The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage chapter 14

The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage

“Eh, eh? Eeeh?!”

The middle-aged man who locked eyes with Kang Tae-han reacted in three distinct ways.

He was surprised seeing Kang Tae-han, shocked looking at his friend lying below, and startled once again by how utterly unscathed Kang Tae-han appeared.

“What the—! When did you get up here?!”

“You climbed up here by yourself? Carrying a grown man on your back?”

“No, seriously… is that even possible?”

The reactions of the others were similar, one and all.

They all alternated their gaze between Kang Tae-han and the injured party below, simply uttering exclamations of astonishment.

“…Young man, are you perhaps special forces or something?”

“Hey, even special forces wouldn’t make this believable, right?”

“What then? A gymnast?”

“No… a magician?”

“Guys, seriously. Is that what matters right now?”

While they were busy making nonsensical guesses, one of the men from the group stepped forward to interrupt them.

This man, who appeared to be the most composed—likely the central figure among them—stepped forth.

“Student, we’re really, really grateful for your help.”

He removed his hiking hat and bowed deeply to convey his thanks.

Sincerity radiated from both his voice and behavior.

* * *

After the rescue, the man was taken away with the assistance of the late-arriving mountain rescue team.

It seemed that he had lost consciousness due to a mild concussion, but since the rescue was prompt, there was no serious concern.

Thanks to Kang Tae-han’s action, the patient could be immediately transported, skipping the usual rescue process.

Of course, there was a bit of scolding from the rescue team who warned, ‘Don’t try this again,’ but that was all.

“Student, thank you once again.”

“I don’t even know how to repay you.”

Four from their party followed the wounded man down the mountain, but two remained with Kang Tae-han.

They were the composed man who had first offered thanks and the lighter-toned man who had earlier inquired about special forces.

With repeated thanks, Kang Tae-han gave a small smile and waved his hands dismissively.

“Don’t mention it. It’s really okay. But how did your friend end up falling down the slope?”

“My buddy likes photography… It seems he fell while taking pictures. I didn’t see it happen myself, though.”

“That’s right. He slipped while holding his camera. Tsk, should’ve been more careful, especially in a place like this.”

The friend, who was not present, received a tongue-lashing from the man.

If he hadn’t been injured, the friend would’ve had no excuse even if he’d gotten smacked on the head considering how careless the act was.

“And to think, we haven’t even introduced ourselves yet.”

“Oh, I also have a name card… Ah, here it is.”

As if just remembering, the two men handed their business cards to Kang Tae-han.

[Baek Hospital Director Park Ho-yeon]

[Princess Country Golf Club Owner Jo Won-ho]

Kang Tae-han felt a sense of wonder as he looked at the business cards.

Honestly, for an alliance formed during a hike, the titles were quite impressive.

Especially the latter seemed to fit precisely the impression of the kind neighborhood uncle.

“If you ever need help with anything, give me a call. Whatever it is, just ask.”

“My hospital, as you see, is quite successful. And I… Well, if the student needs it, I could lend money.”

“—Are you making jokes even now?”

“What? I’m serious.”

The familiar banter between friends felt both natural and congenial.

It seemed they had known each other for a long time.

Suddenly, as if struck by a thought, Jo Won-ho clapped his hands.

“Right. Student, do you like alcohol?”

“Do I like alcohol? I don’t mind it, but—”

“Good to hear! Just give me a moment.”

Before Kang Tae-han could decline, Jo Won-ho set his backpack down and started rummaging through it.

Soon, a brown-colored liquid-filled bottle emerged.

“This is platycodon wine, and let me tell you, it’s very good for the body.”

“—Where did you get that?”

Until just moments ago, Kang Tae-han had been shaking his head to refuse the offer.

But once he saw the wine bottle pulled from the backpack, his gaze subtly shifted.

More precisely, his attention was caught the moment he sensed the energy emanating from the bottle.

“This? You can’t buy this with money. I dug up the ingredients and brewed it myself. It’s one of a few bottles in the world.”

Jo Won-ho thumped his own chest proudly, pleased to see Kang Tae-han’s reaction.

“May I try a taste?”

“Huh? Oh, I took it out to give to you, so there’s no issue… but maybe you like alcohol more than you let on?”

Jo Won-ho’s comment betrayed his surprise given Kang Tae-han’s formal and otherwise grounded demeanor.

Meanwhile, Kang Tae-han accepted the bottle and quickly uncorked it, pouring a bit of the spirit into a cup.

The quality of the alcohol itself wasn’t particularly high.

It was, as expected, just homemade liquor.

But that didn’t matter.

What surprised Kang Tae-han earlier was not its quality, but something else entirely.

‘More impressive than I thought.’

A small portion of the wine swished in the cup.

However, the energy seeping out filled the cup, flaunting its presence.

It was the most distinct spiritual energy (靈氣) Kang Tae-han felt since returning to the modern world.

‘If I exaggerate a bit, it could almost be called a spirit elixir.’

Spirit elixir (靈藥)—literally translating to a miraculous medicine.

Containing powerful mystical properties, ingesting it could grant years, even decades-worth of internal energy.

Typically, these elixirs boast grand names but deliver lackluster effects; however, those made with rare ingredients, like millennia-old ginseng or the inner elixirs of spiritual beasts, were treasures in their own right.

The potency of this Balloon Flower Root Liquor was so potent it could cause a stir in the martial world.

