win this impromptu race. Her padded feet propelled her forward gracefully, the wind whipping through her fur as she ran. Sora began to overtake her, flashing her a smile as he did so.
"That the best you got?" he taunted, and Aila smirked.
"You wish!" She willed herself to pick up the pace, and an image of the white wolf running through the forest in Halloween Town flashed in her mind. She gasped and stumbled for a second, caught off guard by the image.
"Run in time with your heart," she heard the hooded girl say softly, almost hesitantly.
"Huh?" Aila panted, confused by the girl's words.
"Did you say something?" Sora called over his shoulder as he took the lead.
"No," Aila said quickly. She furrowed her brow as she ran, deciding that it wouldn't hurt to try what the girl suggested. The hooded girl had been practically silent since Aila had left Halloween Town; she seemed unwilling to talk, almost as if she was distracted, trying to figure something out. If she was finally whispering in Aila's ear again, then it had to be for a reason, right? Aila listened to the rhythm of her heart, which was beating quite fast as she ran, and attempted to align her steps with the beats. It took her a few seconds to get it right, but as soon as she did, a jolt ran through her body. It was like someone had suddenly injected her with a shot of pure energy. Her speed picked up, and she thought she could see a faint white glow surrounding her paws as they extended in front of her with each bound she took.
"What the – ?!" Sora gasped as Aila caught up to and then pulled ahead of him. "Using magic is cheating!"
"It's not magic!" Aila shouted back with a laugh.
"Then what is it?"
"I don't know!" Aila was a little worried that her feet might propel her to terrifyingly high speeds like they had in Halloween Town, but this felt different somehow, more controlled. She skidded between two rock formations that seemed to signify the entrance to Pride Rock and came to a stop the bottom of the slope leading up to the King's den. She grinned as she turned to face the boys. "Ha! I win!"
"How'd you do that?" Sora asked as he, Donald, and Goofy ran up to her.
"Um… I ran in time with my heart?" Aila said, feeling silly when she said it out loud. The white glow had faded from her paws and she suddenly began to feel a little drained, not enough to cause alarm, but it was definitely noticeable.
"There you are." The group turned to see Nala walking up to them. "Quickly, this way." Aila was very confused as Nala began to usher them away from Pride Rock.
"Where are we going?" Aila asked. This wasn't how the game went, or at least she didn't think it was…
"To see Rafiki. He's the only one who will know whether Sora's the king that can overthrow Scar."
Aila furrowed her brow. She was pretty sure Rafiki lived in Pride Rock in the game, so where was he? Nala led them around the back of Pride Rock and into a different part of the Savannah. They had to hide a few times to avoid the dozens of hyenas lurking around, but other than that their trip was, thankfully, without incident. They eventually found themselves in a slightly less dead-looking section of the Savannah, and Aila realized exactly where they were headed. This wasn't exactly like the game – this was almost more like the movie. Or at least, the layout of where people lived was. There before them stood a large, thick-trunked tree, so big that it would be quite simple for someone to make a home inside of it. And of course, that's exactly what someone had done.
"Rafiki?" Nala called as they reached the base of the tree.
"Yes, yes, who is it?" an oldish voice called from up in the tree, and Aila smiled. Rafiki peaked his head out from behind one of the larger branches and squinted down at the group curiously. When he saw Nala, a wide grin spread across his face. "Ah, so you finally brought him, did you?" He swung down the tree with stunning speed and grace and landed before the group, his signature staff in hand.
"This is him," Nala told Rafiki, indicating Sora.
Rafiki swiftly approached Sora, getting right up in his face and studying him intensely. "Hmm…"
Sora backed up slightly, clearly uncomfortable. "Uh… what?"
"No, it will not work," Rafiki said abruptly, standing up straight and shaking his head.
"Are… are you sure?" Nala asked, seeming heartbroken.
"Of course. It's obvious, isn't it?" Rafiki said, gesturing to Sora. "He cannot be the next king, and so he cannot defeat Scar."
"Hey!" Sora said indignantly. "Why can't I be king?"
"Uh, Sora…" Donald muttered, trying to remind Sora that of course he couldn't be king on this world.
