The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage chapter 28

The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage

“Looks like things didn’t go too well, huh?”

Lee Dong-chan lifted his glass and asked.

Without a word, Kim Min-yeol clinked his cup and emptied it in one go.

Guh. A sigh, laced with alcohol, followed.

“This industry is always like this, you know. Constantly changing concepts during development, swapping out team members, and always being hassled for results… And then there’s the big wigs upstairs trying to stick their spoons into the mix.”

Suggestions of what might be good, what could be changed.

Those higher-ups who didn’t really know anything, but with each attempt to stick their spoon in, the project became like a ship rocked by wind, losing its balance.

Still, we managed somehow, holding on with a passion for gaming… but recently, the project effectively capsized.

The day before, we had all agreed to lift our spirits at a company dinner, but seeing everyone despondently sitting at their desks the next morning made me suddenly feel exhausted.

“I just want to let it all go now.”

“Dude. But still… try a little longer.”

“It’s okay. I don’t have a wife to worry about, so it’s actually easier, you know? Just got to look after myself, right?”

Kim Min-yeol refilled his soju glass and let out a scoff as if amused by his own words.

However, his expression was still gloomy.

“……”

Lee Dong-chan silently observed his friend.

How many employees genuinely don’t consider quitting? Even the ones who’ve just started imagine writing their resignation at least a few times.

But still, they endure and persevere day by day.

Yet… there comes a time when it feels utterly unbearable.

Suddenly realizing that both body and mind are breaking down, worn to their limits in bleak moments.

Knowing that feeling made it hard to say anything.

“Sigh, kid…”

Maybe it’s because they were in the same industry, but his friend’s situation felt too personal to overlook.

His friend had just climbed the ranks earlier than others… only to break down all the sooner.

The situation was hard to watch in silence.

Lee Dong-chan checked his schedule on a calendar app, letting out a click of his tongue,

Then, as if he had made up his mind, he slowly began to speak.

“Hey, Min-yeol.”

“…What?”

“How about we go to the sauna tomorrow?”

“Sauna?”

Kim Min-yeol scratched his head.

Was he trying to offer a change of scenery to lighten the mood?

Even considering that, it was a rather unexpected suggestion.

“Still gotta go to work, though.”

“Who said anything about playing hooky? I meant after work, man.”

“…I appreciate the thought, but I’ll pass.”

Lately, nothing seemed fun.

Whether it was going to the sauna or anything else, after work he just wanted to be shut in at home, breathing quietly.

Especially in times like these.

“Let’s go when I say we should, okay?”

“I said I’m good… Huh?”

He was about to decline again when he locked eyes with Lee Dong-chan, and words escaped him.

His eyes were too earnest.

They held the solemnity of someone about to make a big sacrifice… like a man offering the emergency funds he’d saved on the sly from his wife.

“You’ll thank me if you just go…”

Tomorrow.

It was the day Lee Dong-chan had scheduled his third visit to a massage shop that had become his sanctuary for mental and physical rest.

But…

“I should be thankful.”

He had decided, with the resolution of holding back tears, to offer this escape to his friend who was worn down by life.

* * *

“Dad, how’s your shoulder been lately?”

[My shoulder? It’s totally fine. Feels like I’ve gone back in time. No, actually, it might be even better than before.]

“Really?”

[Yeah. And you know, I think it’s that balloonflower root you gave me, I’ve been feeling very energetic. I’m even pulling my own ramen noodles at home, believe it or not?]

Kang Tae-han smiled faintly at his father’s bragging.

Even though they were talking over the phone, he could easily visualize his father shrugging his shoulders on the other end.

‘Father’s changed a lot.’

Of course, in a good way.

It used to be unthinkable to imagine his father joking, but now, it felt natural.

Perhaps this was due to their relationship growing closer, or perhaps it was because life had granted his father a new sense of leisure.

Either way, for Kang Tae-han as a son, it was a very happy circumstance.

[But speaking of which. About that day off from the shop we discussed – I’m thinking it might be better to pretend we never talked about it.]

“What? Why?”

Last time, Kang Tae-han had seriously suggested that his father should take one day off a week from the noodle shop.

His father wasn’t getting any younger and pulling noodles every day wasn’t as easy as it seemed.

Although there hadn’t been any incidents yet, as a son, he wished his father would take it easy.

[You saw how busy the shop has gotten, right? We’ve been getting a lot more customers. Old regulars are coming back, and lots of young people say they saw us on – what do you call it – ‘Taste Instagram’?]

“Yes, it was quite busy.”

‘Taste Instagram’ is a social media platform where people post about food places.

Kang Tae-han had searched it out of curiosity and found several posts about his father’s shop.

The shop was one of the few places people could see hand-pulled noodles being made.

In some posts, there were videos of his father making the noodles.

‘It’s good news.’

Hand-pulled noodles were a source of pride for his father. At the peak of his craft, he was known for making extraordinarily fine noodles called “dragon’s beard noodles.”

Though he hadn’t been able to make them since his surgery, he took such care of his dough-kneading board that he wiped it clean every day.

Seeing his father’s shop gain recognition again, especially for the hand-pulled noodles, was an indescribable joy for Kang Tae-han.

