Secret of Mana
by Uftaki


The water splashed and roared down the Great Falls. The sun shone high overhead, casting its warm light down to the water, keeping the surrounding areas warm. Lazy white clouds drifted slowly overhead, and large, leafy green trees swayed in the quiet breeze, brushing against the few fir trees that weren't. The Great Falls weren't just one large waterfall. Rather, they were a series of smaller waterfalls, parallel to each other, splashing down on the different levels of the cliff side. The vegetation along the waterfall was rich and moist. Moss covered every tree, and any bridge along the area would be covered in moss, which was why there was only one bridge a short distance from the base of the falls which was hardly used. In fact, no one had been by that way for several years. Up on the higher levels, along the gaps between the levels where the course of the falls flowed, fallen logs had been set up to serve as bridges. Along one fallen log, two kids walked along in front of the great waterfall. A shout came from behind them.

"Hey guys, wait up! Ahhh!" Janz shouted as he nearly slipped off the log. Elliott looked angrily at him.

"Shhh, quiet! The elder will find us up here, and he'll be mad."

"Yeah," added Timothy, a small, blond-haired kid. "We're not supposed to be here. There's a ghost around!"

Elliott turned to face Timothy. He squared his broad shoulders and looked down at Timothy. He had blond hair like Timothy too, but he was taller and heavier, with brown eyes and reddish freckles just below his eyes. Right now, he was a little annoyed at Timothy's comment. "Ha! Do you really believe that? People say that to scare us."

Timothy shrugged. Janz straightened up and brushed back his mussed-up reddish coloured hair, and let his long bangs fall back over his brow, shading his clear blue eyes. He was an averaged sized, middle-aged kid, with a slightly triangular torso. He was dressed in a simple, blue cloth shirt with no sleeves and a matching pair of pants which was the same material and colour, and sewed onto the belt line of his pants was a long, thin, piece of red cloth with white trim that stretched around his back, and it ended right over his side pockets, and there it was a little larger, in a kind of circular shape. It was only sewed onto the top, and was left unsewed on the sides and bottom of it, so it created a kind of flap to protected his pockets sort of. He also wore a bluish-purple belt around his waist, and a small, red circular cloth he had draped around his neck and shoulders. He was actually sixteen years old, but he looked very young for his age. Elliott was slightly younger than him, and Timothy was slightly younger than Elliott. Elliott looked a little excited as he turned around and looked out over the land.

"I don't believe in the ghost, but I heard Grandma say something about a shiny object near the falls."

Timothy's eyes lit up. "That must be some kind of treasure! We have to find it!"

He and Timothy turned and started to head off the log. Janz started to follow, then he stepped on a wet part of the log and wobbled.

"Help!" he called out, "I'm slipping!"

His two friends stopped and turned around in time to see him slip off the log. Luckily, he was able to grab it as he fell, and hung suspended from the log. Elliott and Timothy started to move towards Janz to haul him back up, when his grip loosened, and he fell.

"Janz!" yelled Elliott. He and Timothy looked at each other in horror, then they both moved off the log as fast as they could and headed off for their home village of Potos, just a short distance away.

Water splashed everywhere as Janz landed hard in the pool at the base of the waterfall. He moved over into shallow water, and moaned weakly as he stood up. He rubbed his head as he looked around.

Ouch! Whew, I'm safe. He looked up at the log. It seemed to be touching the clouds. No way to get back up. Now what am I going to do? Checking the position of the sun, he orientated himself and started to run. He climbed up onto the dry ground, and passed through, still heading for home. A bridge was erected over another branch of the river, and Janz headed for it, but wondered how the bridge got there. He had never been to the base of the falls, and no one had ever come out this way, to his knowledge.

Before he reached it, he heard a voice calling his name, very faintly. The voice stopped as quickly and as quietly as it had come. Janz thought it was Timothy or Elliott calling for him. He ran across the bridge and headed for the path back to his home, but it was blocked by huge, thorny shrubs. Janz stopped and muttered to himself.

"The village lies this way. I have to find something to cut through." He turned around, looking for a sharp stone or stick, when he happened to glance into the river he just crossed. There, in the middle of the river, embedded in a rock, was what looked to be a sword. Curious, Janz jumped down the bank and walked up through the shallow water to it. It was a sword all right, but before he could do anything else, he heard the faint voice again.

"Janz.... Remove the sword....."

The voice stopped and Janz looked around, mightily confused.

