Lola, Billy and Lily were walking to the Tofu house in silence. None of them was quite sure about the situation that rose up. Since Mr Philips had said, that he informed the parents of the 3rd grade students of the situation none of them had any possible way of keeping this a secret. Both Lola and Billy were full aware of the conversations that awaited them with their parents. And what´s worse was that it was not going to be very private. Not today in any case. Today is the anniversary of the Tofu-Hubbub truce. And like during the previous ones, both families plus friends dined in the Tofu´s yard. Phil, April and Lily were also invited to join in, though Phil had excused himself a day ago saying that he´s helping his parents paint their house for most of the week. Lily had accepted the invitation and April did so as well owing to the fact that her parents are in the emergency ward today, so she´s also staying overnight (though she did not work up the courage to ask Mom to allow her to bunk with Chichi in his room).
As the trio moved along their street a blue van sped on the road past them in high speed, sending the girls´ hair flying.
"That was Miles. He´s back."exclaimed Lily happily.
"Why must he drive trough Beauvillage so fast. It´s a wonder that no one gets hurt."said Lola while placing a hand on her head.
She is never very aprooving of Miles´ insane way of driving. Indeed she thinks it highly unresponsible to go about the town in such speed.
As they finally got to the Tofu household the van was already parked in front of the Tofu household.
"Guess this means, that Miles will dine with us today."said Billy with a smile.
"Maybe he´ll keep the conversations away from this career choice."said Lola hopefully.
She really wasn´t looking forward to discussing her future job with her parents for obvious reasons.
"Unlikely. You know how your parents are. But it wouldn´t hurt to ask about his thoughts on the subject."
Lily´s statement left the two in complete confusion.
"What help d´you think Miles could be?"asked Lola just as confused as Billy was.
"Well, Miles had to live on his own since he turned 18. I mean, he had to deal with real working life as well. And he is quite skillfull in it. I don´t think that any of his advice would be that bad."
As the trio moved towards the door they mulled over Lily´s reasoning. Figuring that it was pointless to think about the matter any more than neccesary Lola opened the front door and the trio entered the house.
All three stood in place and looked at the scene in front of them. The kitchen now hosted over half a dozen animals of nearly all kind were lying on the floor or in baskets with Mom and Buba moving from one to the other.
"What is going on in here?"asked Lola drawing their attention.
"Emergency chipmunks. Some of the neighbours brought in their pets. Some sickness has these poor things completly down."said Mom in a distracted voice checking over a small brown puppy.
"Oh my. Poor little thing."said Lily bending over a small basket which held a white cat, curled up into a ball.
As she strocked its fur, the kitty raised its head weakly and licked her hand.
"And what´s worse, this has happened one week before the Pet convention."said Buba sadly, bending over a hedgehog.
"When did all this happen?"asked Billy also bending over another one of the sick pets.
"This morning. The neighbours started to bring them one after another."answered Mom.
"Some epidemic must be brewing. Wait a minute? Where are our animals?"asked Lola worriedly.
"Oh they´re in the yard, Lola. They are completly fine. But all the same, they will stay there until we figure out what´s wrong with these poor creatures."
Buba´s answer calmed Lola a bit. Though she would sometimes blow off at them, Lola cared deeply about their wild threesome.
"At times like this, I wish that Beauvillage had a vet station."said Billy in a low voice.
It was common knowledge that eventhough Beauvillage hosted quite a number of animals, the town lacked a vet. Not having anyone around who has the knowledge to help the pets, the people are ussualy forced to travel to Megacity. However over three years ago, word spread that Mom and Buba are able to heal the animals. Though it was never anything serious, the Beauvillage´s pet owners often came to the Tofus asking for help, rather than travel to Megacity. The fact made Billy wonder what would happen if any of the pets sustained some serious injury or illness. He deeply doubted that they would survive the one hour trip to Megacity. Though he tried to keep it a secret from his parents until recently, eversince he was a small boy he was always very fond of animals. Seeing them sick and unwell always gave him a nasty feeling of despair and a strong urge to help somehow.
"Well it doesn´t. Good thing that you´re around Mrs Tofu."said Lily.
"Thank you, little Lotus."said Mom in appretiation as she got up and got to the stove.
