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         The band had dawdled for too long. Defender decided that their bonding was plenty of time for them to recover, so they were now hurrying toward Sownfield once again. There, they were to try and save as many people as possible, which should not be much trouble for Gulbahar. Unfortunately, the Exos had already invaded the city and were currently kidnapping people left and right. Zar held on to Defender’s shoulder as he ran around commanding Jadewing and Amata to attack Exos together, same for Eku and Witherclay, while Gulbahar destroyed any that were giving too much trouble. Systematically, the band began to pave their way through the sea of metal, collecting any Texi they could along the way. They had cleansed as much as they could of Sownfield and were about to exit the city and make their way to a village dubbed Stradbelly when they were confronted by an Exo very similar to the first one Defender had faced and one that had challenged them twice already.

         Just like the other one, this Exo resembled a horse, except this horse was not bipedal and the hind hooves were the ones that had been replaced with flaming, spinning blades of destruction. Instead of serving as sawblades, these spinning blades served as wheels, allowing the Exo to rush toward them at exaggeratedly high speeds. Even Gulbahar had a fraction of a second to defend against his attack –- lifting his forehooves and crashing them down on top of all of them. Defender had clarified that the Exo was a replica, a clone, hence why it seemed like they had fought him already, but each replica became harder to destroy. Zar had held on to the hope that they may had had his lost dots since they were the most powerful bosses the band had encountered close to the place he had lost his body, but after Defender strategically guided everyone to victory, nothing was found amidst the rubble except some more Texi, Voxites –- another type of crystal with which to build –- and Texites. “Alas, not the same lot that took my body. Where they took it, I don’t know.” He then pointed out a very obvious but crucial observation, “the Exos have taken folk from all the tribes -– Theri, Hemi, and Xana. Makes the long squabbling among us seem a trite thing, eh? Lead on, Defender.”

         Zar was, of course, referring to the ever-lasting feud between the three tribes. Even as all three tribes were being united as one under the leadership of Defender, Zar could not help but feel disgust whenever he saw Witherclay or dismissiveness whenever Amata started a conversation. Dogmatic shifts, especially from dogmas that had reigned supreme for eons, took a long time; who knows how long it would take until he finally accepted members of other tribes as equals. Zar felt in the wrong, feeling this way but observing the Hemi and Theri fighting to protect Xana villages, so he made it a mission of his to try and speed up the process as much as possible. “Truly is a shame that such a cataclysmic event is what it takes to ever-so-slightly sever the feud between us.”

         Zar attempted to teach Defender as much of Texel’s history as possible. The feud, the culture, the classes and elements, all of it. Between massacring Exos, the band would start spilling everything they knew from either books or personal experiences, and Zar noticed Defender was somehow able to understand most, if not all, of what was being flooded into his mind, perhaps even retaining the information. Humans were truly remarkable. Strong and intelligent leadership was what Texeli needed to combat the hordes.

         Farther and farther did the intrepid band travel, crossing Stradbally and its buildings sparked aflame by the vile Exos that had arrived sooner than them and playing hide and seek with the metallic poltroons hiding behind the many trees of Graveswood –- a forest that had once been home to many wild beasts used by Gallants to practice their hunting but now was naught but an Exo cemetery. The band now found themselves at the edge of Graveswood, having fought their ninth powerful Exo since their bonding. They now had six Voxites and three Texites since each area they visited always had three replicas of the same Exo; the first and weakest two would always have a Voxite and the third a Texite. Defender decided it was about time to build once again, spilling all the ixstones on the ground, rasing his hands, and shouting “show yourself Mighty Lemon!”

         “Defender, did you seriously just shout Mighty Lemon in reference to the sacred totem?” Zar interjected, utterly baffled at the disrespect.

         Defender blushed rightfully embarrassed at himself. It beckoned his call nonetheless, but this time a low but booming voice said in a monotone voice “straight from the Cradle to the battlefield…” to which Defender responded “thank you, now I shall call you Cradle.” ‘Twas much better than Mighty Lemon, Zar supposed. All nine ixstones were used to build. The six Voxites yielded five power fodders, which were explained to Defender to be creatures who live solely to provide power to Texeli, and a Jadewing. The power fodder was used to strengthen Gulbahar even more and Jadewing was self-fused into her respective counterpart. The Texites, on the other hand, yielded three new fighters: Baderic, the Earth-signed Mage from the Xana tribe with a long, shaggy, red beard, yellow cloak and hat, and wooden cane; Manu, the Fire-signed Champ from the Xana tribe with his black and yellow getup and massive ax whose head was the size of Manu's entire upper body; and Gula, the Fire-signed Rogue from the Theri class, a small, fat, and mustard-yellow frog with quite the attitude. When confronted about it, all he said was “let’s get this war over with, so I can go back to my books.”