"Who are you?" he pondered out loud. "And what's this sword doing here?"

He grasped the handle of the sword and heaved with all his might. At first, the sword didn't budge, then it started wobble in the stone setting. With one mighty jerk, the sword popped free, sending Janz tumbling down into a sitting position in the shallow river. He didn't even have time to stand up before a bright light emanated from the sword's hole.

"So bright.... I can't see!"

When it faded, a spirit was floating above it.

"Ah... a.... ghost!" whispered Janz faintly, beads of sweat starting to trickle down his brow. The ghost floated slightly towards him.

"Janz.... It is I.... who asked.... The sword....." said the ghost faintly, then the spirit faded away. Janz slowly got up.

"What?" he asked quietly. "You mean, this sword?" He raised the sword up to the sky. Suddenly a blinding white light came from the sword, then, in an instant, the bright light was gone, leaving a very confused Janz.

He lifted the blade up and looked at it. The length of the sword was around a meter and a half long. It was thin, pointed and flat. The guard was a strip of metal just a bit wider than the width of the blade and curved slightly downwards. The handle was about three fists long, with only a small round pommel. The blade and the hilt seemed to be made of iron or copper or something, but the entire sword was covered in rust, giving it a very reddish colour, so it was hard to make any real conclusions about the sword. It looked like it was about to fall apart at any moment.

Janz turned around, deciding to forget about whatever just happened, and return to his home. He approached the bushes and swung his new sword mightily. The bushes fell easily, but so did Janz. He fell right over due to the force of his swing. He picked himself up, dusted himself off, grabbed the sword and swung at the bushes again. They were cut down cleanly, and he only wobbled a bit. Janz smiled to himself.

Seems as if when I use the sword more, I get even better at handling it. I think I'm going to enjoy having a sword. He ran off down the path to his village, when he stopped short at what he saw. Right in front of him was a small, round creature with long ears that bounced up and down. Janz wondered how it did that without any legs to push it up.

"Whoa, a rabite," said Janz, astounded. "What's a rabite doing in a place like this?"

He didn't have any more time to ponder it, for the rabite started bouncing towards him. Janz knew that these creatures, despite their looks, were anything but friendly. He lunged with his sword and managed to knock the creature back. He smiled, feeling stronger with each attack. He swung again, and the rabite disappeared. In its place, he noticed a shiny object. When he bent down to look at it, he discovered that it was a gold piece. The creature had been carrying money with it. Janz happily scooped it up and placed it in his empty money pouch, which was a small, leather, draw-string pouch that he kept in his left pocket.

He ran along the path to his village, striking at all the enemies that threatened him. One time, instead of a gold piece, a small treasure chest was left in the rabite's place. Janz tugged and pulled at the top, but it wouldn't budge. Angrily, he picked it up and shook it hard. He heard something rattling inside it. He threw it down to the ground hard, and to his surprise, the lid popped open. Janz felt a little foolish as he looked inside it, and was glad that there was no one around to see what just happened. Inside the chest, he found a piece of candy. He took it out of the chest and slipped it into his right pocket. As soon as he had removed the candy, the treasure chest vanished from sight.

Janz was feeling quite good. He had stopped wobbling when he used his sword, and he thought he was getting quite good at using it. He just finished off killing another rabite, when he felt a change in the sword. It wasn't anything visible or physical, but the change was there just the same. Through practicing, Janz had learned that after he swung out with his sword, he would have to wait a short time before he could swing again with full strength. He decided to charge his sword up to full strength now, and see what happened. He swung the sword in a wide arc, then held on to it tightly as he felt his strength returning. This time, when he reached what he knew was his full strength, he felt a power build-up in the sword. Janz had no idea how or why this was happening, but he knew that somehow the sword had increased slightly in power.

He stopped and looked at the sword. Questions, unanswerable questions filled his head. Where did the sword come from? What was it doing in the river? How did its power increase? And how does the sword have a "power" at all? There were a lot of very odd things about this sword, and it both intrigued and scared Janz at the same time.

He moved along slowly since the power build-up took up a lot of his strength to hold it in check. When he found a rabite, he let the power of the sword loose. It had indeed increased in power, for he felt himself lunge towards the rabite, which fell in one blow from his sword, and Janz could feel its power returning. This time as well, there were more gold pieces left in the rabite's place.

