Chapter 9 - Upendi
World - Pride Land
Note: Sonic the Hedgehog and related characters are (c) SEGA and
Sonic Team. You knew that, right?
GeneX and related fanchars are (c) 2BIT (TheGreatGator), the author.
Kingdom Hearts is (c) Disney & Square Enix. Related elements belong to their respective companies.
"Can you feel the love tonight?
The peace the evening brings.
The world, for once, in perfect harmony
with all its living things." - Can You Feel The Love Tonight? - The Lion King
Thinking of you, wherever you are...
The group chased Zeke across time, where he and Zim were attempting to steal an object known as the Cornerstone of Light, which a certain mouse was trying to protect. They battled a massive heartless and chased Zeke back to the present.
Earlier, in Twilight Town, Tails met with his world's Sonic, who is actually a renegade known as Scourge the Hedgehog. Tainted by darkness, Scourge is following Lucky's group from world to world, watching them...
Now, let us journey to a new world...
The latest world Lucky's group arrived at was a beautiful savannah. Whisk's wand kicked in when they arrived, and they each took on new, more feral-looking forms. Lucky became a small lion cub, keyblade clumsily clenched in his teeth, his scruffy young mane black in color. Whisk became a lioness, but fortunately Merlin's fix for her wand was working, and her wings remained on her back, making her look more like a little sphinx. Tails had shrunk down into a scrawny two-tailed meerkat form...fortunately his shield shrunk with him so he could carry it. "I feel very vulnerable in this world..." he murmured, ears drooping. Lucky stumbled over his paws, and Whisk fell onto him. "Ooof!! This'll take some getting used to..." she groaned. "You're telling me! Why are we like this?" Lucky grunted as she climbed off him. "World order. Some worlds don't have humanoids in them at all." Whisk explained. "Tails still has two legs!" Lucky protested. "I don't really control it..." Whisk said bashfully, "Let's just practice." she suggested. The practiced walking for a bit, then Tails held his shield while Lucky practiced swinging his keyblade in his teeth. Before long, they felt ready to get moving, but they heard a rather snooty voice shout in their direction. "There, sire! Strangers in the Pride Lands!" They looked up to see some sort of blue bird flapping overhead. On the ground behind him, a proud lion approached, and behind him, another meerkat riding on a warthog. The lion gave a stern roar as he approached. "Thank you, Zazu, I'll handle this. You two! You're outsiders, aren't you? Do you know the penalty for entering the Pride Lands?" he asked. Lucky and Whisk glanced at each other. "Outsiders? How did he know?" Lucky whispered. "Order! Don't admit anything!" Whisk whispered back. The other meerkat hopped off the warthog and stepped over. "I dunno, Simba, they're just kids! And look at the company they keep! Can't be all bad! Run away from home too, buddy? Can't stand all the diggin? I mean, all we do is dig so we can hide and hide so we can dig!" the meerkat ranted. Tails scratched his head. "Uhh, yup. Sounds about right." he agreed, just to blend in. "They must be lost!" the warthog said with concern. Simba glared at the black mane of Lucky. "The Outsiders sided with Scar when he took control of the Pride Lands. I banished them for the safety of those loyal to my father and me. You may be too young to understand this, but you have to go back where you came from. This is my decree as king. Come Timon, Pumbaa." he said, leading the meerkat, warthog and bird away. Lucky looked a bit awkward. "They seem to have mistaken us for someone else. We should probably leave, but let's make sure Zeke isn't around first." he suggested.
