Tranquillity. nothing but a breeze and the chirping of birds could be heard.
Michael opened his bleary eyes with difficulty. The first thing that came into his view were rolling mountains with lush green vegetation and forestry at its base. The white tipped snow-caps provided a wondrous contrast to the deep blue of the horizon.
Letting out a slight groan, Michael got to his feet before stretching his stiff muscles.
"Nothing beats a good nap" he said with a slight grin.
Not forgetting to pick up his herb satchel, Michael made his way down to the river before splashing some cold water on his face to wash away the fatigue. Suddenly feeling refreshed, he looked at his reflection on the water's surface. Staring back at him was a young face with honest emerald eyes that held a hint of laziness. The wiry frame and sturdy muscles were all but hidden by what can only be described as baby fat, a testament to his youth. His skin was touched by the sun from years of working and playing outside. While not handsome; his deep-set coarse brows and a strong jawline could be described as heroic, if not for some traces of acne and scarring.
"Still no hair?" he complained as he lifted his chin and turned his head to the side scrutinising closely.
"I better head back before Father scorns me again" he smacked the water which held his reflection and lazily got up to his feet. Taking one last glance at the water and mountains beyond, Michael leisurely began his trek back home.
In the valley there laid a bustling town. Sounds of construction and laughter could be heard amidst the busy streets. This was the medium sized village known as Rigante Village, known for its great location for the production and distribution of Medicinal Herbs to the local Sects and Families. Upon closer inspection the city centre was the most populated with the highest density of wooden houses. Following the cobblestone paths outwards would lead to fewer houses with the addition of farmland and medicinal herb fields.
Michael made his way down the mountainous hills and ran toward one of the houses on the outskirts of town. He could see a large man sporting a thick black beard and wearing an eye-patch pacing back and forth along the path with obvious impatience.
"Tsk…" Michael clicked his tongue as he enviously looked at the man's beard.
"Where in the bloody hell have you been?" The Bearded man said with annoyance, his beard waving in the wind.
Michael rolled his eyes, preparing for another scolding "Gathering herbs obviously".
"Did you fall asleep on the job again? You know it's dangerous near the mountains at this time of year!" The large man chastised.
"…" Am I that predictable? He muttered inwardly and rubbed the back of his head with a wry smile.
"Michael, you can't keep slacking off. You need to work hard. We're not always going to be around to pick up your slack" The large man bellowed as his beard trembled.
"Yeah yeah, it won't happen again Father" Michael waved his hand dismissively and muttered the usual apology before removing his bag and throwing it to his father.
With a thud the large man caught the bag and sighed. Seemingly losing all his energy, he placed his hand on Michael's shoulder and softly said "Your mother's inside; we need to talk".
Michael paused and looked up at his father who was at least 2 heads taller than himself. He wore a white top with overalls and was covered in dirt, his round waist seemingly putting tremendous pressure on his outfit. His usual stern face was filled with worry and resignation.
Weird… Father isn't usually like this, most of the time I get an ear lashing all the way until dinner Michael thought internally.
A strange sense of foreboding ran through his body as he looked at the large frame of his father. The shoulders that usually seemed to be able to carry the world looked frail and defeated.
"What's wrong Father?" Michael asked with a shaky voice.
"Go wash up and get ready for supper, we'll talk when you're done" With that, his father slowly turned and entered the house leaving Michael staring at his back.
Michael did as he was told and took off his boots before heading to the washroom. The bath was already warm indicating that his mother had already prepared everything as she usually did.
"What's his problem?" He muttered vacantly while washing himself.
"It's just a nap, right? It's not like I don't manage to meet our quota everyday…"
Vexed, Michael continued to grumble as he cleaned himself in the bath. The water had already become dirty by the time he finished complaining under his breath.
"It's just so boring… who wants to pick herbs all day. It's not like we're the ones who get to use them anyway…" Michael emptied the water before changing into a pair of clothes his mother left for him by the door.
"Michael, go fetch your sister" his mothers' quaint voice could be heard from the other room.
Without answering, Michael walked to the back of the house to the greenhouse, no doubt this is where he'd find this herb nerd. The greenhouse was where the precious medicinal herbs that Michael harvested from the mountains would be planted to further cultivate and grow before being sold to the local sects.
"Rosa, are you in there?!" Michael said loudly
"Coming!" a clear and childish voice responded from inside the greenhouse
The door to the massive greenhouse opened and a small figure breached the entryway. A young girl around 12 years old with long brown hair made her way out of the greenhouse awkwardly. She had deep blue eyes, creamy coloured skin with a few freckles on her nose which added to her cuteness.
"You took your time today big bro; I thought father was going to march up to the mountain range and fetch you himself" Rosa said with a cheeky grin.
"I was really busy today; it takes a long time to gather herbs you know" Michael waved his hand dismissively.
Rosa looked him dead in the eye and snorted "Pfft, I bet you were napping on under that tree again, right?".
"Michael, I already know how skilled you are at harvesting medicinal herbs. Father showed me your haul for today, there's no way it would have taken you that long".
Not expecting a lecture about being lazy from his younger sister, Michael stared blankly for a while before shaking his head "That doesn't matter anymore. What's up with the old man?".
Rosa tilted her head to the side with a questioning look "Huh? What do you mean, isn't he just pissed at you for being late again?".
"No, it's different this time. In any case they're both waiting for us inside, let's go".
Without wasting another moment Michael grabbed his sisters' hand and marched up the stairs toward the dining room with his thoughts running wild.
Upon entering the dining room, he saw his mother and father on the other side of the table with a grave look on their face. His mother looked up and saw them both before showing a shallow smile "Sit down you two, there's something we need to talk about" she said softly.