A while later, really close to Potos, Janz was feeling stronger than he ever felt before. He had collected a lot more gold pieces, and two more candies. With a happy heart at seeing the buildings of his home, he finished off the last rabite, then slipped his sword into his belt, realizing that he had better get himself a scabbard for his sword at the town shop, before his cloth belt was cut.

When he first entered Potos, he saw Elliott's grandmother, Tasha, pacing back and forth nervously. She turned to look at him as he approached.

"Did you see that, Janz?" she asked worriedly. "A minute ago, something lit up the sky near the falls. I have a really bad feeling about this."

Janz just shrugged. He didn't want to tell her that the light she saw came from the odd sword he was carrying. She didn't even seem to notice it, and Janz was glad. He didn't want to worry her about this yet. He entered the house right beside the eastern entrance to the village, which was the one he came in, looking for Timothy and Elliott. Neither one of them was there, but Elliot's older sister, Patricia, was. She seemed very annoyed and concerned about the sword he carried, and told him so. Janz muttered to himself. He knew he wouldn't hurt anyone with the sword, and he never "played" with it.

He left the house and headed for the town shop, which was directly south of the house. He skirted around some of the bushes by the side of the building, and entered the shop through its main door on the south side. Shopkeeper was humming to himself as he cleaned the wooden countertop. He smiled as Janz entered.

"Hello Janz. On an errand for the Elder? Best hurry along."

Janz smiled and looked over at him. "No errand today, Shopkeep. Personal... business today."

The Shopkeeper smiled. "Big words, Janz. Okay, personal shopping it is."

Janz turned his attention back to the side wall of the shop. On one side there was food and clothes laid out for sale. On the other side, the one he was looking at, there was equipment for all sorts of "dangerous" things. Knives for the kitchen and for hunting, flints and sharpening materials, plus small sleeves for holding them. Janz frowned as he looked all over this stuff. He knew it was necessary for a village, but there was nothing for real weapons. Maybe it was for the best. After all, young kids, like myself, he thought, could get false ideas about them.

Then under a pile of old, dusty polishing rags, he found an old, leather scabbard. Janz was so delighted to see it, he didn't care that it was old and worn, as long as it worked. The leather itself was still in pretty good condition, a light-brownish colour, and was much stronger than it looked. the strap that would tie it to a belt, and some decorative cloth on it however was all rotted and moth-eaten. It was no shock that the Shopkeeper looked very surprised when Janz lay it on the table.

"Uh, Janz... Are you sure that you want this? I know that there are much finer things in my store. Why do you want a scabbard anyways?"

"I just do. And this is the only one in the shop."

The Shopkeeper frowned. "You know, I didn't even know I had a scabbard in my possession. Oh well, if that's what you want." The Shopkeeper turned the old leather scabbard around in his hands then handed it back to Janz. "This looks so old and worn.... I'll let you have it for three gold pieces."

Janz could hardly believe it. That was such a bargain for something that he thought was still in very good condition. It just needed a good cleaning and mending. He pulled out his money pouch and handed over three g.p. He checked his pouch. He still had a lot of gold pieces left. He sidled over to the other wall, the scabbard lying on the Shopkeeper's desk. There he selected a long, thin, rectangular headband. It was made of the same fabric as his belt and was the same colour. He smiled as he wrapped it around his brow, folding it around itself, and let the two long ends of the headband fall down by the sides of his head. He looked at himself in the mirror on the inside door of the shop. He looked pretty good, and the headband kept his bangs out of his eyes.

He was still smiling as he turned around to the Shopkeeper. "This too."

"That's ten gold pieces. And I have to comment that it looks good on you. Matches your belt." Janz grinned as he pulled out ten g.p. and handed it to the Shopkeeper. He then picked up his scabbard and tied it by the strap to his belt. It was loose, but it would hold for now until he could mend it.

He exited the shop and started to head up to the elder's house, which was in the northwest corner of Potos. Before he reached it, he passed by the village's tavern. Elliott's mother, Carol, was walking around outside. When she saw Janz, she walked up to him.

"Janz! The Elder was looking for you," Carol called out. "What did you do this time?" Janz shrugged and headed towards the tavern.

Timothy's younger brother, Kevin, was standing outside. He looked a little worried and a little excited at the same time. He bounced up and down as he told Janz his news.

"There's a strange guy in there. He looks kinda scary."

