By a God's Grace

Part 2

Chenglei felt his consciousness haze back into being an indeterminable amount of time later.

He was not alive: he could not feel his heart beating and the flow of blood through his body, which had in life kept him warm, had ceased; his form left to grow cold. Of course, he couldn’t feel how cold he surely must be, so it was a moot point. He could not open his eyes or move under his own power anymore, and his lungs failed to draw breath instinctively.

Surely, the warrior thought to himself with a chilling certainty, this was Death.

It was unlike anything he’d been expecting, but then again, what had he been expecting? He was never all that concerned with religion, but he knew of several fates-after-death that religions subscribed to, and of all the ones he knew, this wasn’t any of them. Most of these scenarios involved reincarnation or the Three Realms concept, at the least. This…

This was nothingness.

Perhaps it was simply because he didn’t really practice a religion that he was subject to this nonexistence? It would make sense, he supposed. But that wasn’t to say he didn’t believe in the gods, though, of course he did! He just didn’t much concern himself with them when there were so many more pressing matters to attend to in the earthly word.

It was difficult to find time to thank the heavenly deities when you so often had enemies looking to make a name for themselves breathing down your back and had to do hard labor just to earn a night’s stay somewhere for lack of money. Thankfully, that was over now: he had plenty of mo-…

Oh. Right. He was dead. It was going to take some time to get used to that.

Chenglei took a brief moment to wonder further about this particular brand of death he was experiencing. Why could he still think if the rest of his body so failed to function? Just where was he? What had decided he should be dead in this particular way and not be reborn as a…a tiger or something?

Goodness, this was confusing.

His musings were very suddenly interrupted by an unexpected flood of pain throughout every inch of his body, setting his nerves ablaze and making him want to scream in agony.

Chenglei did.

…And was very abruptly caught by the question of, ‘How could he scream if he couldn’t have so much as moved earlier?’

The warrior did a brief self-analysis and was stunned beyond all reason to find that he felt his heart beating behind his ribs, his lungs once more expanding with air. He could feel with shocking clarity everything happening in and around his body: he was cold as ice,  and good gods did everything hurt!

Chenglei was beginning to miss the empty numbness in light of this new sensation.

Writhing in his own private world of pain, the sort of suffering that he should’ve been spared through his death, the warrior was admittedly surprised to feel soft, warm, and very real hands laying upon his body.

He jerked roughly at the touch, attempting to drive whoever it was away but not having the presence of mind or ability of body to execute the debilitating palm-strike his mind had wanted him to.

“Easy, now,” a voice spoke to him, low and so strangely soothing that each and every one of Chenglei’s muscles relaxed. “You’re pretty damaged…” Whoever was touching him seemed to pause, as if inspecting the full extent of said damage. “Yeesh…yeah, ‘pretty damaged’ isn’t even the half of it…”

That little comment made the warrior miserable, hearing the disgust and pitying sympathy in the stranger’s voice at merely looking at him. It meant that he was too repulsive to even be seen; was too abhorrent for someone to bear the sight of. Those soldiers had crippled him, destroyed his body and his face-…his face…

Oh, gods, he must be hideous now! He could feel from the painful throb that his face was swollen from the barrage of fists and he just knew his nose had been cracked in that final boot-stomp. A brief swipe of his tongue along the inside of his mouth and his lips told him that said lip was split in several places and swollen and that he had a grand total of four teeth left.

Chenglei Long, the most infamous and feared warrior in China, made a sound he hadn’t made in many, many years: a piteous whimper.

Immediately, the voice hushed him, pulling his head to rest in a comfortably warm lap. In doing this, the man was reminded of the fact that his hair was now barely the length of an infant’s pinky finger, a fact which only upset him more. “Shhhh,” the voice quieted him again, “relax… You’re gonna be just fine, I promise: I’ll help you.”

The man quieted at that. How? How could this person help him? He was…he was…


Before he could further question anything, one of those soft hands found its way to the warrior’s sliced up and bloodied chest, the pad of a thumb pressing lightly to the edge of one of the largest gouges.

“Just so you know,” the voice cautioned him, “this is gonna hurt. A lot.”

With no further warning than that, the thumb pressed down, hooking into the wound.

Chenglei screamed once more at the excruciating sensation, further disconcerted to feel it moving down the length of the open slice.

Holy hells, that was…Why was it no longer painful?

Yes, it seemed that as the thumb swept through, the pain just…disappeared…

…who was this person?

