The Fifth Path (14/30)

Nabua’s Journal Entry for Iyar 13th

Finally figured out that Bel cursed riddle. Got enough info in port town to solve. Needed to know parables. Also needed to know local history. Been learning much of both. Will need to write book when get chance. Learned so much here. Would be terrible to lose gained knowledge. Guide is a hero. Or maybe a heroes. He is legendary. Literally. People tell legends about him. People do not believe he is real. He is also crazy old. More than one hundred. Feel less bad about losing always in Xiwan. Can say almost beat master a few times. Better than most. To list accomplishments would take too much paper. Even with proof belief can be hard. Old man ended two wars. He defeated armies. He discovered lost treasures. He traveled many islands on this side of Green Sea. He slew giant beast. He solved ancient riddles. He toppled governments. He was known as Han the Seeker for long time. Then Han the Slayer. Then Han the Great. Then Han the Terrible. Then just Han. Full name is Ri Xu Han. Need to talk of other things or run out of paper. Very cool guy. Really interesting story.

Walking back from capital faster then walking to. Still too much walking. Fun to meet some bandits and not get stabbed. Seemed like nice people overall. Guess its hard to tell. Would not have been nice if they had actually robbed us. One played Xiwan. Managed to go even. Bandit impressed. Tried to learn story of Han in bandit group. Seems bandit group originally soldiers. Did not get paid after short war. Had weapons and training so paid selves. Famine in land so food hard to find. Han helped out at first because was responsible for soldiers. Left when food problem got better but stayed as bandits. Led group to successful attacks on storage places for food for rich. Sounded accurate.

When got to town found Eric. Had managed to sell all of stuff few days before. Getting bored. Ready to move out again. Enjoyed story of travels. Had some money left at end. Decided to spend most of it because could not convert back. Spent final night in town. Eric went on ahead. Decided to start loading his boat with goods he had bought and preparing for journey. Had been able to get boat fixed with part of money made. Said final goodbye to Han. Had figured out riddle during day. Was able to say goodbye using name. Smiled. Will miss him.

Now come to interesting part of story. We try and leave port. Wave wands over us. Say we can not leave. Question why. Say we have negative money and can not take out of kingdom. Seems very strange. We had gotten little negative money since first day. Had been able to enter town. True we had spent much of money but had still much more positive then negative. Asked them to show us money. Wand pointed to Anatu. Says she is negative by very large amount. Decide to search her for coins. Has very few. Use wand to locate source of negative money. Stored deep within her bag. Large green coin. Anatu very surprised. Guards look scared. Confused. Both talk at once. Hold up hands. Listen to one at time. Anatu says got coin before arriving Xexan. Lady in first port town in Hashim island gave her. Been carrying since. Thought Xexan coins seemed familiar. Guards talk. Say coin is very old. Known as cursed coin. From early days of negative money. Very high denomination coins. Made taking things from people dangerous. Could lose whole fortune in moment if given wrong coin. Now only have small value negative coins. But cursed coins still have their own value. Situation precarious.

Negative value of coin more than what we can make up with current possessions unless sell everything. Most of remaining money spent or went to pay our guide for all help. Can not leave to get things on boat because can not go on dock with negative money. Eric can not come back to give us help either cause he only allowed once and is now not allowed back. Look at agreement signed with leaders. Provisions for reentry? Nothing till Xexan expedition goes to homeland. Try to figure solution.

Need to give coin to someone or get enough positive coin to cancel out. Have little to bargain with. Old man left last night. Said had business in near town. Know it was to play Xiwan. Think hard. Ask to see legal code on law of negative money and leaving kingdom. Very long. Hard to read. Do best. Others can do little with out language. Tried to explain coin came from out of land but not believe. Few ways to leave even if negative. Can be dead. Can be king. Can be hero of the phoenix. Look up last one. Some kind of legend with Huang. Brighten up. Maybe someone who sees them? No. Need much more than that. Whole big list of accomplishments to be hero of the phoenix. Maybe Han could do it but is not here. Turn to section on negative money.

Printed only in capital. Can be destroyed only together with equal amount positive money or under small list of exceptions. Making gift to kingdom of greater value. Saving life of king or general. Eaten by huge serpent creature. None seem useful. Ask about how long to earn money enough. Long time. Could maybe go to capital and ask council or king for help. Long time to travel and maybe pushing luck. King might not willing to release if has good to reason to keep. Think about just breaking through and fighting way out. Maybe possible but probably ruin deal with leaders. Explain situation to companions. Hard time seeing way out. Unlucky. Ask about only some leaving. Say that after Baal leaves, any remaining become illegal. So we can leave Baal behind but if leaves us then maybe stuck here forever. Consider. Ask about people who horde negative money taking it all cause no need to leave town. Laws that make very dangerous. Possible to be imprisoned or killed if debt too high for too long. Giving money to people about to die? Can not be buried without debt paid. Without burial soul can not go to heaven. No one would accept. Sometimes other way around. People take old people money so they can die in peace.

