By a God's Grace

Part 5

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…

This seemed oddly familiar.

Even as he thought it, feeling rippled through his body, his heart beginning to beat again and his lungs expanding and contracting properly with breath. There was a mildly annoying throb in his torso emanating from his back, but compared to the last time his body had come back from death, it was negligible.

…from death…

Immediately, Chenglei’s eyes opened and he sat upright, mildly startled that he could actually do so. Hadn’t Jianyu kept him frozen last time; prevented him from seeing anything?


The warrior quickly inspected the surroundings, looking for the god that had surely rescued him from death a second time. There was nothing, wherever this was: just…an empty white space, no visible anything for as far as the eye could see. He wasn’t even quite sure what it was he was sitting upon.

In this white space, there was no white of the variety he wanted to see; no Jianyu-white.

From seemingly nowhere, a hand settled firmly on his shoulder, another at the base of his spine. Chenglei tried desperately to turn around, but found himself stuck in a forward-facing sitting position.

“We’ve really gotta stop meeting like this,” a young male voice spoke just at his ear, a digit sliding into his most recent death-wound and healing it the same way as it had all the others before it. “As I recall it, you were just here.”

The mystic hold loosened and Chenglei was allowed movement. Instantly, he about-faced in a desperate attempt to see his twice-savior’s face before the deity stopped him.

The deity did not, in fact, attempt to.

The mortal man found himself gaping in awe at the creature he now looked upon. White skin, red hair and eyes, just as he remembered, but he had only seen those in a watered down dream; an illusion of a god.

Here before him now was the actual god, in the flesh. White skin was not simply white, it was a glowing shade of ivory; red eyes were not simply red, they were the color of glittering rubies; red hair was not the human interpretation of red hair, either, and was a brilliant shade of red and orange mixed together, the bright type of color one would expect to see in a sunset.

The rest of the god was just as pleasing to look upon. His body was lean and slender even hidden in ample robes of black and white that pleasingly accentuated his coloring. His face was that of a young man, aged perhaps eighteen or nineteen; the very verge of adulthood, and his features reflected his youth even as the god smirked teasingly at his current companion.

“Well?” he prompted in his pleasant voice. “Am I everything you thought I would be?”

It was all Chenglei could do to breathe, “More…”

The deity chuckled in amusement and the warrior felt a gentle wave of pleasure sweep through him at the sweet and chiming sound. “I’m glad I lived up to your expectations, then,” the god spoke. “And now that you’ve managed to break the all-time record for number of deaths, I think you deserve some reward.”

Chenglei got his hopes up for nothing, and the deity did not, in fact, begin taking off his clothing.

Instead, he offered, “Ask as many questions of me as you want, and I’ll answer every last one of them for you; even the big life questions that everybody’s so baffled about.”

The first question to cross the man’s lips was, “Your name is Jianyu, isn’t it?”

The god nodded in the affirmative. “So it is,” Jianyu assured. “I’m glad you remembered it.”

This little fact ascertained, Chenglei demanded, “What are you? Exactly, I mean?”

“Exactly?” Jianyu echoed before informing, “I’m a god; the god of universal balance, to be exact.”

That was a fairly significant thing to be put in charge of the mortal mused, which brought up the question of, “What exactly does that entail?”

“Well, to start, I created the universe,” the deity shrugged, as if it were no big deal. “I made the gods that all the mortals do know, and aside from that, pretty much all I do is tweak things a little bit; so the world stays in order.”

“Tweak things?” Chenglei repeated, curious.

“The world is founded on balance,” Jianyu answered. “If things weren’t balanced, there’d be complete chaos, and while that’s sometimes fun, it gets boring if things are chaotic all the time. I manipulate things just a little bit so that they swing from good to bad: a war breaks out, a peace treaty is written up. The elderly die, babies are born. People dedicate their lives to saving, others dedicate their lives to destroying. It may seem like it’s random,” the god said, “but in reality, it’s all a very delicate balance.”

Frowning at this new information, the warrior inquired, “If you do as much as you say and play so big a part in the scheme of things, why is it that you are unknown and unworshipped among mortals?”

“A little bit of this and a little bit of that,” the deity replied noncommittally. “I created the gods that you know with a good deal less power than me; they created your race with a good deal less power than them. They know how humans look upon them, as all-powerful entities that can’t be topped. I top them by a long-shot. They’ve kept me from human-knowledge because they don’t want me swooping in and stealing their thunder: if mankind knows there’s a god more powerful than the gods, they’ll worship me instead and ignore the others completely because they won’t fear their ‘divine wrath.’ Anything my creations do to their own creations, I can undo in a second.”

“So…you allow yourself to remain unknown to prevent the chaos that would come from that scenario?” Chenglei deduced.

“Partly,” Jianyu shrugged. “The other half of it is that it would be a pain in the ass for the lesser gods to be smiting people angrily all the time and me having to bring them all back to life just to maintain order.”

The man laughed. “I suppose that would be quite frustrating,” he conceded. “What of the lesser gods? Why did you create them in the first place?”

“The honest answer or the bullshit answer I’d give anyone else?” the deity wondered for clarification. Seeming to dismiss it, he answered, “The bullshit answer is that I was lonely and wanted something akin to children  to keep me company.”

“And the honest answer?” Chenglei prompted.