Rafiki put his face right in front of Sora's again. "Why?" He rapped his staff on Sora's head a few times, making Sora wince. "You do not have the correct qualities, no no no. Your heart is strong, but it is not the heart of our king, and you still have much to learn about the nature of the Circle of Life, among other things." He planted his staff in the ground and hopped up onto it, half sitting in a lotus position on top of it. "In short, you are just not right. Too young, too naïve, too trusting. It will not do."
Sora looked quite offended. "But I – "
"Ah ah ah," Rafiki said, cutting him off. "It. Will. Not. Work."
Nala hung her head sadly. "I thought we'd finally found the one…"
Sora glared at Rafiki, clearly upset by his hasty rejection. Aila put a paw on his shoulder comfortingly. "It's okay, Sora. Your still our leader."
"Yup!" Goofy agreed happily. "Besides, you couldn't have accepted the position anyway."
"You couldn't have?" Nala asked, looking even more depressed.
"Uh…" Sora said, sweatdropping. "Well… I mean… um…" He cleared his throat and tried to look nonchalant. "I didn't want to be king anyway. No big deal."
"Hm…" Rafiki said, putting a finger to his chin. Before Aila even knew what had happened, he had hopped off his staff and plucked a strand of fur from her head.
"Ow!" she said, rubbing her head with her paw. "Why'd you do that?!"
"Sh sh sh," Rafiki said, examining the piece of fur closely. He sniffed it, listened to it, and even tasted it. After the fur had been in his mouth for a few moments, his eyes widened. He removed the piece of fur and stared at it again, looking even more confused. "Very interesting…"
"What? What is it?" Nala asked anxiously. Rafiki held a hand up to silence her and put his face in front of Aila's, so close that their noses were touching. He put his hand on the back of her head and looked deep into her eyes, as if searching for something. He smiled. "Roho."
"Um… I'm sorry?" Aila asked, feeling extremely awkward.
"Ha ha!" Rafiki laughed, letting Aila go and grinning in amusement. "You do not know, hm?"
"Know what?" Aila asked, growing even more confused.
"Tut tut tut," Rafiki clicked, wagging his finger. "That is not for me to say. But! You will know soon enough! The appearance of a roho such as yourself spells good fortune, oh yes."
"Really?" Nala asked excitedly.
"What's a 'roho'?" Goofy asked. Sora and Donald shrugged.
"Let's see let's see," Rafiki said excitedly, holding up the piece of fur he'd stolen from Aila and shaking his staff over it. Apparently something happened, even though no one besides Rafiki seemed to be able to see whatever it was, and the baboon laughed once again. "Ah! Mwezi," he said mysteriously. "Yes yes…" He suddenly looked slightly concerned. "Jua is not with you, yes?"
Aila blinked and looked at the boys for help. They all looked just as confused as she was. "Um… what? I don't… understand…"
Rafiki smiled. "Ah, he is not. Good, good." He patted Aila lightly on the head. "We do not always need to understand. Just trust!" He turned to Nala. "It is good they are here. They cannot overthrow Scar, but I believe they will help find the one who can."
Nala looked ecstatic. "That's fantastic! What should we do? Who will we find?"
"That I do not know," Rafiki said with a sigh. "But, in time, all will be revealed." He suddenly looked up at the sky and sniffed the air, furrowing his brow. A soft wind blew through the Savannah and he put a finger to his chin curiously. "I must go," he said, and with that, he hopped back up into his tree and vanished.
"Thank you!" Nala called after him. "Come on, let's get back and tell the others," she said to the gang excitedly. "This is the best news we've had in a long time."
"That monkey is weird…" Donald mumbled as they began to follow Nala back to Pride Rock. Sora and Goofy expressed their agreement, and Aila took a quick look back at the tree. What had Rafiki been talking about? A moment later, she could almost swear she heard Rafiki cackling excitedly, and she shook her head. She supposed she couldn't expect a character like him to make sense.
Nala whispered excitedly to them as they snuck back into Pride Rock, thanking them over and over again for agreeing to help, even though they weren't entirely sure what exactly that help was going to look like yet. Aila smiled, feeling good about giving Nala something to be happy about. It was clear that she hadn't been happy in a long, long time.
