The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage chapter 23

The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage

It is best to pitch a tent on dry land where the sun can reach during the day.

If you carelessly choose any flat area, you might find yourself sleeping on damp ground soaked with the creeping moisture of the night.

After setting up a well-positioned tent, the next thing to think about is a campfire.

Of course, you need some firewood to start a fire, but if you have set up your tent in a dry location, it should be easy to find dry wood nearby.

‘Bend a branch to test it.’

When bent, a branch that does not bend but breaks or splits is well-dried wood.

It is good to gather a selection ranging from fine twigs to thicker pieces.

Now what you need is a kindling to start the fire.

Shredded paper is good, a bundle of thread works too, and if the weather is dry, picking up dry leaves while collecting wood isn’t a bad idea either.

Place these among the firewood and light it up.

If the flame from the kindling doesn’t catch on, you have to take action…

However, if the firewood has been well-dried, usually the fire catches on its own, and the campfire is complete.

“Grrr…”

Kang Taehan stretched lightly before bringing his fingers close to the campfire.

There’s something calming about it.

The security that fire brings in the wild is deeper than one might think.

Perhaps it’s because it’s been so long since he made a fire himself, but just sitting there made him feel slightly elated.

‘It brings back old memories.’

When he was in the martial world, he often stayed in the wilderness without a roof over his head.

The knowledge to find suitable campgrounds or to start a fire were all gained from direct experience during those times.

“Haha. Have the memories of the martial world become old recollections now?”

Kang Taehan smiled at the sudden thought.

In the martial world, modern impressions used to remind him of the past, but now the opposite seemed true.

‘Well then… Shall we start?’

Normally, after setting up a tent and starting a campfire, the standard practice would be to enjoy the scenery or bask in the view and just soak up the flames for a while.

However, Kang Taehan wasn’t here today just to rest.

While he had achieved his goal of gathering herbs, if that had been the only aim, he would have descended the mountain much sooner.

His remaining task was the refinement of internal energy (内功精鍊), a process necessary for achieving a higher purity of internal energy, especially critical for someone like him who practiced the Absorbing Stars Great Method.

The recent attempt at Mt. Gyeryong had been successful, but that place wasn’t ideal for deeply immersing himself in circulating energy due to various limitations.

For one, there were too many hikers around to maintain long breath cycles, and more importantly, by dusk, one had to leave the mountain.

It was, of course, forbidden to camp and stay overnight on the mountain.

‘But here, it doesn’t matter.’

Without other hikers around, not only was herb gathering allowed, but there was also no issue with camping.

Who would object when the mountain owner himself had said to do as he pleases?

Moreover, since the path was rarely trodden by humans, the purity of the energy was higher, and the concentration of spiritual energy was much thicker than in Mt. Gyeryong.

The environment was perfect for concentrating the mind and handling internal energy.

“And there’s a good harvest too.”

Kang Taehan rummaged carefully inside his backpack.

What he retrieved was none other than the wild ginseng he had found earlier.

Judging by the markings on the root head, it was over twenty years old and had grown here, rich in the thick spiritual energy of the location, making it a superb medicinal herb without question.

‘It would’ve been quite difficult to obtain even in the martial world.’

There are many opinions on how to effectively consume ginseng, whether in the martial world or the modern era, but if not processed into a ‘reversal pill’ by Shaolin, it all comes down to personal constitution.

Kang Taehan preferred to eat it raw.

He gently brushed the dirt off the fresh ginseng and rinsed it lightly with water.

Then, starting from the fine roots, he chewed slowly, thoroughly before swallowing.

“Let’s see.”

A dry tree stump was embedded near the tent.

For something found in the wild, its circumference and height were quite adequate.

Kang Taehan sat on the seat he had found earlier, closed his eyes in a comfortable position, and focused his mind inward.

The clear spiritual energy seeping through the blood vessels from the stomach.

Indeed, the energy was overwhelming compared to other herbs.

But leaving it unattended was dangerous.

Ordinary people might fill their blood vessels with such energy and let the excess dissipate naturally with time.

However, for martial artists who store their internal energy in the lower Dantian, the clash between different energies could lead to corruption or, in severe cases, entering a delirious frenzy.

