A note from Elbowsnapper

Author Note:

Another chapter down, as always if you want to help me out, check out My Patreon, it helps me keep up this crazy pace. Check out my other stories!

Saturday, 5th April 79AGW.
Airship Terminal, Vale.
7:48 AM.

The Airship Terminal wasn’t hard to find, given how many of the metal vehicles were flying towards it.

There were a great many people in the building already, sitting on benches, waiting in queues, or speaking with the counter staff. Lima had been let through right away, likely because his name was listed down as one of the Beacon hopefuls.

He’d come far too early, however, because there was not a single soul in the waiting room. Rather than sit alone in a room for two hours, he headed back out towards the building's café area. There was more than one, and still quite a few tables open at most of them.

Lima ducked into one of them and ordered a coffee, before heading over to where a short boy with light brown hair was sitting.

“Beacon?” Lima asked curiously, and the kid stuttered for a moment before getting himself together.

“Yes! I’m going to Beacon Academy.” The boy squeaked.

“Me too, mind if I sit with you?” Lima grinned.

“No, that’s fine!” He said quickly.

Lima sat down in the booth next to him, so he was facing the crowd walking past the doors.

“What’s your name?” Lima asked when the guy didn’t say anything; instead, he fiddled with his own coffee. “I’m Lima.”

“Oh! My name is Teak.” Teak said, looking faintly embarrassed, “It's nice to meet you, Lima.”

“You too, buddy.” Lima said easily, “I was up half the night trying to figure out what this exam is supposed to be, you got any idea?”

Teak shook his head.

“I was thinking about it too, but there's not enough evidence to pinpoint a specific task.” Teak said quietly, “It’s most likely to be a test of skill, though.”

“Because they already have access to all our book stuff?” Lima asked for clarification.

“Yes, that’s the conclusion I came to.” Teak said in agreement, before looking nervous. “It might not be, though! I could be wrong.”

“It’s all good, your guess is as good as mine, we'll find out tomorrow, I suppose,” Lima said idly, scratching at his cheek. “What’s your tragic backstory, then?”

Teak blinked.

“My what?” Teak said nervously, “I don’t think I have one.”

“Everybody's got one!” Lima said firmly, “You just gotta put the right spin on it; see.”

Lima cleared his throat.

“I was born in a little city outside of Mistral, but then…the Grimm happened.” Lima shook his head sadly, “I ended up in Mistral proper, but then I ran into a Grimm given human form… my guardian; Sage. Ten long years I toiled under his iron rule, and most of that time was spent in Argus, and now I’m here; life is suffering, and yet I do not die.”

“You’re immortal?” Teak asked curiously.

“Of course,” Lima said immediately, “What's your story then, Maple?”

“Teak,” Teak corrected embarrassedly, “Um. I was born in Vale, my father was a Faunus, but my mother is human. It’s just my mother and me now… I didn’t go to a combat school, and I got in on recommendation because I got perfect marks on the NCS tests. I’m not immortal, and I’m really worried I’ll fail the exam.”

“Interesting backstory,” Lima said thoughtfully, “I have two questions; What the hell is the NCS?”

“That’s only one question,” Teak said, confused, “It’s the Non-Combat-School test; if you score above a certain percentage, you can apply for one of the Academies.”

Lima nodded thoughtfully.

“I didn’t know that; I have four more questions,” Lima said, holding up three fingers. “Is your Aura unlocked, and is your Aura unlocked?”

“That’s only two questions! And you said the same thing twice, so it’s really only one.” Teak laughed before shaking his head. “If you pass the NCS exam, you meet with an instructor who unlocks your Aura.”

“So, you’re worried because you don’t know how to use it?” Lima asked curiously.

“Yeah…” Teak said quietly, “I’ve never really been in a fight, either.”

“Don’t worry about it; fighting is easy.” Lima assured him, “You got a weapon?”

Teak nodded and leaned forward; he had a segmented piece of metal in a holster on the small of his back. It looked like it might be a sword of some kind; he could see a barrel near one end of it as well; Sword-gun of some kind, he corrected.