This intrigued Janz. Visitors were rare in Potos. He entered the tavern. He saw the man that Timothy's brother was talking about at the bar. He was tall and had broad shoulders. He looked very strong and brave. He was a middle-aged man and his lightly brownish coloured hair and mustache was graying a bit. He had on shoulder guards and armor, and yellow pants with orange trim on the inside of the legs. He also had on a cape that was the same yellow colour as his pants.

He questioned Timothy's mom, Jatina, who was in there, if she knew anything about the man. Jatina shrugged as she looked over at him.

"That guy seems to be a knight from somewhere. What's he doing here?"

Janz was immediately interested. A knight could teach him how to use his sword. Before he could talk to the knight however, the tavern owner leaned over the bar to talk to Janz.

"Janz! Elliott was pale and about to faint. What happened?"

Janz really wanted to talk to the knight, and didn't want to be held up by anything. "I'll tell you later, okay?" He approached the strange man slowly. "Erm... hello!" he ventured.

The strange knight turned around to look at Janz, but said nothing. Janz smiled, if a little weakly. The gaze of the stranger shifted from Janz to the sword he had tied to the left side of his belt. The strange knight had dark brown eyes shadowed by lighter brown eyebrows. Janz shifted under the knight's heavy, silent gaze, then he left the building to go see the Elder.

He found Elliott and Timothy with him. He heard them talking as he came forwards. Elder and his friends turned to look at him as he approached.

"Janz! You're not hurt!" exclaimed the Elder. "They just told me what happened!"

Elliott came forwards with a very relieved look on his face. "I thought you were a goner!" Timothy grumbled.

"I told you it was stupid to bring someone like him along."

The Elder turned and snapped harshly to all three of them. "You idiots! Weren't you told not to go there?" Elliott, Timothy and Janz all felt really sheepish and a little worried as to what the Elder would say to them about that. Janz smiled nervously at their mistake and rubbed his head with his left hand, turning around slightly. Without knowing it, he had made his sword visible to the Elder and his friends. The Elder's mood switched from one of annoyance to that of deep horror and concern.

"Huh? Janz! What's that you have?" Janz stopped rubbing his head and looked down at his sword. The Elder squinted at it, then his eyes grew wide in fear. "Oh no! It couldn't be!"

Elliott leaned forwards to look at the sword excitedly. "Cool! Did you find the treasure?"

"Way to go!" added Timothy. Elder was anything but pleased. He was shocked and very, very upset at something.

"What have you done?" he nearly shouted. Janz was confused.

Done what? he thought. The Elder was really upset now.

"How could you have pulled out the Mana Sword? It's impossible!"

Janz stepped back, shocked. The Mana Sword? Legends told of an ancient people that abused Mana, the life-force of his land, and twisted it to evil, creating the ultimate weapon, the Mana Fortress. Before all was lost, a hero with the fabled, magical Mana Sword destroyed the Fortress, plus a Mana beast attacked the Fortress too, and even though the land was destroyed in the battle, peace had returned to the ravaged land. But that was only a story, wasn't it. How could this be the legendary Mana Sword? Was it really the Mana Sword?!

Timothy's voice dropped in fear. "The Mana Sword?! Legend has it our village is finished..."

Elder started to pace about. "If the sword is removed, and here it is! It is said that the Mana Sword has been protecting our village from disaster."

Elliott jumped towards Janz in a blind rage. Janz didn't know what to do and just backed away from his friend, who was acting anything but friendly.

"So that's it! That's why all the monsters are attacking us now!" he yelled. "How could an outsider like you yank out the sword and bring doom to us all!!"

Janz stepped back, hurt. He was saddened to be so harshly reminded that he was an orphan, and it was the Elder who had raised him. He was shocked and even more hurt, emotionally more than physically, when Elliott hauled back and punched him in the stomach, sending him tumbling down to the ground. Weakly and quietly Janz called out to Elliott.

"Hey! Stop it!"

Elliott didn't stop. He chased Janz to the southeast side of the tavern, yelling at him all the way.

"You did it! It's your fault!"

"Please, stop," begged Janz, trying to calm his frustrated friend.

Suddenly, a tremendous shaking rocked the earth. Signs and posts fell down, trees wobbled, objects in the buildings fell crashing to the ground, and everyone danced around trying to keep their balance.

