Hey guys! I'm so sorry for the delay in updating. My personal life got more and more complicated for a while, and I just didn't have the time or motivation to write anything. But yesterday I was finally able to sit down and write again, and I'm hoping that I'll be able to devote enough time to this for weekly updates again! Yay!

I'm kinda getting back into the swing of this story after not thinking about it for a few weeks, so hopefully this chapter isn't too rough. I really hope this was worth the wait! I considered waiting and reading it over one more time tomorrow to make sure I still liked it… but I was just too excited to update!

Happy reading :)

"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next.

Delicious Ambiguity."

― Gilda Radner

Chapter 24: Insults and Injury

"Do you know how far ahead of us he is?" Sora asked as the group ran through the Wastelands.

"Rafiki didn't say when he left; it could have been hours before us," Nala replied, swiftly dodging a Heartless that attempted to engage her in battle. They didn't have time for a fight; not now.

"A LITTLE HELP HERE!" Timon cried, he and Pumba sprinting frantically out of the way of a rampaging Living Bones. Well, Pumba was the one doing the sprinting; Timon was really just riding on his friend's back and screaming a lot. Goofy spun into the large Heartless and tripped it, giving the group enough time to get away unscathed. "Shouldn't we beat it up or something?!" Timon urged, hanging on to his friend's mane for dear life.

"No time," Nala objected.

"Well uh… how about a break then," Pumba panted. "We've been running for so long my hooves are gonna fall off…"

"No!" Nala said a little more sternly. "Simba needs our help. Don't you understand? Scar could kill him!"

"Whoa whoa whoa, nobody said anything about killing," Timon said, sounding nervous. "I say we find Simba, knock some sense into him, and then we can all go back home and have some breakfast. I saw some delectable looking beetles when we were on our way out…"

"I'm pretty sure he already had some sense knocked into him," Aila muttered, her heart pounding nervously. Nala wasn't exaggerating – this battle was going to be dangerous. All of the enemies they were going to be fighting had razor sharp teeth and claws. One wrong move, and her throat could very well get ripped right out. She gulped, feeling very aware of every muscle her throat used to perform such an action and tried to push such troubling thoughts from her mind, reminding herself that this was what had to happen. There was no going back, no matter how appealing it sounded. She was a good guy; she needed to help the protagonist of this story. They were going to win, and everything would be fine. There was nothing to worry about.

"There!" Nala cried, and she veered off sharply to the right without any additional warning.

"Whoa, hey, hang on!" Sora called, he and the rest of their company tripping over themselves to try and follow her new path.

"Where's she going? Pride Rock is that way," Donald grumbled, gesturing in the direction they'd been headed.

"Well uh, we weren't goin' to Pride Rock, were we?" Goofy asked.

"Of course we were!"

"No," Sora disagreed. "We were going to Simba. Look."

Simba was standing at the edge of a rock that overlooked the Savannah, Nala having just joined him. The group slowed as they approached, finally having a chance to catch their breath.

"It's gonna be dangerous," Simba was saying, looking concerned.

"Danger? Ha! I laugh in the face of danger, ha ha ha ha!" Nala replied smugly.

"I see nothing funny about this," Timon scolded, leaping off of Pumba as he and the others caught up to the two lions.

"Guys?" Simba asked, looking at all of his friends, new and old. "What're you doing here?"

"At your service, my liege," Pumba said dramatically, bowing grandly at Simba's feet.

"Come on, you didn't think we'd let you do this alone, did you?" Sora asked with a cheeky grin.

"Gwarsh Simba, after all the times you helped us out last year, it's the least we could do," Goofy agreed.

"Ugh, we're gonna fight your uncle for this?" Timon asked, sneering at the dried out, lifeless Savannah that sprawled out before them.

"Yes Timon. This is my home," Simba said, looking out toward Pride Rock wistfully.

"Ah, talk about your fixer upper…" Timon mumbled under his breath. Donald nudged the meerkat's shoulder, giving him a disapproving look. Timon grinned sheepishly and cleared his throat. "Well Simba, if it's important to you, we're with ya to the end." He bowed, and Simba smiled softly.

"What he said," Donald agreed, "Your Majesty." The winged wizard grinned at Sora, Goofy, and Aila, all three of whom smiled back knowingly, and they bowed to the rightful king of the Pride Lands. Nala looked overjoyed, and Simba seemed touched by the gesture. They all looked out toward Pride Rock once again and were silent for a few moments, the reality of the danger they were about to face sinking in at last.

"Well," Simba began finally, seeming to gather up his courage. He took a deep breath. "Let's go."


The group crept around the edges of Pride Rock, being very careful not to catch the attention of the many hyenas that were lounging about. There had to be at least fifty of them, possibly more.

"Hyenas," Timon gulped. "I hate hyenas."

"They're not exactly friendly, are they…" Sora agreed with a frown.

"So what's your plan for getting past those guys?" Timon whispered to Simba.

"Live bait," Simba answered.

"Good idea," Timon agreed. He looked at Aila and the gang with a smug look, apparently expecting them to be the bait Simba was talking about. However, when Simba continued to stare at him, it dawned on him that the lion might have a slightly different idea… "Hey!"

"Come on Timon, you guys have to create a diversion. These guys have fighting experience," he said, gesturing to the gang. "You and Pumba don't."

"We'll have your backs," Aila assured the meerkat, looking to the gang for their approval. They nodded in agreement.

"Yeah, we'll hide a little ways off, and you can lead the hyenas to us," Sora said.

"Then we'll kick their butts!" Donald chuckled, seeming extremely excited about taking the hyenas down a peg.

"Well if you ask me, this is a terrible idea!" Timon complained.

"That's why no one's asking you," Simba said with a smirk. Timon glared at his friend.

"What d'ya want me to do, dress in drag and do the hula?!" the meerkat said sarcastically. Simba and Nala exchanged a look and grinned. "Hey now, wait a second…"



Timon and Pumba were in the middle of their hula distraction, much to Aila's delight, and she wasn't about to miss a second of it.

"Careful Aila, they might see you," Goofy warned as Aila craned her neck desperately around the rock she and the gang were hiding behind to see the show.

"But I don't wanna miss it!" Aila whined, grinning from ear to ear as Timon did his dance. "How can you guys not watch this?!"

"It is pretty hilarious," Sora snickered, he and Donald peering around the rock as well. Goofy shrugged and decided to join in their little spy fest after all – if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right?

"Are ya achin'-"

"Yup, yup, yup."

"For some bacon?"

"Yup, yup, yup."

"He's a big pig!"