Of course, calling it an elixir might be overstating it.

It definitely contained spiritual energy, but that was it.

If sold as an elixir in the Central Plains, one might be chased away as a fraud.

But that was according to the standards of the martial world.

Considering this is the modern era where the concept of Qi is vague, this level was sufficient to be called an elixir.

‘Let’s try it.’

Kang Taehan cautiously took a sip from the cup.

Tasting it personally, the presence of spiritual energy became even clearer.

It was pure spiritual energy that reminded one of the fresh air of a mountain morning.

It was the distinctive feeling one could get from medicinal herbs grown imbued with spiritual energy.

‘…Nice.’

The clear spiritual energy circulating and being naturally absorbed into his body.

Even without performing any Qi-cultivation breathing techniques, the quantity of spiritual energy was not so significant that it would be absorbed naturally, but feeling spiritual energy after such a long time was indeed special.

Even the flavor of ordinary infused liquor felt fragrant.

“How is it, not bad, right?”

Jo Wonho, who had been observing Kang Taehan, asked.

Kang Taehan smiled softly and slowly nodded.

“It’s good. It’s something to be proud of.”

“Hahaha. Everyone thinks it’s nothing special, but once they take a sip, their expression changes. I don’t give this to just anyone.”

Pleased by the genuine compliment, Jo Wonho laughed heartily.

“You said you dug and infused it yourself earlier?”

“Hm? Oh, yes, I did.”

“May I ask where you dug it up?”

It was possible that he had coincidentally dug up a Balloon Flower Root that was rich in spiritual energy.

If so, this Balloon Flower Root Liquor was merely a product of chance.

Even if it wasn’t just this liquor made from that Balloon Flower Root, it was nonetheless a limited item.

But having tasted it, he could tell.

It was not just the Balloon Flower Root, but the land, the very mountain that it was dug from was imbued with thick spiritual energy.

If that were the case, the possibilities were vast.

After all, this was merely a Balloon Flower Root.

Frankly, it was a common medicinal ingredient, quite far from an elixir.

What if one were to dig up other medicinal herbs grown on that mountain?

What if, by chance, they found a wild ginseng?

For Kang Taehan, the imagination alone was intriguing enough to peak interest.

“…What’s with that look? Are you worried I dug it up from some forbidden place? That’s not the case.”

On the other hand, Jo Wonho waved his hands dismissively, a befuddled expression on his face, at Kang Taehan’s probing question.

It seemed odd to him that someone who wasn’t interested in such matters was now showing eagerness, wondering if perhaps there was a misunderstanding.

‘Digging for herbs or wild vegetables on the mountain is illegal!’ A warning sign that he had seen on various hiking trails flashed through his mind.

Maybe Kang Taehan guessed his thoughts.

He smiled lightly and shook his head.

“No, it’s not that. I just got a bit interested. My father also likes making liquor, you see.”

“Oh, is that so? You should’ve said so earlier!”

Liquor infusion.

Excitement returned to Jo Wonho’s face as his interest became the topic.

“I was thinking he might like it if I brought some.”

“Oh, I see. Like I said earlier, this wasn’t dug up just anywhere. It was gathered with permission from a proper private property.”

“Private property?”

“Yeah. A friend of mine owns a lot of land. It’s from a mountain he owns.”

This time, Park Hyeon, who was standing next to them, chimed in.

He had been listening to the conversation quietly, seemingly bored of standing idly by.

“It’s in Gongju… What was the place? I don’t exactly remember the address, but it’s a bit far from here, though you can get there by car.”

“The name of the area is Ogok? Oryong? Anyway, it’s almost deserted, and although the mountain trails are rough, it’s a really good place for foraging such things.”

“I’d like to visit sometime, could you introduce me to that person?”

At Kang Taehan’s words, Jo Wonho grinned broadly.

“Of course. I think he’d like that.”

“The person you saved, that’s him.”

“…Aha, I see.”

Kang Taehan nodded, his eyes revealing a hint of realization.

Asking for a favor from someone he had helped would surely be better than approaching a stranger.

Although it was a chance encounter, such coincidences were welcome any day.

* * *

“Then, definitely get in touch next time!”

“Call me if you ever want to go golfing!”

“Yes. Take care on your way down.”

Kang Taehan still had to climb higher, while Park Hyeon and his companions were initially on their way down the mountain.

With a light bow, Kang Taehan bid farewell and resumed his ascent.

‘I did well not to just pass by.’

At first, he wondered if there was no need to get involved, if it wasn’t just sticking his nose into others’ business, but it turned out to be a good choice.

Kang Taehan recalled the business card he had just received.

Paek Hospital was a quite large and renowned hospital nearby, within walking distance from his home.

He had no intention of flaunting connections, but knowing someone in the event his father needed to be hospitalized was not a bad idea.

Added to this, he had obtained a bottle of what could be called an elixir in the form of Balloon Flower Root Liquor and found a potential source for more elixir in the future.

Truly unexpected gains.

…But aside from that.

“Hmm.”

Kang Taehan looked at his hands, fidgeting with them.

They were hands that, once upon a time, had been stained with the blood of others for survival, had created mountains of corpses and seas of blood for revenge.

If such hands were to perform an act of kindness, it might be called hypocrisy.

However.

“Yet… it’s not such a bad feeling after all.”

Apart from the unexpected gains, helping someone out and receiving gratitude in return.

It was, surprisingly, a rather rewarding experience.



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