Therefore, he shifted all his internal energy to the lower Dantian and kept the energy from the medicinal herb separately in the vacant middle Dantian, locking it up for a while.

“Hooo…”

Breathing deeply, Kang Taehan repeated the Qi Gong (氣功), waiting for the harshness of the naturally occurring spiritual energy to dull and the fierce energy to subside.

This way, he calmed the unruly spiritual energy, and as the waves settled, he gently led the transformation to suit his body in a basic manner.

However, this method took too long.

Kang Taehan joined his hands, drawing a Tai Chi symbol, and channeled the energy from the lower Dantian into his left hand and the spiritual energy into his right, bringing both energies to meet in the center.

He sped up the merging process.

Although there should have been a clash, the two energies quietly mixed, combined into one property, and flowed into the lower Dantian.

This was a method of internal energy management using the principles of the Great Blue Essence Technique and the Reversed Tendon Scripture.

Kang Taehan, who had been using the Absorbing Stars Great Method since his martial world days, was an expert at harmonizing two distinct energies.

‘This way, a separate refinement process is needed.’

But was that not the purpose of coming here?

With only minimal awareness to maintain vigilance, Kang Taehan deeply immersed himself, repeating deep breaths.

As the sun slowly set and darkness fell…

As the campfire faded to embers…

And as a thin film of sweat formed over his body…

“Sssssh…”

With a final deep exhale, Kang Taehan slowly opened his eyes.

The cool evening breeze against his feverish body filled with surging energy was particularly satisfying.

‘Much time has passed.’

It was already getting dark.

The sun hadn’t fully set yet, but on the opposite side of the sky, a dim moon and stars were rising.

But the effort was worth it.

Kang Taehan clenched his fist lightly, channeling his internal energy upward.

A pastel grey aura began to wrap around the edges of his fist.

“Haha.”

Reabsorbing his internal energy, Kang Taehan smiled softly.

It was a moment when the fruits of his occasional efforts shone their light.

“Now that I’ve done what I came here for…”

Kang Taehan cracked his knees…

Kang Tae-han brushed off his pants and stood up from his seat.

“Maybe I should prepare a meal.”

However, even Mount Geumgang must be admired after a meal.

Perhaps because he had been sweating, he felt hungry.

First, Kang Tae-han revived the dying campfire, then he took out a bottle of water, a packet of ramen, a small pot, and… a portable burner from his backpack inside the tent.

“The campfire and cooking fire are entirely different.”

Though he had already lit a fire, using it for cooking would demand an overly cumbersome process.

Cooking over a campfire might seem romantic in concept, but that’s all it is—purely romantic.

It’s far wiser and more efficient to bring along a portable gas burner instead.

As the ramen boiled, Kang Tae-han stretched and gazed at the sunset over the mountains.

Perhaps because his venture was fruitful, the scenery felt exceptionally special.

Gradual darkness descended.

While the night mountains were usually enveloped in silent serenity, with the light and warmth of the campfire, even that became a foundation for enjoying the ambience.

“Not a bad holiday.”

Kang Tae-han slowly opened the lid of the pot.

The appetizing scent of ramen rose with the white steam, filling the cold night air.

* * *

A few days later, at a PC room located near a sauna.

It was a famous spot that had replaced all its computer components with top-of-the-line hardware a few weeks ago, attracting gamers who were particular about specs.

Choi Seong-hyun sat there, staring intently at the screen.

He would usually be working at the massage shop around this time but had his reasons for being here today.

“Ah, please… I just want to avoid wrecking my last semester’s course enrollment…”

A faint cry of desperation escaped Choi Seong-hyun’s lips.

Every semester, he failed to sign up for classes as planned, a man constantly dogged by misfortune.

“Shouldn’t you be used to it by your last semester?”

“Right? I also find it really strange.”

Kang Tae-han, sitting next to him, made a light-hearted comment.

He seemed unfazed compared to Choi Seong-hyun.

And for good reason; he didn’t have any required courses to worry about and only needed exactly 5 credits to graduate.

“…Wait. I got an idea.”

Choi Seong-hyun turned his head as if he had a sudden epiphany.