"Yup, yup."

"You can be a big pig too, OY!"

Aila and the gang were practically in stitches, desperately covering their mouths to try and keep their giggles quiet. Simba and Nala had successfully snuck past the group of hyenas that their friends had distracted and were in the midst of breaking away from one another, Nala heading for the lionesses while Simba went to find Scar.

"AHHHH!" Timon and Pumba screamed, running as fast as they could toward the gang's hiding place as a dozen hyenas drooled hungrily behind them, snapping at their heels.

"Here they come!" Sora said as he regained his composure, Aila, Donald, and Goofy doing their best to follow suit.

"Don't let 'em eat me, don't let 'em eat me!" Pumba cried as he and Timon sped past the gang.

"Go Aila!" Sora instructed, and Aila leapt out from their hiding place. She skidded in between the hyenas and Timon and Pumba, kicking up as much dust as she could. Timon and Pumba leapt behind a rock to hide while the hyenas slowed, coughing as they breathed in the dust Aila'd kicked up and squinting to see where their prey had gone.

Aila ran a little ways off to the left and stopped, turning to make sure the hyenas would hear her. "There they go!" she cried, lowering her voice a bit in an attempt to imitate Shenzi. She ran off again, hoping the hyenas were now following her, and rounded a corner on the back end of Pride Rock.

After a few moments she slowed, sitting with her back against the wall of the Rock to catch her breath. The hyenas caught up to her a moment later, a bit faster than she'd expected them to, and she smiled nervously. "Oh, uh, hey guys… Looking for something?" The hyenas growled at her and crouched down, ready to pounce. Some of them looked a little disappointed that they weren't getting the pork dinner they'd been hoping for, but food was food, and they licked their lips as they surrounded Aila in a semicircle. They closed in, teeth bared and muscles tensed to pounce, and Aila began to doubt their plan… "Uh… can't we talk this out…?" The predators leapt toward her and she yelped in fear, bracing herself for any incoming pain she was about to endure.

"STOP!" Sora, Donald, and Goofy yelled at once. Sora and Goofy were standing on opposite sides of the hyena semicircle and Donald was directly in front of Aila, all of them aiming a Stopga spell at the hyenas. The predators froze as they were hit by the spell, locked in time as they lunged for Aila's throat.

Aila sighed in relief. "Cutting it a little close, weren't you?" she half joked to the boys.

"Don't worry Aila, we wouldn'ta let 'em get ya," Goofy said with a chuckle.

"Timon, Pumba, hurry up!" Sora called. "The spell will wear off soon!"

Timon and Pumba scurried out from their hiding place holding the vine the boys had used to pull Aila out of the cave, Sora having made the brilliant decision to bring it along. "Are you sure it's safe to go near them?" Pumba asked suspiciously.

"It won't be if you don't quit dawdling," Donald scolded. "Get over here!"

The gang quickly pushed the group of hyenas together and wrapped the vine around them, Timon tying the tightest knot he could with his little hands.

"I think that's good," Sora said as Timon was in the middle of quadruple knotting the vine.

"Hey hey hey, I'm not in the mood to get eaten, so just lemme work—WHOA!" Timon leapt back as the hyenas jolted back to life, all of them very confused and understandably angry. "…Like I was saying, I think that's good."

"We should go make sure Simba and Nala are okay," Sora said anxiously. Timon, Pumba, and Donald all stuck their tongues out at the incapacitated hyenas, earning a nervous look from Goofy and snarls of indignation from the other canines, before following their friend. Sora led the group back into Pride Rock, all of them scanning the area for Simba or Nala. "Hang on," Sora said, holding out a paw to stop the group and crouching down behind a fallen tree. "It's Scar."

Scar was talking to a lioness on the upper landing of Pride Rock. "Gwarsh, who's that?" Goofy asked, concerned. Aila frowned, but refrained from answering. She was pretty sure it was Simba's mother, Sarabi. She wasn't in the game version of this world as far as Aila was aware… though neither was the hula scene, so she just shrugged her confusion off.

"We must leave Pride Rock," the lioness was saying to Scar. The group had to strain to hear them, there voices just loud enough to reach their ears.

"We're not going anywhere," the false king hissed back.

"Then you have sentenced us to death!"

"Then so be it!"

"You can't do that," Sarabi growled, appalled by Scar's words.

"I am a king, I can do whatever I want!"

Aila glared. It was very clear now why Scar had been passed over for the throne and had been forced to take matters into his own hands to secure it. He had absolutely zero qualities of a good ruler. It was no wonder the Pride Lands had fallen into ruin under his reign.

Sarabi glared as well, seeming at her temper's end. "If you were half the king Mufasa was you wouldn't—"

"I'm TEN TIMES the king Mufasa was!" Scar bellowed, striking Sarabi across the face and sending the old lioness crashing to the floor. The group gasped.

"Come on!" Sora said angrily, but before he could lead the group two steps away from their hiding spot a mighty roar echoed throughout Pride Rock, sending shivers down all of their spines. Lightning flashed in the suddenly cloudy sky and everyone looked up to see Simba standing at the peak of the Rock, glaring down at Scar with hatred in his eyes. He leapt down to where his uncle and mother were, Scar backing away in horror at the sight of him.

"Mufasa?!" Scar gasped, clearly terrified. "No, you're dead…"

Simba ran to his mother's side, gently nudging her awake – it seemed Scar's strike had temporarily knocked her out. Thankfully she seemed to regain consciousness relatively quickly, her eyes growing wide with shock at the sight of Simba standing before her. She and her son exchanged some hushed words, too quiet for the group to hear from their location. Aila saw the fear on Scar's face wane, and a smile slithered across it instead.

"Guys," Nala whispered, hurrying over to Aila and the boys, the rest of the lionesses in tow behind her. "I can't find Simba's mother, Sarabi… do you…?"

"There," Aila said, gesturing to the top of the Rock. Nala gasped at the sight of Simba nuzzling a clearly injured Sarabi.

"They need our help," Nala announced to the lionesses, and they along with Aila and the boys hurried up to back up their rightful king.

"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't rip you apart," Simba was saying, walking toward Scar dangerously.

"Simba, you must understand," Scar said nervously, backing away from his nephew until his back was pressed up against a wall, "the pressures of ruling a kingdom—"

"Are no longer yours," Simba interrupted. "Step down, Scar."

Scar chuckled shakily. "I would! However, there is one little problem. You see them?" He pointed above his head to ledges where dozens upon dozens of hyenas were perched, watching the confrontation unfold. Lightning flashed once again, illuminating the hungry glint in the canines' eyes. "They think I'm king."