"Would you mind helping up a bit until some of this herb recipe is done?"
After the pets were taken care of and placed into the makeshift baskets and accomodations that Chichi and Pop constructed at top speed with the material furnished by Miles, the Tofus, Hubbubs, Lily, April and Miles sat down behind a big table set in the yard and started to eat and discuss the event.
"Something like this has to happen precicely on the day of our celebration."lamented Beth.
She has been looking forward to the occasion for about a week.
"What d´you suppose could be the cause of this little epidemic?"asked Billy, who was seated by Lola´s side holding her hand under the table.
"The poor little ones have highly upset stomaches. We don´t know what may be the cause of it, but the herb recipe should make them better."explained Buba.
The teens breathed sighs of relief. The sun was still up and it was still fairly warm. The big table was large enough for all eleven of them and was full of food from both Mom´s and Beth´s kitchen – Mom´s Daisyflower surprise and Beth´s Soy-Tofu burgers. Everyone was digging in hungirly.
"And they should be comfortable in those baskets. A very nice job Jacob and Chichi have done in making them."said Beth nodding to Pop and Chichi, who was sitting at the far side of the table with Miles to his left and April to his right.
"Thanks Mrs Hubbub."said Chichi with a smile.
"Its Beth, Chichi. I´ve told you you can just call us by our names."Beth corrected and Titus also nodded.
"I´m kinda suprised, that you were able to make so much in just one hour."said Miles in thought.
"Yup. You´re amazing, Chichi honey-bun."said April.
Many at the table had to repress the urges to snort in laughter. All of them were already accustumized to April´s favourite pet-name, except Chichi himself, who as everyone expected sighed and rolled his eyes.
"When are you going to stop calling me that?"he asked looking at her.
April giggled and stuck out her toungue looking back at him.
Most at the table could no longer hide it and let out small chuckles as Chichi goaned and shook his head.
"She says that everytime."he thought.
Lola, Billy and Lily who sat beside eachother watched the younger pair with amusement.
"What d´you think? When will April be successfull with Chichi?"asked Billy in a low voice while Chichi and April traded a few more words, leaving April in a fit of giggles and Chichi stammering while blushing heavily.
"Who knows when our genius will figure out, that the girl really loves him."said Lola with a small sigh.
Both she and April and sometimes even Lily were trying for months to drop subtle hints for him to catch on. However it seemed that none got trough to her beloved brother´s smart head. Lily on the other hand saw the situation more optimistically.
"Judging by the blushing I´d say that we´re on the right track. It may not be long now."
"So you three are plaing matchmaker?"asked Miles, who was sitting by Lily´s right just as April and Chichi turned their conversation to something else as though nothing had happened.
"Not at all. We´re just trying to help April. Don´t you think they´d be cute together?"
Lily´s question chaught Miles off guard. He looked confusedly at her, then at the young pair at his right who were in a spirited discussion and payed no attention to any of them. Miles then turned to Lily in complete surprise.
"You mean... April... and Chichi?"he asked as though he couldn´t believe it.
Lily giggled as Billy and Lola continued to eat their food, but still kept their attention to the conversation.
"Miles. Don´t tell me you haven´t noticed."
Miles looked at them once more and shook his head, sending Lily into a fit of giggles.
"You´re as bad as Chichi. You haven´t noticed the looks she´s giving him or the hints and compliments?"
Lily sighed with a smile.
"Well everyone else apart from you two knows about it for ages. Even Phil does and that´s saying something."
She recalled the conversation she had with Phil about it. Though he said, that he is supportive of the pair, he expressed his belief that his two best friends will get together on their own. They just need time.
"How should I know? I never had any other relationship than business. And that´s not a bad one. It pays off."he said with a number of gestures getting Lily to laugh again as everyone helped themselfs to Beth´s burgers.
Miles took a bite but took on a wierd thoughtfull look.
"No offence Beth, but I think there is something missing in there."he said and started to search trough his pocket as everyone looked in bewilderment.
"AHA! Here it is."he exclaimed as he took out a small jar that held what seemed to be a bright red powder.
"Uh-oh. Is that what I think it is?"asked Chichi eyeing the jar as Miles opened it.
