Herr Keller reads in the newspaper that Paul will be traveling to Adelaide for the competition. He tells Paul that the Conservatorium in Adelaide has invited Paul to participate in a piano competition, and suggests that he enter while he is "holidaying." Paul decides to enter, especially as he thinks it might make the trip seem better to his parents, who are concerned the boys might get in to trouble. It does, and it is decided that Paul will stay with Mrs. Crabbe's parents.
During their next lesson, Keller begins to prepare Paul for the piano competition, selecting a Chopin's B-Flat Minor Scherzo. Keller plays the piece through completely from memory, the first time Paul has heard him play an entire piece. Paul senses Keller must have practiced and suddenly realized that Keller's feigned indifference to Paul entering the competition is a ruse. The same is true when Keller tells Paul's father after their long lesson that he will be "forced" to travel to Adelaide with Paul to play the second piano for Paul's other piece, a concerto. Keller refuses to allow the Crabbes to pay for his travel, a sign to Paul that Keller's contempt for teaching music is a charade.
When Paul arrives in Adelaide, he realizes that after his time living in Darwin he now feels contempt for the city that was once magical to him. He stays with his grandparents, and Keller comes to the house each morning for breakfast and to practice with Paul. Paul's grandmother attempts to converse with Herr Keller, but he is misanthropic. At lunchtime, Keller leaves to retrieve a stack of newspapers to comb through while drinking coffee, then the lessons resume for the rest of the afternoon after Paul's lunch.
The band arrives at the grandparents' house one evening in Jimmy's van after cashing in their airline tickets for extra spending money and spending a week driving down to Adelaide. Along with Jimmy and Scotty, Rick Whiteley emerges from the van, with no sign of Reggie. After much prodding, Jimmy and Scotty tell Paul that there was not room for both Reggie and Rick in the van, and they voted that Rick would play drums in the competition instead of Reggie. Paul complains that Reggie or Rick should have flown down, but the boys say that they already spent the airfare money on new amps, a mixer, and van repairs, and that Rick has been fired from his radio job. The boys set up their equipment to practice at the grandparents' house, much to Paul's chagrin.
Rough Stuff awaits their competition performance at the Glenelg Town Hall and realize that their rock and leather jackets do not fit in with the competition's cooler, casual vibe. Jimmy tells Paul that after the competition he and Scotty plan to drive up the coast with Rick in hopes of using his contacts for more gigs and a new job for Rick. The band performs for the last time, and Paul bequeaths the band his electric keyboard as they go their separate ways.
After the band leaves, Keller subjects Paul to a particularly strenuous lesson. Keller stays past midnight and Grandmother Wallace forces him to spend the night on the spare bed in Paul's room. When Keller awakes and begins to dress the next morning, Paul notices that Keller has six faded blue digits tattooed above the watch line on his left forearm. He immediately asks Keller about being a prisoner in the War, but Keller dodges his questions.
After Paul returns from his third place in the Adelaide competition he continues his lessons with Keller, but his parents begin to discuss college programs in medicine and law. The Crabbes have Herr Keller over for dinner to discuss Paul's future. Keller insists that a music conservatorium can teach Paul nothing. Paul wants to stay and continue to learn with Keller, but his parents refuse.
Paul's friends disperse throughout the country for college: Rosie to Melbourne to study medicine, Megan Murray to Art School in Sydney, and Bennie Reid to Naval Officer Training School in Nowra. On his last night in Darwin, Paul visits Keller to tell him that he will study law and music performance in Adelaide. Keller sits Paul down in an armchair across from his and pours them both schnapps. He admits for the first time his care for Paul and tells him that he had great plans for his son, Eric, and projected his fatherly hardness onto Paul. Keller tells that when the Nazis occupied Vienna his wife was ostracized for being a Jew, but he assumed that no one would harm the wife or son of Eduard Keller. However, as Keller is finally revealing information about his past, Paul is conflicted, knowing that Rosie is waiting for him outside. He gives into temptation and cuts Keller off to leave. As he walks down the stairs, Paul turns and asks what happened to Keller's finger. Keller responds that it offended him, but that he could not finish the job and cut it all off.
Keller retains his air of disinterest, but the competition in Adelaide undoubtedly shows Paul that this is only a ruse. His perfectly prepared playing of the scherzo reflects his interest in Paul and that he desires the best for him. The concerto also symbolizes the dependence between Keller and Paul, who must play the piece together.
The more time Paul spends with the members of the band, the more he realizes that both the type of music and the band's dynamic are not for him. Paul's involvement with the band is a diversion from his focus on the piano, but in the end, it makes him realize how important piano is to him.
While Paul describes what occurs during the band competition, he omits the piano competition entirely. He skips from describing in detail Keller and Paul's practices in Adelaide to after they are back in Darwin and Paul has already placed third in the competition. This glaring omission shows that Paul's time with Keller and his relationship with him are much more important in the story than Paul's individual successes and failures.
The most important part of Paul’s trip to Adelaide is not his performance in either of the competitions, but the moment when he sees Keller’s tattoo. He realizes for the first time that his teacher had been in a concentration camp and experienced much more suffering than he realized. Paul has come a long way from the beginning of the novel when he joked to his parents that Keller might have been a Nazi war criminal.
Paul's final interaction with Keller before leaving for college brings their two-year relationship to a climax. Keller has grown close to Paul and is finally ready to reveal to him the details of his past. He thinks sharing this information is essential to Paul's development, not as a pianist, but as person. However, Paul, still not mature enough to look past his momentary teenage desires, chooses to spend his final moments with Rosie instead of Keller. The reader realizes that Paul's development is not yet complete. Despite Keller's attempts to prevent it, Paul still makes decisions that he will regret later in life.