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A Stranger's Embroilment.

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That was a really bad idea. Choi Han knew it, had debated it with himself for a few hours but, ultimately, still went with it. He had said he would do anything to pay his debt. He just never thought he would be doing a kidnapping.

"I will be leaving Rain City early in the morning tomorrow, for the Capital. I have requested to take Cale's butler and cook with me, without those two you will be able to enter the mansion undetected."

Usually Choi Han would have also dwelled on why apparently a simple butler and a cook were deemed the biggest obstacles in the household, but his mind was occupied with many complicated emotions as it was. Right now, if it made his act easier then he would question such a thing at a later date, when he wasn't at risk of being incarcerated anymore. What would be the punishment for kidnapping a noble anyway? Prison? Death by hanging? He didn't know. Didn't want to know.

Choi Han had promised Basen he would do everything to repay him. But never in the tens of years of his life would he have expected the kind young master to request something so…

The black haired swordmaster couldn't understand at all. Basen was a good person, so much better than he himself.

That night when they had met, Choi Han had been ready to attack the kind, brown haired boy. More than that, Choi Han had killed people. They were not innocent, far from it, but it didn't change the fact that Choi Han was now as well.

Choi Han wasn't a bad person, but he was no longer innocent. Maybe he hasn't been for a long time now. When he chose to abandon so much of himself to survive in that damn monster filled forest. But he could still judge people well, his feelings had never been wrong.

Basen was innocent. Basen was kind and he wouldn't be able to commit a truly treacherous act. So he must have had a good reason to request something like the kidnapping of his brother, right?

"Once I leave with the Butler and Cook, you will have a chance. Infiltrate the estate and enter my brother's room while he is still sleeping."

To go after a sleeping target didn't sit right with Choi Han. The older brother had clearly been just as innocent as his sibling. And from what he saw those two don't seem to have any animosities between them.

The only thing Choi Han noticed was a certain unease Basen seemed to have around the redheaded noble.

"You can't miss his room, it's the furthest East on the third floor. Since it's still warm out, his windows will be left ajar, that's your way in and out. Security will be lax around 1 in the morning, but you will still have to act fast."

It was easy for Choi Han to jump straight to the window, nervousness chilling his bones and morality squeezing his heart. It was easier to slip unnoticed into the room, his eyes already used to the dark. His keen hearing picked up soft breathing and nothing else, the mansion as silent as a tomb.

"My brother always goes to bed at 11 in the evening and wakes up at 6:30 in the morning. Nothing will wake him up before that, so you will have at least five hours to get as far as possible from Rain City.”

True to his words, the red-haired nobleman was peacefully sleeping in his bed, dead to the world and the person that broke into his home. With a deep inhale, he pushed the bedsheets away from the slumbering man before gently lifting him into his arms.

Choi Han left as quickly as he came, careful not to jostle the Cale too much.

Just as Basen said, Cale did not stir, his breathing slow and regular as if he was still in his bed instead of someone's arm, being whisked away from his family.

But then there was the next part of Basen's request that Choi Han still remembered vividly, echoing in his mind.

"Please. You're the only one I trust with my brother's life. I fear something will happen to him if I'm not here to protect him, so bring him to the Capital with you. I will try to give you as much help as l can but I am limited in what I can do. I rest my faith in your hands, Choi Han."

Whether or not that was all a trick, Choi Han didn’t know, couldn’t back away from it. He was a murderer, a trespasser, a kidnapper yet he refused to become a liar as well. He still wanted to keep some of his moral rules, after stepping on a lot of them already. And if, truly, Cale was in danger by staying here, he wasn’t one to leave a victim to their fate. He just hoped he was making the right decision.

Luck had to be on his side this night, because he was able to traverse the town towards the western walls without getting caught by patrolling guards or the few drunk bystanders that roamed the streets in search of trouble.

Arriving at the base of the wall, where he knew security was lax, Choi Han felt his confidence waver slightly: this was the last line to cross before truly becoming a criminal. It wasn’t too late to bring Cale back like nothing happened. Yet, the memory of Basen’s sad brown eyes at the inn stopped him from going back. It was wrong to take Cale away from his family, but Basen said it was worse to leave him here. It was also true the noble could have had reasons to lie to him, stir up pity inside of his shaken up soul to manipulate him more easily but Choi Han still recognized someone genuine when he met them.

Soft mews at his feet shook him from his thoughts and he lowered his head, his gaze meeting those of two extremely familiar kittens. They were the same ones he had avoided a few days ago when he first jumped the wall to get inside of Rain City, those who kept him company until Basen came and held out his hand to him. They looked up at him with their golden eyes, red and silver fur shining under the moonlight.

“Hey, you two.” He softly said to them, receiving more mewing in return. “I’m happy to see you well but I need you to step back, I don’t want to hurt you while I jump.”

The kittens curled around his legs, looking up with something akin to curiosity in their eyes. Even the first time they met, Choi Han had the feeling they were more intelligent than regular animals and imagining them questioning his actions was easy. Feeling guilt sloshing in his stomach, he kneeled in front of them, careful not to jostle Cale too much and addressed the cats once more.

“It's.. it's not what it looks like. I mean, yes, that's exactly what it looks like but I am not going to hurt him. I swear on my life." Choi Han said to them, with the tone of a man riddled with guilt.

The kittens mewed at him louder, one of them even jumping on Cale's torso to sniff at him, making Choi Han even more nervous.

"No… please jump down. He's fine, he's just sleeping. Shoo!”

The silver cat seldom looked at him, settling itself on Cale’s chest as if it was a comfortable pillow. Choi Han awkwardly shifted Cale’s weight around, trying to push the cat off of him, to no avail. It was as if it had glued itself to the noble, stubborn in its refusal to move. Then, as if one wasn’t enough, the red kitten jumped on as well to lay down against its sibling.

“Oh no. No no no, please. I can’t bring you too, I don’t know how to take care of cats.”

The cats didn’t seem to care, didn’t even look at him as they started preening and purring a storm.

He was going to have to take them with him, now. He truly didn’t have much choice, as he didn’t want to put Cale on the ground and the way the kitten’s claws looked a hair breath away from prickling the noble, Choi Han wasn’t going to try and get them off anymore.

With a sigh, Choi Han put Cale on a more comfortable hold, making sure he wasn’t going to jostle him or the cats too much. Then, he jumped, climbing over the wall without too much trouble, so differently from when he first entered Rain City the same way, hurt, hungry and exhausted, barely able to hold his sword.

With Cale and the two kittens in his arms, Choi Han walked away from the city, barely looking behind him as he continued on with Basen's plan, for better or for worse.