While they walked in search of Zeke, Tails noticed something different about his two companions. Lucky and Whisk were walking awfully close, and seemed to be having an unusually good time despite being stuck in weird four-legged bodies. Maybe something about these forms was messing with their minds? Tails observed Whisk's wing gently drape over Lucky's body, almost like a hug. Lucky seemed to think she was resting it, but to Tails, this looked very intentional. "...Oh my... Are they? No..." he muttered to himself, rubbing his meerkat head as they continued ahead. "I didn't plan for this! Such a bond could make them feel so strong...they think they don't need me anymore..." he thought, "And then what? I'm up the river without a... um... well, I don't think I should even go in the river in this form!" He groaned a bit as unpleasant thoughts filled his mind. "Hey, Tails! What's the holdup?" Lucky called back. He hurried after them so he wouldn't be missed, but as he caught them, they heard a zooming sound, and saw a trail of flames headed their way! When it stopped, Scourge the hedgehog was standing before them with a smirk. He didn't bother worrying about the world order, he was upright as a proud Moebian. "How cute, a couple of kittens! Or are ya all stuffed animals? Heh... You dweebs must be lookin' for Zeke!" he said, winking at Tails. Lucky crouched down, his keyblade appearing in his teeth. "You're not gonna talk with your mouth full, are ya?" Scourge smirked, "Zeke's not here, I'm runnin' the show today. Thought I'd see how you're doing with that keyblade. Quite a joke... I'm sure your key will be much happier when it's with its rightful owner...me!" he taunted. Whisk scoffed. "Good luck with that! Keyblades can't be stolen, dummy!" she pointed out. "Can't they?" Scourge smirked. Lucky started to run at him, when Scourge snapped his fingers and called forth some native heartless: Masked monkeys known as shamans as well as fliers with boxing gloves known as aerial knockers. "Uhhh... Who are you!?" Tails asked, trying to maintain his cover. Scourge smirked. "I'm Scourge the hedgehog. And when Garland's through with the worlds, I'm gonna rule over what's left of them!" he snickered, speeding off and leaving more flame trails behind! Lucky tried to talk with the keyblade in his mouth. "Vhat aa hreepth!" he said. "Yeah, he is a creep..." Whisk sighed, her wings glowing in preparation for a fight.
They were, a bit ironically for Tails, battling near a river. While Lucky and Whisk were busy keeping the shamans at bay, the aerial knockers were battering Tails' shield, and had knocked him to the water's edge. "Gaaah! I'm too small in this form! Someone do something!!" he stammered, tossing his shield at one heartless' head to take it out. But as he caught his shield on the rebound, the next punch knocked him over the edge and into the raging river! "Tails!!" Whisk cried. In her panic, she extended her wings and cried out, "Thundara!!" Bolts of lightning crashed around them, exterminating the heartless swiftly! However, Tails had been washed away from them and out of sight already! "Oh no..." Lucky whimpered, looking downstream, "D-did we just lose him?" he asked in fear. As the pair looked in worry, unsure what to do, a loud, sharp laugh startled the birds in the brush around them, and they looked to see a baboon with a hairy mane and a long stick with some sort of fruits on the end. He was leaning against this stick and looking at Lucky and Whisk with a big grin. "Couple of worrywarts, you are! But that was some impressive light show, little girl! You ain't from the Pride Lands, are you?" he said, more telling than asking. Lucky and Whisk looked at him awkwardly before turning back in the direction the river was flowing. "We gotta look for him!" Lucky said, ignoring the baboon. "He is quite fine, I assure you! I saw the whole thing!" the baboon called to them. They glanced back at him again, unsure if he was serious or a lunatic. The baboon motioned for them to follow and started athletically leaping along a path only he knew. "You both! Follow old Rafiki! He knows the way! Ha ha ha!" the baboon called to them. Lucky turned to Whisk. "Uhhh... Is he gonna take us to Tails?" he asked. "I haven't the faintest idea. He almost seems to find us funny." she shrugged. "Hey!! You better hurry up if you don't wanna be left behind! Hee hee hee!" Rafiki laughed, stopping to playfully shake his stick in their direction. Lucky and Whisk glanced at each other and nodded. "Follow old Rafiki, right? Least he's not calling more heartless..." Lucky chuckled. And so, the pair took off chasing the surprisingly spry old baboon, who had quite the mischievous look in his eye as he led them...
