Thanks for the suggestion tomos, I tried it briefly, but you're right in that it seems to be overkill. I have to say it certainly has features like advertised, lol.
Anyway, I think I might have finally found something, its called MemPad. http://www.portablefreeware.com/index.php?id=889#comments
I've been messing about with it, and so far it looks like it will solve my needs. The following is what I have gleaned from using it for a bit:
1. ) Freeware and portable.
2. ) Minimalist look and feel.
3. )Lightweight. Task Manager shows it at 1,732k.
4. )The only two pane note taker I've found that can make relative links for the reasons in my previous posts. (Example: file:ReadMe.txt, or file:text_files\readme.txt).
1. ) Cant drag and drop nodes in the tree pane with the mouse.. one has to use keyboard shortcuts to move them around.
2. ) Export is limited to just .txt output. (Though it doesnt look too bad, and I can "work" with it easily enough.)
3. ) The menu bar options are quirky. For example theres no undo option listed. One has to use a keyboard shortcut to do it. (Looking through the help file, one has to use keyboard shortcuts for a lot of things, it seems.)
4. ) Making a link to a file requires me to replace all spaces in the file name with underscores. (Though this is minor because I can mass rename this through XYplorer easily.)
Features I wish it had:
1. ) Multiple notebooks support with a tab bar.
2. ) Drag and drop nodes in the tree pane with the mouse.
3. ) Export to .html tree, .csv, or a folder structure with text files in them for nodes.
4. ) An "insert file link option" instead of having to write links into the node by hand.
At this point, the downsides I've found are minor since it can do what I need it to do. If I encounter any deal breaking issues later on, I'll report back.