The Leper

In the Kingdom of the Sun, there lived a king so powerful that no man can match. He had more than enough power to destroy the whole world and create another again just to please himself. Not only was he powerful, he also possessed immense wisdom that no man can equal. No one could play mind tricks around him for he was always a hundred steps ahead of any wise man. It is this wisdom that allowed the Kingdom of the Sun to become the wealthiest and most powerful place in the world.

And there’s another trait of this king that sets him apart from the other minor ones: he was in equal amounts good and pure as he is powerful and wise. Not only was he full of strength, he was also overflowing with love for the people of the Sun. And the people of the shining kingdom loved him back selflessly. They loved him so much that the people considered it a great honor for any man who would be able to put a smile on the king’s face. Making the king happy became a way of life for the kingdom. Annually, they would hold a spectacular feast and they called it, the Day of the King. That day of the year was spent only for one purpose: to see the most glorious creations the kingdom has made for the king.

Every man spent his every day seeking ways to honor the king. And the king, being perfect and all-wise, was quite difficult to please. Many spent their whole lives creating wonderful things that they thought would make the king break out in joyful tears, only to get a simple nod of approval from him. The Day of the King broke many men and women, and yet they would not give up and would keep trying again.

Seeing the dedication of his people, the king made a prize for the person with the best creation. It was a trophy made of all the jewels of the world encased in gold and silver. It was so beautiful that the whole kingdom wept when it was revealed. The king called it, The Glory of the World. And it became the yearly obsession of, not just the Kingdom of the Sun, but the whole world.

Every year, a man or woman won The Glory of the World on the Day of the King. The victors grew in number and they were called the Champions of the King. One champion created a new source of energy. One made water from nothing. One made a gadget that destroyed all lethal weapons. One unlocked the ability to fly. Another made a medicine that healed a person regardless of the disease. Such were the quality of the Champions of the King.

The hundredth Day of the King came. The whole world was feverish and was anxious for the 100th Champion of the King to be chosen. The finalists were on every lip in the world. There were new comers to the competition. And there were also old Champions who joined once again for the hope of winning the coveted title. The excitement was something that the world has never experienced before. The Glory of the World waited for the 100th Champion of the King.

The moment that the finalists were waiting for finally came. It was time to reveal the most splendid work of man in a hundred years. The Castle of the Sun was beautifully decorated. And so was the King. There were entertainers and magicians present. All important people of the world were there. Everyone was well prepared for the glamorous day. Everyone was beautiful and elegant.

The competition began. One finalist revealed the first ever invisible cloak – capable of making the wearer completely disappear at will. One showed his incredible nanites – capable of building anything from just the air in only a few minutes. One demonstrated his airborne chemical that can clean up polluted air and leave only the freshest breeze. The fourth presented to the king a drug that can regrow any amputated limb or organ. The fifth demonstrated a liquid that can turn any kind of garbage into fragrant, harmless perfumes. The sixth created a machine that can teleport anyone to the other side of the world. The seventh showed his ability to control the hotness of the sun. The eighth revealed a machine that can accurately predict and stop earthquakes and storms. The ninth demonstrated his device that can move planets, comets and asteroids. And the tenth showed that he can travel up to five days into to the future and then back again.

Every finalist earned awe and applause from the audience. The castle – no, the kingdom – was filled with celebration. For the Day of the King always turned out something that made human life better. And this year, the greatest so far were revealed.

The time came for the King to announce the winner. There was a sudden silence in the room. The king spoke rarely. But when he does, it felt like everyone’s insides shook. The ten finalists knelt before him on one knee – each one trembling in excitement. The Glory of Man stood nearby in its splendor. The king raised his arms as he always did before he made a proclamation. He was about to speak when someone shouted from the crowd.

“My king! My Lord! Please! Let me come to you!”

The crowd expressed indignation in chorus.

The king’s captain of the guards drew his sword and ordered his men, “Arrest whoever that man is! How dare he interrupt the king!”

But the king halted his men, “That is not my desire,” he said. His voice was like thunder. By instinct, people took one step back – even the captain. “Who speaks? Come.”

Everyone looked around – not wanting to be even mistaken for the interrupter.

Then a man covered with a hooded cloak came out from the crowd and presented himself. His cloak used to be white, but was now covered in dirt. He had a stink around him that made the people cringe. The crowd, the finalists, the champions and the soldiers shouted their disapproval.

“How dare you!”

“The king doesn’t deserve this!”

“Get him of here!”

The cloaked man began turning away. The crowd was more than eager to make a path for him.

“Wait.” The king said to everyone’s surprise. “You said you wanted to come to me. So come, that I may see you.”

The captain stepped forward, “My lord, whoever this is, he is not one of us. There are no beggars in your kingdom, my lord. And certainly none here stinks as bad as this.”

The people laughed. The hooded man was trembling now.

“Show yourself.” The king ordered him.

A croak came from the man covered in rags, “No, my lord! I only meant that you would let me see your face. I only wanted to give you my creation. I don’t even want to come too close…”

“He’s not even a finalist my king! We have a process to follow!” One of the ten finalists exclaimed. The other nine nodded in agreement. The champions shouted their support. But the king silenced them with his hand.

