It was a beautiful day today. Granted, you'd probably hear that so often that you'd just tune it out after a while, but that didn't make it any less true.
It was especially true for the popular 'Crystal Park' of the city of Vale, one of the most popular and often visited places in the whole city.
The sunlight was shining down in rays of bright gold, the birds were chirping and flying through the air. Some of them seeming to dance upon the branches they landed upon, as if expressing their own joy to the world.
Many would consider this just a wonderful day to be alive, to experience the world in all it's beauty.
It was too bad that one person in particular seemed too depressed to appreciate it, walking through the park with a heavy gait.
"Why do I even bother"?
These were the words muttered by one Jaune Arc, sighed out under his breath as he exited the campus grounds of Sentinel Academy, one of the Combat Schools of the City of Vale. For the fifth time in just as many months.
In all honesty, he wasn't even surprised anymore. For crying out loud, why should he be? The instructors themselves told him he hadn't made any visible progress since his first attempt. By all rights he should've just given up already. Hell, some of the more blunt testers told him to his face that he wouldn't make it in.
Oh, but if there was anything the young man had inherited from his parents, it was his stubbornness. A complete refusal to simply let up in the face of something he wanted. And he wanted this. He wanted it so badly it was almost physically painful.
What did he want so badly? Simple. What Jaune Arc wanted, more that anything, was to become a Huntsman. Like his parents, his grandparents, like everyone he had ever admired. To be a paragon and example of Humanity. An embodiment of the Human resolve to never waver or give in. To stand strong against even the most incalculable odds, and emerge victorious!
But it just wasn't to be. No matter how many times he tried, no matter how many times he pushed himself, he just couldn't make the cut. For crying out loud, he was 17! Other prospective Hunters his age had already graduated from their Preparatory Academies and gone onto one of the Graduate Academies, like Beacon or Haven. He, meanwhile, still hadn't managed to pass the requirements to enter his first year at Sentinel.
It was disgraceful. HE was disgraceful. His own family never brought it up, and somewhere deep down he knew they didn't hold it against him, but reality was rarely strong enough to overcome shame unless it was rammed right down your throat. And shame was something Jaune had plenty of right now.
In fact, Jaune was so ashamed he hadn't even noticed where his walk had taken him. Nor had he noticed that at some point he had sat down on a bench in the middle of Crystal Park.
"So", he whispered, looking around at the familiar surroundings. "Looks like I've come back again, huh"?
Crystal Park was one of his favorite spots in the city. It was a large, circular expanse of every shade of green, along with flowers in various hues of red, blue, purple, and many more. A series of paths of marble tiles, gleaming from the falling sunlight lit the way into the center of the Park. The tile roads themselves took the form of five circles, with four paths from North, South, East and West piercing through them to the Parks center. All this leading up to the parks namesake. A large pond with a gigantic crystal, piercing up from the ponds depths like a shining geyser, frozen in time.
Ever since his mom first brought him here, Jaune had always loved to just sit back and relax on one of the benches by the Center, the innermost ring, watching people go by. Watch LIFE go by. Whether it was a businessman on a cellphone, a group of teenagers, a couple looking for a romantic atmosphere, or just some kids with their parents, it was just nice to kick back and watch them all go by in the hustle and bustle of their lives. The park was empty today, but that didn't make the scenery any less beautiful.
Whenever he got depressed, Jaune always came on down here to this very spot to unwind. To slow his thoughts down and just let the peaceful atmosphere wash all of his concerns away, leaving him ready to get back up and keep going.
Too bad it wasn't working this time though. Apparently, even the relaxing atmosphere of Crystal Park just wasn't enough to wash it away this time. A fact made more apparent by his slowly growing depression. The painful thoughts of all that time dreaming of being something MORE soaking in again.
After roughly a half hour, Jaune's mood still hadn't improved. The young man was brooding so fiercely, he didn't even notice he had company until he heard the sound of someone politely clearing their throat on his right, trying to get his attention. Jaune was so surprised that he almost let out what would have been a very embarrassing yelp, before he turned to his soon to be acquaintance.
