Story 4 The Prizeless Competition
A prize-less competition
Kara began to ponder how she would start her tale.
Satisfied with her train of thought, Kara commenced:
‘As you know, I travelled to the Tomato World last year to attend a 3-month summer course. During my study, I joined a ‘prize-less’ competition in school and ended up being number one.’
An b, No. 8 and Super N could not help expressing their disbelief.
‘You were number one? We never realized you were so crafty.’
‘Of course, there was no doubt I’d end up at the top. After all, I was the only participant.’
The friends burst out laughing.
Kara continued her story:
‘The competition sought an answer to a single question. They asked me this:
“Determine what the strongest thing in the world is in one day.”
‘Once I heard the question, I resolved to find my French teacher – Professor Bonjour.’
Professor Bonjour was born in the Sweet Potatoes World. A 60 years old brown French bull dog, Bonjour has been teaching French in the Tomato World for 30 years. To him, the Tomato World is his home.
The professor’s office was located on the second floor of the school. Kara politely knocked on the door and Professor Bonjour kindly ushered her to come in. In his office laid a big sofa and a dining table in the middle of the room. Above the fire place, there was an oil painting with colours and shapes that eluded any form of decipherment. As Kara looked out the window, a faint sense of nostalgia came over her.
Upon seeing Kara, Professor Bonjour gently asked what he can do for her. Kara told him the whole story and asked if he would lend his diamond ring to her. After all, everyone knows diamond is the strongest material in the whole world; surely this was the answer that the competition sought?
The professor’s ring was the heirloom of his family which he wore every day. The ring was not merely a decoration, but also served as a communication device to contact his whole tribe. He simply needed to ask “Where is xx?” and the location of that family member would appear on the ring.
Professor Bonjour laughed and said:
‘Unfortunately, diamonds are far too exuberant and expensive for my family; the ring I have here is merely glass. However, contrary to your expectations, diamond is not the strongest thing in the world at all.’
Putting the ring back on after showing it to Kara, the professor continued:
‘I’d like to hazard a guess and say that the strongest thing in the world should be the Sun. After all, is there anything in the world that cannot be melted by the Sun? Perhaps you ought to go and examine the Sun.’
Kara was confused by the professor’s suggestion and replied:
‘But the Sun is far up in the sky. How is it possible to even reach it?’
‘On the contrary, the Sun high up above us is controlled by Mr. Sun, who resides on Earth. In fact, he just lives right next to our village. Quite an aptly named fellow, is he not?’
Kara has met Mr Sun on several occasions. He sometimes came to the school to share a meal or play chess with Professor Bonjour. In fact, Mr. Sun was the first student that Professor Bonjour taught when he began his teaching career.
Kara asked Professor Bonjour how she could find Mr. Sun. Professor Bonjour replied:
‘Take the boat off near the school’s river and get off at the third pier. You’ll see his house right when you walk off the pier.’
Kara said goodbye to Professor Bonjour and rushed off to the boat. Once the boat arrived at its destination, Kara hurriedly jumped onto the pier.
This Pier was more or less the same as any other pier. The only difference was that an orange glittering powder covered the entire wooden floor of the pier. To Kara, the floor was reminiscent of the color of an afternoon sunset. Although the place was close to the coast, nonetheless a blazing heat bore down the pier. Braving through the heat, Kara continued walking off the pier. A few minutes later, two mountains suddenly came within sight.
The mountains surmounted any that Kara has seen in splendor and height. The peaks seemingly reached endlessly into the sky, as if they were the pillars that held the entirety of the sky upon their masses. Kara walked around the mountains but was unable to discern any path that could cut straight across the towering mountains.
As Kara began to curse her inability to traverse the obstacle in front her, by a stroke of luck she found several long strands of seaweed on the ground.
‘If I can tie these seaweeds together, then surely I’ll be able to climb over the mountains.’
As she began tying the seaweeds together however, a miraculous event occurred.
Kara’s fingers immolated into a mass of flames as her eyes turned into a bright silver. A few moments later, the seaweed she was holding in her hands bounded themselves into a single formation. As the material continued to morph, Kara steadily reshaped the mold into a long, thin rope.
Not long after, she begun observing the mountain in front of her, looking for any outcroppings or ledges. After finding a suitable place, she swung her rope like a lasso and threw it to the outcropping, fastening the rope to the rock as it spun around. Tying the rope around her waist, Kara prepared herself for the ascent. She set her hands and feet on fire once again, and as she put begun climbing, the places where her limbs touched melted into molten rock, forming a strong adhesive as she continued scaling the towering obstacle.
Kara’s hands and feet creaked as she pushed herself to continuing scaling the mountain. The combination of the immense heat bearing down on her body as well as the fury of the wind throwing her balance off almost made Kara lapse into unconsciousness, but she nevertheless strengthened her will and continued forward.
After what seemed like an eternal climb, Kara at last reached the mountain top. The view there was spectacular; the overbearing Sun was so close that it seems as though you could simply reach over to touch its fiery surface. As Kara began to consider how she would descend from the mountain, another unexpected event occurred.
An elevator suddenly appears in front of Kara. Bearing no second thoughts, she stepped onto the elevator and after a short while, it began its descent towards the foot of the mountain.
Not long after the elevator completed its journey, Kara immediately fell to the floor. The climb had drained her stamina entirely, removing her strength to even walk, let alone stand up. As she laid on the floor, a shadow began to creep up on the floor next to her.
