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"Hey, no problem. It's my job to help Pride Land animals."
Nala's ears perked up at these words. Pride Land Animals. She shivered a bit, but tried to hide it.
Kiara frowned. "Are you okay, mom?"
Nala was tempted to say 'yes' and just let it go, but the knot in her stomach tightened. She couldn't hide her feelings forever. "Listen ... Scar's region ... was tough on all of us ...
I just don't like thinking about it too much ..."
Nala looked away from her daughter and son in law, trying to think of how to explain it to them. "... I might need to talk about it, and get it out of my system ...
if you're willing to listen, I'll tell you all about Scar's region tonight ..." She looked at Kovu. "...
There's some things you and Vitani should know before I take my place in The Circle of Life ..."
Kovu blinked. "Like what?"
Nala sighed again. "I'll explain ... tonight ..."
With that, Nala went back into the den of Pride Rock.
Vitani and her Guard neared the southern border of The Pride Lands.
"Are you sure about this sweetheart?" Tazama asked, nuzzling into Vitani's neck.
Vitani gave her a gentle nuzzle and a lick back. "Yes, I'm sure. I don't think they'll be a threat either."
"Pppft! Even if they do, we can take them!" Shabaha said.
Vitani sighed. "We're not going to fight them. We've done enough fighting already." Her tone alluded to the war with The Pride Lands, only months prior.
For once Shabaha blacked down. "Right ... right ..." The war was still fresh in her mind too. At the time she'd been proud of all the lions she'd taken on, how many she'd run off.
Now it just seemed like a stark contrast to how things were now, especially being part of the guard.
"Besides, that hyena said they ran away to avoid fighting. I don't think they're going to want to fight us." Vitani stopped when they neared the swamp near the border.
She looked carefully for any movement in the water before heading down.
She and her guard nearly hugged the shoreline, trying to get passed.
A bubbling in the water alerted all of them.
"Well, well, well." A crocodile laughed as he emerged from the water.
A small snarl escaped Vitani's lips as she glared him down.
"What do we have here?" He grinned, inching towards the shoreline. 'I haven't seen you Outsiders in ages."
"We're not Outsiders anymore, we're Pride Landers now." She said, sternly.
"Right, right." He said, still grinning. "I forgot. You're living in those fancy Pride Lands, with an abundance of food. Meanwhile, we're still stuck here, still scavenging for food."
Vitani felt her stomach churn with guilt, remembering her own life in The Outlands, scrounging for food herself, nearly starving.
They have it just as bad as we did, don't they? No wonder they were so hostile, they were hungry. No wonder they went after us!
Vitani frowned. "I ..." She sighed. "Why don't you join us in The Pride Lands?"
The crocodile looked surprised. "Really? You'd let us in?"
The guard looked at each other, also confused.
"Well, I don't have the power to let you in, but the king and queen do, and they want their pride to be united. They believe, We are one."
"We are what?" The crocodile asked.
"We are one." Vitani repeated. "We're all part of The Circle of Life."
"Should we do something?" Tazama whispered to the rest of the guard.
"Why? Vitani knows what she's doing." Kasi said. "You think you'd trust your girlfriend a bit more."
"I do trust her!" Tazama protested. "But that doesn't mean I can't be worried about her."
"Again! If anyone causes us any problems, I can take 'em!" Shabaha boasted. "Bila hofu!"
Vitani and the crocodile both looked over at the lioness. In response she let out a laugh. Vitani just shrugged it off and finished her conversation with the crocodile.
"We'll be back with the rest of the hyenas, and then we can all head there together."
"All right." The crocodile's tone had softened since the start of the conversation. "Hey uh ... thanks ..."
Vitani smiled warmly. "No problem. I'm the leader of the Lion Guard, it's my job to protect The Circle of Life." She turned away, looking over her shoulder back at him. "We'll be back."
She headed over to her guard, and they went to the termite mounds.
Stepping foot there again sent a shiver down Vitani's spine. Looking at the rest of her team, she could sense the same uneasiness within them.
Spending your formative years in such a place wasn't good mentally for, well ...
anyone, let alone a cub who was trained as a second in command to a ruthless leader bloodthirsty for revenge under false pretenses of murder.
Looking down, she saw a bunch of termites scurry past. She lifted her paw slightly, allowing them to pass by in a single line.
Vitani looked around, for any sign of the other hyenas.
"Where is she?"
"She's been gone for quite a while ..."
"Do you think she's okay?"
Vitani's ears perked up when she heard the conversation nearby. She headed towards the termite mounds and looked around.
"I sure hope so."
"I'm worried about her ..."
"We're all worried about her!"
As Vitani got closer, her paw snagged on a root, causing it to snap. The talking stopped and Vitani groaned. Crap. Well I might as well just go in.
Vitani turned the corner and was face to face with a group of four hyenas. When they saw her they froze.
Sensing their fright, Vitani softened her voice. "Hey, it's okay. I'm not going to hurt you."
The hyenas looked at each other, unsure. One of the hyenas stepped forward and let out a warning growl. "Who are you?"
"I'm Vitani." She said, still keeping her tone calm. "Leader of The Lion Guard."
The hyena's look of anger turned into one of confusion. "The Lion Guard?"
Vitani nodded. "We're the protectors of The Circle of Life."
The hyena's eyes widened and he took a step back. "We're? There's .... More of you?" He gulped, folding his ears back.
"Yes." Vitani took a step towards them. "But, we're not going to harm you. I promise."
Another hyena took a step forward, tilting his head to the side. "Okay, if you're not here to fight, then why are you here?"
"We found your cackle leader injured in The Pride Lands." Vitani explained.
"Aiube!" The group gasped.
"She's safe." Vitani reassured them. "But she was worried about you and I offered to take you back to The Pride Lands for her."
The hyenas looked at each other skeptically.
"We ... we need to talk about this." One of the hyenas squeaked out.
"I understand. Take your time."
The hyenas gathered in a circle, whispering amongst themselves.
"What if she's lying?"
"Well what if she's not?" The anxious hyena asked/
"Well what if she is!" The one who had first approached Vitani said.
"Well, she knew our leader was missing ...."
"Or she was just eavesdropping!" The first one continued.
"Don't you think she would have attacked us by now if she was going to?" The anxious one asked again.
"Well ... maybe she wants to lead us to that group of lion ... lackeys .... Or whatever they're called."
"I think they were called The Lion Guard!" The smallest hyena squeaked out.
"Yeah, yeah, whatever." He rolled his eyes. "That "lion guard" might just see us as a free meal. How do we know they didn't eat Aiube already."
"Please don't say that!" One of the female hyenas whimpered.
"Right. I'm sorry Utii." The hyena that had first approached Vitani softened his tone. "I'm sure she's fine ..."
"Why don't we just give her a chance then?" She asked. "What if Aiube really is hurt? We need to be there for her, Jeuri!"
Jeuri let out a sigh of defeat. "All right, all right, fine! But at the first sign of trouble, we're gone, all right?"
"Sounds good to me!" The anxious one said.
"All right, I suppose ..." Utii said.