Defeatedly Leanne led him to a small storage room. Once Keven had checked outside to see if anyone had followed them, he shut the door quietly and marched up to her. "OK, you now know why I am here. I did get banished from Potos. Now, why do you want to leave Pandora so badly? Who are Clarence and Dyluck?"
Finding a chair in a corner of the room, Leanne sat down and covered her face with her hands. "My dad's one of the King's best friends. They both arranged my wedding to another powerful noble named Clarence."
"OK, so you just don't like people running your life.. "
"Shut up! Let me tell you something, all people want to do in this world is make more money so that they can brag to their so-called rich friends. Dyluck's not rich. He comes from Kippo Village, where his family are only farmers. But he joined the army here and his aim is to be a commander someday. My dad hates soldiers, especially ones that date his daughter. So when I told him I was dating Dyluck my dad went to the King. I guess Dyluck was advancing too fast for the King's liking, because they went on a search to see if there were any rich bachelor's available and ready for marriage. They found Clarence. He lives near on the coast and owns a ton of land and all that junk. And since marriages in Pandora usually involve the transfer of land, they decided that I'll marry this sleaze Clarence and so they'll both get more land and money. Not to mention, my father said to me that I was too wild. I met Clarence in that room I came out of when you walked up the stairs. He scares me to death! I know that he would literally put me on a leash so that I obey him. I don't want that. I don't care that my name is Lady Leanne Smith, I just want to be respected as a human, even if it means being a peasant." she broke down and started to cry.
Keven walked over and started to cradle and soothe her. "Ya know, I met Dyluck on my way to the Water Palace. I can see why you'd go for him."
"Yep. The kind of person I wish I could be friends with. Maybe I can come to your wedding... "
Leanne laughed. "Thanks. I do hope he's OK."
"Somehow I wouldn't worry about him..." said Keven slowly, "Look, I'm kind of in a rush. I've got some errands to do in the Dwarf Village, and I somehow got to get into the Underground Palace... want to come? I know I'm not Dyluck, but I could help you find him."
Leanne pulled away and looked at him. "Thanks. I'm sure glad I saved you back there. Before we leave, there are a few things we should do."
"Sure. Like what?"
"I'd like to visit my friend Phanna. We've been friends for ages, and she knows about Dyluck. Then maybe going to the store. If I'm going out of town, I want some protection... don't worry, I have 50GP on me, but that's it. Do ya mind?" Keven shook his head. They slipped quietly out of the castle and out of the Palace grounds. The zombies were still walking around, and the two tried to avoid them as much as possible. They were near the gate where Keven had entered the city when Leanne directed him southward. Passing the store she commented, "There's a better store than this one in town, but the shopkeeper's come down with the zombie disease."
They passed the main square and stopped between two houses in the southeast corner of the city. "The left one's mine, the right's Phanna's." said Leanne, somewhat wistfully.
"Something up?" asked Keven.
Leanne shook her head no. "I just don't want to look at my father's house. It never did seem like a home to me."
What's Wrong, Grandma?
So Keven and Leanne walked up to the right hand door and knocked three times. An old man answered the door. "Leanne! What a surprise! Phanna's upstairs trying to figure out the money balances, and Grandma's been sitting in her chair for days now... " then the old man noticed Keven and smiled at him. "Hello there, young man. It is sure nice to see that young ones aren't getting lazy these days." Grandpa then slapped his head and walked inside. "I don't know where my manners are! Come in, both of you."
Keven followed warily. As he closed the door he studied his surroundings. Grandpa was fussing around an old woman, who was sitting in a chair in a far corner staring at nothing in particular. A make-shift bedroom was set up near the chair, and Keven guessed that Grandma couldn't get upstairs.
"These are her grandparents. Grandma's been acting like that for about two weeks now." she whispered to Keven sadly. "It's so sad... they both used to be so lively and kind before she got the zombie disease. I wish I could help them... "
"Don't worry, everything always works for the best. There is a reason for everything." was the reply.
"I hope you're right, because hope is fading from this town, and it's fading fast."
Grandpa then seemed to remember his guests and turned away from Grandma to talk to them. "I'm sorry, but I can't leave Grandma alone for one minute. Leanne, Phanna's upstairs. She'll probably love the company, since I'm not much of that right now." he commented rather gloomily.
Quietly they slipped upstairs. A blue-haired girl was sitting by the window on the opposite side of the room. "Hey there, Airhead." Leanne joked around.
The girl looked up and smiled faintly. "Hey, Leanne. Grandma's in one of her moods again..." Phanna gave Keven a once-over and grinned wickedly at Leanne. "And I thought you and Dyluck were the couple to last!... "
"It's not what you think." replied Keven.
"He's right, girlie. He's going to help me find Dyluck." answered Leanne.
Phanna got up and rolled her eyes. Walking over to Leanne she put her hands on her hips and shook her head at Leanne. "I think you still want to make Dyluck jealous, but if you insist on giving me all this talk..." Turning to Keven she smiled. "Watch out for Leanne. She's got a really bad temper, and if you combine that with her sharp wit... it spells trouble."