Rafiki led them to what appeared to be a huge leaf almost resembling a raft, which was floating at the edge of the river. He motioned for them to climb aboard. "If you wanna get to the end of the river, best way is to ride it!" he said. Whisk chuckled softly and hopped in, finding this huge leaf to be rather sturdy. Lucky joined her, stumbling and brushing rather close to her. Whisk blushed as they braced against one another. There wasn't much room. Rafiki hopped on the back of the leaf, which stuck up a bit like a seat, and used his stick to paddle it like a gondola. "You two are quite a pair. I saw how you watched each other's backs against those creatures." he said as the leaf drifted downstream. "...We could've watched Tails' back better..." Lucky sighed. Rafiki chuckled softly. "I think you were distracted. Distracted in a place...called Upendi." he said. Whisk raised an eyebrow. "What's... Upendi?" she asked. Rafiki paddled faster and smirked. "...I'm glad you asked..."
"...In Upendiii! Where the passion fruit grow sweet!
It's so divine that you lose your mind
as it sweeps you off your feet!
In Upendiii! Without a worry or a care!
It just takes two, to make it true!
Your heart will take you there!" (Upendi; song from The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride)
Rafiki's singing helped pass the time as they drifted downstream, the river carrying them faster as the water picked up speed. As the baboon stopped singing, though, Lucky tilted his head and looked around. "So, wait? Fruit? What were we even talking about?" he murmured, "What's this have to do with finding Tails, anyway?" Whisk's wing draped over him again, and she sat there silently with a blush, turning the words of the song over in her head. It was clear for a stranger to see, and now she was realizing. "Gosh... How could I not have realized it? I... I've fallen for him... I'm in love with Lucky..." she thought, edging closer to him in their little raft, purring softly. Rafiki smirked to observe this. At least one of them knew the meaning of Upendi now...
The leafy boat soon stopped at shore, and there they found Tails drying out his shield and looking a bit worried that the tech inside it might be shorted out. "You're alive!" Lucky cried, pouncing at him in a desire to hug his friend. Tails yelped as the lion cub pinned him. "Lucky!! I'm not dinner! Lemme go!" he yelped. Lucky chuckled softly. "I know, silly!" he smiled. Whisk smiled lightly, too, but then frowned as she looked around. They found themselves in a dark, dismal-looking place on the borders of the Pride Lands. "Rafiki, where are we? ...Rafiki?" she asked, but noticed he was gone. The trio heard voices, so they jumped into some nearby bushes. Two young lion cubs approached, laughing. One male and one female. "Did you see that! The one was like rrrraaawr!! And the other was like, rrraaarr-raaarr!! And... you were really brave!" the girl said excitedly. "Yeah? ...Well, you were pretty brave yourself." the boy replied smiling. Whisk watched them with a blush. "Awww, they're cute." she said. "Why are we still hiding?" Lucky asked. "Shh!" Whisk shushed him. "I'm Kovu." they heard the male say, while the female strode by cutely. "I'm Kiara..." she said with a catty smile. She then decided she wanted to play with him. "Tag, you're it!" she giggled, jumping away, but Kovu just stared. She looked a bit confused, but tried again. "Tag! You're it, you're it!" she chuckled, but Kovu still looked confused. "What's the matter? Don't you know how to play?" she asked. Then, she got an idea, and got into a pouncing position. Kovu smirked and looked ready to fight as well. However, before they could try this "game," Kiara was startled by something and leapt back! "L-look out!" she cried. Heartless had appeared, these ones being monstrous living bone heartless, which had shamans riding on their backs! There were a pair of them, and they frightened the cubs into running! Before the heartless could give chase, though, Lucky, Whisk and Tails jumped out of the bushes to stop them! "Think the heartless mistook them for us?" Lucky asked. "No, I think they're just monsters!" Whisk growled. "Just think how monstrous they look from my height level!" Tails gulped, his meerkat size making everything look scarier. The massive jaws of the living bones snapped in their direction, and Lucky snapped his keyblade into one of those maws, pushing it back! "Whisk! This time, let's protect Tails, too!" he grunted. She nodded. "Right!" Their resolve surprised Tails, and he looked at his shield. "Don't worry... I can take care of myself!" he said bravely.