         Defender stood back and looked at his growing band. He was pleased with himself -- Zar could tell that much. His band was currently composed of eight fighters; one more and he would have the nine that was standard among defenders.

         “Before us lies Castledown, a city of swashbucklers and coiners. We must cross it to get to Alabast Hold,” Zar noted. “This war will not be won by a single tribe regardless of how much we Xana would like to believe we are strong enough to destroy them all ourselves. We shall converse with the suzerain and persuade him to prepare a legion of Gallants. We must retake Sownfield and the entirety of Dragonmount for that matter, but for that we will need forces from Alabast Hold, Oldtown, Allodiael, the Moorlands, and as many of those Barbarians as we can find along the way.”

         “We’re going to Oldtown? That decrepit cesspool?” asked Manu. “What can those Hemi possibly-”

         “Watch your tongue, boy,” interrupted Jadewing, pointing her staff at him. “Do not think for a second that all I can do to you is heal.”

         “How dare you raise a weapon to a Xana, mongrel!” shouted Baderic.

         “ENOUGH!” Defender bellowed, stomping his foot on the ground. “If any of you even dare open your mouths, I shall fuse you into a random power fodder, do you understand?” They nodded and stayed quiet for the remainder of their Exo extermination in Castledown and Alabast Hold.

         After having exterminated the last Exo at Alabast Hold, and before having successfully coerced the suzerain into mobilizing his army, Defender was confronted by another defender who did not have a band following him around. He approached them with a smile and said “welcome to Texel, defender.”

         “And who are you?” asked Defender.

         “Why, but I am a fellow defender like yourself! Do you not recognize a fellow Human?”

         “Stop the banter and get to the point.”

         “Jeez. Not even a day in the battlefield and already this grumpy? Here, I was instructed by our higher powers to give you this. Inside the bag, you shall find everything you need to become a defender: your contacts, tablet, armory, pavilion, and much, much more.” The bag was the size of his hand, so Zar had difficulty understanding how all of that could possibly fit inside.

         “Thank you, but I shall ask again. Who are you?”

         “If you must know, I am-” Before he could answer, however, the sounds of an engine boomed to Zar’s left. The mysterious defender smirked and extended his right arm straight out as another Human riding on a two-wheeled contraption zoomed past them and grabbed it. Just like that, the two Humans had left nothing behind but a dust cloud.

         “Where the hell did they find a motorcycle?” Defender asked, but soon turned his attention to the bag. He opened it and somehow went elbow-deep into the tiny bag.

         “How is that possible?” asked Zar, staring at the physics-breaking bag.

         “Human technology, dear Zar. You have seen nothing yet.” He began to pull all the items out of the small sack as Zar kept asking more questions.

         “You heard what they said, right? He mentioned a higher power. Know you of anything like that?”

         “I do not; however, I do know Humans, and Humans love feeling like they have all the power, that they are above everyone else, that just because they have more money and more opportunities than anyone else, they are automatically granted the privilege to flaunt their power every way they can. I would not be surprised if there was already some sort of oligarchical defender society starting to form. It matters not, to me at least, but I have a gnawing feeling this will not be the last time we encounter those two and their motorcycle.” Once he finished pulling everything out and making sure he had not forgotten anything, he began doing his best to both analyze the contents and elucidate their purpose.

         “This is a pavilion, the item that most directly impacts you all,” he started, pointing at what looked like a piece of cream-colored cloth, “it looks like there is a fifty-Texeli capacity, so whenever we get an army greater than fifty, I may need to buy some more.”

         “Wait, are you telling me your technology can fit all of this in that hand-sized bag but cannot accommodate more than fifty people in that humongous bivouac?”

         “Business. There is still a lot more you need to learn about how Humans function. The rich get richer, Zar; that is the truth of life in Human society. Whoever is manufacturing these pavilions wants defenders to buy from him more, so he has capped it off at fifty. Talking about buying, this tablet is my most useful asset. Human-run markets are beginning to spring forth, and one of the countless functions of this tablet is providing me with all of their locations. The armory here allows me to fit one-hundred gear items. These, however, are the most intriguing items in the bag,” he said, holding up a black case. He opened it and took out what looked like very thin and tiny plastic cups. He then opened his eyes wide and placed a cup in each one of them. “These are high-tech contacts, which serve almost as many purposes as that tablet from earlier. One of them is looking at Texeli such as yourselves and analyzing your strength based on Human-constructed statistics, such as LV, SEF, HP, ATK, DEF, WIS, and AGI. How the hell it’s only been several days and they already constructed such elaborate devices beats me. There are some Humans out there far too intelligent for their own good.” Before anyone could answer, however, the tablet began to vibrate. Defender walked up to it and saw that there was a message flashing on the screen.

Hello there, Defender. It has taken Defenders almost two weeks to make me, and I am nowhere close to being complete, but I hope I am of use to you in the upcoming days, weeks, months… God forbid years!