"Hang on," Nala said suddenly, stopping the group right when they got back to the base of Pride Rock. One of the other lionesses ran over to them, looking stressed. "Asha!" Nala said excitedly to the other lioness. "I have news! Rafiki – "
"It'll have to wait, Nala," the lioness, Asha, whispered urgently. "Scar wants to see us. All of us."
Nala's face fell. "It's about the hunt, isn't it."
"Probably," Asha said nervously. "What are we going to do? There's nothing left to hunt, but he won't listen…"
"Don't worry," Nala assured. "I'll explain to him again. He can't avoid the truth forever." She turned to the gang. "You should get out of here before Scar sees you. I'll meet up with you by the Elephant Graveyard as soon as I can."
"Are you sure you're gonna be okay?" Sora asked worriedly.
"Yes," Nala said quickly. "Believe me, it will be better for everyone if you're not spotted. Now hurry, go!"
Sora, Aila, Donald, and Goofy all looked at each other and nodded. They turned around and began to run toward the Elephant Graveyard, but unfortunately, they didn't get very far.
"Hey, a snack," a chillingly familiar voice said, and Banzai appeared in front of them, he, Shenzi, and Ed blocking their path.
"Snack?" Shenzi sneered. "Nah, we got us a three course meal." Ed laughed sinisterly, and the gang all took defensive poses.
"Not you three again," Donald said angrily. "Get out of our way!"
"Now why would we do that?" Banzai asked. A loud roar sounded from the top of Pride Rock, making everyone jump. The three hyenas looked up toward the King's Den. "Look at that, here comes Scar – the king, heh heh," Banzai said darkly.
"Oh, there's no way you're leaving now," Shenzi chuckled. The gang looked up to the top of the Rock as well.
"And Pete!" Sora gasped. Indeed, a large, bumbling-looking lion that had a face suspiciously similar to Pete's was standing next to Scar, sneering down at the gang. Scar leapt down the side of the Rock gracefully and took a few menacing steps toward the gang. Aila's heart thumped nervously; Scar looked like he'd kill anything that got in his way without even blinking an eye.
Pete attempted to jump down the Rock as well, but, lacking the grace of a real lion, he tripped and tumbled down the last third of the way. Scar rolled his eyes, and Sora shook his head in confusion. "How is he a villain again?" he whispered to Donald and Goofy.
"Ow, my back…" Pete groaned, struggling to his feet.
"What are you doing here?!" Sora demanded, taking a few steps forward.
"Aww, the cute li'l kitty's worried about me," Pete mocked. "If I were you, I'd be more worried about my friends!"
At that moment, dozens of hyenas swarmed the area, surrounding Aila, Donald, and Goofy.
"Sora!" Donald called frantically. Sora looked back and gasped.
"We're surrounded!" Goofy cried, covering his eyes. A hyena snapped at Aila's paw, and she gasped, stumbling back nervously.
"Leave them alone!" Sora yelled, rushing toward his friends. Unfortunately, another group of hyenas surrounded him before he could help, cutting him off from the rest of the group.
"Sora?!" Aila called nervously, no longer able to see him.
"Go on, ladies – you've got some hunting to do," Scar said slyly to the lionesses, all of whom had gathered to see what was going on.
"The herds have moved on, Scar," Nala said, stepping forward and speaking for the group. "We can't hunt in a land with no prey."
"No prey?" Scar asked with a scoff. "Then what do you call this?"
"We're not prey!" Sora shouted indignantly from within the hyena hoard, though Aila thought he sounded a little worried.
"Ooh, nice and fresh, too," Scar said with a chuckle.
"Well, they're all yours, Scar," Pete said happily before running off. Scar's lip curled in annoyance; he seemed glad that Pete was leaving.
"Move aside," he commanded to the closest hyenas. "I'll show these females how it's done."
The hyenas that were surrounding Sora parted, and Scar crouched down, preparing to pounce. Aila strained to see through the wall of hyenas in front of her, her eyes widening. "Sora!" she cried. Scar lunged, but before he could even get close to Sora, Nala intercepted him and pinned him to the ground. Sora gasped.
