Cale hates moving, it was a well known fact for him; just not so much for the rest of his friends and family. Although no one could really fault them for thinking that way, with the amount of work he gets done and the way he moves with such efficiency, it wouldn’t be wrong for anyone to assume that he was a workaholic.
But if anyone were to ask, he’d much rather slack off than go out and train like the rest of his group does. It was too much work. Too much of a hassle.
However, today was different.
Both Ron and Beacrox, Choi Han’s usual sparring partners, were summoned back to the Henituse Duchy by Deruth to train the new kitchen employees. They were completely inexperienced but with the Chef’s impeccable skills and the Servant’s ridiculously high standards, they’d soon learn quite quickly. For fear of their lives or their careers, Cale wouldn’t know.
The two were scheduled to return in a month’s time. Which left the raven haired teen without anyone to spar with. Of course, he could always go against Eruhaben-nim or Rosalyn, or even any of the Tigers or Wolves; but everyone was busy taking care of their own personal agendas. With the White star finally defeated, they now had more time to live their lives the way they wanted to.
The ancient dragon and the mage were off on a research expedition with Raon, (Cale found that the silence that came with Raon’s absence left him feeling somewhat empty) and said that their trip would take about a few weeks to over a month to complete.
The tigers were too busy with reclaiming their mountains to spar. And of course, both the cats, the wolf pups, and Lock were all much too young or small to pose as an actual challenge for Choi Han. Nevermind the average at best, in the master swordmaster's standards anyways, knights and soldiers around the Henituse Territory.
Choi Han had no one to spar with. And he was getting rusty from the lack of actual practice, there was only so much self training could do after all.
He needed someone, anyone, who could put up a fight.
Cale saw this and had offered to spar, ‘A one time thing couldn’t hurt, and besides my arms and legs are getting stiff from laying around in bed all day,’ He thought.
Despite not really showing it, Cale could still fight using his original fighting style from when he was Kim Rok Soo. With the added benefit of Ancient Powers, he was sure to at least work up a sweat.
“Swords aren’t my forte, but how do you feel about fighting against a spear?” Cale asked.
“Cale-nim are you sure? I mean you’re — ”
“Weak? Yes, but my fighting style relies heavily on evading and using my opponent’s strength against them. I’m no Ron or Beacrox but I can at least last a few minutes more than the Henituse soldiers,” Those poor men were spent. They couldn’t keep up with Choi Han’s standard of training, one strong gust of wind and they were sure to fall over in exhaustion.
“If you’re still reluctant, then maybe we can spar without you using your aura,” Cale summoned a single stone spear from the space beside him, stretching his hand out a bit and catching the weapon as it flung itself up from the ground. “While I fight with this?” He tipped his spear up a bit to indicate which weapon he was talking about.
They were currently alone by the outskirts of Harris Village, the knights were taking a break from training while the kids left to play around the tall grass.
Choi Han didn’t want to hurt Cale, but he desperately needed someone to spar with. So he decided to take the redhead’s offer, of course promising not to actually give it his all, in fear of accidentally injuring Cale.
“Alright,” Choi Han agreed. “How many matches can you go?”
“Don’t ask such scary questions. One match was all I had in mind,” Cale deadpanned.
They shook hands and began warming up for their spar.
An hour later Choi Han finds himself on the ground, completely disheveled and winded beyond belief, staring up at Cale’s smirking face.
“I told you, I use my opponent’s strength against them,” Cale had his hands clasped behind him and walked away in a leisurely manner. “You were basically fighting against yourself,”
Since when has Cale-nim ever been able to fight like that? His movements were like a flowing stream, swift and precise, without waste and continuous.
It was different from how he fought during the war.
Choi Hans quickly stood up and ran after the former Commander.
“Cale-nim! Cale-nim! Can we do another match please? Just one more!” Choi Han was getting excited.
Cale actually seemed like a decent sparring partner.
It was nearing dawn and the fields were slowly being painted by the warm glow of the sun.
Two figures in the distance move in accordance to each other’s attacks. Swinging and stabbing and dodging, oftentimes jumping several feet into the air.
“Wow, I never thought we’d ever see Cale wake up so early nya!”
“Or move this much!”
Both On and Hong snickered at their own comments. They were perched up on a wooden fence. Watching from afar.
Choi Han dodged Cale’s sweep, narrowly missing the blunt end of the redhead’s weapon.
It was almost as if Cale could predict his every move. His eyes were cold and calculative, sharp in a way that could only be described as intelligent.
Choi Han upped his speed.
Clang! Clang! Crack!!
Cale’s stone spear breaks into two at the force of Choi Han’s strike. He summons another and flings it at the teen’s direction, narrowly nicking his cape as the single lifer ducks down to dodge.
Choi Han kicks off the ground to speed towards Cale’s spot. He discreetly eyes the redhead’s feet and waits for the now familiar sequence.
