There was no time to hesitate or coordinate. With the Medusa creeping in from behind the statues, Ryan and Dianmu knew they had to act or they would perish.
Dianmu went slightly ahead of Ryan, her motions swift and sure as she reached out to twist reality. A small part of Ryan’s brain wondered what she was seeing – interweaving elements, perhaps? Fire and Air and Metal twining together into a strand she plunged into the ground that spread out to engulf each of the suits of armor?
What Ryan saw, on the other hand, was the equations change around each of the suits. Each individual piece of each of the suits of armor gained a strong magnetic field that increased in strength over the course of a heartbeat. The set of a dozen sword strikes that had been heading towards the two gods suddenly became halting and uncoordinated as the suits had to pull against their own limbs to try and move.
Ryan couldn’t afford to take time to admire Dianmu’s twist, however. He brought up his sword in a quick parry of the one blade that was still striking true towards him, a level strike that had been aimed at his neck. He brought up the flat of his blade to force the slash to angle over his head, and then reached out to twist reality himself.
Gravity was quickly becoming Ryan’s favorite toy, and the fundamental force he understood and could manipulate best. Ever since he’d sent Enki flying though a hotel roof all those weeks ago, back when it had been Crystal and him against Athena, Tyr, Enki, and Bast, he’d felt that he could understand how it worked better than almost any other force. This twist was a trick he’d had in mind ever since he’d realized he could manipulate the force, and a small part of him overcame his fear to thrill at finally getting to use it.
The search for Exoplanets had fascinated Ryan for a time, utterly capturing his imagination the way that few things ever managed to. He’d spent hours poring over the latest findings from the Kepler mission, reading about the fantastic worlds they had found and the ingenious methods that had been used to find them. One of the most interesting to Ryan had been gravitational microlensing, where the bending of light from gravity allowed for subtle differences that could be used to spot planets hundreds of light years away.
So, reaching out with a burst of divine strength just as the Medusa was about to fully enter his view, Ryan duplicated the effect on a much smaller scale. Hundreds of gravity bubbles erupted around them, the strongest gravitational effects Ryan had ever attempted. If they had been impacting all forms of matter and energy like gravity normally, Ryan didn’t believe for a second he could have maintained anything close to that many.
These gravity bubbles only influenced light. The result was that the air around them exploded in to a kaleidoscope, hundreds of images distorted and reflected and warped into a multifaceted rainbow like light through a glass made of water droplets.
Outside the shell of bent light, Medusa let out a symphony of hissing. Like Ryan had hoped, she couldn’t be sure it was safe to look into any more than Ryan and Dianmu could look out of it. The end result was a stalemate, one that allowed Ryan and Dianmu to focus on their animate adversaries.
It was good that they could focus now, because Ryan had gotten a bit too distracted creating a hundred bubbles of lensed light with gravitational waves. One of the suits of armor used that distraction to drive a sword into Ryan’s shoulder, and he let out a pained bellow.
Dianmu whirled at the sound, her glaive coming up to sever the gauntlet of the suit that had stabbed Ryan. It dropped its weapon with its hand, and seeing Ryan’s injury, Dianmu didn’t waste any time.
With a quick sweep of her leg, she dropped Ryan to the floor where she could stand over him and fight properly while he recovered. The suits moved in, their attacks powerful but still flowing awkwardly from her earlier manipulations. She met their thunderous blows with her glaive, letting it flow like a river. Each attack was batted aside by blade or haft, every strike driven to ground or empty air or even into their fellow suits. The air sang a cacophonous chorus of steel on bronze, humming with the energy of each impact.
Twelve on one they came, and Dianmu danced over Ryan to fight them. In these numbers, it was too much for her to be able to defeat – not when she could not make her foes bleed, nor wear them down. By the same token, however, they could not reach her or Ryan.
On the floor, Ryan reached up to feel his shoulder. The cut had been deep, but he could still use the arm. He waited for an opening in Dianmu’s dance and rose to his feet, bringing his sword up in his good arm to shove through the helmet of one of the suits.
Now the odds favored the gods, two fighting against twelve. Back to back they spun, and with each cut and hack the suits of armor fell into chunks that did not animate again, until finally they stood alone surrounded by a shell of reflected light and chunks of armor.
The bubbles meant they could still somewhat see outside of their immediate area, the main reason Ryan had chosen that instead of plunging them into darkness. There was still movement outside – Medusa was circling, but not entering. “I smell her on you,” she said from outside, the sibilants drawn out.
“Who?” Ryan wracked his brain for fragments of myth that would help him here. He remembered something about Ovid, and how Medusa and her sisters had been cursed by…oh come on.
“Athena,” she responded as soon as Ryan thought the name, almost like she could taste it on his thoughts, and Dianmu winced in agreement with Ryan. “She’s here, is she not?”
Ryan picked up one of the mirrored shields. “Why don’t you come in and find out, huh? Should be fun!”
Dianmu did the same with another shield as the Media hissed out laughter. “Oh, yes, allow me to wander directly into one of those mirrors. Shall I sever my own head while I’m at it?”
“If you would be so kind,” Ryan said, and Dianmu reached up to touch his arm. Stop toying with it. Drop the illusion and her see herself. He heard the words in his mind and nodded to Dianmu, lowering himself down to one knee.
As soon as he was in placed, he shattered the gravitational lenses. He heard a brief, shocked hiss. Then silence. Dianmu and him were once again back to back, shields facing outwards. “How do we know when it’s safe to look?” Ryan whispered.
To answer, Dianmu glanced sideways until her eyes caught one of the other shields. With a gesture she lifted it up and swung it in a wide arc, so they could scan for Medusa by its reflection.
They did not see the serpentine woman, nor did they see her stone statue. It took Dianmu several minutes of moving the shield around before finally she was satisfied their foe was gone.
“I don’t like it,” Ryan said, hoisting the shield as he stood up. His shoulder protested loudly, joining the pain in his leg. “She could be around any corner at any moment.”
Dianmu shook her head. “She could, but I don’t think she will be. If Medusa withdrew, it’s for a reason. Most monsters aren’t able to communicate as rationally as she did. If she’s that clever, I think she can come up with something more devious than ‘pop up as they round a corner.’”
“I wish I could say you were wrong.” Ryan sighed and shifted the shield until it was comfortable. “You think she’s waiting for us to get back to-“
“Yes,” Dianmu said, not wanting Ryan to say the name in case she was listening. “Whatever transpired between Medusa and her, it seems that hatred runs deep.”
“Lovely. Well, let’s add that on our ‘to worry about’ list and get moving?” Dianmu agreed, pausing only to grab a second shield ‘just in case.’ Together they began to head deeper into the Labyrinth.
Unlike before, however, they could not shake the feeling of being watched.