The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage chapter 62

The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage

Between companions who have shared time together for long, sometimes a single phrase can exchange myriad meanings.

Just as old friends or colleagues can understand each other’s intentions with a mere glance, what about an elderly couple who have spent more years together than apart?

For a bond that has been nurtured longer than the time spent alone, lengthy conversations were unnecessary.

A simple exchange of looks and the words “I love you” sufficed for the elderly husband to convey all he wished to his wife.

Yet, despite this, an aching sense of loss lingered, irremediable.

The old man, with a trembling grip, took his wife’s other hand that had fallen limply and, after fumbling a few times, placed it neatly on top of his other hand that had been laid out earlier.

“At least she passed with a smile, so I am at ease,” he said and carefully caressed the cheek of his now silent wife.

Thankfully, his wife bore a smile on her lips as she departed. No signs of suffering marred her face.

This expression, this peaceful demeanor, brought great comfort to the husband who had sent her off.

With a complex smile filled with mixed emotions, the elderly man patted his wife’s shoulder and rose from his seat.

“Ho-yeon.”

“…Yes, Father.”

When the father called his name, Park Ho-yeon, who stood behind, flinched momentarily. He had resigned himself long ago to the likelihood that his father would not even recognize him, let alone call out his name.

“You’ve had it tough. Thank you.”

“…You’re welcome. It’s all right, Father.”

Park Ho-yeon slowly shook his head as he spoke.

He was merely doing what needed to be done.

Just hearing his father acknowledge his hardship was already a reward akin to a miracle.

“You’re crying like a child.”

“That’s right.”

Though there were no sobs, tears streamed down his face.

Despite his advanced age, too many things had happened all at once, making it impossible for him to hold back his tears.

“You’ve always been a son I could be proud of.”

“And you’ve always been a father I could be proud of.”

Park Jae-sung offered a faint smile.

This miraculous moment was not only significant for Park Ho-yeon.

He embraced his son tightly, who wept like a child.

“I love you.”

“I love you too, Father.”

After comforting his son with a pat on the back, the elderly man walked forward.

Sensing that his own time was drawing to a close, he knew there was someone he must bid farewell to.

Kang Tae-han, who had followed into the hospital room.

Stopping before Kang Tae-han, Park Jae-sung extended his right hand as if offering a handshake.

When Kang Tae-han took his hand, Park Jae-sung grasped it firmly with both hands.

“Thanks to your nobility, I was able to fulfill a wish that seemed impossible. I am truly, truly grateful.”

He then spoke in a low voice imbued with sincerity.

“Despite receiving a lifelong debt of gratitude, my own remaining days are sadly few, and I’m unsure how to express my thanks.”

“It’s okay.”

Kang Tae-han nodded slowly in response to the old man’s heartfelt words and then offered a gentle smile.

“Just hearing those words from you is more than enough.”

“…Is that so?”

The old man smiled at Kang Tae-han’s reply.

“Thank you once again, noble one. Thanks to you, I can depart in peace.”

With that, he clung to Kang Tae-han’s hand as if mustering his last bit of strength. And shortly after, his body slowly began to lean forward.

Kang Tae-han caught the old man.

There was no longer any vitality to be felt in his body; he had forced himself to hold on until the very end, gathering every last bit of strength.

Like a small candle that blazed brightly and then extinguished.

It had been difficult for the frail, weakened old man to endure, no doubt.

Yet, his face bore a contented expression and a distinct smile.

* * *

“Really… I’m grateful to you. But I’m going to be busy for a while. Once things settle down, I’ll get in touch.”

After his father had also passed away, Park Ho-yeon said this to Kang Tae-han.

With both parents gone, there would be a lot to do and emotional challenges to face.

Kang Tae-han also silently nodded in understanding.

‘I’m glad I contacted Tae-han.’

Fortunately, while Park Ho-yeon’s expression was strained, it was not darkened with despair.

Both his mother and father had achieved their wish in their final moments, departing with smiles, culminating in the best possible ending.

“There was some merit in staying up all night.”

Remembering what had happened a few hours ago, Kang Tae-han allowed a faint smile to play on his lips.

As before, he hadn’t extended his favor expecting anything specific in return.

He merely felt a pang of sympathy upon hearing of the other’s plight over the phone.

But at the last moment, receiving sincere thanks from the old man made Kang Tae-han feel that coming to Daejeon was the right decision.

He had felt an unexpected sense of accomplishment.

‘Of course, I have no intention of acting like a saint.’

Yet, he was living according to the teachings of his old mentor who had said to lead a life that garners the gratitude of others.

He had that feeling.

.

“What’s all this for?”

Just then, someone emerged from a room, rubbing their eyes and asking.

It was Kang Tae-han’s father, Kang Ho-yeon.

He walked languidly into the kitchen where Kang Tae-han was.

“Breakfast for us to eat, Father.”

“I can see that, but… How come you’re at home at this hour? Did you come down from dawn?”

“I had some things to take care of in Daejeon. It’s good timing that you just woke up.”

Dodging the question, Kang Tae-han opened the rice cooker.

A wave of steam rose, carrying the rich scent of cooked rice and the bitter tang of medicinal herbs.

“What’s all that?”

“It’s baeksuk. I thought I’d give Father a little body nourishment.”

He picked the well-cooked chicken from the pressure cooker with tongs, placing it onto a large plate, then scattered the pale broth on top, along with the ginseng that had been included.

The ginseng he had unearthed was about fifteen years old, significant in both size and firmness, appearing as if it had grown naturally in the mountains.