The cubs had fled to the border between the Pride Lands and the Outlands. They were a bit into Pride Land territory, and Simba soon found them, giving Kovu an angry roar as he approached! Before he could get to close, however, a lioness came to Kovu's defense and roared back! Simba looked at her with fury. "Zira!" he gasped. "Simba..." Zira smirked, a wicked, scheming grin on her face. Lucky's group had managed to fend off the heartless, and approached in time to find Simba and his friends facing down Zira. "I banished you from the Pride Lands. You know the penalty for returning!" Simba warned. "But the child does not!" Zira retorted, "However, if you require your pound of flesh, here..." she said callously, nudging Kovu towards him with her paw. Simba looked at the frightened cub, his eyes softening. "...Take him and get out." he sighed. Kiara watched all of this with sadness. "Daddy, I..." she stammered. "We'll talk later, Kiara... Let's go home." he said, leading his daughter away. Timon and Pumbaa stuck their tongues out at Zira as they headed off with Simba. "You're so merciful, Simba. Too good for em." Timon scoffed. "We need better security. Maybe build a wall?" Pumbaa asked. "Are we animals or architects? Let's just get outta here, Pumbaa..." Timon sighed. Lucky watched the scene with tension. "Simba's running a tight ship, but maybe it's not without reason. Did you see that Zira? You can feel the darkness from her..." he shuddered. Tails crossed his arms. "But was that darkness there before getting banished, I wonder?" he murmured. Whisk looked in the direction Zira was taking Kovu. "It's not fair... Those cubs were getting along so well, but their families are so full of hate... and Zira was even ready to sacrifice him..." she noted. Ploy or not, that didn't look promising. "...We should rescue Kovu. No one should have to grow up with such a hateful caretaker..." he said. "This sounds like meddling." Tails murmured. However, Lucky started to take off, and Whisk was quick to follow, so Lucky sighed deeply and started to head after them. "Where are we gonna put him after we rescue him? He's not welcome in the Pride Lands..." he murmured. "We'll think of something! A child shouldn't pay for the sins of the parents!" Lucky insisted. And so, they started to follow the direction Zira had gone, heading deeper into the Outlands.
They hadn't pursued Zira too far before Lucky was suddenly kicked back a ways by a speeding object! When Lucky climbed to his paws, he saw Scourge standing there with a scowl on his face. "You idiot! I had the heirs of Simba and Scar both in one place! If my heartless had destroyed them, each side would blame the other, and war would erupt, which would have surely produced the chaos that Garland needs to complete his plan!" he ranted, stomping towards Lucky only to find Whisk standing in his way. "Meow, feisty... Try something with me, babe, I dare ya..." Scourge smirked. Lucky bared his lion teeth. "Out of our way! Kovu still isn't safe with Zira, and we need to follow her if we're gonna help him!" he shouted. Scourge rolled his eyes. "Such a boy scout. What are ya gonna do, kill Zira? Hmm... Well, now... Actually, I'd like to see you do that. Let's see if the noble keyblade master will get his paws dirty, heh..." he smirked, glancing at Tails with a nod, as if telling him something. Tails stood beside Whisk, clutching his shield. "Are you just trying to trick us so you'll attack again while our back's turned?" he asked. Scourge scoffed. "Nah, I'm sick of this place. All this nature, ugh. I'm goin' home for a bit. So have your fun playin' hero..." he chuckled, opening a corridor of darkness behind himself. "Just know this, kitten... I'm takin' that keyblade when I want it. It's mine, and you're just holding it for me... Got that?" he taunted before leaving. Lucky held his keyblade in his mouth, dropping it into his paws. "...You chose me, right? Scourge is just blowing hot air..." he murmured. "Don't talk to your keyblade, Lucky, it's weird." Whisk sighed. He then grabbed it in his teeth again and nodded. They had to resume the chase!