In what seemed to be no time at all, the thumb had coursed the wound entirely and removed itself from the warrior’s flesh. Then the hand it was attached to felt along it…

…or more accurately, where it’d been, for the gouge was quite literally gone, and the stranger’s hand merely brushed over smooth, flawless muscle and skin.

To be able to do such a thing…this person was not human.

“There now,” the god or demon or whatever it was brightly chirped, “one down, eight-hundred-and-seventy-six to go!”

And so it went for quite some time, Chenglei’s surface wounds being healed one by one as the benevolent entity counted them off. There was pain, of course, but he was a warrior: exposed to the same sort of pain over a long period of time, he could grow used to it, and this was no different.

He hadn’t even been aware of the fact that his body was cleared of all cuts and that his flesh was once more the perfect, unmarred gold it once was until the voice declared, “And that’s the last one! Good thing, too; I’d hate to see your gorgeous skin all fucked up by scars.” Two hands pressed flat to the man’s broad chest; soft and slender hands that were surprising when compared to the very obviously male voice. Men were supposed to have bigger, rougher hands than that, and yet these were soft and…perfect.

A tingle shot through the man’s entire abdomen, stemming from the hands and pulling a startled gasp from him. The tingle rippled through his body for a bit, easing away aches and sharp twinges that had been bothering and hurting the warrior from the inside.

“That should take care of the internal injuries,” the voice informed him. “It’s certainly much better for all parties involved if your liver remains unpunctured by your ribs, I think.”

Chenglei tried to answer, for the first time attempting speech towards this munificent thing now that his entire body no longer shrieked with agony. He found he couldn’t. As frustrating as it seemed, he could gasp and grunt and even scream, but when he tried to form words, his vocal cords locked up and refused to work properly.

Very much how, even though the worst of his wounds were healed, he couldn’t so much as attempt movement.

“Moving right along, how about we fix those broken bones next?”

Chenglei knew this would be painful, almost assuredly even more so than the reparation of his skin. It took cuts and flesh wounds far less time to heal than it took bones to mend, and to rush that process would definitely hurt. He also knew for a fact that he had a lot of broken bones.

But, the pain was not without reason: he could tolerate it if it meant he could someday move again.

The being allowed him enough control of himself to nod his head once in agreement and the warrior was met with the reply of, “Good; you are one hell of a trooper. I could’ve given you a break if you’d wanted, but…it probably is better to do it all in one go instead of prolonging the suffering. You’ve had plenty of that, I bet.”

Oh, wouldn’t Chenglei agree with that perfectly correct statement? But no, he would not retract his decision, nor did he regret it.

He wanted to be unbroken and he wanted to be unbroken now.

The man offered no protest when those soft, warm hands took secure hold of his twisted and fractured arm and in one deft motion, cracked it back into perfect condition.

He grunted at the intense ripple of pain the action caused, his jaw clenching as the being moved onto his ruined hand and fingers and did the same to them. He was almost glad of the fact that there were only four teeth in his skull, else he would’ve doubtless bitten his tongue off!

The other arm was much easier to bear now that he’d had a taste of precisely the type of pain mending bones caused (not to mention the fact that his right arm, unlike the left, was not dislocated at the rotator cuff and elbow).

The legs were only a bit harder to endure. The soldiers hadn’t broken his feet as they’d done to his hands, but several important ligaments had been skewered in his knees and the shin of his right leg was little more than powder due to the many times it’d been stomped upon by his attackers.

A break near the base of his spine was handily undone and the warrior was pleased to find he could feel the rest of him below his pelvis.

For the first time since he’d been ambushed, brutally beaten, and killed, Chenglei Long felt more…himself.

Not quite, of course: his beautiful and handsome face of which men and women throughout China daydreamed was still battered and disfigured.

It crossed his mind that perhaps something like that would be his punishment for some sort of wrong he did in life: he would be put through excruciating pain and suffering, put through it again in undoing the damage, and then forced to live with his once-gorgeous face marred beyond recognition as some test of his humility.

To be completely honest, Chenglei would be alright with that. Not happy, certainly, but life as a hideous outcast was better than death as a handsome man.

Still, he doubted that this…god or devil or mystical being; whatever he happened to be would do such a thing to him. By his words, he bore no ill will towards the warrior: he’d healed him, warned him to expect pain, and had spoken to him with a warm sympathy that just could not have come from someone that wished him to suffer.

Chenglei had faith in this being to undo the damage that’d been done to his face, just as he’d done to the rest of the man’s body.