It was now Leanne's turn to roll her eyes. "Give it up, Phanna!" she whined. Keven looked between the two friends and started to laugh. Phanna joined him, which made Leanne more whiny.
Phanna gathered her wits and calmed down. "Do you guys have to go somewhere right away, because you can probably stay for tea. It's almost midday. I think..."
She was cut short by Grandpa yelling at her. "Phanna! I need your help. Grandma wants to go for a walk, and I need your help for this time!"
"That's my grandpa. Grandma can't walk by herself anymore, so we have to help her for walks." she explained to Keven. "I've got to go. I guess I'll see you around, Leanne. It was nice to meeting, um, I'm sorry. I don't think Leanne said your name."
"It's Keven, and we shouldn't be staying anyway. We've got to go save Dyluck from the witch, and lots of other wonderful things."
Phanna looked worried. "Oh, do be careful! The witch's suppose to be really mean. Well, see you! Good luck!" and she disappeared down the stairs.
Keven looked at Leanne. "You've got to be kidding! An old lady, who just stares into space, wanting to take a walk? Are you sure she can even communicate?! There's something about this I don't like. Where does she usually 'walk' to?"
Leanne looked down at the floor. "The ruins south of town, like everyone else. That's where all the zombies meet."
"C'mon. The sooner we find this witch, the sooner this problem might be solved."
"Right. Follow me." and she walked down the stairs.
"Are you always going to tell me to follow you?" he asked himself aloud when they had exited the house. Grandma, Grandpa and Phanna were already gone.
Leanne turned and smiled. "Yep. You'd better get used to it."
"You still want to go to the store?" asked Keven when Leanne walked towards the west gate.
Leanne seemed to think about the matter for a second, then walked northwestward to the small house that served as a store. The merchant looked surprised to see them.
"Lady Leanne! Nice to see you again. What can I do for you?" the man smiled.
Leanne looked at the shelves and pointed out to a ribbon. "How much?"
The merchant looked at her in fear. "Your dad's going to kill me if he found out I sold you anything without his permission! Can I interest you in some new dresses? The shipment from Kakkara just came in this morning... "
Keven seemed to appear out of nowhere, in the merchant's point of view. "OK then, I'll take the ribbon."
The merchant looked puzzled for a second, then nodded and handed over a ribbon. "45GP, please sir." Keven handed the amount over with no problems or hassle. He then handed over the ribbon to Leanne, who put it on. "I'll wait for you outside, OK?" Leanne nodded.
Just as she was about to leave the merchant stopped her. "Lady? Just a bit of advice - he seems to be the type that will do anything, even killing someone. I won't tell you dad, he'll just be too angry at me for the purchase. Just be careful - learn more about him before you trust him with anything. In the name of the Tree, go in peace."
Leanne smiled. "Thanks, Will. I'll remember. Take care!"
"Everything OK?" asked Keven when Leanne came outside.
She nodded. "Oh yeah, I'm all right. Want to go?" and so they left the city of Pandora through the west gate, and towards Kippo Village.
Truth be Told
The way to Kippo used to be peaceful and quiet, but now all that had changed. Bees, flowers and mushrooms attacked them, as well as the occasional Rabite. Remembering the merchant's advice, Leanne asked Keven to tell her why he had been banished. "I just want to know the truth, so I can trust you better." she explained when he asked her why she wanted to know. Keven sighed and, bit by bit. told her everything - from the log bridge to the Mantis Ant to the outraged villagers. Meanwhile, as Keven told his tale, they stopped by a small stream. Leanne listened intently and, as the story progressed, found herself getting angrier and angrier. When he had finished she was fuming.
"So, let me get this straight," she asked after a few minutes, "They banished you after they found out this of yours sword was the protector of Potos, and was attracting all the bad guys?" Keven only nodded and looked into the stream, trying to control his emotions. "That's so stupid!" Leanne blurted out in rage, "Why is so special about that piece of metal that it would attract meanies?! And that's the treasure everyone talks about Potos hiding? Get real. It's only a piece of metal... anyone I bet can wield it!" she took a look at the blade again, against her will, started to laugh uncontrollably.
Keven just looked at her. "It is the Mana Sword." he answered quietly.
Leanne stopped her laughing dead and stared at him in disbelief; her mouth, if it was large enough, would be almost to the ground. "Hold on... what did you say? I don't think I heard you correctly... did you say Mana Sword?" she barely whispered. Her eyes were on the man in front of her. I saved this guy - he owes me big time - and now he says he's carrying around the Mana Sword?...
Keven looked up from the stream and nodded. "This is the Mana Sword, and I am the Mana Knight."
Last Chance Town
The rest of the journey to Kippo Village was made in silence. Leanne was in shock, while Keven was wondering what she'd say next. I was warned she was loud-mouthed and all, but I don't think anyone would of thought I could shut her up! He chuckled to himself at the thought.
Leanne looked up at him and shook her head. "I still don't believe you." she muttered. Then they came to a fork in the road, one way leading north, the other west. "North goes to Gaia's Navel, west goes to Kippo Village." Leanne stated proudly.
