The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage chapter 38

The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage

“Where should I put the meat?”

“Ah, just place it here, please.”

Choi Seong-hyun cleared some dishes around him to make space, and a plate full of meat was set down on top of them. Strips of pork belly with layers of red meat and white fat perfectly arranged—it was clearly high-quality meat, tender and glistening, just by looking at it.

“Wow, this place has some decent meat.”

“I came here once before; it was really good.”

Manager Hwang naturally reached for the meat tongs, but before he could, Kang Tae-han had already picked them up.

“Hey, Tae-han. Let me grill it. You work hard every day with the massages; just relax.”

“Nah, grilling meat isn’t something difficult. Besides, the person who buys the meat doesn’t necessarily have to be the one who grills it.”

Manager Hwang had intended to pay for tonight’s meal. Traditionally, the recipient of the meal takes on the role of grilling the meat. Kang Tae-han firmly declined with a shake of his hand.

“Manager, just let Tae-han do it.”

“…At least pretend like you’re trying to grill.”

Choi Seong-hyun was laughing nearby, his fingers interlocked. When Manager Hwang chided him, Seong-hyun just shook his head.

“You don’t get it. It’s not that I don’t want to grill; it’s that the meat tastes better when Tae-han grills it.”

“…How much better can it be?”

“I don’t know how to explain it… but in terms of a game, it’s like upgrading an item’s rank.”

“…Is that so?”

Manager Hwang had eaten dinner with Kang Tae-han a few times, but this was his first time having barbecue with him. Anyone else might think how much better can grilling meat be, but somehow, with Tae-han, it felt different.

“Don’t exaggerate it.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if you grill better than the restaurant owner here.”

“Stop talking nonsense.”

Kang Tae-han chuckled and shook his head. However, Manager Hwang noticed. Even as Tae-han conversed with Choi Seong-hyun, he was flipping the thick slices of pork belly with a flick of his wrist.

“Manager, you’ve been watching Martial Hunter, right?”

“That webtoon? Yeah, I don’t watch it every week, though.”

Manager Hwang nodded at Seong-hyun’s comment. Martial Hunter is the name of a webtoon serialized on one of South Korea’s most famous platforms, depicting martial artists becoming hunters after a Gate incident in the martial world. It may have seemed odd at first, but as you read it, you get hooked. He may not watch every week, but that’s only because waiting for each episode leaves him wanting more.

Manager Hwang had a deep interest and affection for the Martial Hunter series.

“Why, is there a fun episode coming up?”

“No, I heard it’s going on a long hiatus.”

“What?”

Manager Hwang’s face, which had been smirking, suddenly froze. For a serial that often took breaks, the news of a long-term hiatus was a bolt out of the blue.

“…Why?”

“There’s no official word… but there were rumors that the author has had wrist problems. He underwent surgery before, and it seems it has worsened recently.”

“Ah… sickness can’t be helped.”

Manager Hwang nodded with a look of disappointment. Though he never tried his hand at creativity, he’d heard that authors often suffer from poor health and even read articles stating that their average life expectancy is short.

“The author must be having the hardest time.”

“That’s true… I didn’t know about his health. Hopefully, he takes a good rest and comes back when he’s better.”

Manager Hwang stirred his green onion salad, feeling a mixture of sadness and resignation; some comics are worth missing when the creator is unwell.

“It looks like we can start eating now.”

Kang Tae-han, who had been grilling the meat, finally spoke up. Manager Hwang turned his gaze to the grill, and his mouth fell open.

“…Tae-han, did you ever work part-time at a barbecue place?”

The grilled pork belly sizzled on the grill, perfectly cooked and cut into mouth-sized pieces, aligned in tidy rows. Even the kimchi and garlic had been roasted just right to accompany the meat.

‘Excellent.’

Just looking at it was satisfying. If ‘something that can impress people’ is the definition of art, then this must qualify as art. At least, that’s what Manager Hwang thought.

“Go ahead and eat first.”

The meat tongs entered the scene, and a piece of pork belly was placed on Manager Hwang’s plate.

Manager Hwang carefully picked up his chopsticks.

“… Shall I try it?”

Usually, you would dip it in ssamjang, but this first piece felt like it needed to be tasted on its own. Manager Hwang brought the pork belly to his mouth.

‘Oh.’

The chewy texture of the well-cooked meat and the tender fat danced perfectly together in his mouth, and the more he chewed, the more the rich juices brought out a deep savoriness.

“…This is delicious.”

Pork belly, as its name implies, consists of layers of fat and meat. The charm of pork belly arises from the perfect blend of these two components, and in that sense… the piece he just tasted was an epitome of this charm.

Seeing Manager Hwang’s honest delight, Choi Seong-hyun smiled as if he knew it would be the case.

“Told you, Tae-han grills meat well.”

“…Indeed.”

Manager Hwang nodded, his mouth slightly agape. Meanwhile, his hand was already aiming for the next bite.

“The meat is good in itself, that’s all.”

Kang Tae-han spoke modestly. It wasn’t an exaggeration; he was simply effective at bringing out the inherent flavors of the meat. Most people would just say he’s good at grilling.

