The glowing ball rises above the ground, spreading rays of light across the land. Light stretches among the trees, touching them and everything below their canopies. The orange fox runs across the branches, jumping to the next to stay above the jungle floor. He makes it across eighteen branches before using the vines to slide down. As his feet touch the mossy surface of the flora ground, he walks forward ten paces before stopping in front of the lavender-dressed warthog, who rests under a small tree, enjoying the hard-shelled fruits hanging above her. “Morning, Emmy.”
Emmy ceases her teeth and looks up at the fox. “Oh, morning, Zach! You’re just in time for some breakfast. Care for some cocoanapples?”
“Uh, sure.” Zach sits next to her and receives the fresh drupe from her hooves. The fox picks up a rock from his side and bashes the fruit open, revealing the red core and chocolate milk that surrounds it. He takes a bite out of the core and drinks the chocolatey liquid from within the shell. “Mmm, this is pretty good.”
Emmy turns to her friend. “So, what have you been up to lately?”
Zach swallows his food before facing her. “Huh? Nothing really…”
“Did your father yell at you for being late last night?”
“He doesn’t care about me. Why would he bother asking why I was so late? We never talk or do anything together.”
“We’re two of a kind.” Emmy takes another bite out of the apple part. “Do you think fate brought us together because of our fathers? Or could it be just coincidence that we-” Ruffling in the brush ahead causes her to cease and flinch. “Huh? What was that?”
Zach brings his attention to the moving bush ahead. He stands and arms the bow in his paws, readying it with an arrow. Pulling the arrow back against the string while aiming the at the shrub, he approaches with ease. Zach gets ready to release as the dark figure emerges from the foliage quickly. However, instead of letting go for the fatal shot, he lowers his weapon to see the figure’s familiar, red-fur face. “Amina?!” Emmy stands and goes around the tree. She peeks from behind, hiding out of sight from the red fox.
“Oh, hello, Zach” Amina says, crossing her arms behind her and smiling. “Funny running into you here, huh? How are you and Emmy enjoying breakfast?”
“Spying on us, were you? Why did you follow me here?”
Amina lets out a sigh after her smile disappears. “All right… I was so eager to meet your friend. I wanted to ask you if it was okay, but you got up and left quickly. So, I followed you.”
Zach turns to the warthog by the tree. “Don’t worry, Emmy. It’s Amina; the red fox I told you about.”
Emmy remains in her position. “Sh-she’s not going to-”
“I already know about your relationship,” Amina explains. “It’s okay. I mean you no harm. I promise.” Emmy steps out from her spot and eases up to the red fox. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you, Emmy.”
The warthog turns to Zach. “You told her about us?”
“No, she found out herself,” Zach explains. “She won’t tell anyone about our friendship.”
“Yes,” adds Amina. “Do not worry, Emmy. You can trust me. I do wish to ask, what brought you both to a good friendship?”
“It’s quite funny, really,” Emmy starts. “You see, we-” More ruffling can be heard, catching everyone’s attention. The noises become louder, getting closer to the gang. Hearing them closely, they are the sounds of conversations and footsteps.
Zach faces Amina. “Did you bring some other foxes from the village?”
“Um, no,” Amina replies. “I came alone. I made sure no one was behind me when I was tailing you.” The voices and ruffling draw near. “We better hide, quickly!” She grabs her friend’s paw and drags him away from the site, into a nearby shrub. Emmy follows them fast, joining them in their hiding spot. The figures appear in the open, showing they are two blue male wolves and a female rottweiler dog. Paint marks their faces, limbs, and torsos in different designs. They halt at the tree where Zach and Emmy were sitting and examine the site, armed with spears.
One of the blue wolves, whose paint is green with a matching-color loincloth, picks up the drupe and sniffs it before turning to the other two in his party. “Someone was hear,” he tells them. “I am picking up scent of fox.”
“Those sneaky barbarians must be around here, then,” says the other blue wolf with rainbow hair and a blue loincloth. “If I ever see them, I’ll make good use with my spear!”