“I was bored and wanted to play…well, play god, I guess. I’m not your typical, ‘right is better than wrong’ god,” Jianyu pointed out. “In fact, I personally think ‘wrong’ is a lot more fun. But being the god of universal balance, and all, I can still realize the benefits of ‘right,’ or if not the benefits, the necessity of it. So, yeah, I’ll stick with my own personal preference for awhile and let horrible, terrible, heinous things happen down on Earth without helping, but I’ll throw in a century or so of good things happening; it all works out so long as it’s balanced appropriately, so I can afford to be kind of a prick.”

“If you’re as much of a ‘prick’ as you say,” the warrior demanded, using the god’s own terminology, “then why is it that you’ve been so benevolent to me? Surely, the universe is slightly unbalanced now that I’ve died and been resurrected twice.”

“It is unbalanced right now, but I’m nice to you because I like you,” Jianyu smirked. “See how that works? Selfish prick.”

“Why do you like me, then?” Chenglei inquired. “I’m a mere mortal, and you a god: what appeal can I have to you?”

“The fact of your looks is one thing,” the deity admitted. “You’ve got a god’s beauty trapped in that mortal body of yours and don’t think I haven’t noticed it.”

“If I am as beautiful as a god, then why have lesser gods not taken an interest in me?” the mortal wondered, his logic sound in questioning this little fact.

“Here comes the ‘selfish prick’ part again,” Jianyu warned. “It’s another case where I disregarded my job to keep the universe balanced and manipulated my creations so that they wouldn’t find you attractive or interesting. If I hadn’t, I have no doubt that by the time you hit twelve, several hundred gods and goddesses would be fighting over you.”

“That’s quite the ego-booster,” Chenglei grinned. “Why else do you like me? Aside from my looks.”

“Your drive to succeeded, definitely.” The god smiled, as if pleased. “Everything you achieved: your strength, your skill, your (nearly) undefeated record? That didn’t come from me or any other god’s favor. You became one of China’s greatest warriors all on your own, something all the other ‘greatest warriors’ needed divine intervention to get. That’s something else, Chenglei.”

The man’s ego was further boosted by the honest statement and he entreated, “What else?”

“Well, it’s pretty rare to find a mortal man perfectly compatible with a god,” Jianyu informed.

This gave the warrior pause, and he inquired, “Perfectly compatible?”

“Mmhmm,” the deity nodded, his expression serious. “It hardly happens once every million or so years that a human is born with a personality fit for a god or goddess; the type of person that could be romantically-linked with an immortal being and not get boring after a couple hundred years. I’ve seen it happen to lesser gods,” Jianyu said, “but a human perfect for me never came along…until now, of course.”

“And…that is me?” Chenglei wondered, eyes wide. “I am your compatible mortal?”

“Right on the first try,” the god assured. “You’re the only human on Earth currently or for at least another several million years to be perfect for me. You’d never get boring to me, I’d never feel a need to bed another, and I’d never fall out of love with you: perfect.”

“So…what?” the man demanded. “You are going to hold me prisoner here until love blossoms and I become your willing sex-slave?” In all honesty, the warrior had no qualms about being a sex-slave to one as beautiful as Jianyu; it was the part about his wishes not even being considered that had his hackles rising.

“No,” Jianyu immediately denied. “I wouldn’t do that. What I am doing is offering you a choice.”

Chenglei inhaled sharply as the white-skinned deity raised one hand and an illusion appeared perched atop his palm.

He saw a smaller version of himself coming to on the floor of the inn in Shanqing. “I could give you your life back again,” Jianyu informed. “You would wake up again, totally healed as if nothing had ever happened and live your life however you want to.” The man watched the smaller him go about various things; fighting foes, loving various men and women, and just in general living. “But,” the god interjected, causing the illusionary-Chenglei to appear in Jingguo’s throne room, attacking and killing the Emperor, “you’d have to be a lot more careful with what you do, because I won’t be saving your life anymore.” Emperor dead, the tiny guards rushed the tiny warrior and ended his life, as well, and a small cremation was performed: no resurrection here.

“And my other option?” Chenglei queried.

Jianyu closed his hand, dispelling the first illusion even as he opened its twin and called forth another.

In it, the little Chenglei sat with a little Jianyu upon clouds, dressed in fine clothing and enjoying delicious looking food and drink. “Your other option is that I make you a god like me,” the deity said. “We would live for eternity together, all-powerful and in love, doing as we pleased.” The small version of the warrior was atop the minuscule illusion of the god, kissing lovingly at his collarbone as he found joy and pleasure in ever so slowly peeling his beloved out of his clothing; taking the time to thoroughly explore a body he’d explored thoroughly many, many times already and had failed to grow tired of. “You could have your revenge on Jingguo, as well; that is, if you wanted.” Chenglei saw the small version of himself grinning an evil grin, holding the little Jianyu to him like a wicked king would his wicked queen as the stout and ugly Emperor was whipped again and again and again before the two of them, his wounds healing the moment they were inflicted, but sparing none of the pain.

“So,” Jianyu firmly spoke, dispelling the second illusion like he did the first and folding both hands together in his lap, “it’s your choice, Chenglei Long: which do you choose?”

The man was silent for a very long moment. “I choose…” he said eventually, “not to be a complete fool. I choose a life with you, Jianyu.”

The god smiled brightly, ruby eyes glimmering happily, and the yet-mortal man felt that gentle pleasure sweep through him once more; putting his inner-self at complete and utter peace.

“Then you’ll have a life with me, Chenglei,” he promised, reaching out to lay those warm, artistic hands on the warrior’s shoulders. “And just so you know, this won’t hurt a bit…”

Power and life and eternity flooded through the human’s body in a rush, washing away his every weakness and mortality, and with a deep, calming breath, Chenglei Long allowed himself to be reborn.


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