“You know,” stated the teacher “I have always said that the world would not be kind to you. You will have to fight an unjust system and all kinds of monsters masquerading as men, knowing that you, being a single unit fighting a system, a single soul wrestling with the universe, are severely disadvantaged. There will be times when your best will not be enough, when trying hard will mean nothing if you do not succeed. You will have to be tough beyond what human softness you may possess. Because the world does not care for your struggles. It is win or lose, live or die, but—” he stopped, drawing in a sharp breath.
Behind his half-rimmed spectacles,blue eyes narrowed in on the boy. The teacher’s mouth was drawn in a thin, taut line and for the life of him, the boy could not discern what the hard,scrutinising look meant. He feared that it meant he was in trouble. He dreaded the idea that perhaps…perhaps he had shown weakness. Or worse yet. Perhaps he had shown himself to be irreparably weak, broken. Perhaps…and he dared not think it was true, he had let the man down.
The latter, with his strong, set shoulders, slicked back grey hair and the usual cunning look in his eyes, did not help any and made him want to croak an apology and then run far, so far into himself that there could be no way back.
The older man’s eyes softened, their blueness now calming, a bit like the sea on a beautiful day.
“But there are cases where the mere act of fighting is victory in itself. The darkness you fight here—” he remarked, tapping his wrinkled finger against the boy’s beating heart, “is an example of that.”
“I do not say this lightly. You are strong, my boy. Whether you win or lose, it is your refusal to give in to these dark times which makes you strong. And even if the battle never ends, this is already a sign of victory. This is you reclaiming what is yours, even if you may never get it back the same.”
And then, something happened.
The old man smiled at him.
And in that moment, the boy knew that what he was doing was right. He knew with a burning conviction that people were strong not because they had no weaknesses, but because they fought to rise above them.