“Settle down, Niji,” utters the rottweiler. “We don’t need you going berserk over something little.”
“You don’t understand them, Sally! They steal from us! I’ll be ready for them this time!”
“Take it easy,” the green-painted wolf says. “If we find them, we’ll capture them, not kill them.”
“Cole is right,” Sally insists. “The Fox Faction took from us, so we’ll take from them. Those foxes couldn’t’ve gotten far. Let’s keep searching.” The three canines continue their exploration of the area for the three friends.
“Canine Clan,” Amina whispers. “Not good… Stay hidden and quiet… Don’t need to let them know we’re here.” Emmy’s head tilts back slowly with her mouth gaping open. Gusts of air fly into her nose before she expels it out, emitting a sneeze.
Niji points his spear toward the gang’s direction quickly. “What was that?!” He keeps his weapon aimed at the bushes. “I heard something coming from there!” Sally looks to where he heard the noise, directed by the wolf. The rottweiler creeps up to the greenery with her wolf companions behind her. As she makes it to the shrub, she leans closely. Her face about halfway toward the plant. Reaching out with her paw, she combs the leaves away. She spots the red fox before her, sitting on the ground.
“Hi!” Amina propels her foot toward the dog, kicking Sally away from her and the other two. The rottweiler falls backwards and hits her back against a tree trunk. The two blue wolves, alerted by the presence of the fox, aim their spears at the plant. Zach stands, taking aim with his bow and arrow. He fires his arrow, causing the wolves to move out of the way fast, giving him time to load another for a second round. The orange fox is swift with his shots, firing and loading as the wolves back away, dodging his arrows. Emmy looks within her surroundings, discovering some drupes laying on the ground. She takes two in her paws, turns to the wolves, and throws them before going to pick up more. The hardened fruit land behind the predators, causing them to slip and fall on their backs. “Let’s get out of here!” Amina shouts. She darts away from the area and into the mess of trees. Zach and Emmy tail her before she vanishes. As the three canines stand, they spot the two foxes and warthog sprint through the trees.
“After them!” commands Sally, struggling to stand and following the two wolves on the trail of the three friends. Once they catch up to where they found the foxes and warthog last, they scan their area. “They’ve got to be around here somewhere!” She lifts her nose in the air. “I can smell them!” The other two wolves do what she does, using their sense of smell to pinpoint the fugitives.
“Agh!” grunts Niji. “Some weird scent is throwing me off!”
“Must’ve been the bush they were hiding in,” Cole suggests. “Ugh!”
“Well,” Sally begins. “Let’s just scout the area then. They couldn’t’ve gotten far.” She and the wolves head off.
“Okay, they’re gone.” Amina slides down the tree trunk with her two friends. She wipes off the leaves and flowers stuck to her fur. “You guys okay?”
“Yeah,” Zach tells her. “That was close…” He dusts his legs off of the foliage debris.
Emmy brushes the flowers out of her hair with her hooves. “Wow, they weren’t kidding… Whatever they’re smelling is pretty strong…”
Amina takes notice of the lavender flowers the gang pushes off themselves. “Wait…” She inspects them closer. Her eyelids pulling back wide with her mouth forming into a small ‘o’. “Uh oh, that can’t be good…”
“What is it?” Emmy asks. “What happened?”
“The bush we hid in… It contained Loopy Lilac…”
“Loopy Lilac?” repeats Zach. “What kind of plant is that?”
“It’s a flower with a powerful scent,” Amina explains. “Makes the victim hallucinate… That’s why it’s called that... Because the victim is in a trance, or act “loopy”, as they call it…”
“That does not sound good,” Emmy says. “Hopefully, we weren’t in there long enough to become “loopy”. Right, Zach?” She turns to the orange fox, who stares at his paws. “Zach? You all right?”