"Yo," said the man in question. "Mind if I sit here for a bit?" He asked with a friendly smile.
The man stood out so much, Jaune was a little surprised he didn't notice him sooner. He wasn't particularly tall, but he moved with a sort of… confidence, that Jaune had rarely seen before. A confidence that seemed to make him taller than he really was. He wore a Black button-up suit with short sleeves over a white T-Shirt, matching jeans, and shining black dress shoes. On his right wrist was a silver watch, and he wore a pair of sunglasses, for now held in place above his eyes. What Jaune noticed the most, however, was his hair. It was jet black, with a number of almost blindingly bright streaks of blond. Jaune had heard of people with multicolor hair, but they were pretty rare. Before today he had never even met someone with even just two natural colors in their hair, just people who dyed it.
"Let me guess," the man said in a tone that could only be considered playful, "you're wondering about my hair?" In a way that made it all too clear just how familiar he was with reactions just like the one Jaune was having.
For a moment the young Arc just didn't respond, then he froze like a deer in front of somebody's headlights after realizing he was caught. After a very awkward couple of seconds (which seemed more like several minutes in Jaune's mind), he had recovered enough to bring his right hand up to the back of his neck in embarrassment, and his formerly frozen body regained the ability to move.
"Sure", he responded, in a tone he hoped sounded friendly, also hoping he didn't sound too awkward.
The other man just gave a friendly smile before sitting down next to him on the bench, his posture quickly relaxing to the point where Jaune had almost thought he'd fallen asleep. Jaune had always considered himself to be somewhat skilled in the "Art of Lounging", always capable of getting himself into a comfortable position regardless of the place, but this guy casually one-upped him by just sitting on a wooden bench.
'Showoff', Jaune bitterly thought in the back of his mind. He tried and failed to come to this park specifically to relax and let all his worries fade away. Needless to say, he failed, and now this complete stranger came to this very bench to achieve in less than two seconds what he'd been trying to do for thirty minutes! It was like the universe was laughing at him somehow.
For all his bitterness over the matter though, Jaune just wasn't petty enough hold it against the other guy. So, for another five minutes, Jaune also sank back into the bench, trying to imitate his new acquaintance…. And failing.
They both just sat like that for some time. Quiet, one relaxed and the other simply trying to relax. Until the newcomer decided the silence had gone on long enough.
"Depressed, huh?" Straight to the point.
Jaune was so surprised by the sudden question, and more importantly its nature, that he didn't respond for roughly ten seconds.
"Is it really that obvious?" he asked, rather bitterly. The other man either didn't notice his tone, or didn't care, because he continued regardless.
"Not exactly obvious," he said, turning over to Jaune. "But I've been told I'm pretty good at reading people. The trick is to watch the pacing or speed of their movements. When people are feeling depressed, they move around like their legs are bound by prison shackles. Like just moving is hard, and they're carrying a huge weight."
Well, that explained it. Somewhat anyway. Jaune certainly felt like he was being crushed by something, but he never thought it would've been obvious enough for some stranger to pick it up. Just another thought to add further to his depression.
"Guess I shouldn't be surprised," Jaune muttered under his breath. "Hiding it was just another thing I failed at." Yes, it was a petty remark, but Jaune was just feeling petty right now. He came here to escape his worries and concerns, but all this was just making it worse.
"Does it have something to do Sentinel Academy?" the stranger asked in an understanding tone, much to Jaune's surprise.
"Yes." The blond sullenly admitted. He wanted to be angry, he really did. But for some reason he couldn't stay angry at this guy. It wasn't this guy's fault he failed the Sentinel Academy entrance exam five times, it wasn't his fault he was a failure of his family line, none of it was this guy's fault.
"Would you like to talk about it for a moment?" the stranger offered. "I've got time, and I'm a pretty good listener."