“It’s a rifle and a sword.” Teak said worriedly. “I think I’ll stick to using the rifle though; I’ve had a little bit of practice with those.”

“Nonsense,” Lima said immediately, “We fight like manly men here in Vale, you just gotta stick the pointy bit in the Grimm, avoid the bone plates because they can be pretty durable.”

Lima nodded as if this solved all of the guy's problems, but Teak didn’t seem very reassured.

“I’ve lived here all my life, but I don’t feel very manly,” Teak argued weakly. “Besides, you’re not even from Vale; you said you were from Anima.”

“It’s a trait you pick up after a certain amount of time spent here,” Lima insisted.

“Oh, how long have you been here?” Teak asked, surprised.

“Since yesterday,” Lima said cheerfully.

“I’m doomed.” Teak mumbled, slumping back in his chair.

“You’ll be fine,” Lima said easily, “If the exam is something we can group up in, I’ll give you a hand, alright? You seem like a pretty cool guy.”

“T-thanks,” Teak said faintly embarrassed, “You don’t have to though, that’s not really fair on you.”

“What?!” Lima cried, and Teak jumped in his seat hard enough to hit the tabletop with his knees. “Are you denying me friendship at what could be the most important moments of our lives?!”

“N-no!” Teak squeaked, “I just didn’t want to slow you down!”

“Fantastic,” Lima laughed, “Don’t worry so much, with your giant brain, and my gigantic balls, we will ace this test no problem, Willow.”

“Um,” Teak protested, “My name is Teak?”

“Right, sorry about that,” Lima said solemnly, “I’ll make sure to remember it next time, Mahogany.”

“You’re totally doing that on purpose!” Teak squeaked.

He couldn’t prove anything.

Saturday, 5th April 79AGW.
Airship, Vale.
9:03 AM.

Lima leaned against the interior wall of the Airship as it rose into the air.

“Phew,” Lima said, relieved, “We barely made it, Teak.”

“We were here two hours early,” Teak said, amused, “I don’t think we could have not made it.”

“Semantics,” Lima said idly, staring out the window as the City of Vale fell away from them. “Damn, this place looks even bigger from above.”

“Yeah,” Teak said simply, joining him by the window.

Teak had probably already seen it before, seeing as he lived here, but it was still nothing to sneeze at.

“Lima?” A familiar voice called from behind them.

“Pawpaw!” Lima grinned, turning around.

It was indeed Pyrrha Nikos, dressed in full combat gear; she even had a flappy red tail-skirt thing hanging off the back of her armor, that was new.

“You look like you about to go to war,” Lima said, amused.

Pyrrha laughed lightly.

“Who knows what the instructors at Beacon Academy have in store for us?” Pyrrha said happily, “It might very well be a combat test of some kind.”

Well, she wasn’t wrong.

“This is Teak,” Lima clapped his hand on the short boy’s shoulder and pushed him up beside him. “He’s the strongest Faunus in Vale; you should totally fight him.”

Teak stared at him in horror.

“Really?” Pyrrha said with interest, studying Teak. “It’s nice to meet you, Teak, my name is Pyrrha.”

“Don’t listen to him; I’m not the strongest!” Teak squeaked red-faced. “I don’t even know how to fight yet-It’s nice to meet you too, Pyrrha. I’ve seen some of your fights.”

Teak turned to glare up at him, but it washed off him like it wasn’t even there.

“Sorry, I meant the smartest Faunus in Vale,” Lima said sheepishly, “A battle of the wits is what he truly desires.”

“Stooop.” Teak groaned.

Pyrrha laughed again.

“Do not worry, Teak; I spent several days on a train with him. I know exactly what he’s like.” Pyrrha said reassuringly, “You said you are unaccustomed to battle-does that mean you applied through the NCS?”

Lima pouted.

“Um, yes, I did.” Teak admitted, “I didn’t think I would actually be selected, though.”

“You must have scored quite highly in that case,” Pyrrha said, impressed.

