The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage chapter 20

The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage

Tae-Han Kang has developed a modest hobby and habit.

It’s checking online news on his smartphone from time to time.

Though he keeps his distance from smartphones during work or exercise, he finds himself scouring various articles whenever he gets a chance otherwise.

He spent roughly sixty years in the martial world.

Naturally, over that period, Tae-Han had forgotten much of the contemporary knowledge and information he once knew.

This was not only due to the passage of time but also because life in the martial world was so demanding that it left little room to reminisce over old memories.

Upon returning to the modern world, his memories of everyday life swiftly revived, and he adapted quickly enough that his surroundings hardly noticed anything amiss…

Yet, the gaps of forgetfulness in more specific details remained.

For example, he might not know the name of a national idol that everyone knew, remember a nationwide scandal from the year before, or recall the title of a recent blockbuster movie.

Often, Tae-Han felt unfamiliar with content that was supposedly common knowledge – content that people would say, “You must be a spy if you don’t know this.”

Of course, forgetting such things wouldn’t actually lead anyone to accuse him of being a spy…

Nevertheless, it was true that he felt somewhat uncomfortable each time he encountered such situations.

But this was the modern world.

Almost all the information he needed could be found in the palm of his hand.

Not only the latest news but even old news and gossip from years past could all be retrieved.

‘Remembering the good old days… Ah, I think there was quite a stir at school around that time, too.’

A smile spread across Tae-Han’s face as he recalled a piece from last year’s news he stumbled upon.

Every article he read led to an additional memory branching out like twigs from a tree, enriching his reminiscence.

Rather than being tedious, this process became a pleasurable pastime for the elderly – even though Tae-Han’s body remained that of a man in his twenties.

‘Huh?’

While browsing the latest news, a familiar name caught his eye.

“Choi Tae-Jun…? That name sounds familiar.”

Tae-Han tilted his head slightly, then quickly remembered.

It was the name of the baseball player Choi Seong-Hyun mentioned a few days ago at the blood sausage soup restaurant.

The player who had somehow managed to ruin an almost-won game.

Tae-Han guessed that this must be a skilled player who had been underperforming recently.

As expected, the article’s content wasn’t flattering; the reporter’s emotions were almost palpable, making it seem as though he was a fan of the Hanha Hawks.

‘The super rookie, Hanha’s promising player… It looks like he was originally quite highly rated.’

Curiosity piqued, Tae-Han searched and found that older articles overflowed with praise for the player.

It made sense – current criticism implied that the player had once performed well.

‘It’s a common occurrence.’

A once noteworthy talent now showing a disappointing performance is a tale as old as time.

In truth, it’s the unceasing and consistently satisfying prodigy that would be the anomaly.

However, this must be hard on the person involved.

The disparity between the smiling face in past articles and the dejected one in recent ones was pitiable.

Tae-Han shrugged his shoulders and slipped the smartphone back into his pocket.

“I’ve arrived.”

“Ah, Tae-Han! Welcome.”

At 9:20 AM sharp, maintaining the usual punctuality, he arrives at the massage parlor.

Greeting Manager Hwang, Tae-Han promptly heads for the changing room.

A moment later, he steps out not in a masseur’s uniform, but in ordinary sauna clothes.

His first appointment was at 10 AM.

Until then, he’d take advantage of the spare time to relax his body thoroughly in the hot bath – this was how Tae-Han’s daily routine began.

“Ah… this is great.”

Starting the day by soaking in a hot bath brought a significant boost to his overall satisfaction.

As Tae-Han’s sigh of contentment rose gently, he thought to himself, ‘This truly is extraordinary.’

Morning baths held a unique charm.

Was it because it was quieter than usual?

With fewer people, one could more freely enjoy the tub, making it an ideal moment for contemplation during a bath.

Having this luxury while working here could indeed be considered a major perk.

Immersed in the tub, Tae-Han spent his time leisurely.

‘…Hm?’

While floating in a relaxed state, his eyes suddenly landed on a face that seemed familiar.

It didn’t take long for him to recognize who it was.

After all, it was the face he had seen in the news just before.

‘It’s Choi Tae-Jun, isn’t it?’

Encountering the face from the news here brought a sense of intrigue akin to meeting one of the Four Great Emissaries at a rural inn.

Casting a glance, Tae-Han could clearly see the well-defined muscles honed by a career in sports, not simply the result of a few years of training but the outcome of consistent long-term effort.

‘So there’s a disconnect between reality and rumors after all.’

Gaining popularity early must lead to negligence in training, or even getting drunken before a game…

Such opinions were not uncommon, but seeing him in person, Tae-Han could instantly tell that those were unfounded rumors.

That physique couldn’t have resulted from an indolent lifestyle.

Though he couldn’t be certain from a distance, it seemed more likely the player was pushing his body too hard rather than slacking off.

‘…Well, it’s none of my business anyway.’

“Don’t I have any associations?