"Wahhh! Earthquake!" screamed Elliott. He started walking around in a scared daze. Before either Janz and Elliott could do anything, a gaping hole opened up underneath them. Elliott fell down into it immediately, but Janz managed to grab a hold of the side of the hole. However, the violent heaving of the ground seemed determined to shake him off. The last thing Janz saw before he fell into the hole was the strange knight coming out of the tavern and watching him. Then, yelling, Janz too tumbled down into the earth.

Janz shook his head to clear out the cobwebs from it. He noticed that Elliott was even more panicked than ever. He was pointing frantically at something. Janz turned and realized what caused the earthquake, and what frightened Elliott so much.

There was a giant monster!

"A m... monster!" screamed Elliott, like Janz couldn't see it for himself, and in shock. His voice was quivering. Janz never saw him so scared. Of course, this wasn't your normal, everyday circumstance. "You have a sword, don't you? Use it!" shouted Elliott, then cowered into a corner of the small cave that had been cleared out by the monster while it was digging its way to the village, and hid his head under his arms, turning his back to the creature.

Janz looked around helplessly. He didn't know what to do. He never fought anything before. Maybe he killed a couple rabites, but this was something completely different. This thing could kill him easily. He heard a shout from above.

"Hey! Can you hear me?" asked the strange knight, who was standing at the edge of the hole and leaning over, peering into the gloom of the dusty cave below him. "Watch how the monster moves before attacking!"

Janz clenched his teeth and gripped the handle of the sword, tense and ready. It was obvious that he had no choice but to fight this creature, and he'd try his best. He had to save his village.

But what a monster! It was at least two feet taller than him. It resembled some kind of giant ant. It had a roughly triangular head, with two pincers symmetrically distributed in his upper jaw, like giant fangs. Its chest was huge and thick, and its waist was thin, which made the monster look even more foreboding. The end of its strong arms didn't end in hands, but large, curved things that resembled the blade of a sickle. It had short legs, but strong legs, Janz noted, when the thing jumped up to try to land on him.

Janz rolled over to the side to avoid being squashed by the creature. Before he could steady himself and turn to attack, the monster lashed out with his built-in weapons, and clipped Janz on his left calf. Janz yelled in pain. He half hopped, half ran to the opposite side of the cave and checked his wound. Thankfully it was only a small cut, but the next time he might not be so lucky. He charged up his sword to its topmost capacity, and slowly approached the ant. With one powerful jump, he lunged at the creature. His sword hit the monster dead center, and the creature roared in pain. Then, to Janz's horror, he realized that the monster had more than just his blades and body to attack him with, when stinging purple clouds surrounded him. They felt slightly acidic, and weakened him. This creature had magic!

Janz attempted another lunge at the monster. This time though, it blocked his attack by raising its two arms up in front of it. Janz was forced back, then it lashed out, catching him right in the stomach and knocking him a few feet back. Janz howled in pain. His hand flew to his chest and his shirt felt slightly damp and warm. Janz gulped. He never had fully realized until now how serious this could be. Ignoring the pain, Janz started to move forwards again, but the creature slashed out again. Janz was nowhere near the blade, but he was held back by a force of wind, probably another spell cast by the creature.

Janz was really anxious now. He was afraid of this creature, not sure that he could defeat it, and Elliott's frightened whimperings now and then were not helping. Janz lunged at the monster again, and scored two direct hits in succession by striking it hard once, then running away a small distance until his full strength returned again, then striking quickly. The creature though, caught Janz by his back and hurled him hard, slamming him into one wall of the small cave, which was feeling smaller by the minute.

Moaning, Janz struggled to get to a sitting position on the ground. He had to get up quickly, otherwise he feared that the monster would attack him. When Janz cast a glance its way, though, the creature was just standing there, not moving and panting heavily. My last double-attack must have knocked something out of it, Janz thought, panting heavily himself.

He found he was too weak and too dizzy to stand up. But if he didn't, when the monster felt stronger, it would come after him and kill him for sure. After that, who knows what the creature would do to the village and his friends. Janz dropped his head, trying to get his breath back, when he noticed something lying on the ground, slightly covered in dust. It was one of his candies. "It must have fallen out of my pocket when I crashed into the wall," realized Janz. He quickly scooped up the circular object, peeled off the wrapping and popped the sweet candy into his mouth. Immediately, he felt all his strength returning. Unfortunately, when he stood up, he noticed that the monster had recovered a bit too.

