“Good morning Yori.”
“Good morning, mother.”
The slender boy walked through the door of the charming kitchen, raising his right arm to block out the light from his hazel eyes. The morning sun shone through the window overlooking their small family farm, revealing the tint of orange in his shaggy, light brown hair. He wore an off-white tunic and baggy brown pants, done up with a leather belt. Inquisitive eyes surveyed the view outside, adjusting to the abrupt brightness by raising a hand to block the glaring sunbeam. The window faced the quaint barn, sun glinting off of the few spots on the hinges that were not rusted. A small field sat nestled behind it. It stood in contrast to itself; the untouched light brown soil on the left of the barn, the dark brown of freshly tilled soil on the right.
“Why don’t you grab some breakfast and go help your father. He mentioned yesterday he was going to plow and perhaps fix some fences this morning. We have to get the fields ready for planting if we want food on our plates.”
His mother glanced at him with a smile on her face as she prepared him a bowl of food, her own hair of a similar tone held in a haphazard bun above her head. Shallow wrinkles graced her kind features. Mrs. Yoshinaga’s simple blue dress was slightly worn, and hung on her loosely. Aware of all of the work that needed to get done today, the woman placed a bowl on the table promptly, sliding it in front of a pulled-out chair, and urged the boy to eat. Yori took his mother’s advice and swiftly ate his breakfast of porridge and bread. A slightly rusted faucet sat above their large wooden sink. After clogging the hole in the bottom of the basin with a cloth and a rounded puck of wood, his mother raised her right hand, touching a blue-tinted transparent crystal about the size of a person’s thumb with her fingertips, which sat on top of the faucet. The stone softly emitted a blue light, which was mostly blotted out by the sunlight. Water began trickling at first, and then pouring down the pipe leading to the sink. The water was crystal clear. After a few seconds she removed her hand and the flow of water stopped. Grabbing a plate from the counter to her right, she rinsed it in the cool water as he wolfed down his food, and dried her hands on her stained apron. After thanking his mother for the food, Yori headed out in search of his father. The sweet spring air greeted him, making him excited about the day ahead. It may just seem like chores to others, but to Yori it was a life he thoroughly enjoyed every day.
Like his father always said, “Nothing beats hard work, patience, and the accomplishments that come with them.” Yori had learned in his sixteen years to embrace this ideal. The feeling of accomplishment that came with a harvest was second to none.
I should go say hello to Autumn first.
Yori hopped down the run-down wooden steps of the family home’s front porch. Using his left hand, he steadied himself on the chipped wooden pillar that supported the porch awning, and headed towards the barn. The building was painted deep red, but many years had passed and most of the colour had chipped away from wear and weather, leaving large patches of grey-tinted wood poking through the dull colour. The faint smell of manure wafted up to his nostrils as he breathed in the crisp air, taking a deep breath to welcome the day. Making his way over to the large wooden door of the barn, he grasped the rusted handle and pushed it aside. Flakes of red paint drifted to the ground as the door creaked open. Yori walked over to a stall that was open to a small grass field behind the barn and reached his hand down to pat the animal standing by the stall gate. A beige sheep tilted its head upwards towards the boy, anticipating his arrival.
“Good morning, girl, I’ll come by later on and give you more oats, and maybe a treat too.”
This was his routine every morning. The family could not afford much but they had some sheep and chickens for clothing and eggs. His mother was quite skilled at weaving yarn, and often would sell items in the town.
Yori found his father out in the field plowing, making slow, but thorough progress. His brow was furrowed with effort, sweat already beading on his wrinkled forehead.
It seems like every year the work wears him down faster.
Yori was solemn as he thought about his father, eager to relieve some of the burden.
“Hey dad, need a hand?”
“Oh, morning Yori. I’ll be alright. Your sister’s finishing up her chores, then she’ll whip me into shape.”
His father spoke without taking his eyes off of his tilling. The man wore the same thing he wore every day; torn brown overalls and a beige long-sleeve shirt underneath. A tattered brown hat was tucked into his tan leather belt.
“Haha, don’t let her bug you too long, she needs to practice her magic.”
Yori leaned into his left arm and crossed his arms, passing off his sadness with a joke.
“It’s not long until she’ll be heading off to the Academy in Esaron, right?”
“Yes, I know, but she’s still my little girl. It may be selfish of me, but I want to spend every second I can with her before she goes off to the big city life and leaves us behind.”
Yori’s father looked grave for a moment, then quickly shook his head and continued working. Yori eagerly attempted to cheer his father up.
“It’s ok dad, it won’t kill her to fall a little behind. And she won’t forget us just because she’s been Blessed by the God of Fire. I’m sure she’ll be back to visit as often as possible! You, on the other hand, might just keel over if you don’t let me help you with the plowing.”
Yori did not quite believe his own words, but he smiled reassuringly.
“You might be on to something there.”
The sturdy man finally stopped and looked up at him, wiping moisture from his face with a worn cloth dangling from his waste. A tinge of pain flashed on the man’s face before regaining his composure. His orange hair looked like fire, illuminated by the sun behind him. He fumbled with the cloth, the stiffness in his joints becoming apparent at handling the small item. The small stained cotton fell from his hand, resting on the tilled ground beneath him.
Saddened by how much pain his father was in, Yori immediately bending to retrieve the material for him.
“Thank you, son. How about you go grab Naoki? That boy’s the size of a bear, we’ll be done in no time with his help.”
“Yeah, I’ll do that. I think he enjoys it anyways.”
“Of course he does, he gets to escape that nagging mother of his. Not a hair can be out of place with that woman.”
Yori and his father joked back and forth for a few minutes, both hoping these days could go on forever. The young man reminisced about days spent with his best friend, Naoki. They were often asking the boy if he wanted to help around the farm since he seemed to like it, and his natural strength made Naoki excel at the physical labour.
Naoki’s house was on the other side of town, albeit it was a small town. As Yori walked the short distance it took to get to the abode, he took in the sights and sounds around him as he made the short journey. The sun peaked over the wooden rooftops, bathing them in warm light. Many of the roof slats on the houses in the village were worn but still sturdy. Anyone could tell that care went into building these houses years ago when the area was first inhabited by humans. His eyes wandered to the ladies chatting at the small market, hearing one of them mention his sister. The women noticed him and smiled, then continued their conversation, more guarded than before.
He sighed and rolled his eyes. His little sister was getting quite a bit of unwanted attention, mostly in the form of jealousy from the other villagers.
Ignoring the women now, Yori glanced at the faint glow coming from the floating crystal in the middle of town square. The sky-blue stone hovered over a small garden. The stone was about the size of his head. It glinted in the sunlight with wisps of magic glittering around where the sun struck the stone. The blue glow from the crystal was dampened by the sun beating on it. This was a monster core; the source of the barrier surrounding, and protecting, the small village. Yori was well-aware that no village could survive without one. It alone was credited with allowing humans to create civilizations without being destroyed by the monsters that lurked throughout the world.
As he approached Naoki’s well kept house, Yori quietly wondered whether they would make the time up having an extra person for the day. He was certain that his father had ulterior motives for sending him to visit his friend. Yori’s parents were far too kind and often put too much on themselves for the sake of letting their children relax.
I’m not a boy anymore though. I’ll have to make a life for myself eventually.
If he had received anything other than the Blessing of the Villager, he would already have finished school and would be working on his own, a life his sister had to look forward to.