The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage chapter 63

The Heavenly Demon Receives A Massage

“Do you mean the players are faking illnesses?”

“Yes. They might deny it if put that way, but if we speak frankly, isn’t it just feigning illness? Even the youngest one amongst them was doing it today. Heh.”

Manager Oh Jae-yoon erupted in laughter as he picked up the paper cup filled with coffee, sitting across from Kang Tae-han.

Kang Tae-han smirked and nodded in agreement.

“I think that’s entirely possible.”

A person with passion is definitely better than one without it.

That’s only natural.

Then, what would a passionate baseball player care about the most?

It’s to perform even slightly better in games to meet the fans’ expectations.

Of course, pretending to be sick isn’t a mature act nor an advisable approach.

But it’s still a manifestation of the desire to do better.

‘If there’s any way to improve skills, it would be normal to covet it.’

Nobody condemns a martial artist for seeking rare medicinal herbs to enhance their inner strength.

The assumption, however, is that they also don’t neglect their daily practice.

“I get it. It’s probably thanks to you, Mr. Kang. To be honest, I’d push all the players’ appointments back and get a massage here myself.”

“Should I take a look at your back, then?”

“What? Now?”

For a moment, Oh Jae-yoon’s eyes wavered.

His body had been stiffening up lately.

It was a careless remark, but the prospect of actually receiving a massage was enticing.

Nonetheless, as the manager, he couldn’t very well set such an example.

Just as he was about to politely decline, Kang Tae-han interjected.

“I’m just kidding.”

“…I thought as much.”

Oh Jae-yoon nodded and took a sip of his coffee, seemingly unruffled yet inwardly disappointed.

“Speaking of which, how about we change the criteria for the massage appointments?”

Kang Tae-han was well aware that many players desired a massage from him.

Occasionally, players would even send him gifts with KakaoTalk messages hoping to receive his favor.

“Unless someone is really in bad shape or injured, it’s not urgent enough to need a massage right away.”

As Kang Tae-han’s dispatches increased, all the players of Hanha had experienced his touch at least once.

Both the key and reserve players, and those who were injured or in a slump, had their turn—sometimes twice.

In a sense, Kang Tae-han had addressed almost all factors that could significantly influence the tension in a game.

“Uh-huh. You do have a point.”

The coaching staff checks players’ conditions daily and compiles a report.

This information inevitably reaches the manager.

Recent reports had made it clear that the players’ conditions had noticeably improved—aside from their physical state.

Consequently, according to Kang Tae-han, no one immediately needed a massage as a top priority.

Previously, a session with Kang Tae-han was like transforming a rusted, broken bicycle into a brand-new one. But now, after thoroughly removing the rust and fixing the broken parts, there wasn’t much left to do.

‘The effect was still phenomenal, though.’

Lately, there was even a saying among the players that went ‘If you strike out after getting a massage from the teacher, you might as well become a ball boy.’

Although it was a joke they made to tease and laugh among themselves, it illustrated just how effective Kang Tae-han’s massages were. It was no wonder some players were pretending to be sick.

“So, what changes do you suggest?”

“Instead of the coaching staff choosing who needs it, we could select players who have put in effort. Sort of a motivation, if you will.”

“Oh! That’s a good idea.”

Oh Jae-yoon’s face lit up as he snapped his fingers in approval.

If there’s a limited opportunity but many who need it, inducing competition is a simple and effective approach.

It seemed like a basic business concept, yet they had been unable to think of it because they’d always seen massages solely as a means of conditioning.

“This file has today’s list of players for conditioning appointments, but if so…”

They decided to keep only two players whose conditions were noticeably worse and to reassess the rest based on their diligence in recent training.

The list naturally excluded players who had become complacent with their recent good performance or those with an unnecessary sense of ease, thinking that a massage would fix everything.

“Min-woo!”

“Yes, Manager. Did you call for me?”

“Take this and recreate the document, then print it out.”

Oh Jae-yoon handed over the file with a sly smile.

The idea seemed like a good incentive for players who had become complacent, trusting only in the massages to keep them relaxed.

“Just wait a bit. I’ll bring it soon.”

Kang Tae-han nodded quietly.

After a brief silence, Oh Jae-yoon casually opened up, scanning Kang Tae-han.

“I appreciate you considering improvement plans for the team.”

“I’ve become a bit interested in the team. Watching baseball is sometimes more enjoyable than I thought.”

Kang Tae-han replied with a restrained smile.

More precisely, it was satisfying to watch players he had cared for perform well in games,

“But it seems like you have some trouble with your shoulder lately.”

“Can you tell just by looking?”

“You can tell quite a bit from someone’s posture. So, since we have time, shall I take a look?”

“Really?”

Oh Jae-yoon brightened up at Kang Tae-han’s casual offer.

Kang Tae-han glanced at his watch and stood up readily.

“I should walk the talk instead of just joking about it. It’s just for a short while, but let me take care of it.”

With that, Kang Tae-han took hold of his left shoulder and applied firm pressure to the upper back area with his right elbow.

“Agh!”

It was an intensity unlike any simple finger acupressure!

Involuntarily, a scream almost escaped from…

Oh Jaeyoon clenched his lips tightly.

Screaming here would alert the employees outside as well.

However, unlike his mouth, which refrained from screaming, his face relaxed languidly as if cotton candy had touched water, losing its strength and melting away.

