Chapter 2: Friends and Family
Eli and his friends brought me to their home. They called it the Shane Hideout. Although their house was not as luxurious as mine, but it was still comfortable. Compared with my house, the atmosphere was warmer here. My slugs were easily adjusted to the new surroundings.
“Your house is warm and very comfortable, even though not as luxurious as mine.”, I remarked.
“Well, my dad left it for us, so it's quite simple.”, Eli replied. “And you are from a rich family? But you don't look like one.”, he questioned.
“Well, I prefer to wear like this.”, I answered. My entire body, except for my face and neck, was covered with silk. I wore a dark brown armour with a purple sheet stretching down with two red stripes in between. I also wore black gloves, a light gray skirt with dark gray stripes on its sides and autumn leather boots. A bandolier with four slug containers was strapped on my chest. A bandolier with eight slug containers was strapped around my waist, functioning like a belt. I wore two metal plates with Chinese plum blossom patterns on my knees and two red hand blasters on my arms. I also wore a black scarf that was fastened by a Chinese plum blossom pin. I carried a backpack which stored 22 slug containers. When it came to my face, my skin was yellowish brown. I had short black hair and black eyes, but sometimes they appeared dark brown. I also wore a pair of black glasses due to my shortsightedness.
I smelt something from the kitchen. “What's that smell?”, I asked curiously.
“Oh, that will be Pronto's cooking.”, Eli answered.
Eli and I went downstairs and saw Trixie examining the slugs. Glace, who was the leader of my slugs, bowed down graciously to Burpy, Eli's ultra rare Infurnus. Arthur, the co-leader of my slugs, was chatting lively with Banger, Eli's Armashelt. Joules, Eli's happy-go-lucky Tazerling shocked Cacodemon with a small jolt of electricity when they shook their hands. It made my Tazerling, Diandian and Eli's Frightgeist, Spooker laughed. Kord's Rammstone, Bludgeon, was practicing arm wrestling with my Rammstone, Gongyang. Bluster, Trixie's Tormato, jumped down from her shoulder and started talking to Taifeng, my Tormato. My Flatulorhinkus, Xiangmao, was criticizing Stinky, Pronto's Flatulorhinkus, for using his stinky powers for unnecessary events. Doc, Eli's Boon Doc, spotted Aloe and was entranced by her beauty, and vice versa. The same thing also happened on Eli's Flopper, Noodle and my female Flopper, Runhua. Trixie found them adorable.
“Wow, Wen Jing, you have a lot of slugs?”, Trixie asked.
“Yes, I have collected roughly 34 slugs.”, I answered.
“Really? You must have love your slugs very much.”, Eli said.
“Yes, and they all have unique names. I named them according to their appearances, powers and abilities.”, I replied.
“So, besides Glace, Arthur, Cacodemon, Aloe, Arachne and Athena, your other slugs have very special names. They don't sound like English.”, Trixie said.
“Well, I named them using Mandarin Chinese, which is my mother tongue.”, I explained.
“Mandarin Chinese? I never really heard of that language before.”, Eli said.
“Well, only my family and some people living in my home cavern speak the language.”, I added.
“Uh, not to interrupt the conversation, I have to say that your mecha-beast is very special. I've never seen a model like yours.”, Kord said to me.
“It is a PT-JSONI model. It resembles a Malayan tiger, and it is specially made. I nicknamed it 'Xiaohu', which means 'little tiger'.”, I explained.
“Not just your mecha-beast, even your blasters are different from ours.”, Kord added.
“Oh, these...”, I looked at my hand blasters. They were red with green patterns. “They are made of light and strong materials so I can handle the mass, and the blasters can shoot slugs even with the most powerful slug energy. They can also function like blades.”, I explained and activated both blasters. The lids popped up and shiny blades that were attached to them came out.
“Cool.”, Eli blurted out. Kord and Trixie gasped.
“Sometimes I use them as blades for threatening purpose, besides slinging slugs.”, I added as I deactivated my blasters. The blades closed together and returned to the lids. The lids dropped down and now my blasters looked more like metal plates on my arms.
Pronto came in with his dish covering with a lid. I followed Eli, Kord and Trixie to the dining table. He placed his dish on the dining table and opened the lid. His cooking was an insect dish. After praying, Pronto decided to grab one of the insect's claw to eat, but was smacked by Trixie on the hand.
“Where are your manners, Pronto?”, Trixie scolded. “You should let our guest to eat first.”, she said.
“Not to mention that she came from a rich family. She may prefer to be with polite people.”, Eli added.
“Oh, so she is from a rich family, eh?”, Pronto asked in his usual accent. “I will be delightful to let you, Wen Jing, to get a taste of my family's traditional dish!”, he said proudly.
He pulled out a claw and placed it on a plate. “Here. Have some!”, he said in a cheerful tone. I accepted it and pulled out a fake smile. I had never eaten an insect dish, and I would not try to eat it.