“…Tae-han, if you’re ever grilling meat again, let me know.”

After the second piece of meat and having just wrapped and eaten a well-prepared ssam, Manager Hwang spoke casually.

“I’ll buy any amount of meat… just invite me.”

Having someone to grill meat like this, the cost of buying the meat was not a concern at all.

Manager Hwang said this with a voice half-serious.

* * *

“Sigh…”

Kang Tae-han was…

As he set the barbell back on the rack and exhaled a long breath, he appreciated the pleasant heat radiating from his lightly warmed muscles while lying on the bench. ‘One must continuously train their body.’ If we exclude martial arts and focus solely on physical muscle training, the methods of the modern world are far more efficient than those from his martial arts days. There’s a vast array of exercise equipment available, and the scholarly research is extensive.

Although Kang Tae-han had built up his physique faster than expected, he never stopped exercising. Muscles require consistent upkeep, not just to be built once and forgotten. ‘My internal energy has also grown much quicker than anticipated.’ While he had accumulated a fair amount of energy through his massage practice and his Absorption Technique, securing a source of spiritual medicine had significantly accelerated the growth of his internal strength.

Both internal and external training must be balanced and cultivated together. The growth of his internal energy meant that he had to equally train his external physical strength. Therefore, Kang Tae-han, unless occupied with other matters, would routinely visit the nearby fitness club after work. Even on a day like today, when he had an evening engagement, he made no exception.

“Surely, working out on a full stomach feels better…” He usually had a light snack before exercising, due to consuming spiritual medicine later at home, but dinner plans like tonight’s were an exception. Feeling full made the workout seem even more efficient.

“Excuse me, sir.” Someone approached him. The man was shorter than Kang Tae-han but more robust. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, he came over. “Can I help you with something?” asked Kang Tae-han, getting up from the bench with a natural response as if such inquiries were common.

“I received some help from you last time… I apologize, but could you please check my form once again?” “Not a problem, I’ll have a look,” Kang Tae-han replied nonchalantly, shrugging his shoulders. The man bowed his head in gratitude, assumed the position, and moved the dumbbells up and down several times.

“You’re doing well, much more stable than before,” praised Kang Tae-han. “Really? I sometimes feel unsure when doing it by myself.” Embarrassed by the compliment, the man scratched his head. He then expressed his thanks and returned to his workout.

It had been probably two weeks since rumors spread that Kang Tae-han had increased his big three lifts to over 500 in just a month. Since then, gym members who had witnessed his exercises began seeking his advice. ‘The number of people asking seems to have grown lately.’ What started as a couple of people turned into three, five, and more as word got around that his advice was spot-on. Now, when approached, Kang Tae-han didn’t think much of it; giving simple pointers on posture or exercise recommendations wasn’t a big deal.

“Excuse me, sir. Could you also check my form?” “Just once for me, please. I’ve been in a rut lately and can’t figure out what the problem is.” As one person walked away with advice, others lurking nearby began to inch closer, discreetly observing.

“I’m going to finish up my current exercise,” Kang Tae-han announced. “Oh, sorry about that.” However, recognizing when Kang Tae-han resumed his own workout or signaled to them, they respectfully dispersed. After all, muscle recognizes muscle, and by asking for his guidance, they already acknowledged his expertise, thus diligently following his counsel.

* * *

Seoul mornings are busy without saying—the roads crowded, subways packed tight, and crosswalks so filled that the traffic signal can be hard to see. “Ah, dear…” The pedestrian light turned green, and people hurriedly crossed the street, not wanting to be delayed during the busy morning rush. But naturally, some lagged behind, like an old woman who seemed to have hurt her back, hobbling across the crosswalk.

The green light had been blinking for some time, and the woman was yet to pass the halfway mark, her face growing anxious, footsteps hurried yet making little progress. “Ma’am, may I offer my shoulder for support?” Suddenly, a voice from behind approached, and a person stood by her side, offering a shoulder and matching her height.

“Oh? What’s this now?” “Pardon me for a moment.” It was none other than Kang Tae-han, on his way to work. He steadied the woman’s slumped shoulder and supported her waist, swiftly easing her forward. It was a simple gesture, but the comfort was noticeable. Though initially startled, the woman quickly picked up pace and reached the other side of the street before the light turned.

“Thanks… young man. Really, I’m so thankful.” “No trouble at all,” Kang Tae-han smiled, standing straight after having stooped to match the woman’s height, now evidently much taller by comparison. “Your back troubling you often, ma’am?” “Old age does that… But your help made me feel right as rain!” She patted Kang Tae-han’s arm.

“Ha, I doubt it’s just a feeling.” “Is that so?” “Indeed. My hands have a healing touch,” he lightly waved his hands as he spoke. While it could sound like a jest, the sentiment seemed to strike a chord, and the old woman’s face lit up with a smile.

“Let me find a way to thank you… maybe buy you something…” “I must decline; I need to get to work.” “Well then, have a good day!” With that, Kang Tae-han walked away. He knew from experience it was best to avoid lingering. ‘I’ve also got to take a dip in the pool before work.’ And as ever, Kang Tae-han never missed his pre-work bath.



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