To School (2)
The hospital was shrouded in the darkness of the night.
Kang Jin-Ho leisurely made his way to the pediatrics ward.
The current time was 3 AM.
He had already discovered that nurses did their rounds at 2 AM and 4 AM.
Unlike Kang Jin-Ho, Ji-Eun stayed in a single-person room, so visiting her at this hour seemed like a good idea.
People witnessing Kang Jin-Ho walking around in the hospital shouldn't pose a problem, but the story would change if he was seen entering a little girl's room in the middle of the night.
That was why he remained extra cautious while heading to Ji-Eun's ward.
The name tag on the door said 'Moon Ji-Eun.’ Having confirmed it, Kang Jin-Ho carefully opened the door to enter.
He did his best to not make any noise, but the hinges still issued a soft creak.
To his relief, though, no one woke up from it.
He found Moon Ji-Eun asleep on the bed while her mother was dozing off on an extra bed next to it.
He cautiously walked up to the mother and gently pressed on her pressure point.
With this, she shouldn't wake up for a while.
He turned his attention to Moon Ji-Eun quietly lying on the bed.
A person's sleeping face should be peaceful, but hers was slightly cramped.
It seemed that even sleeping wasn't enough to lessen her pain.
Kang Jin-Ho slowly raised his hand and pressed it down on the girl's lower abdomen.
He closed his eyes and focused on analyzing the situation inside her body.
The energy was getting blocked somewhere near her heart before circulating back.
Due to the blockage in her meridians, qi had overflown to nearby meridians and was busy eating away at her body.
The remedy for this condition was to unclog the meridian.
It sounded simple enough, but it wasn't as easy as it sounded.
The unclogging itself was a simple matter, but there were two problems to overcome: one, would Moon Ji-Eun be able to withstand the rebound? And two, the current Kang Jin-Ho didn't possess the necessary power to unclog it.
'What's my solution?'
Now that he knew what the obstacles were, it was time to figure out the solution.
Both problems could be taken care of in one fell swoop—by using even greater energy.
Kang Jin-Ho could use his qi to envelop and protect the area around the girl's problematic meridians and then break through the blockage.
However, where could he access such a quantity of energy? Should he reform his dantian right now?
He shook his head.
That was not the right way to do this.
He had already decided not to go back to that life.
His resolution wasn't so weak that a simple matter like this could undo it.
Besides, there was another solution he could try, anyway.
One other sure-fire solution.
Kang Jin-Ho accessed his innate qi, the power that maintained a person's life.
All humans possessed this energy from their birth.
It always protected a person from the inside without the need to draw in more qi from external sources.
But one should not resort to using this power as replenishing it after a single usage was extremely difficult.
This was one of the reasons why someone who suffered a grave injury usually couldn't go back to how they were before.
There was also another hurdle—innate qi was so much harder to utilize compared to regular qi.
As this energy was the foundation of a person's lifespan, it possessed an extremely strong tendency to return to its origin.
One needed a high level of understanding of martial arts to utilize the innate qi freely.
Of course, Kang Jin-Ho as a martial artist had already reached that realm.
He dragged out his innate qi without hesitation.
If he had a debt to pay, he would repay it no matter what.
He wanted to see it; see Moon Ji-Eun's illness get cured, and see her live an ordinary life.
If she could do it, then so could he.
Their reasons might be different, but both the girl and Kang Jin-Ho weren’t living ordinary lives right now.
Perhaps that was why he became interested in Moon Ji-Eun's illness in the first place.
Burning energy gathered on Kang Jin-Ho's right palm before flooding into Moon Ji-Eun's lower tummy where her dantian would be.
The hot energy traveled up the major meridian and began hovering near the girl's heart area.
He drove the energy further in and began sensing that the interior of Moon Ji-Eun's body was almost within his grasp.
A slender streak of energy failed to progress further and returned to him.
