The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage chapter 22

The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage

Taejun Choi entered the bathhouse once again and submerged himself in the hot water. As he slept, he not only drooled but also sweat profusely from receiving the massage, making his sauna clothes damp. He felt uncomfortable leaving without washing up.

“Sigh…”

Waking from a deep sleep and soaking in the warm bath offers a special kind of pleasure. Moreover, it was still broad daylight, a luxury he wouldn’t normally consider indulging in.

‘Have I felt this good recently?’

His body felt as light as new, and his mind as clear as a sky without clouds, as if someone had cleansed him from the inside out. Perhaps because of this, he could feel vitality steadily rising from within. A confidence emerged, suggesting he could take on anything at the moment.

But why?

When he was exhausted and worn out, his mind was filled with the compulsion to train and compete, but now that he was overflowing with energy, his mind was surprisingly empty. Only occasional thoughts like ‘The warmth of the hot water feels so comforting, the tiredness of my body feels so good…’ drifted through his clear head.

Taejun began to idly count the water droplets on the ceiling, sinking into a quiet and warm rest. Despite being the same bath he had entered before the massage, the experience felt completely different.

‘Listen to the words of the people close to you, not the ones you don’t even know…’

As he stayed lost in thought, he suddenly remembered the words Kang Taehan had told him earlier. Indeed, he had been swayed by the words of strangers he never met.

Only after his mind cleared of distractions did he realize this.

‘Taejun, take it easy. It’s good to work hard, but knowing when to stop is important.’

‘Hey, man. Why is it all your fault? Let’s go have dinner instead, Bumho hyung said he’d treat us to king crab.’

‘It’s good to work hard, but you need to take breaks too. Even your coaches tell you to go out and have some fun… I can’t believe I’m coaching and telling my athlete to have fun.’

Suddenly, the words of those around him came to mind. People close to him had already been giving him the answers. To take a break, that it wasn’t his fault to blame…

He simply hadn’t been listening.

‘I’ve been such a fool.’

He had been paying attention to the words of unknown netizens, while ignoring those who cared and worried about him by his side. What a foolish act.

Of course, among those strangers online, there were fans of the team and his supporters as well. He was nothing but grateful for their interest and expectations.

The interest and expectations of the fans. A professional player’s career can’t be established without these two elements.

But…

‘If you can’t handle it…’

If you take on a burden you cannot bear, you’ll only end up being a nuisance, worse off than not taking it at all. He had been desperately trying to carry a heavy load and ended up scattered, unable to do even the things he used to be capable of, wandering aimlessly for a long time.

Condition management. This too is a virtue of a professional. Its importance cannot be overstated.

He had completely failed at it. He had been obsessed with the exoneration of ‘continuously trying’ alone.

*Heavy sigh*

Taejun Choi exhaled a long breath and washed his face roughly with the warm bath water. It felt as though he could finally see clearly.

And he seemed to realize just how clueless he had been. Yet, he felt surprisingly refreshed. It would be a lie to say there was no bitterness, but that was of no concern compared to the clarity he felt now.

‘Let’s start over, Taejun Choi.’

Smack! He stood up in the bath and slapped his cheeks sharply. His face tingled, a fitting shock to bring him back to his senses. A smile spread across his lips.

‘But… do I need to make a reservation to come back?’

With a 99% certainty of revisiting!

Even a professional baseball player who had gained small enlightenment was no exception.

Before leaving the sauna, Taejun made sure to stop by the massage shop to make a reservation first.

* * *

In a taxi heading somewhere, Kang Taehan leaned back in his seat, reading an article on his smartphone’s screen while smiling.

[Taejun Choi, consecutive scoreless innings promises smooth sailing!]

[The splendid revival of a Super Rookie! Was the slump just growing pains for a new leap?]

‘The effects are appearing faster than I thought.’

The articles announcing the end of Taejun Choi’s slump were all positive, although not the main topic and thus not abundant. The occasional ones that did pop up were consistently praiseworthy.

Revival, overcome, leap forward, scoreless. The titles alone were riddled with positive keywords, making the content quite predictable.

‘In reality, it’s just his original skills showing.’

The reason for Taejun Choi’s slump was due to unnecessarily wasting effort in the wrong places and failing at condition management, not due to lack of effort or talent.

If his condition recovered and he returned to his original performance level, it would be more than enough for him to thrive again.

Kang Taehan hadn’t actually watched the games nor did he know much about baseball, but…

At least compared to how he was before the treatment, a transformation in performance could be expected.

‘It seems his mindset has also changed.’

He might have awakened and stimulated the meridians to boost his recovery, but ultimately, it’s up to him to maintain it.

If he abused his body as before, he surely would not last.

By now, one might have expected his condition to start deteriorating again.

However, looking at the recent articles, there was no such sign.

At least it seemed he had successfully escaped the pitfall of others’ expectations.

‘The complexion is much more pleasant than when I first saw him.’