"Well we don't!" Nala interjected sternly. Aila and the gang helped Sarabi to her feet, Donald casting a Cure spell on her. Aila noticed that his spell seemed a bit weaker than usual and wondered if it was because of the large Stopga spell he'd just cast a few minutes before. The lionesses all glared at Scar, hatred flowing off of them in waves. "Simba's the rightful king," Nala continued, her eyes narrowed as she looked at Scar in disgust.

"The choice is yours, Scar," Simba said. "Either step down, or fight."

"Must this all end in violence?" Scar asked dramatically, walking past Simba. He suddenly seemed much less nervous than he had a moment ago. "I'd hate to be responsible for the death of a family member. Wouldn't you agree, Simba?"

"That's not gonna work, Scar," Simba spat quickly. "I've put it behind me."

"But what about your faithful subjects? Have they put it behind them?"

"Simba, what is he talking about?" Nala asked, she and her fellow lionesses giving their king very confused looks. The boys exchanged questioning glances as well, and Aila swallowed hard. She hated this part.

"Ah! So you haven't told them your little secret," Scar sneered as he circled Simba. "Well Simba, now's your chance to tell them. Tell them who is responsible for Mufasa's death!"

The lionesses gasped and looked at Simba, waiting for him to deny the accusation.

"No way…" Sora breathed, his eyes wide with shock. Aila bit her lip. It was unbelievably difficult to stay quiet, to let Simba's friends doubt him, even if it was only for a minute…

Simba paused. "…I am."

The lionesses whispered to each other in shock, Simba's words catching them all completely off guard. Sarabi approached Simba cautiously, her eyes filled with pain. "It's not true… Tell me it's not true," she pleaded. Simba looked at his mother sadly.

"It's true," he said heavily. Sarabi backed away, unable to comprehend what she was hearing. She looked unsteady, and Aila ran to her side to support her. The lionesses seemed floored by the confession, while the boys seemed almost downright unwilling to believe it.

"Gwarsh…" Goofy breathed. "Simba…?"

"It's gotta be a mistake," Sora whispered desperately. "…Right?"

"You see?! He admits it!" Scar bellowed, casting a fresh wave of doubt over Simba's subjects.

"It's okay," Aila whispered to Sarabi, "Everything… everything will be…" Sarabi looked at Aila with a devastated expression and stumbled, Aila just barely able to support her weight. A few other lionesses ran to her side to help.

"She needs to lay down," one of them said urgently. "We need to take her somewhere safe."

"No!" Aila exclaimed desperately. The lionesses looked at her in confusion. "…She needs to… hear…" she trailed off, looking back and forth between Simba, who was being circled by Scar, and Sarabi, who was looking frailer by the second. She bit her lip and leaned in close to Sarabi's ear. "Your son," she whispered urgently, "he's… his heart is good. Do you believe that?"

Sarabi's eyes widened as her gaze locked with Aila's. "…I do. Of course I do."

"Then please," Aila whispered. "Stay a little longer."

"Murderer," Scar hissed at Simba, bringing Aila back to the confrontation at hand. A few of the other lionesses tried to lead Sarabi away, but she refused, looking desperately between Aila and her son.

"No, it was an accident!" Simba protested earnestly.

"If it weren't for you Mufasa would still be alive, it's your fault he's dead! Do you deny it?" Scar continued.

"No," Simba breathed.

"Then you're guilty!" Scar hissed, venom dripping in every word.

"Wait, that's not fair!" Sora protested. He and Nala exchanged a glance, both of them unable to believe what they were hearing. Hyenas leapt in front of them, preventing them from rushing to Simba's aid.

"No, I'm not a murderer!" Simba cried, backing away from Scar.

"Oh, Simba, you're in trouble again," Scar taunted, backing Simba closer and closer to the edge of Pride Rock, dozens of hyenas flanking their evil king. "But this time, daddy isn't here to save you. And now everyone knows why!"

Simba's back foot slipped, and a moment later he was hanging off the edge of the rock, his claws digging desperately into the earth to keep him from falling.

"Simba!" Nala cried.

"Outta the way!" Donald squawked, he and the rest of the gang trying to get past the hyenas blocking their path, but to no avail.

"No," Sarabi breathed, her eyes reflecting her heartbreak. "Not again… Please, not again…"

"It'll be okay," Aila assured, her own heart pounding ferociously fast. "Everything will be okay."

"Don't make promises you can't keep…" Celina warned quietly.

"But I know it will," Aila muttered fiercely.

"No," Celina said sternly. "You don't."

Lightning struck the brush below Pride Rock, causing fire to blaze to life below Simba.

"Now, this looks familiar," Scar taunted. "Hmm… where have I seen this before? Let me think, hmm… Oh yes, I remember! This is just the way your father looked before he died." Scar grabbed Simba's paws with his own, his nails digging into his nephew's flesh. He leaned in, whispering something to Simba.

"Simba! Hang on!" Sora called, trying to get to his friend in time.

"It's no use," Nala said, her voice cracking. "Simba… Simba!"

"NO!" Simba yelled, and in the blink of an eye he was back on solid ground, pinning Scar down beneath him. "Murderer!" he screamed. Everyone stopped what they were doing, hyenas and lions alike, their eyes widening in shock.

"No Simba, please!" Scar pleaded.

"Tell them the truth," Simba demanded.

"Truth?" Scar laughed nervously. "But truth is in the eye of the beholde—" He was cut off by Simba's paw on his throat. "Alright," Scar croaked. Simba increased his paw's pressure on his uncle's windpipe. "Alright!" Scar insisted, and this time Simba let up. Scar whispered something, and Simba's eyes narrowed.

"So they can hear you," Simba hissed.

"I… killed… Mufasa!" Scar roared, and that was all everyone needed. Dozens of hyenas lunged onto Simba, forcing him off of their leader. The lionesses ripped their way through the hyena barrier to help their king, Sora, Donald, and Goofy rushing to their friend's side.

"Simba, you get Scar!" Sora said, indicating the false king that had just run off. "We'll handle these guys!"

Simba shook the hyenas off of himself and nodded to Sora in thanks before rushing off after his uncle.

"Chaaaaaaaarge!" Timon yelled, riding Pumba through bunches of hyenas and knocking them out of the way like bowling pins. It was absolute chaos, and Aila could hardly tell who had the upper hand.

"Sarabi!" one of the lionesses near Aila cried, and Aila turned just in time to catch the elderly lioness as she tumbled to the ground.

"Sarabi," Aila croaked from underneath the lioness. "Are you…?"