Jaune wasn't sure how to respond. It wasn't exactly every day some guy sat down with you on a bench and offered to listen to you spill all your worries and concerns.
"Seriously?" Jaune asked in a tone somewhere between trepidation and…. hope. He couldn't help but wonder if this was all a joke or some dream, but….. but somewhere deep down he really hoped it wasn't. Bottling it all up, hiding it even from his own family, it was just getting painful. So he hoped. He hoped this was real and sincere and that he could finally let it all out.
At the man's nod, that one sign of assurance that he meant what he said, that this was real, Jaune let out a sigh and began to speak.
"My name's Jaune Arc," he started, "you've probably heard about my parents, right? Hunters? Pretty famous too, some of the best. Well, I've always wanted to be like them. I've always wanted to, to…" Jaune hesitated. He wanted to tell someone this so BAD, but could he really just let it all out? In front of someone he barely knew.
But the man beside him didn't mind the pause, didn't mind the hesitation. He just sat there beside him, patiently waiting for Jaune to continue.
He was listening. Really listening. And that was enough for Jaune to continue.
"To be a hero," Jaune continued, after his long pause. "To be a great Huntsman. I guess that's probably nothing new right? I mean, every kid on Remnant grows up hearing stories and legends about great heroes bravely holding back armies of Grimm. Winning the day with perseverance, bravery, and strength of arm. Any kid would want to grow up into someone like that right? But I'm actually the only son of a family of Hunters. This is the sort of thing that's practically expected of me, and….." Jaune hesitated. Could he really say it? Knowing it in his own mind and actually telling someone –a complete stranger, at that- were very different things. Telling this guy would be like laying his every worry on the matter completely bare.
Fortunately, his new acquaintance was capable of finishing that line of thought for him.
"And you're worried you're not living up to everyone's expectations?" the stranger asked, his tone somehow both curious and certain at the same time. "That you're just going to keep failing, over and over, no matter what you do? Because you're just not good enough?"
… 'Ouch'. That hit him hard. It was one thing to know something personally, but for it to be pointed out so bluntly by someone else? That was almost painful.
"…..Yes", the blond Hunter-to-be admitted. "I want to be a Huntsman. More than anything! But I just…. every time I try, I just end up failing and making a fool of myself. EVERY TIME! So now I just think, what's the point?" Jaune questioned. Honestly, he wasn't even sure himself if the question was rhetorical or he really wanted an answer. Did he even want an answer to this kind of question? An answer he already knew? An answer he was sure this guy would say to his face any moment now?
"I mean, seriously?" Jaune morosely questioned, "What can I do at all?"
"You can keep going."
Jaune couldn't think of any other response than that. This guy was telling him to keep going? After everything he'd told him? After everything that happened, he said to keep trying?
Jaune's confusion must've been pretty damn obvious, because the guy went on to continue speaking, as if the only way to continue the conversation was with an explanation. Then again, given Jaune's own shocked stasis it probably was the only way for the talk to continue.
"I believe that the human spirit is indomitable. If you endeavor to achieve, it will happen given enough resolve. It may not be immediate, and often your greater dream is something you will not achieve within your own lifetime. The effort you put forth to anything transcends yourself, for there is no futility even in death."
Jaune couldn't think of a counter to that. This guy said all of that with such certainty, such surety, that Jaune couldn't even begin to doubt it. It just felt impossible to do it, like he'd be lying about some universal law. Could it really be that simple? REALLY!?
"Do you…." Jaune tentatively began, not sure of how to continue.
"Really believe that?" Once again, the mysterious man continued for him, with that same smile on his face. "Yes. I do. Because I've lived it"
Suddenly, Jaune noticed the guy was holding a Scroll model tablet in his right hand, –Where did that come from? - then passed it to Jaune's own numb hands.
"There's a video ready to play on that," he explained. "Watch it for a bit"
Without a word, Jaune did as suggested. It took him a moment to turn on the video and enlarge the playing screen, but then it was ready to play.
