The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage chapter 44

The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage

“People should worry when someone suddenly changes…”

Despite having been fellow athletes for a long time, Tae-pyeong Kim had only heard Kwang-ho Lee speak in such a gentle voice twice.

The first time was at his brother’s wedding.

The second time was mere seconds before he was about to burst into rage and overturn everything.

In that context, Kwang-ho Lee’s voice made Tae-pyeong feel incredibly strange, awkward, and even terrifying.

“Hey, I like that expression. Rejuvenated! Totally rejuvenated! My body feels so light right now. Not more, not less, but just about six years younger.”

On the other hand, Kwang-ho Lee cracked a refreshing laugh and hit the air a couple of times with his thumb as if stamping an imprint.

A specific and somewhat reluctant figure of six years.

But knowing that Kwang-ho Lee’s aging curve became noticeable and his stamina began to wane around that time, Tae-pyeong realized just how high this praise was.

“Is it really that remarkable?”

“Hey. I thought Tae-jun was exaggerating, but he wasn’t. Why don’t you try it yourself? The skill of the teacher is extraordinary.”

I’ll go stretch or something then.

With those words, Kwang-ho Lee disappeared.

Tae-pyeong, waving from behind, scratched his head with a bewildered look on his face.

‘…Well, I’ll understand once I try it.’

He briefly entertained the thought of it being a hidden camera prank, but ultimately decided to check it out for himself.

There’s a saying, “Seeing once is better than hearing a hundred times.”

Tae-pyeong opened the door to the break room and went inside.

* * *

“Khhhh…”

As he stepped into the room, a strange moan leaked from the inside.

It was a moan mixed with a sense of both pain and pleasure… the kind you might emit when you taste an amazing delicacy and then stub your toe against a table, a peculiar sound like that.

The moan came from none other than the sleep quarters.

Through the thin curtain separating the space from the break room, he could see beds lined up on both sides and three fellow athletes lying on them.

Two were drooling with utter comfort as they slept.

The remaining one was on their stomach getting a massage, emitting the strange moaning Tae-pyeong had just heard.

‘…Was that Ki-ho hyung?’

Curious about who was making the noise, he took a peek and there was Ki-ho An, the same age as Kwang-ho Lee, making those sounds.

Even when he had broken his finger, he laughed it off, but now the sight of him was utterly unfamiliar.

‘And is that Dae-jeong?’

The person sound asleep behind was Kwak Dae-jeong.

He had suffered from insomnia for a long time and even took medication for it, so Tae-pyeong had never seen him napping in the sleep quarters, but now he was comfortably deep in sleep.

Was this scene even possible?

At this point, it seemed more plausible that this was a hidden camera setup.

“Is that athlete Kim Tae-pyeong?”

Just then, someone called out his name from the front.

It was a deep and weighty voice. It was Kang Tae-han.

“Ah, yes. That’s me, but…”

In the structure of the game of baseball, there is an inevitable clash of wills between the pitcher and the batter, and the significance of that is greater than one might think.

And as a seasoned player who had breathed the dusty air of the baseball field, Tae-pyeong couldn’t remember being overpowered by another player much, and it went without saying among civilians.

But when he met eyes with Kang Tae-han, his hand naturally lifted to the back of his neck and he bowed his head.

For some reason, he felt instinctively compelled to do so.

“You came just at the right time. Please, wait on this bed over here.”

With a light smile and a nod of the head, Kang Tae-han indicated the bed next to him.

It was a gentle countenance, a stark contrast to the relaxed figure of Ki-ho An lying sprawled like a lump on the bed below.

‘He looks surprisingly young…’

The ambiance was of the kind that one would attach grand titles like ‘master,’ yet he looked to be in his twenties at most.

Well, he had transformed the bleak and grim Kwang-ho Lee into a friendly man, so surely his own grooming was a trifle.

With conviction, Tae-pyeong nodded to himself.

“Phew… Teacher, is that the end?”

