Chapter 3: Heir

As the bright sun started to peak into the den, Kovu woke his daughter, he needed to talk to her. She slowly prodded along after he father, eyes still blinking trying to adjust to the light. The large, well muscled lion lead her to the peak of Pride Rock.

"Shani, what do you see when you look out here?" Kovu asked her.
"A bright sun, trying to blind me," she yawned, blinking away the water in her eyes.
Kovu chuckled, "Come on, seriously, what do you see?"
"I see your land, the Pride Lands, with all the herds grazing within them, all at utmost peace" she responded.
"Uh.. yes, that's, very good." Kovu was slightly surprised at how mature that sounded coming from a cub. "Of course, that peace is kept because we respect them - we know how vital the herd animals are to our survival."
The King told his daughter the same things he and his Queen were taught once, about the great Circle of Life. To his surprise she had been very quiet and attentive to his speech, not many cubs would sit still and be that alert for very long, he knew his daughter was going to be a great leader.

"Dad?" Shani turned to her father.
"Yes Shani?" he pulled her closer and nuzzled her head.
"Do you think I'll be a good Queen someday?" she asked, sounding concerned.
"I know you will be."
Shani rose up to lick her father's cheek and cuddled into his mane.
Kiara walked out of the den, stopping to stretch her muscles and yawn.
"Good morning" she trotted over, nuzzling into them both, "Shani! You know what we haven't done in a while?!"
"What?!" she got excited from her mother's tone.
"Given you a bath!" she grinned evilly and picked up the cub laughing, bringing her to her 'doom'.
"Mum! Noooo! Not a bath," Shani frowned, which was only dramatised when her mother licked the loose skin towards her forehead, causing a great amount of it to build up on her face.
Kovu stared at the scene and after a few seconds burst into laughter. Shani didn't appreciate the King's laughing fit and sulked until the whole process was over.

All the other lionesses were up now and once Kiara had finished bathing her daughter she went and rallied up some ladies for a hunt. Pini and Kuhti came over to Shani, both giving 'looks' to their mothers, Yumi and Dumi, who had given them baths. Funnily enough, even though both lionesses had similar names, they weren't related, and very much differed in colour; Yumi was a dark grey colour with a line of black dots under her eyes, whereas Dumi was a dark, almost black brown. Similar to their mothers, Pini and Kuhti were both the same colours, just lighter shades - Pini didn't have the dots like her mother though. Why wasn't Shani like her parents?

Pini was chatting away as usual while Shani was still deep in thought. Suddenly stopping, Pini asked her if she was alright.
"What? Oh yes, sorry Pini, I was just in another world," she smiled warmly at her friend.
Pini, satisfied with her answer continued babbling to both her and Kuhti. They listened out of respect for their friend, but there is only so much Pini anyone can take.
"Hey, I wonder if Ata, Atala and Lito want to play with us today, maybe even Buhi" Kuhti pondered, "think we should go ask them?"
"Oh yes!" Pini bounced towards their mothers.
Shani nudged Kuhti in the shoulder, grinning "Smooth move."
"Thanks" he responded raising his eyebrows, smirking.

Ata, Atala and Lito's mother said that they were allowed to play, as long as someone was watching. Buhi's mother was a bit less willing to let him go, but ended up caving in after a bit of coaxing. Vitani offered to watch the cubs as she wasn't busy today and thought it fair to let the lionesses rest for once. She regretted this choice not long after.
"Vitani! Will you play hide and seek with us?" a little light-peach pelted cub jumped on her back, his orange hair tuft hanging in her face.
"Lito, get off of me!" she swatted him off, not hard enough to hurt him, but to do the job.
He landed on his feet and turned around to stare at her with his huge teal eyes "Pleaseeee?"
Vitani looked and saw all the pleading faces staring in her direction, she sighed "Fine, 1, 2, 3.."
"We're not ready yet!" Atala growled, searching for a place to run to.

It didn't take long for the cubs to run off and each find hiding spots. Shani was the first to find a spot as she was the fastest runner. Buhi tried to be smart and hid in a bush, right behind where Vitani was counting, he grinned to himself thinking he was a genius. Little did he know she could hear him making a ruckus behind her, but she decided to pretend not to hear it and give the cub a break.
"…28, 29, 30!" Vitani shouted, "Ready or not, here I come!"

She found all of the cubs reasonably quickly, all except Lito. Everyone was getting bored waiting for Vitani to find him. Atala grumbled away, resting with her head in her paws. Ata getting sick of her sister's bad mood nudged her, which caused Atala to irritably nudge her back – they glared at each other for a while, but did not take it any further. Pini had finally taken a break from talking everyone's ears off and started to pursue a passing butterfly, much to everyone's joy. Vitani ran back over to the cubs, panting, looking worried.
"Ok, does anyone know where Lito hid, I can't find him?" she asked desperately.
"Last time I saw him he was over here," Kuhti took Vitani to a nearby tree.
"He's not here either…" Vitani took a deep breath, "LITO! LITO WHERE ARE YOU? YOU WIN, COME OUT! NOW!"
There was a rustling in the tree above, which Kuhti and Vitani assumed was a bird, but in a few minutes and descending peach blur appeared, colliding with Vitani. A loud "Oomf!" came from both parties.
"Lito! I was so worried, I wasn't sure where you went off to, no more trees from now on!" Vitani spat harshly at the cub.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare anyone." Vitani looked at the same teal eyes that had coaxed her into playing before - they were now looking quite guilty and sad.
"Oh, it's alright Lito, you just scared me."

The whole group went back to Pride Rock as the hunting parties had come back with fresh kill. All cubs returned to their mothers and settled in for the night.