Before any of them got a chance to ask Cracker crowed and jumped on the table and went for the jar. Miles smirked as Cracker put his head into it and took a sample of the red powder. Suddenly with a loud crow he flew from the table and started to jump around practicly spitting out fire as he made for the pond and jumped into the water.
"Cracker! What was that?"exclaimed Buba in worry, but Miles and Chichi were laughing their heads off.
"Serves you right, Cracker. That was Roger´s hellfire chilli pepper."said Chichi to the poor bird as it was slowly getting out of the pond.
Everyone else laughed too.
"See Cracker? That´s what you get for beeing greedy."chastized Buba.
"Wait a minute. What´s wrong with being greedy?"asked Miles in a hurt voice almost in tears.
The group laughed again.
"So you think the burgers need spicing up, Miles?"asked Beth clearly wanting to change the subject.
"Yup. You can try some as well."he said as he added a conciderable ammount of the powdered pepper on top of his burger and passed the jar to Chichi.
"Go ahead but be carefull. This stuff is not to be underestimated."
Everyone noticed that Chichi only added a small ammount of the powder before throwing the jar to Billy. Billy added a bigger ammount, and passed it to his father who did the same before passing it to Pop. The female population looked at the boys as each took a bite from the burgers. It didn´t seem to affect Miles at all and Chichi winced a bit but otherwise looked fine. But Pop´s, Titus´ and Billy´s eyes flew open and each of them let out a strangled scream before franticly reaching for the glasses and gulped down as much as they possibly could.
"Damn! What hot pepper."said Titus gasping for air.
"You can say that again."said Pop equally gasping as Mom was pouring him another glass.
"Now I know why you call it hellfire chilli pepper. Where did you get that stuff anyway?"asked Billy while Lola was mimicking Mom, pouring a glass before passing it to her boyfriend.
"Well as I was completing the business in Middletown – oh and how good business it was. Lots and lots of greed."said Miles along with a few gestures before continuing.
"Anyway I was returning to Beauvillage, I stopped by at Roger´s parents´garden. They were quite nice to me eversince me and Roger were kids and I do visit from time to time. His father grows the best peppers in the world."
"Certainly the hottest."said Pop and Titus nodded.
"Middletown, huh? Brings back memories."said Mom in fond memory.
"Isn´t that where you used to live before coming to Beauvillage?"asked Beth in surprise.
"Yup. Its also the place where we met and got married."explained Pop while giving Mom a loving look.
Lily and April sighed.
"How romantic."said Lily and April nodded while throwing a lovesick look to Chichi who ate his burger and didn´t notice.
"I´ll absolutely want to hear this story sometime."said Lily to Lola as Mom and Pop carried on telling the story to Titus, Beth and Miles who looked very interested.
"I was also working in the EPO – Enviroment Protection Organization, the nation´s leading authority on protecting our enviroment. But that was before I got pregnant with Lola. It was my first and only job."said Mom in reminiscence.
Suddenly the adults got a dreamy look over their faces and turned to their children.
"Uh-oh. And here we go."thought Billy and Lola simultaniuosly.
"You know, Mr Philips called us today."started Beth.
The statement left Lola and Billy in trepidation, while Chichi and April looked at each other in confusion.
"Your homeroom teacher? What did you do, Lola?"asked Chichi quietly trying to puzzle it out.
"They didn´t do anything Chichi. Mr Philips was just informing us that they will be having a free week starting Monday."explained Buba.
"Wow. Free week? I envy you guys."said April but was even more confused by the looks she recieved from Lola and Lily.
"They are supposed to choose a career they will follow and go into practice during that week, April."explained Mom.
Chichi and April once again looked at eachother now understanding the situation. Chichi instantly flashed Lola a look of sympathy, which she understood and nodded back to him.
"The time has come my son."started Titus, placing a hand on Billy´s shoulder.
"You´ll be working with me. Don´t worry I´ll show you all there is to know about the alarm business."he said jovially completly oblivious to the pained look on his son´s face.
"And we have already contacted the EPO, precious dandylion. Amyas said that you can come work with him."said Pop.
"Who?"asked Lily in puzzlement.
"Our older cousin about Miles´ age. He works in EPO for a while now."explained Chichi.
Lola cringed. Amyas was just as ecologicaly situated like her parents. If not even more.
"This is a catastrophe!"