“That’s right.”

At that moment, Ki-ho An, who was lying next to them, propped himself up and inquired.

Kang Tae-han nodded in response, and a mixed expression of both relief and longing crossed Ki-ho’s face.

There were moments during the massage when the pain was too much to bear, but the subsequent refreshing feeling was even greater.

While he had been eagerly awaiting the end throughout the session, he now felt a greater desire to continue.

“Any more now and there wouldn’t be much effect,” Kang Tae-han added.

“Is that so?”

“Yes. So, take a nap and get up refreshed.”

A light tap resounded from somewhere.

In the next instant, Ki-ho An’s body, which had been half-lifted, collapsed onto the bed.

Tae-pyeong, who was intently watching the scene from the side, was taken aback with wide eyes.

‘…What just happened? A murder?’

“Nah. Surely not. How could that be?”

But until he heard Ki-ho An’s breathing, Tae-pyeong couldn’t bring himself to stop hovering over the call button on his smartphone.

“Now then…”

Shortly thereafter, Kang Tae-han turned towards Tae-pyeong.

Perhaps due to the brief misunderstanding that had just occurred, Tae-pyeong unwittingly swallowed a nervous gulp.

“You’ve had long-term aftereffects from a dislocated shoulder in the past, I hear.”

Kang Tae-han approached him, reading from a document he had put aside. It contained a list of players scheduled for a massage that day and their primary injuries, provided in advance by the coaching staff.

In Tae-pyeong’s case, ever since taking a bad fall while playing outfield and suffering a proper dislocation, he experienced periodic pain in the injury site, which affected his condition.

Especially lately, as the years went by, his batting average seemed to be falling step by step.

While he was still a substantial asset as an active player, that was all there was to it, nothing more.

“Hmm…”

Meanwhile, Kang Tae-han, who had been locking eyes intently with Tae-pyeong, slowly nodded his head.

“There seems to be a problem with the muscles in the shoulder area for sure, but there’s something more crucial than that.”

“Is that so?” Tae-pyeong asked with a hint of skepticism.

He knew his medical history better than anyone.

Although he had more injuries than just the shoulder dislocation, the others were minor compared to that.

“Well, lie down for now.”

But who was Tae-pyeong to doubt?

So far, what had there not been to question?

Tae-pyeong obediently lay down on the bed, and…

Tae-han Kang placed his left and right hands along Kim Tae-pyeong’s spine.

And in the next moment.

“Keuk!”

As Tae-han Kang pulled hard from both sides, a short scream erupted from Kim Tae-pyeong’s mouth.

The stiffened spine realigned into its original form.

Simultaneously, the surrounding nerves seemed to awaken with an intense sensation.

This method lightly stretched the spine, stimulating the connected nerves and the body’s channels.

However, this was only preliminary work.

Tae-han Kang quickly moved his thumbs to the coccyx and stimulated a dozen points along the spine in an instant.

“Heuk!”

An involuntary scream escaped Kim Tae-pyeong as a sudden jolt traveled up the pillar of his body, causing his back to stiffen.

In the midst of the intense sensation, the term ‘current’—mentioned in Tae-jun Choi’s experiences—came to mind.

‘Tae-jun, this is no mild shock!’

Kim Tae-pyeong, who had deemed his words an exaggeration, now felt as if they were an understatement.

“As I said earlier, not only your shoulders, but this point here, the Taeyang acupuncture point, seems to be a bigger issue.”

Having activated the spinal channels, Tae-han Kang approached the head of the lying Kim Tae-pyeong and grabbed his head with the fingers of both hands.

‘…What?’

Kim Tae-pyeong, instinctively trying to move his head, was momentarily confused.

He could not move at all, as if fixed in place, even though he was only being held by his fingertips without much force.

“Where is the Taeyang point?”

“It’s simple, right around the temples. It’s closely related to the optic nerves.”

A sense of foreboding.

