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(Region 12 - Atlanta, GA, USA; made public by L5R)

Kudo, Hare? Lands

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Yoritomo Egumi walked into the meager, empty court chamber and sat down at table heavily. He removed his helmet and placed it unceremoniously on the table, wiping his brow absently as he did. He could not remember ever being so exhausted. He grimaced at the sound of footsteps following him into the chamber. He did not need to turn around to see who it was. "Good afternoon, Oteko-sama."

"Good afternoon," was the samurai's curt reply. "What news?"

"You may tell your father that the threat is ended," Egumi said with relief. "The Bloodspeakers will plague your village no more."

There was a shaky breath of relief from Usagi Oteko. She was young, but tenacious. Egumi could not remember meeting so young a girl with such a relentless nature, and he had served alongside Yoritomo Kumiko. "You are certain?" she asked. "None escaped?"

"I fear a few did," Egumi admitted, taking a long drink of tea. "But I feel certain they will not return."

"What?" Oteko demanded. "I thought your Legion&"

Egumi slammed the cup down. "My men," he said through pursed lips, "are exhausted. We fought the Bloodspeakers at the temple of Osano-Wo, then in Crab lands and then marched directly here, resting only a few hours each night. When we arrived, we learn that we have to scour with surrounding wilderness for a foe on whom you have no information. Your trackers supply us with trails to follow, only to learn that they belonged to a large pack of Nezumi nearly wiped out by the Bloodspeakers." He turned to face the young samurai-ko. "So all in all, Oteko-sama, I feel my men performed admirably."

The young woman looked down, clearly embarrassed. "My apologies, commander," she said. "What can you tell me of the battle?"

Egumi grinned. "We had assistance from the surviving Nezumi," he said. "They aided us in tracking the Bloodspeakers. Their sense of smell is really quite amazing."

Oteko frowned. "Dreadful creatures. They steal food constantly."

"They are from the Grasping Paw tribe," Egumi said with a shrug. "Stealing is what they do."

"Still, I suppose we shall have to overlook their crimes," Oteko said. "If they helped you, then they aided us."

"More than that," Egumi admitted. "Their scouts, led by a truly hideous little creature named Chi'kel, went into the Bloodspeakers' hideout first. They were meant to return with a count of how many foes we faced, but they slaughtered everything they met. There was precious little for my men to do."

"What?" Oteko demanded.

"Vengeance is not solely a human trait, it seems," Egumi said. "I believe a few Bloodspeakers escaped, but they will not return so long as the Nezumi remain. I imagine they will have nightmares about what happened within that cave." He grew somber for a moment. "I only saw the aftermath, and I must confess even I will dream of it. It was a massacre."

Oteko had paled. "I see."

"In any event, I assured Chi'kel that you would be eager to meet with him," Egumi said, draining the cup. "He is the new chieftain, and wishes to speak with the village leader." He glanced at the Hare Champion's daughter. "That is you, is it not?"

"It is," she said. "Lead the way."

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