"We need to get her away from the battle," a second lioness urged, and they assisted Simba's mother shakily to her feet. Aila's heart skipped a beat as she looked into Sarabi's eyes – the lioness did not look well. "Quickly, to the cave," the same lioness continued, indicating a small cave at the base of Pride Rock, at the very lowest level above where the fire raged. Aila began to assist them, only to feel something sharp clamp down on her back leg.

"Ah!" she cried, crashing to the ground and feeling herself being pulled along the dusty rock's surface. Sarabi looked back at her in a panic. "Go!" Aila urged the other lionesses. "Get her out of here!" Sarabi seemed reluctant to leave, but the other lionesses rushed her away regardless.

"How noble," Aila heard someone sneer behind her, the pain in her leg increasing. Shenzi. She looked back to see her three least favorite hyenas: Shenzi, Banzai, and Ed, the last of which had his jaws clamped down tightly on Aila's right leg. "Just as well," Shenzi continued, "old meat is a little too tough for our liking, right Banzai?"

"Yeah," Banzai agreed with a sickening grin. "The younger ones are much more tender." Ed turned his head sharply and flipped Aila onto her back, causing her to let out a agonized yelp. The psychotic hyena laughed uncontrollably, somehow keeping his jaws clenched painfully onto his prey as he did so.

"What d'you guys think," Shenzi said, circling around to Aila's head. "Should we give her as a gift to our king once he's done takin' out Mufasa's little runt, or should we just keep her all to ourselves."

"Man, I'm starving, who cares about Scar," Banzai said irritably. "It's his fault we haven't had anything to eat today." Ed chuckled evilly in agreement, drool oozing out of his mouth and running down Aila's leg, much to her disgust. She struggled to get away, but it was no use. She screamed out in pain once again, unable to help herself. She craned her neck to see where the boys were, only to feel her heart drop as she realized that they were all overwhelmed with their own enemies up on the landing and had yet to notice her situation, the sounds of battle merging with her cries. She needed to get her attention – she couldn't get out of Ed's vice of a grip on her own…

"Sor—!" Aila began to call out, only to be stopped by Shenzi's paw on her mouth.

"Ah ah ah," the female hyena snarled. "Your little friends have got their own problems to worry about. It's just you and us, kid."


All four of them looked up to see Rafiki crouching on a rock above them, and Aila nearly cried out in relief.

"Get outta here, you dumb ape!" Banzai snarled. Rafiki raised an eyebrow.

"First of all," Rafiki said, leaping down and smacking Banzai on the head with his staff, "I am a baboon." He whacked Banzai again before leaping over and cracking Shenzi over the head as well. "And second of all, I am clearly able to speak, therefore I am not the dumb one here," he continued, eying Ed.

Ed, Banzai, and Shenzi shared a confused look. They didn't seem to understand what speaking had to do with being dumb or not. "…Wha?" Banzai asked.

"Further proving my point," Rafiki said before whacking Shenzi and Banzai a few more times.

"Ack, hey, getoffame!" Banzai cowered, covering his head with his paws and Rafiki's staff continued to strike him.

"UGH! This hairball isn't worth this!" Shenzi growled, backing away. "C'mon boys, I saw a meerkat near that annoying bird's nest. Those two'll be easy pickings." She glared at Aila. "We'll be back for you when this little setback of a battle is over, kitty cat," she promised, casting one last hateful look at Rafiki for ruining her meal. She and Banzai ran off, leaving Ed with his jaws still clamped on Aila's leg. Ed looked back and forth between Rafiki and Aila, unsure of what to do next. He seemed terrified, but Aila wasn't sure if it was because of Rafiki or from the thought of losing his meal.

Rafiki leaned in toward Ed and smirked. "Boo."

Ed yelped and released Aila, running after his comrades as fast as his legs could carry him. Guess his fear of a kung fu fighting monkey outweighed his hunger – for now, at least.

"Thanks," Aila said, wincing at the pain in her leg.

"Of course, Mwezi," Rafiki said with a smile.

"Mwezi…" Aila repeated. "What… what does that mean?"

Rafiki's eyes twinkled. "You have heard it somewhere else, yes?" Aila nodded, her brows furrowed in confusion. The sounds of battle roared into their ears, and Rafiki looked away. "Now is not the time," he said. "Go. Sarabi wants to see you." He was gone before Aila could say another word.

Aila inspected her leg, wincing at what she saw. It was bloody and mangled, and she once again found herself wishing she knew a Cure spell. She looked up toward the boys, who were finishing taking out the hyenas at the top of Pride Rock and getting ready to head into the main cave to save Zazu. There was no way she'd be any help to them in this state, and if Sarabi…

Aila looked toward the cave where the other lionesses had taken Sarabi, remembering how bad the old lioness had looked before Ed had dragged Aila away from her. She needed to make sure she was okay.

"Aila!" Sora called, and Aila looked up toward him. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah!" Aila called back, shifting so her injured leg was hidden from his view. "I'm gonna help some of the lionesses down here! Don't wait up!" Her leg would still be in the same state when the battle was over – Sora, Donald, and Goofy were needed in this fight.

"You sure?" Sora replied. "We should stick together…"

"Sora! Timon and Pumba need our help!" Donald cried, rushing toward the main cave.

"Go!" Aila urged. "I'll keep things under control down here!"

Sora hesitated for a moment before rushing off into the cave to save his new friends, Donald and Goofy doing the same. Aila sighed in relief. She definitely didn't want to distract the boys during a boss fight; Celina's words from earlier had kind of freaked her out…

She hobbled her way down to the cave where Sarabi was hiding out, the heat from the flames a bit too intense for comfort. She really hoped it started raining soon.

"You're hurt," Sarabi said weakly as Aila entered the cave. She was lying on her side, the other lionesses looking very concerned as they huddled around her.

"So're you," Aila said. She dragged herself closer to Sarabi, trying her best not to use her right hind leg. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," Sarabi insisted heavily. "We should not have left you."

"We don't know her," one of the other lionesses whispered. "You are our priority, Sarabi. You are our queen."

"Being a queen does not make my life more important than anyone else's," Sarabi disagreed, struggling to raise her head.

"Sarabi, don't—" a second lioness said. She too looked older than the rest, and Aila got the sense that this lion and Sarabi were very close.

"I'm alright, Sarafina," Sarabi insisted, raising her head and resting her shoulder against the back wall. "What is your name, child?"

"Aila," Aila replied.