What an idea! Zira was berating Kovu for wandering off towards the Pride Lands on his own, while her elder son Nuka was whining to Vitani, a young lioness of the Outland pack. As she was scolding him, the idea occurred to her... Kovu could get close to Kiara in order to be welcomed into the Pride Lands, giving him an opening... She snuggled her cub and brought him into their cave, which was under several spire-like termite mounds, and tucked him into the gnarled remains of a tree stump. She began to sing him a lullaby...while dreaming of revenge.
"Sleep, my little Kovu, let your dreams take wing.
One day when you're big and strong...you will be a king!"
Kovu: "Good night..."
Zira: "Good night, my little prince. Tomorrow your training intensifies..."
"I've been exiled, persecuted, left alone with no defense.
When I think of what that brute did, I get a little tense!
But I dream a dream so pretty, that I don't feel so depressed.
'Cause it soothes my inner kitty; And it helps me get some rest!
The sound of Simba's dying gasp!
His daughter squealing in my grasp!
His lioness' mournful cry!
That's my lullaby!
Now, the past I've tried forgetting, and my foes I could forgive.
Trouble is, I know it's petty, but I hate to let them live!"
Nuka: "So you found yourself somebody, who'd chase Simba up a tree!"
Zira: "Oh, the battle may be bloody, but that kind of works for me!"
"The melody of angry growls!
A counterpoint of painful howls!
A symphony of death, of my!
That's my lullaby!
Scar is gone, but Zira's still around, to love this little lad...
Till he learns to be a killer! With a lust for being bad!"
Nuka: "Sleep, ya little termite! Oh, I mean precious little thing...
Vitani: "One day when you're big and strong..."
Zira: "...You will be a king!"
"The pounding of the drums of war!
The thrill of Kovu's mighty roar!"
Nuka: "The joy of vengeance!"
Zira: "I can hear the cheering!"
Nuka & Vitani: "Kovu, what a guy..."
"Payback time is nearing...
And then our flag will fly!
Against a blood-red sky!
That's my lullabyyyyyy!!" (My Lullaby; song from The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride)
As termites scattered into the sky and Zira cried out in rage from the highest of the spires, Lucky, Whisk and Tails looked on. It was clear her heart was filled with darkness, however, Whisk hesitated from going further. "This is wrong. Lucky, Zira is Kovu's mother. Whatever else she is, she's that. Is it really our place to take him from her?" she asked. Lucky tilted his head. "She's singing about the joys of war..." he stated. "Banishment filled her with hate. But Kovu doesn't have to choose her path, even in her care... But, if we take him from her...what are we but the people who took him from his mother? Won't that create a darkness in his heart, too? The same kind of darkness that drives Zira... Vengeance..." Whisk explained. Lucky sighed. "I didn't think of it that way..." he murmured. Tails stepped away from them. He knew what Scourge wanted. Zira's demise would drive the outlanders to seek vengeance, for sure, and this could lead to the chaotic war he was going for. But Lucky and Whisk needed incentive. He glanced at Zira, and extended a hand, calling upon the darkness in himself, and reaching out to the darkness within her. "I can't believe I'm doing this... But I have no choice..." he thought.