If a meridian point unrelated to the Mysterious Gate of Life and Death was clogged to this extent, then it was a serious problem indeed.
Kang Jin-Ho expanded his energy and completely blanketed the area around the girl's heart to minimize the rebound from her meridian channel being forced open.
'Here it goes.'
Kang Jin-Ho's innate qi boiled over as it dug into Moon Ji-Eun's heart.
The clogged meridians and the burning energy collided next.
It sounded like a huge explosion had gone off.
Her meridian must have been clogged for a long time as it didn't want to open up and simply repelled Kang Jin-Ho's innate qi.
The two continued to collide, again and again, causing Moon Ji-Eun's figure to quiver and jolt.
The act of unclogging meridians wasn't much of a challenge.
The blockage would soon break down if enough energy was driven in, again and again.
But the problem lay with how weak Moon Ji-Eun's body was.
Unblocking the Mysterious Gate of Life and Death was dangerous precisely because a person's body might not be able to withstand the rebound during the process.
That was why Kang Jin-Ho was worried about whether she could handle the rebound or not.
'Even if I stop now, the result will be the same.'
Kang Jin-Ho's withdrawn eyes stared silently at Moon Ji-Eun.
If left alone, her clogged meridian would go on to distort the flow of qi in her entire body sooner rather than later. The result would be obvious by then.
He needed to finish this while her body still had a chance to withstand the rebound.
Kang Jin-Ho made up his mind, then increased the quantity of innate qi flooding inside Moon Ji-Eun.
He made sure to protect her entire body, then focused his power on a single strand of qi to burrow into her clogged meridian.
His determination was rewarded by the opening of the clogged pathway.
The unhindered qi crashed in like a tidal wave and began breaking open the remaining meridians.
Moon Ji-Eun began spasming like she was having a seizure, but Kang Jin-Ho didn't stop and continued to drive his innate qi into her while protecting her body from the rebound.
Cold sweat trickled down his forehead amidst his intense focus.
Eventually, the raging qi slowly settled down.
Kang Jin-Ho double-checked to make sure that her heart was fine, then withdrew his qi.
He narrowed his eyes.
Clogged qi would inevitably lead to a build-up of toxins in one's body.
Kang Jin-Ho's next action was to absorb such toxins found near Moon Ji-Eun's heart into his own body.
He finally took his hand off the girl's abdomen and opened his eyes.
He stared at Moon Ji-Eun's flushed face for a while.
Her breathing seemed a little heavy right now, but things should feel much better for her soon enough.
He muttered quietly, “I've repaid my debt to you.”
The rest was up to her now; going back to an ordinary life was Moon Ji-Eun's responsibility.
He remained still for a little while longer to study the sleeping girl's face.
Watching her expression finally change from pain to peace seemed to bring peace to his own heart as well.
He quietly left the room, then headed to the roof to stare at the night sky.
While looking up, he continued to feel this strange emotion bubbling inside of him.
It felt refreshing and kind of ticklish, too…
but it wasn't unpleasant at all.
The past him would have never done something like this.
In fact, he wouldn't even blink if someone was dying right in front of his nose.
But the current Kang Jin-Ho had changed.
He wasn't sure if the catalyst for this transformation came from his return to the modern era or if the memories that belonged to 'Kang Jin-Ho' had influenced his personality. Still, he believed that this was for the better.
To live an ordinary life—Heavenly Crimson Demon Emperor had to disappear.
The memories of gangho were far too savage and filled with so much pain and hardships. It was completely ill-suited for having a regular life. If possible, he had to completely erase the 'Heavenly Crimson Demon Emperor' slumbering deep within him.
He knew better than anyone how important that was.
He faintly grinned and stared at the heavens up above.
He was no longer staring at gangho's sky. The ordinary life he had been waiting for would finally begin once he left this hospital.
Just as Kang Jin-Ho was about to step outside the hospital for one last time, Moon Ji-Eun quickly trotted over to him.