Kang Tae-han let out a grin upon seeing the bright face of Choi Tae-joon in the article.

The fact that someone he had helped was flourishing felt surprisingly good.

“Sir, I believe this is about where you wanted to go. Is this the right place?”

The taxi driver, who had been driving, spoke to Kang Tae-han.

The road was there, but not a single building could be seen around.

The driver looked around with a puzzled expression.

“Yes, this is the place. I’ll get off here.”

Kang Tae-han nodded his head after checking the location on his map app.

After settling the payment and getting out of the taxi, the cool mountain air pleasantly brushed his cheeks.

Before him was the towering wild mountain.

A smile lifted the corners of Kang Tae-han’s mouth.

This was none other than the mountain owned by Shin Jun-ho—the very same who owed his life to Kang Tae-han, and it might hold the potential to find the herb he was looking for.

‘This feels right.’

It was slightly ambiguous when just looking at the map app, but being here, breathing the air, certainty came immediately.

Where the grounds are good, good energy flows.

Though he had not even started climbing, he could already faintly sense a spiritual energy drifting around.

Moreover, this mountain doesn’t see many visitors.

The spiritual energy of mountains tends to dull and scatter as human traffic increases.

That’s precisely why most famous mountains are not actually ideal for cultivating one’s practice.

‘Well, it would be illegal nowadays, anyway.’

If one were to set up camp in Gyeryongsan Mountain to practice or dig up herbs, forest rangers would surely intervene.

But there are no such worries here.

If not disturbed by the wild animals, the herbs would be perfectly intact, and people rarely come here.

On top of that, he had received permission to do whatever he pleased from the mountain’s owner.

Could anything be more reassuring and exciting?

To Kang Tae-han, the mountain in front of him seemed no different from a vast treasure chest.

‘It’s time to make a move.’

Behind him, a large backpack.

Over his outerwear, a multipurpose vest stocked with portable gathering tools.

With preparations complete, Kang Tae-han began walking towards the mountain.

While he carefully observed his surroundings and made his way up, it didn’t take long before he found something.

“This is wild ginseng.”

A medicinal herb that looks remarkably similar to ginseng and bellflowers.

It’s easy to mistake it for mountain ginseng because they look so alike, but mountain ginseng has five leaves and wild ginseng has four.

Kang Tae-han chuckled to himself for a moment, seeing the four leaves after initially feeling hopeful.

Still, there was no reason to be disappointed.

Not only do they look alike, but their effects are also similar.

Of course, there’s a difference in the potency of their medicinal effects, but they’re still good for the body… and more importantly, they’re tasty.

‘It’s only natural to take it with me.’

He took out a small shovel from a pocket on his vest and assembled it.

Normally, one should carefully dig around the roots to avoid damage, but Kang Tae-han jabbed the shovel next to the root without hesitation.

An action made possible by sensing its location through his spiritual senses.

Next, he simply had to lift it up with the soil around it using the shovel to extract the root.

“Definitely in good condition.”

Though not an expert, he couldn’t exactly tell how many years old it was, but he could guess the amount of the spiritual energy contained within.

This much could certainly produce a drink with the same effects as the bellflower liquor he had previously consumed.

In other words, it could definitely be expected to work as an elixir.

To find such a thing at the entrance of the mountain was a positive sign indeed.

Kang Tae-han put the wild ginseng into his backpack and quickened his pace up the mountain, occasionally expanding his spiritual senses.

Normally, senses spread in all directions through the air, but herbs containing a certain amount of spiritual energy absorb some of that energy, causing a distortion in the detection.

Though it’s not enough to pinpoint an exact location, it indicates that there are decent herbs nearby.

It’s like a radar for spiritual herbs, so to speak.

“Still, this is beyond my expectations.”

Kang Tae-han muttered while brushing the soil off a large He Shou Wu root.

The weight in the backpack on his back was already significant, and it wasn’t just wild ginseng contributing to it.

The mountain teemed with herbs like Solomon’s seal, medlar, and atractylodes, filling the air and glimpsing into his heightened awareness.

Things like kudzu roots were so plentiful that he’d stopped bothering to collect them.

There’s a saying about getting a bite every time you cast a line in fishing.

Though this wasn’t water but a mountain, Kang Tae-han’s situation fit that description perfectly.

‘I’ll have my hands full just eating all of this.’

Two hours had barely passed since he’d started climbing the mountain, yet he had gathered enough to consider ending the collection.

But a slight sense of regret still lingered…

“Hm?”

In the midst of his expanded senses, Kang Tae-han felt a significant gap.

There was a point where he couldn’t feel the energy at all—an uncommon reaction that quickened his steps.

Soon enough, Kang Tae-han grinned while looking at the collected herb in his hand.

“If this isn’t at least twenty years old, then nothing is.”

The quintessential medicinal herb, the treasure of the mountains, the protagonist of the expression “I’ve hit the jackpot” had appeared.

And with the emergence of the mountain ginseng, even the faint regret he had been holding onto seemed to wash away.



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