"Come, Aila, rest here with me," Sarabi said. Sarafina hurried over to Aila to assist the girl, whose leg was beginning to throb very painfully. "You are a friend of Simba's?" Sarabi asked as Aila settled down next to her. Sarafina inspected Aila's leg and began to nurse it.

"Yes," Aila said, wincing at Sarafina's touch.

"Just relax," Sarafina said in a soothing tone. "We'll take care of you." Aila's heart gave a painful thud, the lioness's words making her think of her mother who'd taken care of her when she'd gotten herself injured so many times before on her own world. She pushed the thought from her mind – now was not the time to wonder about what had happened to her parents.

"How long have you known him?" Sarabi continued.

"We… just met, actually," Aila admitted.

"And yet, you knew his heart was good," Sarabi said, her eyes locking with Aila's.

"Well… my friends, Sora, Donald, and Goofy… they've known him longer than I have… they told me a lot about him, so I figured he had to…"

"No," Sarabi said, shaking her head. "You wanted me to stay, to hear the truth. You knew."

Aila gulped, not sure how to respond. "…Yes."

"How?" Sarabi asked, her brows furrowed in confusion.

Aila bit her lip and looked away. "I… I can't really… explain…" She glanced back up at the elderly lioness, who seemed to be examining Aila very closely, calculating her ever move. No one spoke for a few moments, Sarafina continuing to nurse Aila's leg through the silence. Aila's heart began to race – did Sarabi trust her enough to accept that answer? Maybe she should think of a backup story… if she threw the word 'mwezi' into the conversation, would that sound mysterious enough to make them think she had some sort of spiritual power to know the future or something? Or was that a word that everyone here knew already… maybe she could change the subject by asking what it meant. Or maybe she should just pretend to pass out to prevent Sarabi from prying any further? Aila frowned, mentally berating herself for coming up with such stupid ideas.

After what seemed like an eternity to Aila, Sarabi smiled. "I see." She closed her eyes and sighed heavily. "You have a good heart as well."

"Th-thank you," Aila stuttered softly, not really sure how Sarabi had come to that conclusion, but glad that she'd come to it nonetheless.

"All this time, I thought I'd lost the two things that I cherished most in this world," Sarabi said, opening her eyes slightly and staring off into the distance wistfully. "A part of me died that day as well… I am not the queen I once was."

"It's all because of Scar," a younger lioness spat. "He was behind this all along! To think that he… he murdered…"

Sarabi closed her eyes sadly. "I almost don't want to believe it. That a member of one's own bloodline, a brother, could do something so unforgivable."

"Greed makes people do terrible things," Aila said sadly. Hearing Sarabi speak was breaking her heart – she'd never really thought about how much the old lioness had gone through since Simba had run away.

"Yes, it does," Sarabi said, turning her sad eyes onto Aila. "Do not let greed ensnare your heart… and do not let it work its way into your life through anyone else. Promise me that."

"I… I promise…" Aila said, feeling unsure about why Sarabi was asking for such a promise from a virtual stranger.

The old lioness furrowed her brow, suddenly seeming a bit confused as she looked into Aila's eyes. "Have we met before…?"

Aila was taken aback. "…No… no, we haven't…"

"Sarabi…?" Sarafina asked softly, seeming a bit concerned by her friend's words.

Sarabi closed her eyes heavily. "It's good that you're here… Yes…"

Sarafina leapt to her friend's side, nuzzling the old queen gently. "Sarabi, what are you…?" The other lionesses looked at each other anxiously, and Aila felt dread grip her heart.

"Hyenas!" one of the lionesses standing guard at the entrance called to the others, and the younger lionesses hurried out into the battle, determined to defend the resting place of their queen. Only Sarabi, Sarafina, and Aila remained inside.

"Sarabi…" Sarafina whispered again, a little more urgently. The old queen was breathing rather heavily, and Aila felt fear creep into her veins.

"Hey," Aila said shakily, "just hang on, okay? This will all be over soon, and then you and Simba can be together…"

Sarabi opened her eyes slightly and smiled. "Simba… my boy…" she breathed weakly. "He's alive…"

"She's fading," Sarafina whispered, her voice filled with urgency.

"I'll go find the boys," Aila offered quickly. "They can do a spell, they can cure you—"

"No," Sarabi interjected quickly. "Stay, Aila. Stay with me."

Aila looked back and forth between Sarafina and Sarabi fearfully. "But… but they can help you, you're… please, I need to go find them…"

With much effort, Sarabi lifted one of her paws and placed it gently onto one of Aila's. "It's okay. I want you to stay. I need you to stay with me."

"Why?!" Aila exhaled, her voice cracking with confusion and despair. "You don't even know me…!"

"Shh," Sarabi soothed, closing her paw a bit over Aila's, almost as if they were holding hands. "It will all be okay."

"No," Aila said, feeling tears form in her eyes. "No, no it won't… you're… you're dying… Simba, he—!"

"He will be fine," Sarabi said. "He will be the King I always dreamed he would be. That is all I want."

"But you need to see it happen!" Aila continued. Tears were spilling down her face now. "You're… you're supposed to see it happen! You're supposed to be there in the end!"

Sarabi gave Aila a tired smile. "Do not think in beginnings and ends, Aila. We are not at the start or finish of a path. We just are." She closed her eyes and sighed contentedly. "That is the Circle of Life."

"We have to do something," Aila pleaded to Sarafina, unwilling to accept what was happening. This wasn't supposed to happen. Simba's mother was definitely still alive at the end of the movie – this wasn't right…

Sarafina looked between Aila and her dear friend sadly. "…It's time."

"No!" Aila shouted. "It's not! You don't understand… it's not time! This is all wrong!"

"I warned you…" Celina whispered in Aila's ear. "Don't make promises you can't keep…"

"Shut up!" Aila cried, shaking her head violently.

"Aila…?" Sarafina asked, taken aback by the girl's actions.

"Shh child," Sarabi cooed, apparently undeterred by Aila's outburst. "You believed in my son, and refused to let me lose faith in him… and for that, I cannot thank you enough."

"…I interfered…" Aila breathed, her eyes widening as the thought crossed her mind. "You weren't supposed to stay and watch… they were trying to get you help earlier… your heart…"

"My heart is old," Sarabi croaked, "but it is full. I have been dead for a long time." Aila's breath caught in her throat as they locked eyes. "Seeing my son rise up against Scar… hearing the truth about my dear Mufasa's death… for a moment… I felt like everything made sense again. I felt alive again."

Aila was crying freely now as Sarafina nuzzled her friend sadly. "Sarabi…"

Sarabi closed her eyes once again and took a deep breath. "Thank you for being here with me."

