Dong Xin found himself wandering in the desert, and he did seem to be wandering rather than properly approaching a destination. He seemed to be having trouble pinpointing the location of the city he wished to visit. It wasn’t that the map was wrong, but rather he just couldn’t get to the location he intended. That was strange, because although he wouldn’t say his navigational skills were exceptional, they had previously worked. However, Dong Xin found himself wandering for over a month not very far from where the capital city of Jeim should be. Dong Xin considered the possibilities. In addition to a possible map error, the city could have been abandoned or destroyed, possibly. However, that still didn’t seem right. Dong Xin didn’t think he had gotten close enough that he would have been able to see it, but he should have been on the brink for quite some time. He might have given up at this point, but this wasn’t just a sightseeing trip. He did have important business.
He spent perhaps another month without anything but growing frustration at the desert and its dangers. Though he was capable of survival, that didn’t mean he liked constantly having to kill for meat, create his own water, and avoid pitfalls. Just walking around was tiring. After that month, he made up his mind to go to one of the other cities and try to procure a guide. Though the villages and cities he had passed through hadn’t been helpful… they hadn’t been hostile. Perhaps if he spent enough time in one, they would come to trust him.
Then, Dong Xin set up camp for the night. His small tent kept out most of the sand, so it wasn’t the worst sleeping experience he’d ever had, but far from the best. It was like any other night, but when he awoke he found something different. During the night, the sand had shifted- as it always would. However just outside his tent, he saw a small bit of stone. Curious, he brushed the sand away, to find what seemed to be the top of a pillar. At first, he thought it might be a buried structure. Perhaps the city had been destroyed after all. However, upon closer observation, he noticed lines and patterns on the top of the pillar, and with some more work he found they started going down the sides. Dong Xin sighed. He knew nothing about magical formations, except that this was part of one. Presumably, it kept him from reaching the city, somehow. There would be more like it.
Dong Xin could destroy it. He knew that, even if it were magically enhanced, a pillar of rock was not going to be able to stand up to him. However, he didn’t know if he could handle the consequences of that action. First, it might have a trap that would go off if he destroyed it, which could be dangerous. In addition, destroying just one might not prevent the formation from working. The biggest reason, however, was that he doubted anybody who set up magical formations to protect their capital would be happy to talk with someone who destroyed them, given how little they seemed to like outsiders already. He would have to leave.
Dong Xin’s progress through the desert returned to how it should have been. He could tell a difference in the stars, at least over a few days of travel. At the very least, he could travel somewhat toward the direction he wished. Since he wasn’t heading to any specific place, west worked just fine.
After some weeks of travel, Dong Xin came across the first people he had seen outside of a city. A merchant caravan. He had seen one or two in the cities before, but they had not been willing to let him travel with them, and he knew they would not have taken it well if he followed them. The desert was large, however, so he hadn’t encountered them outside the cities, possibly because he didn’t know what routes were best to travel on.
Unfortunately, these circumstances were not the best to meet in. The caravan was currently under attack. From where he was, Dong Xin saw giant lizards, scorpions, and perhaps even a snake. That wasn’t a good sign, because different types of magical beasts generally didn’t work together. Dong Xin hadn’t received the warmest welcome from this country… but they hadn’t been unkind to him either. Just detached. Regardless, he wasn’t just going to stand around and watch, even if it wasn’t a great opportunity to get in the good graces of some people from Ustil.
As he drew closer, he could see they needed the help too. There perhaps a dozen guards with curved swords, but they were outnumbered, and clearly becoming exhausted. Some were already injured. Once he was within a reasonable distance that he wouldn’t exhaust himself before he reached the battle, Dong Xin dashed over. One good thing about wandering around in the desert is that he had become better at movement through and over sand. That included just walking… and using ki to harden areas of sand so he had something to stand on if he needed to move quickly. In this case, it was the second. It wasn’t the most efficient use of energy, but it was the quickest speed he could obtain.
Dong Xin appeared behind a scorpion, striking at the base of its tail. There was an unpleasant crunching sound, however the tail crumpled. Then he jumped up on its back, and swung his staff down at its head, or what passed for a head anyway, rattling whatever brain it had underneath its hard shell. Then, he struck again, until the shell broke and the scorpion collapsed. “I am a friend!” He called out to the group. He announced himself to get off on the right foot with them… as well as so that they didn’t misunderstand his presence. He would probably be fine if one took a swipe at him, but if he wasn’t ready, he might not like the results.
Though Dong Xin could see that these warriors were no pushovers, Dong Xin was a master of fighting with the staff, and had significant attainments in his ki training as well. He had passed the fourth major breakthrough, which put him in the top echelon of martial artists from Liaoyang. Thus, with his help, the battle quickly turned around, and soon the remaining magical beasts retreated, as they began to lose their numerical advantage and were becoming outnumbered themselves. Dong Xin smiled, “Greetings, I am Dong Xin.” Hopefully… he would be able to make some progress now that he had some people who were already visibly grateful for his presence.