Using all remnants of her strength to strain her head towards the direction of the shadow, she was greeted by the sight of a long mane of red hair that unraveled in the air like the opening curtains at the opening of a play. Few in the Sweet Potato world could mistake the stoic yet gentle visage of the lion known as Mr. Sun.
Kara wanted to stand up and greet the unexpected visitor but lacked the strength to do so; instead, all she could do was throw at smile at the imposing figure of Mr. Sun as her form of greeting.
Sun appeared to have understood what happened to Kara. He decided to remain silent and instead pass a glass of water, a piece of bread and a handkerchief to Kara. Without any opportunity to say thank you, she immediately wolfed down her meal.
When he saw that Kara had finished the meal, Mr. Sun began speaking:
‘I’ve heard the whole story from the professor already. He said that you needed to find the strongest thing in the world, is that true? And both you and the professor gave the sun as your answers?’
Kara gave a firm nod to Mr. Sun, which prompted the lion to burst into laughter:
‘And that is why you came to me? Then I must offer my sincerest apologies; though I share the same surname with our great star, it does not mean I am the sun itself; nor do I have the ability to control it. I’m not sure what the professor’s aims are in sending you to my household, but it would appear he has not changed ever in the slightest. The old man really ought to watch his age.’
Kara started to cry when she realized the answer couldn’t be found here. She then asked Mr. Sun:
‘Do you know what it is? The strongest in the world?’
Mr. Sun in return threw a glance at Kara and cocked his head to the side. He smiled but was unable to provide a response. Scratching his head, the lion said:
‘Truly, I would love nothing more than to correct the mistakes committed by that professor; unfortunately, I must profess that I cannot provide a concrete answer to your question. Regardless, it’s beginning to get dark soon and the last boat will leave the pier in two hours. You should hurry and make your way to the pier now.’
Though let down by his reply, Kara nonetheless agreed with Mr. Sun. Although she would have a hard time winning the competition at this rate, it was important to return to school safe and on time. She promptly rose up and began to look around the floor. Mr. Sun observed at Kara with a curious gaze and asked her what she was doing. Kara replied she was looking for seaweed to make a rope for the climb over the mountain.
After hearing her reason, Mr. Sun attempted to stifle his laughter in vain; when he finished, he roared so loudly that it echoed between the mountains. Kara felt the earth shaking but soon realized the source was not Mr. Sun’s intense roar but rather from something rumbling below. The very same elevator that brought her down from the mountain suddenly reappeared!
Mr. Sun held Kara’s hand and said:
‘I was wondering how you were able to traverse those mountains. Color me surprised that you managed to use seaweed to scale your way up those cliffs! But don’t worry. I won’t make you go the same way. This here is my very own elevator. I just need to give a roar and it will appear anywhere, no matter the place. Let’s go to the Pier together.’
Kara gave a big thank you to Mr. Sun and asked curiously:
‘Can the elevator come out from the Sea?’
Mr. Sun replied:
‘Of course, as long as I roar. Whether the elevator is at the bottom of the sea or at the top of a mountain, it will respond to my call. You could say it’s like my personal butler.’
As they stepped onto the elevator, Kara could see hear the elevator rumbling as it comes alive. As she peered out of the only window, she could see that they were already at the peak of the mountain in mere minutes. The elevator skirted the cliffs and descended down on the other side of the mountain. Without much effort, they passed the mountains and walked towards the pier.
‘Thanks for the food and bringing me to the Pier. See you soon.’
Mr Sun replied with a smile:
‘I also look forward to our next meeting.’
Before the sky could become darker, Kara arrived at the entrance of the school. In front of the entrance stood Miss Swan with an anxious grimace who happened to be the judge for the competition. When she saw Kara, however, all her fears instantly dissipated as she ran towards Kara with a packed lunch box.
Miss Swan asked:
‘Did you manage to find the strongest thing in the world?’
As Kara ate her lunch box, she relived her adventures with Miss Swan.
‘I am sorry, Miss Swan. I lost; I wasn’t able to find the strongest thing in the world.’
Miss Swan smiled and replied:
‘You believe that you have you lost? On the contrary, I think you came out of those mountains with something greater than you can imagine.’
Kara could not understand her and simply gave her a dumbfounded look.
Miss Swan continued:
‘Nothing is eternal in the world. Memento Mori, as those before us would say. Even the strongest change with the unbreakable flow of time; we often hear that “diamonds are forever”, but in truth, they too will pass into nothing despite maintain their form far beyond our own lifetimes.’
‘However, we do not use this fact simply as a way to continue our lives without purpose or effort just because everything will inevitably return to nothing. We should use this knowledge to live each and every day to the fullest regardless of what lies in the end; I think your little
trek today proves that very notion. If there really is something timeless in this world, then it would be the unwavering will of people like you to push onward regardless of the obstacles or outcome. You might think you have lost here today, but I wanted to prove the contrary right here.’
As she continued, Miss Swan handed out a gold medal to Kara.
‘You are the victor of this competition.’
As Kara concluded her story, everybody was eager to take a peek at her gold medal. Kara replied:
‘It was just a piece of chocolate and I finished it on spot.’
Everybody started laughing again and as they went on, time flew in a flash and the sun began to rise.
An b then mumbled with a yawn:
’We must be quite tired. How about we go home and see what breakfast Mum has prepared for us?’
Everyone agreed and began to stand up. Leaving the tent unpacked in their garden, they walked straight back into the kitchen.
As they walked across the garden, Mr. Sun, high up in the sky, looked at them from above and could not help but carry a broad smile.