Aila wasn't sure what to do. Her mind was racing, trying to find some sort of solution. Was the battle over yet? Maybe Simba would come rushing in, maybe he'd at the very least be able to see his mother one last time…

"You can rest now." The words came out of Aila's mouth without her prompting, as if the sentence had formed due to pure instinct. "Your heart lives on." Aila only had a moment to acknowledge her confusion at what was coming out of her mouth before Sarabi released one final breath, her grip on Aila's paw loosening as she did so. A chill shot up Aila's spine. It was almost calming in a way, which made very little sense, and she knew in that instant that the queen was gone.

"Goodbye my friend," Sarafina whispered lovingly to her fallen queen. Aila could only stare at the old lioness's paw, which was still on top of her own, and try to wrap her mind around how cold and… lifeless it suddenly felt. It was like the lioness was… empty. "Thank you," Sarafina said after a few moments, snapping Aila back to the present, "for what you said. It seemed… to give her peace."

"You're welcome," Aila whispered, the words barely making their way through her lips.

"We'll wait until the battle is over to notify everyone," Sarafina said, placing a paw gently on the late queen's head. "At least she and Simba got to see each other once more before…"

Aila was barely listening. What had just happened? That hadn't really just happened, had it? She must have passed out when Ed, Shenzi, and Banzai had attacked her. Yes, that must be it. This was some sick pain-induced hallucination. Maybe they killed her and this was some weird way for the universe to force her deal with her own death. Because that couldn't have really happened. Because she knew this world's storyline.

Because Sarabi wasn't supposed to die here.

"Aila?" Sarafina asked. Aila blinked and realized with a start that the lioness was right in front of her.

"Sorry, uh, what?" Aila croaked out, blinking a few times in rapid succession.

"I asked if you were okay."

"I…" Aila paused. The honest answer was no. No, she was not okay, because a character who was not supposed to die had just passed away before her eyes, which meant the timeline was messed up, which meant that something had messed it up, which would have to be a variable that wasn't supposed to be there, and the only thing she could think of that fit that criteria was herself, which meant that she had basically caused the death of Simba's mother, and if she had done that on this world who knew what her presence would do to another world? What if something she did somehow caused Sora to be unable to defeat the Organization? What something happened to the Restoration Committee during the battle on Hollow Bastion because her presence messed up the way it was supposed to play out? What if…

What if…

"Come over here," Sarafina said gently, nudging Aila toward a corner of the cave. "Come on, careful on that leg." Aila did as she was told, allowing herself to be ushered across the cave. She felt like she was in a fog. "Lay down," Sarafina urged. "Your leg is still in bad shape."

Aila blinked. "How can you think about my leg right now…?" she asked, almost accusingly.

Sarafina smiled kindly, a glint of sadness reflected in her eyes. "Because you are in pain. And Sarabi… Sarabi no longer is."

Aila shut her eyes tightly, willing herself not to look back at the queen's body. She felt Sarafina urge her into a horizontal position and took a deep breath, trying to calm herself.

"You've never experienced death before," Sarafina said calmly. It wasn't a question.

"No," Aila breathed shakily. "Not… not like this, anyway. Not right in front of me…" Sarafina began nursing Aila's leg once again, cleaning dirt away from the wound. They were both silent for a while, listening to the sounds of battle outside and trying not to wonder about any other casualties that might have been occurring amidst the flames.

"You're different," Sarafina said suddenly, causing Aila to jump.

"…Huh?" she asked weakly. She looked at the lioness, who seemed to be trying to figure something out.

"You've never experienced death. Your reaction now makes that clear to me. But in her last moments, you seemed…" she paused, searching for her words. "Calm. Experienced. Your words held a sense of truth and peace that I would not expect from someone your age, especially from someone who'd never been with someone while they passed." Aila said nothing, as she didn't have any explanation to offer – she was just as confused as the older lioness was. "And Sarabi was right," Sarafina continued, "you knew that she needed to stay, to hear the truth from Simba and Scar. Simba didn't even seem to know the whole truth, and yet… you did, didn't you? You knew that everything would be revealed in that moment."

Aila bit her lip, her head spinning. She was too tired, too distraught to come up with a lie, and so she did the only other thing she could think of. She told the truth. "…Yes."

Sarafina locked eyes with Aila for what felt like an eternity, her face masking whatever emotions she was feeling. Finally, she went back to nursing Aila's leg as if nothing had happened.

"…That's it?" Aila asked, taken aback by the lack of follow up questions. "You don't want to know… how I knew?"

"Sarabi could tell that you had a good heart," Sarafina said calmly. "That is all I need to know."

Silence again.

"…Okay," Aila said, unsure if she should be grateful for Sarafina's trust or confused by her lack of suspicion.

"Your friends," Sarafina asked, "Simba, Nala… do they know anything about this?"

"No," Aila admitted. Sarafina nodded, again choosing not to pry. "…They wouldn't understand."

"Perhaps not," Sarafina said. "Is that what you're afraid of?"

"Yes," Aila breathed. "It's best that no one knows. It's too… complicated."

"Many things in life are," Sarafina cooed in a very motherly way.

"Yeah, but this isn't like, normal complicated. It's like… impossible-everyone-will-think-I'm-completely-insane complicated," Aila sighed. "I don't even understand how any of this happened in the first place."

"That does sound difficult," Sarafina agreed. "It must be especially hard to deal with it alone."

Aila furrowed her brow. "…It is."

"Aila. I don't know you, but I'm going to assume, since you returned with Simba and Nala along with a group of various other animals, that you are not a part of a Pride. Am I right?"

"Yeah, that's right," Aila said.

"Our Pride is our family," Sarafina explained. "We lean on each other when we need support, trust each other with everything we have, and come together to defend what is ours against all odds. Just look at what's happened today." Sarafina looked back at the fallen queen wistfully. "Sarabi was my sister, though we did not share the same blood. She knew all my secrets, my fears, and I know all of hers. When you find your Pride, you will tell them your secret. And they will understand."

Aila frowned. "But… how will I know for sure? You know, that they'll… that we'll have a bond close enough that they'll understand something that makes absolutely no sense?" Images of her friendship with Axel and Demyx flashed through her mind, and she winced. "That they'll understand why I've… why I've done things that seem… wrong… but that I know are the right thing to do? Or at least… I think I know…"

Sarafina smiled kindly. "Don't worry. You'll feel it in your heart; you'll know when the time is right."

Aila's heart panged as she was once again reminded of her own mother, of her own family, and she had to look away. Still, Sarafina's words had made her feel a little better, and she took a deep, calming breath. "Thank you."