“So... You guys eat this?”, I asked quietly.
“Well, it's a tradition in the Shane to enjoy the molenoid dishes.”, Eli answered. “But I don't really want to eat it.”, he added softly as he saw an insect claw was still moving. I freaked out on the inside when I saw it. I turned to look at Kord and Trixie. I could see that they did not really enjoy the dish. Pronto was the only one who was eating.
I only ate the vegetables and peas. I gave some remaining peas to a few of my slugs. Arthur, Cacodemon, Diandian, and my Gazzer, Dandan hopped onto my plate and started eating their meal.
“Hey, you actually give your food to... to a bunch of slugs?!”, Pronto asked me in disbelief.
“A happy slug is a healthy slug.”, I started. “And healthy slugs win duels!”, Eli finished.
Arthur, Cacodemon, Diandian and Dandan stared at Pronto mischievously. They talked to each other and planned out a prank. Arthur bent down and acted as a fulcrum of a lever. Cacodemon and Diandian placed a metal spoon on top of him. Dandan stepped onto the spoon and was launched into the air by the two mischievous slugs. Dandan hit Pronto right on his face and produced a small amount of laughing gas. Pronto yelped in pain. He was about to yell at Dandan, but then he started laughing uncontrollably due to the laughing gas. Dandan returned to the trio and the four of them did fist bumps for their successful prank.
I looked at the portrait of perhaps the young Eli and his father hanging on the wall. “Is that... your father, Eli?”, I asked.
“Yes, my dad is Will Shane.”, he answered.
“I have heard of his name, but I... don't know about him.”, I said softly.
“Wait, you actually don't know Will Shane, who is one of the greatest slinger in history?”, Trixie asked in disbelief.
“I... don't know quite a lot of things. I don't go out often... and my cavern is usually peaceful.”, I replied.
“That's OK, Wen Jing. I also didn't know many things when I first started slugslinging.”, Eli comforted me.
I smiled. “And speaking about the Shane, I heard about something that the Shanes have kept secret from everyone else. Something about... the Burning World, right?”, I asked.
“Oh, come on, Wen Jing, the Burning World is just a myth. It is not real!”, Eli said.
I turned to Glace, who had come back to me and was standing on my shoulder, looked at Eli suspiciously. Glace seemed to know that Eli was lying.
“Well, to be honest, the Burning World is real, and Glace and I can see that you actually know it, Eli. The world where the people can see the sun and the moon. The world where planes and spaceships are invented. The world above us.”, I said.
“How did you... Wait, are you from... the Surface?”, Eli asked in shock.
I raised my eyebrow. “The Surface? The true name for the Burning World? You seem to know. Are you from there?”, I asked back.
“You know too much, Wen Jing. Yes, I am from the Surface.”, Eli sighed in defeat.
“Since you have admitted, then I reveal myself too.”, I replied. “I am from the Surface too.”, I admitted quietly.
Eli and his friends were shocked. “Wow, that's just, wow.”, Trixie exclaimed.
“But, if you are from the Surface, then why I never met you before?”, Eli asked.
“Actually, I came from a place far, far away from yours, Eli.”, I answered.
“That explained your knowledge about the Surface.”, he said.
“So, how's your life back at the top?”, Trixie asked curiously.
“Well, life at the Surface was not as good as you thought. I came from a broken home, and I was raised by my two aunts. I didn't know much of my parents, and the only family I knew were my three aunts, my uncle, my grandparents, and my two older cousins. My family had a secret passage to get down to Slugterra thanks to my successful and wealthy uncle. We went here, believing life would be better here compared to the Surface. We sealed the passage once we arrived so nobody will know.”, I told them about my history.
“I'm sorry about your family.”, Kord said.
“Do you know what had happened to your parents, Wen Jing?”, Trixie asked.
“Well, no. But my aunt once said that my father was not intelligent, while my mother was ill-tempered. My family said that I inherited most from my mother, only my skin is from my father.”, I replied.
“So, are you happy with your life right here, with the riches from your uncle?”, Pronto asked.
“To be honest, I don't. My family members usually quarrel with each other, that's why I usually go out for a long period of time before returning home.”, I answered. Glace pulled out a sad face.
“We all lose someone we love, Wen Jing. You can call us as your family if you want.”, Eli said.
“Thank you, Eli. Even though I have to live with my chaotic family, but all of you have been very nice to me. It has been a long time I didn't feel like this again.”, I replied and smiled. Glace pulled out a heartwarming smile.
“So, what do you want to do now?”, Eli asked.
“Well, how about a friendly duel?”, I suggested.
“Okay then. I would like to see your skills.”, Eli accepted.
The five of us called out our slugs, ready for friendly duels. After gathering our blasters, bandoliers and slugs, we went out of the hideout. In my mind, I was thinking back what I had told my new friends about my history.
If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have know the Shane and embarrass myself in this world. I thought.