“Come closer. Show me this creation.” The king commanded. The crowd looked at each other, wondering if the king was ill.

The beggar came one step closer and no more. He moved as if he was on the edge of a very deep cliff. He raised his creation a little bit for the king to see, ashamed. It was only a humble basket of fruits. Those who saw sneered at first. And then there were murmurs all around. After a few moments, the castle was full of laughter. The beggar began to walk away.

“That’s the creation you’re going to give to the wealthiest king in the world?!” one of the champions said. His laughter created a shower of spittle. Another round of laughter filled the halls as the beggar took another step towards the door.

“I don’t recall giving you my leave,” the king said.

The beggar stopped. “My lord, I can see that this was a huge mistake. It won’t happen again. I will just leave my basket with your soldiers on the way out.”

“And what makes you think us soldiers will even touch that… filthy thing?” the captain remarked. “My king, let us get rid of this filth. You deserve only the best…”

“What fruits are those?” the king asked the beggar, ignoring the captain who now had wrinkles on his forehead.

The beggar turned to face the king. He answered with delight in his voice, “It came from my small farm, lord. In – in the Kingdom of Crows. I have been striving for many years to come up with my best. This, I think, is the best I could come up with…”

“The Kingdom of Crows…” the king repeated. The people buzzed once again with disapproval. The beggar looked around, not knowing what was going on.

“He does not know!” another champion mocked. “You don’t understand do you?”

The beggar, his face still hidden in the darkness of his hooded cloak, shook his head.

“Well, allow me to enlighten you,” one of the finalists explained, “not only is your creation unfit for our king, beggar… The kingdom, from which you and your fruits come from, is known only for three things – murderers, thieves and prostitutes. Nothing good has come out of your home – ever.”

“Get him out of here! Make sure that he never comes back!” The captain growled, stabbing the air with his sword as he spoke.

The guards grabbed the beggar. His basket fell as they dragged him out and his fruits spilled and rolled away. As he struggled against the guards, his cloak was pulled off of him. The crowd shouted and jumped as far away from the beggar and his fruits as they can. The soldiers threw away his cloak as if it was on fire.

“Leper! Leper! Oh ,dear god, a leper in the halls of the king!”

The panic of the crowd heightened. The leper tried to cover himself but could not find his robe. He struggled to pick up his fruits and carefully placed them in the basket he made.

I will leave it by the gate for my lord, he thought.

As he was reaching for the last apple, someone picked it up. The crowd screamed in horror. When the leper looked up to see who it was, he screamed as well and covered his eyes and as much of his skin as he could.

It was the king. And he was handing the apple to the leper.

Everyone, including the leper, screamed the same thing, “No! No! No, my lord! Get away! Don’t come any closer!”

But the king cupped the leper’s disfigured hands and gave him the apple. He embraced the beggar, unashamedly running his fingers through the bleeding cracks of skin on the leper’s back. The crowd held back their breath. The leper held back his tears. No one has ever touched the king.

The king found his robe and covered the beggar up.

“Let me finish this ceremony. Wait for me here,” He whispered to the leper.

No one seemed to exhale as the king walked back to his throne. He resumed his position before he was interrupted, and so did everyone present, although they were confused and cautious. The finalists knelt down once again before the king. The crowd settled down and stayed well away from the leper who was now in tears. The music resumed and filled the halls like nothing happened. Everyone was excited and warmed up once again. The crowd gave a round of applause as the king raised his hands.

“I proclaim the winner of this year’s Day of the King and the one who will take home the 100th Glory of Man: the tenth finalist – the time traveler.”

The crowd went wild. The king took the Glory of Man and awarded it to the 100th Champion of the King. The champions, the finalists, the important people present – crowded around the time traveler to give him pats on the back. There was jubilation and merrymaking. The music was playful. The leper stayed where he was and stared in amazement at the celebration.

The time traveler slowly approached the leper and showed him his Glory of Man and said to him, “You really thought you could win this with your basket of fruits?”

The leper shook his head, “No, no, no. I only wanted to offer my best to the king.”

The people nearby sneered, “Leave now leper. You’re not welcome here.”

“B-but the king – he told me to wait…” they were about to kick him out of the castle, hidden by the crowds, when the music died suddenly.

It was the king. His hands were up again and was about to make another proclamation.

The time traveler smiled brightly, “He’s going to call for me! I knew it. The 100th champion gets to be the first person to spend time with the king!” Another round of pats landed on his back.

“I have given you what you want. Now, please, everybody out.” The king said.

No one moved or made a sound. Everyone was stunned. This has never happened before and no one expected it. Everyone looked at the person next to him looking for answers.

It was the 100th champion who broke the silence, “Why my lord? This is your day. Don’t you want to spend time with us, your best citizens? We who sacrificed so much for you?”

“You are all great, no doubt about it. And I thank you for your service,” the king replied. “But I seek something that I have been looking for for so long…”

The king looked onto the leper and waved for him to come. The leper came running and was met by the king’s embrace.

“I seek someone who has a heart similar to mine…” the king said as he embraced the leper as if they’ve been friends for so long.

Then the king said once again to the others, “Now, please, resume your merrymaking outside. Take your glory and your trophy and your pride – and leave me with my kindred…”

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