Ryan had been shot, shocked with lightning, punched, cut, and a variety of other injuries since ascending to godhood. He was getting good at distinguishing different types of pain. Having his kidney impaled on a sword was a fresh surge of agony that was its own distinct flavor. This one was…coppery. Wait. That means blood’s in my mouth. Did I cough up blood?
Moloch raised his foot to Ryan’s back, and kicked Ryan so he slid off the blade. That was also a new flash of pain, and Ryan couldn’t do anything but fall to the ground.
“Thousands of years living off of human sacrifice,” Moloch said, advancing on Ryan. In spite of the pain, Ryan managed to scramble away from Moloch. The murderous god didn’t seem frail or sickly anymore. He was strong and vital, his withered skin clearing up, his eyes blazing with a determination Ryan had never imagined they could hold. “Thousands upon thousands of years working through monsters and proxies and from the shadows. It is so good to finally be at the endgame, wouldn’t you agree, Eschaton?”
Around them, sounds of battle raged. Anansi was flying through the air on a complex twist, baiting his draconic foe. Dianmu assaulted hers with fury and thunder. He couldn’t see Crystal or Athena. What he was most aware of was his own blood staining the grass below. Moloch was advancing on him at a sedate pace. Ryan reached down to his injures, sending a surge of heat with a twist. Moloch smiled and motioned for Ryan to get on with it. He wanted Ryan to heal himself.
Ryan wasn’t going to question why. He screamed again at the pain of the cauterized wound, but at least he wouldn’t bleed to death. “You’re sick,” Ryan hissed through gritted teeth, forcing himself to his feet. His sword was nearby, and a quick twisting of equations brought it flying to his hand.
“Then please, Eschaton.” Moloch spread his arms wide, the sword that still dripped with Ryan’s blood held out. It was still bright red. Ichor dries quicker. I’m still Nascent. Real fear spiked through Ryan’s chest, as bad as when Enki had him by the throat. “Put me out of my misery. Cure what ails me!”
It was a trap. It was such a painfully obvious trap that Ryan almost fell for it, taking a half step before stopping himself short. “Nah,” Ryan said, “I’m not going to stab you today.”
Moloch frowned. “Pity. I was hoping that-“
Ryan reached behind his back and twisted reality the moment Moloch’s guard was down, reorienting gravity. As far as Ryan and Moloch and everything else on the battlefield was concerned, everything worked like normal.
Everything except the Tarasque’s corpse. Ryan twisted reality so that, as far as it was concerned, Moloch was down – and has a massive gravitational pull. It rocketed across the landscape at Moloch, shattering rocks and more monsters and soldiers as it plummeted towards Moloch.
With a laugh, Moloch turned around to disintegrate the corpse. The individual flecks of ash didn’t completely vanish, but they were robbed of their momentum and only ended up clinging to Moloch, coating him in a layer of grey soot, but their impact was almost nonexistent. “A good attempt. I especially like giving me the gravitational pull of Jupiter. Would have hurt quite a bit if it had -.”
Moloch’s words were cut off when Ryan buried his sword into Moloch’s back. “Changed my mind about stabbing you.”
To Ryan’s dismay, Moloch didn’t scream or gasp or do anything of the things you expected when stabbing someone with a large blade. Instead, he laughed again, and Moloch’s form ran like wax. To Ryan’s horror, Moloch managed to completely reorient his body so front was back and back was front. It was so sickening to watch, Ryan found he couldn’t do anything but stare dumbfounded.
Moloch reached out as soon as he was facing Ryan and threw out his hand, striking Ryan in the chest with a pure equation of F=M*A. Ryan went flying backwards, leaving his sword in Moloch.
Ryan’s flight was interrupted by a group of Helhests and riders. They started to wheel to face Ryan, but Moloch held up a hand. “No! Not yet.”