Keven nodded and started up the northern path. "Wait!" cried Leanne, "We should go to Kippo." When Keven looked at her like she had lost her mind, she stammered, "Look, I know you're the Mana Knight, but we should get some rest. It's almost sundown, and there's no Inn in Gaia's Navel... Kippo's a last chance town." she muttered. Keven, to no help, only nodded and walked into town.
Kippo had only four houses, all in a square. There was an Inn, a store, and two strictly houses. One of these houses housed Dyluck's family, and Leanne wanted to visit them. "I only want to tell them about Dyluck."
"I don't have much time... I have to find the Underground Palace."
Leanne rolled her eyes and sneezed. They were standing in the middle of a garden. "Look, you won't get very far in the dark, even with a light. And since we're here I might as well do some good to those people. They're as old as Phanna's grandparents, and Dyluck's their only kid. They deserve to know what's happened." Reluctantly Keven agreed.
Leanne knocked on the door softly. An old man answered. He looked at Leanne in despair and Keven in disdain. "Leanne, do you know what time it is? It's almost sundown!"
"I know, but I have something to tell you about Dyluck... he's been put on the witch hunt and may be in danger. My friend Keven here is going to help me find him."
Dyluck's father looked devastated. "My son?... How? I... have to tell Helwa. Good night and good luck." the door shut in their faces. Leanne wiped her eyes and pulled Keven to just outside the store.
"There. I did what I had to do. Now what do ya wanna do? Shop or sleep?"
Keven just looked at her. "Why would I want to shop when it's almost sundown?! The darkness of night is known for strange occurrences!"
Leanne smiled at his annoyance. "And that, my friend, is just a story. As many evil things can happen in the day as they can at night. Besides, they have better armor here, and I want to try and buy something better than what I've already got. If you want to survive Gaia's Navel," she said as she opened the store's door, "You need better than a bandanna and a leather bracelet."
The store of Kippo did impress Keven. It had many things that were of great quality and value, and his eye landed on a few of them, like Cups of Wishes to restore lost life. He had collected a lot of money since he left the Water Palace and Neko's, and so was ready to part with some of it, especially if the main reason was to stay alive. When he asked the merchant what was the best protective items he carried, the man produced a shirt of mail and two bracelets. "These are much better than what you have on now, sir, and I guarantee that you can find no better price than mine!" he boasted.
Keven agreed to the purchase, and decided to add a few healing herbs and Cups of Wishes as well. Then he saw Leanne in a corner staring at a pink dress. The merchant saw her too, and said, "Sir, you came looking for armor. That dress is also armor, and since it doesn't show it, it is very good protection. You can't get better than that for a woman in all of the Lower Lands."
Thinking for awhile, Keven agreed to buying one, though he believed it might have been a waste of money. I don't even know how long she'll be staying with me! Oh well... Gathering up his purchases he paid for them and said good bye to the merchant. On the way to the Inn Leanne bothered him with what he had bought. "If you'd been standing beside me rather than staring at that dress, you'd know." Keven's tone cut off any more chance for conversation.
At the Inn they got separate rooms. After having supper they sat in the common room of the Kippo Village Inn, just the two of them alone. In Leanne's mind through the whole day old stories that her father had told her about Mana went flying in and around her head. She didn't know whether to laugh out loud that the Mana Knight tale was true and that she was traveling with him, or cry because somehow she was scared of him. Without knowing it, Keven produced an aura that frightened most common folk. No wonder Potos banished him. If he's this scary now, I wonder how he was when he found out everyone was scared and mad at him for the Sword?... She glanced at Keven and felt her heart sink. She found herself feeling sorry for him, even though she had only known him for a span for a day, and they had totally different views on everything. Keven just sat in the chair opposite her, leaning back with his eyes closed. He looked really worn out and a bit depressed.
"Ya know," Leanne got tired of the silence and tried to open a conversation, "I still find it hard to believe that the tale of the Mana Knights and the Mana Sword are true... "
"Believe what you want, I could care less. But I do know what the Water Seed told me. It told me that I was the Mana Knight. The Sword chose me, nothing more." Keven grumbled back. It wasn't a surprise to him that Leanne didn't believe him and kept on questioning him, seemingly, on his integrity. What had been troubling him since he had told her the truth was that he wanted her to believe him, with no questions. "Well, I need to get some sleep," he stood up and drunk the last of his water left over from supper. "Good night, Leanne."
"Wait!" Leanne got up also, making Keven turn around. "Kev, look, I... do believe you. It's just you said it like it was nothing, if not a curse. But... there are many people in Mana that, if they found out that you are the Mana Knight... well. There is a following of zealots that believe the coming of the next Mana Knight, along with the Sword, means that the Doom Prophesy is nearly here. Now, I don't know that poem much, but.. " she blinked back the tears at the faint recollection of the words. She had learned the poem from her mother. "Never mind. I'll... do the best I can to help you, in whatever way I can. That is, if you still want my help tomorrow. Good night." she went upstairs and closed the door to her room. Keven followed her to his own door and went into his own room. He had trouble going to sleep, and yet started dreaming around midnight.
Why do I have the feeling I'll need all the help I can get? was the last thing he thought.