"You are very welcome," Sarafina said, and then added: "Your secret's safe with me."

A pitter-patter sound filled their ears and they both looked toward the cave entrance. "It's raining…" Aila breathed, her heart catching in her throat. She wanted to be relieved, but with Sarabi's death… she didn't trust what she thought the rain meant anymore. Was the battle really finished, like it was supposed to be?

"It's over!" someone cried outside, followed by various triumphant roars echoing into the cave.

"It's over," Sarafina breathed.

"Sounds like we won," Aila said softly.

"Yes," Sarafina agreed, glancing at her fallen friend. "Sounds like we did."

The other lionesses returned shortly after, Sarafina having to break the news about their queen over and over again. Aila wasn't sure how she could stand it, and yet she knew that Sarafina probably welcomed these notifications over the one she was inevitably going to have to make to Simba himself. Aila began to feel overwhelmed by the amount of lionesses in the cave, all of them overflowing with a mixture of emotions ranging from the joy of their rightful king returning to despair over the loss of their queen.

"Come, let's get some air," Sarafina whispered to Aila, seeming to sense her distress. Aila limped her way outside, leaning on her new friend for support. The rain had slowed to a drizzle, and Aila took a deep breath of the cool, crisp air, her tired lungs aching as she did so.


She opened her eyes to see the boys running toward her, excitement evident on each of their faces. She forced a smile for them, her eyes flickering to Simba, Nala, Timon, and Pumba, who trailed a little ways behind the gang.

"We did it! We beat Scar!" Sora announced proudly as they reached her.

"That's great!" Aila said, trying her best to sound excited. Her leg gave a particularly painful throb, and she winced.

"You okay, Aila?" Goofy asked, Aila's momentary discomfort catching his eye. Aila was always surprised by Goofy's ability to notice little details that the other boys sometimes missed; before getting to know him, he would have been the last one in the trio she'd have expected to have that ability.

"Um…" Aila said, leaning on Sarafina for support. The lioness held her weight without difficulty. "You don't happen to be able to do any spells right now, do you…?"

"What's up?" Sora asked, suddenly serious. Aila hesitated before shifting her weight and allowing her injured leg to come into view. The boys gasped.

"What happened?!" Donald squawked.

"I got bit…" Aila said with a huff. "By Ed."

"Ed?!" Sora growled, narrowing his eyes. "Shoulda known it was one of those three…"

"Why don't ya sit down, Aila," Goofy suggested, ushering Aila away from the crowd of lionesses a bit in order to give her some more room to breathe. Sarafina gave Aila a kind nod as Aila's weight was shifted from her to the boys, the boys thanking the lioness for staying with their injured friend. The gang led Aila over to a flat area and helped her sit down on her left haunch. Aila hissed through clenched teeth, the movement causing pain to shoot up her leg.

"I'm tapped out," Sora said, biting his lip as he examined Aila's injury. "What about you guys?"

"Same here," Donald said glumly, Goofy nodding to indicate that he was in the same boat. "Do you have any Potions left, Sora?"

"No," Sora said, shaking his head. "No Elixirs or anything either. We need to restock ASAP…"

"Well, I should be able to cast spells again soon, I think," Donald assured. "Will you be okay until then, Aila?"

"Yeah, totally," Aila said rather unconvincingly through a wince.

"What's goin' on here?" Timon asked as he, Pumba, Simba, and Nala walked up to them.

"Aila's hurt," Goofy said with a frown.

"What happened?" Simba asked, concerned. Nala hurried over to Aila to examine her wound more closely. The action made her seem very similar to Sarafina…

"Hyena snuck up on me," Aila said with a grimace.

"Was it just Ed attacking by himself?" Sora asked.

"No, Shenzi and Banzai too, but Rafiki scared them off before things got too bad."

Simba shook his head. "That crazy monkey just gets more and more helpful. Good thing he was there."

"Gee Aila, that looks like it hurts," Pumba said with a frown.

"Don't worry kid, we'll get you cleaned up," Timon said, patting Aila's leg.

"Ah!" Aila winced at his touch, jumping and nearly falling over as pain jolted through her body.

"Oops," Timon said sheepishly.


Sarafina approached them, and Nala looked up at the sound of her voice.

"Mother!" Nala cried, rushing to embrace the older lioness. Realization dawned on Aila. Of course. Sarafina was Nala's mother; that explained why she and Sarabi had been so close.

"I'm so glad you're all right," Sarafina cooed, nuzzling her daughter affectionately. She then pulled away, her eyes brimming with grief. "Simba… You should come with me."

Simba's brow furrowed. "What's wrong?"

Sarafina met his gaze sadly. "…Your mother."

Simba's eyes widened, and then narrowed seriously. "Where is she?"

Sarafina turned and headed back toward the cave, Simba right on her heals. Nala looked back at Aila, unsure if she should stay to help with her injury or go with Simba and her mother.

"Go," Aila urged sadly. "He's gonna need you."

Nala's brow furrowed in distress. "Okay." She darted after Simba, who was just entering the cave as she caught up to him. The other lionesses hung their heads sadly as he passed, all of them vacating the cave for their king. Aila looked away sadly.

"What happened?" Pumba asked, looking concerned.

"…His mom died during the fight," Aila said quietly. The boys all gasped.

"…What?" Sora asked, his voice almost getting caught in his throat.

"Oh no…" Timon said, sharing a distressed look with Pumba.

"Was she attacked too…?" Goofy asked.

Aila shook her head. "No… After everything that happened right before the battle started… her body just… gave out…" Aila shut her eyes tightly to try and push the memory of how empty Sarabi's body had felt after she'd passed out of her mind.

"Poor Simba…" Donald said sadly.

The mood was distinctly more reserved after that, with the boys doing their best to keep Aila's weight off of her leg as much as possible. Timon swore that he had a foolproof cure for her, but it would require her to eat a certain extra slimy worm of some sort, and she wasn't exactly jumping to help him locate the elusive grub. He gave up after a while, complaining loudly about the lack of bugs in this currently barren savannah, and they all resorted to just sort of waiting around for something else to happen, unsure of what to do next.

Sarafina and Nala eventually emerged from the cave together, giving Simba some time alone inside. They spoke in hushed tones, and Aila began to feel a little paranoid as they shot curious glances in her direction. Sarafina had promised not to tell her secret, but would she tell her own daughter anyway?

