Fujo could hardly believe it. The lions had caught Malka by surprise, had them surrounded, and he was about to witness the death of his incompetent brother at last, when Simba had shown up and ruined everything. He watched in disgust as Jeraha called off the attack and broke and ran with what was left of his team. That buffoon...he was so close. Why couldn't he have finished Malka and be done with it? I worked this hard to ensure my plan succeeds, and I can't believe I was stupid enough to trust Jeraha to do his part right.
He turned his attention away from Jeraha's retreating form, and saw to his surprise that Malka chose not to give chase. Always a coward, my brother. How you're still the king is beyond me. Now that Malka was in Simba's protection, he would be much more difficult to kill. I will need to revise this plan now. I need time to think—
And then Fujo saw them. Thirty lions or so, emerging from over a tall hill. They were walking along the Zuberi River and would soon enter the Pridelands. They were headed straight towards Simba and Malka. It must be the prisoners. Kopa has freed them. He cursed under his breath. Everything was slipping beyond his grasp now. Once Kopa told Malka about their encounter, Fujo could no longer play both sides. His entire plan was now shattered beyond repair.
Nothing for it then. I'm going to need Janga's protection for the time being, until I can figure out what to do. Malka may be a fool, but he won't let my betrayal go unnoticed. He'll be sending lions to come find me. Without another thought, Fujo turned and dashed off for Mount Tempest.
Everyone spotted the lions as soon as they were coming over the hill. They tensed, ready for another fight if need be.
"Zazu, who are they?" Simba asked as the hornbill landed before him, looking astounded.
"It's—Sire, I don't believe it! It's the prisoners! They've escaped!"
"Where's Mateka? Is she with them?" Tama demanded immediately.
"Yes, she's the one at the front, leading them this way," Zazu said, pointing. He jumped back to avoid getting trampled as the lioness snapped into action, sprinting off towards the prisoners.
"Mateka! Mateka, thank the stars you're alright!"
The young lioness spotted her, and also broke into a run. "Mom!" They nudged their faces together, as the rest of the former prisoners moved to join the other lions, calling out in recognition to Simba or Malka. A few of them even seemed to recognize Afua, although it was obvious who he was when he stood next to his father. Everyone was talking at once, hardly able to believe that so many of them had really escaped.
"Well, this certainly is a welcome sight," said Simba. "Who do you all have to thank for this miraculous escape?"
Everyone fell silent. A gold-furred lioness stepped forward, looking straight at him rather dolefully. "I took them to a tunnel, Your Majesty. And I collapsed it so no one could follow us."
Simba gave an approving nod. "Well done. It's heartening to see so many of my pride are safe, and I thank you for it. What is your name, if I may ask?"
"My name is Siri, but it's not me you should thank. I was a prisoner myself, and would still be if it wasn't for...for..." She took a deep breath. "...for your son, Kopa."
Simba heard the words, but his mind couldn't comprehend. Kopa...Kopa?
"Kopa is alive?" whispered Nala. Siri nodded.
"He was with us, but when we were escaping, Tumaini, Malka's son, was injured and couldn't come with us." She paused momentarily to look at Malka, whose expression was now paralyzed with dismay. Quietly, she finished, "Tumaini was the one who took care of Kopa after he lost his memory. So Kopa decided to stay behind rather than leave him. I believe they've both been captured by Janga."
Not a single lion moved a muscle. Even those who hadn't heard the story could tell that something was going on. Simba's eyes met Nala's, and then Malka's, and then Afua's. Finally, he said, "Then we're not done here yet. I'm going to Mount Tempest. Those who are willing to come with me are welcome to. For those who have already suffered there as a prisoner, I will understand if you don't want to go back. But I must go."
"I'm coming," said Nala.
"And me," said Malka.
"Me too," said Afua. Simba nodded, needing no explanation from them.
An old lion stepped forward. "Your son came for us when we were captured. I'm not going to leave a young lion like him to die after what he did for me."
"I'm coming too," said Tama. "I have my daughter again because of him, and for that, I make the same promise to you that you did when Mateka was captured."
"I will accompany you, Sire," said Zazu. "I may not be much use in a fight, but I can be of use in the sky. Protocol dictates that I should do everything I can for the well-being of the royal family, and...and I do find Kopa quite likeable."
As more and more lions spoke up to offer their help, Simba felt as if part of him were awakening from a great sleep. He had lived with the pain of losing Kopa for so long that he had eventually learned to shut out a part of himself so it wouldn't destroy him. He had believed that no matter what was in store for the rest of his life, the death of his son would always hang over him like a shadow as a constant reminder that he hadn't been watchful enough of those he cared about. Now that it turned out Kopa was alive, Simba was determined to find him and do everything in his power to make sure his son would never be lost to him again. And their family would finally be whole once more with the prince's return to the Pridelands.
"Hang on, Kopa," he whispered, looking to the mountains in the distance. "I'll bring you home. I promise."
And there you have it, book 2 is complete! I'd like to give a big thank you to everyone who read this story and offered your support. Your encouragement and feedback is what keeps me going with this series.
By the way, if you enjoy stories about Kopa and feel like I've been depressing you too much, I strongly recommend you search up The Lion King III: The Lost Prince by Asante. I just discovered his writing recently, he's a great author and he even does his own story art for it (I'm very jelly). Also, his story is a lot funnier than mine, so if I've given you more angst than you cared for, he's your therapist XD