Secret of Mana: A Novelization
by Intrasonic

Chapter 9: New Companions

The group of three traveled for most of the morning. Keith flitted along by treetop when possible, occasionally coming down to ground level when no trees were available. Lady Purim walked daintily along the pathway, shunning the deep mud whenever possible. As for Randi, he simply trudged through everything in his way, beginning to realize that it probably didn't matter if he wasted effort or not. He had the Mana Sword with him. He didn't pretend to know everything that could do, but he'd already learned that it could sustain him for a long time.

He thought back to when he'd encountered the witch hunting team. The team led by Dyluck that hadn't come back. Dyluck been sure that the mission, succeed or fail, wouldn't take longer than a day or so. So it probably wouldn't take much longer than that to decide if the three of them were better than that team of soldiers.

He laughed silently at himself. And what made him think that he, along with two others, would succeed? Because he had the Mana Sword, he told himself. Maybe that would make the difference. He didn't count on Lady Purim providing much help beyond that of an extra set of eyes and perhaps some small help in a fight. She seemed half decent with a bow. On the other hand, Keith might be of use. He clearly knew how to fight, and seemed to have extraordinary senses. Would it be enough?

"Hey," Lady Purim said quietly, breaking the silence. "I never thanked you for letting me come along."

Randi glanced over at her. "I've got too many others things against me. The last thing I need is another person to fight against. Besides, I guess you deserve that much after what Keith and I did to you yesterday." After a moment's consideration, he refrained from suggesting that he might feel pity for someone as deluded as she was.

She managed a weak smile, flushing a little at the memory. "I guess I probably had it coming, stealing your sword like that."

"Even still, I'm sorry for beating you up like that, Lady Purim."

"You can call me, Purim, you know," she pointed out, redirecting the topic somewhat. "I don't see any castle around here. And I was under the impression you outranked me, Mana Knight."

Randi spat on the ground. "Call me Randi. I'm not the Mana Knight."

"Only if you call me Purim. I must admit, it gets a little tedious, being called ‘Lady Purim' all the time."

Personally, Randi had a hard time thinking of her any other way. He had his doubts as to how genuine her friendliness was. He was simply someone who was helping her towards her own goal. If they managed to rescue her boyfriend from Elinee, he had no plans on regretting any lost friendship with her.

"You're royalty?" Keith inquired, a hint of awe in his voice.

Randi wondered if Purim realized that the sprite probably wouldn't care how important she was. Keith obviously hadn't cared that Randi was the Mana Knight, beyond the fact Randi had somehow bested him in combat.

"That's right," she agreed proudly. "My dad is the King of Pandora's chief advisor."

"Oh. So how come you're royalty?"

"Because I'm his daughter, obviously."

"You mean, everybody's kissing the turf you walk on, just because you happen to be the daughter of some advisor? Man, some people got all the luck."

Randi concentrated intently on the pathway up ahead to avoid laughing. He wondered if Purim felt stupid yet. If not yet, she probably would soon.

"What's that to you?" she demanded sharply.

"Nothing. So what about this Dyluck twerp we're hoping to run into? Boyfriend? Husband? Lover? Play toy? Therapist?"

Randi stifled a snicker when he saw the look on Purim's face. She looked like she'd just eaten a lemon.

"None of your business, freak!"

"Hey!" Keith protested. "Since I'm hauling my ass to try and give you a hand, you'd think I could at least know why!"

"If you must know, we're engaged. He's my fiancee."

"That's coming down a step, isn't it? Royalty like you marrying some common slop out of the cattle trough..."

"Dyluck's a captain in the army! And a very highly respected one. Not many soldiers are better than him!"

Keith's eyes opened wide. "You mean you're stringing him along just for the rank? How could you?!"

"Hmph. I'll have you know that he asked me to marry him. I never would have dreamed of being lucky enough to marry someone like him."

"What's so good about him, anyway?"

"Everything. You wouldn't understand."

"Try me."

"He's handsome, intelligent, brave, kind-hearted, strong, talented, gentle and he loves me more than life itself."

Keith whistled in admiration. "Well... I guess he's okay. Not too many like him around, are there?"

"Isn't that the truth? So don't even try and put him down."

"No, I'm sorry for what I said about him."

Purim looked at him in surprise. "Really?"

"I'm serious. I had no idea. From what you tell me, this guy deserves nothin' but the best in life. I hope he has the happiest life any guy ever had or ever will."