"Run!" Nala cried, trying to hold Scar down for as long as she could.
"Boss!" Banzai growled in surprise, he and the other hyenas watching Scar and Nala's struggle rather than paying attention to the gang for a few moments.
"Come on," Sora said quickly as he ran past Aila, Donald, and Goofy. He didn't have to tell them twice. They took off as fast as they could go, the hyenas noticing a few seconds too late that their prey was getting away.
"Get off!" Scar growled, throwing Nala off of him. She landed gracefully and hit the ground running, catching up to the others. "AFTER THEM!" Scar roared, and the hyenas took chase.
"Follow me!" Nala cried, leading the gang into the Savannah. She zigzagged back and forth, jumping over rocks and fallen trees, running through any tall, dead grass they came across, anything to get the hyenas off their tail. It took a while, but they eventually were able to lose them all. When they were sure it was safe to stop, the gang collapsed, exhausted from the chase.
"Well," Sora panted, "that… was close…"
"I'm sorry I got you involved in this," Nala said, hanging her head.
"It's no big deal," Sora assured, waving his paw tiredly in front of him.
"It is so!" Donald squawked angrily. "We were almost eaten!"
"I know, I'm so sorry," Nala said guiltily. "I just… I thought that maybe Sora could be the king we needed, and… and then after what Rafiki said, I…"
"Aw," Donald said, rubbing the back of his head awkwardly. He clearly felt guilty about yelling at Nala. "It's not your fault that Sora wouldn't be a good king."
"Hey!" Sora shouted. He crossed his paws indignantly. "I had to give it a try, right?"
"So you did wanna be king!" Goofy chuckled.
"Well… you know…" Sora said, rubbing his head sheepishly. "Uh, Nala, isn't there anyone else who could be king?" he asked quickly, changing the subject.
"There was…" Nala began. She hesitated, and then sighed. "But he died… when he was just a cub," she whispered, the pain evident in her voice. "He was the son of our last king, Mufasa." She looked up at the sky sadly. "If only Simba were here…"
"Simba?!" Sora asked. "But Simba's just fine!"
Nala's head snapped up, her eyes wide. "What did you say?"
"He was fighting right beside us not that long ago," Sora continued, furrowing his brow in confusion.
"You mean… Simba's… alive?!" Nala stuttered in disbelief. A myriad of emotions flashed across her face. "But where is he?"
"That… I don't know," Sora said with a frown.
"Still… Simba's alive!" Nala said, her voice cracking as she held back either laughter or tears, possibly both. "I can't believe it… Please – tell me more about him," she pleaded.
"Of course!" Sora agreed happily. A roar rumbled in the distance, and they all looked back at Pride Rock nervously.
"But first, we should get away from Scar," Nala said seriously. "We'll go through Wildebeest Valley. He won't follow us there."
"Right," Sora said with a nod, and they hurried off.
A breeze began to blow, and Aila had the strangest feeling, like something was whispering to her, something she could only barely hear. A voice as delicate as the wind, but strong enough to ignite the depths of her heart with the feeling that something was going to happen, something very important. She frowned, trying to make out what the whispered words meant, but the harder she strained her ears, the more indecipherable the whispers became.
"You're not running off again, are you, Aila?" Donald called, the rest of them having pulled a few feet ahead of her. The whispers faded away as she returned her attention to the present, the message hidden within them lost for now.
"I'm not! Sorry!" she called, hurrying to catch up to the group.
In the distance, Rafiki was watching, looking quite contemplative. The breeze made its way to him and he cupped a hand over his ear, listening intently and patiently. After a few moments, he smiled, his eyes falling on Aila.
"Mwezi… it is time to wake up."
Shout out to jp002 and wolfcrys for guessing that The Pride Lands was the next world!
The Lion King is my favorite movie, a trait that I decided to give Aila as well since I realized that it was hard for me to write about this world without being super excited hahaha. So yeah, this world is gonna be fun. I have big plans for important things to happen while the gang is here!
Please leave a review to let me know what you think! Thanks for reading!