He grunted as hit the ground face first. The impact knocked the air from his lungs and he laid there a moment trying to get it back. The momentary pause in was good for him. If by good
it meant time for his idiocy to make itself clear to him. A series of poor decision-making had led him to this point, after all, and it was better to face that now than to continue this foolish streak of impetuousness before he got someone killed. If
he managed to survive long enough to make it back to camp. Really, this sort of recklessness was more John's style than his own. He knew it and, in his current miserable state, would readily admit it. Of course, when he was back on his feet and sitting in front of a warm fire in a few hours time, things would be a little different. Alone and hurting in more ways than just physical, however, he was content to kick himself. Repeatedly.
A huff escaped him as he flopped over onto his back, careful not to upset his already injured ankle. His ribs, still knitting themselves back together after weeks of light activity, groaned in protest. He shouldn't have come back from San Francisco so soon -- both his logic and his body told him that. It wasn't as if he didn't have a place to stay there, to rest without worry. It wasn't as if the resistance wouldn't carry on without him. Some part of him felt the sting of that truth and struggled against it. They needed him. Of course they did. They had so few fighters as it was. But they weren't his army. They weren't going to fall apart in his absence. Yet, like a fool, he'd let that worry draw him right back to the fight too soon. Well, that wasn't entirely true was it? Shang slung an arm over his eyes. It was an excuse to run away, ironic as it seemed. Only he would run straight into danger to avoid having to face the grief he'd been dodging for three years now. Xia had his father's sword. She'd been there...at the battle on the mountain. Did he want to know the details? Yes, but he wasn't sure he could swallow them as easily as he had swallowed his own pride just a few moments ago.
Those feelings had been placed in a secure and well-labeled box a long time ago and he wasn't quite ready to open it just yet. Nor was he going to lay here in a self-indulgent grouse session. The stupidity of self-pity could get on killed just as easily as being caught off guard and both things at once made death almost certain. One day death would come for him, that was certain, but it would not be today and it would not be because he tripped over an animal's burrow in clearing that was wide open and vulnerable. Rolling back onto his stomach, he braced his arms beneath his body and moved to hoist himself up before he paused. The sounds of voices and unsteady feet made him pause. Though, on his feet, the land had appeared virtually flat, prone as he was on the ground, he noticed the subtle rise and dip of it. It was like peering out over a sea of grass and he was caught on a wave. Fortunately for him, the small rise he had landed on kept him from immediate view of the straggling group of travelers that had paused. Raising only onto his elbows, he did the math. A dozen or so -- maybe less, maybe more. Fifty yards maximum between his position and the closest of the group. They didn't look dangerous but neither did they look familiar and that was what made him hesitate, giving himself another swift kick for being out here on his own.
Crawling forward slowly, excruciatingly slow, he observed the group. The way the seemed to slump to the ground in relief further cemented the idea that they were likely not dangerous or looking for trouble (though their choice of location pressed serious doubt on the latter). It was obvious from even this distance that they were exhausted and, yet, one lone figure still stood among them. He recognized the militaristic diligence in their stance though he couldn't distinguish much else about them. The decision to stop their group here was a foolish one; the openness of the land aside, there were no water sources nearby, no shade to cool their bodies. The group would likely be weaker for the rest. These were all elements that made him feel more comfortable in approaching though he continued to do so at a crawl rather than announcing himself. Danger came in all forms -- that was a lesson he'd learned from the Darkness and he'd learned it well. Whether or not they appeared weak to him, they had the advantage of numbers.
When he finally neared the group, it was the standing figure, who he determined to be the leader, who was closest. They had their back to him and he took advantage of the opportunity. Swiftly and as silently as he could, despite the screaming protest from his ankle, he unsheathed the knife from his boot and rose swiftly to his feet. A flicker of surprise ran through him as noticed their difference in heights but he did not hesitate. Pressing the tip of the knife to the small of their back, he did not move otherwise. "Don't move, don't alarm your companions," he said in a low voice. "If you do, we won't hesitate to kill you all right here." Two lies. Like poison, they were bitter on his tongue, but (in this instance at least) it was better that the threat he presented was overestimated. "What is your business here? Answer honestly or it'll be worse for you." Guilt sluiced through him; it was clear to him upon closer inspection that they needed help but...he had to be sure.