"Of course you do."

"Now as for what you did to deserve him, I'll never be able to figure out..."

"What?! Take that back!"

"Why? It's true! I'll bet he doesn't really love you! He's just marrying you for your rank and looks. I'll bet he can't wait to get married so that he has a hot wife to help him relax!"

"Shut up!"

"Gonna make me?" Keith taunted, skipping down to ground level.

"Oh yes, I'm going to," she muttered, starting towards him.

Randi's hand clamped down over her wrist. "Just ignore him."


"Keith, give it a rest, okay?"

"I can just imagine what he and the boys talk about when you're not around," the sprite called out in a sing-song tone.

"You're going to be the main course for the wedding, animal!" Purim swore.

Randi gritted his teeth. "SHUT UP!!! Both of you!!! Or I'm going to knock you both out, tie you up, and deal with the witch myself!"

"You can't order me around!" Purim protested indignantly.

"Shut up, or Dyluck's going to have an extended vacation at Elinee's place!"

"Hey!" Keith protested. "You have to listen to her! She's got rank for some strange reason!"

"And I'm going to trade you as a rare animal to Elinee in return for passage into the Underground Palace!" Randi threatened.

They continued walking in silence.

Around noon, they arrived at what could only be considered an entrance. All at once, the forest began to grow darker and the overhanging branches, thicker. The air suddenly began to feel cooler on their skins as they looked around, expecting something to appear.

"There's something evil about this place," Purim muttered, looking around expectantly.

"You can go home if you're scared," Keith offered hopefully.

"Go to hell, twerp," she breathed.

"Shut up, both of you," Randi growled, drawing his sword. "This must be the Haunted Forest."

"It is," Purim agreed.

"How would you know?" Keith challenged.

"Because I was already here once. I just couldn't get into Elinee's castle. It just didn't seem so... eerie last time."

"Stay close," Randi suggested. "Keith, let us know if you see, hear, or smell anything approaching. Purim, do you remember the way you took?"

"A little. This whole forest is a maze. And it's really dark once you get inside."

"We'll make the most of daylight then. Let's go. Purim, do your best to retrace the path you took last the time."

By the time they had gone several hundred paces into the forest, everything had become dark. Keith claimed to be able to see perfectly well, but both Randi and Purim could barely make out the ground in front of them. The ground was covered with knotted tree trunks and overgrown with thorny bushes that scratched viciously at them as they passed through.

"This seems familiar," Purim informed them. "We must be going the right way."

"Lucky us," Keith agreed. "Say, aren't those thorn bushes bad? Treetop really is the way to go."

"Ah, shut up," Randi muttered, feeling the bushes clawing his arms up as he walked through them. Purim seemed to be having an easier time of it, no doubt because of her smaller size, but even she occasionally let out small curses when she came too close to them. With a shake of his head, he realized that she had gone this way twice already - once to get in and once to get out. Randi didn't think much of her reasoning, but he couldn't fault her for her persistence and nerve.

What was driving her on like this? He has his own reasons for enduring everything that he had so far. Put simply, he was doing it to survive. But she was a noblewoman. She had the perfect life. She was in no danger except for that which she was putting herself in right now. He might have asked her, if he thought he'd get an answer from her.

"Something approaching," Keith informed them. "Smells like more of those wolf-creatures."

"Kill them fast," Randi ordered. "We can't afford to waste time in this forest. Purim, don't let them get close to you."

"Let them come," she muttered, an arrow already on her bow.

Her vehemence surprised him, but he let it pass. Just another thing he didn't know about her. At least she knew how to use a weapon.

Above them, Keith dove forwards, already hurling one of his metal rings at something. A yelp sounded, then there was silence as Keith briefly touched ground to retrieve his weapon, quickly springing back up.

"One down," the sprite called out. "Here comes the rest of ‘em!"

From that point on, there was no more pattern to the fighting. Randi simply slashed at anything that came close, his sword cleaving through creatures and bushes alike. The wolf-creatures were big and strong, but they lacked the intelligence to avoid a frontal attack with him. Quiet zips through the air heralded the arrival of Purim's arrows, some which managed to drop the attackers from a distance. The whole time, Keith flitted around like a tiny dragonfly, slashing with his knife and occasionally tossing one of his trademark razor rings.