It was so robust that one might wonder if it was not raised by a person. Kang Tae-han, who had been considering giving it to his father, decided to make it into a health-enhancing meal after all.

“What’s with making samgyetang* in the morning…”

“I thought we could go hiking together today. We need to have a solid breakfast if we’re going to climb a mountain, right? So I prepared a little something.”

In truth, it was during his early morning visit to Park Ho-yeon’s hospital that he found himself thinking of his father. Kang Tae-han deflected with an excuse, bringing the prepared samgyetang to the table.

“Is this ginseng?”

“Yes. I went to the supermarket yesterday and they had these samgyetang kits, so I bought one.”

“You bought it at the supermarket? Hmm, seems like Seoul only sells the robust ones.”

Of course, he was lying. He didn’t want to burden his father with the knowledge it was ginseng from the mountains, not from the market. It would go down better without the stress.

“Here, start with the leg.”

As Kang Ho-yeon hesitated, reaching for the breast meat, Kang Tae-han placed both drumsticks in his father’s bowl—a rare treat.

Kang Ho-yeon chuckled. “What are you doing, giving both drumsticks like this?”

“Since it’s made for you, why not? The last time I saw both drumsticks given was for my mother-in-law.”

Appreciating the gesture, Kang Ho-yeon put one of the drumsticks back onto Kang Tae-han’s plate.

And with that, he took a bite. After a moment, Kang Ho-yeon’s eyes widened with surprise. ‘This kid… His cooking isn’t half bad.’

The meat was tender enough to fall off the bone with a little pressure but still had a satisfying texture. It was well-seasoned, infused with the flavor of ginseng and jujubes, so there was no need for extra salt.

Due to the pressure cooker’s nature, there was no way to check on the food once it was on the stove, so the seasoning and cooking time had to be perfect from the start.

“Do they teach you cooking in college these days?”

“No? Why?”

“Because it’s delicious.”

Kang Ho-yeon scratched his cheek awkwardly, as he picked a generous piece of the wing-root and placed it on his plate. Kang Tae-han smiled subtly.

“Father.”

“What?”

“I’ll make things like this samgyetang for you more often, and I’ll give you massages regularly, so please, stay healthy for a long time.”

Kang Ho-yeon gazed at Kang Tae-han, swallowed the meat he was chewing, and spoke.

“Is that ‘thing you had to do’ you mentioned the other day about a funeral?”

“What? No… Well, it’s similar in a way.”

Feeling somewhat exposed, Kang Tae-han shrugged. Kang Ho-yeon laughed softly and added.

“Don’t worry. When I had my fortune told before, they said I have a lifespan of at least a hundred years.”

Returning to his meal, Kang Ho-yeon continued eating. Perhaps because the topic was a bit embarrassing or maybe because the food was more delicious than expected, the two focused on their meal in silence.

“Ah, that was a great meal.”

After neatly polishing off even the last of the chicken’s neck, Kang Ho-yeon leaned back in his chair. Kang Tae-han remarked casually.

“You shouldn’t be too full just yet.”

“Why? What else have you prepared?”

“If you have samgyetang, you should follow it with chicken porridge,” he said, pulling out the soaked glutinous rice and the finely chopped vegetables he had prepared in advance.

Kang Ho-yeon chuckled, “You’ve really outdone yourself, haven’t you?”

“If you’re too full, you don’t have to eat it…”

“I didn’t say I wouldn’t eat it.”

After all, if you’ve gone to the trouble of making a broth, you ought to use it. It was Kang Ho-yeon who had taught Kang Tae-han this wisdom: After samgyetang, chicken porridge. Straightening up a bit in his seat, Kang Ho-yeon looked forward to it with relish.

Professional baseball players, on a game day, begin their routines with a brief meeting and a check on their condition with the coaching staff.

How are they feeling that day? Even if they’re not at their best, can they still play? Or is it a situation where they must be kept off the field? They review both their physical and mental conditions, an essential first step in the day’s work.

This was no different for the Hanha Hawks in Daejeon.

Lately, there had been an increase in players complaining of discomfort on Thursdays. This phenomenon didn’t occur during away games, only during home games.

“Your shoulder feels stiff?”

“Yeah, I keep telling you, it’s sore. Ah, that hurts, Coach! Maybe I slept wrong, it’s just really tight.”

As the battery coach pressed on the outside of the shoulder, Lee Kwang-ho exaggerated, shaking his body.

“Ah… Will you be okay for the game?”

“I think I can play, but it will definitely affect my condition. It would be better if I could loosen up a bit before going out…”

The battery coach made a troubled face, then Lee Kwang-ho, keeping an eye out, continued speaking. At the right moment, he brought up the main point.

“Maybe a massage will help loosen it up? And you know, Teacher Kang is coming today. Maybe you could mention it to the manager…”

He trailed off as he noticed the battery coach wore a knowing smirk.

“Didn’t you notice I started pressing again?”

The coach was pressing into the exact same spot where Lee Kwang-ho had previously made a fuss, except this time without a word.

Of course, Lee Kwang-ho felt no pain.

Scratching his head sheepishly, he said, “I’d really like to get another massage, Coach.”

“No.”

“Aw, why not?”

“It’s even more ‘no’ because it bothers me. Your condition is fine though, isn’t it?”

“…Yes. Ever since the last massage, I’ve been sleeping deeply.”

Finally, Lee Kwang-ho came clean. The battery coach checked him as being fine and sighed softly.

It seemed absurd that an adult of his stature would feign illness just to get another massage. This was already the third such case today.

*Samgyetang is a Korean ginseng chicken soup, often eaten for its health benefits.



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