Ryan’s only response was to moan into the dirt. Something in his earlier injury had torn open from that toss, and Moloch seemed to be only moderately inconvenienced by being impaled. Did he manage a double nanoverse? Ryan wondered through the pain. But that didn’t make sense. If Moloch had pulled that off, he wouldn’t waste any nanoverses on making monsters. Moloch could have used the entire Canaanite pantheon to far outstrip anything they could have fought. Then how is he so damn powerful?
It doesn’t matter. You’ve fought more powerful gods than you before. You nuked Enki. You can do this, Ryan. You can beat him. Ryan forced himself to his feet, feeling less certain than his pep talk indicated. Every fight with Enki had been a fierce battle. Even at the height of Enki’s power, he’d never seemed so lazy about it. Moloch was acting like a cat with a cornered mouse that he intended to play with before killing, and seemed even less threatened.
“Why not kill me, Moloch?” Ryan asked, trying to buy himself some time with banter. If I can get keep him talking until the others show up, five on one odds favor us. Doubt flickered across Ryan’s thoughts. Right? Why isn’t he concerned? “You’re acting like I can’t hurt you. Why not just come at me?”
“Because,” Moloch said, “not everyone’s here. You don’t get to die until they do. But I don’t want you making it too easy on them.”
With a gesture, Moloch used the same trick Enki had used, so long ago on Crystal. Chains shot out of the ground and latched into Ryan’s skin. The pain was incredible, even though the damage was minimal. But they were barbed and hooked in ways that wormed into his skin and he swore he could feel them drilling.
So Ryan screamed. Moloch laughed. And the bear roared.
The sound wasn’t what Moloch expected, clearly. Then again, there are very few situations where one expects to be charged by nearly two tons of enraged grizzly. It caught Moloch off guard with how fast it was. Ryan watched as the bear tore a series of lines into Moloch’s back, sending him to the ground. Moloch flipped over to face it, snarling, but the bear got another blow on the side of Moloch’s head. Why is there a bear?
Another part of Ryan added that, just like Moloch’s power source, it didn’t matter. The bear was there, and Ryan knew how to break these chains. It was one of the first things he’d ever managed to do. With a twist, the chains shattered as Ryan broke down the bonds between iron atoms.
As Ryan struggled to his feet, Beast and god wrestled. Before Ryan could dash to aid his savior, Moloch hit it in the chest with a single flat palm, a blow he accelerated with enough force to actually lift the bear off the ground and send it flying upwards.
Ryan couldn’t watch as the bear hit the ceiling above them. It was certainly moving fast enough. Instead he looked at Moloch, who was watching. Moloch’s wounds closing before Ryan’s eyes. That’s impossible. You can’t shapeshift away injuries. Ryan turned on his divine sight. Moloch was accelerating time around his injures like it was nothing, healing them in an instant.
Then, Moloch frowned, and Ryan risked a glance up. The bear had stopped moving, and a pair of enormous red wings jutted out from behind its bulk. “Uriel,” Moloch growled, almost in unison with Ryan. The two adversaries shared a glance of mirrored bewilderment. Who’s side is she on?
The bear was lowered to the ground in Uriel’s arms.
As Ryan watched, the bear’s form ran much like Moloch’s had, shapeshifting into something else. No, not something. Some one.
Uriel helped Isabel Smiths stand up. “Hey bro,” Isabel said, peering around Moloch. Her voice was strained, and her stance unsteady. That blow to the chest she received in bear form still hurt. “guess I still have to clean up after you.”
Moloch snarled and readied a bolt of lightning. Ryan started to try and lunge at him before Moloch could blast Isabel apart, but then Moloch hesitated and glanced at Uriel. The archangel was grinning. “You broke a compact with Hell, Moloch,” Uriel said, her voice dripping confidence.
“You agree to do no harm to Isabel Smith,” Moloch muttered.
Uriel nodded. “And you have violated that.”
To Ryan’s horror, Moloch didn’t seem at all disturbed. If anything, he seemed…excited. “I’m going to enjoy killing you, angel.”
And with that, angel and god charged each other.