It started moving towards him, but Janz now knew how this creature fought. He powered up his sword and waited. When the creature lashed out at him, he jumped back. Then, when the creature lowered his defenses to build his strength back up, Janz lunged and stabbed at it. The monster let out a terrific howl of pain. Janz smiled in spite of the physical pain racking his body. He was getting the upper hand with this creature.

The fight had only been going on for a few minutes, but to Janz it felt more like an hour at least. Then, one of his blows stopped the creature it its tracks. Janz watched confused as it let out a weak moan, then it started to turn red. The monster started to explode! He had beaten it!! The explosions around the monster continued and it finally dissipated after one final explosion that had been followed by a discharge of bright light. Janz cheered. He had defeated a monster.

Janz looked hard at the spot where the monster had been only seconds before. There was a small, circular object lying there. Janz went over to it and stooped over to get a better look. It was a small, clear orb that was no bigger than his palm. He picked it up and examined it. It was all clear, except for an engraving of a sword, his sword, on the side. Janz was a little confused, but this was only a small detail, as he went to go get Elliott.

He didn't have time to get to him when the knight shouted down to him.

"You did it! Wait there, I'll pull you up."

Janz waited for about a minute, then a rope dropped down the hole.

"Grab a hold!" shouted the man.

Janz shook Elliott, who let out a scared scream. Janz tried to explain to him what happened, but Elliott was too scared to think straight. He saw the rope hanging down from the hole and yanked on it, then started to climb up. Janz shrugged then started to follow him. Up above, he heard the knight's surprised voice at seeing Elliott and not him, since he didn't see Elliott fall into the hole. As Janz was pulling himself out of the hole, Elliott wailed and ran back to his house. Janz straightened up and turned to thank the knight.

Before he could say anything, the knight spoke first, looking at the sword but smiling. He had a deep, strong voice, but it was a gentle, friendly voice, and not an imposing one.

"That appears to be the real Mana Sword."

Janz was still in a daze from battling the creature, and was snapped back to reality at the sound of the knight's voice.

"Huh? What?"

"It's supposed to be pulled out by a knight in times of great trouble," said the knight. "Problem is, you're too young!" Janz grumbled to himself. He was older than he looked. The knight continued. "Something must have happened to the Mana Sword."

Janz frowned. He wasn't as thrilled as he was before. He didn't want this sword if it really was the legendary Mana Sword, and if it meant that he would be facing danger all the time. Suddenly to him, the prospect of fighting creatures didn't have as much interest as it had before he fought the monster, and he realized that he didn't want the responsibility of this sword.

"Here! It's yours!" he said, handing it over to the knight. The knight didn't raise his hands to take it, and shook his head 'no'.

"Sorry, but the sword is losing its power, and must be re-energized. Only the person who pulled it free can do that."

Janz frowned and placed the sword back in his scabbard. He was stuck with the mighty Mana Sword, and the responsibility and danger it would bring. "What should I do?" asked Janz, realizing that he had no choice but to accept this responsibility.

The knight pointed to the south-east of Potos. "Visit Sage Luka in the Water Palace. She's been protecting these lands for over two hundred years. Listen to her advice."

Before the knight could say anything more, they both heard the heavy thumping of footsteps, and turned to see Timothy running towards them. He stopped just in front of them and panted heavily, before blurting out his message.

"Janz! The Elder wants you in his house!"

Even though the boy's words were said in catch-breaths, the knight heard the urgency beneath them. He turned to Janz. "Well, I have to be off." He turned to leave, then paused, and turned back. "Oh, my name is Jema. I'll wait for you in the Water Palace." Then the knight, Jema, turned on his heel and marched strongly out the main gate, in the southeast corner of Potos.

Janz turned around and looked towards the Elder's house. His house too, but he had a strange feeling in the pit of his stomach that he might never see it again.

"Get going," snapped Timothy.

Janz ran up to the Elder's house and stopped at the door. He heard voices inside. The Elder's house was a common place for the people of Potos, and sometimes when other people are visiting, to meet and talk about things. He stood at the door, resting his hand on the doorknob, and listened. He heard some very upset voices shouting things out very clearly.

"Elder! We can't go on like this!"

"Yeah! There's no relief in sight!"

Taking a deep breath, Janz turned the doorknob and pushed the door open. Elder spun around to look at him.

"Oh, Janz! You've really done it to me this time! The reason why monsters have appeared is because you removed the Sword." The other villagers all started yelling at once. First, at the Elder, then to Janz.

"It's settled. We can't let Janz stay in the village anymore."

