“Oh, isn’t this Kleiz? So you got selected for this.” One of the guards recognised the senior who was leading the way and called out to him.
“Yeah, got unlucky when drawing the lots.” The senior grumbled with a bitter expression on his face.
Following that, he cleared his throat and continued on, “We’ll leave the hatchlings in your good hands. We’ll get going now… we still have to report back to the council after we return.”
He let out a tired sigh at the end of the sentence and turned to leave, tracing the path they took on the way here. The other five seniors who had been following along naturally followed as the group of six disappeared into the distance.
The hatchlings looked at the six seniors with gratitude as they walked away before turning to face the guard nervously.
“Welcome to the fourth village! Come right in.” the guard welcomed the hatchlings with a warm smile.
After he said that, he had a quick discussion with his partner and lead the way into the village.
After all the hatchlings entered, the guard pointed in a direction and said, “Go over to that field and wait for now, the village chief will be meeting you there shortly.”
The hatchlings turned their heads to where his finger pointed, catching sight of a wide field where several male elves were jogging. These elves did not look much older than them and looked like they were currently doing some physical training.
They obediently nodded their heads and started walking over to the field. Their movements were rigid, and their expressions were stiff, clearing showing the nervousness they felt and understandably so.
They were children who had just reached ten and were suddenly placed in a foreign environment away from home. It would be harder for them to not be nervous under these conditions.
Alz and his childhood friends were also not immune to this. Despite being born here, they had lived their entire lives in the central village and this place was as foreign to them as it was to the other four.
Meanwhile, the guard walked towards a drum that was beside the gate and gave three hard knocks to the drum with a wooden drumstick that was placed nearby.
Three low pitched sounds resounded clearly throughout the village, informing every one of the hatchlings’ arrival. Hearing this, curious members of the village started to make their way over to the field to catch a look at the hatchlings while most just carried with their tasks.
However, not all residents of the village were able to react so calmly to this. There were some elves whose movements froze as they heard the drums, eight elves to be exact.
Their expressions visibly lit up as the sound entered through their ears, causing them to pause whatever they were doing as they hurriedly made their way to the field.
As the hatchlings entered the field, the young elves who were jogging looked over briefly and revealed welcoming smiles to them before continuing to jog.
The only adult elf that was jogging around the field changed his course and jogged towards the hatchling, soon arriving before the group.
When he arrived, he smiled towards the nervous hatchling before him and spoke, “Oh, new hatchlings? You must be tired from the walk here. Its fine to sit anywhere on the field.”
However, immediately after saying that, his eyes suddenly sharpened, and the sides of his lips curled up higher, forming a savage grin as he began to look at each of the male hatchlings.
After observing the six boys closely, he slowly shook his head while releasing an exaggerated sigh, before introducing himself, “I’m Firiz, and I’m in charge of the physical training here in the fourth village.”
His expression reverted back to a welcoming smile as he stared shortly at each of the males again before jogging away, but in the eyes of the six boys, the smile clearly appeared to have a sinister tone behind it this time.
After he jogged about 10 meters away, his voice suddenly drifted into the ears of the hatchlings, “Rest now while you still can, because you won’t be able to soon enough. Hahahaha……”
Firiz’s voice trailed off in a laughter which got softer as he jogged further. The six boys felt a chill travel down their spine and their faces contorted as uneasiness started to rise in their hearts.
“A-Alz, we’re g-gonna be okay r-right?” Link grabbed onto Alz’s shoulder and began to stammer in a barely audible voice.
“I-I think so?” Alz saw his friend’s ghastly expression and wanted to comfort him, but his own fear and unease took over as he replied in an uncertain tone.
“Seems like a fun instructor, can’t wait for training to start!” Polon said enthusiastically, trying show off his ‘nerves of steel’, but his quivering voice and trembling body did little to help him.
The three central hatchlings also began to talk amongst themselves, their expressions and voices not much better than Link.
The two girls revealed a sympathetic gaze as they looked at the guys before proceeding to sit on the ground and rest their tired legs. Seeing this, the boys also started sitting and their nerves slowly calmed down as time went by.
Within a few minutes, a small crowd had gathered around the field, looking curiously at the eight unfamiliar faces on the field.
“Welcome to the fourth village young hatchlings! I am Blain, the chief of this village.”
Suddenly, a deep, powerful voice travelled out from one side of the field. Having been addressed, the hatchlings quickly raised their heads and looked towards the direction of the voice.
They immediately caught sight of three figures that were approaching them. The voice seemed to have originated from the man who was walking at the center.
This man appeared to be in his mid-20s, and there was nothing which really seemed to stand out from his facial features.
However, his body was a whole different story as he boasted of an exceptionally stout figure which most elves could never hope to match, a rarity among their kind. There was also a certain air of authority around him which made him feel more reliable.
The two elves by his sides were walking half a step behind him as they followed. One of the elves was a male and was wearing a garb which looked like a more detailed version of the clothes they had seen on the guards earlier.