As if on cue, warm hands cupped his cheeks and the voice, low and heavy with sorrow, murmured, “Look what those bastards did to your poor face…what a shame…” There was a brief pause and the voice continued, “They’ll all die a painful death on the way back to the palace; one by one.”

That essentially confirmed the ‘powerful deity’ theory, along with gifting Chenglei the knowledge that whichever of the gods this was, he was vengeful.

A good thing to know, really: if he could ever find out the identity of this god, he would have a clear idea of which one he should make time to properly worship and respect. The rest were clearly secondary to one who so favored him as to bring him back to life and curse those that’d ended him with torturous deaths.

“This is gonna be a lot less painful than the other stuff,” the god informed him, almost casually. “It’ll still hurt, but after everything else, it shouldn’t be too much to bear.”

The statement was perfectly correct: it did hurt some when those warm artist’s hands began reshaping his face, putting pressure in strategic spots, smoothing others, and healing the minuscule cuts that were there, but after suffering death and the rest of his mending, it felt as if nothing more than an inconsequential papercut.

For what seemed like hours, the god restored his face: unbreaking his jaw, cracking his nose back into the precise, elegant arch it’d been, undoing his fat lip and even regrowing his teeth; making them white and perfect the way they’d always been.

Now Chenglei was beginning to feel himself; strong and powerful and the very picture of masculine beauty.

The rest of his face properly mended, now came the part the warrior had been waiting for: his eyes. With one blinded indefinitely and the other swollen shut, it was impossible to see anything, much less where he was or just who it was repairing him.

He wanted no more than to see the face of the deity that had seen fit to give him his life back for whatever reason he had chosen to do so.

The moment came and the tips of slender fingers pressed lightly to the tender flesh of his bruised and blackened right eye. Almost instantly, the swelling receded and the warrior regained the ability to see with at least one of his eyes…

…if he could actually open it, that is. The very moment he attempted to open his eye and get a look at the god, a thumb swiped lightly over the lid and just like that, it was sealed shut in such a way that the man could not lift it.

Chenglei cursed silently; he only wanted to see the god’s face, after all! But he held his tongue and remained patient.

After all, he still had another eye to be given sight.

One hand gently cupped his chin and tilted it upwards ever so slightly, giving the deity better view and access to the man’s face.

As expected, the other descended to his left eye, the finger and thumb pulling back the lid and holding it open. Chenglei could see nothing; that eye was quite soundly blindly by the butterfly sword. He felt warm breath, cool to the sensitive flesh, blowing upon his eye.

His sight was returned to him immediately.

As quick as he was able, Chenglei’s vision focused on the being behind the hand that still hovered before his eye, attempting to take in the sight, but to no true avail: this eye, too, was quickly closed and sealed shut like its twin.

All the man had been able to see was an overwhelming amount of pure white and a shock of red; the same shade as one might find in a sunset.

“Don’t worry about me,” the god chastised him. “Nobody knows about me anyways, so even if you did find out who I was,” a thrill of shock tore through the warrior at the blatant mind-reading, “it wouldn’t do you any good: there is no proper way to worship me.”

The man didn’t have much time to think on what a pity that was that a clearly powerful god (powerful enough to resurrect and heal and curse mortals) was completely unknown because the god’s hands were on his skull, threading through his painfully short hair.

The long fingers grasped what they were able and yanked. There was no vicious tug upon his scalp as he’d expected, and the pull was actually…lengthening his hair! Oh, thank you, merciful god!

Within moments, his gorgeous and lustrous mane of thick black hair was returned to him and Chenglei almost felt he could cry for his delight at the very thought: his pride and joy, his once more!

The warrior felt himself removed from the warm lap that he’d grown accustomed to and hefted into a kneeling position directly before the god. His eyes still refused to open.

“Good as new,” said god happily declared, obviously proud of his handiwork. “Now’s the time I’ll be sending you back to your life, but first…” Though he could not see, he could feel the deity move closer; could feel the hot breath ghosting along his cheeks.

Chenglei could honestly say he was stunned when the god’s lips descended to his own in a warm, chaste kiss that made the warrior very much want to have control of his body to kiss back or to open his eyes and see the one that kissed him with such loving intention; anything but simply sitting there motionlessly!

Unfortunately, he was given no choice and the god slowly but surely pulled away, still holding the man in his kneeling position.

“Congratulations, Chenglei Long,” the deity practically purred in a soft, heated tone; one that managed to convey youth and wisdom, love and lust all in one go, “you have the favor of a god…”

And for the warrior, consciousness again became a thing of the past.

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