Thunder rumbled over Grant, the storm Ryan had set in motion getting ready to unleash its fury. Dianmu threw up her hands and sent a surge of air rushing to meet the charging Cadiophages. They struck it like it was a physical wall, digging their claws into the street to avoid being blown back. Bast snarled and reached into her nanoverse, drawing out her guns. “You good on the plan?” Ryan asked.
Dianmu gave him a curt nod. “Take care, Ryan,” she said. Then, holding out her hand, she sent surges of lightning leaping from the heavens to arc down and strike the Cadiophages. They howled in anger and pain.
Ryan rushed forward in the confusion and swung for Bast. She dodged back from the blow with the same easy grace she’d always shown in combat. “Leave the Eschaton for me!” she commanded. “Kill that bitch!”
Dianmu’s wind wall dropped, allowing the cadiophages to surge forward. She turned and ran, leading them away from the battle.
Ryan shouldn’t have let himself be distracted. Bast’s foot connected with his stomach and sent him flying back, the wind driven from his lungs. He slammed through a glass window of a bookstore, careening into a bookshelf and collapsing to the ground.
Okay…that wasn’t part of the plan, Ryan thought through the pain, getting to his feet. His back felt like a giant bruise. “I thought you wanted me alive, Bast? And now you’re going to-ohshit!” A ball of flame streaked from Bast’s hands. Ryan flung himself to the ground, and it passed over him, the heat searing his back. It struck the bookshelf, and the paper burst into flame.
“I know what will kill you, Eschaton!” Bast said, her voice full of delight. “I can keep you alive for quite some time.”
The flames were beginning to lick the heels of Ryan’s shoes. He leapt to his feet and dove out of the window, rolling as he hit the ground so Bast’s next attack, a bolt of lightning, would arc over his head instead of striking him. That’s it, come on. Ryan reached out and gestured with a tiny twist, just enough to quintuple the weight of her guns. Bast let them fall to the ground, where they cracked the concrete beneath her feet. She shrugged at the dropped weapons, and Ryan fought the urge to sigh with relief. The plan relied on her burning through as much power as they could get her to.
Which meant he had to play tag with Bast until she was worn out. “I don’t know why I’m worried about you, Bast!” Ryan shouted. “Even with a linnorm backing you, Athena kicked your ass.”
Bast’s smug smirk turned into a snarl, and she curled her fingers into claws as she began to lob a stream of fireballs at Ryan. He dove and ducked and weaved, using only his divine sight to try and guess where the next attack would be coming from.
It worked for a few seconds, but it had taken Crystal millennia to master that skill. Ryan was thirty years old and had been a god for weeks.
One of the fireballs struck him in the chest. It exploded like a grenade, a wave of heat and concussive force sending him flying back and rolling down the street. If he’d been human, he’d be dead. As it was, his chest was a mass of pain, and when he coughed, red flecks landed on the pavement in front of him. Get up, Ryan. Get up.
Thunder rumbled, and the storm he’d set in motion unleashed its fury in the most torrential storm ever seen in this part of Texas. Rain came down in great sheets, washing away the blood he’d left on the pavement, quenching the flames that burned from Bast’s earlier blasts.
Streaks of lightning, too rapid and focused to be natural, began to crash down among the cadiophages at the other end of the block. Dianmu was still fighting, and making sure Ryan knew exactly where she was.
Ryan reached into his nanoverse and grabbed a sword, charging toward Bast with the weapon raised.
He used the motion to hide a twist of his free hand as he started a cascade of power. Power he’d need to tap into later.
Assuming he could survive long enough.
Bast watched him approached with an eyebrow raised in confusion. She waited for Ryan to get within a dozen feet of herself, then gestured backhandedly. A wall of wind slammed into Ryan and sent him flying down the street. “You must have come here Hungry,” Bast said, although Ryan could barely hear her over the rain. “That was stupid. That was very, very stupid.”
Ryan threw his sword at Bast, a slight twist accelerating the blade. Bast caught it in a web of water woven from the falling rain, and then with a gesture shattered the blade. She held out her hand, and the shards of Ryan’s abandoned swords came flying back towards Ryan.
He screamed at the sudden pain of a dozen cuts as splinters of metal shredding his arms and legs. Bast had been careful to avoid his chest and neck. Blood mixed with rainwater and Ryan collapsed to one knee.
“Of course, it’s only the fifth stupidest thing you’ve done today,” Bast said, walking towards him with a casual deliberation. “The fourth was coming here to challenge me without Ishtar or Athena.” She gestured towards the heaven, and a bolt of lightning leapt from the clouds. Ryan felt his muscles clench up from the strike. “The third was letting your pet curator leave to follow my Cadiophages.” Bast gestured, and the falling water condensed into lashes that struck Ryan across the back. It was like being cut with a pressure cleaner, and Ryan didn’t even try and prevent the cry that it dragged from his lips. “The second was thinking you could challenge me alone.” Bast clenched her fist, and a stone pillar shot from the ground to impact Ryan directly in the face. He reared back, clutching at his eye, and thought he felt the socket had been cracked. “And, of course, the big one, the number one mistake you made today – was thinking you could challenge me.” She threw her hand out, and another wall of wind struck Ryan. He was sent flying forward now, rolling across the ground, asphalt scraping at his skin.
He landed at Bast’s feet, looking up into her smug, malicious grin. “Give up, Ryan. Give me what I want, and you might survive.”
Ryan heard her words, but that wasn’t what he was focused on.
She was breathing. Deep, heavy breaths. Bast was getting Hungry.
Just need to stay conscious long enough to finish this, Ryan thought, right before Bast brought her heel down on the bridge of his nose.