He had extremely sharp facial features that gave him an angry look and the expressionless face of his only served to deepen that impression, making look extremely stern and angry at all times.
The other elf was a female elf that had long hair that extended to her shoulder, curling up slightly at the ends. Her hair was a dazzling shade of silver, and her bright purple eyes that sparkled like gemstones.
The dull leather dress she wore covered her body entirely but took nothing away from her beauty. She had a smile across a face which exuded elegance and grace around her, setting her apart from most of the female elves.
“You must be tired from the journey here. We will discuss the matters after the next light so just rest well for now.” The village chief bent down slightly and spoke to the hatchlings with an affectionate smile on his face.
He righted his body and continued speaking, but this time it was addressed to the two elves beside him, “Lein, Layla, show the hatchlings to their dorms.”
After he said his piece, he turned around and started walking out of the field.
The male elf, Lein, walked up and called for the hatchlings who were undertaking the warrior trial before walking out to the west of the field. The six boys hurriedly stepped out and chased after him, exiting the field.
Layla silently waited for the males to step out of the field before directly a gentle smile at the two girls. She walked up and held the two of them by their hands, leading them out of the field towards the east.
They began chatting along the way and soon, the anxiety of the girls started to fade as giggles and bell-like laughter rang from the direction they left.
The small crowd that had gathered around the field started breaking up as the elves went back to their tasks, leaving only eight elves who were looking in one of the directions where the hatchlings left.
The eight elves displayed their emotions differently but the longing in their eyes were the same as they stared in the direction their child left in. These eight elves were naturally, the parents of the four who were sent to the care center.
A few moments later, they finally retracted their eyes and hurried off in the direction the village chief left.
Blain looked at the eight elves who stood before him with a helpless smile on his face. This was how it had gone every year since he had been assigned with this post, the parents would gather impatiently and find him immediately after.
“You heard my words, come over to the field at the next light. You’ve already waited for ten years, Its only one more night. They won’t suddenly disappear, so rest well tonight to prepare for the reunion tomorrow.” Blain consoled them with the words he had rehearsed over the past years before returning to his work.
The elves exchanged looks with each other and silently left, proceeding back to their homes. However, one thing was certain, this night was fated to a sleepless night for these eight elves.
As this was going on, the hatchlings were being guided to their dorms.
“I am Lein, the guard captain of this village. I am in charge of all the warriors here at the fourth village. If any of you have any questions, you can ask me now.” shortly after they exited the field, Lein suddenly spoke to the hatchlings.
The movements of the boys who had been following behind stiffened, but they continued to follow behind. However, it was clear as day that they were intimidated by the elf who led the way and the silence continued.
Time seemed to slow down for them as the young hatchlings felt the atmosphere becoming increasingly strained. Finally, one of the central elves decided to voice out and asked a question about something he had forgotten from the earlier lecture.
Regret washed over his face immediately as he asked, expecting to be reprimanded for his stupid question and lack of knowledge. Yet, reality played out differently from the young hatchlings’ expectations.
Lein patiently answered the question without any form of reprimand. He even went on to provide details that were not covered in the lecture before, deepening their understanding on the matter.
Seeing the way this played out, the other boys mustered their courage and started to ask more questions, all of which Lein patiently gave the answered them like he did the first, providing them with details that invited more questions each time.
Perhaps due to the tension from before, Polon was actually attentively listening for once. As he listened, sparks of curiosity began to flash in his eyes. He was by far the least knowledgeable among the six of them. Alz, Link and Caila tried to give him a crash course along the trip but expectedly, nothing much really registered in his mind.
The way that Lein explained however, seemed to appeal to him and he started raising more and more questions as Alz and Link looked at him with looks of shock and dismay.
Even though Lein’s expressionless face remained unchanged the entire time, the hatchlings’ impression towards him slowly changed while they interacted as they realised that he might not have been as scary as his appearance suggested.
Amidst the storm of questions that were raised, they finally arrived at an area where multiple huts were sitting around. Each of these huts were with wood and vine, the two most commonly used building materials in elven architecture.
Lein soon guided the boys to an empty hut that had six empty beds in it. He patiently answered the last of the questions that were asked before leaving them with a reminder to gather when the first drum was heard as he walked away.
The interior of the hut was exactly as one would expect from a military dormitory, simple. There were six beds that had small gaps in between, with a wooden basket placed at the side of each bed for personal items.
The beds did not appear foreign to them as it looked identical to the ones they used back at the central village. This design which used twigs and leaves for its construction was essentially universal across the entire tribe, so this was not surprising.
Small gaps could be peeked through the vine covered roof, revealing the unchanging sheet of darkness that lay overhead.
Looking at the beds before them, the six young elves felt their fatigue setting in all at once. They quickly discussed on the bed assignment, reaching a decision that they were all satisfied with almost immediately. The young hatchlings then laid down on their beds and their minds started drifting away.