‘It hurts more than I expected…’

But it’s incredibly refreshing.

Oh Jaeyoon was basking in the strange sensation of pain and pleasure for five minutes.

Meanwhile, in front of the players gathered for basic training, the list of athletes who would receive massages today was announced.

“Huh! This seems different from what we were told yesterday?”

“Wasn’t it my turn to get a massage, Coach?”

“Why does Kwangho hyung get it again! This is the third time!”

The announced list differed from what had been discussed in the meeting.

This caused some commotion and opposition among players.

Yet, when an explanation was given, all protests ceased.

“The criteria for today’s selection are based on the usual training participation and focus. The director decided, and the coaching staff reviewed it.”

Hearing the explanation, the complaining athletes fell silent.

It was a result they could accept once the criteria were explained to them.

“Haha! That’s why I always said it’s good to be enthusiastic in training! They say even in sleep, you may catch a lucky break!”

“I knew you guys were slacking off during training. Thanks to you, I get a refreshing massage!”

Those newly added to the list, who had not expected to be included, showed their thumbs up to the coach and clapped in appreciation.

In particular, Lee Kwangho and Kim Taepyeong seemed especially delighted, teasing their fellow athletes around them.

* * *

The following Monday.

It had been approximately five days since the parents of Park Hoyeon had passed away and he was in the hospital.

“Is this the place?”

Kang Taehan double-checked the address on his smartphone and then entered the store.

A familiar face peeked out and waved energetically.

“Taehan-ssi. Over here.”

The person was none other than Park Hoyeon.

Meeting his gaze, Kang Taehan walked toward the secluded spot where he was sitting.

Park Hoyeon greeted him with a smile.

“It’s great to see you, Taehan-ssi. Feels like it’s been a long time.”

“Please, no need for formalities. And I heard you had quite the ordeal.”

“Haha, ordeal is a bit much. But anyway, do you want something to drink or eat? I had a slice earlier whilst waiting, and the cheesecake here is surprisingly tasty.”

Park Hoyeon, toying with the empty fork on his plate, mentioned the desserts.

He seemed more at ease with a natural smile on his face, different from how he had looked when last seen in the hospital.

“Then I’ll have the Earl Grey tea, nice and warm.”

“You seem to prefer tea over coffee. It suits you, somehow. Just have a seat; I’ll be right back.”

“Ahh, let me take care of the order.”

“No need. Since I called you here, you just sit down.”

Park Hoyeon stood up to stop Kang Taehan from ordering, took care of it himself, and then returned.

After a moment of silence between them, Park Hoyeon spoke first.

“I can’t say anything but thank you to you…”

“It’s fine. You’ve already expressed your thanks before.”

“Did I? Still, it feels like I can’t thank you enough. Haha.”

He laughed heartily.

A doctor deals with saving lives on the brink of death.

Consequently, they often encounter those who are dying.

Over time, Park Hoyeon had witnessed many such deaths.

Some struggled in pain to their last breath, some passed away alone, and some even between siblings fighting over inheritance.

In that context, the last moments of his parents were nothing short of miraculous.

“It was my first time seeing someone pass away with a smile.”

Their final moments were aptly summed up in that one sentence.

And he didn’t need to explain how grateful a child would feel for such a (peaceful) end.

“And I also got to have a long overdue talk with my father. Something I thought would only be possible in dreams.”

Thus Park Hoyeon could smile now.

Though it would be dishonest to say he held no regrets about his parents, he had no regrets at least in the moments of saying farewell.

“That’s why I have no choice but to consider you my benefactor, right?”

As Park Hoyeon spoke with a smile, Kang Taehan gave an awkward shrug.

He understood the sentiment but felt somewhat embarrassed to be considered the benefactor.

“Your drinks are ready.”

A server appeared with good timing and placed their respective drinks in front of them.

Kang Taehan removed the tea bag from his cup and laid it on a tissue, then took a sip of the warm tea.

“But, why have you come all the way up to Seoul?”

“It’s because of a promise I made to you.”

“A promise?”

Kang Taehan thought back but couldn’t recall ever making a promise to meet Park Hoyeon in Seoul.

When Kang Taehan looked puzzled, Park Hoyeon spoke as if it were obvious.

“I told you I would properly reward you, didn’t I?”

“Oh…”

Technically, that was a promise too, even if not one to meet in Seoul.

“You could have given it to me back in Daejeon.”

“It’s better to be prompt. Plus, I had some business to take care of in Seoul regarding the reward.”

Saying this, Park Hoyeon picked up his briefcase from beside his seat.

He then handed Kang Taehan a document envelope, adding,

“I’ve been contemplating what kind of gratitude would repay this debt to you. It was harder than I thought, but I came up with something that might be of help to you.”

Kang Taehan took out the papers contained within the envelope.

At first glance, it appeared to be a business proposal related to real estate investment.

“My father was involved in an investment with some acquaintances to build a building. As you can see, the plan is to have cafes and restaurants on the lower floors and a hotel above, with a sauna at the top.”

“That’s quite a large-scale project.”

Though he hadn’t scrutinized the document, the attached images alone suggested the building was at least twenty stories high.

“The project wasn’t a major investment for my father, but it’s sufficient to secure a spot for your own establishment. In that sense…”

Pointing to the top floor and the one just below in the attached photo, he continued,

“How about opening your massage shop right here?”



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