Randi was careful to stay close to Purim. If one of those massive wolf-creatures got through, it would make short work of her. He smiled in spite of himself. There were only two left of the original group, and they were both headed this way. A twang could be heard behind him as an arrow sped through the air and embedded itself in the side of the furthest monster. The monster roared and drove straight towards her. Randi intercepted it and hacked it apart with one giant sweep.

Behind him, he heard Purim yell a warning. Too late, he turned to face the last monster, who was already swinging at him. Randi was jarred to the bones as the monster hammered him six feet backwards into a tree trunk. He collapsed on the ground, already struggling to his feet, but unable to get his bearings. His fuzzy vision was able to make out the creature advancing on the unprotected Purim.

"Purim! Get back!" he yelled vainly, even as she discarded her bow.

The creature lunged towards her, both of its clawed hands outstretched to give her a crushing bear hug. At the last moment, she ducked the sweeping arms. Holding the arrow firmly in both her hands, she stabbed it upwards into the creature's heart. The beast shuddered for a moment, then collapsed on the arrow.

"Take that, you foul thing!" she cursed angrily, yanking the arrow out and wiping it off on the ground before returning it to her quiver.

"Temper, temper," Keith muttered with a smile.

She scoffed at him. "I'll kill anything that gets in between me and Dyluck."

"Well, you're gonna have plenty of chances to prove it. This is a frickin' huge forest, and we might be here for awhile."

"You can turn back at any time," she offered.

The sprite spat on the ground. "I'll turn back when I find something dangerous. Haven't found anything yet."

"We're in danger," she retorted, beginning to walk again, "from your swelled head. It's going to burst any moment."

Keith gave her a sly smile, extending the claws on one of his hands to their full length. It was somewhat unnerving to see them appear from out of nowhere. "Watch your mouth, Princess. Play with fire, you get burned. Get my drift?"

Purim gave him a look at suggested that she was underwhelmed. "You're one to talk, you pathetic little child. Go home to your father while you still can."

Randi decided that it was time to step in, and quickly did so, placing himself between the two of them. "You two, if you could somehow find it in your hearts to set aside your differences and lack of manners..."

Keith didn't take the hint. "Well..." His promptly cut himself off as Randi froze him with a dangerous look.

Purim also missed the hint. "I'm not sure I have it in me..." She also caught the icy glare Randi sent towards her.

"Thank-you," Randi replied, acting much calmer than he felt. "Now... if you two want to fight so much, why don't you make up your mind who you feel like fighting? Elinee or each other? I really don't care which, but you'd better decide one or the other right now. Believe me... you need me a lot more than I need you." The last comment was said with such emphasis that even Randi was surprised with himself.

It seemed to be the deciding factor for both of them.

"Hmph," Purim said, looking away disdainfully. "I have more important concerns than the likes of you, freak."

"We can settle this another time, Princess," Keith agreed menacingly.

Randi decided that he would take what he could get.

"There it is!" Purim exclaimed happily, pointing up ahead.

"What's that?" Randi asked, peering into the darkness.

"There's a gate up ahead," Keith informed him. "Not much else, though."

"Wait until we get closer," she informed them confidently. "It's just dark out."

"It's perfectly fine for me, and I can't see anything except a stupid gate," the sprite insisted.

Purim didn't reply, but merely increased her speed. Keith followed suit, speeding ahead of her through the tree, touching down on the ground in front of the gate. It didn't look to be anything more than an old iron-wrought gate mounted between two stone pillars. The sprite looked it over carefully before turning to face her approach.

"See what I mean?" she smirked.

"Nope. You tell me what else I'm supposed to see."

She frowned and looked through the bars in the gate. "But... it's gone!"

"What's gone?" Randi demanded.

"The castle! This was the gate I couldn't get through before! Just beyond it, there was a huge castle! I... saw it. I know I did!"

"Looks to me like you were seeing things, Princess," Keith decided, clearly enjoying the situation.

"Does the gate open?" Randi asked.

"Locked." Keith pointed to a heavy metal bar that lay across the inside of the gate, wrapped in heavy chains.

"Can you climb it?"

Keith shrugged and sprang upwards, scaling the tall gate with ease. In seconds, he had climbed up high enough to disappear in some low branches. They waited expectantly.

Several moments later, some choice profanity drifted downwards. "It's a cage," Keith shouted. "These stone pillars are corner stones, and the whole square is sealed off with this metal fencing."

"What's inside?"

"A big pit. I can't see the bottom, which means it must be pretty deep."

