Upelelezi gazed up at her friend, Speckles, as she scampered about the high branches, seemingly able to touch the stormclouds. Upelelezi was sure that soon, the dark clouds would give in, and force Speckles out of that tree!
"Speck, please come down!" Upelelezi cried, fretfully.
Speckles laughed, and grabbed an even higher branch, and pulled herself up
"I'm never coming down! Never, never never!" Speckles sneered, "I'm finally taller than 'Buka!"
"But it isn't safe! Right, Zazu?"
"Right!" said Zazu, angrily. He flew up to the tree, and landed next to Speckles.
"You're far too heavy to be up here. The branch will break!"
Speckles swiped at Zazu, and ran farther up the branch, which started to bend.
"I don't think Dotty would want you up there," said Zazu, actually starting to get worried.
"You don't know that. Maybe Mom wants me to be up here!"
"She doesn't..." yawned Kumbuka, brushing his wiry, adolecent mane out of his eyes.
"Buka, shh!" hissed Speckles.
"Ugh, I wish I was with Bitni today..." mumbled Zazu, to himself, "Why couldn't I have gone to see her today instead of yesterday?"
"Hey, Zazu, watch this!" called Upelelezi, "Speckles, would Kizazi want you to be up there?"
Speckles growled, but the growl turned into a sigh.
"No..." she murmered, "No, I suppose he wouldn't. Buka, help me down?"
"Yeah, okay," Kumbuka yawned.
Kumbuka gripped the tree, and stood himself up on his hind legs. He reached up into the tree, and yanked his sister down by her scruff, dropping her with a thump into the grass.
"Gee, thanks..." Speckles growled, rubbing her head, "You could have at least tried to be careful..."
"You're a teenager, sis," said Kumbuka, "You've been too heavy to carry for a while."
"He's right," Upelelezi continued, "You're too big to pick up."
"That isn't a problem for you!" Speckles teased.
"Shut it, Specks, I'm not that little..."
"You're right, you're not little. For a cub!"
"Speckles, I'm not a cub anymore! I'll be a teenager in a month!"
"You sure about that, cubby?"
"Don't make fun of your friends, Speckles," said Zazu, flitting down from the tree, and putting his wing around Upelelezi. Upelelezi smiled, triumphantly.
"Aw, you went crying to your babysitter, Little Cub?" Speckles taunted.
"He's your babysitter too!" growled Upelelezi, pressing her nose against Speckles', and snarling up at her.
"But I don't really need him, I can take care of myself! You're just a little cubby cub!"
"I'm gonna get Mom," said Kumbuka, his voice laced with boredem.
"Come on, Buka, we were just playing..." muttered Speckles, laying down in the shade of the tree.
Upelelezi rolled her eyes.
"I'll be back in a little while," said Upelelezi.
She scampered away, back towards Pride Rock.
Upelelezi pranced up to Pride Rock, where Kovu was asleep under the overhanging rock. Kiara was out with the hunting party today, and Kovu was left to his own devices, which for him meant he was allowed to nap all day. He looked up, and smiled upon seeing his daughter.
"Hi, Daddy!" chimed Upelelezi, skittering up to her father, and nuzzling his mane.
"Hey, Upie," he purred.
"Can I go out and explore the Pridelands?" she asked, sitting down.
"Not now Upie," he yawned, "I'm exhausted, and I don't think I want you out on your own."
"What if Zazu comes with me?"
"Well, if Zazu goes with you!"
Upelelezi pranced away, and Kovu couldn't help laughing.
“I don't think there has ever been another cub like that one,” he snickered, “No one else has ever asked for their babysitter to come with them."
Upelelezi hurried back to her group of friends, and tapped Zazu on the wing.
"Zazu, will you come with me while I explore the Pridelands?" she asked.
"Sure, Upelelezi," Zazu smiled, "It'll be nice to survey the Pridelands while I'm babysitting."
"Yay! See you, Speckles, see you Kumbu-- Whoa!"
A flash of brown and red flew from the bushes, landing heavily--albeit gently--on top of Upelelezi, and pinning her to the ground. Speckles laughed, and pushed her brother's red mane out of her eyes.
"Kizzy!" she laughed, "I told you to stop doing that! Kizazi, why can't you hunt Speckles?"
"My mate?" Kizazi laughed, "It's safer to hunt my sister."
Upelelezi shoved Kizazi off of her, still laughing at her brother. He was much bigger than she was, but he was almost done growing, and she would grow for quite a while longer.
"So, you're going somewhere?" Kizazi asked.
"Yeah," squeaked Upelelezi, excitedly, "Zazu's taking me to explore the Pridelands! Finally, I've been waiting forever! It sounds really exciting out there. When you went exploring, you met Waanzin, didn't you?"
"Yes, that's right. Maybe you'll meet some new friends, too."
"I hope I will."
"Well, I hope you have fun," said Kizazi, ruffling Upelelezi's fur, "And keep out of trouble."
"I'll be there," said Zazu, perching on Kizazi's shoulder, "Nothing will happen."
"And he finally admits how boring he is!" sang Speckles.
"Shut up, Speckles," said Upelelezi, "C'mon, Zazu, I wanna go play!"
"See you, Upie," said Kizazi, giving Upelelezi a quick hug.
"Bye, Kizazi, bye guys!" she called over her shoulder.
Upelelezi raced through the Pridelands, the icy wind stinging her eyes, drying her nose, and numbing her paws. She had never felt as good as then! Zazu flapped hard to keep up with his charge.
A few hours later, Upelelezi was still out, still having the time of her life. She clambered up and sled down the large, smooth rocks that littered this part of the Pridelands, as Zazu kept an eye on her. Even though she would be a teenager in only a month, Upelelezi still enjoyed her playful, cub games.
“Zazu, are you watching?” she laughed, scrambling up one of the larger rocks, “Look at me! Are you looking, Zazu?”
“I see you, Upelelezi,” he chuckled, “But we should go home now, it's going to start raining any minute.”
“Okay... Five more minutes?”
“Five more minutes.”
Upelelezi leaped onto a huge, smooth rock, and roared (a cub's roar), imitating her mother. She was just about to leap to another, when the gray clouds finally gave in. Heavy rain poured down on Upelelezi, making the rock slick. She flailed her arms and tried to catch her balance, desperate not to slip. But despite her efforts, Upelelezi skitted down the rock, and landed hard in the watery mud, smashing her paw under her own chest.
"Upelelezi!" squawked Zazu, swooping down to her aid, "Are you alright?"
"Ouch... yeah. Yeah, I'm fine," she answered, flexing the pain from her paw, "I should have more careful."
"Yes, you should have!" snapped Zazu, "Now, lets go home, I'm sure your mother and father are worried sick."
"Alright. In one second?"
"Ugh, one second!"
Upelelezi leaped over the rock, proceeding to scramble up another. But just as she did, the rain became even heavier and the wind stronger, and she toppled off, landing on her stomach on the other side of the rock.
"Ugh..." she grumbled, putting her paws on a nearby rock to steady herself.
But Upelelezi froze when the rock breathed hot air into her face.