Look at rules for people leaving and entering kingdom. Very few exceptions. Citizens can leave and enter somewhat freely. Even then there are limits. Journeys applied for in advance. Transfer of funds limited. Minimum and maximum trip durations. Others face more severe restrictions. Ways to become citizens few. Could marry a local but still takes a year to become after wedding. Could earn in military but takes long time. Could pass citizen test of language and culture. Hmm. Maybe possible. Ask about. Say only get one try. Taken to building to take test. Angry looking old woman scowls at me. Start test. Starts with language. Very hard. Think get low points. History and culture next. Know much about some nothing about others. Not sure how well done. Culture practical exam. Game of Xiwan.

Face off against old lady. Plays like old man. Have to step up game. Think like him. Remember games against him. Remember response to different situations. She still better. Losing. See long shot. Rely on underestimation. Done nothing too smart yet. Has shot. Make moves toward different objective. Pretend to screw up pattern. Set up attack at real target through apparent errors. Watch ladies face change expressions. Not sure what initial is and not sure what final means. Take lead but unable to finish. Lady starts to take seriously. Begins move seen old man do. Think about how develops. Try to find flaw. Can not see. Know normal response fails. Try something completely different. See own shape in woman position. Start pattern old man used against me. Strikes fear into lady. Backs down from plan that would have killed me. Begins to play defensive. Set up old man plays all over board. No idea what to do with them after first few turns but scares woman again. Press advantage into enemy side. Do stuff that makes no sense. Lady overestimates. Fears because does not understand that with no meaning. Push for victory. Board is a mess. Nothing pretty about game. Makes me cringe.

With victory though comes enough points to pass exam. Barely. Become official citizen of Xexan. Immigration policy gives me three trips abroad to bring stuff back to Xexan. Use first to go get enough stuff from boat to buy coins to make positive. Use second to leave Xexan and continue journey with companions. Maybe even come back some day. Good to visit king and Han if still alive when return. Thanked by companions. Handshake by Baal. Against Bel for Baal to shake hands with Hishtu. Maybe being corrupted from Bel? Hug from Anatu. Also violates Bel rules. Journey changes people. Is Hishtu only one to remember commandments of Bel? Not even part of Bel religion. Strange. All companions becoming heretics and hedonists. Not mind. Wonder why though. Anatu even seems sad to switch back to homeland clothes. Speaking of clothes. Figured out how special thin cloth made. Created from stuff like spider webs but from worms. Very strange. Bought a lot of fabric to take with though. Very comfortable.

Once on boat talk about next destination. Take out maps I bought. Eric wants to go to near port to sell new goods acquired. Turn into lighter goods. Look for route around Green Sea. Do not want to go through again. Unlikely be saved by tornado again. Upper route looks promising. Take few months but brings us close to end goal of journey. Can continue with original plan after that skipping islands we missed on other side of Green Sea then returning home using original plan. Takes us close to several near ports to try and sell goods. With Xexan identification card will make trading easier near Xexan. Eric worried about pirates. Does not understand Xexan well but kept hearing word for pirates many times while selling. Go out to ask port authority about. Indeed many pirates in these times. New pirate leader unites them. Should be very careful. Also warns of sea serpents and whirlpools. Tell everyone might be attacked by pirates. Engine should be faster than pirates. Everyone still worried. Nothing for it now though. Not just going to stay here. Have to keep moving. Consider buying weapon but after talking to port authority think it not good idea. Hard to carry weapons out of country. Fear of selling to pirates or rival nations.

We go anyways. Hope for the best. Watch out for other ships. Try to speed past as much as can. Baal asks to teach Xiwan to him. Wants to beat Anatu. Seen both play. Baal plays better against me then her. Plays with no fear against me even though win always. Seems afraid to lose and has no aggression against her. Explain this to him. Facial expression changes. Wish knew what meant. Say can help some. Teach for while. Of course no space on boat so Anatu joins in too. Baal not tell her is training to beat her so soon she learning too. Eric drops by with few tips. Not know he played. Says will play game next day. Got to do a lot of work with boat for today. Engine not fixed completely. Have Anatu and Uras play against each other. Nag him not to be wimp. Does better. Still loses. Tell to keep trying. Want to start writing about Xexan culture. Do that all night.

Next day Eric says pirates following us. Slow chase. Could take all day. Something to do with wind. Engine not fixed yet. Everyone plans. Still time. Bored. Write.

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