Calling to the darkness within Zira, Tails summoned a massive heartless. To Lucky and Whisk, it seemed to emerge from nowhere to block their way to the caves ahead. It resembled a bony elephant, with a shadowy trunk carrying a pulsing orb of dark energy. The heartless emblem was emblazoned on its forehead. "Meee-yow!! I-is that from Zira?!" Lucky yelped, jumping back and summoning his keyblade. The Grave Elephant stomped towards them, spouting dark blasts from the orb on its trunk, which Whisk flew up into the air to avoid. "Its hide looks impervious... I think that orb is the source of its power!" she shouted. Tails was scanning it with his shield. "Yeah, that'd be a safe bet... I'm gonna hang back here and not get stepped on, if that's alright..." he gulped. When the dark blasts the elephant shot hit the ground, shadow heartless emerged in their place, so Tails had something else to focus on while Lucky and Whisk approached the lumbering beast! Whisk shot fire at the orb, but the Grave Elephant twisted its trunk to block the attack. Lucky tried to leap up, but the beast lunged its tusks at him, knocking him back! "Yaaah! This would be much easier if I was mobian again!" he yelped. Whisk landed behind him and crouched down. "Hop on my back! I'll get you in close!" she said. Nodding, Lucky hopped onto her back and she took to the air, flying around the beast as it flailed its trunk, shooting dark blasts around in an attempt to shoot them out of the sky! "Can't let them hit the ground! Tails is having a hard enough time! Blizzara!!" Whisk shouted, trying to freeze and destroy the blasts to prevent them from becoming shadows! Having circled the Grave Elephant, Whisk started to make her approach to the trunk. The beast suddenly detached its skull, its body stomping the earth and trying to crush Tails while the head tried to bash Lucky and Whisk with its tusks! "Yaaaah!! Hurry up, guys!!" Tails cried, scrambling for cover. Lucky stood up on Whisk's back and leapt at the trunk! "Lucky, wait!!" Whisk gasped, seeing his paws grip the trunk with their claws and cling for dear life! He was close to the orb, and he started to swing his neck, bashing it with his keyblade! Whisk tried to fly in to help, but got struck by a tusk charge and tumbled towards the ground! Shouting angrily with his keyblade in his mouth, Lucky jumped up and came crashing down, slicing the orb hard! The Grave Elephant started to fade, and Lucky landed on his feet by Whisk's side, rushing to see if she was okay. "...Does your neck hurt from swinging that key?" she asked, sitting up. Lucky chuckled softly. "A little..." he replied.
Zira had noticed the ruckus, and called Nuka and Vitani to investigate. To avoid being caught, Lucky, Whisk and Tails raced back towards the Pride Lands as quickly as they could. There, they found Rafiki waiting. "And just what are YOU doing in the Outlands?" he asked. "W-we were going to rescue Kovu..." Lucky said, out of breath. Rafiki chuckled. "Very funny. Take him from his home, and where will he go? Now, don't you young ones fret about Kovu. Rafiki will be watching over him. The great circle of life has important plans for the boy...and for you three as well." he said with a smirk. Lucky, Tails and Whisk glanced at each other with awkward smiles. Then Rafiki jumped up and pointed away with his stick. "Now, go on, go! Get out of here! Your destiny awaits beyond the Pride Lands! Good luck, travelers! Ha ha!" he laughed before leaping off on his way. Lucky and Whisk started to leave first, heading for the Galestrom's landing area. "Who is that strange monkey, anyway?" Lucky asked. Tails walked at the back, arms crossed and looking at the ground. "I could have really hurt all of us, and in the end I accomplished nothing... Argh, Scourge would kick me for thinking like this... And they'd probably kick me if they knew I was working with Scourge..." he thought, and shook his head, "It doesn't matter... I do what I do for the good of Moebius..." Meanwhile, Whisk was walking close to Lucky again. "You really lost it when you thought I was hurt. Recklessly jumped up and took down that heartless..." she said. Lucky blushed lightly. "I, uh... I didn't want him to hurt you anymore..." he said. Whisk leaned in close and licked his cheek. "You reacted so strong because you're in Upendi with me..." she cooed, and casually walked ahead of him. Lucky stopped short, rubbing his cheek with his paw and blushing even deeper. "Upendi, what? ... Wait, Upendi means...?" he babbled, his eyes widening as he watched Whisk walk away from him. Tails stopped next to him. "Well, all this time travelling together on that small ship, odds are one of us would fall... you know." he sighed. Lucky felt his heart thump in the lion cub chest he was inhabiting. "T-tails... I love her..." he whispered, excitement in his voice. He then ran off to walk beside her again, leaving Tails alone. He sighed and started to sing to himself. "...and if he falls in love tonight, it can be assumed... his carefree days, with me are history, in short my pal, is doomed..."
To be continued...