"Get back here," Randi ordered, pulling out his sword. "Since we don't have the key..."

"But I saw a castle here before..." Purim protested vainly, sounding rather unsure of herself now.

Randi smashed his sword through the metal bar holding the gate shut. There was a screech of scraping metal and a shower of sparks flew from the point of contact. Randi felt his sword pass cleanly through the obstacle. Without further ado, he kicked the door of the gate open and peered inside, looking for the pit Keith had seen. He saw nothing.

"What are you talking about?" Purim demanded. "There's no pit here. It's just a... stupid cage. Nothing in it."

Keith had returned to them. He too looked rather uncomfortable. "But... I know I saw something from above there..."

"Look!" Purim shouted, pointing towards something.

The other two looked curiously. What they saw made them both grit their teeth angrily. The ground twenty feet away from them was littered with several dead monsters. One of them was cleaved completely in two, a sure sign that Randi had done the deed. At some point, they had traveled in a circle. Randi knew that such a thing shouldn't have happened. He was an experienced enough traveler to maintain a straight path.

"This is nuts!" Keith yelled furiously. "What's going on here?"

Randi thought about everything. Something was wrong here. He thought back to when he had seen Dyluck and his witch hunting team enter the forest. Dyluck had said something about witches. Not very strong, but they used tricks and magical spells... "We're being toyed with, guys."

"Uh huh," Keith agreed. "But what can we do about it?"

Randi shrugged. "Maybe we need to find a better way of finding our way. I'm open to ideas."

"It was just an illusion..." Purim muttered furiously. "How dare she! She'll pay for this!"

"Go right ahead and make her pay," Keith invited graciously. "If you can find her."

"I'll find her somehow!" She gave a grim smile. "Hey, freak. Why don't you climb a big tree and see if you can see anything?"

Keith made a face, but after catching Randi's warning glare, he scurried up a tall tree, soon disappearing from view. The other two waited impatiently on the ground.

"Hey Randi..." Purim began.


"Is it just me, or is everything beginning to get foggy?" Her voice was beginning to take a nervous edge to it.

Randi looked around and realized that she was right. Was this another trick from the witch? After some thought he decided that it wasn't. "It's nothing unusual," he reassured her. "We've been wandered around this forest all day, that's all. The sun's going down, and the dew and mist are appearing. I'll bet that a damp forest like this gets a lot of it. It's not much of a problem, but we're going to be traveling in the dark soon."

He noticed that this didn't reassure her much. "Maybe the monsters will go to sleep."

Randi couldn't stop himself. He laughed in her face. "You forget quick, don't you? What did you see when you woke up this morning? All those dead monsters? And we weren't even in the Haunted Forest yet. Trust me. We've been finding monsters all day. Don't expect that to change when the sun goes down."

Purim shuddered. "But we won't be able to see them."

"Keith can see fine in the dark. And I just need to see them move to hit them." He laughed again. "I'm getting pretty good at night fighting. Well, pretty good for only having a sword for two weeks."

"Two weeks?" she blurted out in horror. "I thought you were the Mana Knight..." She inconveniently recalled his earlier denial of the title.

"Get used to it, Purim. You're not in Pandora anymore. All your knights are either hypnotized or else they already went into the forest. Be grateful that the only two people crazy enough to go into this forest are willing to let you come along. You'd have been dead long ago otherwise."

Keith landed on the ground next to them. "Ain't that the truth!"

"Did you see anything?" Randi demanded, cutting him off before another argument could ensue.

"Barely. There's something of a clearing to be seen, and I think there's a castle or something in it. I'm not sure, because there's no moon tonight."

"We'll chance it," Randi decided. "Which way was it?"

The sprite pointed a finger the way they had come. "We're headed in the wrong direction now. Probably going back the way we came in if these dead monsters are any indication."

"Then let's get moving. We'll double check our path in a little bit."

The other two nodded their agreement.

"Man, I can't believe we turned around like that!" Keith muttered, as they reversed direction and headed back into the forest. "I should have been able to pick up our scent. I couldn't even smell Princess, for pity's sake. This witch must have some serious magic."

As they night progressed, the team began to grow increasingly frustrated with their lack of progress. Several times, they had checked their progress, only find that they had been diverted off course without knowing it. Soon, they were so far off course that even Keith's eyesight had no luck in seeing their objective. It was their bad luck that there was no moon at this time of the month.

Randi cursed silently. "This is ridiculous. We're being beaten without even seeing the witch!"

