By a God's Grace

Part 1

It was indisputably a gorgeous day.

Sun shining, birds chirping, the sound of water from a nearby spring flowing. The very sight of such a lovely day would have men in the town miles away from this particular spot upon the trail grinning as they went to work in their fields and women sighing as they observed the romantic beauty of such a day. Children ran outside to play in euphoric glee, their innocent laughter bubbling up and down the little village’s streets.

Surely, one couldn’t ask for a better day to be beaten to death.

Chenglei Long was a warrior and a damn good one, at that. His strength and skill were legendary: it was rumored that he had once leveled a mountain with a single punch, decimated and army of a thousand with one kick, and parted a flood around a village with a dirty look.

…Of course, it was to expected that at least some of the rumors were over-exaggerated, but the large majority of gossip upon the man’s heroic and celebrated accomplishments was true, and Chenglei was widely-known as an opponent without match.

It was because of that the warrior was summoned to the palace, before Emperor Jingguo himself and gifted with a task of utmost importance: the assassination of a political rival causing a good deal of trouble for the ruler.

Chenglei had duly agreed to the task foisted upon him for it was given by his Emperor and besides the matter of honor in accepting it, the Emperor paid very handsomely and the famed warrior most often possessed only what money he could carry on his person (his eminence was not the type to be maintained by settling down somewhere, after all, and he had consequently chosen a more nomadic lifestyle).

The assignment was carried out with little trouble and within twenty-four hours of being given the mission, the political rival was dead by Chenglei’s hand; with no evidence as to who had ended his life or for what purpose.

The trouble arose when, after the warrior’s payment in the form of a large sum of gold, one of the Emperor’s favorite consorts took an interest in the man her lord and master had hired.

Said lord and master was not a handsome man by anyone’s standards: he was short and of a stocky build, oft compared to a bean for the baldness of his head and the seemingly perpetual slump of his body (though this comparison was never made to his face, lest one lusted for the feel of a blade relieving their shoulders from the burden of their head). His skin was dark and his eyes a sickly yellow, and it was doubtless that his harem loathed every minute of copulation with someone so physically unattractive.

It had even gotten around that the Emperor didn’t even have a well-endowed status going for him, but all were sure that the first concubine to have let such information get out was by now executed.

Chenglei Long, on the other hand, was a stark comparison to his Emperor. He was tall and lean, an aesthetically pleasing form only complimented by the length of his thick, dark locks and the masculine beauty of his face. His flesh was as if gilded, a dusky golden color that matched with his glimmering, sun-like eyes in a way that had any woman with a heartbeat (and even several men) mooning and swooning over him with no more than a disinterested sidelong glance.

And of course, if the tales spread by those that were lucky enough to share the bed of the infamous warrior were accurate, he was certainly a joy to have for any lover.

The favored whore took interest in the beautiful man her master had hired and, when he’d been about to leave, the sly Wuya suggested to Emperor Jingguo that Chenglei most surely deserved further reward for his valiant efforts in completing the task set before him and offered herself for one night as a prize for the man.

Chenglei had considered her words for a moment, looked her up and down once, sneered dismissively and turned the offer down flat, choosing instead to take his money and leave.

Wuya was naturally furious at such a callous refusal. She was admittedly an older woman, certainly no pretty young thing that was the talk of the town, but she had talent! She was concubine to the Emperor for gods’ sakes: if she could manage a false peak in bed with such an unattractive thing as Jingguo, then she could do anything, and yet here this man was, refusing her without even so much as a mask of politeness!

The whore was conniving. She was the Emperor’s favorite and had long ago learned how to get her way, and so soon after Chenglei had left the palace, she took her master to bed with her. As he made love to her, she sighed sadly and whined pathetically about how mean the warrior had been to her; how worthless he’d made her feel when he’d rejected her. Jingguo, hating to see his favorite unhappy, had tried to soothe his consort in the only way he knew how: offering her jewelry and money and material things.

Wuya was pleased with all of these gifts, of course, greedy woman that she was, but she refused to let herself be appeased. For days, she kept up her façade of depression and dejection, moping listlessly about the palace until finally, it became too much for the Emperor.

“What will make you happy, my Wuya?” he at last demanded in exasperation.

She had answered but one thing: “The death of Chenglei Long.”

It was a difficult request: whether or not the majority of the rumors circulating of the warrior’s strength were fabricated, he was still a powerful adversary; the type of man anyone would most rather have as an ally. He had so quickly and quietly killed the Emperor’s rival, after all, without leaving so much as a trace of evidence behind.

It was very much conceivable that, if forced into the position of enemy, Chenglei could easily see to it that Jingguo met a similar fate.

Still, Emperor Jingguo was, indeed Emperor Jingguo and had millions of soldiers at his disposal to do with as he pleased. To cease his favorite’s moping, he ordered nearly a thousand men to seek out the legendary warrior and make absolutely sure his life was ended.

In reality, it likely would’ve only taken three hundred men to do the job, but the Emperor was big on caution and subscribed to the theory that ‘too much’ was better than ‘not enough.’

The men were sent off and not far from the small, secluded village of Shanqing, they happened upon their target.

Chenglei, as to be expected of one so fearless and strong, fought valiantly and felled many of the men before he was at last caught unaware by a dao in the back.

Already dying, the sword-wound having been fatal, the soldiers remembered their lord’s specific orders to be sure of Chenglei’s death and instead of simply allowing the warrior to die peacefully, the men handled him brutally.

Every man who still stood thrust their blades into his body, slicing through his golden skin and drawing ruby-red rivers of blood. They used their fists and feet to bruise and to crack his sturdy bones in such a way that would have crippled him for life had he lived. A butterfly sword blinded the eye that hadn’t swollen shut from the barrage of punches, even as its twin was used to cruelly and unnecessarily shear off the lengthy, obsidian hair of which the warrior was so proud. Some of the soldiers spit upon the poor man’s broken and bleeding body before, as if the final touch, their commander brought one heavy boot down upon the man’s once-handsome face; cracking his nose, dislodging his teeth, and marring his features beyond all recognition.

Chenglei Long, defeated, dishonored, and disgraced, died then and there upon the dirt road, alone and defenseless.

The soldiers had accomplished their objective: the mighty and legendary warrior was dead at the Emperor’s request. They sheathed their swords (without bothering to clean them of their conquered victim’s blood, so as to show their lord solid proof of their deed) and properly honored their fallen brethren with funeral rites before attending to Chenglei’s corpse. They kicked his lifeless body over to the side of the road, into the forest where the animals would rid the world of his remains and promptly left.

Little did they know, of course, that Chenglei Long’s death was only the beginning…

            ~~~~~~~~ Back to Xiaolin Showdown ~~~~~~~~ Part 2


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