Three o'clock early in the morning.
At the competition hall, a man dressed as a repairman with a tool bag was checking the numbers on the table. Number two was his target and found it. He traced back the gas pipes connected to the main LPG(Liquefied Petroleum Gas) tanks. At the worktable, the man used a knife to puncture the pipe connected to the stove. This would be a disaster if someone used the burner and the gas would suction the fire into the whole tank. An explosion would be imminent.
As the man was about to stand up and leave, a heavy hand hit the back of his neck. He fell unconscious. His body collapsed on the floor. The bulky man, a man sent by Clyde's bodyguard, carried the 'repairman' on his back and dropped him into the car trunk. This car found its way to a hut in the secluded part of the mountains.
Inside the hut was another man on the lookout. He wasn't as bulky as the driver but his sculpted arms somewhat could thrust a chicken in one go. The 'food server' had been inside bound securely to a long pole in the middle of the hut and was sleeping soundly.
The bulky man went back to the hotel and informed the front desk of a leaking gas in the competition venue. He led the true repairman to worktable number two. Thanks to this unseen hero, the pipe was good as new while the participants were fast asleep. His actions saved the participants, most of all, Beauty's team from a possible danger.
Sunlight kissed the dew on the ground and announced to everyone that it was morning. Cathy was uneasy knowing the sabotage had taken place; however had no idea though that it was foiled. Today, her team and Beauty's would meet in another round of team elimination.
Team #2 lost one member. Other participants were wondering where the last member be, nevertheless, it wasn't necessary to ask or to know. The competition must go on.
Out of 20 teams, 8 teams were to compete in the next round, that would be 40 persons. Somehow, without Candice merely 39 people persisted. Individual elimination would start and the teams would continue to exist. From 39 participants, 8 people would advance, but 4 persons would move to semi-finals and the last two would face the final round to determine the regional champion. However, the rules allowed that a dark horse could be chosen as the third finalist if the judges wished. Nonetheless, the 8 participants who would go through the semi-finals had secured their position as regional representatives to the national level.
This morning, four teams were facing the judges. Each team member must give their best to be among the eight individuals for the semi-finals cementing their position to go to the national competition.
Cathy and Beauty's team were to fight against each other today.
"Good morning, everyone. Today we will commence the individual elimination but you would still be in your teams. The judges will choose among you who can give us a surprise. So the theme for today is 'Surprise'. Surprise us with what you've got. Each team will provide us with a surprising lunch. Remember, this is the judges' lunch. You have 2 hours for that. Ready? The timer starts…now."
The four members of Team #2 gathered and planned their strategy.
"I suggest each of us will cook a dish," suggested Jimmy.
"Jim, I think we need to understand the whole point. This is a complete meal with appetizer, entree, and dessert, not a smorgasbord," said Luisa.
"I agree with Luisa. We can't just cook anything we like." Beauty said because this was what she understood from the judges' statements.
"Okay, what do you suggest?" asked Jimmy.
"How about you assign the work, same as yesterday," added Beauty.
Jimmy felt unsure for others might blame him if things went wrong and they lose. "Hmm, how 'bout a lottery?"
"How about each of us choose what we want, whether appetizer, entree or dessert?" This time Luisa spoke up for she knew her specialty, sweets.
"Draw lots, no blaming," said Justin in line with Jimmy's thoughts.
"I don' mind," added Beauty.
Hearing the majority's decision, Luisa had to give in, so they drew lots. Jimmy got the dessert. Beauty had to do the side dish. Justin would be making the entree. Luisa reluctantly accepted to prepare the appetizer as the last who pulled from the lot.
"Ayaya, I'm not really good with dessert. Justin or maybe Luisa can we exchange assignments?" Jimmy lamented.
"Sorry, Jim. Dessert won't sit well with me. I might screw it. Remember I work in a small eatery in a small alley. There's no such thing as two, three, four-course meal there."
"I'm good with dessert, let me have it." Luisa was glad to exchange her work.
"Thanks a lot, Luisa. You're my lifesaver." Jimmy held her hand without reservation.
"Hmph! We're still in the middle of a competition, guys." Justin said with an unflustered face. Luisa pulled her hand with a red face.
A thought came to Beauty's mind, lovers? She smiled and kept her thought by herself.
"Side dish, what a non-glamorous part of the meal." She sighed dropping her shoulders. "Never mind, still give my best. But... I need to ask them what they will prepare to get an idea what to do."
"Jimmy, what's your appetizer?"
"I'm preparing oven baked oyster."
"Justin, your entree?"
"Chicken Adobo ala Justin, ho ho ho." Justin proudly said his dish's name with a big grin on his face and eyes wide in delight.
"Haha, nice name. I like that. Then my appetizer will be called Baked Oyster ala Jimmy."
"Not as glorious as mine." Justin boasted. The two boys continued to bicker, trying to outsmart the other on naming foods. At the same time, the girls had their own bonding time.
"Luisa, What're you preparing for dessert?"
"I'll make a chocolate lava cake in a mug."
"Nice idea, seems the surprise there."
"Thanks. How 'bout you?"
"Still thinking on what to cook. Trying to make my side dish blend well with the meat and oyster while keeping the element of surprise. No idea what to do." Beauty was pulling her hair in dismay while looking up at the ceiling.
"Hey, stop pulling your hair, you'll become bald."
"Becoming bald? Hmm, Bald… Bald?…" Her eyes immediately lit up. "Yes! Bald! Thanks for the idea, Luisa. I know now what to prepare for my side dish. Bald and totally bald. Love it."
The rest hadn't grasped the meaning of that 'Bald' inspiration. Nevertheless, they continued with their work.
Lately, I promised to pop in and give an extra chapter from time to time. So this is the bonus chapter, as a way of saying thanks to all of you. This was chosen as one of the novels to be featured in WebNovel's first page. Thank you for continuously supporting my work. You can view it there later today.
*smorgasbord - a buffet offering assortment of foods and dishes.
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