"We'll get there," Keith persisted. "Just a little further."

"You can't even see where we're headed," Purim pointed out. She began to yawn, but stifled it. "We can't get around at night like this!"

"You got any better ideas, Princess? Now's the time!"

"Shut up, both of you," Randi ordered. "We're not beaten by a long shot. We're going to use a different plan now."

"Why didn't you mention something before?" Purim asked disgustedly.

"I just thought of it now. Both of you, get some sleep. We'll continue this in the morning. We can't get lost if we don't go anywhere." He could immediately sense the objections from both of them.

"I'm just fine!" Keith protested. "Besides, who'll keep watch?"

"Dyluck could be in danger right now!" Purim added.

"I'll keep watch, since I don't need to sleep much. And you're going to join Dyluck if you doze off at the wrong time. This area is fairly clear, so nothing will be able to sneak up on us. If anything comes, I'll yell. You both need some sleep. I don't care what either of you thinks. Neither of you is up to par."

Randi didn't say it, but he could tell that because they hadn't been arguing with each other for at least an hour. Not that he minded, but he wanted two teammates who were alert and ready when they finally met Elinee.

"Get some sleep," he ordered sharply.

They both nodded quickly as he took a seat on the ground and laid the Mana Sword across his lap and prepared to keep watch while the other two slept.

"Promise you'll yell if something comes," Purim asked, looking around nervously.

"Just yell," Keith repeated, settling into the curve of a tree branch above them. "I'll be awake before you're finished yelling."

"Don't worry, guys," Randi said as soothingly as he could. "There's absolutely nothing to be worried about."

"I hope Princess doesn't snore."

"You little freak! One of these days I'm going to-"

"Shut up and go to sleep!!!"

As the night passed on, Randi found a lot of time to think. He felt no sense of weariness and had a hunch that his Sword was responsible for that. He watched the surroundings carefully, alert for even the slightest moment that might betray an approaching enemy. He shifted positions every so often to keep his muscles from getting cramped or stiff.

His sword lay across his knees, shimmering faintly in the night. He still felt a sense of pride as he looked at the clean blade, no longer covered in rust. He still wondered why it had suddenly decided to become good-looking. Had Luka told him the truth? Did the appearance of his sword really depend on himself? Had he somehow become a better person? He didn't think so. All he seemed to do was chop apart monsters and yell at his two acquired companions when they refused to stop fighting. As for his two companions, he still wasn't sure what to make of them.

There was Keith, a sprite. Keith was the type of thing you knew you'd never forget. Even Keith wasn't positive that he was a sprite, since no one even knew what one really looked like. That was a story worth telling someday!

Aside from the fact that Keith seemed to be a born fighting machine, Randi was beginning to wonder how much more there was to Keith. He could still remember the insane look of rage the sprite had worn during the last part of their fight. But somehow, he still wondered if Keith had really meant any serious harm at first. The sprite obviously had a mischievous streak in him, hence the theft of money that had put them against each other in the first place. Not to mention a vocabulary that Randi could only begin to imagine. He didn't know where Keith had picked up so much foul language, but the sprite had spent most of the day proving his adeptness at cursing and swearing until Randi no longer knew whether to be revolted or impressed. He supposed that he could ignore it. Especially since it usually wasn't directed at him...

Which brought up the topic of Purim, or Lady Purim as Randi still mentally called her. Her stake in this seemed obvious enough, namely her boyfriend Dyluck. But all this just for a boyfriend who should be long dead by now? Randi was certain she had other motives that she wasn't letting on about, but couldn't imagine how to find out. He knew Keith's motives for doing this. The Sprite seemed to be missing a large portion of his memory. Getting into the Underground Palace was a likely way to fix it. That was a reasonable cause.

But all this for a boyfriend? Even a fiancee? Randi tried to imagine himself doing such a thing for Lisa, his almost girlfriend back in Potos village. He failed. Sure, he'd have been happy to fight anyone disrespecting her. It was expected, and would naturally serve to make her more appreciative of him. But this was no common fight. Purim stood to lose everything, including her life if anything went wrong, which Randi still figured likely. The thought of a snobbish upper-class girl like her involved in this fight was unthinkable. She must have other reasons. Perhaps she thought that Elinee had treasure? Someone like her would be concerned about gold and jewels and such, right? Randi was no expert, but he had a hunch that the ring on her finger was worth at least a year's worth of his chores back home. To say nothing of the sapphire earrings and gold bracelet she was wearing. Maybe she just wanted to pad her purse. That seemed to be the most likely reason.