Her steps were noticeably more energetic than before.
Even the gloominess affecting her expression also seemed to have lessened. Of course, this could just be Kang Jin-Ho's imagination.
“Mm…” He wasn't sure what to say to her, so he just stood there awkwardly.
Ji-Eun scanned him from top to bottom.
“Oppa, you're going home?”
“Yeah,” Kang Jin-Ho replied while also scanning her body.
The clogging in her had definitely disappeared.
“Weren't you supposed to change hospitals today?”
Early in the morning, we suddenly decided not to.
The doctors said that they need to observe my situation some more. Heheh~”
“I see.” He nodded as if there was nothing out of the ordinary.
Moon Ji-Eun pouted as if she was a bit disappointed by his reaction.
“You don't look surprised.”
“I had a feeling that things would turn out this way.”
“Heh-eh~” Moon Ji-Eun grinned, then scanned Kang Jin-Ho's attire once more.
Looking genuinely happy now, she began tugging at the hem of his clothes.
“It's so weird, you know? It'd usually hurt four or five times in the morning, but I didn't feel anything today.
Not even once!”
“That's good to hear.”
“That's why…” Ji-Eun took out a can of cola from her pocket.
This settled it.
In her mind, Kang Jin-Ho must've been a polar bear addicted to nothing but cola. After all, every interaction between the two began and ended with a can of this fizzy drink! Otherwise, she probably thought that cola was the preferred sustenance of all extraterrestrials.
“Mm…” Kang Jin-Ho fell into a bit of a dilemma, wondering just how he should resolve this misunderstanding.
But Moon Ji-Eun suddenly reached out and grabbed his hand.
She averted her gaze in awkwardness and muttered quietly, “Thanks.”
“Just, you know.
What was she thanking him for? Because he hung out with her every now and then? Kang Jin-Ho couldn't help but tilt his head in confusion.
Since he was being discharged today, this would be their last meeting.
Which meant that her saying stuff like this wasn't that strange.
Was she disappointed to see him leave?
“Okay,” Kang Jin-Ho replied in a slightly pouty tone.
But that made her grin faintly instead.
Her smiles used to contain some traces of gloominess, but her current smile came across as natural and pure, something that a child should be making.
She smiled mischievously and pinched Kang Jin-Ho's hand.
Her intention was to sting him, but…
But when he just stood there without any reaction whatsoever, she went, “Tch!” in disappointment and stared straight at his face.
“You mustn't touch a young lady without permission, okay!”
Kang Jin-Ho's whole body flinched hard.
Moon Ji-Eun continued.
“I'll call the cops if you do!”
“If you get caught doing that again, it's straight to jail for you.
Do you know how scary the law can be these days?!”
“I almost screamed, you know?”
Kang Jin-Ho did his hardest to think of a reply, but he was interrupted by a distant voice calling for Moon Ji-Eun.
“It's my mom,” Ji-Eun muttered.
She then tightly gripped Kang Jin-Ho's hand before trotting away.
Before she got too far away, though, Ji-Eun turned her head and energetically waved her hand at Kang Jin-Ho.
“Stay healthy and don't come back to hospitals, okay! Let's see each other again someday.
Kang Jin-Ho watched the smiling girl's back and quietly muttered to himself, his head tilting to the side.
“Didn't I tap her pressure point? I can't remember.”
Did it even matter? As long as the result was good, it was all fine.
“What's wrong, Jin-Ho?” Kang Jin-Ho's mother walked up to him and asked.
He replied with a shake of his head, “It's nothing, Mother.
Let's go home.”
Kang Jin-Ho finally stepped outside the hospital.
Before leaving, though, he briefly glanced behind him and saw the smiling Moon Ji-Eun holding her mother's hand in the distance.
Their connection had been brief, but…
Kang Jin-Ho looked at Moon Ji-Eun's joyous smiling face, then faintly smiled by himself before turning around to leisurely step into the world outside.
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