Ryan cried in agony as he felt his nose shatter under Bast’s foot. She brought up the heel, and Ryan’s hands went to his face. Blood poured from his broken nose, running between his fingers. He couldn’t see through the pain. “You can’t win this, Eschaton,” Bast said, her words cutting over the pain. “You had time to trick Enki. I won’t repeat his mistakes.”
It took time for Ryan’s vision to clear. Bast stood there, allowing him to blink away the tears and stand up. With his hands on both sides of his nose, Ryan snapped his nose back into place. It caused another lance of pain to blind him for a moment, and he almost dropped back to the ground. Instead he stood there, his vision slowly fading back into reality.
“You won’t repeat his mistakes?” Ryan asked with a sniff, wiping away the blood from his mouth. “Then why the hell are you just standing there, gloating?”
Bast sighed. “Because I’m hoping you see reason. I’m hoping you realize that this ends poorly for you. I don’t want you dead, Ryan. I want you to fix what’s broken in us.”
Ryan shook his head. “I’ll die before I do, Bast.”
Bast didn’t bother retorting. Instead, she gestured. A wind surged up from around her hand and roared towards Ryan like a freight train, tearing chunks of pavement up as it travelled towards him. Ryan didn’t even try to stand up against the immense force. He instead curled into a ball, letting his elbows and knees take the brunt of the bouncing along the ground.
Ryan crashed along the street like a human bowling ball, tumbling end over end. Splinters of pain raced through his body from wherever he impacted, radiating out from his hands as they protected his head, spiraling up from his sins when he ricocheted off a car, and getting a hiss of pain from his throat when his elbows slammed in the pavement.
It was hardly the most dignified thing a god had ever done, but it was effective. When he finally stopped, his hands and knees were scarred, and he felt like he’d been thrown into a tumble dryer, but he was alive and able to stand.
Everything’s still going…according to plan, Ryan told himself. And, in a sense, that was true. It missed the very important caveat that Ryan had not expected the plan to hurt so damn much.
He could see Dianmu dancing among the Cadiophages behind Bast. She kept them at bay with her glaive, the blade flashing in the momentary bursts of lightning that illuminated the ever-darkening sky. She had dozens on her, and like Ryan she was withholding using any of her divine power.
At least, in a way the Cadiophages could detect. All I need know is – ooof!
The last thought was also expressed vocally. Bast had flown down the street and impacted Ryan with her knee raised high. He’d been so off guard; he’d taken the blow directly into his solar plexus. She grinned as he tumbled down the street again, this time lacking the presence of mind to curl himself protectively.
Ryan gasped for air. She’d driven the wind straight from his lungs, and with the Hunger for Air starting, he needed to draw breath. Bast gave him a lazy gesture.
This time Ryan was able to dodge. A bolt of lightning lanced down from the storm Ryan had summoned, splitting the concrete he had just vacated. The sheer force of the thunder this close still sent him rocking back, and his ears filled with a high-pitched ringing sound.
For a terrible moment, Ryan thought he’d been deafened by the explosion so close to his head, and he had to imagine trying to save the world with his ears still fill of that constant ringing. Then another bolt of lightning joined the first. This one struck him directly, and the sound of his own scream filling his ears assured him he was able to hear just fine.
Ryan slumped to his knees. Even with the rain cooling him, steam was rising from his arms and back from the lightning bolt, a cloud forming around him for a moment before the rain washed it away in a stream.
Bast was approaching him at a lazy, sedate walk. “You really did rely on Ishtar and Athena to defeat Enki, didn’t you? I knew you were no warrior, but I never imagined you’d be this-”
Ryan reached into his nanoverse to draw out his sword, and in a single fluid motion swung it directly at Bast’s neck. It was a perfect strike. She’d been lulled in to such a state of overconfidence, he managed to catch her completely off guard. He’d end this right here, the sword striking her head clean from her body.
Bast held up two fingers and caught the edge of the blade against the middle finger. A line of blood emerged from where the blow had struck, but Bast had somehow hardened her hand. Ryan’s sword barely even broke the surface. Bast smiled at him. “-pathetic. Apparently, though, here you are. Anything you want to say for yourself?”
Ryan looked at Bast’s hand, then back at the sword. His mind tried to process what he was seeing. He’d been so sure that the sword was going to land home, buy him room to recover…and there she was, standing there and blocking it like he’d swung a particularly thin twig at her.
“Oh. Um. Shit,” Ryan said.
Bast’s smile widened. “That’s what I thought.”
This time, when her knee struck his stomach, it sent him flying upwards in a lazy arc that ended with him crashing into the roof of some poor soul’s car, collapsing the metal beneath him.
In the aftermath, Ryan could only lay there in the rain, staring at the clouds, letting out a low wheeze of pain.