Yet, Kim Tae-pyeong’s head remained immobile as Tae-han Kang’s thumbs gently rested upon his temples.

Feeling a cold sweat flow down his spine, all at once.

“Kuhahaaaak!”

Experiencing what it meant to have his head turn white, Kim Tae-pyeong let out a scream close to his last breath. Meanwhile, the sight of two people in deep sleep next to him seemed oddly out of place.

* * *

Hanha has a nickname, ‘Marihanha.’

Back when the team’s performance was decent, they earned this nickname for the addictive thrill of catching up from behind and pulling off a surprising comeback, not unlike the effects of marijuana.

But recently, as scores started to stagnate and losing streaks became emblematic, the nickname had come to mean something different: it’s bad for mental health to watch, but there’s an emptiness when one doesn’t, despite the frustration.

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Today, the taste of Marihanha is so sweet, dude!”

His friend exclaimed, emphasizing his point with a slap on the shoulder amid the loud cheers that drowned out quieter words.

Today was a home game for Hanha.

Usually, the stands would feel somewhat hollow from the empty seats, but over the past week, the crowd packed in denser than ever for home games.

The main reason for the full crowd was simple.

They believed Hanha would win!

With Choi Tae-jun’s slump over, the team began to consistently perform well, turning the formerly skeptical fans’ attitude around.

“What’s the point? Even if we win from here on out, autumn baseball is out of reach!”

“Hey! You don’t get it. Autumn baseball? Hanha fans… just appreciate the victory!”

They asked for little.

Simply play a good game of baseball—that was all!

That would give fans a reason to come to the stadium to cheer, and if the team won, it would be a cause for gratitude.

“Hit it! Another one!”

The extraordinary energy in the cheer from the stands!

The whole team seemed to have transformed, especially the long-standing players with recent underperformance, whose contributions shone particularly today.

“Hoo…”

The next batter, Kim Tae-pyeong, dusted off his hands and assumed his batting stance.

‘It’s definitely different.’

Approaching the plate for the third time today.

He had felt the change after the massage and rest, but standing here at the plate made it all the more real.

Today, his condition was at its peak.

Agile legs, a broadened field of vision, and relaxed shoulders.

One usually expected a loss of physical prowess with experience, but at this moment, he felt a step removed from that expected decline.

Of course, it couldn’t match his prime years…

But with accumulated experience added to nearly restored physicality, that was the edge he felt now.

‘And the biggest difference.’

It was his dynamic vision.

As the pitcher released the ball, its trajectory became as clear as a drawn line.

The returned dynamic vision, combined with years of experience with different pitches, created this rare spectacle.

Already aware that dynamic vision naturally dwindles with age, Kim Tae-pyeong found that, post Tae-han Kang’s treatment, things were completely altered.

A bitter ordeal near the temples had yielded a sweet fruit.

‘Now’s my chance.’

Watching the ball’s trajectory, he swung the bat at the perfect moment.

He felt a satisfying weight through the bat handle with the hit.

“Ah, Master! I’ve kept my promise!”

Although the ball was still in the air, Kim Tae-pyeong shouted from the batter’s box and then dashed towards first base.

After the massage and nap, he’d felt a significant change and had boasted to Tae-han Kang, ‘I’ll hit a home run today for sure.’

Perhaps thanks to that, the ball soared over the crowd—barely—but landed amongst the front seats.

‘When was the last time I hit a home run?’

Amidst resounding cheers, he savored the privilege only a home-run hitter can enjoy: the euphoric trot around the bases.

‘I see why Seong-hyeon watches this.’

Meanwhile, Tae-han Kang, seated in a central premium seat, nodded as he watched the scene unfold.

He had received tickets from an official and decided to stay to watch the game, finding that watching from the stadium had a special excitement.

Now, almost carelessly indulging in chicken and beer, Kang Tae-han found a unique enjoyment, not quite like the one fans feel…

More akin to the thrill of watching the outcome of a game after training players—his kind of fun.



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