That question answered, Randi let himself ponder another question. This one, he found rather uncomfortable to dwell upon, but he had nothing else to think about this night. The question - why were they listening to him? By all rights, they should be disrespectful of any sort of leader. Keith's disdain towards authority was all too obvious. He didn't care a whit about Lady Purim's rank, and hadn't seemed too impressed with any leaders in Dwarf Village. Purim was royalty herself, and Randi had been observant enough to see that she only considered the king someone who could be used to benefit herself.

All this seemed reasonable enough to Randi. So why was he the only person who was keeping them from tearing each other's throat's out? They had been bickering and needling each other all day, but the moment Randi demanded a stop to it, they almost always obeyed without question. It was almost scary how they could hate each other so much, yet listen to him.

He thought of several explanations, but none seemed reasonable. Finally he concluded that it was the sword they respected. It was just like he'd said before. He had the Mana Sword. They needed him more than he needed them. He wouldn't get his hopes up about them staying so respectful once they both had what they wanted.

He sighed. Was there really anything wrong with that? They were looking out for their own interests, and doing whatever they had to do. And he was doing the same thing. He was doing whatever he had to do to stay alive. He was putting up with and staying friendly to two individuals. Despite the fact that one had tried to kill him and the other had been quite willing to have him thrown in jail at first.

He sighed again, glancing at the darkness around him, every bush or tree a possible hiding spot for some monster. He looked at the two sleeping forms nearby. If this was what it took to stay alive... then that was what he would do.

It was early morning when his two companions awoke. Both seemed more than eager to continue their witch-hunt where they had left off.

"Let's get going!" Purim said, shouldered her bow and quiver of arrows.

"You have terrible morning breath," Keith complimented. "Ever consider chewing mint?"

"Ever consider taking a bath?" she growled. "You smell you came from a farm!"

"You smell like a pile of-"

The sleep had obviously done them good, Randi decided as they continued to argue. "Shut up guys, okay? You can fight all you want after we've dealt with Elinee."

"So did any monsters come?" Keith asked.

"Nothing," he replied, inwardly mystified as to the reason. They had fought monsters all day yesterday. He had been assaulted with monsters for days on end previously. Yet not a single one had appeared the whole night. Although he wished that he knew the reason for it, for now he would simply have to chalk it up to another thing that he didn't know about the sword.

By mid-day, their traveling finally yielded encouraging results. Almost out of nowhere, they found themselves in front of castle gates. The walls were made of heavy stone and mortar, the gates of something that looked like cast iron.

"This was what I saw last time!" Purim exclaimed happily. "It's the same material I couldn't get through. We've found the castle!"

"How do we know this isn't another illusion?" Keith asked cynically. Out of the three, he was perhaps most peeved at their situation. Although his tree-top directions had been enough to keep them in the right direction, every time they stopped to look had shown that they had veered off course. This trip was severely wounding his own notions of his capabilities. Interestingly enough, it never occurred to him to feel any sort of fear towards someone who was capable of these illusions.

"Because I can feel this one," Randi answered, clamping one hand around the one of the gate's bars. "And we're going to find out what's on the other side."

He pulled out his sword and slashed viciously at the thick bars. There was a shriek of metal contacting with metal and an explosion of light. Without warning, the bars of the gate began to crumple in on themselves, soon becoming nothing more than thin toothpicks of iron. Then that too crumbled into dust, leaving the entrance clear.

"Cool," Keith offered.

A chorus of roars let them know that their entrance had not gone unnoticed. A pack of wolf-man creatures charged towards them. An audible rush of air let Randi know that Purim had already let an arrow loose at the closest one. It hit the creature square in the chest, dropping it. She was getting better with her weapon, Randi noticed. Or maybe it was just the fact that she was getting closer to her fiancee.

The rest came too quickly to be shot with arrows. But Randi and Keith were already wielding their weapons. The remaining creatures either had their necks slit open by a feather-edged dagger or were completely cleaved in two by the seemingly unstoppable Mana Sword.

Within moments, all were lifeless. Randi smiled in spite of himself. All things considered, they worked fairly well as a team. With a little luck, they might just be able to pull this insane mission off and stay alive in the process.

"Hmm..." Keith observed. "I don't think we're wanted here."

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