Step. Dodge. Strike. Evade. Then retreat.
Cale-nim never meets his strikes unless absolutely necessary. He waits for him to come. Silent and still. Patient and ready. He sidesteps and strikes then moves away and adds distance.
This was how it's always been.
For three weeks.
Choi Han had learned and watched and grown. However he had done so at an excruciatingly slow pace since their agreement was that he handicapped himself by not using his aura.
He closes in on the redhead and waits for the sequence.
Step. Dodge. Strike. Evade. Then retreat.
It doesn’t come.
Instead, Cale-nim meets him halfway and blocks his sword then pushes against him with the help of the Sound of the Wind. Choi Han could almost feel a heart attack coming with how unexpected the act was.
A root sneaks its way around his ankle and yanks at him, when he pushes off of Cale’s spear to cut it, the former commander grabs him by the arm and throws him over his shoulder.
“... Eh?” Was all Choi Han could think of saying as he looked up at Cale from his spot on the ground.
“Woooww!! Noona did you see that!? Did you see!? Did you see what Cale did!?” Hong practically pounces on his sister as he urges her to look. “Noona!”
“... I did,” On deadpanned. “But I think we might need to stop sleeping past our bedtime from now on.” She rubbed her eyes just to make sure what she saw was correct.
Cale could hardly lift their youngest these days, but today he had somehow managed to throw Choi Han over his shoulder? Unbelievable.
Choi Han takes the hand extended towards him and stands up.
He’s still in a daze. That last move didn’t seem like something Cale-nim would do.
But then again… this was Cale-nim. He was full of surprises. The redhead would literally fling himself into danger for them every chance he’d get, but of course, if he could find a way that was less of a hassle for him then he wouldn’t needlessly endanger himself.
“Cale-nim, where did you even learn to move like that?”
Choi Han was curious. It was new.
“Hm?” Cale gave a light hum of acknowledgement. “Oh, I used to be a team leader back in Korea, remember? Learning basic hand-to-hand was one of the prerequisites in joining the force.”
Choi Han does remember. But it wasn’t his memory to recall.
“Although I mostly stayed at the rear as support— ” Cale-nim pauses to drink from one of the bottles they’ve packed with them— “I can more or less hold my own in a fight. And like I said, my fighting style relies heavily on evasion and using my opponent's strength against them; since most of the beings I faced were either ridiculously fast or strong.” Cale wipes his mouth then points the half empty bottle towards Choi Han.
“Both of which, applicable to you.” He says. “But anyway let's head back now, I’m hungry.”
Cale moves to pick the kittens up from the fence and strolls right into the dark forest. Leaving a beaming Choi Han to follow from behind.
-. Human!! I heard from Hong that you and Choi Han were fighting! Why did you fight? Are you mad at each other? He is a good person but if he hurt you, weak human, I will destroy the —
“Relax, we were sparing.”
-. Worl — huh?
They were currently talking through the special communication device that Erihaben-nim had crafted for them. They had nightly talks since Raon felt the need to check up on his frail human.
-. You expect me to believe that an unlucky bastard like you can go up against Choi Han? Where’s the blood? Did you not cough out any blood? And on that note, why are you still awake? You usually fall into comas for overusing your —
Cale gave himself a few minutes of peace by putting the communication device on mute. He only unmuted it when it was Ms. Rosalyn's turn to speak.
-. Young master Cale did you and Choi Han really spa—
This device was like a remote control for a tv. Cale loved it.
He nodded and pretended to listen to what they were saying. Agreeing to everything their silent mouths were uttering.
On wordlessly stared at the communication device before turning to look towards Cale. “I’m telling on you.”
Hong snickered at his response.
Cale unmuted the device once Raon came back into view.
Their conversations flowed a lot better after that initial interrogation.
Raon told him about his day and Cale told him about theirs. The kittens chatted with their youngest and Eruhaben-nim smiled while Rosalyn fondly watched them interact.
Once it was time for bed, Cale waved goodbye and hung up.
Cale turned the lights off and moved to lay in his bed. He ignored the warmth that the kittens emitted as they snuggled up beside him. All curled up and cozy for the night.
“Sleep well Cale,” Hong yawned. “You too noona.”
“Yeah, goodnight,” On sleeplyly replied, snuggling even closer to them.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Tick.
The clock’s ticking echoed around the room. Cale listened to it and watched as the pale moonlight painted his ceiling blue.
In the quiet and calm of the night, Cale softly muttered. “Goodnight.”
He fell asleep feeling warm and full and very much content.
“Psst. Cale-nim, it's morning.”
Cale’s eyes snapped open.
He calmly turned to look towards the left side of his bed and saw Choi Han standing by a corner. Fully dressed and looking ready for battle.
Cale stared at him for a bit before slowly turning back around to resume sleeping.