“What is it?”

“How about you do mine and I’ll do yours? Maybe that’ll work out?”

Unlike Choi Seong-hyun, Kang Tae-han never messed up his course registrations.

Even if things went south, he’d just give up on one subject at most, especially in highly competitive courses where he never failed.

“I’d rather not.”

But Kang Tae-han flatly refused.

“Why not!”

“You should handle your own stuff. Plus, if I miss this, I’ll have to look for another class in the same time slot.”

“You’re terrible… You don’t understand my pain…”

However, it was just a jest from the start.

Choi Seong-hyun sighed heavily and refocused on his monitor.

Time was ticking down to the last few seconds before course registration opened.

Now it was all about trusting the PC’s performance and his own reflexes.

Click, click, click!

“Aaargh!”

Frustration burst from Choi Seong-hyun as the university website refused to load.

This spelled failure in his course registration attempt.

“Did you fail?”

“This time it’s screwed too… How about you?”

Kang Tae-han pointed to his screen with his thumb where a short sentence confirmed his success: Your course registration is complete.

A reflex to match Cheonma’s unbeatable speed!

If there had been a ranking for registering for classes, Kang Tae-han would have been top of the list.

After finishing up, Kang Tae-han stood from his seat.

“I’m heading back now. What will you do?”

“Tell the manager I’ll come in later… I should call the department office.”

“…Alright. Take care, then.”

Kang Tae-han left a brief farewell and exited cleanly.

Though he had some time to spare, there wasn’t much he could do to help, and he didn’t want to give up on stopping by the bathhouse right after work.

‘The start of a new semester…’

Honestly, he could hardly remember his university life.

It isn’t just the exasperation of a senior, but because sixty years have wedged themselves in between that time and now.

Frankly, he couldn’t even recall the name of his academic advisor.

Even so, it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference now, but university is something that should be concluded.

Not just for the sake of education, but as a link connecting his past and present selves.

‘…Hmm?’

Lost in thought, Kang Tae-han had walked only a short distance when he sensed something.

A medium-sized sedan was hurtling towards him, not slowing down despite the red light.

There was still a distance to the stop line, so perhaps it wasn’t his concern, but Kang Tae-han noticed the car was swerving ever so slightly.

Like a drunk staggering about.

“Insane.”

As expected, the car didn’t stop until just short of the stop line, and instead of halting, it continued forward.

It’s best to avoid a lunatic.

People saw it and quickly crossed to the other side or turned back, but…

In the middle, one woman stood frozen in place as if her feet were glued to the ground.

“Hmm.”

Thoughts raced through his head.

Was the plan that had just occurred to him feasible or not?

It was entirely possible, and he proceeded with that decision at once.

Kang Tae-han’s feet glided forward as he entered the path between the oncoming medium-sized sedan and the hunched-over woman.

Saryangbalcheon-geun (四两拨千斤).

If one grasps the essence of martial arts, even with merely four liang of force, one can master a thousand jin.

One of the pivotal teachings passed down in the Mount Hua Sect, embodying the core understandings of the sect.

Although Kang Tae-han had never learned the teachings of Mount Hua, he understood the subtleties of its essence and could fully wield it.

Boom!

A collision sound so intense it practically shook the ground.

However, that sound originated from the guardrail at the center line behind Kang Tae-han.

‘My technique has not rusted.’

He had deflected the car to the right, channeling the remaining impact through his feet into the asphalt below.

As a result, Kang Tae-han himself stood unharmed as if nothing had happened.

Naturally, since he had not been directly struck, this was to be expected.

“Are you alright?”

Kang Tae-han turned and offered his hand to the woman, who had crumpled to the ground in shock.

“Yes, yes… but my legs have gone weak…”

“Let me help you up.”

The woman clutched the hand Kang Tae-han held out to her.

Instantly a tingling sensation spread from her hand throughout her body, and strength returned to her legs.

She stood up on two feet, puzzled but unharmed.

“It seems you’re not hurt.”

“Thanks to you.”

“Don’t mention it. It’s as if the car dodged on its own.”

Kang Tae-han flashed a light, incongruous smile with the situation at hand.



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