[I thought about taking a break like you said last week, but you know, you’ve got to row when the water comes in. I’ve started to feel that way.]

“I still think you should take it easy.”

“It’s new for me too, so I can only imagine how happy Dad must be.”

Kang Tae-han couldn’t bring himself to strongly oppose, as he vaguely understood that feeling.

“These days, you have to take a break to appreciate a good meal properly.”

[Kang Ho-yeon rarely took a day off from his restaurant.

He kept it open even when there were no customers or on public holidays.

Only during the long holidays of traditional festivals would he take a breather for a day or two.

In the past, he suppressed his desire to enjoy himself, thinking of his son, but now things were a little different.

He found it awkward to take a rest.

Kang Tae-han sighed softly.

He understood the situation but felt the need to intervene even more.

Wasn’t it about time for him to take things a little easier?

“Then, spend some time going out with your son.”

[…With you?]

“Yes. I know it’d be tough every week but… we could go hiking together, eat out, or even go fishing.”

Kang Tae-han played a strong card.

[That… doesn’t sound too bad.]

Sure enough, his father couldn’t help but respond.

Kang Ho-yeon’s voice was awkward but tinged with pleasant anticipation.

“It would also be good for you to pick up a hobby. Haven’t you ever wanted to try something, even back in the day?”

[I guess… Now that I think about it, I have always wanted to play a proper game of golf.]

“Golf?”

Kang Tae-han was surprised by the mention of golf.

[Some better-off friends from my hometown would go out to play golf. I just tried it once and didn’t find it fun.]

His voice, despite his words, carried a note of regret.

Kang Tae-han pondered briefly.

‘Golf…’

There was something recent about golf.

Suddenly remembering, Kang Tae-han held his smartphone between his shoulder and cheek and pulled out a business card from his wallet.

‘Call me if you ever want to play golf!’

Jo Won-ho, the owner of the Princess Country Golf Club.

While it was probably a casual comment, there was no harm in reaching out.

Kang Tae-han shrugged and placed the business card on the desk.

* * *

Reservations for Kang Tae-han’s massage course during the weekdays were most competitive for the last two slots.

Between six and seven in the evening.

For obvious reasons.

Those were the only slots that typical office workers, who couldn’t leave during work hours, could visit on a weekday.

There was also the option of coming on weekends, but these slots were particularly favored because one could get a massage to unwind after a tiring day at work.

“Thank you, sir. I feel so energized because of you.”

“It’s like even my worries melt away when I come here.”

Perhaps due to the special circumstances, the clients’ reactions were especially more intense at this time.

For some, it was a source of life’s energy, for others, an oasis; one patron, who seemed to work in the gaming industry, even described it as a save point.

“There was someone who recently gave a tip and asked to be notified first if there were any cancellations.”

Setting down his teacup, Manager Hwang spoke.

He seemed more desperate than selfish, as if trying to clutch at straws.

“So, did you do it?”

“No. Perhaps if it were Taehan, I might consider, but me? It doesn’t make sense. Besides, cancellations rarely happen.”

Replying to Choi Seong-hyun’s question, Manager Hwang refilled his teacup for the third time with boiling water.

The tea used was Lu’an Melon Seed.

Manager Hwang had tried it on Kang Tae-han’s recommendation and found himself continuously thinking about it, eventually buying a simple tea set and leaves.

“…Is it good?”

“It’s not just tasty. It just, well, clings to the mouth. It clings just right.”

Manager Hwang inhaled the aroma, shaking his head with a deep expression of pleasure.

From Choi Seong-hyun’s perspective, it was quite a sight.

He decided to change the topic.

“Anyway, it’s true that the expressions on the faces of clients really change after the end of the workday.”

“What can we do… They’re all tired people after all.”

Who else came to the sauna? There were those who came merely to bathe, but most were exhausted and needed to recharge their lives.

Especially those office workers who came after work hours clearly didn’t need further explanation.

It would be great if they could be recharged by the sauna and go back energized, but most were still deeply tired.

They had too much accumulated fatigue to be alleviated by just a sauna.

“Our job is to relieve them and recharge their vitality.”

Manager Hwang put down his teacup as he spoke.

Choi Seong-hyun looked at him intently before speaking more casually.

“It sounds like you have a high sense of professionalism… but you don’t give massages, do you, Manager?”

“…You have to draw the line there, huh?”

Manager Hwang gave a hollow laugh, resting his chin on his hand.

Choi Seong-hyun shrugged and averted his gaze.

‘…Is this the right place?’

At that moment, a client arrived at the massage shop lobby.

It was none other than Kim Min-yeol, who took over the day’s reservation from Lee Dong-chan.

Lee Dong-chan had come to the sauna with him but insisted on going to the steam room alone, fearing he’d end up getting a massage himself like usual.

‘It looks like just an ordinary massage shop…’

Maybe it was because he was mentally exhausted, but his thoughts leaned towards pessimism.

He even wondered if it was a waste of time to come here.

Just as he thought about turning back,

‘I bet you’ll be thanking me when you’re done.’

The face of the friend who’d brought him here flashed in his mind.

Out of consideration for that friend’s kindness, Kim Min-yeol walked towards the interior of the shop.



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