"If we do, more monsters will come after him!"


"Get out of here!"

"Yeah, on your way now!"

Janz stepped back, hurt, and fighting to keep back his tears. What the Elder said next did nothing to elevate his spirits. In fact, it hurt them even more.

Not speaking for what seemed the longest time, the Elder held his head down, and then slowly, painfully raised it to look at Janz. "I don't want to do this, but I have no choice," he said very softly. "I'm going to have to ask you to leave the village. You can take what's in the treasure chest downstairs."

Hardly able to keep his tears in, Janz slowly walked towards the stairs that led to the basement. As he passed by the villagers, they all said something to him.

"So that's why I felt something awful was going to happen," muttered Tasha.

Jatina shifted from one foot to the other as Janz cast a glance at her. "I feel sad, but there's nothing I can do. It's your fault!"

Carol seemed more worried than the others when he approached her. "We're in danger as long as you're here. Please leave!"

Elliott's dad, Gerry, was close-by, and gave him directions on where to go once he was finished with his errands in the village. "Use the southeast exit. Now go before something else happens!"

Janz shuffled down the steps, the tears welling in his eyes, but he held them back. Down in the basement, Timothy's little sister, Sarah, twin to Kevin and like a sister to Janz as well - she had always hung around Janz and he often baby-sat her, and a bond developed - was playing around with the junk downstairs. When she heard him coming, she popped up out of a mound of old clothes.

"Heading out?" she asked, completely unaware of what was going on outside. "See you later."

I hope I can see you later, thought Janz morosely. He lifted up the treasure chest then threw it down, now familiar with the method of opening these trunks. Inside, he found fifty gold pieces. He slipped them into his money pouch, then realized if he was going to be on his own, he had better get a pack from the shop before he left to hold all his goods he would get later on.

He ran back up the stairs. The villagers were all gone, and the Elder was standing in a corner, looking at a picture of Janz, Elliott and Timothy when they were only little kids. Janz cleared his throat, half to keep the tears back, and half to announce to the Elder that he was ready.

The Elder slowly put the picture down and turned around to look at him. The Elder let out a long sigh. "I took you in and I raised you. But there's nothing I can do to help. Please forgive me," said the Elder quietly. Janz nodded mutely. The Elder continued his talk, one that he hoped made Janz feel better. He could see that he was in terrible pain. "I know I've told you this before, but... Your mother brought you here when you were only one year old. Soon afterwards, she disappeared... I took you and have done my best to raise you, but now we must part. I truly hope you can find your mother someday. Good-bye, Janz."

It was nearly impossible for Janz to keep back his tears now. He wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and sniffled to keep the tears back. With one last look at the Elder, he turned and hurried off to the shop to get a pack.

When he opened the door, the Shopkeeper frowned. Gone was the cheery, joking manner that had characterized him so much before. Now he seemed gruff and it hurt Janz that all of his friends had basically turned against him.

"I'm only selling you stuff because the Elder ordered it," he remarked sharply. That made Janz feel a little better, knowing the Elder was still looking out for him a bit. He picked out a nice, new backpack, paid for it, then left the store. Outside, he placed his candies and the strange orb that he had found after battling the monster into the pack. Then a thought occurred to Janz. He removed the orb, then took his sword out of his scabbard. The orb had a carving of the Mana Sword on it, so that meant the two were related some way, didn't it? When he brought the sword close to the orb, both the orb and the blade glowed, and when the light faded, the orb was gone, and Janz felt another change in the sword. He built up its power, but it didn't go past the power level that Janz already knew the sword had. The new power it gained somehow was locked, and Janz had no way of knowing how to release it. He shrugged, then resheathed his sword and tied the top flap of the backpack closed. Then he shifted the pack onto his back, and went to the southeast exit.

At the gate was Elliott's dad. "Have everything you need?" he asked. Janz nodded. He stepped back and allowed Janz to pass through the gate, then stood in the gateway, blocking the village off. "You are hereby banished from Potos village. Now, get out of here!"

Janz turned around and ran down the path, southwards, away from the only home he had ever known.

In the middle of the path there was a rabite, and Janz struck it down with all his pent up anger. The path then split into one main road heading south, and a small path heading west. Janz collapsed at the corner of this split, and crumpled into a small ball, curling around himself, chest and shoulders heaving in great sobs. He cried with all the sadness and frustration over the past short time, and sobbing uncontrollably, fell into a deep sleep.

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