“Perfect marks, apparently.” Lima grinned at Teak's embarrassment. “He’s going to help me cheat on all the exams in exchange for being his bodyguard.”

“That’s not true, either!” Teak cried immediately.

Pyrrha’s amused response was interrupted by the window suddenly lighting up; a projection of a blonde woman appeared on almost every pane of glass in the Airship.

“Hello, and welcome to Beacon; My name is Glynda Goodwitch.” Glynda said pleasantly, “You are among those who are privilege enough to have been selected to attend this prestigious academy. Our world is experiencing an incredible time of peace, and as you all hold the potential to become powerful Huntsmen and Huntresses, it is your duty to uphold that peace. You have all demonstrated the dedication, knowledge, and character needed for such a task, and now it is our turn to provide you with the training and skill to protect our world from those who would wish its destruction. ”

“Fucking Grimm,” Lima mumbled under his breath.

Pyrrha glanced at him for a moment before turning back, but projection winked out of existence a moment later. A tall blonde boy stumbled passed some of the other students looking distinctly ill, and barely a moment later, he threw up in the corner of the Airship.

“Gross,” Lima laughed, before moving towards the poor guy. “You alright, buddy?”

“I’ve been better-” The boy heaved again.

Lima pulled his small backpack around and pulled the thread keeping it closed. He pulled out the bottle of water he had bought at the café, pretty fucking expensive for a water of all things, and uncapped the lid. He stuck it in the boy's face once he was done throwing up, and he took it after a moment of hesitation.

“Thanks...” He said gratefully, “How long will this flight take again?”

“Ten more minutes?” Lima guessed.

The boy just groaned.

Saturday, 5th April 79AGW.
Landing Zone, Beacon.
9:22 AM.

Beacon was an interesting feat of construction, at least Lima thought so.

It had many towers, with the largest being situated right in the middle; all of them connected together with a ringed web of buildings. The courtyard they had been dropped off in was a large intersection of paved pathways, with fountains dotted around the area. The more interesting view was the City of Vale from up so high, though, and he spared a couple of minutes just taking it all in happily.

“Teak, we are definitely going base jumping,” Lima said firmly.

“What?” Teak squeaked, “Into the river? That sounds like a terrible idea!”

Even Pyrrha looked a bit hesitant at the idea; Jaune just looked like he wanted to throw up again.

“What about you, Jaune?” Lima asked curiously. “You afraid of a little water?”

“I’m afraid of going splat,” Jaune said honestly. “Are you joking-you’re totally serious.”

“Pyrrha, how about you?” Lima said cheekily, “Are you DTF?”

Jaune let out a startled laugh while Pyrrha turned to face him with raised eyebrows.

“Lima!” Teak yelped, unable to find the words. “Lima!”

“You did that on purpose,” Pyrrha said, amused, “Down to fall, I presume?”

“I could see myself falling for you, sure.” Lima snickered. “We should probably go for coffee first, though.”

Pyrrha just shook her head.

“I’ll think about it-” Pyrrha said, amused.

An explosion went off a little way down the pathway, and Lima had his bow out and pointed in the direction before he realized what had even happened, he paused before pressing his spike back into the quiver. The white-haired girl from earlier and another girl with a red cloak were sitting amongst a mess of luggage, covered in soot.

“Holy crap,” Jaune said, surprised, “That’s Weiss Schnee.”

“Yeah.” Teak nodded from beside them.

“For a second there, I thought the Exam had started early,” Lima admitted, compressing his bow back down to its folded form.

Pyrrha had her hand wrapped around her own sword but had stopped before drawing it.

“An accident with Burn-Dust?” Pyrrha said curiously. “Neither of them looks hurt.”

“Should I go talk to her?” Jaune asked urgently. “I’m going to go talk to her.”

Jaune strode forward with another word.

“Huh,” Lima said, amused, “He’s really going for it.”

“I’m surrounded by the fearless.” Teak complained.

Pyrrha smiled at the boy.

“I’m not fearless,” Pyrrha confessed, “I don’t think anyone is really.”