It may be irrelevant in the current situation unless fate makes a connection.

Even if I pay attention, it’s nothing more than meddling.

Since it was about time to leave, Kang Tae-han left the bathhouse, leaving Choi Tae-joon behind.

But, when he took his second appointment for the day.

‘I’ll be in your care.’

Seeing Choi Tae-joon sit down on the bed and bow his head slightly, Kang Tae-han let out an involuntary chuckle.

It seems I am somehow fated to be connected to this man.

* * *

‘I saw that person in the bathhouse earlier.’

When they crossed paths in the bathhouse, Choi Tae-joon had taken a good look at Kang Tae-han.

He didn’t know who he was, of course, but his well-defined muscles had caught his eye.

People who make a career out of exercise can usually tell what kind of sport someone does, their level of experience, and how much effort they typically put in, just by looking at their body.

But Kang Tae-han was harder to read.

The only thing certain was his muscles were finely and elegantly toned.

It wasn’t decent to stare at a stranger in the bath, so he’d only glanced briefly, but his physique seemed like it should be in a textbook, an ideal form.

Surely it was a body honed over a long time.

Choi Tae-joon couldn’t have imagined that it was a physique developed in less than two months.

‘There’s something mysterious about him.’

Meanwhile, Choi Tae-joon was sensing a curious aura about Kang Tae-han.

He looked about his own age, but the atmosphere was completely different.

A certain weight, a depth that his young appearance didn’t match… It was as if he carried the gravitas of accumulated years.

“Do you have any particular discomfort?”

Was it because of that?

His tone was naturally respectful.

It felt appropriate, both for the speaker and the listener.

Honestly, until a moment ago, Choi Tae-joon had not been very hopeful.

How good could a masseur in a sauna be?

The sauna itself was large and clean, which he liked, but that was it.

He didn’t want to directly refuse the coach’s concern and thought it was an opportunity to see some acquaintances in Seoul.

However, the moment he met Kang Tae-han.

A small flicker of hope had sparked.

Choi Tae-joon placed his hand on his right shoulder, saying,

“I injured my shoulder a while back when I was throwing.”

“The right shoulder, you say.”

“Yes. But I feel like there’s a lingering foreign sensation around here… I’ve been to various places, but there’s been no improvement.”

It suddenly felt silly to him.

Speaking of symptoms that he’d normally only discuss in a hospital while he was in the massage parlour of a sauna.

He wondered if it would be burdensome for the other person.

“I’ll take a look.”

Kang Tae-han simply nodded and rested his hand on the shoulder.

His casual demeanor somehow inspired trust.

‘…It’s definitely serious.’

Kang Tae-han turned sombre upon examining the condition.

Though, what he was really considering wasn’t just the shoulder, but the whole body’s state.

As seen in the bathhouse, the body seemed overworked as if dragged through prolonged strain.

The cut marks on the shoulder were real, and there were small cracks in the veins around the area.

But in comparison to the overall body condition, these were minor issues.

‘Is this the struggle to break out of a slump?’

Delay in achievements and no further growth.

There’s hardly anything more tormenting for a martial artist.

The pain is especially more intense for those who are diligent and hard-working, and for young and passionate people, it’s especially bitter.

The pain alone could drive one to be possessed by inner demons (心魔) or chose the seemingly easier path of evil (邪道), causing untold numbers of talented young warriors (武林奇才) to ruin their lives every year.

‘The same applies to the modern world.’

One such case was before him.

A young man whose body was worn-out from his desperate struggle to make progress.

Appearances suggested a strong and robust young athlete, but internally the vital energy was nearly spent.

Participating in competitions with such a body meant poor results were inevitable.

However, this young man blamed his stagnation on insufficient effort rather than lack of rest.

He was exactly that type of person.

And yet, Kang Tae-han didn’t dislike such individuals.

Perhaps he should offer a little help.

Kang Tae-han smiled faintly and placed his hand on the young man’s back.

“You’ve got a sickness of the heart.”

“…”

It was the kind of comment one might dismiss as nonsense if heard in front of a train station.

But perhaps because of Kang Tae-han’s own aura, Choi Tae-joon listened quietly.

“It is indeed brave to endure and resist adversity, but if the hardship is such that it might break you, then it’s necessary to let it slide by you sometimes.”

“I’ve been trying to take care of it. This time, I hope you can be flexible and not break.”

What could that mean?

Choi Tae-joon was about to ask, slightly raising his head.

But the question never made it out.

Pa-ba-ba-bak!

From the Life Gate (命門) acupuncture point near the base of the spine to the Big Push (大推) below the neck.

Kang Tae-han’s acupressure ascended Choi Tae-joon’s spine, stimulating over ten acupuncture points in an instant.

“Hurrgh!”

The spine, the literal pillar of the body.

Feeling the electric sensation radiate through his entire body from that pillar, Choi Tae-joon’s mind went blank, and he let out a cry that was more a groan than a scream.



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