“Ooh…” A smile occupies Zach’s face as his pupils become enlarged. “Look at my paws…” He waves them in front of him and chuckles. “So cool…”
“Crud!” Amina utters. “Zach’s succumbed to the Loopy Lilac… We need to get back to the village…”
“Ah…” Emmy’s pupils become enlarged as Zach’s. “Wow, look at everything! It’s all so… pretty…”
“Well, that’s not good…” Amina places her paw on her head, feeling a surge of pain as if someone is knocking inside her head. But then, it all stops. Everything in front of her changes. The colors of the world become vibrant, as if the sun’s gotten brighter. “No!” Amina places both paws on her head. “Get a grip, Amina… You can’t let this flower take you!”
Zach stands on top of a big rock and lifts one foot in the air, balancing on the hard object. “Whoa!” He keeps his stance and holds his arms out. “I’m chief of the world! Woo!”
Emmy kneels at the rock and sprawls her arms out. “Hail to the chief! Chief of the wood!” She giggles.
Amina’s eyes are shut tightly as she struggles to maintain her sanity. “Keep it together… Must… fight… it… Can’t… let… it…” Her pupils dilate to every corner of her iris and she looks up. “Ah, it’s the sun fox! Yee!”
Zach slips off the rock and stumbles to the ground. He brings himself back up, feeling no pain. “Whoopsies, I slip…” His smile remains pasted on his face, sticking his tongue out dumbfoundedly as he giggles. “I feel no pain.”
Emmy wraps her arms around him and gives him a hug. “I love you, giant talking foxxo!”
“I want to pet him!” Amina shouts. The three of them circle around as if playing a game, laughing and smiling. Their joyous sounds echo throughout the trees, alerting their location to anyone nearby, including the wolves and rottweiler, who watch as they play around like kids.
“There they are!” Niji yells. He points his spear at them. “I’m going to make them pay!” He rushes out toward the friends, charging at them with the tip of his spear aimed at Zach.
“Oops!” Zach trips onto the ground with Emmy still holding onto him. Niji runs past and jams his weapon into the trunk of a tree nearby. The wolf grabs the handle and tries hard to pull it out. Zach looks at the wolf. “Oh, you stabbed a tree! You in trouble! Heh!”
Emmy lies against Zach’s chest and crosses her arms behind her head. “What a nice comfy bed. I love it.” She snuggles against him.
Zach giggles. “I can’t breathe.”
Cole carefully approaches Amina and lifts his spear at her. “Don’t try anything funny now.” Amina stares at him, smiling with her tongue sticking out. “Why do you look at me with such an awestruck look?”
“You’re a funny raccoon,” Amina tells him. “Do you like to use your spear on beautiful girls?”
Cole tilts his head. “W-what?”
Amina walks closer, swishing her tail in a flirty manner. “You have quite the sight for a foxy, heh.”
The blue wolf’s cheeks glow red as he dons surprise toward the red fox. He shakes his head to bring him back to reality. “S-stop flirting on me! I know what you’re trying to do!”
Sally walks up to the group. “What’s taking you two so long?” Noticing the situation, her face changes, bearing an opened mouth in a small pea shape with eyes wide open. “Um… What’s happening here…?” The Zach and Emmy roll around in the dirt together, laughing and smiling, while Amina spins around.
“Are they not from this world?” asks Cole. “They seem to be crazed. They also have those funny purple flowers on them.” He bends down to pick it up.
“No!” Sally stops Cole by placing her paw on his shoulder. “Don’t pick that up! It’s Loopy Lilac!”
Niji finally gets his spear from the tree and faces his friends. “Wait… you mean the halogenic flower? Are you sure?”
“I know flowers when I see them, Niji,” she states. “They are victims under it’s trance, it would seem.”
“All right!” Niji aims his spear at the three. “Easy killings! Like fishmers in the river.”
“Put that down!” orders Sally. “Seriously, you and the spear…”
“Now!” Niji does as he’s ordered with a sigh. Sally looks at the three friends, who continue to dance and frolic in their states. “Let’s gather them and take them to the village quickly! I sense a storm coming!”