Simba eventually emerged from the cave as well, looking both determined and very, very sad. He looked around at his subjects, all of whom bowed to him deeply out of both respect and sympathy, and turned toward the landing of Pride Rock. Aila noticed Rafiki perched on a rock lining the path that led to the landing, and he gestured to Simba, indicating that he should climb up the path to officially take his place as King. Simba did so, everyone watching with bated breath as he made his way up the slope and approached the edge of the landing. The Lion King looked over his kingdom, taking in all the work that needed to be done to return it to its formal glory, and took a deep breath. A mighty roar rumbled out of his chest, echoing through Pride Rock in a way that told every living thing nearby that there was a new king. The lionesses all roared in response, pledging their allegiance to him. This cycle repeated a few times, until the earth rumbled with the combined roars of all of the lions in Simba's Pride. It was an incredible experience to witness, and Aila couldn't help but feel her heart fill up with hope for this world at the sight of it.

Clouds swirled in the sky before Simba, and Sora's Keyblade appeared beside him. Aila shot Donald and Goofy a knowing glance before the three of them shut their eyes, waiting for Sora's ritual path-unlocking to be complete.

"That was tough with four legs…" Sora mumbled as the light around him faded.

"Hey, what's with the light show?!" Timon asked, and Sora's Keyblade vanished once again.

"We have to say goodbye for a little while," Sora said, sounding a little sad.

"I'll go tell Simba," Pumba offered.

"Aw, he's prob'ly busy," Goofy said, casting a sympathetic glance up toward the new king. "Just tell him we'll be back soon."

"Oh, that's right – he's king now," Timon said with a frown. "He's gonna be so busy he'll prob'ly forget all about his two best buddies."

"Well, you always got Hakuna Matata, right?" Sora offered.

"Guess so…" Pumba said, sounding less enthusiastic about his motto than usual.

"Whaddaya mean, 'Guess so'?!" Timon exclaimed anxiously. "What if he forgets to tell the carnivores who we are? One look at you, and you're a pig roast!"

"That's MISTER Pig Roast," Donald joked.

"Same thing!" Pumba cried. "And I'm not sticking around to be anybody's pork dinnerrrrrrr!" Pumba ran off as fast as he could, terrified by the thought of being eaten by the lionesses he'd just finished battling beside.

"Pumba!" Timon called, hurrying after his friend. "Wait up, you big dope! I was kidding! Well, mostly…"

"You can never forget your true buddies," Sora said softly, a smile playing at his lips.


The gang turned to see Nala trotting toward them.

"Hey, Nala," Aila greeted with a small smile.

"Aila, I…" Nala hesitated, searching for her words. "I just wanted to… to thank you. On behalf of Simba."

Aila blinked. "Huh?"

"My mother said you were there with Sarabi when… when she passed on," Nala said with a tinge of sadness. "She said that you gave Sarabi great comfort. Simba probably won't be able to say it himself for a while, knowing him, so… so thank you. For that."

Aila wasn't exactly sure what to say. Her heart panged guiltily at the thought of Simba thinking that Aila had somehow made his mother's death easier for her. She couldn't shake the thought that if she hadn't been there, if she hadn't interfered… would Sarabi still be alive?

"You're welcome," Aila managed to choke out, her lungs feeling tight in her chest. Nala approached her and nuzzled her gently, much to Aila's surprise, which only added to the guilty feeling in her heart.

"Are you guys gonna stay for a while? To help rebuild?" Nala asked as she pulled away, addressing the whole gang now.

"I really wish we could," Sora said genuinely, "but we have to be going now."

"You guys'll get this place back to how it was in no time now that Simba's in charge," Goofy said confidently.

Nala smiled. "Yeah. Things are gonna turn around now. For all of us." She looked up at Simba, who was talking to many of the lionesses in his Pride at the moment, and sighed happily. She then turned to the gang once again. "Thank you all for helping me find him and bring him home. Sincerely."

"What are friends for?" Sora replied with a grin. "We'll be back before you know it to visit you guys, so don't forget about us!"

Nala laughed. "Please, who could ever forget you guys?"

"You'd be surprised…" Donald muttered.

"I should go get Simba so he can see you off too," Nala said.

"No, it's okay," Sora said quickly. "He seems really busy. And like I said, we'll be back soon, so just tell him that."

Nala smiled at them all once again. "I will."

They wished Nala one more goodbye, as well as Sarafina and some of the other lionesses they passed on their way out, and headed back toward the Elephant Graveyard, the boys doing their best to support Aila as they went. Unfortunately it was quite a long trek back, and by the time they made it, Aila was gritting her teeth to prevent from screaming with each movement she made.

"You okay, Aila?" Goofy asked for the umpteenth time.

"Mmhmm," Aila breathed, scared to open her mouth for fear that if a scream escaped her she would be unable to stop again.

"We're almost there," Donald urged.

"Do you wanna take a break?" Sora asked nervously. Aila shook her head. They were so close – it would be better to suck it up and then be able to rest in a nice, comfy bed rather than on a hard, lumpy rock.

"I think it's right over there," Donald said, flying ahead a bit to scout out the trail. He returned a few moments later. "Yep! This is it!"

Aila sighed in relief, biting the side of her lip to distract herself from her leg, which was burning with pain at this point. She wondered idly if it was infected; she wouldn't be surprised if Ed's mouth was full of diseases. Would a Cure spell fix that too?

They finally made it back to the little alcove they'd arrived in and lined themselves up as if they were standing on the glowing platforms on the ship.

"Okay, everyone ready?" Donald asked. The rest of the gang nodded. "On my count…" He held up his staff as high as he could, clutching it precariously between the tips of his wings. "1… 2… 3!"

The same blue light that Aila remembered from the platforms on the ship circled up around them, and Aila braced herself for another gut wrenching trip through the atmosphere. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a flash of grey, and she turned her head just in time to see Rafiki watching from a nearby rock. He whispered something into his hand and then blew the air in his hands towards her.

"Good luck, Mwezi," his voice whispered in her ear, the wind having somehow carried his words to her. "Trust your heart. It holds the answers you seek."

His voice was the last thing she heard before she was pulled into the transportation spell, this world that had given her so many new questions vanishing before her eyes. It was time to find some answers.

She could only hope Rafiki was right about where to look.

Sorry for the downer… Things'll be a little happier next time, I promise! Uh, well… I like, eighty percent promise… I haven't decided yet…

Aila is gonna have a lot to deal with next time, so I hope you all follow this story to get notified as soon as I post the next chapter, which again will hopefully be next Friday!

Please leave a review to let me know what you think so far. Reading the wonderful reviews you guys leave give me the energy to keep writing even during my most stressful weeks 3

Thanks so much for reading!