Jaune's jaw proceeded to drop as he watched the video, slowly lowering to the ground with every passing minute. He couldn't quite get the context, but that didn't make it any less awesome. From what he could gather this guy in green armor was fighting off a bunch of aliens, taking them down with guns, hand-to-hand, flipping a HUGE jeep…. slamming a grenade into a huge monsters face and – HOLY CRAP! SHOTGUN KUNG-FU! SHOTGUN KUNG-FU!
Then someone else showed up and Jaune's mind proceeded to blank out. He vaguely remembered a bunch of explosions, somebody kicking or throwing a spaceship, the other character taking off her armor –Yes, HER armor-, the two teaming up and one really HUGE explosion at the end.
Needless to say, Jaune's mind was practically blank at the end. He could only keep staring at the screen like someone in a shock induced coma… which, now that he thought about it probably described him pretty accurately at the time. He barely noticed the hand waving in front of his face until he heard a finger-snap.
"Whoa," said the man next to him, Jaune could practically feel the smile from his tone alone. "never got that kind of reaction before."
"Uhhhh," Jaune replied, with the greatest courtesy and elegance he could scrounge up from his almost comatose state of mind. "What… What was that?"
"That," his companion proudly replied, carefully taking back his Scroll, "was my video. Pretty impressive, huh? Not too bad for a High school dropout who never took official classes, right?"
"Wait," Jaune muttered, slowly regaining his mental faculties one by one. "You made this? On your own? Without any classes to start with?" Jaune's surprise was evident on the final sentence. Then again, it was a little hard for someone to hide their shock if their voice shot up a few octaves.
The reply was so relaxed and nonchalant that for a moment, Jaune couldn't think of what to say. What could he say? This guy was showing him some pretty compelling evidence for his claims, but still…..
"Do you really think it would be that simple?" Jaune's voice was low, but the hopeful tone was unmistakable. He wanted to believe this, but Web Animation wasn't exactly the same thing as becoming a Huntsman. It wasn't nearly as dangerous for one thing, or as physically demanding for another. But deep down, he wanted to believe. He wanted to believe he could do it somehow. He was so close to believing it again that he felt he could almost grasp it in his fingers. All he needed was one more push, just one more. And his companion was more than happy to oblige.
"Is anything worth achieving in life really simple?" The man asked. "Is anything in life that you want simply handed to you? Of course there are always risks. Sometimes you fight, struggle and push, only to straight up fail. But that doesn't matter. Because no matter how many times you might screw up, you only have to get it right once"
At those words, the man turned to him, staring Jaune in the face, pinning him in place with his eyes alone.
"The question is," he began, "Do you want it enough?"
Jaune could only answer with one word.
It was a simple answer. Not a hint of his former hesitation or uncertainty. Straightforward and blunt and direct and all he needed to say. It was the only thing he needed to say. More importantly, it was all the affirmation he needed to hear.
The other man seemed to like the answer too, if his smile was any indication.
"There you go, then"
And with that said, he got up and started walking away. Not taking a moment to so much as say goodbye, as if it just wasn't necessary. Like there wasn't anything more for him to do.
As he walked away, however, Jaune felt that it shouldn't end just yet. Not on this note. This guy practically gave him his confidence back and… Wait a minute!
"Hey," he shouted at the man's back from fifteen feet away, "I, uh, never got your name."
The man stopped walking for a moment, just standing in place before turning around with another one of his ever present smiles.
"The name's Monyreak Oum." He shouted back. "But my friends just call me Monty. So can you."
With his name given, the man turned back and just kept walking, Jaune watching until his silhouette faded from sight.
"Thank you," he whispered. He couldn't think of anything else to say, anything else that needed to be said. When he was crushed and scared and worried, this guy had shown up turned his fears upside down. Gave him will to keep on going.
And as he got off the bench to head home, to plan what he would do to achieve his dreams, he knew he would never forget him for it.