Lima nodded in agreement, watching as Jaune approached the two girls.

“How do you think this is going to go?” Lima asked curiously.

“Hm?” Pyrrha asked curiously, “Jaune seems very nice. I’m sure he’ll be-oh.”

Jaune sat down next to the red-cloaked girl in defeat, and the white-haired menace flounced away without another word.

“Crash and burn, huh?” Lima snickered. “You can’t win them all, I suppose.”

Saturday, 5th April 79AGW.
Amphitheater, Beacon.
9:39 AM.

Lima stood amongst the throng of students, all facing the two instructors up on the stage. One of them was the woman who had made the announcement on the Airship, Glynda Goodwitch; the other was the famous headmaster of Beacon; Ozpin.

The white-haired man surveyed them all with a searching gaze for a long moment before he finally spoke.

“I’ll keep this brief.” Ozpin said steadily, “You have all got your own motivations for coming here, for coming to Beacon. To hone your skills, to learn new ones, to find meaning in a purpose that is so integral to the functioning of our society, to dedicate your lives to protecting those who cannot save themselves.”

Lima listened to the man intently, the way he spoke, it had a quality to it that he hadn’t heard before, almost like a hidden weight behind the words.

“While each of you has unique motivations for being here, I see two commonalities within you all.” Ozpin said firmly, “You are all filled with an abundance of wasted energy, and you are all in need of guidance-of direction.”

A girl who was standing almost next to him, with long blonde hair and a smattering of black scales around her temple, mumbled something under her breath, but Lima couldn’t hear what she had said over the general noise of the crowd.

“You assume that time or knowledge will free you of this curse, but I assure you all,” Ozpin slowly drew his eyes over the crowd. “Your time here will prove that either of these things alone can only carry you so far; It is up to you to take that first step.”

“Thank you,” Glynda said pleasantly, once the man had stepped away from the podium. “You will all gather in the Ballroom tonight. Tomorrow, your initiation exam will begin, so gather your resolve. You are now free to explore the grounds, for those who choose to remain; I will be providing a tour. Consider yourselves dismissed.”

Saturday, 5th April 79AGW.
Ballroom, Beacon.
8:07 PM.

“Lima?” Teak asked curiously. “Why’d you come all the way to Beacon?”

“Why-you don’t want me here? Is that it!” Lima cried, “I thought we were friends, Teak! The betrayal; it stings!”

Teak held his hands up in a panic, looking around at the other potentials that were now staring at them.

“That’s not it!” Teak squeaked, “I do want to be friends! I was just wondering since Argus is so far away!”

“You want me to go far away!?” Lima cried, trying not to laugh. “Teak!?”

“No!” Teak cried overwhelmed, “I-I just-”

“Will you two stop making so much noise!” The white-haired girl from earlier hissed from behind him. “People are trying to sleep-”

“Teak!” Lima cried in shock, “Look! They let an old woman in! What is Beacon thinking?!”

“L-Lima,” Teak said weakly, “That’s not-”

“Old woman!?” The girl squawked, “I’m seventeen!”

Teak looked like he wanted the floor to rise up and consume him.

“Liar!” Lima said immediately, doubling down. “Your hair’s all gray! How’d you hide your wrinkles, you old crone!”

“What is going on here!” Professor Goodwitch exclaimed, striding towards them.

“Professor!” The white-haired girl said, surprised.

“Bestwitch!” Lima cried, “I’m glad you’re here, this old lady somehow managed to sneak into Beacon! We’ve got to do something about this; I think she’s using her semblance to hide her wrinkles, don’t let it fool you though, look at her hair!”

“You!” The white hair girl squeaked angrily, unable to bring herself to even.

“What did you just call me?!” Professor Goodwitch said incredulously.

“Sorry, Excellentwitch,” Lima said sheepishly, “Did I get your name wrong?”

Teak groaned into his hands, looking like nothing more than a tomato.

“Goodwitch.” Professor Goodwitch said archly, “Now, why are you all yelling?”

“This boy-” The white-haired girl hissed.

“Lima-” Teak squeaked nervously.

“Me!” Lima cried triumphantly.

“Enough.” Goodwitch said dryly, “Just keep it down. If I have to come over here again, the three of you will be sleeping outside.”

The three of them remained silent as she turned on her heel and strode away.

“Idiot!” The white-haired girl muttered, “We haven’t even taken the exam yet, and you’ve already antagonized an instructor.”

“Yeah? Well, you know what?” Lima said, grinning, “Teak! Tell her.”

“W-what?” Teak said nervously, “I don’t know what you want me to say.”

“You heard him, old nanner; and let that be a lesson to you,” Lima said firmly.

“He didn’t say anything!” The girl hissed quietly, at the same time as Teak groaned, “But I didn’t say anything?”

“And I’m not old.” The girl growled. “Do you know who I am?”

“Why would I know who some random girl from Vale is?” Lima asked incredulously. “Have you seen how big this place is?”

“U-um, we saw her earlier, remember?” Teak mumbled, “Lima, that’s Weiss Schnee..”

Lima waited for the boy to explain why he should know the name, but he just looked increasingly awkward. Weiss was giving Teak the side-eye as well, which might have contributed to his sudden refusal to speak up.

“Never heard of her,” Lima said honestly.

Weiss scrunched her face up.

“It doesn’t matter,” Weiss snapped, “Just-just keep it down.”

“What are you, Magnificentwitch’s echo?” Lima said, amused.

“Ugh!” Weiss huffed before she stormed off red-faced.

“Lima…” Teak pleaded. “Everyone is going to hate us!”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Oak,” Lima said easily, dropping down to lay on his sleeping bag. “We haven’t met everyone yet.”

Teak looked more worried than reassured but sat down on his own sleeping bag.

“I was the one being a dickhead.” Lima said curiously as he threaded his hands behind his head. “Why was she giving you the evil eye?”

Teak hugged his knees to his chest and hesitated for a moment.

“Probably because I’m a Faunus,” Teak said quietly, “Have you heard of the White Fang?”

“Fighting the good fight against tooth decay?” Lima joked, “I’ve seen the name before, a group of Faunus who used to be all about the peaceful protests for equality, but have recently dropped the peaceful descriptor?”

“Yeah, they have a bad history with the SDC,” Teak mumbled, “So I can understand why she doesn’t like me.”

“What’s she got to do with the-Oh!” Lima blinked. “Schnee Dust Company, I’m an idiot.”

Teak just nodded.

“Why would she just assume you’re a part of the White Fang?” Lima asked strangely.

“Because I’m a Faunus?” Teak said, confused.

Lima rolled his eyes at the guy.

“Obviously you’re a Faunus, I could tell by the ears,” Lima rolled his eyes, “The White Fang is what, a few thousand Faunus at most? There have to be millions of Faunus in Vale. Does she give every Faunus she comes across the evil eye of White Fang Detection?”

“Well, I don’t think its that simple,” Teak said slowly, “I know that humans have treated my kind badly in the past, my grandparents lived through some of the really bad stuff, and my father…I know that when I meet a human, I’m always wary at first, I know it's not really fair it’s just…”

Lima held up a hand.

“No, you’re right, I get it; You’ve been told all your life about the things that could happen to you-the, things that did happen to the Faunus, so it colors your perception-rightfully so in this case.” Lima nodded, “That makes perfect sense to me, but you shouldn’t-sorry-I personally believe that you should treat people as individuals first, judge them by the things they do, not by the stereotypes of some category you think they belong to, you know?”

“I agree,” Teak smiled, but kept his eyes on the ground. “I know that I have biases about humans, so I try to keep them in mind when things like this happen; that’s why I don’t really blame Weiss for being suspicious, I can follow the chain of thought she used to arrive there.”

“Yeah,” Lima nodded, “Doesn’t mean she gets to glare at you for looking a little bit different; if you can empathize with someone to that extent, there's no reason she wouldn’t be capable of the same thing.”

“I suppose it just means shes never needed to confront it,” Teak admitted. “Circumstance and your immediate environment does a lot to shape you as a person, as well as the people that you interact with most, even if it's sometimes hard to see just how much.”

Lima stared up at the chandelier hanging from the ceiling; it glittered in the darkened room. He thought about how he used to be before Sage had saved him. Alone, angry, and hateful. He’d grown a lot since then, but he knew he still had a long way to go.

That was something Sage had taught him, and he took it to heart.

There was always more to learn, you could always be better, and no matter the opposition you faced, as long as you kept on moving forward, eventually you’d find the next foothold.

“Yeah,” Lima agreed, “Besides, this is just the beginning, Teak, we’ve all got room to grow.”

“You’re a lot more thoughtful then I thought you were,” Teak admitted. “Especially after, well pretty much the entire day.”

“Want to know a secret?” Lima laughed quietly.

Teak watched him quietly before nodding fractionally in the dark.

“I’m not immune to the pressure of everything, despite the brave face I put up.” Lima said honestly, “When I’m uncomfortable, scared, or just upset, I tend to up the ante, call it a bad habit, or a defense mechanism.”

“Ah..” Teak said quietly, “You seem so confident, though; I wish I could be like that.”

“Comparing yourself to others is the real mind-killer; besides, confidence isn’t real,” Lima laughed to himself. “Most people who seem confident have just as little idea at what they are doing as the rest of us, but if you pretend like you’ve got it all under control, well the impression of confidence really does tend to become it.”

“I’ve heard that saying before,” Teak said quietly, “Fake it until you make it, right?”

Lima just nodded.

“You know what I think the real problem with comparing yourself to everyone around you? In my experience at least,” Limma said thoughtfully, “It's not that you don’t think you’re good enough, or that you don’t have what it takes to do what they can; I think the real problem is when you start to model everyone around you as perfect people-no, perfect actors.”

Teak had laid down on his side now and was watching him quietly.

“Define perfect actors,” Teak said curiously.

Lima tried to put into words what had mostly been something he had believed but never really examined in depth.

“You said I seem so confident, but what you were really thinking was, ‘Lima exists in that confident state at all times.’ Or ‘Lima is never not confident.’” Lima said slowly, “Your mental model of me, it was of a person who is always confident; but that’s not how people work, Teak. I’m not the embodiment of the trait ‘confidence,’ I’m just a person who is sometimes confident.”

They were quiet for a moment, and the murmurs of the others nearby continued uninterrupted.

“I think I understand,” Teak said quietly, “You are saying that I’m comparing myself to an idealized form of you. I want to be ‘Lima, the person who is always confident,’ instead of ‘Lima, a person who is capable of being confident.’”

“That’s it, more or less,” Lima nodded, “Now scale that idea out to every single person you compare yourself to, a network of thousands of people who you subconsciously view as an idealized form of their most prominent trait. How could you ever be good enough, Teak? There's a person who is better at that thing you’re thinking of right now in every direction you look, you’ve lost the competition before it's even begun.”

“That makes a scary amount of sense to me.” Teak said quietly, “It’s almost like a blind spot. Nobody is going to reveal that they aren’t perfect either, so you only ever see the victories, at least when it's controllable.”

Lima nodded in agreement.

“So, the secret is pretty easy once you figure it out,” Lima stage whispered, “Want to know what it is?”

“Yes,” Teak admitted.

“Everyone around is someone who is just trying to keep their head above the water,” Lima said easily. “Just like you and me, they’re just better at hiding it.”


About the author


Bio: I’m a fantasy author from Australia, and if I were to describe my work in a single sentence it would be; Realism contained within an unrealistic backdrop. I aim to put out high-quality, original, long-form written content that will entertain, and engage you. Expect dark themes, characters making costly mistakes, and unreliable narrators.

My standard process starts by releasing draft chapters to my Patreon, and then to everybody else online. Once the story is completed, I convert it into a more conventional eBook. I also routinely go back and revise, edit and enhance my older work as I improve as a writer.

I now have a website that has links to all of my original works to date.

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